Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal Part 4

Tales from the Yawning Portal Part 4 (White Plume Mountain)

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 White Plume Mountain.

White Plume Mountain

In brief, White Plume Mountain was originally written by Lawrence Schick.  It’s a straightforward dungeon crawl that only occupies 16 pages.  Adventurers are hired to retrieve 3 specific intelligent weapons from the dungeons within the mountain.  It is a puzzle lover’s dream, and has often been called the “puzzle dungeon to end all puzzle dungeons”
It features artwork by Erol Otus and Jeff Dee.  Originally published in 1979 as part of the S (Special Series), White Plume Mountain is a critically acclaimed module that has been a touchstone across multiple editions of the game.  Including a Return to White Plume Mountain released as part of the 3.5 edition in 1999.  Other adventures in this series include the Tomb of Horrors, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.
This adventure is a treasure hunt, as the characters have been hired to enter White Plume Mountain, follow the lost path of an ancient wizard, and retrieve three intelligent weapons, Wave, Whelm and Blackrazor.  The secrets in that mountain are some of the most riveting, though provoking encounters in the history of the game.  

Notable Contributions: Blackrazor, Whelm, and Wave (three iconic intelligent weapons that seem to keep cropping up in the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons).  

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 White Plume Mountain
This iteration of White Plume Mountain is the fourth 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 included in a category of adventures intended for mid to high level adventures and presented them with amazing challenges and traps..  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 8th level characters (and if you’re playing this book in sequence, the characters should be that level at the conclusion of The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.)  The adventure proper starts as the characters approach the mountain in search of the lost weapons.  


White Plume Mountain is allegedly the home of a ancient wizard who disappeared centuries prior.  The mountain is an inhospitable place, and visitors are rarely seen again.  Rumors of dungeons and caverns filled with monsters and treasures draw the brave in, but rarely are those adventurers found again, and their treasures become a part of the greater legacy.  


This is an adventure for 8th level characters, and will take them to 9th 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.  The Mountain itself is set in such a remote location that the supplies that are available locally aren’t of much use to characters of this level.  Stock up on Potions and other essential supplies before you set off on this expedition.  

Adventure Breakdown

White Plume Mountain is unique in this collection in that it effectively occupies one level.  The 27 encounter areas are all contained in the same space and other than some interesting distances caused by the dungeon being set inside a volcano, the characters will have to take their time and find the best ways in, and the best places to rest and recover inside the dungeon.  

White Plume Mountain

This adventure starts with the characters descending a spiral staircase down into the mountain.  This dungeon is a thinking adventurer’s dungeon, and the characters are going to have to be able to think their way through problems and use some deductive reasoning.  Some of these puzzles can’t be cracked with force, and that may frustrate some players.  This dungeon also doesn’t necessarily follow a linear path.  Once the players have gained access to the spiral stairs, there are three specific paths, and characters can attempt to take any of them at their leisure.  Because this adventure doesn’t have discrete areas, i’m going to break it up slightly differently.

The Setup

The original dungeon builder sought out protectors and servants to ensure that the less intelligent yet necessary guardians would have  their needs met.  There are security people, keepers and dungeon dwellers who have a specific role that relates to at least one other creature within the  dungeon.  Further, there are specific contingencies to deal with crises should areas get breached or otherwise damaged.  This is an intelligently constructed dungeon that has its own ecosystems and interactions between its residents.  

The Treasures

The three weapons the characters are retrieving are located in specific areas with intelligent guardians.  There are a lot more treasures than just these scattered throughout the complex as well, but characters are going to have to be a combination of extremely lucky and extremely clever to collect all of the loot.  This place is full of treasure and traps, and the traps are certainly capable of killing unwary or unprepared adventurers.

The Puzzles

This adventure is chock full of puzzles and other thinking activities.  If characters attempt to rush through this dungeon, i am fairly certain they’ll be dead before they make it to the giant crab.  Examining the relationship between things they do and their effects is going to be essential for a party to make it through this intact.  Also remember that the guardians of this place are reasonably aware of the puzzles in their areas but rarely have any clue as to the ones around them.  Characters are going to have to think their way through this to be successful.


This is a wonderfully constructed dungeon that rewards clever players and is quite severe at punishing a lack of caution.  The characters that survive this dungeon will have to display creativity, deductive reasoning, and the ability to work cohesively.   This is one of the first hybrid dungeons that features both intelligent guardians and lethal traps. It also heavily features water and other environmental effects as elements to challenge the characters.    Figuring out how to navigate around the dangers and identifying which creatures can be trusted is an essential skill for later chapters of Tales from the Yawning Portal.  This is a dungeon designed by a very clever man to test the skills of adventurers all over the world, and not all of them are going to measure up.


This adventure is best consumed at a slower pace than some adventurers are going to want to take.  Because there are so many puzzles and things to interact with, this dungeon is not good for players who have short attention spans or don’t like complex things.  This adventure can be ended abruptly with poor judgment and rash thinking, so try to discourage characters from jumping directly into things the first couple of times.  After that, they should have either learned their lesson, or the lesson was not learned hard enough.  The lack of a base nearby means that if the characters need to leave and come back, they’re likely going to be trekking for a while to get where they are supposed to be.  

Thoughts and Conclusions

I like this version of White Plume Mountain.  If you were going to design an adventure that challenges the players as much as their characters, this is an excellent place to start.  It encourages deductive logic and critical thinking without relying on information that the characters have no way of knowing.     It’s a fun adventure, and it’s distinctly different from the first two chapters. This is a clever way of examining a dungeon as a complex ecology and realizing that different parts have different effects in other areas.   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 to the Doomvault in Dead in Thay. 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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