The influx of new and veteran players to Dungeons and Dragons has made this beloved game and hobby something everyone has either heard or talked about somewhere. Ask anyone and you’ll get a variety of different answers for what they love or why they play this game. The 5th Edition ruleset has made the game accessible more than ever before for new players, new Dungeon Masters, and even for returning players who simply want to tell a story without all the clunky mechanics. But then there are dungeons, adventure modules, that are infamous for both their daring and perilous. Across the thirty plus years of D&D’s history, there were many famous dungeons and adventures that many veteran players will nostalgically remember. Many of these adventures were written in older editions and never truly saw an updates into newer rulesets.
Tales from the Yawning Portal not only brings players to the iconic tavern called the Yawning Portal set in the Forgotten Realm’s Waterdeep, the City of Splendors. Many tales are told within the tavern’s halls, some are whispers of legendary relics or places with dreadful creatures and terrors. Ultimately, Wizards of the Coast did something unexpected but well received by the community at large. Within this hardcover tome are seven of D&D’s most iconic dungeons and adventures. Most notably, the legendary and fabled Tomb of Horrors, written by Gary Gygax. There are several dungeons by Gygax in Tales but none carry the infamy that Tomb of Horrors possesses. The legendary dungeon crawl is mentioned in various media forms, most notably it was mentioned and referenced heavily in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. When it was released that Tomb of Horrors was going to be featured in this latest adventure publication, many veteran fans were quite excited (myself included) about the implications that would be brought to new generation of DMs and players who are most likely playing D&D for the first time through 5th Edition (like my players in Team BAJA).
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Read the Introduction – Seriously, you’ll thank me
Normally, most introductions can be dismissed but Tales actually possess a plethora of useful insight for DMs to run the various dungeons within and even how to narrative set up a quest for your party. First, you should note the disclaimer near the cover. It’s great, I won’t spoil it, you should look for it. The introduction additionally suggests recommended character levels for players before journeying into one of these fabled tales. The only one not given a level recommendation is Tomb of Horrors, for good reason but also as a reminder of how easily it churns characters into minced meat. The introduction also offers a means to run all seven dungeons as an elaborate campaign if so desired, a sort of “who’s the toughest player character?” narrative if you wanted.
Use these dungeons sparingly, for example Tomb of Horrors really loses its mystique and atmosphere after going through it once (unless your entire party dies). Others are contained well within themselves that they can easily be run multiple times. For example, the Against the Giants adventure is actually three linked adventures. This is a good adventure to tie in-between sessions of Storm King’s Thunder if desired. Dead in Thay is a spiritual successor to Tomb of Horrors, Ruins of Undermountain, and other dungeons. The former is a good test of the various traps and torment that will await players in Tomb of Horrors.
Each adventure has a section for how to run that particular adventure, including what sort of information the players may have available to them. Additionally, there are some (like Tomb of Horrors) that require discretion of information with the party than normal. If you’re familiar with running published adventures, than these sections are already useful to you. If you’re a new Dungeon Master, make sure to read these sections thoroughly. A successful adventure experience comes with the communication of information between the DM and the players and their character knowledge. Finally, each adventure even has ways to incorporate them into other campaign settings like Eberron, Dragonlance, and the iconic Greyhawk.
Spirit of the Past meet the Future
While the dungeons and adventures were brought up and recalculated for 5th Edition numbers, there was some concern whether the integrity of those iconic adventures would be maintained during the publishing process. To many readers and fans, the news of the dungeons remaining largely unchanged in their language was a welcome site. Tomb of Horrors, for example, still managed to keep many of Gary’s language and way of playing the dungeon. These are not spiritual successors to iconic dungeons, but true adaptations of the originals into the new 5th Edition ruleset. Veterans who have run or played this dungeons will find striking nostalgia while reading and playing these dungeons. This is a great way to introduce and showcase the modern D&D arena, the legacy and heritage that the game possesses and will continue to possess decades down the road. This is where you will find memories of triumph and failure, times when you argued over tabletop about whether or not you should’ve taken that right turn instead of left.
Even if you’re not a fan of published adventures from Wizards of the Coast, even if you’ve only had some experience with some of the named adventures, there is something enriching about playing these dungeons. We are talking about dungeons and adventures that carry a legacy — a heritage. While I enjoy homebrew campaigns far more than published adventures, there is something magical about playing an adventure written by some of the game’s best writers and creators. Especially if they’re from Gary Gygax after all. The quality of the language within these dungeons remain largely unchanged, which is probably the most pleasing feature, especially when many fear remakes or reboots gutting the soul of someone’s childhood. Tales from the Yawning Portal is a callback to D&D’s legacy, and tastefully rejuvenates it for the modern ruleset. Additionally, it’s very good for guiding new DMs to play these intricate adventures and bringing even more players and adventurers into the game. Just like three decades ago, this book is bringing adventures to players ways to play just like when some of them were originally published. This is a piece of history personified, it’s worth owning even if you don’t use it often. This is a great resource for new DMs as well to own, especially if they want a more dungeon crawl feel and less about the intricate stories like the other published materials.
Own your copy of Tales from the Yawning Portal today, you can purchase it via the Amazon link here.
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