Review: Wizards of the Coast – Tales from the Yawning Portal (Dungeons & Dragons), Part 1

Tales from the Yawning Portal
Tales from the Yawning Portal is an epic fantasy adventure compilation for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, compiled by Kim Mohan and Mike Mearls and published by Wizards of the Coast.
By Aaron T. Huss

Learn more about Tales from the Yawning Portal here
Purchase Tales from the Yawning Portal here
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This review is being done in two parts. Part 1 is a “captive” review from the standpoint of “Is this book right for me?” Part 2, which will be posted at a later time, is a DM’s review of one of the adventures after running it to get into the “meat” of the book.

Tales from the Yawning Portal is a compilation of previously published adventures (each one is listed below). The adventures have been updated for use with 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The “Yawning Portal” is the tavern in which the PCs can learn of these adventures before partaking in them.

Seven adventures are presented therein. They are designed to follow the experience progression of the PCs starting at Level 1 and ending with “High-Level Characters”. Not a very definitive character level, but you get it (if you’re already into D&D that is). Each adventure hearkens back to the traditional concepts of Dungeons & Dragons, i.e. dungeon delving. Although not everyone of the adventures is a dungeon per se, they are either a dungeon or something very similar to a dungeon. There is no backstory running throughout; there is no major plot point related to some grand setting; there is nothing to tie one adventure to another. They are simply a collection of dungeon delving adventures that can be linked due to PC experience progression.

One of the benefits of Tales from the Yawning Portal is that you get these known adventures of old in a new format, already converted over with everything you need to run them (other than what the DM always needs to run adventures). If you run them as-is, with no overarching storyline, then you’ll likely end up with a very OSR experience. But you don’t have to run them that way; you can run them any way you want. You can cherry-pick from each adventure; each one is described as a location with a look at what’s inside each room, hallway, doorway, etc. You can use it only as a location and place Ms. McGuffin in one room, forcing the PCs to seek it out. You could use it as a base of operations for a much larger encounter. You can even use it as a link within a much larger story arch. That’s the best part of the book; it doesn’t force you into using it one way or another. It just presents the adventures as giant locations filled with potential encounters and intrigue.

There’s little much else to say about the book as a whole. The following is a list of the included adventures and a note about them.

  1. The Sunless Citadel: The Sunless Citadel was written by Bruce R. Cordell and published for D&D 3rd Edition in 2000. It is a fortress-delving adventure and apparently is known is an excellent adventure for introducing players to D&D.
  2. The Forge of Fury: The Forge of Fury was written by Richard Baker and published for D&D 3rd Edition in 2000. It is an under-mountain-delving adventure and apparently was designed as a follow-up to The Sunless Citadel.
  3. The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan was written by Harold Johnson and Jeff R. Leason and published for AD&D in 1980. It is a temple-delving adventure and draws heavily on Mayan and Aztec/Toltec mythology and societal evidence.
  4. White Plume Mountain: White Plume Mountain was written by Lawrence Schick and published for AD&D in 1979. It is another under-mountain-delving adventure.
  5. Dead in Thay: Dead in Thay was written by Scott Fitzgerald and published for D&D Next in 2014 as part of the D&D Encounter organized play program. It is a dungeon-delving adventure with multiple “elemental” flavors to the different areas within the dungeon.
  6. Against the Giants: Against the Giants was written by Gary Gygax and published for AD&D in 1981 as a compilation of three adventures published in 1978. It is a series of delves into various strongholds and stepping cautiously is recommended.
  7. Tomb of Horrors: Tomb of Horrors was written by Gary Gygax and published for AD&D in 1978 after debuting at the first Origins game convention in 1975. It is a dungeon-delving adventure that requires more brains than brawn.

Watch for Part 2 to get a glimpse of one of the included adventures (warning, it will likely contain many spoilers!).

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