Diving Deeper Into A Classic Dungeons and Dragons Adventure

Phandelver and Below:
The Shattered Obelisk
Amanda Hamon and Bree Heiss

If you have been playing Baldur’s Gate 3 and wish to have a pen and paper adventure filled with Mind flayers in the Forgotten Realms setting, then take a look at “Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk.” This adventure is headed by the Dungeons and Dragons Wizards of the Coast Senior Designer Amanda Hamon working with Art Director Bree Heiss. Hamon had previously worked on another adventure that GiN had reviewed, “Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos.” And that was a really good adventure and campaign setting too.

Hamon and Heiss say that it was a lot of fun collaborating together on such a unique opportunity where they were able to take a classic Dungeons and Dragons module and not only expand on it, but also add an entirely new adventure to the mix that goes well beyond what players experienced with the original adventure.

The new book is an imaginative expansion of a previous adventure from storied Dungeons and Dragons history called “Lost Mine of Phandelver” and has so many great monsters, NPCs and magic items that you can mine parts of it for other adventures. The new “Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk” book has eight chapters and a double-sided poster sized map. On one side, the map illustrates how the city of Neverwinter sits in relation to the mining town of Phandelver along with the mountain ranges and two surrounding forests. On the back side, it shows various locations the characters can visit like caves and castles.

The first four chapters of the adventure take the player characters from first all the way up to fifth level and makes the most of the material from the original “Lost Mine of Phandelver” module. The next four chapters are comprised of new material and take the characters on a journey all the way to twelfth level! The goblin centric, prime material plot gives way to something more like a Far Realms type of surreal cross-planar epic as the adventure continues.

Chapter six is kind of a transition chapter and leads the characters from seventh to ninth level by leading them into the mysterious Underdark. Chapter seven ups the action to finding rifts into the Far Realms where the challenges grow. The monsters also increase in hit points and special attacks. Chapter eight goes into the Far Realms itself and has a great boss to fight. It is recommended that players should be at least tenth level at this point. This leveling is given some well written milestones so it doesn’t feel forced or unwarranted. This capstone chapter is a tough thirty pages for the characters, but a delightful read for a Dungeon Master.

The Fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is known to make characters incredibly powerful at higher levels. Also, if any character gets to the higher levels, then they have faced most of the monsters that could offer resistance. By just a quick internet search, they can find the weaknesses and lore of anything they encounter. This can make things tough for a Dungeon Master to make any high-level obstacle hard enough or original enough for a regular, hours-long session. This adventure addresses that concern with not only new variants on Mind flayers but also new creatures from the Far Realms.

Even if such an adventure doesn’t fit your campaign, then elements of this book can easily be used to expand your home brew game or another official campaign. Acquisitions Incorporated did just such a thing in their new second season when we recently reviewed it.

The Co-dungeon Masters for Acquisitions Incorporated, Jeremy Crawford and Chris Perkins, used monsters and settings from this very module to add into their already chaotic campaign. It leans more on the planar-jumping aspects of the module and is a good watch if you wish to see how two longtime GMs not only work together but weave one adventure into a campaign that has been going on since 2008, which is sixteen years.

The art for this adventure meets the writing in a good place. It’s worth even just reading the book and enjoying the stories presented while admiring the artwork. Or, if you’re online, there is also a Roll20 version of the module. The personality of each NPC comes through well in the writing, and the layout is seamless with their stories. I was very happy with this book and would recommend it for Dungeon Masters who like using Illithids (Mind flayers) in their campaigns, or for anyone who wants to have a well-thought-out series of challenges that can bring starting players all the way up to twelfth level in a fun and exciting way.

A special note about the Roll20 version of this module: it gives you some great pointers about setting the maps since different ones have different scales. It translates the great work of the book into a digital format for an online tabletop experience. So, whether you are using this adventure as a physical book sitting around the table with friends or online as part of a remote campaign, it’s a fun and exciting addition to your Dungeons and Dragons adventures.

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