Mirrors of the Abyss
Writer(s): Ryan Durney and Christopher Rush
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 300 pages
Available Format(s): PDF and/or Hardcover
I’m not necessarily of the persuasion that my D&D adventures must be deadly to be fun. Yet I feel that 5E errs on the side of playing it safe when it comes encounter difficulty. I may be one of the few who doesn’t believe that The Lost Mines of Phandelver was too difficult. I don’t say this from the perspective of a grognard railing about how it was “back in the day” or anything. No. I say it as a member of a party who had only ONE survivor through that adventure. I’m just okay with a good amount of PC death.
Having said what I did about past editions, Mirrors of the Abyss IS an adventure that takes the spirit of older modules, like Tomb of Horrors, and wraps it up in a shiny 5E Guild product to create a modern death dungeon to challenge even the most juiced PCs in the Realms. With 300 pages of memorable art, several chambers, a couple of modes of play, and new spells, traps, treasures, and creatures there is certainly something to be found in the mega-dungeon for just about any type of player. It’s hard to distill down an adventure this encompassing to just a few talking points but I’ll do my best.
First, the main antagonist, Eshebala, is a great villain. She’s fanatical, maniacal, and maybe even a little confused about her original intent. Additionally, she features early and often in the adventure rather than simply being the big, bad, evil villain you only encounter at the adventure’s end. Seemingly part demon, part fox, and part human, Eshebala is all trouble. Beware!
While Mirrors of the Abyss is a quintessential death-trap/gauntlet type of dungeon, there is plenty of opportunity for roleplaying. If your players like 4 hour slug-it-out encounters, that’s here too. Simply adjust which chambers you lead them through and create a customized adventure for their (or your) style. Consequently, the unplayed chambers help leverage the replayability of this adventure.
The earliest release of this adventure didn’t have separate maps that you could use as handouts or even in virtual tabletop programs but that changed in a recent update. Now there are over 30 of them in 11″ x 17″ format as well as 18 map assets for Fantasy Grounds or the like. Furthermore, these are all conveniently grouped into a single zip folder you download upon purchase. It’s really nice to have everything contained into one download like that.
I have no way of knowing your preferences for the type of content you like in your games. That is to say, I’m not sure where you’d draw the line between what is appropriate and what isn’t. As such, I would just caution you that this adventure is for mature audiences only. It’s flexible, as I’ve already mentioned. But it contains a lot of violence (as most adventures do) and sexual innuendo and content as well as a healthy dose of torture and sadism. And why shouldn’t it? Eshebala is chaotic evil. Not just in classification. But in her actions as they are presented. If you’re not comfortable playing out some of these scenarios but still want to give the adventure a try, you’ll need to do some additional prep work ahead of time. But I contend that you may weaken the experience if you nerf this adventure too much.
I don’t condone or advocate for senselessness per se. But the discomfort you and your players may feel with some encounters is exactly what will make for a memorable chaotic evil campaign.
From a design standpoint, the quality is professional however some of the text is a little hard to read. It’s convenient that the text meant specifically for the DM is lighter than all the rest. But against a similarly light background, I had to strain to read it sometimes. The art is great as are the maps. Aside from the text complaint, this is a good one to consider owning in physical form.
- a memorable antagonist who relishes in her chaos
- great design work and art
- lots and lots of replayability with the chambers’ flexibility for inclusion or exclusion
- mature content may deter you