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D&D > Off Topic > Tabletop RPGApr 30, 2024 8:00 am CT

All of the adventures in the upcoming Quests from the Infinite Staircase D&D anthology — plus a preview of the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth adventure

The upcoming D&D adventure anthology Quests from the Infinite Staircase does something I absolutely love: it adapts old school Dungeons and Dragons adventures into the current edition of the game, letting players experience these classics for themselves. While I’m aware that a DM could always adapt those adventures themselves — heck, I’ve adapted White Plume Mountain myself a few times, I’m a sucker for the wizard Kerapis — it’s nice when you don’t have to sit down and convert all the encounters yourself. Also, by adapting — or remastering, a term that makes no sense here except for the fact that video game terminology has become increasingly common in talk about tabletop games — these older dungeon romps, we give people who’ve become players more recently a chance to see the kind of lunacy we had to deal with back in the day.

I mean that very lovingly. This is the second such D&D 5e anthology, and like its predecessor Tales from the Yawning Portal it brings some true classics with all their attendant baggage and weirdness. But I think that it’s entirely possible that Quests has a better selection of adventures. While Tales had White Plume Mountain, Tomb of Horrors, and Lost Shrine of Tamoachan its successor has an absolutely stellar line up as well

So let’s take a look at all of the adventures in Quests from the Infinite Staircase:

  • The Lost City — Tom Moldvay’s utterly classic adventure has the players explore a, well, lost city in the desert with remnants of its previous civilization under siege from a demented elder monstrosity that seemingly can’t die. It also has deliberate spaces for the DM to flesh out and put in anything they wanted — when I first ran it, I actually put several other adventures inside the Lost City for the players to explore. It’s one of the best such adventures ever written.
  • Pharaoh — Originally published by Tracy and Laura Hickman (the Dragonlance duo) as part of their own publishing house, this module is one of their earlier works and shows the potential of the people who created works such as Ravenloft and the aforementioned Dragonlance setting. Plus it’s a fun, weird desert adventure on its own and quite unlike a lot of other such settings. And yeah, it’s interesting how Pharaoh and The Lost City are both set in deserts and you could totally use that to your advantage.
  • When A Star Falls — This is one of many excellent adventures from the TSR UK line, and in it Graeme Morris created an odd, almost Hensonian romp through strange monsters in pursuit of a literal fallen star. The party will have to keep said item and the strange power it contains out of the hands of beings who frankly can’t be trusted with it while also wondering if they themselves can be. What I loved about it at the time was all the weird monsters most adventures avoided using, something that I think helps with the engaging otherness of the experience.
  • Beyond The Crystal Cave — One of the more gratifying things we’ve seen in recent years with D&D is an attempt to move some of the potential progression of an adventure away from violence and combat or at least to make those options more feasible. This particular adventure — another TSR UK adventure written by Graeme Morris, Tom Kirby, and Dave J. Browne, is almost a pastiche of Shakespeare’s The Tempest mashed together with Much Ado About Nothing and maybe a sprinkle of A Midsummer’s Night Dream for good measure. The party is trying to find a pair of eloped lovers on a journey that leads them to a magical land of eternal summer and which can be entirely resolved through good roleplaying and diplomacy if they so wish. It’s the kind of thing we’re still trying to do all these decades later.
  • Expedition to the Barrier Peaks — I just wanted to make it clear that while I love the nonviolent option in adventures like Beyond the Crystal Cave, sometimes you just want to explore a strange ruin that seemingly fell from the sky and is absolutely loaded with alien golems that shoot power magic at you and occasionally stumble upon gigantic frog monsters that want to eat you. This module is possibly the most Gary Gygaxian one ever created, with its tongue lodged somewhere in the cheek area and the crossover with science fiction tropes front and center.

You may have noticed I’ve left one of the adventures off of the list, and that’s because it’s not just appearing in the anthology — right as of this post you can go to D&D Beyond and access a free online version of Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and get a taste for what the adventure is all about for yourselves.

What is Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth?

Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth was one of the S-series of adventures, along with Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. All of these adventures were weird in their own ways, with Tomb being a meat grinder that most players experienced as a kind of rite of passage, White Plume Mountain being a kind of madcap romp through a wizard’s bizarre mountain to claim three ridiculously powerful magic items that no one should ever have (says the guy who got a sentient evil soul drinking sword and really abused the heck out of it), and Expedition being one of the earliest examples of getting objects to unlock a section of the dungeon ala collecting punch cards or cogs or whatever in a video game. Plus all the robots.

But Lost Caverns, an expansion of an earlier tournament adventure, was special in part because it came with rules to run it as a tournament for your players, and also special because it was one of the earliest appearances in lore of the Witch Iggwilv, who you may know better as Tasha from yes, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Having spent a couple of days with the new version of the dungeon, it preserves a lot of what made the original fun, but it is an abridged version of that adventure. This means that the full experience of the original isn’t here — think of this as being similar to playing about the first third of the original adventure with a big hook at the end to lead you into the full story.

It’s still a decent chunk of adventure to run — your group is likely to get through it in one or two sessions, depending on how long you like your games to run. It’s fun, face paced and can be pretty dangerous if your party doesn’t like to think about what they’re doing. But it isn’t the full adventure, so don’t be surprised when you get in there and it just stops at what feels like the middle, because it is the middle.

Is it good and worth running? Yes, absolutely. It’s also fairly easy for a new DM, which is a difficult feat for an adaptation to nail and I think is likely a good omen for the full book once it’s released. The atmosphere of the dungeon is a kind of mocking menace and has nicely weird elements like a magic boat with legs that can walk around for you and is as disturbing in appearance as that sounds.

Overall, while this isn’t a full adventure it is enough to get my interest piqued for the release of Quests from the Infinite Staircase. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the anthology links all of these frankly excellent older adventures together and if they can be converted to 5e in as satisfying a manner as I would hope.

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Filed Under: Iggwilv, Tasha, Tsojcanth

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