A Walk Through the Planes – Part 7.25: Twilight’s Last Gleaming




One of the questions that Planescape served to answer was what exactly should a multidimensional, planar adventure look like? Before the setting came about there were a handful of examples, some good, some bad. In Queen of the Demonweb Pits and Throne of Bloodstone the planes are the setting for an over-the-top, capstone adventure at the end of a lengthy campaign. Tales of the Outer Planes told us the planes are a place for campy adventures as over-the-top as any John Waters movie. And the early Dragon Magazine adventure “Fedifensor” even hinted at what was to come with a more story-based, idea-based scenario delving into truly unfamiliar and strange territory. But all of these options meant taking the game in a different direction from typical Dungeons & Dragons sessions, whereas “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” offers the at-this-point surprising answer that a planar adventure could easily be the same as an adventure anywhere else, just with more portals involved. 

Originally published in the May/June 1992 issue of Dungeon Magazine, “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” is the first adventure (or module, or whatever you want to call it) in the 35th issue of the publication and fills up a little more than a dozen pages. The magazine was TSR’s counterpart to Dragon, publishing only adventures and nothing else, which also meant Dragon excised its own adventures, leaving more space for other types of articles. The split worked well, and we’ll be reading through a few more Dungeon adventures in the future, but the magazine was never as popular as Dragon because the audience for one-off adventures of this sort was never huge. I always suspected that a lot of the readership for the magazine was from writers hoping to one day see their own adventures in print. Once Paizo took over Dungeon these adventures became linked and eventually this led to our modern conception of adventure paths, but it’ll be a long time until we get to that—back in the late 80s and early 90s, Dungeon was where you’d find well-made (sometimes…) but incredibly standard adventures for all of your completely traditional dungeoneering needs.


The first I heard of this adventure was from Edward Bonny’s Dragon article from a few years later, “The Demiplane of Shadow,” which unfortunately did less than I hoped to flesh out the plane. This is true here as well, though that makes more sense for an adventure than it does a full planar write-up. “Gleaming” doesn’t focus on the plane, just one particular location in it, to the point that it even notes how:

During this adventure, the PCs will probably not spend much time in the wilderness of the Shadowlands, so no random encounter table for this plane is given. Enterprising DMs may wish to make on up though …. If the DM wishes, he may let the party explore the Shadowlands. If the DM decides to do this, he will have to detail what the PCs encounter, as a description of this region of the demi-lane is beyond the scope of this adventure.

“This region” here means literally anything except for one particular fortress. The rules for the plane  and all other descriptions follow quite directly from how it’s described in the Manual of the Planes. Don’t expect anything too creative here, the demiplane of shadow is exactly how you’d expect it to be, no more, and perhaps a bit less.


I may sound dismissive of “Gleaming,” but I actually like its central conceit. A portal from the demiplane of shadow opens up, and due to some funky game logic reasons the spirit of a rakshasa comes out and takes over an outpost as part of his scheme to return to his body. All of the adventure’s plot is well-developed, and while it’s not too exciting, there is a twist, a possible encounter with a dragon, ample opportunities for roleplaying, and an interesting but not overlong or convoluted dungeon crawl. And really, there isn’t just one planar feature here, there’s two, with the rakshasa actually playing a central role in the scenario even though they have nothing to do with the plane of shadows. 

This Rakshasa is here for a good time. That being said, I do want a race of arcane tigers.

D&D‘s version of rakshasas confused me greatly as a child, causing me to believe that they’re simply a race of magical, evil interplanar tigers—as such, I thought they were perhaps the most awesome race in the multiverse. This isn’t at all like the role they play in Hindu mythology, which is closer to that of a shapeshifting demon. Fortunately, “Gleaming” features a rakshasa in its original sense rather than just a posh tiger lad, and while he’s slightly underdeveloped (he hails from “one of the lower planes”), there’s also some establishment of how these planar outsiders function and how he came to be in this odd situation. It’s all a little bit absurd, but no moreso than in most D&D modules.


As for the actual adventuring in the plane of shadows, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. You fight shadow creatures, who skulk in the shadows. Sometimes they jump out of the shadows at you. Sometimes they don’t but it’s eerie, I guess. There isn’t really too much to it. This is why the adventure, fine enough as it is, isn’t particularly memorable, and its dungeon just feels like a vaguely shadow-themed location that could’ve been anywhere. Admittedly, this is also why I tend to find the inner planes less interesting as a whole, at least until Monte Cook got ahold of them, as they basically treat the planes like they’re all just different elemental Mario Bros. levels (i.e. here’s the fire leve/plane, here’s the water level/plane, etc.), which isn’t a bad thing per se, but at the same time isn’t very compelling. 


Now unless I’m once again mistaken, this is the last pre-Planescape adventure published by TSR that took players outside the prime material plane that we haven’t covered yet, and I think it’s notable for illustrating how things could’ve progressed forever. The planes could easily have remained this type of dull setting players portal into and out of without much care for what the society is like on the other side. What’s so interesting about Planescape then is the assumption that everyone on these other planes has just as much interiority as people on the prime material plane do. Just because you’re in heaven or the plane of shadows doesn’t mean you don’t think and feel and have a family. So yes, this is a planar adventure, but no one would mistake it for Planescape, and while it’s an interesting curiosity, it’s by no means essential reading by any but the most obsessive fans of the planes. As with Secrets of the Lamp, the adventuring here still feels like a remnant of 1980s D&D, while 1990s rpg’s emphasis on actual roleplaying remains a few years away.

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