Monday, April 3, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal: Updated Takes on Classic Tales

Tales from the Yawning Portal: Updated Takes on Classic Tales

This newest source book from Wizards of the Coast puts a new coat of paint on a handful of classic and a few modern tales.

All of these, dare I say modules?, have been updated to work with 5th Edition. Inside this tome you'll find:
  • The Sunless Citadel
  • The Forge of Fury
  • The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  • White Plume Mountain
  • Dead in Thay
  • Against the Giants
  • Tomb of Horrors
I've thumbed through the majority of the book and read through the entirety of the Sunless Citadel. I also happened to have a copy of the original the Sunless Citadel in my collection to do some side by side comparisons.

The Yawning portal serves as a sufficient plot device to string together these adventures to serve as an overarching campaign. Not too much real estate is dedicated to the Yawning Portal or its proprietor Durnan but it provides enough details to give the DM plenty of hooks to work with. 

Each adventure appears to be a pretty accurate representation of the original. These are more of a freshening up, not a reboot. In fact some of the text boxes are almost a word for word lift from the original. At least for the later adventures. Some of those original modules never had boxed text.

Side by side of the original Sunless Citadel on the left and the 2017 version on the right.
The new Hall of the Goblin Chief on the left, the old on the right. 
The Sunless Citadel has a great introductory adventure for new players to get pulled into D&D. Intriguing monsters, a number of traps, multiple ways to handle adversaries, and an epic conclusion. Another feature that ties all these adventures together is they are dungeon crawls. The more recent 5e adventures have had interesting narratives but seemed to miss some of the first D in D&D. Tales from the Yawning Portal corrects for that perceived oversight in a big way.

One of my fears with the last few official 5e products from Wizards of the Coast is what appears to be a returning to the well and mining already released products for new books. While Tales from the Yawning Portal doesn't dismiss those fears I am happy to see a larger product that takes the place of the old modules. Over the last few years we have received a number of campaign books but this is the first that provides us with smaller adventures. It's a nice change of pace.

One of my chief complaints with this book is layout of the maps. Some are sized entirely too small for the section of the page they are placed on. A prime example is the upper levels of the Sunless Citadel. This map originally took two thirds of the inner book jacket. The new version occupies about one sixth of the page. While the map itself is of excellent quality, there is a lot going on there and it can be hard to see. That should have been scaled and filled up an entire page.

The Original 
The Upgrade. Beautiful but too small.
One of the nicest touches are the About the Original box before each adventure. These provide some of the behind the scenes information you may not know about some of the modules that have become icons. And the more you know....

These About the Original are a great touch

Wizards of the Coast is set to launch their newest source book at mass market retailers on Tuesday April 4th. You can already find a copy at your friendly local game store.

A few of the new monsters you'll find in this book.

4 start out of 5.

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