DMs Guild Review – Cult of Abyssal Summoning

A drop-in bandit cave lair that holds a dark purpose.

dms guild

A review copy of “Cult of Abyssal Summoning” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Lliam Sedawie

The Cult of Abyssal Summoning is a bandit and cultist lair for 2nd-3rd level parties. The 15-room cave dungeon is well-designed, but comes up short in crafting a meaningful story.

Drop-in dungeons can be helpful for fleshing out campaigns with a dungeon crawl-focused side quest. But just because you’re designed to slot into a larger adventure, doesn’t mean you should skimp on the story.

The background and set-up for this lair – and I’m using the term lair as this is definitely not a full-fledged adventure – is summarized in a three-sentence sidebar on the first page. A sorcerer is using captured human sacrifices to summon demons, and hired some bandits to protect them.

Helpful plot hooks include “a group of bandits is terrorizing a town” and “towns people have gone missing and there is strange activity in a nearby cave.” Not exactly a compelling start to what amounts to a hopelessly generic low-level dungeon crawl.

The actual cave dungeon is solidly built, however. Crafty PCs can ambush the guards at the entrance and use their clothes as disguises to infiltrate a large chunk of the dungeon, hopefully leading to some fun player-fueled shenanigans.

A bridge trap can separate one or more PCs, sending them tumbling into a river and ending up behind bars in the prisoners’ cave. The final boss encounter has the sorcerer raising pools of lava to fill the cave and summoning a custom half-demon.

dms guild

Unfortunately there’s little in the way of story-telling. We’re given some paltry role-playing notes for our two primary NPCs, but Ishyala completely lacks even a villainous monologue. It never goes anywhere beyond “bad guy into demon summoning.” I was also confused as to whether we’re transforming people into demons or summoning demons, as the dungeon describes both.

A full map of the dungeon is provided, including separate DM and player versions. It’s a great-looking map with lots of detail that unfortunately lacks color, making it a tough sell for virtual tabletops. Still, I appreciate that smaller chunks of the map are embedded on each page, minimizing the time I spend flipping back to the larger map.

The layout is fine, if unremarkable, but the text is in bad need of an editor. It’s overly wordy and awkward in several places.

If you’re going to design a generic low-level bandit cave dungeon, you better have a darn good story, interesting ideas, and/or memorable characters to back it up. Unfortunately Cult of Abyssal Summoning lacks all three.

Pros:

  • Solid dungeon design and detailed map.

Cons:

  • Dungeon lacks story structure.
  • Awkward, wordy sentence structure needs an editor.
  • Map lacks color.

The Verdict: Minimizing the story and characters exacerbates the generic bandit/cultist cave dungeon in the Cult of Abyssal Summoning.

A review copy of “Cult of Abyssal Summoning” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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