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Phandelver and Below promises a nostalgic romp through Dungeons & Dragons 5E’s beginnings

You can’t go back home to old Phandalin.

Daisy the mutating cow from Phandelver and Beyond sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons 5E
Image credit: Hex Sharpe/Wizards of the Coast

Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, or so the saying goes. We all yearn for a taste of halcyon days but rarely find the same pleasure in revisiting the setting or object of those memories in the present day. Dungeons & Dragons wants to break that mould with its upcoming sourcebook, Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk, which returns to the village where 5th Edition’s official adventures began.

First teased earlier this year, Phandelver and Below is an upcoming sourcebook for D&D 5E set in a village that the majority of players will remember from the introductory adventure Lost Mines of Phandelver first published in 2014. Much of that experience has been reimagined and considerably expanded, according to a recent press event by publisher Wizards of the Coast. Characters will begin at level 1 and progress through a place that feels like coming home at first but quickly reveals a strange and corrupted underbelly.

"In Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk, players are immersed in a story that gets stranger and becomes more ominous as the adventure goes on,” says Amanda Hamon, D&D Studio’s senior designer and lead designer on the upcoming sourcebook. “Once the nature of the threat to Phandalin becomes clear, the characters must race against the clock to save this beloved town against classic D&D villains we’ve given a fresh, terrifying twist.”

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All of the repurposed material, both combat encounters the broader design, has been streamlined and balanced for modern player expectations. A reported two-thirds of the 226-page sourcebook is brand new, including 20 new creature entries that have mutated, shifted or been warped by the powers unlocked by the reassembled obelisk. This ancient and dangerous magic has been co-opted by the adventure’s as-yet-unrevealed villain, and now it’s targeting the townsfolk of Phandalin. Nothing has escaped the veneer of eerie uncanniness settling over the bustling town, like seeing your home in the contorted reflection of a carnival mirror.

“The corruption doesn’t appear only in the story’s characters and locations, it is a part of how the book’s art and visual design shifts, too,” says Bree Heiss, D&D Studio’s art director. “We wanted to create an immersive and thoughtful experience for the players that was as visually compelling as the story is exciting.”

The story will carry a party of characters through to level 12 as they venture in the Underdark and even stranger locales in search of answers. This book will apparently have more “staying power” than the original, and the design team seem to be tying it directly into future narratives and the storyline of smash hit video game Baldur’s Gate 3 - strange goblins with psionic abilities will play a heavy role in Phandelver’s fate, and hints of mind flayers could be seen in the presentation.

Psionic goblins on a rooftop from Dungeons & Dragons 5E sourcebook Phandelver and Below
Goblins weilding some kind of weird magic smuggle a fragment of the obelisk across the rooftops of Phandelver. | Image credit: John Grello/Wizards of the Coast

Expect more dungeoneering in the classic dungeon crawl style and plenty of body horror vibes as the corruption seeping into the land twists and mutates everything it touches - a poor dairy cow named Daisy was shown growing tentacles after a brush with the stuff. Dungeon Masters will be given tools to pepper their campaign with hazards, traps and other opportunities to corrupt their players, as well.

Hamon and Heiss are joined on the book’s team by an impressive host of artists: Kent Davis, Robson Michel, Antonio Jose Manzanedo, Couple of Kooks, Lily Abdullina, Hinchel Or, Brian Valanzuela, Michele Fiorfi, John Grello, Hex Sharpe, Alexandre Honore and Vicki Pangestu.

The physical edition of Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk will release on September 19th and have both a standard cover available everywhere and a special alternate cover by DZO limited to local game stores. D&D Beyond users can access the digital version on September 5th.

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Chase Carter

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Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.
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