Tales From The Yawning Portal, by the Wizards RPG Team
It’s easy to see why this book exists. There are some books where the purpose of their existence is puzzling and has to be explained, but here, even if the premise of the book is more than a bit shaky and the adventures included as part of a suite don’t all coalesce together, the reason why this book exists is very easy to understand. There are a lot of old and classic D&D quests that needed to be updated for the 5th edition, and there was an easy way of loosely connecting them together for players. And so this book was the result. As far as cash grabs go, this is not a bad tone. The book honors the history of all of the quests that are inside of it, and the quests themselves are timeless classics that have stood the test of time. If the concept that ties them together is somewhat weak, and it is, there are certainly worse things that a party can do than play some dangerous quests that force the party to think of diplomatic ways of solving problems and which emphasize cleverness as much as brute strength in achieving one’s goals.
This book is slightly more than 200 pages long and it is divided into seven chapters (for the seven quests) along with other material. The book begins with a short introduction that uses the Yawning Portal as the bridge between these generally disparate quests. After that the book contains the Sunless Citadel quest (1), with tips on its locations and how to run the adventure. This leads into the Forge of Fury (2), a quest that has some hooks for characters as well as the aftermath of the quest. After that there is the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (3), with some advice on how to run the quest. A similar approach is taken to White Plume Mountain (4), along with some advice on how one can escape from the dungeon. After that considerably more information is included about the lengthy and detailed quest Dead In Thay (5), which offers a lot of areas for a very long grind. After that there is a giant-themed mission, Against The Giants, which includes three different enemies (6). The final quest included is the classic Tomb of Horrors with its large amount of traps and small amount of actual enemies (7). The rest of the book consists of supplementary materials like magic items (i), creatures (ii), and maps.
In looking at these particular quests, even if I don’t think that the quests as a whole are all that impressive, nor the unifying idea of the Yawning Portal bar itself as the place where the stories are connected, there are definitely some quests here that I think would be fun as one-off quests for a party that could use a particular type of challenge. When reading a book like this, that is all that is needed for a quest to be interesting. Given the fact that this book has genuine historical appeal in tying together quests that have gone back a long way, this book is also easy to appreciate on those grounds. This book would have been far easier to dislike had the book sought to present these particular quests as being new when they were not, but honestly honoring the past while trying to re-work it into present game mechanics is something that I can understand and appreciate and even respect. And if you have a love of old quests, even in a somewhat ramshackle format, it is likely that you will find a lot to appreciate here. The only people who won’t are those who have no interest in classic quests or who just like to do hack and slash quests.