It’s always a fine day when I get to review a D&D book. I’m especially excited about Dungeons & Dragons: Tales From The Yawning Portal, as it incorporates classic adventures that have been updated for use with the Fifth Edition rules and guidebooks.
There are a total of seven full-sized adventures and I must admit a couple of them are favorites of mine. Some small adjustments have been made to allow the seven modules to be run consecutively. Imagine having a first-level character and being able to run a campaign that sees them traverse a variety of iconic story lines. It’s enough to make a nerd cry with joy (or at least this one might).
In the first adventure, “The Sunless Citadel,” fledgling adventurers make their way through a decrepit fortress in order to root out the evil that now resides there. Originally created for Third Edition D&D, this is a great way to introduce new players to the game.
Successful completion will enable players to move their party into “The Forge of Fury,” which takes our heroes deep underground in search of Dwarven treasure long-lost in the abandoned cavernous stronghold. This quest will expose characters to a multitude of denizens that dwell under the earth. The skills and wariness they develop here will serve them well in the future. There is a reason this game is called Dungeon’s & Dragons.
Next up is “The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan,” a mid-level adventure that gives players a chance to hone their dungeoneering skills. Once known as a First Edition AD&D module, this story is heavy on the Incan and Aztec mythos and culture. Centered in a ruin, it gives off a heavy Raiders of the Lost Ark vibe.
Provided they survive the ruins, the party will be subjected to “White Plume Mountain” and all of its cryptic goings on. Not for the weak of wit, this plot is full of twists and drama. Many are the adventurers who succumbed to the traps and trials of this particular module, myself included. Creatures from beyond the Prime Material Plane will compromise a good portion of their opponents.
Hot on the heels of their multi-level, multi-faceted expedition, characters will find themselves surrounded by corpses. Maybe some will be their companions, maybe not. But rest assured the undead will be there regardless, seeking the death of all who trespass. “Dead in Thay” is an amazing setup that really embraces the concept of sword and sorcery. It is possibly the most straightforward of the quests. Centering around a huge area that is riddled with deadly dungeons and traps, this is classic D&D even though it is the most modern of the seven journeys. But remember, the Doomvault takes no prisoners. The big bad in this one is an undead creature with few peers. Be careful, be VERY careful.
“Against the Giants” is perhaps my favorite campaign of all time. If not the top, it’s at least in the top three. It introduces giants and giantkin in such quantity that players truly start to feel small within the game, pun intended. So many varieties of giants and so few hit points, folks. It’s not hack and slash all the time, intelligence and wisdom play a vital role in this one. Oh yeah, and Drow. Yeah, you heard me. Drow.
But if you thought that was hairy, then “Tomb of Horrors” is going to make you pee your pants. I consider this to be one of the quintessential adventures for this game. It holds a special place in my heart but only because of the number of character sheets I was forced to shred while playing it. No joke, this one will eat your party up. It has a bit of everything, but always includes a heavy dose of death and destruction. The final encounter was devastating to my group, time and again. I lost a lot of good friends (characters) that day.
I cannot applaud the folks that assembled this more; it is literally a walk through D&D history and will give players a chance to experience almost everything that D&D has to offer, in some shape or form. Loaded with creatures, magical items, and non-player characters, this book contains everything you need in a D&D supplement.
If you are new, this will be a blast for you. If you are a seasoned player or dungeon master, you’ll still love it. I hope you have as much fun running a campaign, or running through one, as I did playing them back in the good old days. It just goes to prove that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Enjoy!
When the shadows grow long in Waterdeep and the fireplace in the taproom of the Yawning Portal dims to a deep crimson glow, adventurers from across the Forgotten Realms, and even from other worlds, spin tales and spread rumors of dark dungeons and lost treasures. Some of the yarns overheard by Durnan, the barkeep of the Yawning Portal, are inspired by places and events in far-flung lands from across the D&D multiverse, and these tales have been collected into a single volume.
Within this tome are seven of the most compelling dungeons from the 40+ year history of Dungeons & Dragons. Some are classics that have hosted an untold number of adventurers, while others are some of the most popular adventures ever printed.
The seeds of these stories now rest in your hands. D&D’s most storied dungeons are now part of your modern repertoire of adventures. Enjoy, and remember to keep a few spare character sheets handy.