Out of the Abyss
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Being the fourth adventure book for Dungeons and Dragons 5th ed., it has a lot to live up to. Like Princes of Apocalypse, Out of the Abyss is also a full blown campaign for characters from levels 1 through 15. While it’s set in Forgotten Realms, it gives us a totally new look into this game world. It is the first look we get into the Underdark in 5th edition.
The first thing I noticed when reading this book was that it felt different or unique while still preserving a connection to Forgotten Realms. They did a good job of making the Underdark have a personality all its own. So many things they did make it a character that is dangerous, creepy, and weird. There are hints and reflections of psionics throughout the book, which brings a rising anticipation to the traditional Underdark motifs that we are used to, but with new interpretations and mechanics.
Madness checks are a reinterpretation from previous editions. It was a very convoluted process that was awful to use. Now, the process is much simpler, and not so awkward that you will avoid using it.
Player Characters start at level 1 as prisoners of an enclave – that’s awesome! By the time they are done they can easily hit 15th level. That is, if they live that long – one wrong combat with a demon can end it for them. With small amounts of creativity a GM can easily use this as a sandbox for hundreds of adventures.
Out of the Abyss does require a bit of experience to run. There is a decent amount of homework for you. I have found that studying and taking notes has helped me a lot more than in previous adventures for Dungeons and Dragons. This is especially true when trying to keep the NPC’s straight. So many of them have secret agendas and distinct personalities; but more importantly tracking who lives and dies can be bloody murder.
Your adventure will also take you on a geographical tour through several cities. As a GM you will get to cultivate them and define what makes them stand out in your story. While Out of the Abyss gives you plenty of detail, maybe your story calls for a spider farm and one city is the best at it.
One of the greatest features of Out of the Abyss are the appendixes, new Underdark features, Magic Items, Creatures, and Demons. The first appendix aids you in altering character backgrounds so they are better suited for the Underdark. The second gives full descriptions of the magic items found between the covers, like Sunbringer. The third houses the stats for the new monsters; my favorites are the spore servants. The last appendix is a pretty meaty section on the demons that are important to the campaign.
Out of the Abyss is a different kind of adventure that takes a truly different campaign setting and creates a new world within Forgotten Realms. There is a lot of work for a GM running this adventure while players explore the darkness. But the fact that the Underdark is given so much detail sells me on this book. Even if I never run the adventure as it’s published and only use it as a reference tool, I’ll get my money out of it.
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