The most famous tavern in all of the Forgotten Realms is coming to life as a piece of terrain that you can use at home for your own role-playing adventures. Dungeons & Dragons Icons of the Realms: The Yawning Portal Inn is currently in production at WizKids, and will retail for $349.99 when it goes on sale in April 2021. Here are the first, exclusive images of the lavish new set piece.
The Yawning Portal is the most popular inn and tavern within the confines of the city of Waterdeep. The location — and its curmudgeonly proprietor, Durnan — have been featured in multiple campaign books published for D&D’s 5th edition, including Tales from the Yawning Portal, Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, and Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage. Publisher Wizards of the Coast also used the inn as the online home of its new virtual organized play initiative.
What makes the Yawning Portal so unique is, well, that whole portal bit. The inn has been built around a massive hole in the ground that leads to the ancient ruins below the city of Waterdeep. Patrons show up at the inn, have a few beverages, and then dare each other to ride a bucket down into the bowels of the earth. It’s like Rick’s Cafe in Jamaica, but with more demons.
WizKids’ fully-painted version of the Yawning Portal aims to make that legendary locale look authentic, while also integrating the setting itself into the larger hobby tabletop category. It will include LED lighting, the legendary Grimvault Sword, a Statue of Tymora, a Durnan miniature, and more.
“It’s a D&D-branded experience,” said WizKids executive producer Patrick O’Hagan. “Wizards the Coast and us worked together to said, ‘How do we bring something this iconic to life?’ They gave us the 2D art that they had for the Yawning Portal — with the portal, and the bar, and the stage, and all the tables, and the winch — all of the stuff that made the yawning portal, the yawning portal, and we started crafting that.
The WizKids set will be scaled for 28 mm miniatures, and includes three full levels. The centerpiece is a light-up portal with an integrated infinity mirror, which should look spectacular with a little mood lighting in the room. The bottom level is also fully-compatible with WizKids’ recently released WarLock tile system — which means that the Yawning Portal itself can be part of an even larger and more sophisticated 3D dungeon-crawling adventure.
There’s a lot of different styles of 3D terrain on the market that can be used with D&D. The most well known comes from the team at Dwarven Forge, which has run several wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns in recent years. WizKids’ take on terrain emphasizes sturdiness with a proprietary set of robust nylon clips. They allow Dungeon Masters to pre-build interior spaces ahead of time, then move them easily onto the table already assembled during a session.
As a nod to the growing 3D-printing community, the tiles are also compatible with both Fat Dragon Games’ Dragonlock system and the OpenLock system. Sets include clips to join them all together.
I’ve tried making my own terrain for home adventures in the past, but I’ve always avoided 3D dungeon tiles like this. The reason is that published adventures — which I prefer to run, as opposed to homebrew adventures — always have such elaborate maps that it’s nearly impossible to recreate them accurately with off-the-shelf terrain.
WizKids sent over a few samples of their WarLock terrain, and I put them to the test recreating the entire main level of Castle Ravenloft (as depicted in The Curse of Strahd). I was surprised at how well the tiles were able to turn corners. The line integrates both exterior and interior walls into its design. The secret, O’Hagan said, is the WarLock system’s patent-pending, ultra-thin, metal interior walls. They’re so thin they actually slide in between the floor tiles themselves, which leaves plenty of room for miniatures while allowing you to recreate the floorplans that you see in the books.
“We looked at this space and said, ‘How do we innovate?’” O’Hagan told Polygon. “We wanted interior walls and interior doors that you can actually play in and be configurable. And that’s what we did.”
The first batch of WarLock sets did have a few flaws, O’Hagan admitted, in particular with the clips themselves, which were far too difficult to insert into the tiles. Newer expansion sets and the next batch of the basic sets will have newer, easier-to-use clips instead. Also, the plan is to add opening interior doors to future reprints. Additional sets — including round and angled floors and walls — are just around the corner.