Tag Archives: Dead in Thay

19 Adventures in the Running for 10 Greatest Adventures Since 1985

For my list of the 10 greatest adventures since 1985, nominations, reviews, and reputation led me to consider many more excellent adventures than fit a list of 10. Today’s post reveals the adventures that fell short of my 10 greatest, but merited consideration.

Treasure Hunt (1987) is a first-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Aaron Allston.

Raw characters with no class levels wash up on the lost island of the pirate Sea King. They advance to first level and beyond.

“As a first adventure for initiates, this can’t be beaten. For old hands who may be tiring of AD&D, it will be a welcome change.” – Carl Sargent in White Dwarf issue 93.

King’s Festival and Queen’s Harvest (1989) are basic Dungeons & Dragons adventures by Carl Sargent.

A pair of adventures that introduces new players to D&D with a variety of linked missions.

“Absolutely the best introductory adventures in print for D&D-game-style fantasy role-playing games (FRPGs). Presented simply and clearly enough for young folks, these adventures are also challenging and entertaining enough for experienced gamers.” – Ken Rolston in Dragon 171.

Ruins of Undermountain (1991) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Ed Greenwood.

The first three levels of the mega-dungeon under the city of Waterdeep presents its content with different levels of detail: Some rooms have complete descriptions, while others have terse notes. Most sections remain empty, a canvas for the dungeon master’s creation.

Rated 17th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.

Ruins of Undermountain was as much stuff from Ed Greenwood’s original gaming sessions as he could fit into a box. I give Ruins of Undermountain an A+. It will make you a better DM regardless of your skill level. This is a glimpse behind Ed Greenwood’s screen, giving the reader a chance to study his methods, which are very sound.” – Advanced Gaming and Theory

Vecna Lives! (1991) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by David “Zeb” Cook set in Greyhawk for characters of level 12-15.

After the Circle of Eight, Greyhawk’s legendary adventurers, die trying to stop Vecna’s return, their successors hunt the villain in a chase the across the world of Greyhawk.

Vecna Lives! is one of my favorite adventures from second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and I’m ecstatic that it’s been made available on dmsguild.com. Even if you never play the adventure, you should go out of your way to read/download/borrow it just to see what an incredible example of storytelling and adventure writing it is.” – Die Hard Game Fan

Night of the Walking Dead (1992) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft adventure by Bill Slavicsek for characters of level 1-3.

Characters investigate a series of murders an disappearances in a village plagued by walking dead.

“The actual adventure is one of the better blends of plotted adventures and old-school adventuring found in the ’90s. Though, there’s a deep, underlying story, it’s not a railroad. Instead, players must investigate and interact with NPCs to figure out what’s happening. Some events act as set encounters, but there’s also a big dungeon (cemetery) to crawl through at adventure’s end. The result maintains player agency while still telling a real story.” – The Fraternity of Shadows

Merchant House of Amketch (1993) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dark Sun adventure by Richard Baker for characters level 4-7.

In an event-driven adventure, characters work to end a trade in beetles with a bite that neutralizes psionic power. The quest pits the party against the most powerful merchant house in Tyr.

“This adventure has everything for me: intrigue and adventure coupled with the potential to save the world from a great threat that has just been exposed. So it’s 5 out of 5 stars.” – Warpstone Flux

City of Skulls (1993) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Carl Sargent for characters of level 9-12.

Players infiltrate the demi-god Iuz’s nightmare capital to free a military commander needed to defend the Shield Lands.

Rated 26th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.

“Periods of stealth and quiet punctuated by short bursts of terrifying combat.” – Retro Gaming Magazine

Night Below: An Underdark Campaign (1995) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Carl Sargent that takes characters from 1st level to as high as 14th level.

Billed as the “ultimate dungeon adventure,” this campaign goes from a ruins crawl, to a mine crawl, to a long journey through the Underdark.

“Night Below won’t be to some peoples’ taste, but the vast majority will absolutely adore it. Quite simply, it’s one hell of an adventure.” – Cliff Ramshaw in Arcane magazine.

Return to the Tomb of Horrors (1998)  by Bruce Cordell.

Years after adventurers gutted the original Tomb of Horrors, a dark community has built a city of necromantic evil on the tomb’s site. Even the inhabitants of this fell city have no idea of the true evil that waits beneath them.

Rated 10th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.

“The new material is really excellent. Return is a whole mini-campaign, not some rehash of previous work … It offers more by far than the old Tomb of Horrors, and it is more deadly too.” – Gary Gygax

Dawn of the Overmind (1998) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Bruce Cordell for characters of level 8-10.

To stop a resurgent mind flayer empire, character visit a world of ancient ruins in search of an artifact of Illithid manufacture. This adventure brings a taste of Spelljammer and sword and planet adventure to conventional D&D.

“This is the third part of the Mind Flayer Trilogy, which was pretty much awesome from start to finish. One of the best D&D adventures of all time.” – Power Score

Die Vecna Die! (2000) is a second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure for characters of level 10-13 by Bruce R. Cordell & Steve Miller.

Die Vecna Die! takes the heroes from the Greyhawk campaign to the demiplane of Ravenloft and then to the Planescape city of Sigil in a quest to claim the Hand and Eye of Vecna—the key to stopping the evil demigod Iuz.

Die Vecna Die! pulls out all the stops, and the result is a massive but tightly constructed adventure with a truly apocalyptic feel. I’m surprised I’m recommending Die Vecna Die! as strongly as I am, but it’s just that good. It’s a great high-level adventure for any campaign.” – Fearful Impressions

Forge of Fury (2000) is a third-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for levels 3-5 by Richard Baker.

In a dungeon that captures the flavor of some of D&D’s original, classic adventures, characters battle though five levels of a dwarven stronghold overrun by evil.

Rated 12th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.

“I’ve always been impressed with the adventure; for my money it’s one of Wizards of the Coast’s best 3rd Edition era modules. As a basic, flavoursome dungeon crawl I think Forge of Fury is particularly well executed.” – Creighton Broadhurst

Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (2001) is a third-edition Dungeons & Dragons by Monte Cook designed to take 4th-level characters as high as level 14.

Power rises again in the Temple of Elemental Evil. “Characters battle the power of darkness in Hommlet and beyond, forging their way through hundreds of encounters before reaching the fiery finale.”

Rated 8th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.

“Go out and buy the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. You will not regret it, and it will become a valuable part of your D&D library. It is one of the best adventure modules ever written.” – Talon on ENWorld

City of the Spider Queen (2002) is a 3.5 edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by James Wyatt designed to take 10th-level characters up to level 18.

“Daggerdale is reeling from a sudden series of murderous drow raids. As a grave threat to the entire surface world develops in the war-torn dark elf city of Maerimydra, intrepid heroes must discover its source and destroy it, if they can.”

Rated 24th greatest adventure by Dungeon magazine.

City of the Spider Queen is an excellent addition to anyone’s Forgotten Realms campaign or with modifications, any Dungeons and Dragons third-edition game.” – Mania.com

Reavers of the Harkenwold (2010) is a fourth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for characters of level 2-4 by Richard Baker.

In an adventure patterned after Red Hand of Doom, the characters join the resistance and take missions to thwart the army of evil that invaded the Duchy of Harkenwold.

“Definitely one of the best 4E adventures. – Will Doyle.

“I would love to see a 5E update of Reavers of Harkenwold.” – Chris Perkins

The Slaying Stone (2010) is a fourth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for 1st-level characters by Logan Bonner.

Years after goblins overran and occupied a town once settled by humans, the characters enter seeking a lost Slaying Stone, the last of the magic stones created to protect the settlement.

“This is an adventure you won’t want to miss: Not only is it fun and non-linear, but it shows a DM how to better design her own adventures, and that’s something worth reading for any DM, no matter how experienced.” – Kevin Kulp

Dreams of the Red Wizards: Dead in Thay (2014) is a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for characters level 6-8 by Scott Fitzgerald Gray.

Teams of adventurers cooperate to explore a massive dungeon in search of the keys to a phylactery vault held by the evil Red Wizards of Thay.

“A ton of fun. Things get more and more hectic as the alert level of the Doomvault rises. It’s got good pacing, a narrative to it, and some fairly challenging encounters.” – Bell of Lost Souls

Cloud Giant’s Bargain (2016) is a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for level 6 characters by Teos Abadia.

Led by a talking skull, Acquisitions Incorporated interns enter a cloud castle floating over Neverwinter to determine what threats it holds. This superb adventure combines combat, exploration, and interaction with interesting choices into a single session of play. Plus it adds a touch of humor and an unforgettable guide.

Dead in Thay Player’s Handout

I’m interrupting my series of advice on observation and perception to present a player’s handout that anyone running the Dead in Thay Encounters season will need last week.

Dead in Thay features teams of adventures raiding the sprawling Doomvault dungeon compound. The adventure stands as a great idea for an Encounters season, because multiple parties can simultaneously raid as they seek and destroy Szass Tam’s Phylactery Vault. Each week, groups can reform and stage forays into the complex. This premise delivers the fun of multi-group play, while avoiding the usual Encounters issues caused by a changing cast of players.

As much as I like the concept, Dead in Thay presents players with a daunting amount of background information that they must understand. During my first session, as I tried to explain how the Doomvault operates, and as my players struggled to digest a fraction of it, I realized that the adventure screams for a player’s handout.

So I created one.

You can read the content of the handout at the end of this post. You can download a PDF version of the handout here.

Next: We return to our regularly scheduled posts on observation and perception at the game table.

Dead in Thay Player’s Handout

The Doomvault

You begin in an unmapped Gatehouse with teleportation circles that provide access to the Doomvault.

The Doomvault hides a Phylactery Vault containing the souls of the liches who serve the Thayan leader, Szass Tam. Groups assaulting the Bloodgate slew the lich Tarul Var, one of these undead servants. Tarul Var may have reformed in the Doomvault, near his phylactery. He poses a deadly threat. In the Doomvault, you must gain access to the Phylactery Vault and destroy it. As you explore, seize opportunities to destroy the Red Wizards’ monstrous creations.

Dread warriors patrol the Doomvault. After one round, even from a distance, Tarul Var can take control of any dread warrior not accompanied by other Red Wizards. Not only does this alert the lich to your presence, but he can also cast spells through the dread warrior.

Your ally, the paladin Isteval, has lent each party a circlet of limited telepathy, which enables you to communicate with the other parties inside the Doomvault.

The Doomvault consists of 9 sectors, each subdivided into 4 zones. To begin, each party may choose to enter a zone through the black gates mapped in areas 1, 23, 33, 38, 49, 61, and 77.

Glyph Keys

Glyph keys are crystal pendants on bronze chains, which open magical gates in the Doomvault. Glyph keys can be attuned to the zones in the Doomvault complex.

Syranna gives each party one glyph key attuned to the zone they choose to enter first.

Somewhere in each zone is a Contact Stone marked by a circle of magic glyphs. Someone at a contact zone holding a glyph key can speak to Syranna in the Gatehouse.

You can attune a glyph key to a zone in one of two ways:

  • Copy an attunement from one key to another. A different creature must hold each key, and then one of the holders must spend an action to make a successful Intelligence (Arcana) check.
  • Bring a glyph key to a Contact Stone, where Syranna can attune the key to the zone where the stone is located.

A glyph key can be attuned to more than one zone.

White and Black Gates

The Doomvault includes two types of magical gates.

White gates create walls of force that bar passage. To open a white gate, you must carry a glyph key attuned to one of the zones bordering the gate.

Black gates enable teleportation to other black gates in the Doomvault. Black gates follow these rules:

  • To enter a black gate, you must hold a key attuned to the zone where the gate is located.
  • To teleport using a black gate, you enter the gate and think of your destination.
  • Anyone who enters a black gate may teleport to the Gatehouse.
  • Anyone who enters a black gate may teleport to the Seclusion Crypt, a demiplane only accessible by your characters, which offers you a place to rest and recover.
  • To teleport from the black gate to a black gate in another zone, you must have a glyph key attuned to the destination zone.

You can teleport from the gatehouse to black gates in the complex using a glyph key attuned to the destination zone.

With either type of gate, someone holding a properly attuned key can stand in the gate and hold it open so others can pass. With black gates, the person holding the key decides on the destination.

The Seclusion Crypt

The Seclusion Crypt appears as an empty chamber, isolated in time and space. While time passes in this demiplane, no time passes in the world. This magic causes you to age one month for each hour spent in the crypt. Each time after the first time a character visits the crypt, the character’s hit point maximum drops by 5 until the character can complete a long rest outside the crypt.