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5E Jungles of Chult hexcrawl setup


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Eltab

Hero
I created a Tabaxi Ranger for ToA and part of the background is "has not been more than 1 day's travel away from civilization". The DM can give me rumors but as an L1 character I have no practical experience in the jungle. I did this, in part, to avoid the "Well of course my character knows everything" problem.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Maybe. I feel like having them be natives takes some of the mystery away.
My experience of a homebrewed hexcrawl-heavy run of TOA was actually the opposite – my players being natives made them all the more invested in the lore and local political environment. But I also took a lot of creative liberties.

Maybe your PCs are united in opposition to a rival explorer/party who is/are just the worst. Basically, Team Indiana Jones vs. the Nazis. The PCs may not agree at all times, and may sometimes work at cross-purposes, but the one thing they're united in is that the "Nazis" are bad news for Chult and cannot be allowed to win.
 

Eltab

Hero
Group motive (requires the players to know some FR lore and history)
Baldurs Gate sponsored a colony settlement in Chult. You know they are trying to cut everybody else (Waterdeep, Amn, Tethyr, Calimshan, &c) out of the profits. We can mess them up and get -our city- a crack at the wealth too !
 

pukunui

Hero
I've had a few more ideas:

*I thought about just running the intro to Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, in which Volo asks the PCs to find his missing friend, and then have him 'pay' them by paying for them to accompany him to Port Nyanzaru instead of giving them the deed to Trullskull Manor. However, I didn't really enjoy that adventure last time I ran it.

*Last time I ran Tomb of Annihilation, I started at 5th level, after having run The Sunless Citadel and The Forge of Fury as separate, unrelated adventures. I could run just The Sunless Citadel as an introductory adventure before sending the PCs to Chult. Perhaps I could have Volo send them to search for his friends (the gnome cleric or a member of the ill-fated adventuring party) and then, as above, he offers to pay for them to accompany him on his trip to Port Nyanzaru for his book tour. He might then encourage them to explore the jungle so he can write about it. (He could then be the source of potential adventure hooks, introducing the PCs to various quest givers whenever they're in the city.)

*I could turn this into an Acquisitions Incorporated adventure and have the PCs go to Chult to set up their franchise. I could run the first episode of the Orrery of the Wanderer (and maybe even run subsequent episodes but set them in Chult). They could get themselves a mobile headquarters with which to explore the jungle. They could set themselves up as rivals to the Flaming Fist, too, who would be encroaching on their franchise patch (as would the Zhentarim).

*I could try and 'cut out' the opening Dead Three cultist-focused adventure from Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus and use that as an intro, tying in the connections between Baldur's Gate and Chult (e.g. the Flaming Fist stuff). Perhaps if they do well enough against the cultists, the Fists could send them to Chult to help out down there. Alternatively, if I were to end up incorporating the death curse, maybe I could tie in the Dead Three cultists somehow and have that adventure lead to Chult instead of to Avernus. I haven't fully read the adventure, though, so I don't know how integrated the Elturel/Zariel/Nine Hells stuff is.

*I could even run 'A Great Upheaval' from Storm King's Thunder as an intro adventure. I didn't use it for my SKT campaign. Perhaps the giants who seized the Nightstone took it to Chult for some reason.

One of the reasons I am thinking of running one of the above as an introductory adventure is because a) Tomb of Annihilation is one of the only 5e hardcover campaigns that doesn't have an introductory adventure and b) my 11 year-old daughter will be joining us for her first-ever D&D campaign, and I thought it would be nice to start her off with something more traditional than adventuring in the jungle.
 

Eltab

Hero
Could the Frost Giants commit a raid against -wherever the new PCs happen to be - for easy-to-grab supplies on their trek to find the Ring of Winter? Revenge! gives the group a reason to track them down ... an awfully long way ... where frost giants usually wouldn't touch. What's so important to them as all that?

In this case, replace the Zhents coming to Nightstone Town with Frost Giants looking for an easy plunder stop-off (they saw the flying fortress stop and drop; this means the little-folk defenders will be out of sorts from fighting already).
 

pukunui

Hero
I’m currently leaning towards running the Dead Three in Baldur’s Gate as an intro, with a modified version of the Deagon Heist intro as a close second.

My girls have both been playing Diablo 3 lately, and the Dead Three adventure has similar vibes. They liked the sound of that.

The Dragon Heist intro is shorter and simpler and I could have Volo give them a ship instead of a tavern (or just go with my original idea of having him pay for them to go with him to Chult).
 

pukunui

Hero
I just had a crazy but potentially awesome idea! I know I’ve been a vocal critic of Dragon Heist for being a railroady mess.

But I just had the thought that I could transpose the whole thing to Chult! I’d use Jarlaxle as the main villain so that the PCs could potentially gain his submarine, which they could potentially use to find Aremag’s lair and/or go all 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea against the pirates. (Jarlaxle and his group could be in Port Nyanzaru having just visited Lantan to pick up the submarine and some nimblewrights.)

The other thing is that the hidden treasure hoard could have been left behind by the Amnians after they were forced out. I can rework Renaer as an Amnian noble. Same with the Gralhunds. They can be colonial remnants.

Volo initiates the quest as usual. The Zhents can still be Zhents but I may have to replace the Xanathar’s Guild with some other group.

Port Nyanzaru doesn’t have sewers, so the secret hideout could be in one of the ziggurats.

Volo can still award them with a tavern in the city, and that part can be run as normal. Instead of doing faction quests, though, the PCs can do some exploring of the jungle (to make money to rebuild their tavern).

Then fireball! Gralhunds are involved. Drow are involved. Substitute Laeral with one of the merchant princes.

Final location of hoard could be in a jungle ruin somewhere (rather than hidden under the city) or it could be in one of the ziggurats.

Instead of a gold dragon, I could have a guardian the PCs actually have to fight.

Merchant princes can claim hoard for city, let PCs keep some of it.

Jarlaxle might need a slightly different motivation - he might still want to buy his way into the Lords’ Alliance, but that would benefit the Sword Coast not Chult.

Needs some further development but it could work!
 
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Eltab

Hero
I just had a crazy but potentially awesome idea! I know I’ve been a vocal critic of Dragon Heist for being a railroady mess.

But I just thought I could transpose the whole thing to Chult! I’d use Jarlaxle as the main villain so that the PCs could potentially gain his submarine, which they could potentially use to find Aremag’s lair and/or go all 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea against the pirates. (Jarlaxle and his group could be in Port Nyanzaru having just visited Lantan to pick up the submarine and some nimblewrights.)

The other thing is that the hidden treasure hoard could have been left behind by the Amnians after they were forced out. I can rework Renaer as an Amnian noble. Same with the Gralhunds. They can be colonial remnants.

Volo initiates the quest as usual. The Zhents can still be Zhents but I may have to replace the Xanathar’s Guild with some other group.

Port Nyanzaru doesn’t have sewers, so the secret hideout could be in one of the ziggurats.

Volo can still award them with a tavern in the city, and that part can be run as normal. Instead of doing faction quests, though, the PCs can do some exploring of the jungle (to make money to rebuild their tavern).

Then fireball! Gralhunds are involved. Drow are involved. Substitute Laeral with one of the merchant princes.

Final location of hoard could be in a jungle ruin somewhere (rather than hidden under the city) or it could be in one of the ziggurats.

Instead of a gold dragon, I could have a guardian the PCs actually have to fight.

Merchant princes can claim hoard for city, let PCs keep some of it.

Jarlaxle might need a slightly different motivation - he might still want to buy his way into the Lords’ Alliance, but that would benefit the Sword Coast not Chult.

Needs some further development but it could work!
With no Death Curse, there is no reason for Valindra (sp?) to be in the Heart of Ubtao. Put a religious-themed guardian in there instead. The Amnian lord made a "large donation" to the shrine, confident that nobody else would come to mess with it until he returned in secret. For a twist, there is no money but valuable trade goods: silk printed in Kara-Tur, incense, relics, solid-gold altarware (with a blank spot but no holy symbols on it), historical artifacts and curiosities, rare (in Chult) woods (oak, cherry, cedar, maple), "ducal signet ring" (false). Books: Ranger tome George of the Jungle (this guy learns a new favored terrain, the hard way), Dinosaur Wildshaping: A Druid's Guide. Magic items such as a Room Cooler (temp a nice 75* and <50% humidity), Sword of the Jungle (make something up), Bracers of Animal Handling: Dinosaur.

If you put the hoard in the city, the guardian might be a shrunk-down T-Rex Zombie that vomits up an endless stream of Small-size zombies (Velociraptors?). Give them a foretaste of things to come - cue King of Feathers.

I thought about switching the Ytepka Society for Xanathar, but that alters the unique identities of both groups too much.

My Dragon Heist group got to play with the submarine. As written it goes about 1 MPH under its own power (oops); you'll have to fix that. Doing the CSS Hunley thing to the pirates does sound like fun.

Jarlaxle doesn't mind buying his way into the Lord's Alliance with other peoples' money, this is a cache that doesn't have a dragon guardian already on it, nor swarms of adventurers getting in his way seeking it. It has its own unique challenges to overcome, which is (to him) the fun part.
 

pukunui

Hero
Yes, the stash could be in the Heart! And yes, it should consist primarily of trade goods. Great idea. (Or maybe it could be in an extra-dimensional space that is only accessible from the Heart.)

I’m thinking I might have to come up with my own group that replaces the Xanathar Guild. I can make it a group that’s a front for Ras Nsi’s yuan-ti.

The Ytepka Society is weird because they kind of overlap / fill the Harpers’ niche, yet the Harpers themselves are also present.

The issue with Jarlaxle’s motivation is that by default, he can get the PCs on side because he says he’s just going to give the gold to Laeral anyway. While his ultimate motivation of using it to buy his way into the Lords’ Alliance can still work, by moving the adventure to Chult, he can’t convince the PCs to get on board by saying he’ll hand over the loot to the merchant princes, since they’re not part of the Alliance ... which is fine, ultimately, because when I tried to run Dragon Heist last time, I found it awkward running a villain whose goal actually wasn’t that villainous. It made sense to team up with him, in many respects.
 

pukunui

Hero
OK, after writing down numerous options and running through them with the three members of my family who will be playing in this campaign (my wife and two of my daughters), I have settled on the following:

Act I: [Insert pithy name here]
The campaign begins with fresh-faced 1st level wannabe adventurers somewhere on the Sword Coast (probably Waterdeep). They meet Volo and impress him enough that he asks them to look for a missing friend of his. This friend went to explore the fabled Sunless Citadel and never came back. So the PCs gear up and head off to take a look.

I will have to make Volo's missing friend be one of the two people the evil druid has enthralled, so that they have to go through the entire adventure before finding the friend.

When they return to Volo for their reward, he admits he's a bit short on cash and so gives them the deed to an old tavern in Port Nyanzaru! He bought it when he was there recently on his book tour. In fact, he will also give them a copy of his Guide to Monsters for free, telling them they'll need it if they decide to go exploring in the jungle.

Act II - Chult: Welcome to the Jungle
The PCs are robbed of some of their wealth by Aremag on the way to Port Nyanzaru. Furthermore, when they arrive at their new address, they find it is in need of repair. So what do they do? Maybe they take part in the dino races to make a quick buck. Maybe they team up with the Flaming Fist. Maybe they do some other odd jobs around the place. Here would be a good place for Faroul and Gondolo to tempt them with a dragon's treasure hoard, and for Musharib to tempt them with riches from Hrakhamar. Wakanga might also ask them to fetch Vorn's shield guardian, and maybe Azaka will ask them to fetch her mask from Firefinger.

I can potentially still work in the later part of the Dragon Heist storyline, with a fireball erupting outside their new home and an investigation that leads to the temple of Gond in Port Nyanzaru, where they see a little model of a Lantanese submarine and also find out about the Lantanese nimblewrights. Jarlaxle and co can be in town at this stage. There can still be a hunt for a hidden cache of treasure that the Amnians had to leave behind. Perhaps the trove is hidden in one of the Old City ziggurats.

Act III - Chult: The Next Level
Now that the PCs are established in Port Nyanzaru as hearty adventurers, the death curse strikes! Jessamine the merchant prince asks for their help because she is suffering from the curse. Maybe even one of the PCs could be at this point, if any of them have died on their previous forays into the jungle.

They must find their way to Omu. I'll probably go with the route I used the last time I ran this: Eku is their guide and takes them to Orolunga (via Mbala) to consult with the oracle. From there, they cut across the Aldani Basin to Kir Sabal, where they find they have to go fetch a black rose from Nangalore so they can fly above the jungle to find Omu that way. They can also meet Mwaxanare, whom they will have heard about while in Port Nyanzaru, and can decide if they want to help restore her to the throne or not. Depends on how much they end up liking or disliking the merchant princes, I guess.

They go to Omu. They deal with Ras Nsi, who will hopefully have been a (distant) thorn in their side so far. I'd like to play up the yuan-ti as shadowy antagonists to get them more interested in dealing with Ras. (Of course the naga oracle will also try and get them to promise to kill him to help restore the balance in Chult.)

Act IV - Tomb Raider
They explore the Tomb of the Nine Gods to find and destroy the Soulmonger. I may tone down the deadliness a little. I've seen suggestions elsewhere to make the "haha you're dead!" traps be more "haha you're maimed!" instead. I might do something like that.

Act V - Lost City of Mezro
Assuming the players aren't sick of the jungle yet, I can run the Lost City of Mezro adventures so they can help Artus bring Mezro back and restore Ubtao and all that. Could be a fitting way to wrap the campaign up. If they are sick of the jungle by this point, though, I can always wrap it up after the Soulmonger or just send them off somewhere else. Perhaps they can go to Waterdeep with Wakanga's cleric buddy to delve into Undermountain for treasures to send back to him. Given how long it took this group to play through our last campaign, this is years away, so I needn't worry too much about it.

But now at least I have a decent overall structure, and I can start planning for the opening and the like!
 

I like the botany suggestions. You could turn that into a mini-game if you wanted. In the end, you could use the ingredients and the mini-game to save Chult. Maybe there is a sickness sweeping through or maybe the ingredients are needed to earn money? I am curious though, do you plan to run this campaign for two years as well? If so, then you'll need deeper hooks than alchemy, botany or gold, at least in my experience.
 



jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
Act II - Chult: Welcome to the Jungle
The PCs are robbed of some of their wealth by Aremag on the way to Port Nyanzaru. Furthermore, when they arrive at their new address, they find it is in need of repair. So what do they do? Maybe they take part in the dino races to make a quick buck. Maybe they team up with the Flaming Fist. Maybe they do some other odd jobs around the place. Here would be a good place for Faroul and Gondolo to tempt them with a dragon's treasure hoard, and for Musharib to tempt them with riches from Hrakhamar. Wakanga might also ask them to fetch Vorn's shield guardian, and maybe Azaka will ask them to fetch her mask from Firefinger.
I like the sandboxy sound of this part. Give 'em the hooks and let them decide which ones to follow up.
 

jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
I just picked up this supplement in one of the DM's Guild charity bundles, and it seems like it might be a good fit for this idea:

Jungle Treks - Dungeon Masters Guild | Dungeon Masters Guild

Adventure levels can be adjusted from 1 to 10. I'll quote the more detailed content descriptions from the PDF:

Tavern Trouble. Use this adventure to start off your jungle trek! The party meets a contact at a tavern who has valuable information, but the contact is in trouble. Foes have come to settle debts. At the same time, a hunter enters the tavern with some strange lizards, which escape and swallow an important talisman. Find the right lizard, fight off the foes, and save the contact!

If Looks Could Kill. An herbalist explorer in the jungle needs help. A catoblepas herd is making their way through a swamp, killing everything they encounter, including valuable plants. Her request seems simple, but other members of her expedition have their own requests and are at odds with each other.

Ambush from Above! As the adventurers travel, they are attacked by grungs who swing from vines above. The grungs are all members of Team Pig, which they hold in humorously high esteem. Characters can use this to end the adventure peacefully, perhaps gaining allies.

Mystic River. As the adventurers travel downriver, they enter a stretch of river infused with elemental or magical qualities. The party must navigate dangerous white water, avoid carnivorous plants, and dodge the tail of a brontosaurus! A tiny elemental spirit adds humor to the adventure.

Mudslide! A torrential rain creates a dangerous environmental hazard in jungle-covered hills that can bury the party or sweep them into a different adventure. Even worse, mischevious monsters made of mud complicate survival.

Beautiful Plumage. Tropical harpies have infested a Chultan ruin in the jungle. Their beautiful song lures victims to them, forcing them to climb a dangerous tower. At the same time, a cursed magic item is animating the skeletal remains of the harpies’ meals below the tower. Meanwhile, a goblin queen’s ghost wants revenge and will use any trespassers as her tool of vengeance.
 

OK, after writing down numerous options and running through them with the three members of my family who will be playing in this campaign (my wife and two of my daughters), I have settled on the following:

Act I: [Insert pithy name here]
The campaign begins with fresh-faced 1st level wannabe adventurers somewhere on the Sword Coast (probably Waterdeep). They meet Volo and impress him enough that he asks them to look for a missing friend of his. This friend went to explore the fabled Sunless Citadel and never came back. So the PCs gear up and head off to take a look.

I will have to make Volo's missing friend be one of the two people the evil druid has enthralled, so that they have to go through the entire adventure before finding the friend.

When they return to Volo for their reward, he admits he's a bit short on cash and so gives them the deed to an old tavern in Port Nyanzaru! He bought it when he was there recently on his book tour. In fact, he will also give them a copy of his Guide to Monsters for free, telling them they'll need it if they decide to go exploring in the jungle.
I'd be careful of the railroad here. I'd try to start them as friends of Volo "off screen".
Act II - Chult: Welcome to the Jungle
The PCs are robbed of some of their wealth by Aremag on the way to Port Nyanzaru. Furthermore, when they arrive at their new address, they find it is in need of repair. So what do they do? Maybe they take part in the dino races to make a quick buck. Maybe they team up with the Flaming Fist. Maybe they do some other odd jobs around the place. Here would be a good place for Faroul and Gondolo to tempt them with a dragon's treasure hoard, and for Musharib to tempt them with riches from Hrakhamar. Wakanga might also ask them to fetch Vorn's shield guardian, and maybe Azaka will ask them to fetch her mask from Firefinger.

I can potentially still work in the later part of the Dragon Heist storyline, with a fireball erupting outside their new home and an investigation that leads to the temple of Gond in Port Nyanzaru, where they see a little model of a Lantanese submarine and also find out about the Lantanese nimblewrights. Jarlaxle and co can be in town at this stage. There can still be a hunt for a hidden cache of treasure that the Amnians had to leave behind. Perhaps the trove is hidden in one of the Old City ziggurats.
Sure, tribute to Aremag. It works if they avoid the tribute tho. Maybe even make it a choice -- have some RPG on the boat, and they boat's tribute isn't enough for Aremag. They can either chip in, or watch as some of their sailor friends get sacrificed to him.
 

pukunui

Hero
Just a quick little update:

I held a session 0 for the campaign last weekend. We went over themes, expectations, rules, etc, then the players made their characters. Here's what they came up with:

1) Forest gnome fighter with the sage background. She's a "student of battle" who will take the battle master subclass at 3rd level.

2) Protector aasimar divine soul sorcerer with the anthropologist background. He's chosen "elf" as his adopted culture.

3) Calishite human rogue with the Urchin background. His backstory involves being raised by elves after being orphaned only to be captured by raiders and ending up on the streets of Baldur's Gate. This is to explain why he is good both in urban and natural environments, as he is intending to take the scout subclass at 3rd level. He also has the Mobile feat.

4) Black-scaled dragonborn ranger with the archaeologist background. She was born in Chult, but her parents moved her all over the world, studying ruins and the like. She'll be taking the horizon walker subclass at 3rd level.

5) Half-elf fighter with the folk hero background. Her human parent is Chultan. She wields a bow and will be taking the arcane archer subclass at 3rd level.


The ranger's player is keen to take up the cartographer company position once they set up their franchise. Not sure about any of the others.
 

Coroc

Hero
Put in some multipart artifact parts and clues to the locations of the parts all over the place, e.g. rod of seven parts.

That way you get a powerful tool, to give the players a direction if they get undecided on where to explore next. The beauty of this is, that you do not need to visit any of the locations in a given order, thereby maintaining the matrix hexcrawl approach.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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