D&D 5E Are You Excited about Tomb of Annihilation?

CapnZapp

Legend
I'm paraphrasing, but it's an interesting point he makes that leads me to believe that Acererak is not the BBEG as might be expected.

So I suppose it's possible, but I don't think anything is a given.
You are right. I should have qualified my statement by saying

It's all but a given he will be [watered down] if he's meant to face the adventurers and lose to them.

Of course, having the adventure point towards Tomb of Horrors (and his undiluted stats) is entirely possible.
 

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You are right. I should have qualified my statement by saying

It's all but a given he will be [watered down] if he's meant to face the adventurers and lose to them.

Of course, having the adventure point towards Tomb of Horrors (and his undiluted stats) is entirely possible.
A MM lich is a glass cannon. With only 135 hit points, one will be lucky to last a round against a level 10 party. Thye really don't need to water him down. They could double Acererak's hp and he'll still drop quickly.
 

Luz

Explorer
A MM lich is a glass cannon. With only 135 hit points, one will be lucky to last a round against a level 10 party. Thye really don't need to water him down. They could double Acererak's hp and he'll still drop quickly.
Not sure I agree with that, since you're approaching it with merely its hit points against a 10th level party. There's a lot a party will need to contend with before they get to the lich's hit points, if one is played properly. If my players somehow miraculously managed to get the jump on a lich, then they've earned the easier win.

A problem I've noticed on several forums is that a lot of monsters are quickly dismissed as too weak for their CR by players (and DMs) who somehow have intimate knowledge of a monster's stats. Sure, Intelligence checks should net a player some of that intel but far too frequently it seems players have simply read the MM and mentally waged these mock battles based strictly on four or five characters against one. This is typically not the case, especially against a lich or demilich who have had centuries to prepare against such enemies. Personally, if I suspect my players are using player knowledge vs character knowledge then I will alter the monster's stats and abilities. Not necessarily to make it tougher, just enough to throw my players off their expectations.
 

eayres33

Explorer
I plan to buy it as a resource for jungles generally and the Isle of Dread (Savage Tide) specifically for an upcoming campaign. It sounds like the monsters and NPCs will pretty great. What I won't do is run it as-is, since the chances of me running a campaign in the FR approach zero.

With regard to the "no one will buy an 11-20 product" claim, I say that's a load of manure. If an adventure were to release with a chapter on creating level 11 PCs, with a few modest magic items and fairly robust rules for starting at mid-level (and a roster of pre-generated level 11 PCs) then players would be clamoring to get at it, eager to sample epic adventure. I suspect that a high-level season of Adventurer's League stuff would also be popular. If you're going to have a 10 level range, make it the top 10 for once. If, as some have claimed, the 5e game doesn't gracefully support high-level play, then that's something that bloody well needs fixing.

I always find this odd, I assume WOTC does some market research before they produce things, they seem like a company would do that. They then target their product to the results of that research.

Looking at what they have release, I assume that their research has shown that the money is at 1-10 or slightly above adventures. This range also hits most players sweet spot, and happens to be the easiest adventures to write.

Now would I by a 15 to 20 level adventure, sure I would because I have 4 adventures already that bring me to level 5, 10, 13, and 15, but just because I would buy it doesn't mean that it would be WOTC best adventure after a risk, reward analysis.

WOTC is a business and I expect them to make decisions on what's best for them, not on what is best for me.
 


S'mon

Legend
The adventure concept seems good, but I currently have no interest in these giant Realms-set campaign adventures; the format just doesn't appeal to me. So I can't see myself buying it any time soon. I generally want a lot more sandboxy freedom than this format offers, and if I want a campaign-length adventure I have several Paizo APs queued up. They each take about 2 years to run, so far I have completed one (Curse of the Crimson Throne), am running a mash up of two (Rise of the Runelords + Shattered Star) and would like to run Skull & Shackles and Jade Regent. That will likely take me to around 2022...
So I bought Tales From the Yawning Portal, the modular format of the adventures fits my needs well, and might well buy similar short adventure compilations. But probably no campaign adventures.
 

Not sure I agree with that, since you're approaching it with merely its hit points against a 10th level party. There's a lot a party will need to contend with before they get to the lich's hit points, if one is played properly. If my players somehow miraculously managed to get the jump on a lich, then they've earned the easier win.

A problem I've noticed on several forums is that a lot of monsters are quickly dismissed as too weak for their CR by players (and DMs) who somehow have intimate knowledge of a monster's stats. Sure, Intelligence checks should net a player some of that intel but far too frequently it seems players have simply read the MM and mentally waged these mock battles based strictly on four or five characters against one. This is typically not the case, especially against a lich or demilich who have had centuries to prepare against such enemies. Personally, if I suspect my players are using player knowledge vs character knowledge then I will alter the monster's stats and abilities. Not necessarily to make it tougher, just enough to throw my players off their expectations.
Except that the lich has hit points equivalent to a CR 8 monster according to the DMG guidelines. To be a real threat, it needs 350+ hit points.

Centuries of preparation mean squat when you're unlikely to make it a single full round. My level 7 party can do more than 100 points of damage. They survived a fight with a CR 12 yuan-to anathema (even then I had to boost the hp from 189 to close to 250 so it'd survive the first round nova).
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Except that the lich has hit points equivalent to a CR 8 monster according to the DMG guidelines. To be a real threat, it needs 350+ hit points.

Centuries of preparation mean squat when you're unlikely to make it a single full round. My level 7 party can do more than 100 points of damage. They survived a fight with a CR 12 yuan-to anathema (even then I had to boost the hp from 189 to close to 250 so it'd survive the first round nova).

I think the point is that the lich isn't going to just sit there and let the PCs attack it, even for one round. The idea is that it would be prepared for them....so when they charge it, they actually run facefirst into a wall of force, and then several specters float up through the floor to attack the PCs and the lich teleports away.

That kind if thing. If a lich is simply standing in a room waiting for the PCs to arrive so they can all take turns attacking each other, then just use a skeletal champion or whatever because you are not doing the lich justice.
 

epithet

Explorer
I always find this odd, I assume WOTC does some market research before they produce things, they seem like a company would do that. They then target their product to the results of that research.

Looking at what they have release, I assume that their research has shown that the money is at 1-10 or slightly above adventures. This range also hits most players sweet spot, and happens to be the easiest adventures to write.

Now would I by a 15 to 20 level adventure, sure I would because I have 4 adventures already that bring me to level 5, 10, 13, and 15, but just because I would buy it doesn't mean that it would be WOTC best adventure after a risk, reward analysis.

WOTC is a business and I expect them to make decisions on what's best for them, not on what is best for me.

Judging by their Unearthed Arcana surveys, the market research WotC conducts is no doubt useful but probably limited in scope. For example, research participants might have indicated they would rather have a 1 - 10 campaign, at least in part, because they want a campaign for newly generated characters. If they had been given the option to generate, with robust rule support, level 11 characters and to then play those characters through level 20, they might have responded differently.

I agree that a product aimed at existing level 10 characters will have a much more limited appeal, but look at the almost universal trend in MMOs now: when higher level or "endgame" content is released, they promote the hell out of the "level boost" option that will take a new character to a point where it can engage in the newly released content.

Now that I think about it, I'm remembering that the new XGE is supposed to have some new character background stuff. I wonder if that might include some guidelines for generating a character career spanning 5 - 10 levels, perhaps in anticipation of a higher level adventure to be published afterwards. People have been musing about an adventure that incorporated elements of Planescape, and that seems like content that would be a lot better suited to higher levels of play.
 

I think the point is that the lich isn't going to just sit there and let the PCs attack it, even for one round. The idea is that it would be prepared for them....so when they charge it, they actually run facefirst into a wall of force, and then several specters float up through the floor to attack the PCs and the lich teleports away.

That kind if thing. If a lich is simply standing in a room waiting for the PCs to arrive so they can all take turns attacking each other, then just use a skeletal champion or whatever because you are not doing the lich justice.
First, none of that affects the lich's CR. A CR 1 guy (albeit with with the right magic item to cast wall of force) can do that. That doesn't mean the surprising intelligent and rich commoner is an appropriate challenge for the party or mean its effective challenge is twice as high as it should be.
And it doesn't mean that when the party does finally get to him, he's going down in one or two turns.

Second, going through your situation, the lich casts the wall of force then the next round teleports away.
This assumes that the lich beats the party with initiative and can block all of them with the wall. And it presumes the party can't teleport, dimension door, Shadow Step, misty step or otherwise get passed the wall of force in the intervening round. Those are both pretty big "ifs".

Third, really, if played smart he shouldn't even be in the tomb. Unless the party makes it through undetected, he should just bail, activate the self-destruct, and set-up shop elsewhere. Or treat it like a pest control problem: seal the tomb and bug bomb the entire dungeon: a party that can't breathe isn't a problem, and as an undead he's unaffected,
But, like dragons dropping boulders on the party from 650 feet in the sky, that is no fun for the players. There's a balance that has to be struck between smart villains and fun villains.
And, since it's a published adventure, you have to reply on the presentation in the book, which is generic and not custom built for your party. What Chris Perkins decides might work, might be easily bypassed by your party. You can customise for sure, but that still relies on you (one person) being smarter and more cunning than 3-5 other players working together.
 

Luz

Explorer
First, none of that affects the lich's CR. A CR 1 guy (albeit with with the right magic item to cast wall of force) can do that. That doesn't mean the surprising intelligent and rich commoner is an appropriate challenge for the party or mean its effective challenge is twice as high as it should be.
And it doesn't mean that when the party does finally get to him, he's going down in one or two turns.
I think there are generally two schools of thought when it comes to BBEGs: those who view them as a solo boss and those who don't. I fall into the latter category, as exemplified in hawkeyefan's post. I wouldn't argue that a 10th level party cannot chew through 135 hp with ease, because they can. A lich has access up to 9th level spells that the DM is free to switch to suit his own strategies and needs; that leaves room for a ton of different tactics for the lich to use on the party to ensure they are kept pretty busy (and spending precious resources) before they even reach it - that's just how I'd run one. I'd never have it sitting there waiting to go toe-to-toe with the party, there are other brutes that serve that purpose for a lich (golems, summoned demons, etc.)

Second, going through your situation, the lich casts the wall of force then the next round teleports away.
This assumes that the lich beats the party with initiative and can block all of them with the wall. And it presumes the party can't teleport, dimension door, Shadow Step, misty step or otherwise get passed the wall of force in the intervening round. Those are both pretty big "ifs".
There are a few assumptions being made here. I realize the wall of force is but one defensive tactic in a lich's repertoire, but it is a good tactic to divide and conquer. If we're still using a 10th level party as the example, they won't have teleport, but they will have dimension door, misty step, etc. So first they need to discover the wall of force is even there, then bypass it with the various methods mentioned. Misty step allows only the caster to travel, and dimension door allows the caster plus one if the caster's carry capacity is sufficient to bring another. So again, the lich has succeeded in dividing the party and had them use actions to discover the wall of force. To take this a step further, going with a prepared lich with a game plan, the lich has already cast mislead on itself so those who bypass the wall are faced with an illusory lich. Not to mention other safeguards like glyph of warding, programmed illusions, guards and wards, etc. And I haven't even used any 7th, 8th, or 9th level spells yet, not to mention other summoned minions (all within the lich's means straight out of the MM).

At any rate, this is just a simple example that I might use. I'm not saying a 10th level party would lose to a lich, just that I doubt they would wipe one out in a single round or two. Nor am I trying to change your mind about it, this is all just spitballing.

Third, really, if played smart he shouldn't even be in the tomb. Unless the party makes it through undetected, he should just bail, activate the self-destruct, and set-up shop elsewhere. Or treat it like a pest control problem: seal the tomb and bug bomb the entire dungeon: a party that can't breathe isn't a problem, and as an undead he's unaffected,
But, like dragons dropping boulders on the party from 650 feet in the sky, that is no fun for the players. There's a balance that has to be struck between smart villains and fun villains.
I agree, there does need to be a balance between smart and fun villains - and this falls squarely on the DM's shoulders to make that happen, not some pseudo-mathematical CR guideline. There's something to be said for recurring villains, and smart villains should have escape plans. Not all BBEGs need to be a fight to the finish, at least not in the first encounter or two. YMMV.
 


hawkeyefan

Legend
First, none of that affects the lich's CR. A CR 1 guy (albeit with with the right magic item to cast wall of force) can do that. That doesn't mean the surprising intelligent and rich commoner is an appropriate challenge for the party or mean its effective challenge is twice as high as it should be.
And it doesn't mean that when the party does finally get to him, he's going down in one or two turns.

Second, going through your situation, the lich casts the wall of force then the next round teleports away.
This assumes that the lich beats the party with initiative and can block all of them with the wall. And it presumes the party can't teleport, dimension door, Shadow Step, misty step or otherwise get passed the wall of force in the intervening round. Those are both pretty big "ifs".

Third, really, if played smart he shouldn't even be in the tomb. Unless the party makes it through undetected, he should just bail, activate the self-destruct, and set-up shop elsewhere. Or treat it like a pest control problem: seal the tomb and bug bomb the entire dungeon: a party that can't breathe isn't a problem, and as an undead he's unaffected,
But, like dragons dropping boulders on the party from 650 feet in the sky, that is no fun for the players. There's a balance that has to be struck between smart villains and fun villains.
And, since it's a published adventure, you have to reply on the presentation in the book, which is generic and not custom built for your party. What Chris Perkins decides might work, might be easily bypassed by your party. You can customise for sure, but that still relies on you (one person) being smarter and more cunning than 3-5 other players working together.

My example was general....depending on what the PCs do or have done, I would expect a lich type character to prepare accordingly. Which may mean leaving, yes. Or casting wall of force before the PCs arrive so that initiative is not a factor.

But as long as the phylactery is secured, there may not be a need to flee. Just prep for the oncoming heroes and then battle to the death. Let them think they've won, return in a new body to devastate them a couple days later. Whatever. There are many oltions open to such a character.

My point is that if a lich dies in one round against the PCs, then I would say the DM has erred.
 


My example was general....depending on what the PCs do or have done, I would expect a lich type character to prepare accordingly. Which may mean leaving, yes. Or casting wall of force before the PCs arrive so that initiative is not a factor.

But as long as the phylactery is secured, there may not be a need to flee. Just prep for the oncoming heroes and then battle to the death. Let them think they've won, return in a new body to devastate them a couple days later. Whatever. There are many oltions open to such a character.

My point is that if a lich dies in one round against the PCs, then I would say the DM has erred.

Well, clearly the best thing for a lich to do if being stymied by a level 10 party is attack them when they're resting for the night at the inn, killing the fighter with power word: kill. Moving to the next few rooms to kill the wizard and cleric with finger of death and then finishing off the rogue without a flank buddy. If interrupted, sending all its minions at once instead of convenient level appropriate waves. Then leave. If anyone survives, come back after 8 hours and finish the rest.

Really, the lich should just cast divination every seven days and ask "where are the groups of adventurers who might interfere with my plans staying?" And then just kill them.

But I'm not sure my players will keep playing with me after I murderer their characters like that.
 

Prism

Explorer
Well, clearly the best thing for a lich to do if being stymied by a level 10 party is attack them when they're resting for the night at the inn, killing the fighter with power word: kill. Moving to the next few rooms to kill the wizard and cleric with finger of death and then finishing off the rogue without a flank buddy. If interrupted, sending all its minions at once instead of convenient level appropriate waves. Then leave. If anyone survives, come back after 8 hours and finish the rest.

Not that I think there will be an encounter with either a lich or a demi lich in the adventure, but the power of the lich boils down to if you stick with the book spells or not. As written I imagine that a 10th level party has a pretty decent chance of beating the lich since all it has prepared as high level slots are single target damage spells. With a better selection like forcecage, meteor swarm, wall of force and hold person then the lich is going to easily match the same party.
 

Not that I think there will be an encounter with either a lich or a demi lich in the adventure, but the power of the lich boils down to if you stick with the book spells or not. As written I imagine that a 10th level party has a pretty decent chance of beating the lich since all it has prepared as high level slots are single target damage spells. With a better selection like forcecage, meteor swarm, wall of force and hold person then the lich is going to easily match the same party.

IIRC was a lich in Curse of Strahd.
And there's going to be both a plastic and resin mini of Acererak. And he's on the cover. I doubt they're going to just exclude him...
 

Prism

Explorer
IIRC was a lich in Curse of Strahd.
And there's going to be both a plastic and resin mini of Acererak. And he's on the cover. I doubt they're going to just exclude him...

Chris Perkins uses the words 'he might show up but he is not really the protagonist'. That suggests to me that they aren't going to scale him down specifically for a beatable encounter. Sounds like there is a good chance you can complete the adventure without actually meeting him, and if you do meet him it might not be a combat situation.
 

Motorskills

Explorer
Chris Perkins uses the words 'he might show up but he is not really the protagonist'. That suggests to me that they aren't going to scale him down specifically for a beatable encounter. Sounds like there is a good chance you can complete the adventure without actually meeting him, and if you do meet him it might not be a combat situation.

It would make sense that ToA could be used as a prequel to ToH perhaps.
 

Croesus

Adventurer
Really, the lich should just cast divination every seven days and ask "where are the groups of adventurers who might interfere with my plans staying?" And then just kill them.

This sounds so much like many of the Greek myths, where attempting to avoid one's fate becomes the cause of one's fate.

Imagine the lich casts divination as you say and the spell points to a particular party. The party has no idea the lich even exists, much less is going to interfere with its plans. The lich doesn't know this, so it attempts - but fails - to take out the party. The party decides that having a lich hunting them is not a good thing, and offense being the best defense, execute a plan that takes down the lich. If only the lich had not cast that divination spell, the lich would still be around. Oops.

Now if I can just figure out a way to do something like this in a campaign...

edit: The lich's divination points to a newly-formed group of low-level adventurers. As the lich is busy with more important matters, it assigns their destruction to a minion. The minion attempts but fails to destroy the adventurers, creating a mystery for the PCs. The lich periodically assigns the task to new minions. Assuming the party survives, they have more and more reason to figure out what's going on, and as they gain levels, they become more capable of doing so. Eventually their efforts lead to the lich. This could be an interesting meta-plot to a campaign, perhaps even using some form of divination for the PCs to give the party some reason to stick together. ("You may succeed together, but separately you will certainly fall.")
 
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