5E Adventure Review: Journey Through the Center of the Underdark

Tony Petrecca’s Journey Through the Center of the Underdark is a collection of seven encounters designed to make Underdark travelling more exciting. They would be particularly valuable to any DM running Out of the Abyss, and several are written with that adventure in mind, but all could be easily adapted for use in other adventures set in the underworld. After all, it certainly has a lot of tunnels to travel through!

The encounters range in length and difficulty, although each is designed for a party of 4 to 6 fourth or fifth level characters. From echoing caverns, to drow caravans, to an invisible ettin, to a succubus’s garden: there’s a lot of interest here.

What particularly struck me is how well-written they are. The text is a delight to read. The descriptive text is evocative, and the DM notes don’t ramble. I really wish more adventures I read were as good as this one.

The product doesn’t use much art, but the cover art is striking. The layout is very good and the editing is excellent, although not perfect. Odd grammatical or spelling mistakes creep in from time to time, but because the rest of the text is so entertaining, they don’t detract from my enjoyment of the product. The stat-block of the “Duergar Crawler Commando” contains one of the rare blemishes in the product, with the attack notes being quite confusing (and I’m pretty sure the average of 1d10+3 is 8, not 12).

In Vault of the Drow, Gary Gygax included an encounter with a succubus and her vampire lover in a garden. Tony’s use of a succubus in a garden in this adventure immediately brought that original encounter to mind, but his treatment is far superior. It may rely on the party being too trusting of beautiful strangers to have its full impact, but it’s amazing the stupid things players do, especially if the DM depicts an offer of rest and relaxation as one that could be trusted. (The poor, foolish players!)

The danger of the encounters is leavened with a healthy sense of humour. I’m sure I detect a hint of Monty Python in the demands of Nettie the Invisible Ettin (itself, a wonderful creation). However, although there are moments of comedy, the encounters as a whole should be taken seriously. They’ll be fun to run and play, with a good mix of combat, traps, tricks and role-playing. Yes, all the things I look for in an adventure.

In fact, the only thing the encounters don’t have is an actual adventure. They’re definitely designed for use as part of another adventure. There’s no real beginning and end: those are things you need to provide yourself. You just might have the “problem” of the journey being much more entertaining than the destination!

Journey to the Center of the Underdark is a superb product, and one I strongly recommend.

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