Review – D&D Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk

Does anyone know where to get a good replacement Obelisk?

Phandelver and Below_Hype_Art by Andrey Kuzinskiy

 

Designer Amanda Hamon

Artist Antonio Jose Manzanedo and others

Publisher Wizards of the Coast

Category RPG Supplement

Length 224 pages

Release Date 09/19/2023

Player Count 2+

What starts as a simple trip to a rural village turns into a trip that will take the adventurers beyond the boundaries of reality itself in an attempt to save the townspeople from succumbing to otherworldly evils hiding just beneath their feet. Phandelver and Below is split into two parts: the first half (Chapters 1-4) are a reimagining of the “beloved” module Lost Mine of Phandelver, published in 2014 as part of the D&D Starter Set. The second half sees the adventurers squaring off against evil forces that would see the entire town transformed in their own evil image. Playing both halves would take a group of (ideally) 4-6 adventurers from level 1 all the way to 12th level after finishing chapter 8. So, are you up for the challenges hiding around and below Phandalin, or should you have just stayed home? 

The Standard (L) and Alternate (R) covers.

Content Guide

Besides the usual disclaimers (magic, monsters, bad guys, possible violence, misdemeanors, and role-playing) this adventure also has a fair amount of possible horrific elements including mind control, body horror, alternate dimensions, evil gods and beings, tentacles, and weird/disgusting enemies. Dungeon Masters running this game would do well to discuss what players are and aren’t comfortable with prior to starting, which is just a good practice to have in general.

Review

This book feels like two adventures packed into one. Not that they didn’t do a good job linking the two halves of the book; it’s just filled with that much content. This could easily be the one book you might get after the classic 3 (Player’s Guide, Monster Manual, Dungeon Master’s Guide), and it would supply more than enough potential stories and adventures to keep most players happy for several more levels after the main story concluded. Players will even have a chance to join one of a few different organizations such as the Zhentarim or the Harpers, which won’t directly affect the adventure but could in later sessions, especially for players who participate in Organized Play. 

The adventure begins as the players are on the road to Phandalin when they stumble into a goblin ambush. After dealing with goblins the players learn about the Lost Mine and get pointed towards their next encounter. By the last chapter, the adventure has steamrolled into the characters traveling to an alternate realm to fight fanatics worshiping an unholy god in a fleshy maze. You know, as one does after a few sessions of D&D

But it starts off normally enough – after rescuing the town from the goblins and some Redbrand ruffians, both of which feel like classic adventures with a dungeon crawl, players will then have to find the location of Wave Echo Cave, a mine with many riches but also a sprawling dungeon filled with enemies and bosses, as well as a couple dwarves to rescue. Completing this chapter is a possible checkpoint, where players could stop and enjoy their new found riches from reclaiming the mine, or they can return to Phandalin and find the next step in the adventure as goblins start committing more and more crimes around the town. 

Because of the possible spoilers, I don’t want to break down the story beats from Chapters 5-8, but this is where the adventure really picks up beyond just dungeon crawling and rescuing dwarves. Players have to investigate a series of odd crimes in chapter 5 leading to a confrontation that sheds light on just how serious the dangers are that Phandalin faces. The 2nd half of the book is where the adventure really shines in my opinion. Should you have the means, I would suggest picking up Phandelver and Below

A review copy was provided by the publisher

The Bottom Line

Do you like Dungeon crawls? Do you like D&D with a bit of horror, while trying to unravel a dangerous mystery? Then get this book.

 

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Author: Andrew Borck

Christian/Husband/Dad/Gamer/Writer/Master Builder. Jesus saves and Han shot first.