For many new players of Dungeons & Dragons since the launch of the 5th edition, the best way to hop right in has been the Starter Set The Lost Mines of Phandelver. Originally announced last year, we've now got a wealth of information about Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk. Key information we were able to learn from the Lead Designer and Art Director is just how much is different from the Lost Mines of Phandelver, this is important for those who might have already run it or are thinking of starting their own adventure.
Dungeons & Dragons releases are back into full swing as we've just come off the release of Bigby Presents: Glory to the Giants, and are anticipating The Deck of Many Things Source Book to be released on November 14th.
Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk is a new Level 1-12 campaign set to release on September 19th (or 5th if you get it early via DNDBeyond). This book is partly an update to the Lost Mines of Phandelver and also part sequel. Players can experience an updated Lost Mines of Phandelver story that will bring them to level 5 before they delve below the town of Phandalin in a classic dungeon crawl.
Last week TechRaptor got to sit down and hear from the creators of Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk to learn more about what DMs and Player's alike will find between the covers. We got to hear from Amanda Hamon, Lead Designer, and Bree Heiss, Art Director.
Please be aware as you continue reading there will be minor story spoilers for The Lost Mines of Phandelver and the beginning of Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk
What is in Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk?
The key information to know about Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk is that it isn't just a sequel adventure to The Lost Mines of Phandelver, but it's a complete 226 page Adventure book. The first third of the book will include a refreshed version of the questline from The Lost Mines of Phandelver, the other two thirds of the book will include the rest of the adventure delving into the strange occurrences affecting Phandalin, as well as an expanded bestiary and Magical Item list.
This adventure will take a party from level 1 all the way to level 12, the first five of which many players might have already experienced through the Lost Mines of Phandelver but with levels 6-12 as completely fresh content there's still a lot here to look forward to.
What has been changed from The Lost Mines of Phandelver?
Hamon explained that the basic plotline of The Lost Mines of Phandelver were intact but that along the way a variety of quests and events were further fleshed out to become more streamlined, additional artwork has been added, and that a number of smaller cosmetic changes have also been included.
As early as the first encounter of the campaign, the goblin ambush along the road, instead of being simply a block of text there's now far more detail and even a map of the encounter space. Some artwork that has been included depict Klarg from the Goblin cave and the Banshee, Agatha. Whether you're a DM who enjoys sharing artwork with players as the adventure goes on, or use it for your own visual knowledge the sentiment that was expressed by Heiss was that they wanted to create this art to give the adventure the respect that it deserves.
Changes for the purpose of diversity were also highlighted. The NPC Reidoth the Druid, originally described as "a gaunt, white-bearded human who doesn’t use two words when one word will do", is now a female druid with a fox familiar. Other places that Hamon explained characters would see these smaller changes in the world include seeing more variety in the species of the inhabitants of Phandalin.
Through Hamon's discussion on the changes in Phandelver and Below, as well as the explanations from Heiss of different pre-release artwork that TechRaptor was shown it's clear that after Phandelver being such an important entry into the world of D&D 5e since 2014 there was a passion to give it a facelift from being a booklet to a fully realized release.
What does the new Phandelver and Below Shattered Obelisk questline entail?
Chapter 3 kicks off with the appearance of Goblins with psyonic powers and mutated creatures. These goblins are in town not only defacing property but are in search of a particular item, the players will need to find out what they're after and beat them to it.
"The new content starts out being a strange investigation about strange happenings around Phandalin and becomes stranger and stranger and escalated into perhaps the strangest adventure that we've ever written" - Amanda Hamon
Versions of familiar enemies will continue to appear but will be corrupted by whatever is behind the strange green glow present on important artifacts and even the book's Alternate Artwork. As the adventure goes on the party will have opportunities to stop an enemy faction from retrieving portions of the obelisk. As time progresses the state of Phandalin and it's inhabitants will continue to change for better or worse. The ultimate goal of the enemy faction seems to be putting the Obelisk back together and use it to conduct a ritual that will forever alter Phandalin.
One interesting thing to note, with body horror and cosmic horror elements this book becomes decidedly less child friendly as you progress through. As Phandelver and Below is an enhanced adaptation of what's meant to be the gateway to D&D 5e for many players there are specifically outlined steps in the book for how a DM could tone down some of the darker themes. Hamon explained as the Obelisk is gathered there's a corruption sub-system that will affect the town but if any of the changes or descriptions are likely to be too much for a younger player those changes can be ignored or toned down.
Even in explaining how you could make the adventure more family-friendly Hamon did warn that the final chapter will be the least friendly of them all. Some of the monsters artwork, like that of the Flesh Meld, are excellent examples of the horrors that might await in the final moments of the campaign.