We’ve gone over some of our favorite Dungeons & Dragons books this week, but today is the day we’ve been ramping up for, and that’s the release of their latest Fifth Edition title, Tales From The Yawning Portal. The latest hardback adventure book hit shelves this morning and we’re taking a look at the goodies inside, and goodies is an appropriate term.
This book is technically seven different adventures rolled into one, and they’re not casual throwaway stories, either. These are classic original adventures from D&D’s past from different parts of the series’ cannon. The complete list is: Time Of Horrors (1978), While Plume Mountain (1979), The Hidden Shrine Of Tamoachan (1980), Against The Giants (1981), The Sunless Citadel (2000), The Forge Of Fury (2000) and Dead In Thay (2014). There are some wide gaps in there, but you’re basically getting adventures from AD&D, Third Edition, and Fifth Edition.
Tomb Of Horrors is a Gary Gygax original, using First Edition mechanics and later adapted for the A&D& ruleset. It takes you on a quest through the tomb of a dead wizard named Acerarak, the simplistic goal of the adventure is to make it to the end and kill Acerarak while avoiding the hundreds of traps you could run into throughout his tomb. I’ve only played it once in my life and never made it to the end because there’s just so much poison along the way. This one is definitely built for a big party to navigate over the course of a couple sessions, or if you dare, one long session. While Plume Mountain is considered one of the best adventures D&D ever put out but is also one of the hardest adventures in their entire library. You’re basically on a quest to recover three magical weapons that are all sentient: A trident, a war hammer, and a sword. All stolen by the evil wizard Karaptis who vanished centuries ago into the mountain with gnomes and was never heard from again until now. Essentially, you’re plundering a giant mountain with dozens of encounters along the way. It’s technically a short adventure, but considering how many enemies you face along the way, it can become a hefty challenge.
The Hidden Shrine Of Tamoachan is one of the few C-Series adventures you’ll see get reprinted, mainly because no one really works with the old-school Competitive play anymore, so they tend to get ignored by a lot of players. Which is a shame because there’s nothing wrong with the titles, they’re still fine adventures, they’re just not as in-depth as some would hope. This one is one of the highest rated C-Series adventures of all time, primarily because it takes you out of the normal D&D world and into a pyramid in the middle of a jungle. You have to navigate the entire temple and avoid all the traps to defeat the end beast and claim a treasure. Against The Giants is one of the books where AD&D really hits it’s stride as you’re now in a campaign that requires you to be at least Level 8 to play, and it doesn’t mess around. This is heavy dungeon crawling at it’s best as you have three different adventures with giants you can take, all with their own rewards and horrible setbacks. They’re not for the timid.
The Sunless Citadel and The Forge Of Fury are considered some of the best from Third edition, but they’re also very weird adventures. The first takes you down into the earth where an evil druid called Belak The Outcast is using a magical tree to spawn creatures to attack you. You spend most of the adventure underground dealing with the inhabitants while not getting killed as you seek out the tree and Belak.The second is a dungeon crawler that has you dealing with the unusual circumstances of seeing goblins and orcs working together in a stronghold as a base for them to attack, but you’re primarily there to get some awesome swords with overthrowing the base as a secondary mission, if you can do it.
Dead In Thay is the most recent addition to the collection as it comes directly from D&D Next, which was the last round of titles produced before Fifth Edition was released later that year. Broken off from the Dreams Of The Red Wizards campaign, you’re back to the Sword Coast to protect it from Thay and his clan of Red Wizards. Of the five, this one required very little tinkering and is probably the most extensive of the group. It’s also one of the few “search and rescue” missions you’ll see these days as you have to locate Shalendra and get her out before dying by The Chosen.
Overall, Tales From The Yawning Portal is a must own for every DM. The short version is that you have seven adventures in one book, and that’s the kind of deal you don’t normally see in D&D campaign books. Along with the fact that they’ve all been updated to work with Fifth Edition’s rules and mechanics, which makes them easily adaptable without having to go find your favorite and figure out how to adapt to the new system. Even if you’re not a fan of some of these, there’s at least one adventure in here for every kind of D&D fan and a chance to create hundreds of hours of gameplay out of a single book. I hope there’s a second Tales book on the way because this should happen more often from Wizards of The Coast.