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DD2 The Sinister Spire (3.5)

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Delve into the Darkling Depths

The waters of a sunless sea meet a pebble-strewn shore, beyond which opens a wide Underdark vista shimmering with pale cave-light. Titanic columns as big as castles march miles into the misted distance. The wide, steeply sloping base of the nearest colossal column is carved with streets, walls, and elaborate structures, many with gaping, empty windows. A few glimmer with faint illumination.

Are you brave enough to explore the spire-city and face the terrors that lurk within?

This Dungeons & Dragons adventure is designed for 5th-level characters. Each encounter contains special tactical information for the Dungeon Master and expanded map features for ease of play. (Maps are not included for all areas.)

For use with these Dungeons & Dragons core books: Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual.

Product History

DD2: The Sinister Spire (2007) is a 5th-level adventure that follows DD1: Barrow of the Forgotten King and precedes Fortress of the Yuan-ti. It can easily be run as a standalone adventure as well. It takes place almost entirely in the Underdark, in a plague-ravaged drow city near the shores of the Sullen Sea. The city of Pedestal is a place of chaos, still attempting (and largely failing) to cope with an aftermath of disease that has broken down even the thin veneer of law and organization that keeps drow cities from tearing themselves apart. The city is now largely run by gangs and the mysterious undead information broker Es Sarch, who pulls the city's strings.

D&D doesn't have many adventures that rely on people who are extremely knowledgeable and know how to wield that knowledge as a weapon. This module is a welcome respite. The heroes have come to Pedestal in search of the bones of a dead king, and they must strike a bargain with Es Sarch if they have any hope of accomplishing their goal; they are given missions that advance the broker's own agenda within the city, and they must find the information they seek without alienating their informant. The adventure ends with a confrontation inside a necromancer's hollowed-out spire, against a tremendously dangerous snakelike abomination that just might have the information the adventurers need.

Politics and Plague. This adventure does several things extremely well. It's rare to have adventures that relay on city politics and information brokers as main plot elements. Add into the mix that the heroes' ally and informant is also undead, and the group of adventurers has some difficult decisions to make in the pursuit of their goal. The adventure establishes that there are some worse things in the world than undead, and iy also reminds the heroes that not all problems can be solved by violence. (Though let's face it, in D&D, most can. But not all.)

In addition, navigating the danger of a plague-ridden city makes for some interesting gameplay. The plague and the Plagueburst that caused it are primarily a plot device, but an excellent one; the fear and threat of disease can transform society, even a society of drow. The PCs must maneuver within this environment in a way that does not open themselves up to the city's many roaming gangs of predators. As non-human gangs of kuo-toa, grimlocks, and duergar battle the cty's drow gangs, the local assassin's guild tries to keep in power in the way that they know best.
Playing these enemy gangs off against one another may end up being a viable tactic for surface-dwellers. Should another outbreak of disease emerge from the Plagueburst, I doubt anyone will be surprised if it's the outsiders who get blamed first.

More Information, Please. Depending on how much you love to build backstory, this adventure will either delight or vex you. Most of the unique and interesting individuals and monsters do not have a fully detailed backstory included in their descriptions; we know what they're like now, but don't necessarily know how they got that way. That's a delight for DMs who prefer to supply their own NPC history, but possibly frustrating for those who would rather read about NPC history and then work from established canon.
For GMs who are interested in developing additional history for the major NPCs, there's also the fun opportunity to ensnare heroes in more plots and power plays within Pedestal than the adventure itself assumes they have time for.

A Delightful Change of Scenery. While you may want to change the name of the drow city to something more reminiscent of traditional drow names (Erelhei-Cinlu, Menzoberranzan, and so forth), the city of Pedestal is likely to be unique in the adventurers' experience. A combination of feuding and chaotic factions, illness, and an unusual geographic location makes this a strong and thought-provoking adventure.

About the Creators. ENnie award-winning designer Bruce R. Cordell has recently joined Monte Cook Games. Bruce's most recent novel in the Spinner of Lies series is Sword of the Gods.
Ari Marmell has transitioned from prolific designer to fulltime author, with Lost Covenant and Hot Lead, Cold Iron due out in 2014.

About the Product Historian

History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to


We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (1)
Discussions (5)
Customer avatar
John C September 29, 2022 6:34 am UTC
Are the maps included in this .pdf?
Customer avatar
Richard H April 14, 2021 12:51 pm UTC
Where are the damn maps?!?!
Customer avatar
Henrik C October 15, 2021 9:52 am UTC
Check mike Schley has updated the maps to better suit printing and VTT. He is currently working on Fortress of the Yuan-ti aswell.
Customer avatar
Ricky R November 06, 2015 9:32 pm UTC
This PDF is missing pages 64-65 which has maps of the city, Pedestal, & a cutaway & 5 levels of the Necromancer's (Es Sarch's / Maroe's ) Tower !!!
Customer avatar
Olga G June 01, 2017 10:22 am UTC
It does! And I'm starting it tomorrow :-( Not really cool...especially since the story is really fun. I guess i'll have to make it up because the internet isn't helpfull either, there are no maps I can find.
Customer avatar
Adam S February 09, 2015 8:04 pm UTC
This was the most memorable module my group and I ever experienced. As DM, I found much of what was said in the review to be true - it's some extra work and thought for the DM, but it pays off with a unique player experience that is so much more than pointless combat or frustrating generic puzzles. The setting is downright oppressive, and the players feel it. As for the review below by Randall, I guess the lethality of the module depends on a combination of player tactics and DM judgment. My players had some tough scrapes - they became genuinely scared of Pedastal and paranoid of the plague - but they made it through.

Some tips: I ran Es Sarch more or less as described, but I filled in his motivation. He is actually the wizard who unleashed the Plagueburst (in an ill-fated attempt to raise his dead drow lover - you'll find her if you play through the module), but he has been severely altered. First, obviously, he's undead. But it's more than that. The magic he wielded split his essence into...See more
Customer avatar
Thomas X September 19, 2013 11:17 pm UTC
Experienced this series of modules as a player. It was a good setting but severely frustrating in the large numbers of rare or unique monsters with save or die attacks. I can't recommend it because of that. Player deaths and even party wipeouts are inevitable due a a run of bad luck on saving throws.
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on August 27, 2013.