TL/DR - This is a wonderful product, and even though it is a back-to-back combining of the two adventures, that doesn't mean you cannot intermingle or entwine them USING this product. Some of my ideas are below.
Just purchased this product. It hasn't been 24 hours yet, so I cannot yet review it, but from the brief skim it's going to help fill out a LOT of balance problems from combining these two adventures. One thing that I have read from one of the reviews is that the product is set up to play back-to-back and does not combine them and I am here to say that you can STILL combine them. Just takes a little creative work. Here are some of my notes and thoughts:
I have run DOIP a few times for my kids and group of friends. I always like to start with the PCs seeing Cyrovain flying overhead. It quickly and subtly establishes that Cryovain is the BBEG of the mini-campaign.
The opening quest I start with is with the Manticore encounter. It is strong enough for LV1 PCs to wipe them out, but intelligent enough to negotiate and see things the PC's way. I use this encounter as a great way to introduce the PCs to role-playing, as not every monster needs a stab stab stab die.
From there, you can offer the other T1 quests for the players to play through. If they happen to go to the Excavation Site, just rename the two Dwarves there to Nundro and Tharden. Another idea is that these Dwarves are the two Doppledangers employed by Nezznar. Either way, this excavation is a failed attempt to find the Wave Echo Cave. If the did go to the Excavation Site fight, then you can pocket Gnomengarde until the players are 5th or 6th level, as per "A Tale of Two Dragons" suggests.
- Have Nundro and Tharden task the players with finding their brother Gundren. This will set the players on the path of Part One of LMOP with a level or two under their belt, making that first encounter with the Goblins a little less deadly. Hell, the entirety of Part One are deadly encounters one after another, and having the players up a few levels helps. ESPECIALLY if you only have one or two players and some sidekicks.
4a. Having the players away trying to find Gundren and the Cragmaws is an awesome excuse to have the Rebrands move in. Harbin, being scared of the White Dragon in the area, has locked himself in his house (as per DOIP) and refuses to leave while the beast is prowling around. It would go completely unnoticed (or maybe he's too scared to deal with) the ruffians that have moved in to the town.
- Once the players are back in Phandalin, they should be LV3. From here you can tackle the T2 quests from DOIP or deal with the Redbrands. From here, if the players are tackling the T2 quests from DOIP, then run them as is... or if they take on the Redbrands, play that as is. As the players start to reach LV5... then you can use both parts of this product to scale up the encounters and intermingle them.
We already know that the Cragmaws and the Redbrands are working with Nezznar to destabilize Phandalin. You can also have Nezznar strike a deal with the Orcs and Anchorites of Talos. Nezznar doesn't want those pesky Adventurers finding his cave and... and plays nicely in to the destruction of Phandalin.
Have the Orcs of Wyvern Tor be part of the Orc group that are helping the Anchorites of Talos.
- Wait to ambush Phandalin until the players are off in the Wave Echo Cave. As they are on their way back, they see the smoke rising from the town. This will lead easily into the final encounter of the Tale by sending them up to Icespire Peak to deal with the Dragon. Hell, my kids negotiated with the Orcs, and once they cleaned out Icespire, let the Orcs move back in with the Anchorites in tow to live in "peace" and worship Talos so long as they didn't come back to the Highroad or Trail.
8a. We already know that the Cragmaws and the Redbrands are working with Nezznar to destabilize Phandalin. You can also have Nezznar strike a deal with the Orcs and Anchorites of Talos. Nezznar doesn't want those pesky Adventurers finding his cave and... and plays nicely in to the destruction of Phandalin.
Let Venomfang from Thundertree still escape. If the players end up killing here, that's okay too... but imagine this... Venomfang KNOWS there is another dragon in the area and CANNOT STAND IT. Have her negotiate with the players. If the players help her get rid of the dragon, she will let them live. Venomfang doesn't know where Cyrovain is nesting, she is much younger than the older white dragon, and the idea of scouting him out and him attacking her is not in Venomfangs best interest. She is a green dragon, after all... she has all the time in the world to wait and plan. Here's where things get awesome. If the players agree, Venomfang shows up for the fight on top of Icespire peak to "help" the players. I picture her bursting through the icey fog, roaring, as the players have Cyrovain on the ropes. A dragon vs dragon encounter will be something the players will never forget. The PCs can deal with Venomfang now or later... either way she will keep her word... for now... setting up the possibility of another BBEG for another, expanded, adventure.
- As a nice little epilogue, the players have restored Phandalin to the mining and trading town it once was. A few months or even a year later, rumors of a horrible spiderlike creature attacking Gnome and Dwarven miners begin to surface. The players investigate and find that a Drider has moved in to one of the mines and is terrorizing the miners. When the players encounter the Drider, it is none other than Nezznar, back from the dead. His failure in the Wave Echo Cave did not go unnoticed by Lolth, the Spider Queen. As punishment, she cursed him as a Drider to haunt the caves that he failed to secure. It really puts a nice bow on the entire adventure, and the callback will be appreciated by the players.
These are of course just MY ideas on how I plan on using this product. Feel free to join in the discussion and add to my crazy ramblings.
[5 of 5 Stars!]