Arcana5 2

Dawn of the Overmind (1998)

Dawn of the Overmind (1998) is the final part in the mind flayer adventure trilogy and the last Monstrous Arcana book. The cover depiction of a cthonian (Credited to Jeff Easley? Surely that is not Easley?) is a clear reference to the original cover of Brian Lumley’s The Burrowers Beneath, which inspired Gygax’s creation of the flayers. Anyway, strap in, because this one is all over the place and I probably don’t have room to explain it all.

This is a Spelljammer adventure. It is also, sorta, a Planescape adventure. But primarily Spelljammer. Using their nautiloid ship, the players journey to Penumbra, the homeworld of the mind flayers, which is a weird sort of ringworld or partial Dyson sphere. There they commence a wilderness adventure that feels like Larry Niven’s Ringworld, but filtered through the barbarian stylings of Frazetta. They’re looking for a macguffin artifact in a ruined illithid city, but they also uncover the history of the flayer’s conflict with the githyanki and githzerai. Artifact retrieved, they wind up going to destroy the Overmind, an arcane engine that will extinguish ALL the suns in the multiverse if it isn’t stopped. There are also red dragon-riding githyanki and a chance to kill a dead god deader. So much! It really feels like a wrap up not just of mind flayers, but of the Spelljammer and Planescape settings (the dead god is part of the Dead Gods Planescape adventure). It is sweeping and effective (the construction is very open and free form) and kinda wrecks the joint on the way out in a satisfying way. I don’t want to claim that you can’t do anything with mind flayers after this — you can! — but it is definitely a crescendo that ties off a lot of threads in a so satisfying a way I’d be loathe to pick them apart again.

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