Out of the Abyss – Adventure Summary, Guide, and Review

Last Updated on February 1, 2023

Demons, darkness, and adventurers doomed to fail. Today, we’re looking at the 5e adventure, Out of the Abyss. We’ll be looking at this incredibly exciting adventure through a mostly objective summary and review. By the end of this article, we’ll answer the question: Should you buy Out of the Abyss?

Key Takeaways:

  • “Open-world” campaigns can be difficult to run.
  • Plenty of high-threat encounters mean it’s easy for characters to die in this 5e adventure.
  • Out of the Abyss is not made for 1st-time DMs or even relative beginners. Experienced DMs with a passion for the themes in this adventure should look into running it.

What Is Out of the Abyss?

Out of the Abyss is an adventure that takes place mostly within the Underdark, a vast underground network that can be found underneath the surface of most of Abeir-Toreil (the prime material plane in the Forgotten Realms). The adventure takes characters to level 15 and is largely centered on demons.

For starters, this is a really interesting adventure. It presents itself as a story that’s very reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, or even the Odyssey in some ways. 

Our characters start off as unwilling guests (also known as prisoners) to the Underdark, and their adventures will take them on a slow descent into the depths. It might also take them on a slow descent into madness because you know we love some good metaphorical symmetry. 

As the players attempt to escape prison, their path will bring them past many strange occurrences. As they realize what’s going on, it’s likely that their call to heroics will see them heading straight back into the depths from which they came, this time ready to take on the demon lords and send them straight back to the Abyss.

This adventure is incredibly freeform, allowing the PCs to really explore whatever they wish and make decisions that have huge impacts on the overall story. Because of this, it’s not an adventure for beginner DMs, or players, to jump into for their first 5e experience. 

In fact, Out of the Abyss is a lot closer to reading a book and developing an adventure based on it than it is to a pre-built adventure. The “chapters” provide a general progression guide, but “general” is putting it nicely.

Prospective DMs of this level 1-15 campaign (which can generally run you for about a year if you play regularly) will need to read through the whole book to really parse out what’s going on. This isn’t your “prep the night before and call it” D&D campaign. This will take actual effort.

Something similar can be said for the players. While the brunt of the effort lies on the back of the DM as it does with most campaigns, it isn’t a particularly easy adventure to survive for the players. Most notably, the final battle could see you facing off against multiple demon lords. A TPK after over a year of playing isn’t really rewarding.

Of course, all of the effort and trials that come with this adventure are really worth it if you have the time to dedicate to it. The story is one of the best we’ve seen in a 5e adventure, and it includes so many opportunities for everything from good old-fashioned dungeon crawls to an insanity mechanic that can have serious repercussions.

What’s in Out of the Abyss?

The book is notably lacking a neat overview section that would serve as an overall DM guide for the campaign. It does, however, include detailed chapters that provide insight and direction. You can think of them as the foundation on which you’ll build your version of Out of the Abyss.

Keep in mind, this is just a brief overview, not a full-blown adventure guide. 

Here are the chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Prisoners of the Drow – Our adventures start off imprisoned by the drow, and this wonderful cliché allows our players to escape and begin exploring the Underdark.
  • Chapter 2: Into Darkness – This chapter details the traveling your characters will be doing throughout the Underdark.
  • Chapter 3-6: The Darklake, Gracklstugh, Neverlight Grove, Blingdenstone – These next four chapters provide more precise setting details for important places your characters will reach in the Underdark. Each location has different events and plot hooks, and your characters can realistically travel them in any order.
  • Chapter 7: Escape from the Underdark – This one pretty much explains itself. You do also get to have a run-in with the drow that have been chasing your party.
  • Chapter 8: Audience in Gauntlgrym – The players recruit assistance from various Forgotten Realm factions in the dwarven city of Guantlgrym.
  • Chapter 9: Mantol-Derith – The players stock up at this merchant town, get some plot information, and may even cause some trouble. 
  • Chapter 10: Descent into the Depths – Yup. The players descend into the depths. Enjoy some random encounters, interact with your NPC posse, and keep chugging along.
  • Chapter 11: Gravenhollow – Plot city! This stone giant library gives a whole bunch of information to our characters and allows them to meet up with the drow archmage Vizeran Devir, an important NPC that should have a bit of plot armor.
  • Chapter 12: The Tower of Vengeance – We learn Vizeran’s plan and are sent on a fetch quest to get everything necessary for a ritual to send Demons back to the Abyss.
  • Chapter 13: The Wormwrithings – It’s. Time. To. Collect! Run around the Abyss and track down important components for the ritual.
  • Chapter 14: The Labyrinth – Every good wonderland adaptation needs a labyrinth, so naturally, we get one here. There are a lot of side events happening, so this can be a really exciting chapter depending on what the characters decide to involve themselves in.
  • Chapter 15: The City of Spiders – We finally make our way to Mensoberranzan and get to interact with drow in a fun, espionage-focused chapter.
  • Chapter 16: The Fetid Wedding – Should the players stop a wedding between a demon lord and an expansive living fungus? That’s up to them to decide.
  • Chapter 17: Against the Demon Lords – Finally, the demon lords are gathered in one place, and depending on the characters’ actions up to this point, one of many scenarios plays out. If all goes well, the demon lords return to the Abyss and our heroes live to see another day.

Should You Buy Out of the Abyss?

If you have some experience as a DM and you’re looking to run an incredibly exciting adventure that leaves so much up to character decisions, then yes, you should definitely purchase this book. 

If you’re just starting out with D&D and you’re looking for an adventure to sink your teeth into, this probably isn’t the one. Put it on the back burner, grab the D&D Essentials Kit, or find some small one-shot adventures to build up your skills. Then, when you’re ready for the madness of demons set loose in a twisted underworld, pull the trigger, and add Out of the Abyss to your shelf.

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