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Out of the Abyss (D&D Accessory) Hardcover – September 15, 2015
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The characters start out as prisoners of the Drow with no equipment and have to escape their captors. Then the situation gets very "sandboxy" as the NPCs who are with the characters each want to go to different areas of the Underdark. The choices of where to head are up to the players What makes the adventure so great is the richness of the NPCs, and the variety of encounters. Some are heavy combat and some are role-playing and can be resolved in many creative ways. There are all sorts of decisions characters must make which have consequnces later on. The environments/encounters are extremely rich and some are truly bizarre (as would be appropriate for the Underdark).
In conclusion, a DM can't read a chapter an hour before the game and effectively run this adventure. DMs must really be willing to do the necessary prep work. But, if they are willing to invest the time, this adventure will provide months of fantastic entertainment as it takes the characters from 1st to 15th level.
UPDATE (10/16)- I have now run the entire adventure and, in my opinion, certain serious flaws have become apparent. I will start with what I consider the worst flaw (and the reason I dropped the adventure from 5 to 3 stars). The campaign is advertised as going from 1st to 15th level. However, the 2nd half of the adventure (when you supposedly go from 8th - 15th level) is still chocked full of encounters with very low CR monsters. For example, when you are supposed to be around 12th level, there is a major encounter with troglodytes (CR 1/4!). The authors seem to imply that somehow this would actually be challenging for a 12th level party. Another example is the fact that the random encounter tables in the 2nd half of the book are almost exclusively full of monsters below CR 6. Once again, the characters are way beyond that sort of threat at that point. This sort of flaw is repeated numerous times. With the exception of a 2 or 3 boss encounters these encounters are boring for the party. As a DM, I had to completely re-do most of the encounters not only to challenge the party, BUT TO GIVE THEM ENOUGH XP TO EVEN GET TO THE LEVELS THEY NEEDED TO BE AT for the finale. The encounters as written are basically useless. Other flaws include numerous errors in organization such as stating that Overlake Hold is the home of the Deepking (pg. 62) and then stating the Deepking lives in a totally different place (pg 82). These errors are much less serious but there are so many and they do get annoying. Finally, the organization of the chapters is pathetic.
My verdict: Out of the Abyss is incredibly imaginative and exciting. Examples (spoiler alert): the drow outpost of Velkynvelve is made up of mostly hollowed out stalactites connected by walkways made of spider webs, all suspended over an enormous cavern, run by an arrogant drow priestess and her disgruntled (and possibly helpful) ex-boyfriend. Cool! The players have to escape from this outpost, with a collection of charming NPCs (my favorite: Shuushar the Awakened, a pacifist kuo-toa whose radiant enlightenment drives everyone crazy). My PCs managed to flee without their weapons, then had to fight minotaur skeletons using crude clubs made out of bones they picked up along the way. They then traveled to the kuo-toa city of Sloobludop (traveling there on the "Darklake" via a boat made from a giant mushroom cap) and saw it destroyed by Demogorgon, summoned by an insane kuo-toa ritual. From there they went to Gracklestugh, the City of the Gray Dwarves, where no one can be trusted, and they chased after a mad little gnome down tiny little tunnels by eating mushrooms that make you grow smaller. They were also befriended by a colony of wererats and found a red dragon egg at the request of an old fat cranky dragon working for the dwarves as a forge-lighter. NICE!!!!
Is it too complicated, with a lot of prep work and modifications required? Is the 2d half a bit too much? Are there some details you have to blow off or fudge as the DM (eg drow pursuit level, exhaustion level, insanity)? Yes yes and yes. But the people who wrote this are just so incredibly imaginative. THAT is why I buy published adventures instead of doing my own. It's incredible stuff. I can't compare it to Princes of the Apocalypse, because I haven't read that one, but it seems somewhat more imaginative and more literate than Storm King's Thunder (which requires even bigger modifications by the DM in my view), and the milieu is different enough from traditional D&D adventures that it makes returning to something more traditional like STK seem fresher. Curse of Strahd I have skimmed and that one also seems excellent (easier to run and maybe even more immersive, but less varied). Anyway, I loved Out of the Abyss!
Positive: The cast of characters is robust and the environment is imaginative. With ease you will be able to pull your players into the Underdark and pit them against some of the fiercest creatures Wizards of the Coast has ever created. There are plenty of maps to keep your players visually satisfied and the NPC portraits are beautifully done. The balance of the material seems a bit heavy at first but as your characters progress you will find the campaign is meant to be challenging for both the players and the DM which is a plus for me.
Overall if you are a DM with enough time to properly prepare for this campaign then it is well worth your investment. If you are short on time however you might want to look into one of the two previous adventures. If you are simply looking for a book to add to your collection and refer to for ideas for your own home brew campaign this is also a great investment. It is so densely packed with information it borders on a setting source book.
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