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A Darkness Gathering (2e)


"Put out the Sun; Darken the Light!" -Illithid aphorism

I watched the early morning sun dribble above the horizon, only to have my worst fears realized. As I looked on, something vast and unseen took a monstrous bite out of the sun, leaving gaping teeth marks. The bloated red disc guttered and spit, finally plunging back below the horizon like a wounded bird in flight, dousing the plain in a stygian darkness . and I knew what I had long suspected: They had returned!

Something is very wrong in Stormport: Corruption runs rampant among city officials, more and more people turn up missing every day, dark prophesies of Change convert new believers, and rumors persist of a demonic beast with a taste for human flesh that stalks the alleyways. Worse yet, spring is overdue; winter refuses to relinquish its icy grip.

Only one vile force could cause such chaos: The illithids have risen up once again, ready to enslave the surface races. Now, as never before, the world needs great heroes, mighty adventurers who will challenge the illithids; dark agenda.

A Darkness Gathering is the first of an adventure trilogy (continuing with Masters of Eternal Night and concluding in Dawn of the Overmind) that pits brave adventurers against the brain eating mind flayers. Dungeon Masters can run each individual adventure of the trilogy separately, or they can be linked together to form a seamless, epic-length adventure.

The illithid trilogy supports The Illithiad, a MONSTROUS ARCANA supplement that provides invaluable supplementary information on mind flayers and their evil plans.

Product History

"A Darkness Gathering" (1998), by Bruce R. Cordell, is the first adventure in the illithid Monstrous Arcana adventure trilogy. It was published in June 1998.

About the Cover. That's one scary looking cold-breathing monster on the cover! But as to what it is? That's a very good question. The closest monster in the adventure is the phthisic, which has a "cold aura" … but the other illustration of the phthisic, on page 32, looks nothing like this, and it doesn't actually breath frost either.

About the Title. In the '90s, a lot of D&D assignments started out as an adventure name, which was given to the author, who then had to write something to match it. Cordell instead got to determine the names of all three of his illithid modules.

Origins: More Arcana. Each Monstrous Arcana included a coffee table sourcebook and a trilogy of adventures. "A Darkness Gathering" (1998) is the first illithid adventure, following The Illithiad (1998) sourcebook.

Adventure Tropes: You Meet at an Inn.The "Sign of the Fair Warrior" is the starting point for this adventure. The characters are supposed to meet a friend, but she never shows up. Meanwhile a few other plot hooks allow the players to move in a variety of directions.

Adventure Tropes: Structured Agency. Though "A Darkness Gathering" is the start of a major storyline, it's surprisingly freeform. It's set up as four investigations, each of which is fairly simplistic, revealing some information to the players at the end of the section. The investigations can be run in any order, and each tends to allow a lot of agency on its own, including a tower crawl, a sewer crawl, and a warehouse crawl.

Map Tropes: Flow Charts. The sewers are set up as a flow chart rather than a map proper.

Exploring Neverness. though there's not a lot of detail on the locale, "A Darkness Gathering" is set entirely in the city of Stormport. Fortunately, there was already a lot more information on the city in print: both the Den of Thieves (1996) and the College of Wizardry (1998) are set in the same city, giving GMs a lot of additional information if they want to expand this adventure.

Monsters of Note: Illithids. The monstrous stars of this adventure are of course the illithids. "A Darkness Gathering" generally alludes to their more technological nature, which had been front and center during the Spelljammer era (1989-1993). So these mind flayers have glaregoggles and dampsuits that let them tromp about in the heat and the light like Lovecraftian Fremen. This science-fiction take on the illithids would only increase in the adventures to follow.

NPCs of Note. The big bad of the adventure is local mind-flayer leader, Shuluth. He is a ulitharid, an extra-large sort of illithid with extra tentacles, introduced in The Illithiad. Though Shuluth is presumably killed here, he returns as an example monster in Weapons of Legacy (2005).

About the Creators. By 1998, Cordell had been writing D&D books for a few years. However, that was the year that his production really exploded. He authored a total of nine major releases in 1998, including all four mind flayer books and Return to the Tomb of Horrors (1998).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. 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.

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Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
Heath P April 24, 2023 10:51 pm UTC
Please make this POD!!
Customer avatar
Cody B March 18, 2023 7:44 pm UTC
Why are the other two modules available for POD and not this?
Customer avatar
Michael M March 19, 2023 1:23 am UTC
DriveThru decides, but its not clear how they decide. For example Monster Manual Expanded 1 and 3 are POD but not 2, wat? Seems to have no rime or reason.
Customer avatar
Derek N April 11, 2023 4:21 pm UTC
Could be several reasons. One is that they might not be able to print a certain PDF or program it to print properly. They might have been trying to get all 3 up but for one reason or another they have to work on this on a bit more then the other 2. I don't believe they have much time to work on these so sometimes we don't get a whole set.
Customer avatar
Tidal W June 24, 2022 8:11 pm UTC
POD, please.
Customer avatar
Michael M January 19, 2019 10:34 am UTC
This is a gem of an adventure, highly recommend it for both 2e or as a 5e conversion in a mini-campaign. Nice filler after finishing one of the 5e published adventures which tend to finish around 10~14th level.
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