The new D&D adventure Rage of Demons: Out of the Abyss was available at FLGS stores on Friday and will be available for everyone else on September 15. When I received my copy from Wizards of the Coast I did an initial flip through right away. My first impressions were positive and now that I have read the whole adventure I’ve put my thoughts down in this review. This book will give you everything you need for your group to play for a 15 level campaign or its can work nearly as well as a sourcebook for running your own Underdark adventure.
Out of the Abyss
“Dare to descend into the Underdark in this adventure for the world’s greatest roleplaying game! “
Out of the Abyss is an epic campaign adventure set in the Forgotten Realms. The book will go into wide release on September 15, 2015 as one of the many Rage of Demons storyline products coming out this fall.
“The Underdark is a subterranean wonderland, a vast and twisted labyrinth where fear reigns. It is the home of horrific monsters that have never seen the light of day. It is here that the dark elf Gromph Baenre, Archmage of Menzoberranzan, casts a foul spell meant to ignite a magical energy that suffuses the Underdark and tears open portals to the demonic Abyss. What steps through surprises even him, and from that moment on, the insanity that pervades the Underdark escalates and threatens to shake the Forgotten Realms to its foundations. Stop the madness before it consumes you!”
What You Get
For around US$50 (or less if you shop around), Out of the Abyss is a solid value that will take your players from level 1 to 15. Like Princes of the Apocalypse, this is an excellent book full of useful and interesting content. The paper and binding of this 250+ page book matches the quality and materials of Princes of the Apocalypse and it will lie flat when opened. The book has been produced well and the end product has an appearance that is high quality with lots of original illustrations and cartography that match the other core D&D 5th edition books and is a great value with so much content crammed into one adventure book.
Out of the Abyss is broken down into 17 chapters and 4 appendices. It really can be broken down into 4 parts.
- Getting Started
- Escaping the Underdark
- Return to the Underdark
STOP READING NOW TO AVOID SPOILERS AND SKIP TO THE CONCLUSION
You characters start the adventure as the prisoners in a slave pen located in a drow outpost. The PCs are surrounded by a motley collection of fellow prisoners who collaborate with the PCs to escape the prison and travel through the Underdark to their various homes.
Chapter 1 begins the adventure by introducing the colorful fellow prisoners, many which might be around with the adventurers for a while:
- a friendly and talkative derro who believes he is a god
- a quaggoth who thinks he is a cursed elf prince
- a shield dwarf scout
- a drow accused of murder
- a deep gnome spy and gambler
- an orc bully from the Iceshield tribe of the surface
- a kuo-tao hermit and mystic who is a pacifist
- a myconid sprout (vaguely humanoid fungi)
- twin deep gnomes who are secretly wererats.
The chapter then provides events and escape options to run for your group to escape from the drow outpost into the cavern below.
Chapter 2 takes the group (and any of the prisoners who are still with them) into the Underdark with only the equipment they were able to scrounge from the drow outpost. The players are given the choice of three different directions to travel. The players can consult their fellow escapees to figure out the best direction and even travel with them. The chapter also provides:
- information of which direction each of the NPC would go and their motivation
- ideas on how to craft equipment and collect spell components
- information on how to show the effects of demonic madness on the group
- information on how to set the drow in pursuit of the group
- random encounters tables
- four set encounters to spread throughout the parties travel through the first half of the adventure between locations. These standalone “dungeons” are nice and self contained and can be used to create a tight session or even borrowed if you need a dungeon for an upcoming session in a pinch.
Escape the Underdark
With the group well into their attempt to escape the Underdark, the next four chapters detail a variety of Underdark locations. Visiting each location provides an opportunity to deliver escapees to their home and make allies.
The Darklake is a vast network of rivers, tunnels and canals connecting water-filled caverns and chambers. The Darklake can be used to reach the other three destinations in the Underdark and also used to escape the drow pursuers. This section also includes details for the koa-toa village on its shore.
The duergar city of Gracklstugh is actually a pretty civilized place and an important location for the players to get equipment, hide from the drow and to try to find direction on the way out of the Underdark. The group can interact with an overweight Red Dragon and a number of other interesting encounters.
The myconid community of Neverlight Grove is an excellent location for the group to rest, recuperate and resupply, but like everywhere in the Underdark – things are not safe with the demon Zuggtmoy using this location for her stronghold.
The deep gnome settlement of Blingdenstone provides another opportunity to create allies and escape the drow, as the deep gnomes have no love for their drow enemies.
Chapter 7 provides methods for the Dungeon Master to determine where and when the group finds the way out of the Underdark. There is no set way out of the Underdark, to escape the players need to satisfy certain conditions. This chapter breaks the adventure in half with an exciting climactic chase or battle against the drow (and any fellow escapee NPCs who decide now is the time for betrayal).
Return to the Underdark
The group is given a little bit of time on the surface to recover, but after a time they are called to see the dwarven King Bruenor in his kingdom of Gauntlgrym to discuss a return to the Underdark to take care of the demon problem. Bruenor invites representatives from all the factions and asks the players to help get the factions to agree to create a single force to send down into the Underdark to battle the demons.
The second half of the adventure takes the heroes to a variety of locations to gain powerful artifacts, components for a ritual and find potential allies.
The group travels to Mantol-Derith, a neutral trade outpost, for a tough mission before descending deeper into the depths of the Underdark at the head of the group of allies. The group is free to travel to some previously visited or other locations. Regardless of where they travel, the main objective is to get to the Stone Library in Gravenhollow and then onto the Tower of Vengeance, The Wormwrithings, The Labyrinth all leading to the final showdown with the demons.
At the Tower of Vengeance the group can make an alliance with a drow wizard named Vizeran who has a plan to cast a ritual to set the demons against each other, destroying each others material forms (and Mezzoberranzan). The players can ally with Vizeran or betray him and go on their own. Either way, they are required to go on what is essentially a fetch quest for the ritual components in the Wormwrithings and the Labyrinth. But both locations provide a variety of monsters and encounters that players should really enjoy.
The Wormwrithings may bring the players into contact with purple worms, drow, dwarves, troglodytes, ropers and a beholder.
The Labyrinth is another interesting location where the players will encounter gnolls, minotaurs, modrons and more all while trying to keep from getting lost and being caught between the demons Yeenoghu and Baphomet.
With the components collected and the help of Vizeran (or one their own) the group heads to Mezzoberranzan (or another location) to put the plan in place, but there are plots and complications that are placed in front of the characters including a demonic wedding with Zuggtmoy, a myconid invasion and battles against demons. The adventure ends in a huge finale with the group putting the plan in place to get the demons to battle each other (the book provides an idea to let the players control the demons for these fights). The adventure ends with a final battle against the last demon lord standing, Demogorgon – the Prince of Demons.
- Appendix A provides details for modifying backgrounds for PCs and includes two optional background features (Deep Delver, Underdark Explorer) and ten substitute bonds. This single page of content does provides enough to tweak a PC to have a little more of an Underdark background.
- Appendix B provides a half dozen new magic items and info on Drowcraft items that lose their magic if exposed to sunlight for an hour.
- Appendix C provides some really great creatures and NPCs for this adventure or any visit to the Underdark. You get NPCs, Derro and Duergar but you also get some interesting monsters too.
- Appendix D is pretty much a totally awesome demon version of the Monster Manual. For each of the eight demons you get a two-page spread with stats, lair actions, lots of flavor text and even a madness table.
This book is 250+ pages of solid materials full of colorful NPCs, monsters, demons, rules for madness and more. It’s a really solid purchase that will provide hours and hours of gameplay.
Stay away from Out of the Abyss if:
- you are a new Dungeon Master since this adventure requires you to run a lot of NPCs and mechanics like chases and madness.
- your group is made up of players that are new to tabletop roleplaying games
- you have zero interest exploring the Underdark, battling demons and fighting madness for 15 levels
- you wanted a Drizzt focused adventure set in Wonderland
Run Out of the Abyss if:
- your group has spent a ton of time exploring the surface world and is looking for a new experience
- you group enjoys memorable NPCs that are often a little silly or even flat out mad
- you and your group are looking for a challenging story of escape facing limited resources and creeping madness
- your group really enjoys exploring dungeons and encountering a variety of creatures
- you want to battle legendary demons with an interesting backdrop of destruction
Out of the Abyss is a flexible story driven campaign that balances the line between a linear plot with freedom for the party to go and explore areas and talk to people in the order they want. The campaign also provides a good balance of colorful people and places against the backdrop of darkness and madness. A first time Dungeon Master might have an easier time with Princes of the Apocalypse, as this is not an adventure that I would have been able to run well as a rookie with the high number of NPCs and madness rules needing to be run. That being said, this book provides more than just an adventure that links a bunch of Underdark encounters together. Dungeon Masters are provided with lots of support to run each interesting location and really good set encounters are provided to bridge travel.
The first half of the adventure did a great job giving the players options to figure out an escape and where to travel. I felt like the second half asked the players to push through the adventure with a little less freedom, but the areas they are asked to explore are varied and the creatures they encounter will keep them entertained. Even with the plot being a little less freeform in the second half, players should still feel in control, especially if they are motivated to get to the exciting finale against Demogorgon.
If you have any interest in the Underdark I would pick up this book for sure. I couldn’t help thinking about all the ways I wanted to “borrow” the Underdark creatures and locations for my own campaign.
A great adventure to run and resource to have! Pick it up this week and dare to descend into the Underdark.
About this Review
A review copy of Out of the Abyss was provided to Tribality by Wizards of the Coast. Having had the book for less than a week, this review is based on reading the adventure cover to cover and I have not had a chance to playtest it yet.