Monday, April 24, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal Part 3

Tales from the Yawning Portal Part 3 (The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan)

Hey Game fans, we’re back with another look at the brand new hardcover adventure compilation Tales from the Yawning Portal.  We’re going to break down each one of these adventures and take a look at the adventure as it’s presented and compare it to its original presentation from a previous version of dungeons and Dragons.  Our quest continues with The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

In brief, The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan was originally written by Harold Johnson and Jeff R. Leason for the Origins Game Fair in 1979.  It was intended to be the center of a large Advanced Dungeons and Dragons tournament event at the Fair, and the original adventure came with pregenerated characters and scoring rubrics for judging how the party did in each round.   The general release in 1980 billed The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan as C1, the first in the Competition Series.
It features artwork by Erol Otus, Jeff Dee, Greg Fleming, David S. LaForce and David C. Sutherland III.  (The First printing for the Game Fair also featured artwork by Darlene Pekul).  There are a total of 3 printings of this adventure the original in 1979, another printing in 1980 that features different cover art, and the 1981 release that i have a copy of.  The adventure is one of the first adventures i can recall that features a separate book of pictures to show the players when they encounter specific areas.  
This adventure is one of the first adventures that i can remember that steps away from traditional European fantasy ideas, and embraces the challenges presented by ancient temples in lost continents.  It borrows heavily from the native cultures of South America and blends them together in a culture for Greyhawk that adds something different to that traditional setting.  

Notable Contributions: The Gibbering Mouther; A new culture for Greyhawk that encouraged later authors to push the boundaries of traditional fantasy ideas and tropes.  

Those of you interested in picking this one up can pick it up at DM’s Guild for about $4.99 in its
Digital format

Tales of The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
This iteration of The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is the third adventure in the Tales from the Yawning Portal. The original version of this adventure was not intended to be part of a campaign.  It’s a stand alone exploration that shares the overall theme of a lost dungeon full of traps, monsters and treasures that Tales from the Yawning Portal runs with. This adventure is intended for 5th level characters (and if you’re playing this book in sequence, the characters should be that level at the conclusion of The Forge of Fury.)  The adventure proper starts as the characters find a lost city in the depths of the jungle.   


Rumors of a lost city full of treasure have made their way to the wider world.  Adventurers and historians alike are racing to find the lost city and discover its secrets.  Unfortunately, there is a more sinister influence lurking in that darkened ruins, and adventurers will have to have their wits about them to discover the secrets and escape with their lives.  


This is an adventure for 5th level characters, and will take them to 8th level upon its completion.  This adventure is a long dungeon crawl, and is going to take multiple sessions to get through.  With that in mind, take your time and enjoy the adventure.  This adventure focuses on exploring the environment and confronting challenges.  Take these as they come along. Unlike the previous two adventures, there isn’t a homebase where the characters can return to in order to find healing and additional supplies.  Basically, the training wheels are off, and it’s very possible to lose a character or two in this dungeon without a real way to bring them back.  

Adventure Breakdown

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is broken up into five key areas.  The adventure is a very linear one, and the characters will have to navigate forward, the way back is shut and there is no way through it.  

The Lower Chambers

This adventure actually starts in a very similar fashion to one of my favorite children’s shows.  The characters while setting up for their expedition into the city end up trapped far beneath it in ancient chambers belonging to the lost civilization. The way back is buried under rock and dirt, and in order for the characters to escape this ancient place, they’ll have to push forward into the shrine.   

The First Tier

The Characters are going to have to push upward in order to escape the temple and find their way back into the sun.  This temple is constructed in tiered layers, and the next area the characters have access to is the first tier.  This is a fascinating area full of interesting things to encounter and challenges to overcome.  Keep in mind that this temple is very reminiscent of several ancient ruins in the real world, and this place is full of traps (and treasures).  Keep your eyes open, your wits about you, and you might make it a few steps closer to the surface.

The 2nd Tier

The characters push higher into the temple and the danger escalates.  There are some unexpected allies in this level, if the characters can find them and make use of them.  This entire dungeon complex is filled with icons and lost treasures of ancient civilizations, and the characters can find some truly exotic treasures (if they can get through the ancient wards and guardians protecting them).  The tiers are getting smaller as the characters progress upward, so there are fewer areas to explore, which could mean that the characters can stumble into multiple encounters at the same time.  

The 3rd Tier

This tier is much smaller than the previous ones, but has some interesting encounters to manage.  Studious adventurers can find more information about the ancient people who built this city, and there are treasures (and monstrous guardians) littered throughout this level.  The characters are very close to the surface, and they will have to be extraordinarily clever to navigate their way to the surface.  

The Temple Grounds

Finally, the characters have made their way back to the surface, and are in the midst of an ancient temple.  There are still traps to encounter, and there is a mighty treasure for characters willing to brave the wrath of an ancient monster.  Once the characters have finished their explorations, they can start the return journey home, and this concludes the adventure.  


This is a wonderfully constructed dungeon that starts the characters at the deepest point and makes them fight their way back to the surface.  The adventure is also a master class in designing and deploying traps to confound and confuse players.  This is one of the first death trap style dungeons the characters are likely to ever encounter, and that means that it’s an excellent place to learn the lessons that will keep them alive in the later chapters of Tales from the Yawning Portal.  I also should point out that this dungeon has some of the most interesting world building i’ve seen in a Dungeons and Dragons product.  The original version has been lovingly updated for 5th Edition.


This adventure is a straight up death trap that will murder the bejesus out of an unsuspecting party.  Characters that love to charge forward and explore without looking around are likely to end up dead and take chunks of their party with them.  This could be frustrating for some players, and the utilization of traps as frequently as this dungeon does could turn people paranoid about exploring ancient ruins.  The other minor issue that i have is that this adventure doesn’t give the characters a lot of options or chances to resupply, so they are either going to have be extremely careful with their resources, or be forced to rush through the adventure, which exacerbates the trap problem.  I would strongly encourage the DM give the players the suggestion to stock up for an extended trip, since this expedition is almost an entire world away.  

Thoughts and Conclusions

I like this version of The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.  If you were going to design an adventure like the movie version of The Mummy, or any of the Indiana Jones films, it would feel a lot like this where characters have to be as clever as they are strong.    It’s a fun adventure, and it’s distinctly different from the first two chapters.  This is an adventure where the characters can’t run back to town when things get ugly, they’ll have to get creative to survive.  

This is an excellent re-imaging of a classic 1st edition adventure.  It’s an excellent escalation in dungeon survival and characters that escape its clutches should count themselves lucky for the experience, and wiser for their tribulations.  Next week we’ll take a look at another classic, we’re going back to White Plume Mountain. Grab your Copy of Tales from the Yawning Portal, and your friends.  There’s a pile of dungeons to explore.

Game On, Game Fans

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