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D&D Tales from the Yawning Portal Review

The new D&D book, Tales from the Yawning Portal, has already been available at your Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLAG) for a bit of time and is available everywhere on Tuesday April 4th, 2017. This tome takes us on a trip into D&D’s past, updating some of the most popular adventures they printed over the past 40 plus years for fifth edition’s rules. This book contains conversions of seven dungeon focused adventures that include The Sunless Citadel, The Forge of Fury, The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, White Plume Mountain, Dead in Thay, Against the Giants, and Tomb of Horrors. This book gives us a chance to play these classics using fifth edition rules, which is great as most are just too short to convert into a full storyline.

What is Tales from the Yawning Portal?

For some this book will be nostalgic, for others, it provides a chance to play these deadly dungeons for the first time. This book doesn’t provide us with the next Sword Coast based storyline, taking our players from level 1 to 15. The goals of this book are to provide gaming groups with:

  • a collection of dungeons suited for a side quest
  • a higher level adventure to tack onto the end of another published campaign
  • dungeons to steal parts from for your own dungeon
  • ready to go dungeons for that emergency one-shot
  • a solid base to build an entire dungeon delving campaign

From the Official Website:

Dread tales told in the dead of night!

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.

For use with the fifth edition Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide, this book provides fans with adventures, magic items and deadly monsters, all of which have been updated to the fifth edition rules. Explore seven deadly dungeons in this adventure supplement for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.

Where Can I Buy Tales from the Yawning Portal?

Price: $49.95 C$63.95
Release Date: 04 April, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 248 pages

You can purchase the book at your local game store, book stores such as Barnes & Noble and Indigo (Canada), or online at retailers like Amazon. You can also find Tales from the Yawning Portal at Roll20, Fantasy Grounds and Steam.

Getting Started

What You Need to Play

  • Copies of the fifth edition Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • A copy of Tales from the Yawning Portal
  • Dice and lots of character sheets

Where Can I Purchase the Book?

Purchase it at your local game store, bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, or online at retailers like Amazon. You can also find Tales from the Yawning Portal available at Roll20, Fantasy Grounds and Steam.

What Does the Book Include?

This book is almost all dungeon, seven to be exact. Here is what you get in its 248 pages.

TABLE OF CONTENTS: listing contents and a handy map location list.

INTRODUCTION: Short 4 page introduction that

  • outlines each dungeon
  • provides details on running the adventures or even creating a campaign
  • background info on the Yawning Portal, its proprietor Durnan and other denizens

DUNGEONS:

  • Updates for seven previously released adventures to fifth edition for level 1 to 15+
  • The Sunless Citadel
  • The Forge of Fury
  • The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  • White Plume Mountain
  • Dead in Thay
  • Against the Giants
  • Tomb of Horrors

MAGIC ITEMS: 2 pages of magic items from adventures in this book that are not found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

CREATURES: 18 pages of creatures not found in the Monster Manual needed to run adventures in this book. Some new, some seen before in books such as Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

The Dungeons

Each of the seven dungeons has some shared features:

  • notes for running the adventure such as adventure synopsis, mapping, hooks, goals, dungeon characteristics and even how to handle character death
  • short block with information ‘About the Original’ publication that includes a shot of the original cover
  • how to place the adventure, including its original intended setting and how to transport it to other settings such as Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms and Eberron
  • pages and pages of dungeon details and maps, with adventures that range from 13 pages on the low end to as high as 55 pages

Here are some details about each of the seven dungeons.

– MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD! –

The Sunless Citadel (2000)

Levels 1-3
Written by Bruce R. Cordel and originally released in 2000, this was the first adventure published for 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The classic adventure provides an excellent way to introduce new players and Dungeon Masters to the game. Light on story, The Sunless Citadel quickly dumps a group of four to five 1st level players into a fortress that has collapsed underground. This adventure is intended to bring players from levels 1 to 3, having them explore a dungeon and face off against traps, kobolds, and goblins, eventually finding a hidden grove.

The Forge of Fury (2000)

Levels 3-5
Written by Richard Baker and originally published in 2000 just after The Sunless Citadel, this adventure is designed to take characters who completed that adventure to a new challenge in the form of a dwarven fortress. In The Forge of Fury, characters simply need to hack and slash their way through dungeons and caverns, battling orcs, classic monsters, and a black dragon. While there are some hooks to complete, the goal of this adventure is to murder stuff and get the treasure.

Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

Levels 5 to 7
Written by Harold Johnson and Jeff R. Leason, this adventure debuted way back in 1979. Level 5 characters and their players take on the challenge of exploring a Mesoamerican mythology inspired pyramid temple dedicated to Zotzilaha, the vampire god of the underworld.

White Plume Mountain

Level 8
This adventure was written by Lawrence Schick to show off his work to Gary Gygax and get a job as a game designer. For this adventure, a party of level 8 characters visit a dungeon inside a mountain that sits in the middle of a swamp. This dungeon isn’t one that players will be able to simply hack and slash their way through and they’ll need to think a bit to clear obstacles. Originally published in 1979, this adventure provides a collection of unrelated rooms that form the original “funhouse dungeon”. Players will find a varied and challenging dungeon to crawl. Dungeon Masters should find a great source of ideas to add some creativity to their own dungeons.

Dead in Thay

Levels 9-11
Written by Scott Fitgerald Grey, this adventure was originally published in 2014 as part of the 5th edition playtest to introduce the rules and provide a tribute to deadly dungeons of the past. This reprint omits some of the original, providing Dungeon Masters with an immense mega-dungeon called the Doomvault. Players are challenged to survive nine different sectors, each with its own theme and blocked from each other by gates.

Against the Giants

Levels 11-13
Written by Gary Gygax, this formative adventure was originally released in 1978 as three linked adventures. These early adventures were bundled together in 1981. Against the Giants has players face off against giants, like in Storm King’s Thunder. This adventure has players visit the themed strongholds of a hill giant chief, frost giant lord and a fire giant king and offers a bit more exploration between the dungeon delving.

Tomb of the Horrors

High Level
To utter the name of this adventure strikes fear in the heart of many a player, both old and new. This adventure was originally created by D&D’s co-creator Gary Gygax, for his home campaign in the early 1970s. The adventure officially debuted in 1975 and has been used as a proving ground for players and their characters ever since. This adventure is tough and employs a play style that is less common today, than when it originally came out. The adventure was designed to test and humble players, placing the Dungeon Master in an adversary role, more than any other dungeon in this book. The good news for players is that the fifth edition updated takes it just a little easier on them.

Conclusion

I’m really happy to see this book come out this year and will be using it as a source when I prep for my homegame for years or when I need a one-shot dungeon. Tales From the Yawning Portal works great as a source of ready to play dungeons for a variety of levels and as a source for Dungeon Masters to get ideas. We also now have a really great alternative to the Starter Set to throw at new players with The Sunless Citadel. I’m always looking for ideas for my own dungeons and have heavily borrowed from past fifth edition dungeon heavy books such as Princes of the Apocalypse.

The dungeons are varied with smaller dungeons, mega-dungeons and even funhouse dungeons. The play style moves around from simple hack to slash to deadly tests for players facing off against an adversarial dungeon master. Some of the dungeons are pure old school and really won’t match up well with more story-focused campaigns that need plausible reasons for a dungeon and its monsters to exist.

The book gets a ton right, such as the short but sweet details about the Yawning Portal, the ‘About the Original’ blocks, listing maps in the table of contents, and including the magic items and creatures in the appendices. I’m happy to see that the first post-Volo adventure doesn’t require the guide, as any Volo monsters needed for adventures are just reprinted in this book. Including ideas on where to place the dungeons in the various settings is brief, but well done.

While I could have done without revisiting giants again so soon, I’ll let it slide since I have used the maps from Against the Giants in my own past campaigns. I would also have liked to see one or two new character backgrounds suited to dungeon delvers, but we know a player option heavy book should be out this fall. I liked the Haunted One background that was created for Curse of Strahd. Most of the maps are good, but some could have been improved such as the Frost Giant Stronghold, which is inferior to Mike Schley’s redraw from Dungeon Magazine (check out his store with all his Yawning Portal maps). These are minor points, but I thought I would mention them.

Is this book a must buy? That depends on what type of adventures your group enjoys. The book is what it is, a nostalgic tribute with some of the best dungeons from the last 40+ years to play as is, group into a dungeon delve campaign, or steal ideas from for your own dungeons. If your group likes a variety of gameplay, you might want to stay away from the longer adventures and their mega-dungeons.

 

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher’s PR agency.

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  • I forget to mention how much better I like the concept of the Yawning Portal book vs. the 4e ‘Dungeon Delve’ book which was similar, providing 30 three room dungeons, one for each level.

  • MTi

    Thanks for the review Shawn!

    I got my copy from my FLGS on Friday the 24th as by coincidence I was there for a planned one-shot. I did not even knew that this was the planned release date for FLGSs. I was also not planning to get it, at least not until I read some reviews. But I couldn’t resist.

    Anyhow, I flipped through it and started reading the “Hidden Shrine…” as it is of a proper level for my PCs to pick up when they finish our current adventure. Imaginative adventure to say the least. But, there are places that if the PCs fail a check or fall in a trap (like in the first corridor), they are obviously trapped there with no apparent means of escape. This is not so cool.

    What I’m hinting is that many of the old-school adventures are of a playstyle that is very different of how D&D is played today. Sure, playing a D&D classic is great, but I find it more interesting in the context of seeing how much the game has evolved throughout the years.

    Good thing that the assortment of dungeons is from all the history of the game (I believe all editions are represented, expect 4th).

    I also got the impression that the book is written in a way to help new DMs to run the first of the dungeons (the Sunless Citadel) and it evolves afterwards. For instance, I do not remember seeing Adventure Synopsis on the latter dungeons.

    My biggest complaint is the size of the maps. Sure, Micheal Shley has done awesome work once again, but you need to go buy his map bundle from his online store (fyi, it is $15,00 and he has a coupon for a 10% discount) in order to effectively prepare for most of the dungeons. These in the book are too small. I’d appreciate if they had some fold-out maps included.

    One other issue with the book is that it mentions Undermountain, so one could easily expect to find the said dungeon presented in the book. It isn’t. OK, obviously you could fit most of the dungeons presented under the Yawning Portal, or you could convert the famous module to 5e, but why not include it in the first place? Well, my solution will be to skip the Yawning Portal place altogether. I’ll just keep it for future reference, should I start converting the Undermountain module to 5e, using the TftYP as reference.

    So, the TftYP is a nice supplement, interesting assortment of classic dungeons, a nice lead to convert other older modules to 5e. It’s not a must have, especially if your party is not into old school gaming and dungeon crawling.

    • Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

      The old school style has flaws, but there are a ton of players who started playing way back and will love being able to play these dungeons as they remember (and forget). If I was going to DM a deadly dungeon campaign I’d skip the background part of character creation and replace inspiration with something else.

      This book is not a must purchase for most groups, but for me I’m happy to have it as I am always looking at old modules, especially some of the dungeons in this book for ideas.

    • MTi

      Just to make a clarification, I’m not against old school gaming, far from it, it is just something that I do not do.

      And I’m sure that there is considerable market for a modernized version of older modules. This is not only verified by the acceptance the new book had in the community but also from the fact that WotC is planning to re-launch (with the help of Goodman Games) old modules complete with a converting guide for 5e.

      Also, I forgot completely that Undermountain is mega-giga-dungeon. So yes, apparently WotC did well not to include it in the book. What people wanted are small adventures of three to five levels, not another big adventure that spans 10-15 levels.

    • I didn’t think you were talking about old school being bad, just not for your table. I like story focused games, so a meat grinder is not something I am interested in. If I was, I’d be playing Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC).

      Yawning Portal is great as it has a variety of tough dunegons, but it still might not work for lots of groups.

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