Tales from the Yawning Portal ADVENTURE REVIEW

Cover art for Tales from the Yawning Portal by Tyler Jacobson.

Tales from the Yawning Portal offers at the same time a thorough and diverse adventure supplement for fifth edition as well as a faithful homage to some of the classic dungeons from the history of D&D. A collection of some of the most recognizable adventures, the book presents seven classic adventures, specifically dungeons, from across the last 40 years of Dungeons and Dragons. It offers additions to the lore and mythology of the game, as well as adaptations and hooks for introducing the various adventures and dungeons into official or original campaign settings. 

More than standalone dungeons, the adventures have been tailored so that they can be linked together to create a full campaign from 1st level to upper tiered play. The array of adventures are thematically diverse, offering different feels to a campaign without overusing tropes or styles. That said, they may feel disjointed in a series because of the varied styles of the campaigns. Each setting is very different, and without proper storytelling, simply journeying from one location and dungeon to the next might not feel as compelling if the players are expecting a cohesive storyline. With creative storytelling and a little effort as a Dungeon Master, the individual adventures can certainly be joined together into an immersive campaign. It will take more effort to join together than other adventures that are explicitly designed to lead into each other, such as the Tyranny of Dragons (Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat) or the Waterdeep campaign (Dragon Heist into Dungeon of the Mad Mage).

Set within the Forgotten Realms, the Yawning Portal is a well-known location of interest, but can be fully adapted or reshaped into another destination for any campaign setting. As a physical location and destination, it can offer adventurers a starting point or place of respite, as well as being a haven for information and adventurers alike. And it is there that many adventures begin.

The Sunless Citadel

The first adventure presented in Tales from the Yawning Portal, The Sunless Citadel was first published in 2000 for 3rd edition, written by Bruce R. Cordell. It is widely considered an excellent introduction for new players and a great starting experience for first time Dungeon Masters. Within the dungeon, there are opportunities for roleplay, problem solving as a team, and introductory mechanics in tackling dungeons. Players will be presented with obstacles that do not necessarily have to be solved with violence, but offer lots of opportunity for combat. 

Designed for a party of four or five 1st-level players who will progress to 3rd-level by the end of adventure, players will hunt through dungeons in search of the truth about an enchanted tree. Delving into The Sunless Citadel, a stronghold submerged into the earth by an ancient cataclysm, characters will cross paths with kobold tribes and goblin clans before reaching the Twilight Grove at the climax of this introductory adventure. 

The Forge of Fury

Written by Richard Baker in 2000 shortly after the publishing of The Sunless Citadel, The Forge of Fury was designed as a successor to the prior dungeon. Presented as an adventure for four 3rd-level characters, players can expect to advance to 5th-level by its end. 

The players are sent journeying into the ruins of Khundrukar in search of a horde of wondrous arms and armor crafted by the legendary dwarven smiths who used to inhabit the dwarven stronghold. There, adventurers will face more than the orc raiders who have created a home within the cavern complex, and the deeper they delve, the more dangerous Khundrukar becomes. 

The Forge of Fury is the perfect sequel to The Sunless Citadel, offering expansive dungeons with a wide variety of monsters, traps, and obstacles to overcome. Certain aspects will require a measure of creativity from the players as all good dungeons should. Still, Dungeon Masters should be prepared for adaptations for their party to be both challenged and successful. Players should be adequately prepared for obstacles that cannot always be met head-on. Successful players will find The Forge of Fury rewarding with the challenges they overcome in creative ways, while they uncover the history and lore of Khundrukar and hopefully leave the stronghold alive with treasure and renown. 

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan 

Dungeons hide monsters and creatures, obscure and familiar.

Heavily influenced by Mayan and Aztec/Toltec mythology and culture, The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan was written by Harold Johnson and Jeff R. Leason, and first published as an adventure in 1980. Within the original publication, Dungeon Masters are encouraged to delve into their own research to expand their understanding of the source material and inspiration for the adventure. A deeper understanding creates a greater immersion and depth of the adventure, especially considering how Central American mythology and history varies so drastically from traditional European fantasy and mythology that much of Dungeons and Dragons draws from. 

The adaptation is presented for a group of four or five 5th-level players who are in search of treasure and mystery. One massive dungeon, the shrine attracts would-be treasure hunters and adventures who are drawn in by the legends surrounding a buried temple to Zotzilaha, the vampire god of the underworld. Will players be decisive and cunning enough to defeat the secrets and traps of the shrine, or will they fall as sacrifices to the terrible god?

White Plume Mountain

White Plume Mountain is an adventure for a group of 8th-level characters sent searching for three powerful magical weapons that vanished from the vaults of their owners. Written by Lawrence Schick and published as an adventure in 1979, players must seek out an ancient wizard who terrorized the land thirteen hundred years earlier to unravel the mysteries of White Plume Mountain.

The adventure is designed for players accustomed to challenges to require brains as much as brawn, and those who recognize that combat is not always a viable solution will be more successful than those who focus on force. If your players rely on frontal assaults and a “hack-and-slash” approach to every challenge, they might find this adventure frustrating. Shorter than some of the other dungeons in Tales from the Yawning Portal, fully exploring White Plume Mountain will still take several sessions to complete, and offers multiple opportunities for expanded storytelling.

Dead in Thay

Written by Scott Fitzgerald Gray in 2014 as fifth edition was in its early stages of testing, Dead in Thay pays homage to “killer dungeons” in earlier editions with its punishing Doomvault. Modified from its original form for use in home games, this adventure is written for players of 9th-level who can expect to advance to 11th-level or higher by the end of the dungeon. 

The Red Wizards of Thay are constantly looking for the means to expand their evil reach across the land.

This adventure offers a great look into the lore and history of magic within the Forgotten Realms (or whichever setting you decide to use), as well as the Red Wizards of Thay and the sinister nature of the Doomvault itself. To say the dungeon is massive is a gross understatement. The Doomvault is divided into nine sectors, each of which is split into four zones, with each zone exploring one theme of that sector. The encounters and obstacles created through the magic of the liches within the dungeon offer unique and challenging encounters for players to overcome. 

On its own, Dead in Thay is 50 pages (not counting supplemental stat blocks) and is more than enough for a full adventuring party to spend a long time exploring. It offers a great milestone challenge for a party to progress to the next tier of play, where they will then be ready to take on even greater threats and challenges. 

Against the Giants

Created and originally released in 1978 as Gary Gygax was writing Advanced D&D, Against the Giants holds a special place in the hearts of Dungeons and Dragons players. Giants are tied into much of the lore of D&D, as the creation myths often refer to the war between giants and dragons that gave rise to the gods of the realms. Their place within the game is cemented and offers great content for upper-tier campaigns and adventures. 

Against the Giants was originally three adventures which were written together and published in 1981, combining Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, and Hall of the Fire Giant King. An adventure for 11th-level plates, players can expect to advance a level after each section of the campaign. The full experience will see players journey first to the Steading of the hill giants, the adventure then leading them to the glacial stronghold of the frost giants, and finally to the caverns of the fire giants. 

Giants offer a level of danger to adventurers most other monsters cannot, and as the introduction to the adventure states, “It takes only one or two extra giants in an encounter to turn a manageable situation into a very deadly one.” This adventure is designed for strategic play, and experienced players will exercise caution as much as bravery in order to be successful. Of all those presented in Tales from the Yawning Portal, this adventure is the most involved for Dungeon Masters, requiring much more additional detail and creativity in order to make the campaign real and invested for your players. The approaches to the challenges presented in Against the Giants are so varied that the adventure could not have been written with every scenario imagined. Instead, it provides the necessary information for each Dungeon Master to build out and run each location as a part of their own unique experience for their players. 

Tomb of Horrors

Perhaps the most well-known and infamous dungeon in D&D, Tomb of Horrors was first written for Gary Gygax’s personal campaign in the early 1970s, and was officially published as a part of AD&D in 1978. It is written for high level characters, and presents a dungeon that is remarkably challenging. While no level requirement is given, the demilich within the tomb offers a deadly encounter for players of 20th level. Largely considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, D&D adventure, Tomb of Horrors begins with a sinister, lonely hill that draws the inquisitive and strong-willed into its labyrinthine depths. 

Dungeons are filled with puzzles and traps, and the occasional player-stumping locked door.

This dungeon holds more traps and puzzles than monsters, and countless treasures both magical and precious, and its deepest vaults are guarded by a demilich who wards his final haunt. It is a thinking player’s dungeon, and combat-focused players will find themselves discouraged. Even experienced players, both cautious and keen, may find themselves stumped and frustrated with the challenges and traps of the Tomb of Horrors. It is a dungeon that is run as an homage to the classic adventure, for those who recognize its place within the history of Dungeons and Dragons. It is a dungeon for players who want a challenge, to face some of the most complex and punishing aspects of a dungeon within the long line of enduring D&D adventures. This is a dungeon that players must be prepared to not only survive, but to beat. Most of D&D is about experiencing the game, but Tomb of Horrors in particular is punishing and even antagonistic at times. It is one of the few dungeons where players must do everything they can to beat a dungeon that is designed for them to fail.

Parting Thoughts

Tales from the Yawning Portal is both an anthology of some of the most recognizable and beloved adventures from previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons, and a collection of diverse adventures to be linked together into a campaign or interspersed into an ongoing one. It offers lore and history, as well as locations and destinations of interest. It brings inspiration from some of the greatest dungeons the game has ever seen as well as some of the most classic villains and enemies. Whether looking to expand upon the legends and rumors filling the taproom of the Yawning Portal in the dark of night, or creating your own adventuring campaign, there is something for every Dungeon Master within the pages of this adventure supplement.

Tales from the Yawning Portal is published by Wizards of the Coast.

Want to pick up a copy of Tales from the Yawning Portal for yourself or someone you know? Purchase a copy through this link, and you will help support the Writer in White with your purchase.


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