Revisiting the “Red Hand of Doom”

Reflecting on Campaigns Past as Fuel for Campaigns Future

In , I ran The Red Hand of Doom 📖 using Dungeons and Dragons: Third Edition 📖. There were several fantastic set pieces and just enough of a Sandbox 📖-feel for the players to explore.

It was a time when 6 adults met once a week for a lengthy Saturday evening game session. These days, I can barely fathom coordinating that many people with that consistent of a schedule.


An army of hobgoblins is marching on the Elsir Vale. There’s a timeline of events, and the Player Characters (PCs 📖) actions can alter that calendar, buying time for the vale to muster better defenses.

The Red Hand of Doom creates immediate and evident time pressures; after all, the army is marching. I contrast this with Tomb of Annihilation 📖, in which there’s a time constraint, but it’s distant and somewhat abstract (e.g., the player’s learn about the constraint in Waterdeep then travel to Chult and never engage much with the constraint).

There are echoes to Bloodstone: H-Series 📖’s setup—the heroes must rally allies to defend against the sweeping hoards.

Memorable Set Pieces

There are several amazing set pieces, which created some fantastic tension. I don’t recall much in the way of social encounters, but there’s definitely some great opportunities.

Reveal the Set Pieces

Vrath’s Keep

This set piece is the players approaching a decaying keep. There’s a wall breech, an open gate, and a tower. There’s also a manticore ready to take to the air. I remember the character’s fighting at both the wall breech and the gate while also defending against the manticore.

And at the close of the battle, as one of the lieutenant’s was fleeing, the elven rogue fired of a critical hit with a longbow. They needed a 20 to hit, and rolled the 20 followed by the confirming 20 for the critical hit. An epic moment that helped delay the Red Hand’s advance.

Battle at the Bridge

Again, this party of skirmishers did their reconnaissance. They needed to collapse a dwarven bridge. At the far end they saw a perched young green dragon and some hell hounds patrolling the base of the bridge.

The players thinking they had enough time for a round or two, set up an attack. It was a great plan, except the dragon could clear the distance in one round AND breath. So what they thought was under control, quickly spiraled into a dangerous combat requiring breaking from cover and ultimately fleeing the dragon.

Alas, they did not collapse the bridge to further slow the army’s advance.

Defending Harker’s Ferry

This attack was a unique set piece. The village of Harker’s Ferry was mostly on the east bank of the river. On the other side were a few buildings and support structures.

Several warg riding goblins attacked, and the character’s helped with a retreat across the river. They managed to rout the wargs and goblins before they inflicted casualties. This successful evacuation bought further time for raising the defense of the Elsir Vale.


These days, were I to run The Red Hand of Doom, I’d use either Worlds without Number 📖 or Burning Wheel Gold 📖. And I’d even consider a Stars without Number: Revised Edition 📖 hacked version. These days WWN, SWN, and BWG are my default systems. They get me most all of what I’m after. I’m particularly not feeling much love for Dungeons and Dragons: Fifth Edition (5E 📖), as the amount of behind the screen work required for those games is quite arduous.

Were I to run the set pieces in BWG, I’d revisit my approach in . The Dual of Wits mechanics would be great for making establishing alliances. I suspect that I’d want to include some specific healing magic; perhaps in the form of potions.

For WWN, I don’t think that I’d need to modify all that much.

Then, of course, my brain imagines an SWN (or Traveller 📖) campaign based on RHoD; a massive fleet approaches to crush the hub a confederacy of planets. Can the characters rally support to defend against this assault? And what of the skirmishes along the way.

But I have a shelf full of amazing campaigns and adventures:

And there are a few others that are rattling around as well. It’s unfortunate the amount of energy required to coordinate role-playing games 📖.