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Wrath of Ashardalon
Design & Development
Peter Lee

Last month marked the release of Wrath of Ashardalon, follow-up to the Castle Ravenloft Board Game. In today’s article, I’ll talk about the evolution (and eventual name) of the newest addition to the D&D Adventure System.

Who the Heck is Ashardalon?

For a game with “Dragons” in the title, there sure aren’t a lot of truly famous dragons in D&D. With that said, we wanted to make sure the second release for the D&D Adventure System featured the foe that makes up half of the name.

Castle Ravenloft had it easy, with one of the most iconic vampire villains ever. When you think of Ravenloft, you immediately think of Strahd—there’s no individual character of more importance to that setting than him.

It’s a lot harder to think of famous dragons. Go ahead, write down three dragons in D&D. I’ll wait…

Sidebar: What is the Adventure System, you ask? That’s the name we gave to the general system created when developing the Castle Ravenloft Board Game. While both Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon can be played separately, having an underlying core system allows elements from both games to be combined to create a greater experience.

The first way to combine the games is with increased options for your heroes, but in the near future we’ll provide a set of three adventures that involves creating new Monster, Encounter, and Treasure decks from the cards in both sets.

Now, back to your list. Many of you probably have Tiamat and Bahamut, but neither of these are particularly good choices as villains in the board game: both are gods, and Tiamat doesn’t have your typical dragon form. You also might list Icingdeath or Shimmergloom, but it’s the heroes from the Legend of Drizzt novels who are far more compelling. Likewise, you might list Cyan Bloodbane or Skye, but these dragons are secondary to the Heroes of the Lance.

When you think of the typical D&D dragon, you probably picture the “red”—and that leaves us with two typical red dragons: Infyrana from 2nd Edition’s Dragon Mountain, and Ashardalon from 3rd Edition’s Bastion of Broken Souls. We decided to first go with the title of the 2nd Edition adventure, Dragon Mountain, for the next board game.

Dragon Mountain?

While the board game wasn’t Dragon Mountain for long (we’ll get into why momentarily), there are certainly aspects that made it to the final game. The original Dragon Mountain featured tribes of kobolds scrambling for the honor of serving the red dragon Infyrana. The idea of having varying tribes of monsters under the command of the dragon made it through the design of Wrath of Ashardalon. The kobolds are the obvious foe, but orcs were also introduced at this point as another tribe under command of the dragon.

There are a lot of moving parts when making a board game. Since Castle Ravenloft was the start of a line of games, we wanted to advertise the next game on the back of the box. The art order was submitted for Dragon Mountain, and we loved what we got in return! It stands out from Castle Ravenloft, yet it fits as part of a series.

While the art was in process, we sent our little board game title to fight in the most terrifying dungeon of all: the Lair of the Trademark Search. Unfortunately, our first title was unable to survive the journey through that mysterious place, despite the tie to the old adventure. The body returned, and we tried to create a new foe to face the trademark dungeon once more.

Fighting the Far Realm

At this point, we have brilliant cover art and no title. Inspired by the volcano in the art, we changed the name to “Firestorm Peak”. The original 2nd Edition adventure, The Gates of Firestorm Peak, featured duergar and various unspeakable forms from the Far Realm. Thus, the two tribes from Dragon Mountain became four: kobolds, orcs, aberrants, and duergar. Some of the theme was fleshed out with monstrous companions: drakes, cave bears, and legion devils. At this point, the red dragon Infyrana was renamed Skald, as Firestorm Peak did not originally feature a dragon (except for the Dragon’s Tear comet).

Yet once again, the trademark dungeon reared its ugly head and struck down Firestorm Peak.

Dungeon of Dragonfire Mountain?

At this point, we’re starting to run out of options. Short names are hard to trademark, so we tried the option of a longer name: “Dungeon of Dragonfire Mountain”. By now, most of the new board game’s adventures had been designed. Drawing on elements from both Dragon Mountain and Firestorm Peak, the game featured tribes of monsters united under the dragon queen Skald, while she attempted to reach apotheosis using the power of a ancient gate that breached both time and space.

Oh, wait… the title just changed again?

And Now, Ashardalon!

Go to your bookshelf of board games and look at those that are trademarked. You may notice that a lot of them include a made-up word. That’s the other way to get something trademarked, and so we come to the final name of the game: Wrath of Ashardalon. Usually I’m disappointed when names don’t clear trademark, because every subsequent name is inevitably weaker. This is one case where I’m thankful: Wrath of Ashardalon is a fantastic name, and much better than many of the previous incarnations.

Ashardalon is the dragon introduced in the first adventure path for 3rd Edition, starting with The Sunless Citadel and finishing with Bastion of Broken Souls. Hints of his history are mentioned throughout the entire series, especially in Heart of Nightfang Spire. For more background on Ashardalon, I recommend checking out those adventures.

Ashardalon is a powerful foe in the modules, so I imagine Wrath of Ashardalon to be a possible history for the dragon—its events happening long before The Sunless Citadel and Bastion of Broken Souls. One day, I may revisit some of Ashardalon’s story in an online adventure, but I’ll need additional foes for the heroes to fight. Hmm, I wonder if there’s a good reason to include a balor in the next D&D Adventure Series game, The Legend of Drizzt….

Peter Lee
Peter joined Wizards of the Coast in 2008 as the lead designer for the D&D Miniatures line. Since then, Peter has worked on projects for the D&D Roleplaying Game, D&D Miniatures, Star Wars Miniatures, and Heroscape. Peter is also an accomplished miniature painter and sculptor.
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