Awww, hell. This one’s a doozy! Dungeons & Dragons: Out Of The Abyss is the newest hardbound adventure from Wizards Of The Coast, enabling dungeon masters (DMs) the world over to entrench their players in the Rage Of Demons storyline. But unlike modules in the past (and for past editions), this one can be a true starting point for fledgling characters. In fact, with this campaign setting being in the Underdark, I can almost guarantee it to entice folks to get back into the game and draw in newbies, too. Not familiar with the Underdark? Then let me explain.
Possibly my favorite of all the Forgotten Realms landscapes, the Underdark consists of the horrifically dangerous passages and caverns that lie beneath the surface with which players are most familiar. Arguably the most popular character in all of Dungeons & Dragons canon hails from this area, R.A. Salvatore‘s Drizzt Do’Urden. The adventures of this renegade Drow, the official term for a dark elf, are myriad. His tales fill a multitude of books, some of his solo missions and others that include the Companions Of The Hall. But each time we read of his adventures beneath the surface, we gain a little bit more knowledge of this deadly terrain. Most dangerous of all the subterranean dwellers, the Drow flourish in their cities. Ruling the denizens of the deep with a cruel fist, all the time inflicting pain and despair on those they consider to be lesser beings, they bow only to the matriarchs of their Houses. It’s a dismal place to visit and few have ever ventured through the gates of these terrible communities and lived to tell of them.
In a world where the female is revered, the male is seldom seen as a credible threat or power. It is not unknown, however, for a male Drow to excel in the realms of magic and lift himself above the rest. Gromph Baenre, Archmage of Menzoberranzan, is just such a wizard. Unfortunately for him (and all the rest), sometimes magic seems to have a mind of its own, as seen when a spell he casts rips open the fabric that separates Faerun from the the demonic planes. What happens next is more than he could have ever imagined and I don’t mean that in a good way. It’s up to the players, and whatever companions they can convince to help, to save the realms from the greatest infestation of demons in history. Wizards Of The Coast has certainly pulled out all the stops when it comes to making this adventure feel like hell on earth, pun intended.
As far as the adventure goes, there are lots of extras included inside. Most notable is the well-developed non-player characters, or NPCs. There is a massive amount of information available for the DM to use to further the campaign. I like the variety of the group because it’s obvious that certain ones will work better than others depending on the individual players and types of characters they will be running. Using the initial start up of being caught in the Underdark, the players have a wide range of choices to explore, though hopefully they don’t dally too long and anger the dungeon master. This is never a good idea. Trust me on this point.
The sheer quantity of lore and subtext in this book is mind boggling. It says it’s for levels 1 through 15, and it definitely has the ability to prove it. Other than the main storyline, the side quests will enable any group to stay busy for weeks of gaming, something that didn’t always happen with the old school modules I grew up playing. Every demon you can imagine is in this book, as well as a few you may not have seen before. But the coup de grace of this book is the unique weapon that is, for all intents and purposes, a lightsaber. I will spoil nothing else by continuing, but this hooked me in immediately.
There is far too much for me to cover in this article. I mean, seriously, this hardcover adventure contains over 250 pages of story, data, and artwork. I couldn’t possibly do it justice in a single review. But know this, as the Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons continues to grow, so does my excitement. I’m no longer the geeky kid rolling dice at a friend’s house whilst eating pizza and drinking Big Gulps. I am so proud that I get to introduce these new books and stories to new generations. I talk to people in gaming stores and wax poetic about the glory days of my teenage gaming. So if I seem to fanboy a little, it’s because I really am one (it’s all Boozer’s fault, he got me started in it). With that said, I hope you find this all as entertaining as I do, my friends. Have a great day and may your d20s always roll criticals!