The next DnD book, Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk, adds a heap of cosmic horror to a classic 5e adventure. This looks like it’ll include Mind Flayers, the classic DnD monsters who have a recent starring role in Baldur’s Gate 3. In a press event on August 18, Dungeons and Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast showed off the new covers for the DnD book – one of which sneaks a few Illithids into its retro-horror art.
Phandelver and Below is a 226-page adventure which expands on fifth edition’s original starter adventure, Lost Mines of Phandelver. Once again, the idyllic town of Phandalin is under threat from something deep underground. As well as more content, the full campaign will feature new mechanics and some inclusivity changes to the original adventure.
Phandelver and Below’s first five chapters are remastered versions of the 2014 adventure, and the other two-thirds is all-new content. The DnD campaign has been expanded into a more challenging, horror-focused adventure that takes players into the Underdark to uncover the secrets of the strange obelisks that have cameoed in a host of past 5e books.
Wizards didn’t directly reveal the presence of DnD Mind Flayers in Phandalin. Instead, lead designer Amanda Hamon hinted that monsters from the book’s alternative cover showed creatures that’d have a part to play in the campaign.
She says to expect “specific monsters pulled from the legacy of cosmic horror that are very important” – and we’re guessing that means Mind Flayers. Given that this adventure is for levels one to 12, and a regular, run-of-the-mill Mind Flayer has a challenge rating of seven, we’re not expecting them to crop up until fairly late in the campaign.
Friday’s press event also revealed plenty of other horrors the residents of Phandalin should be worried about. Regular DnD Goblins are now blessed with psionic powers; average cows are suddenly sprouting tentacles; and ‘Mutates’ are warping already-horrifying monsters into gory, grim new creations.
Plus, there’s some John-Carpenter-esque business going on with the Flesh Meld, and plenty of squishy eyes and brains. All this because of the glowing green magic surrounding those curious Netherese obelisks.
Hamon says Phandelver and Below is “perhaps the strangest adventure we’ve ever written”. Art director Bree Heiss adds that the book embraces all-out horror in a way fifth edition rarely attempts.
“We don’t always get the opportunity in D&D to explore [horror] in a way that feels as horror-y as you’re looking for”, she says. “This was an opportunity to embrace that darker side and get a little gross and strange”.
As the tie-in adventure to the original 5e starter set, Phandelver is usually considered a family-friendly, beginner D&D adventure. With Phandelver and Below, this is no longer the case. In fact, later parts of the adventure get so scary, Hamon gives advice on how to keep things light and child-appropriate.
“We share some information on how to dial back the horror”, she says. “The last chapter will probably be the most not-youngster-friendly, so there may need to be some cuts to that last bit.” She also recommends skipping the optional rules for Corruption, which show the effects of a strange ritual on Phandalin, the players, and the world around them.
According to the DnD release schedule, Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk will release on September 19. It’ll also be available early (on September 5) if you pre-order a digital edition on D&DBeyond.
If you’d like to know more about the latest D&D books, check out our Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants review. Plus, here’s all you need to know about Baldur’s Gate 3 Mind Flayer powers in the new D&D videogame.