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5E Jungles of Chult hexcrawl setup

pukunui

Hero
EDIT: See post #31 for the most up-to-date version of my plans.

Hi all,

I'm close to completing a two-year+ campaign, and my thoughts are turning towards what I'll run next. I ran Tomb of Annihilation a while back, and while I enjoyed it, I found that the urgency of the death curse meant that my players weren't so keen to explore all the little nooks and crannies. The focus of the campaign was finding the Soulmonger, and what exploration they did do was focused primarily on finding / getting to Omu. Ever since, I've been wanting to revisit Chult as more of an open-ended hexcrawl exploration adventure.

The thing is: I've never run an open-ended hexcrawl exploration adventure before. My campaigns have always had a story element to them that makes it easy to draw the players in and get their PCs hooked into resolving the plot (be it defeating Strahd to find a way out of Barovia or ending the threat posed by rampaging giants or what-have-you).

The premise is that the PCs are all going to Chult for the first time. They will all be adventurous sorts keen to explore the great unknown jungle. Perhaps they are naive and don't fully understand its dangers, but they are clearly not the timid, stay-at-home types and will not likely turn down opportunities to venture into the jungle, either to find out what's there or to obtain some wonderful treasure.

The campaign will begin with the PCs on board a ship bound for Chult. They will meet Aremag the dragon turtle on the way to Port Nyanzaru. They will spend a few levels exploring the city and getting the lay of the land (including the fact that they will need to obtain a charter from the Flaming Fists in order to be able to loot any jungle ruins). They will then be presented with various quests, and they can choose which ones they want to go on and what order they want to do them in.

So the question is: why are these particular PCs doing these things together? What is the glue that is holding the party together?

Yes, I will talk to my players about this and get them to do some brainstorming. However, I must acknowledge that they are a passive bunch and struggle to come up with ideas on their own, so I'd like to be able to present them with a few suggestions for inspirational purposes, at the very least.

Some ideas I've come up with:
*The PCs are all friends / relations who want to seek gold and glory together
*The PCs are all friends / relations who want to "get rich quick" in order to gain enough capital to start a business back home
*The PCs are strangers who got to know each other en route and have merely decided to band together for survival
*The PCs are all members of the same organisation -- either one of the five factions or an explorers' society (like how Artus Cimber was a member of Cormyr's Society of Stalwart Adventurers when he went to Chult for the first time).

Any and all constructive suggestions are most welcome!

Thank you.
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Perhaps someone is searching for a lost (insert loved one here) who disappeared into the jungle (X poignant amount of time ago)? Variations on the same theme - find the signet ring of your (insert ancestor X) lost generations ago in (insert unknown place name here).

There's nothing wrong with just being an adventuring company either, and offload the why do you want to visit sunny Chult question onto your players as something to address during character creation.
 

I would suggest that each player come up with a reason why they want to explore Chult. If they all plan to explore Chult for their own reasons (possibly with some team-ups), it would make sense they'd discover it on the sail there, and they decide to work together. This isn't just for survival, but each agreeing to help the others achieve their goals. Some suggested goals:

  • Seeking a lost tribe
  • Seeking a lost relic
  • Seeking a lost person
  • Seeking to loot temples/ruins
  • Seeking glory by hunting powerful beasts
 



pukunui

Hero
Has anyone read/played Lost City of Mezro? I'm wondering if that would work well as part of a hexcrawl:

I grabbed it as part of WotC's free lockdown giveaways. I haven't read it yet but it looks like it has some useful content that can be added to pad out / extend a ToA / Chult campaign. It looks like a good chunk of it is intended for use after the Soulmonger has been destroyed but it says it can be adapted for use in other campaigns, so I presume you could use it even if you're not using the death curse / Soulmonger / etc.

There are some little mini quests in it that can be used earlier on. The later stuff appears to be centered around helping Artus find the real Mezro so he can reunite with his wife.
 


Eltab

Hero
  • My uncle / grandfather went to Chult and never returned. We heard the sicknesses got him. I want to dedicate a proper grave (if possible) or memorial (if not).
  • My best friend went off chasing the Soulmonger and never returned. I want to find him.
  • My business mentor heard rumors about Chult during the search for the Soulmonger. He sent me to find out more.
  • Way back when, Chult was said to be full of gems gold and riches, also full of jungle and diseases and monsters. I want to find out if the first part of that is still true.
  • Chult is supposed to have jungle plants that carry medicinal or chemical or semi-magical properties. I want to find out more, start a plantation to provide a steady supply back home.
  • My nickname is Indiana Jones and I don't need a reason to go investigate stuff in the jungle, that's what I do for a living !
  • Research the old-time regional god Ubtao and find out what you can about him and his worship rituals.
  • Dirty tricks or economy of effort: can I set up shop as a "pirate" and collect a toll from ships sailing between Chult and the civilized lands?
 



SuperTD

Explorer
My party decided to all play tortles, so I had them sent on a mission by the village elder who wanted to speak to all her children again before she died. The party started in Port Nyanzaru looking to pick up the trail of the four children they were looking for, and found out the last places they'd each been heading to in the jungle (all conveniently placed in different directions of course).

I didn't even mention the death curse until further into the hex crawl and they'd had time to explore and chart part of the jungle, by which time they'd discovered one of the children they were searching for had been captured by the Yuan-Ti, so they had a reason both to head to Omu, and to try and solve the death curse (the dying elder would lose her soul forever).

So, my recommendations based purely off my own play experience which went well:

1. Give the party a mutual acquaintance they care for coming to the end of their days (hopefully the party will buy into this one, as you won't be able to have them naturally bond with someone over time and THEN find out they are dying).

2. Give them specific goals in different parts of the jungle, but not exactly landmarks so they just have a general direction to go in. More detailed directions could be "2 weeks down the river Soshenstar then head west", or "Deep within the Kobold Mountains".

3. Don't give them an immediate timer or they will be pressured into not exploring the map and bee-lining for Omu.

4. Give strong hints of an interesting location in the area if the PCs come within one hex of a location of interest. This means Each landmark effectively can be found by walking into one of seven hexes, rather than one single hex. This means they are much less likely to walk straight past adventure sites while passing within spitting distance of them.

5. Be aware that the random jungle encounters can be absolutely lethal for low level parties. My group went straight into the jungle at level one, and one character was dealt 30 points of damage by a stealthed Jaculi in a surprise round. We all agreed to ignore the massive damage rules at the very low levels because of this, mostly because the death was unfair and we didn't want the faff of making a new character in session two, after the first encounter. I know you've said they'll level up exploring the city, but consider what will happen if they instead decide to just Leroy Jenkins out into the wilderness without exploring the city. As written, there's actually very little to do to gain experience in the city so presumably you're planning to add your own content there.
 

Make them all part of the same expedition, with a general goal of unearthing treasure. Chult is famous for its ruins and riches. You can make some NPCs to serve as the heads of the expedition....maybe a third or fourth son of a noble house who’s decided to earn his name this way?

Add a couple of advisors and you got yourself some built in quest givers to help provoke the PCs to action if needed.

I’d also give some secret motives and such to some of the NPCs, and probably also some PCs, too.

I ran a campaign exactly like this back in the third edition days and it remains one of my favorite D&D campaigns I’ve ever run.
 


diegherkum

I always roll 2's. I'm not even good to do it bad
I'm sure they have lost a couple of characters (or more). Maybe they can go back for their corpses to resurrect them?
 

amethal

Explorer
I do like the idea of a Chult hexcrawl, but if I ever ran one I think I'd ask the players to consider playing native chultan characters, as it gives more of a tie in to the setting and makes hooks easier.
 

pukunui

Hero
I'm sure they have lost a couple of characters (or more). Maybe they can go back for their corpses to resurrect them?
Huh?!

I do like the idea of a Chult hexcrawl, but if I ever ran one I think I'd ask the players to consider playing native chultan characters, as it gives more of a tie in to the setting and makes hooks easier.
Maybe. I feel like having them be natives takes some of the mystery away.
 

SuperTD

Explorer
Maybe. I feel like having them be natives takes some of the mystery away.
I did notice in my game that because they were all tortles, I got a lot of "Well since I'm from Chult I probably know all about mysterious ancient item/location/npc right?
 

amethal

Explorer
I did notice in my game that because they were all tortles, I got a lot of "Well since I'm from Chult I probably know all about mysterious ancient item/location/npc right?
Hopefully you are exaggerating a bit, and the question was more along the lines of "As a native of Chult, what do I know about this item/location/NPC?"

To which I'd have replied "As a tortle you aren't very familiar with the ancient items/locations/people of the human Chultan culture, which this appears to be. However, you have heard tales of an ancient serpent cult lurking deep in the southern jungles. Some say it was destroyed by the Chultans long ago. Others claim that it was merely driven underground - possibly literally, in that the cultists may have fled into the Underdark. This thing does seem to be very old, and there is a definite snake motif ..."

That seems at least as much fun to me as:

"As a visitor to Chult, what do I know about this item/location/NPC?"

"Nothing."

"Ok, I ask the guide what he knows about it."

The guide examines the item/location/NPC thoughtfully for a moment. "There are tales of an ancient serpent cult ..."
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Port Nyanzaru becomes a major hub of interest, intrigue, and adventure during this time. The death curse is a major event that affects all of the Realms, and thus attracts a great deal of attention, especially adventurers. The promise of opportunity, adventure, and wealth is enough for most young, naive and foolhardy types. But there is also great suffering among the less powerful, and less noble schemes by powerful groups who are ever-seeking to take advantage of a situation.

Check out Xanathar's Lost Notes to Everything Else. There is an introductory adventure that involves some nefarious factions attempting to stake a claim as the party arrives in Port Nyanzaru for the first time.
 


Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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