Tales from the Yawning Portal: Highlights

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Here’s a look at some of the most memorable moments from Tales from the Yawning Portal.

Tales from the Yawning Portal is a collection of some of the greatest dungeons out there–so we’ve gone through and assembled a “highlight real” of what you can expect to find.

The Quest for Calcryx

Adventurers who explore the Sunless Citadel will inevitably come across a village of kobolds. Though initially hostile, there are a few chances to deal peacefully with them–and those who do will learn of the kobold’s plight. Harassed by their hated rivals (a band of goblins who also lairs in the Citadel), the kobolds have suffered all manner of indignities–the most recent of which is the theft of their beloved White Dragon ‘mascot’ Calcryx.

Players can find Calcryx in the goblin’s lair–where she has broken free of her bindings and gone on a rampage, destroying cabinets, tables, and the like for spite, and piling all the items of value into a nest. The dragon does not wish to return, and if the kobold’s dragonkeeper has accompanied the adventurers, Calcryx targets him first, for spite.

All of this goes to show just how much dragons and cats have in common.

“Sneaking” through the Mountain Door

Before adventurers can begin their search for the Forge of Fury, they must first gain entry into the ruined dwarven fortress of Khundrukar. But in order to enter, they’ll have to get through the mountain door–a strategic chokepoint that has since been occupied by orc raiders and their ogre boss. Currently guarding the door are Wark and Thark, who are at a -2 to their perception checks because they’re kvetching about their jobs/boss/social life, and might not notice the players.

By two ORCS…two ORCS we said.

If they DO, however, a complicated 12-round sequence of events goes off as Wark and Thark flee the combat, alerting everyone in their path–up to and including their boss. Wark and Thark continue to flee in order to “spread the alarm” and may conveniently never rejoin the combat. Yakkity Sax, of course, is playing all throughout.

Meeting the Lord of Snails

There’s only one true Lord of the Snails in my heart… sadly Flaily isn’t here either.

There are many giant talking creatures in the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. You’ll find a giant crayfish, a giant hermit crab, a giant oni–but none are quite as resplendent as Tecuziztecatl, the Lord of Snails. Despite being the Lord of Snails, Tecuziztectl is actually a giant slug who is highly intelligent. In fact, in Olman lore, he is considered to be related to the moon, and this has made him quite the braggart. During combat, he boasts of how he shall crush his enemies, see them driven before him, and hear the lamentations of their women–right up until he starts to lose the fight.

Then he either surrenders and offers his aid to the party or goes and tries to hide in the water. Alternatively characters who have found a brass amulet with the words Lord of Snails engraved on it can bargain for Tecuziztecatl’s aid. Tecuziztecatl “aids” the party by stretching his body across a moat so the characters can cross. Of course he’s still a slimy slug, and characters who do not take precautions will fall into the moat. Tecuziztecatl does not warn them of this. The door he provides adventurers access to is the Shrine of Hurakan, the Olman “god of the flood.” When the door is opened a massive, 90’s-era-starburst-commercial-sized wave of water bursts from the shrine and knocks over any in its path.

Tecuziztecatl has, of course, submerged himself safely.


White Plume Mountain is the most D&D Adventure of all time. From the adventure hook of, “a crazy, evil wizard sends you a taunting, rhyming note that says come get this treasure” to the construction of the dungeon itself–a bunch of rooms with ridiculous traps, monsters, and treasure (the whole aim of the adventure is to recover 3 Sentient Magic Weapons), it’s hard to out-D&D this adventure.

And no moment more exemplifies this than the Frictionless Trap, which is a room whose walls, ceilings, and floor are coated with a silvery substance that makes the room totally frictionless. Any kind of flying, teleporting, or other movement-enhancing magic simply “doesn’t work” in the room, and anyone that walks across automatically slides around the room, bouncing like a pinball until they fall into one of the pits in the room.

The pits, of course, are lined with rusty razor-like blades, and anyone who falls into a pit (so anyone who steps into the room) must make a Con save or contract “super tetanus,” which does 2d10 at the start of each victim’s turn and allows a save only once every minute. Unavoidable damage, deadly disease, and absolutely nothing else of value in the room? Doesn’t get more D&D than that.

Secret of the Ooze

Adventurers who aid the “rebellious” Red Wizard resurrectionists in Dead in Thay will find themselves venturing deep into the Doomvault, which shows you just how much Szass Tam has embraced his own villainy. At any rate, characters will inevitably come across a portion of the Doomvault where Red Wizards were carrying out experiments with ooze for…some reason. Reading through the section gives the impression that the Red Wizards aren’t sure what they’re hoping to gain either. So the Ooze Wizards are like that one department that everyone is sure must do something because they’ve always been around and get funding…but nobody remembers why.

At the heart of this (after moving past a gelatinous cube that has engulfed four warriors and other delights) players will confront the Ooze Master, a massive monster created when one of the wizards merged with an ooze–presumably for immortality? I don’t know. Anyway he monologues of a day when all Red Wizards shall be joined with oozes and tries to turn the characters into oozes themselves. I guess he just really likes slime.

The Frost Giant Jarl

Adventurers who fight Against the Giants will raid the strongholds of three different types of giants: hill, frost, and fire. The frost giant lair, in particular, is packed with interesting encounters, and deadly fights. And none more so than confronting Jarl Grugnur in his private cavern.

When adventurers step in, it is immediately apparent that this is the room of someone who considers themselves royalty. Heavy tapestries line the walls, there are THREE wardrobes in here, as well as five chests, five trunks, and seven coffers (which helps with visualizing the area so much, let me tell you).There is also a massive table under which sit two winter wolves. The table is of course littered with food and drink, because the Jarl knows how to live.

Fighting the Jarl and his lady, Estia (you interrupted their private dinner) is tough, as they use the beefier cloud giant statistics, but should adventurers win the day, they’re free to loot the Jarl’s belongings, including thousands of gp, eight potions hidden under a thick lair of old socks, and a secret drawer full of scrolls and maps–one of which has explosive runes prepared on it.

Acererak’s Crypt

Adventurers who manage to survive all the way through to the final room of the Tomb of Horrors should be congratualted. Instead they are rewarded with an encounter with a Demilich. Note that if you’ve made it all the way here, you STILL might be instantly slain.

Acererak spends his time taunting the party with a ghost made up of the dust of his body, and then is still a demilich and a difficult fight. During the fight Acererak uses trap the soul on the party, storing the souls of the various beings he’s tricked in the gems that adorn the demilich’s skull–but if all of these are full, he instead pronounces a powerful curse, and teleports any remaining characters to a random location within 300 miles, nude. Their equipment and items remain, an extra bit of treasure for the next round of adventurers to blunder through.

And somewhere, in the distance, Wark and Thark are still fleeing. Run friends, run towards your dreams!

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