Daring Dungeon Dives: Tales from the Yawning Portal

Hail, and well met, all you lads and lasses! It is I, your humble Dungeon Master, and I am here to regale you with the dark tales and daring-do to be found in the Dungeons and Dragons campaign supplement Tales From The Yawning Portal.

For the odd one out who may not have heard, Tales of From The Yawning Portal is a book for Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition which outlines some of the most top-notch and highly requested adventures from older editions. For most long-time, die-hard fans of the roleplaying game, these treks across ancient temples and abandoned castles were seemingly long overdue for a revamp in this most recent edition, and Wizards of The Coast have really delivered on their promise to bring forth both classic and new age adventures to be consumed by a modern audience.

So, is Tales From The Yawning Portal worthy of being the gateway through which a whole new generation of adventures might experience classic dungeons such as the Tomb of Horrors? Only one way to find out. So let’s grab our dice, sharpen our pencils, and be sure to keep a couple extra character sheets ready as we tackle Tales From The Yawning Portal.

First and foremost, let’s delve into what is probably the most important part of this book of dungeon dives, the dungeons! Wizards has done a great job of collecting adventures from all eras of the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game. You’ll see adventures as recent as 2014, as well as some real old heavy hitters from the burgeoning days of D&D.

The book has some real range, covering seven different adventures across three different editions of D&D. It really does give a Dungeon Master the most possible bang for his buck when it comes to dungeons that might fit nicely into their adventure. By covering a wide range of quests that allow for a variety of different leveled characters, Tales gives Dungeon Masters the exact necessary components to create something that is both challenging and memorable for the players.

This book essentially acts as an ultra-nerdy “the best of” collection for famous dungeons throughout D&D’s expansive history. For example, the book gives the only faithful recreation of the cult classic dungeon, The Tomb of Horrors that has been published for 5th edi. For the unfamiliar, The Tomb of Horrors has existed for as long as Dungeons and Dragons has been around. Originally written as the ultimate test of skill for the dungeoneering group of famed Dungeons and Dragons creator, Gary Gygax. Originally written in 1975 and published for the first time in 1978, the Tomb has proven itself one of the most grueling and infamous dungeons in the history of role-playing. Wizards has taken great care to be faithful to the source material while also bringing something fresh to the table. All of the famous traps, trials, and tribulations included in the dungeon are here, present and accounted for.

Tomb of Horrors (c) Wizards of the Coast

If there is a complaint to be found in Tales, it is definitely the lethality of the dungeons. While far from being a walk in the park, the dungeons (particularly those from the early days of D&D when the game was much less forgiving) have been scaled back in difficulty to account for an overall trend towards more accessible role-playing in recent years.

I can see the general quick, easy, pick-up-and-play approach this book takes being a bit of a turn-off to more “traditionalist” players. Needless to say, those who have had experience with the more recent editions of D&D will feel more at home in these dungeons, because difficulty and character death has been heavily deemphasized this time around. Whether or not this is an issue or not has a lot to do with personal preference, but I can see the adventures still being satisfying, even if the constant, looming threat of complete party annihilation isn’t quite so prevalent.

But the fun doesn’t end at some of the finest dungeons in the history of the game, it also comes equipped with some funky magic items to appease those in your adventuring party of a more sticky-fingered disposition, and enough stat blocks to satisfy any monster hunter’s craving for big baddies to slay. The book also makes sure to give the DM maps to reference for the purpose of running the various adventures. In essence, it really does give you everything you might need to run your party through any of the included dungeons.

Against the Giants (c) Wizards of the Coast

Suffice it to say, Tales From The Yawning Portal comes highly recommended to seasoned adventurers, blossoming dungeon-crawlers, and anybody with an itching for a series of top-notch adventures that fit nicely into any D&D campaign. It gives the reader all the necessary tools to make the adventure fun, challenging, and memorable, without getting too bogged down in some of the long-winded jargon and nomenclature that plague some of the older editions’ forays into supplemental material. Tales From The Yawning Portal is a top-notch supplement book for D&D fifth and is definitely befitting a place on your bookshelf alongside your rulebooks and adventure modules.

I’m afraid our time together is at an end for this week, but be sure to keep an eye for our next article when we’ll be tackling the black sheep of the role-playing shelf, Fantasy Flight’s seminal work, Genesys. Until next time adventures, may you pass your saves and roll high on initiative. Cheers!