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D&D 5E [SPOILERS] Enhancing Tomb of Annihilation


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CapnZapp

Legend
I think they would generally be willing to risk it. They would probably know about the license, but hold the Fist in contempt to various degrees. They are this adventure's "bloody foreign imperialist colonials" after all!

Perhaps the fact they themselves are licensed (by the Merchant Prince) gets them out of hot water personally? Wouldn't a Flaming Fist captain rather let an official guide go rather than to take the diplomatic repercussions of slaying one?

---

Since the Flaming Fist is in the end an extension of the Lords Alliance, I would agree there is a high-level truce between Order of the Gauntlet and the mercenaries.

Not that this completely stops all violence, especially on the individual level. A drunken Fist mercenary killing an agent of the Order would probably not raise any eyebrows unless it happens repeatedly. But commander Breakbone would likely not attack larger groups or camps of Flaming Fisters unless you have compelling evidence evil has corrupted that force.

And even so, I think he'd rather have his higher-ups embarrass Baldur's Gate into handling the errant mercenary itself.

Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app
 

sim-h

Explorer
Starting this tomorrow!

Concerning navigation and the survival check to avoid getting lost - the DMG (p. 111) says the navigator gets advantage if they have access to an accurate map or can see the sun or stars.

I plan to apply this to legs of the journey on the revealed part of the map, and on all rivers (they can see the sun) depending on the rainfall. I've done a spreadsheet to allocate rain etc. so in no rain or light rain I'll allow advantage on the rivers, otherwise not.

Does this sound reasonable? I just wonder why the module makes no mention of this when it does mention e.g. +5/-5 for different travel paces
 

wizardlvl80

First Post
I changed navigation a bit - since I couldn't find stats for guides in ToA, I decided that players can go alone into jungle or hire a guide. They decided to hire Azaka Stormfang and I gave them advantage on navigation checks because they hired her.


My party started at lvl 4 and I think this was a great idea. I think that Port Nyanzaru is a cool place but it's not cooler than jungles of Chult. My players almost skipped Nyanzaru part as they wanted to head straight to explore jungle.

They - same as I - find not interesting dino racing and betting and they think of Port as of a base for further journey (a pit stop). Also, adventure that should be a time bomb, locks players in Port Nyanzaru and forces them doing non-plot related things like rescuing a guy who ows someone money etc..

I also changed the main plot a bit. I find it way to expositional that characters now from the beginning that they have to find Omu and Soulmonger. I started campaign in city of Neverwinter (I'm running this in 4e timeline). Dead people were starting to rise from their graves with blue triangle mark on their forhead (Ras Nsi mark) and also people who were resurrected are slowly turning into zombies and rotting alive - they also have blue triangle mark.

Firstly, characters had to find what is this blue triangle and when they realised it's a mark of dead Barae from city of Mezro, they were assigned for a quest to Chult, to find out what's going on. Lord Neverember's daughter is rotting since she was raised from dead few years ago. He founded their travel to Chult and recommended to contact his ally - Wakanga O'tamu.

Thanks to this, my players know nothing about Soulmonger, Omu and they are exploring the jungle and searching for answers and clues. They are looking for cause of this zombie-disease and they starting to realise it has something in common with Ras Nsi.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I couldn't find stats for guides in ToA, I decided that players can go alone into jungle or hire a guide.
All the guides use standard stat blocks as found the Monster Manual (or in the Tomb of Annihilation appendix).

The way this is shown is by displaying the name of the state block in bold. The difference between a scout and a scout is that in the first instance we're talking about scouting people in general, but in the second we are referring to the specific state block called "Scout" on page 349 in the Monster Manual.

Both Faroul and Gondolo are scouts.

Not all guides use stat blocks from the NPC appendix of MM. For instance, you'll find the stats of Musharib on page 210 of Tomb of Annihilation itself, while Azaka Stormfang uses the creature stats on page 210 of the Monster Manual (not in the appendix).

Hope this helps!



Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app
 

Yes

Explorer
My player's party just made it to Omu.

They breezed through the jungle since they were lv 7 when they started the campaign. Their character made it through the first part of Out Of The Abyss, and I decided to run TOA in between the two parts for a change of scenery. The plot hook is they have to help Syndra Silvane to secure the Harper's help in investigating the demon threat in the Underdark ( and nobody gives a damn in general about underground demons when dignitaries all over the world are dying because of the resurrection curse.)

At port Nyanzaru, I had the players meet Zagmira the Red Mage of Thay. I thought it might be nice to give them a sense early on that they weren't alone in the race. And since none of them are too big on D&D's lore, I had to hint that the Red Wizards are a force to be reckoned with. The encounter is as follows:

You spot a frail figure in a red robe walking the streets. Everybody is making way to let her pass and talking in hushed tones. Four brutish men wearing dark leather and displaying short swords open the way for her ( four others dressed in a less ostentatiously menacing way follow here more discretly, eying the streets for danger.) One of the thugs bumps into a unwary tabaxi minstrel. The thug punches him and breaks the poor minstrel's ocarina under his foot.

If the players confront Zagmira's guard about the Minstrel's treatment, the mage sighs, shoots an annoyed look at the thug who cowers in terror, and she acts very polite and civil, casting a mending spell on the musical instrument. She even gives the tabaxi a gold piece for his trouble. But all the while, if the characters aren't native, she asks pointed questions to get a sense of their motivations. If she finds out they're here to mount an expedition, she smiles slowly, wishes them good luck and tells them they might meet again in the jungle.





I only ran one custom encounter in the jungle during their travels. I'm gonna share the details of this encounter with you:

The Emerald Snakes ( encounter lv 6+)

During the night in the jungle, if the players assigned to guard duty fail a perception check while a band of Yuan-Ti is supposed to attack, if the party looks too dangerous for them, they juste take note of their forces and prepare this ambush instead.

A few days later, if the characters are supposed to encounter a patrol from the Emerald Enclave, they encounter a band of Yuan-Ti purebloods posing as Emerald Enclave scouts and druids. They outnumber the party by two, and try to lure them with the promise of safe rest in their camp nearby. The Yuan-Ti attacked the real enclave camp the day before and massacred everybody. They cleaned the camp right after, prepared their disguise and the rest of their forces ( 1 malison and 2 purebloods per players ) are lying in wait at the camp.

Things that can tip the players:

1 The appearance of the EE group is perfectly timed 1 or 2 hours before sunset, and their camp is conveniently placed an hour's walk from there.

2 They're all humans/Chultians.

3 Some of the Yuan-Ti posing as druids might be wearing metal.

4 Any pointed question about the EE ways is answered elusivly.

5 They're all proudly wearing a clean EE patch ( EE is not that big on heraldic and protocol)

6 An insight or investigation check opposed to Pure-Blood's deception check might reveal some serpentine trait.

7 They look peaceful and particularly calm ( The Chult Jungle is unnerving even to the most skilled ranger or disciple of nature.)

(I made it easy since my players aren't really big on picking on clues, and their characters aren't especially perceptive or wary either. But I know a Yuan-Ti is supposed to be more sly. So feel free to adjust those details to the amount of deception required.)

If the players are not particularly suspicious of the EE party, they follow them to the village where they might spot a few snakes crawling in or out of thatched huts. They're targeted by simultaneous suggestions spell from all their new friends "Now that you're sssss-safe with us-ssss, just drop your weapons-sss and relax-ssss..." and then attacked. The Yuan-Ti try to capture them and bring them to their temple in Omu.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Tl;dr: How would you handle the idea of stumbling upon a sanctuary – a particularly safe, dry, beneficial, and thematic resting place – while exploring the jungles of Chult?

I'm contemplating a sanctuary allowing all PCs to rest without one keeping watch, restoring all levels of exhaustion (not just one), and allowing PCs to safely travel between known sanctuaries without random encounters. Does that seem reasonable?

I've been pre-rolling random encounters for ToA, hoping to do a bit of prep making them more interesting than "boo! another snake springs out!" So I'm treating the random encounter tables as raw ingredients with which to make interesting meals. To that end I've been using this slightly modified encounter roll & interpolating results creatively (and I also picked up the Tomb of Annihilation Companion)... I also massaged the results to minimize single-encounter days...

1 = sanctuary
2-15 = no encounter
16-19 = encounter
20 = two encounters mixed together

I pre-roll for AM/PM/Night jungle encounters (and random weather, but not including that here for simplicity), and usually note the different options for "no undead"/"undead"/"greater undead" territories which I'm interpreting creatively:

Day 1: - / 25 (stegasaurus) / - ask players about camping procedures
Day 2: - / - / - this would be a narrated day of travel, not actually played through
Day 3*: - / 12 (cannibals/ankylosaurus/tyrannosauraus) + 96 (winterscape/yellow musk creeper/“) / - described below
Day 4: - / - / - this would be a narrated day of travel, not actually played through
Day 5*: SANCTUARY / - / 22 (hadrosaurus/dead explorer/flaming fist) described below

Day 3: Cannibal Village
Decaying tree houses with grisly cannibalistic fetishes amid yellow flower garlands. 12 yellow musk zombies wander below. Up in treehouses are 14 tribal warriors quietly feasting on zombie corpses – the yellow musk serves to intoxicate them – and they are careful not to disturb a yellow musk creeper overgrowing obvious wooden stairs at central tree of the “village.”

Day 5: Signs of Batiri Goblins & “Jungle Princess”
In the morning, PCs find a ring of large stacked wood piles easily ignited as signal fires that serves as a SANCTUARY; lighting this beacon causes tribes or settlements who can see smoke to believe goblin attack is imminent. A carved totem stick has pictograms of fearsome spirits chasing masked goblins, and unconcealed 10-foot pits are dug around area.

Later, in dead of night, a herd of 12 hadrosaurus (of which 2 are noncombatant young) pass by, grazing on fronds, their movements revealing a dead explorer – bones of a human lashed to a tree by vines (a victim of goblins who was doused in honey & left out for insects). Victim has a note in pocket containing information about “Jungle Princess” – a successful racing dinosaur belonging to merchant prince Ifan Talro’a but recently stolen by bandits. Talro’a believes the deinonychus is being transported to Jahaka Anchorage to be sold to pirates, and offers a 150 gp reward for its return to Port Nyanzaru. The deinonychus can be recognized by orange and green “racing” stripes along its sides.

DM NOTE: "Jungle Princess" is borrowed from a /r/dnd thread! What Talro’a really fears is that his cheating in the races is exposed; among the ornamental jewelry placed on “Jungle Princess”, there’s an amulet of the cheetah – a magic item that functions like horseshoes of speed.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I'm going to be running ToA for some gents in the Navy, at least one whose PC has a sailor background, and I realized there's little guidance given for PCs navigating around Chult by boat. So I made myself some quick-and-dirty guidelines! Maybe they will be of use to someone else. :)

Ocean Travel in Chult
A "gulf stream"-like wind moves clockwise up from the Great Sea, around the Mistcliffs, and pours into the Shining Sea. Under normal wind conditions, sailing with the stream is 4.58 mph (11 hexes per day), while moving against the stream is 2.92 mph (7 hexes per day), and sailing Chult's eastern side with no stream is 3.75 mph (9 hexes per day).

Sailing close to coast when moving against the stream can use certain landmasses to block headwind (+1 hex per day), but require intermittent checks to avoid shallow shoals and reef.

Wind conditions follow three-day cycles (d8 every 3 days, unless otherwise stated):
1. Dead winds, max sailing speed is 0.83 mph (2 hexes per day). Re-roll next day.
2. Weak winds, -1 hex traveled.
3-6. Normal winds.
7. Strong winds, +1 hex traveled.
8. “Serpent” winds, make navigation check; DC 9 or less = damage to sails, DC 10 = +1 hex, DC 15 = +2 hexes, DC 20 = +3 hexes, DC 25 = +4 hexes. Re-roll next day.

Sailing Encounters by Area
Sailing Refuge Bay & east = sea hags & slavers
Sailing NE coast = Hvalspyd frost giant ship
Sailing Bay of Chult = Aremag the dragon turtle
Sailing Mistcliffs = discover Matolo? (see Ruins of Matolo)
Sailing Jahaka Bay / Kobold Mountains = pirates!

Sailing the Wild Coast (from Shilku Bay to Snapping Turtle Bay) (d6 every day):
1. perilous shoals – move away from coast by 10 miles or risk a wreck
2. whirlpools
3. plesiosaurus
4. pteranodons (2d6) fishing
5. looming clouds with “Shadow Giant” figure among them (resembling Eshowdow) breaking crew’s morale
6. “serpent” winds (supersedes normal wind conditions, as they're more common along Wild Coast)
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Ok If you have a map or the location has come up at least twice on the rumor table, you can not get lost if you go straight to the location.
Guides get advantage on the survival roll.
If you are making a beeline for the next nearest location you only get lost once.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Ok If you have a map or the location has come up at least twice on the rumor table, you can not get lost if you go straight to the location.
Guides get advantage on the survival roll.
If you are making a beeline for the next nearest location you only get lost once.

That's a good guideline. I was contemplating giving the guide Salida (who is billed as a "seasoned explorer") the part of the ranger's Natural Explorer trait about "not getting lost" when it comes to jungles; definitely incentives selecting her as a guide.

One question I have is about explaining & foreshadowing the magical conditions in the Tomb of the Nine Gods.

Definitely Valindra Shadowmantle should have books on Omu's engineering/magic/history which could reveal some of this. I'm guessing older editions of D&D have spells/components/special materials that explain some of the magical conditions. And the point of having explanations rather than "it's magic!" is to provide an in-story way of foreshadowing this to players & reward clever play if players think of a creative work-around.

Thoughts on the following?

Antimagic Field doesn't stop Trickster Gods. Maybe Princess Mwaxanaré considers worship of Trickster Gods a form of matumbe (forbidden magic outside usual spellcasting system)?
Misdirection of Arcane Gate, Banishment, Dimension Door, Gate, Plane Shift, Teleport, and Word of Recall. IIRC wasn't there a d20 / 3e spell for this?
Divination false readings. A version of the d20 misdirection spell on a massive scale?
Clairvoyance Failure. Why just clairvoyance and not scrying?
Passwall & Etherealness can't move through walls. Gorgon's blood mixed into mortar – maybe include notes about mass gorgon sacrifices occurring in Omu during Acererak's subjugation of the city (explaining why there are no gorgons in Chult), and maybe iron bull skull in Tomb of Nine Gods (Area 68) is actually a gorgon's skull?
Stone Shape outright failing. Entire tomb is built on top of dead, their bones are built into walls, masonry bricks include powdered bone....so it doesn't strictly count as stone - maybe include notes about ossuaries being common in Omu?
Find Traps outright failing. Maybe everything in the tomb detects as a trap because Acererak made it all to inflict sudden/unexpected harmful effects? I guess whether the spell reveals "general nature of danger posed by a trap" would be up to DM's discretion?
Divination, Augury, and Astral Projection outright failing. Somehow the Tomb of the Nine Gods seems to be mostly cut off from gods & Astral Plane – maybe include notes about Acererak's reign silencing prayers to all gods in Omu? Or could this be a side effect of Soulmonger (and foreshadowed via Sewn Sisters)?
Transport via Plants & Tree Stride outright failing. Maybe Acererak wiped out most spiritlords (druids) which he saw as a threat to his plan (due to reincarnate spell circumventing Death Curse), and specifically created wards against their magic which might penetrate the tomb? Qawasha or a druid PC using detect magic in the tomb might be recognize such wards.
Wish outright failing. No good reason for this one, but given ToA's levels it won't come up, so a non-issue.
 
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My 4-5 level party has been pretty much breezing through the encounters in the wilderness, so I've had to start thinking about how to make them more challenging. I asked for help with adapting Mabala (and got good advice) in kthis thread

I'm working now on Hrakhamar. Depending on how many players are present (our crew ranges from 2-7 players per session), I'm planning on adding a Fire Elemental Myrmidon and/or a Fire Elemental to the shrine. I've also given some thought to adding a Salamander somewhere, and magma mephits, fire snakes, and or magmin in some places. In the case of the Elementals and Salamander, my idea is that they are also devotees of Imix and "in charge" of the fire newts in this location. (Maybe there is some wider plot that will become evident later) The remainder are for variety (and some of them have experience with Magmin)
 

pukunui

Legend
My 4-5 level party has been pretty much breezing through the encounters in the wilderness ...
Mine too. But three of them have died in Omu so far, and they're now level 7. I'm actually starting to wonder if any of them will even make it into the tomb, let alone all the way to the Soulmonger.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
My 4-5 level party has been pretty much breezing through the encounters in the wilderness, so I've had to start thinking about how to make them more challenging. I asked for help with adapting Mabala (and got good advice) in kthis thread

I'm working now on Hrakhamar. Depending on how many players are present (our crew ranges from 2-7 players per session), I'm planning on adding a Fire Elemental Myrmidon and/or a Fire Elemental to the shrine. I've also given some thought to adding a Salamander somewhere, and magma mephits, fire snakes, and or magmin in some places. In the case of the Elementals and Salamander, my idea is that they are also devotees of Imix and "in charge" of the fire newts in this location. (Maybe there is some wider plot that will become evident later) The remainder are for variety (and some of them have experience with Magmin)

During my prep for our upcoming ToA game, this occurred to me while reading through the adventure. Lots of random encounters, half of which aren't challenging and don't really connect to any meaningful story. So what I've done is roll them in advance – assuming jungle (that's most common terrain type, but may want to hold off until knowing your group's travel strategy) – then massage the results with these points in mind:

(1) Consolidate/creatively interpret results to make encounters more multi-layered & allow for days of "travel montage" and days that get more played out.
(2) Establish linkages between various encounters, referring to one another & to other parts of the adventure.
(3) Put an emphasis on story first, building on the Chult mythos.
(4) Treat a '20' on encounter check as TWO encounters mingled together; treat a '1' as sanctuary of some kind.

Here's an example: I pre-roll 60 days; my results for the first 3 are...

Day 1: - / 25 (stegosaurus) / - ; rain is light/light
Day 2: - / - / - ; rain is light/light
Day 3: -/ 12 (cannibals/ankylosaurus) + 96 (winterscape/yellow musk creeper) / - ; rain is light/light

To get a mix of "travel montage" days of no encounters & more interesting encounter days, I move the stegosaurus to the morning of Day 3. And since this starting point is definitely not going to be in Greater Undead Jungle, I focus on blending aspects of No Undead Jungle & Lesser Undead Jungle. So, my Day 3 looks like this...

Day 3.
Morning. Pass a grazing stegosaurus which has humanoid claw marks on its hide.
Noon. Have the "Cannibal Village" encounter below.
Night. No encounter; instead establish camping standard procedures.

Cannibal Village. Decaying elven tree houses with grisly cannibalistic fetishes amid yellow flower garlands. 14 yellow musk zombies wander below. Up in treehouses are 12 tribal warriors quietly feasting on zombie corpses – the yellow musk serves to intoxicate them – and they are careful not to disturb a yellow musk creeper overgrowing wooden stairs at central tree of the village. The cannibals are indifferent, not hostile, however they will try to protect the yellow musk creeper, which they treat as vintner would an orchard. If befriended, they enjoy making macabre jokes about certain PCs being “good eating”; they can warn PCs speaking Chultan about Batiri goblin traps, grungs using dinosaurs as weapons, and murderous cannibals with the sign of the blue triangle on their foreheads.

This encounter does a couple things:
  • Establishes that cannibals aren't always bad guys, relevant for showing the jungle is not only full of monsters. This is especially important to me when it comes to depicting Chult's culture; yeah, things are bad, but that's true even for the cannibals...who originally practiced a non-evil more-true-to-real-world form of cannibalism wherein they ate specific parts of honored dead for spiritual reasons.
  • Foreshadows other encounter rolls.
  • Foreshadows yellow musk creeper zombies early on, establishing that not all zombies are "zombies" (something I plan to play on later), and avoids the "gotcha" of plant zombies too late in the game.
  • Establishes that language is important in Chult (e.g. Old Omuan & communicating with grungs of Dungrunglung). I told my players this ahead of time, but it's good to reinforce it early on.
  • Shows that clever play & paying attention will pay off. Fighting isn't necessary at all in this case, and PCs could even get aid of cannibals in taking down the zombies. While a bad decision to engage the yellow musk creeper could lead to an unexpectedly deadly encounter.
  • Hints at remnants of wild elves, which are conspicuously absent from Chult; also something I intend to answer "where did the wild elves go?"
 
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My players are not likely to stumble across hints that they need to look for Omu as they are provided in the book. I'm planning on planting a diary on a dead explorer they encounter at some point. (Right now they are on their way to Hrakhamar). I thought I'd also add a reference to the company of the yellow banner. I have a vague memory of someone mentioning this earlier. Has anyone written up diary entries along this line and is willing to share?
 

BMaC

Explorer
A "dungeon roster" for the tomb of nine god would be helpful. I'm thinking of what is found on p. 113 for the fane of the night serpent, or what is included as a dungeon roster for each of the individual giant dungeons in Storm King's Thunder.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
I changed navigation a bit - since I couldn't find stats for guides in ToA, I decided that players can go alone into jungle or hire a guide. They decided to hire Azaka Stormfang and I gave them advantage on navigation checks because they hired her.


...
Guides write ups are page 33-35 TOA. You will have to look up the stats in MM, TOA, PHB. I think Shago has the best Survival at +7.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
A "dungeon roster" for the tomb of nine god would be helpful. I'm thinking of what is found on p. 113 for the fane of the night serpent, or what is included as a dungeon roster for each of the individual giant dungeons in Storm King's Thunder.

I created a room-by-room "dungeon roster." Several are not what they appear, others are clearly geared toward non-combat encounters, and others still have no good miniature/pawn options...so (as always) your own reading of the module may yield slightly different interpretations.

{SPOILERS}

Tomb of the Nine Gods
[SBLOCK=Dungeon Roster]
LEVEL ONE
1. 3 gargoyles (and possible nalfeshnee demon)
2. - (inanimate statues of 9 trickster gods)
3. -
4. -
5. shadow demon
6. wight dwarf
7. -
8. -
9. -
10. 6 wights
11. -
12. -
13. -
14. (possible flameskull & 6 spider swarms)
15. -
16. mummy su-monster
17. mimic (as treasure chest)

LEVEL TWO
18. swarm of bats
19. -
20. 3 water weirds
21. 3 zombies
22. 12+ skeletons
23. dao
24. gray slaad
25. armored flesh golem
26. 5 wight dwarves
27. armored flesh golem
28. Withers + 7 crawling claws

LEVEL THREE
29. -
30. -
31. -
32. -
33. shadow duplicate of PC
34. -
35. -
36. -
37. -
38. armored flesh golem
39. clay golem
40. -
41. 2 armored flesh golems
42. 3 wraiths
43. -
44. beholder

LEVEL FOUR
45. giant four-armed gargoyle
46. lizard
47. -
48. 48 animated armor
49. 2 bodaks
50. commoner, invisible stalker, minotaur, troll, drow mage, doppelganger, giant four-armed gargoyle, female warrior (NPC), stirge
51. 6 ghasts
52. 3 zombies
53. -
54. -
55. 10 minotaur skeletons
56. -
57. otyugh

LEVEL FIVE
58. 3 shambling mounds
59. orc war chief, 7 orcs
60. 2 mezzoloths, monodrone, bone devil, 4 will-o-wisps
61. -
62. stone juggernaut
63. -
64. 5 wight dwarves
65. aboleth
66. -
67. 4 spined devils, 3 bearded devils, 2 barbed devils, horned devil, erinyes
68. -
69. pentadrone, 9 quadrones
70. nycaloth

LEVEL SIX
71. 3 night hags ("Sewn Sisters")
72. -
73. dust mephit
74. scarecrow
75. 3 wereboars
76. -
77. atropal, Acererak
78. 8 nothics (chained up)
79. -
80. arcanaloth (disguised as old man)
81. -[/SBLOCK]
 
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Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
re: Flaming Fist "charters"
If the guides have reason to think the PCs are powerful capable explorers, they could decide to just skip the charter, on the basis that, if caught, the PCs can counter-demand to see the Fists' authorization, and probably win the ensuing fight - the guide can then "helpfully" suggest the Fists obtain some sort of documentation from the Merchant Lords.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
I suggested earlier that there be some fake maps of Chult. This does not comport well with the campaign as written, but there are some things that could be worked in:
- Describe a "previous expedition" that got lost and made a map of the route they THINK they were on. In effect, 'reverse engineer' the Navigation rules, and assume those NPCs always fail their checks. As long as you keep moving into the 'Terra Incognita' areas, this will work. (The group's survivors returned in defeat because their supplies ran out.)
- The guides with a powerful outside motivation might produce a map of the way to where they want to go, with the name of the place the PCs want to go filled in instead.
- Volo / his entourage could draw up something inspired more by the Rumor Tables than the actual lay of the land. Interesting places should be placed on / near a river that leads back to town.
- An NPC who is proficient with Cartographers Tools could make several copies of a map and sell it to several clients. He might make identical copies, but he doesn't have to. Lo and behold, Team PC keeps running into Team Rival every time somebody slows down.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Alas I possess this DM Flaw: I have the bad habit of giving speeches to deliver 'local color' when my players want to get on with the action. But since I'm currently not DM'ing, I can indulge myself:

The Save an Innocent Man side quest, as written, seemed shallow and not connected to anything else in the adventure when I read it. Since I imagine not beginning the campaign with its 'ticking clock' aspect running, we could tie a few in-town things together.
The distressed husband is not being entirely truthful. His other husband IS guilty of something, but not what he was charged with: he found one of the iron triceratops tokens (in a random jungle encounter?) and kept it. He later got into a personal quarrel. After drinking too much tej, he ran his mouth about how he was going to sanction the other fellow, and showed the token as "proof" of his power and influence. The real members of the Ytepka Society heard about it and took offense. They railroaded the motormouth and sentenced him to 'run the gauntlet' in Executioner's Run.

If the merchant lords were all presented as "local Zhent equivalents" - greedy and selfish - I would leave it there. But they are supposed to be more enlightened than that.
So: the original plan was that the motormouth husband would be dumped on the track on a particular day, when something proportionate to his wrongdoing would ensue; gotta distinguish between felonies and misdemeanors. (Also gives the bookies a slow day, to track down any unpaid debts.) The velociraptors down there today will be replaced with hadrosaurs tomorrow - and instead of a death trap, the husband would have been in The Running of the Bulls. The expectation was that he would be roughed up (down to about 1 HP), scared, exhausted, and probably the subject of much gossip and public jeering, but he would recover naturally - and realize that messing with those iron tokens is A Bad Idea.

Somehow the date for his release was changed / misunderstood. The PCs have to persuade the guards to put off until tomorrow what they otherwise would be doing today. A merchant prince might be able to write a note to that effect, or the PCs could forge one. I imagine trying to bribe somebody with SPs would mark the PCs as 'cheapskates' or 'outlanders'.

This can introduce the PCs to the iron tokens (and the Ytepka Society), some dinosaurs, the gladiatorial aspect of public entertainment, betting, and Executioner's Run.
 
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