The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996): Greatest D&D Adventures Since 1985—Number 10

The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Bruce Cordell for levels 5-8.

When TSR introduced the second-edition Player’s Option books, new designer Bruce Cordell drew the job of writing an adventure highlighting the supplements.

The Combat & Tactics supplement introduced the maps-and-minis, grid-based style of combat that would come to dominate third and fourth edition. For that, the adventure packages monster tokens, and vivid—almost psychedelic—battlemaps for key locations.

For characters upgraded with Skills & Powers, The Gates of Firestorm Keep brings tough combat challenges against organized duergar resistance.

After passing the duergar guarding the gate, the party can continue through more combat, or stealth, or an alliance with a duergar usurper. Reviewer Will Mistretta writes, “Firestorm Peak is strongly non-linear, with more than one way to tackle the dungeon’s challenges.”

Never content to build a dungeon around a mere ruin or hole in the ground, Cordell begins with a evocative premise: “Once a generation, they say, a strange comet appears in the sky overhead and the gates of Firestorm Peak swing open.” One player has the option of casting their character as the offspring of an adventurer who disappeared in the mountain 28 years ago.

The adventure starts as a tactical challenge, but it veers into fresh territory. “Anyone who’s been a gamer long enough reaches a stage where he or she begins to feel like it’s all been done,” John D. Rateliff says. “This adventure is evidence that fresh talent will always come along and do the familiar with so much verve and so many personal touches that it all seems new again.”

As the party delves deeper and starts unraveling the peak’s mystery, the story creeps into the weird territory of things we’re not meant to know. “It positively oozes freaky flavor,” writes Mistretta. “The alien life forms infesting the depths of the dungeon are truly unsettling in their aspect and the gradual transition from a classic Underdark romp to the heart of an otherworldly foulness is handled quite deftly.”

Firestorm Peak introduced the Far Realm, a Lovecraftian dimension of insanity and horror. “It got a lot of attention because it was evocative and focused on one of D&D’s influences that had long been neglected—the Cthulhu mythos,” Shannon Appelcline writes in his product history. “The Gates of Firestorm Peak was also the adventure that changed the way people thought about D&D aberrations. Beforehand, they were wizardly experiments gone wrong, but afterward they were more frequently associated with Lovecraftian monstrosities.”

The Gates of Firestorm Peak ranked 11 on Dungeon magazine’s 2004 list of 30 greatest adventures.

Next: Number 9.

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15 Responses to The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996): Greatest D&D Adventures Since 1985—Number 10

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  2. J David Chrisman says:

    A great review – thanks for sharing!

  3. brucercordell says:

    Thanks for the review! Much appreciated :). If you’re interested, I wrote about designing the Gates of Firestorm Peak a few months ago, and the associated creation of The Far Realm (which certainly got its name in Gates, but which I further highlighted in later adventures to strengthen its importance): http://brucecordell.blogspot.com/2019/03/origin-of-far-realm-in-d.html

  4. PS says:

    Nice, I did no know this one. This would work great for my group. I will pick it up on DMG.

  5. alphastream says:

    It is no shock at all to see Bruce Cordell on this list! It won’t surprise me if we see his name again in the top 10. It’s fun to read about people remarking on his coming in as new talent with new ideas. That’s really cool to think back on that. I like how Bruce (even today with MCG) has a real gift for suffusing an adventure setting with vivid flavor.

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