High-level adventures for 5E are still something of a rarity, which makes Prison for Dragons quite interesting. It’s presented as a 39-page PDF with a small font, and packs in a lot of information. The adventure is for 12th level characters and is written by James Introcaso, who makes regular appearances on The Tome Show podcast, one of the few podcasts I listen to.
The basic premise behind the adventure is that in the world’s infancy, aberrations and dragons were caught up in a millennia-long war. It seems strange to me, but the aberrations weren’t interested in just killing the dragons; instead they imprisoned them in a demiplane where the dragons needed no sustenance and also didn’t age. In more recent history (500 years ago), a tiefling necromancer discovered the prison and started using it as the base for her operations. She’s now trying to find a way of harnessing the power of the demiplane and using it to bring a horde of undead down on the world, although some of her experiments have caused one or two problems for her in the prison. In particular, she managed to create a dracolich that doesn’t like her very much.
Of course, the players don’t know this to begin with. The DM has a few options for bringing the PCs into the adventure: they might be hired to deal with recent ogre raids in the area, to explore old aberrant ruins, or be lured to the area because one of the dragons in the prison has managed to contact them in dream and offered them a great reward if he is freed.
The adventure is primarily a dungeon-crawl through the ruins of the building that housed the prison’s entrance portal and then the prison itself. It’s well-written, and has a particularly old-school feel about it. There are a lot of monsters, a lot of traps (some quite ingenious), and more than a few tricks to puzzle the players. The final level of the prison, with competing factions of dragons (alive and undead), presents some particularly challenging situations for the DM and players; with the threat of role-playing lurking around every corner.
My major issue with the adventure comes from its formatting. I’m not sure what program James has used to assemble the pdf, but it hasn’t worked that well. In particular, it has left no space between the columns of text, causing them to bleed into each other. The dungeon maps are drawn using Pyromancer’s Dungeon Painter, and are quite hard to make out: the grid is incredibly small and also doesn’t show up well against darker floor backgrounds. (The Hexographer wilderness map is much clearer). When you’re dealing with an adventure with such big areas, it’s much better to draw the map on a grid with 1 square = 10 feet or even 20 feet; as it stands, it’s difficult to make out exactly how big the rooms are.
The necromancer, Akros, is also disappointing. She’s got a really interesting background, but it doesn’t come out in the text after she’s encountered. She isn’t the end villain (that would be one of the undead dragons she’s created), but it would have been nice if more attention had been given to what she might do. She’s over 500 years old, so I was hoping for a more fascinating character.
Despite these problems, the rest of the adventure is well-constructed and there is a lot of potential for the DM to really bring the characters to life. Although it is set in James’ world of Canus, I would have little difficulty in transposing it to another world. There are some really good ideas in the adventure, and it is well worth having a look at, especially as it is a free download.