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

pukunui

Legend
Ouch! 90 minutes isn't long! You must have rat bastard DM cred for that one. ;)
If I didn't have such a reputation before, I certainly do now! ;)

I'm curious, how did you present/foreshadow/describe the King of Feathers. A teleporting wasp-breathing massive t-rex is just so bizarre...and ToA doesn't offer any backstory to help the DM make sense of it that I've found. I'm at a loss for giving it narrative "weight" (to avoid it being "aaaand here's a wacko teleporting wasp-breathing feathered t-rex...why? who cares!") Did you invent something yourself?
I don't feel like I did a very good job foreshadowing the t-rex. They learned a bit from some vegepygmies and Chief Yorb of the grung but weren't expecting the King to be able to teleport or breath wasps. So yeah, those were kinda "gotcha" moments. I wish I'd foreshadowed them better ... like big gaps in the trail of dino footprints or something. I did have him roar ominously in the distance a number of times, but that was about it.

If I run this adventure again, I'll definitely build up the King a lot more.


It's also interesting to see what is easy for them and what isn't. They seem to struggle with the big beasties (even the froghemoth managed to swallow two of them whole, though they survived that) but have little trouble with the more intelligent foes, oddly enough. So they've been absolutely trashing the yuan-ti, for instance, despite being outnumbered most of the time.
 
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Quickleaf

Legend
Great play report [MENTION=54629]pukunui[/MENTION]!

My dilemma after one session is the PCs took Captain Laskilar captive (after routing a pirate attack on the ship they traveled aboard) and presented him to Wakanga O'tamu as a "gift." We left the session with PCs spending night as Wakanga's guests, while Wakanga has a private conversation with his captive/guest Captain Laskilar. What is the result of that meeting?

ToA loosely gives Wakanga motives (working with the Harpers, and...not much else) & mentions that Captain Laskilar is in contact with wealthy patrons in Port Nyanzaru. And that's about it. To be fair, I knew from the outset that ToA paints with some pretty broad strokes anything that's not associated with a dungeon...so I knew that I'd have to generate lots of details...

I ended up doing a complete write-up for Wakanga O'tamu (and I'm working on similar write-ups for other merchant princes) using ToA, my own ideas mixed with AD&D Jungles of Chult & other books, Twenty Sides to Every Story blog & The Many and Fabulous Bazaars of Port Nyanzaru...

[SBLOCK]
Wm2dAvH.jpg

Wakanga O’tamu (magic host with the most)
LN male Chultan human mage; lore/info, good magic, potions & scrolls

Background: ?
Personality: dandy, magnanimous, hospitable, prevaricating
Goals: maintain his prestige as “most-liked” merchant prince, promote stronger "good" foreign ties, believes knowledge should be freely shared, wishes to create a public library/musuem, restore the College of Wizards under his supervision
Power Base: favorable public opinion, supported by Temple of Savras & Harpers
Politics: cordial relationships with other merchant princes except Jobal (who disagrees over sharing knowledge of Chult), his tendency to flip-flop on issues gives him a reputation of political expediency and no true convictions
Villa: Decorated with blue continual flame & soft music, arcane lock private areas; 2 flying swords & rug of smothering by doors, 5 Chultan gladiators, Syndra Silvane (LN female Flan human archmage, Death Curse) may be guest.

Quests
Ancient Teleportation Circles: There used to be one in Port Nyanzaru, but it was recently destroyed by a mob (roused by someone unknown) fearing evil in jungle. He believes there may be other circles in the Valley of Lost Honor (the Eshowe tribe once used shadow magic teleportation) and Mezro (which had an arcane academy). For such knowledge, Wakanga would cast teleportation circle for free and grant access to his “rare stocks.”
College of Wizards: Wakanga wishes to see the old College of Mages which once existed in Mezro restored, along with the rule of one mage per clan supervised by Mage Hunters. He will offer 25-50% discounted spellcasting services for any books/relics from the Library of Mezro or College of Wizards (areas 8 & 9, Ruins of Mezro), as well as granting access to his “rare stocks.”
Jobal’s Dirty Secret: Wakanga suspects the merchant prince Jobal’s wealth was gained on an expedition in which Jobal betrayed the party he was guiding. With proof, Wakanga could use it to pressure Jobal into relenting on allowing “good” foreign interests back into Port Nyanzaru. If the PCs gain proof of Jobal’s malfeasance, Wakanga will gift them each with a healing/climbing potion or 1st-level spell scroll.
Wizard’s Journal: In his collection Wakanga has a tattered, water-damaged explorer’s journal from 15 years ago. It describes a wizard’s journey through Chult in search of the “Heart” along with his shield guardian companion. Wakanga can pinpoint where it was found (“Vorn”). If the construct and amulet are brought to him, Wakanga gifts PCs with a spellbook containing 15 spells he knows (1st-5th) or one of his magic wands.

Common Goods
Healing potion or climbing potion 80 gp
Spell scroll, 1st-level 100 gp
Spell scroll, 2nd-level 550 gp

Special
Spellcasting services negotiated rates

Rare Stocks
Wand of the War Mage +2 (req attn) 5,000 gp
Wand of Magic Missiles 8,000 gp
Shroudcrown (req attn) 11,000 gp
This agate-studded bronze circlet holds considerable power over undead. The wearer can turn undead as a 10th-level cleric 1/day, and she is constantly hidden from unintelligent undead.[/SBLOCK]

So I have a good idea of what might interest Wakanga (lore on the College of Wizards in Mezro... info. on an ancient teleportation circle...), but I am less certain about Captain Laskilar...

Who would he already be dealing with in Port Nyanzaru and *why*? A merchant prince? One of the "beggar princes"? A faction? Someone else altogether?

EDIT: I *think* I'm close to cracking this. It took cross-referencing a passage in ToA with a map in Jungles of Chult and then picking up Heart of the Wild on DM's Guild, but I think I've got it...

coiGu0p.png


The "wizard's journal" that Wakanga has is similar to the map from Jungles of Chult (just with mention of a shield guardian) in that it references "The Heart." And then Heart of the Wild puts it all together: a magic stone once imbued with some of Ubtao's essence. Wakanga wants to be the one to find this stone – since it symbolizes the old magical traditions. Laskilar is going to share a lead about who can lead them to it: a Chultan tribal sage some 7-8 days west of Port Nyanzaru....

So that leaves me with: How does Laskilar know about this tribal sage & the Heart?
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Concerning dragons; since all your specimens but one are of dragon types not (yet) introduced into the edition, it's fairly clear to me why they were left out.

That, and of course the fact dragons make poor random encounters - dragons are meant to be prize encounters.

Still, there are two dragons in the book, and one is actually alive and indeed part of an elaborate encounter.
 


Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
I don't feel like I did a very good job foreshadowing the t-rex. ... but weren't expecting the King to be able to teleport or breath wasps.
The scene from Jurassic Park is such a cliché after all these years, but most people should recognize it by now. While the PCs walk past a fountain pool or a pond, tell them they feel rhythmic tremors in the ground and see the pond doing the 'ring of waves' thing. -show shortened video clip here-

To hint at the teleport, I'd have to have a map available and act it out. Show the PCs that the tremors seem to come from thataway -an angle away from the pond- (and let them think it's closing in but not in line-of-sight) then it 'jumps' to a different direction -a different angle away from the pond- and fades into the distance. Unbeknownst to the PCs (but knownst to the DM) The King is chasing a prey - a Red Wizard - down another street and used the Teleport to catch up with an attempt at Expeditious Retreat.

To foreshadow the 'breathe wasps' power, the PCs should meet several Zombie T-Rex'es that disgorge zombies; for variety, one might spit out a Yellow Creeper Zombie instead of normal zombies.
A live T-Rex might dump its previous meal all over the ground at the start of an encounter. (Or some Velociraptors / Deinonychuses, which you can describe as 'immature T-Rexes'.)
So when The King spits out a swarm of wasps, the PCs can think they have seen something like that, but not exactly that, before.
 
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Quickleaf

Legend
[MENTION=6803337]Eltab[/MENTION] Nice! :) Very Jurassic Park "where is it?" I picked that up too.

Maybe I'm just an outlier from most D&D gamers, but I feel like... and this applies to a lot of how ToA presents info to players (or the lack thereof!).... I feel like Area 13 is alluding to backstory, following a "show don't tell" policy... but that seems to leave the DM filling in a lot of blanks. There was actually a thread on the topic of foreshadowing from last year; while [MENTION=12731]CapnZapp[/MENTION] was a bit harsh there, I'm seeing the same flaws in ToA that he did.

So, let me get specific about Area 13 in Omu & the King of Feathers...

I *think* there's often a tight connection between monsters & environment/treasure in ToA... mostly it's very well designed & playtested... So in Area 13 (Amphitheater) I notice there's a helm of telepathy, an electrum platter with images of Chultan feasting rituals, and an Omuan death mask (a way to memorialize the dead) in Area 13, specifically in rooms under the amphitheater. I'm thinking I can incorporate that somehow into the story of the King of Feathers. Let's see...

The helm of telepathy lets you detect thoughts and send secret messages at-will, and cast suggestion 1/day. A powerful item to influence the royal court of Omu!

The Omuans devised cruel rites of passage involving trap-filled trials. So the Amphitheater could have been used for some version of "Hunger Games", with aspirants competing for their very lives. Which suggests the treasure may have belonged to a famous gladiator or a priest overseeing the games...

The Omuans were abandoned by Ubtao for their greed and hubris (and slave-taking of extreme proportions). There's a platter with feasting images...the King of Feathers breathes wasps...t-rexes probably are hungry a lot... "and so shall all you eat turn to hungering wasps in your mouth..."

Maybe this gladiator or officiating priest was cursed (either by Acererak or Queen Napaka / her sorcerers) because of his insatiable appetite?

That might make for the starting point of a legend - one known perhaps by Mother Sibonsensi in Port Nyanzaru's Hall of Gold (goddess of wealth warning against boundless ambition/greed makes sense), by Princess Mwaxanaré of course, and deducible by shrewd players examining the treasures in the arena. I'd want one or two more clues, but that would be a good start.
 


Quickleaf

Legend
Did any of them replied to you? : )

Not yet, but I just asked on a Friday and it's a holiday weekend in the U.S. (Passover and Easter), so maybe Monday or Tuesday.

Honestly, it's a bit of a lark...the D&D guys get lots of questions tossed their way. Generally, I've found them most responsive when they're soliciting feedback about specific things.
 


Quickleaf

Legend
I've modified Mike Schley's free DM map of Chult to incorporate:
  • My sailing guidelines
  • Clues on Lantan that we've received
  • Approximate location of the Quomec Ziggurat (from 4e), which could be swapped for Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (converted for 5th level in Tales from the Yawning Portal)
  • My own additions to the Chultengar and nearby places (not complete yet)
  • Sites from all DM's Guild Adept releases I've picked up so far, including Heart of the Wild (5th-10th), Return of the Lizard King (1st-4th), The Risen Mists (11th-16th), Ruins of Hisari (11th-16th), Ruins of Matolo (5th-10th), and Ruins of Mezro (1st-16th), as well as The Tortle Package (about 2nd-5th).

csTXiDC.jpg


Link: https://i.imgur.com/csTXiDC.jpg
 
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Quickleaf

Legend
Any good ideas for quests / McGuffins / rituals to buy a creature afflicted by the Death Curse more time?

My party's grung druid has a friendly NPC afflicted by Death Curse – her hook for wanting to find a way to end the Death Curse. Even though I've augmented Death Curse in my game to allow players more time (so they can explore more without feeling like they're fighting a ticking time bomb), this friendly NPC still only has 5 HD, making saving him a 2-month window...as opposed to the 8-month window I've given for saving Syndra Silvane. So saving him is more urgent for the grung druid. Looking for ideas that would extend the time he has left before Death Curse overtakes him. Stop gap measures, essentially.
 

Onslaught

Explorer
You can just wing it as it's an NPC.

You can change the Death Curse to eat creatures life force by time instead of HP, so it takes 8 months to reach 100% life force, you're down 50% life force by the 4th month and so on.

If the NPC is accompaining the party, you could use Nanny P., or some kind of Grung ritual where they eat a T-Rex heart to strenghten up - maybe in the Grung city
 

wizardlvl80

First Post
Hello there.

Question. Can players exit and reenter Tomb of Nine Gods at will? Or is there something I'm actually missing and it's blocking their path back?

Another thing is that my players want to get literally everyone they can to help them at Tomb and I cannot say it's not rational, cause Death Curse is a thing and lots of people want to stop it. Another idea they came up with is to team up with Valindra in entering the Tomb.

Anyone of you encountered anything similar in your campaign?
 

Onslaught

Explorer
According to Area 4A, True Entrance, once the characters open the door the cubes vanish and the door stays open for 1 hour and then shuts down.
 

wizardlvl80

First Post
According to Area 4A, True Entrance, once the characters open the door the cubes vanish and the door stays open for 1 hour and then shuts down.
That's true. But level one (Rotten Halls) have areas connected with surface - small cracks in stone. Players can easily polymorph themselves or use gaseous form to exit and reenter Tomb at will. Heck, they don't even need to find the cubes to enter.
 


CapnZapp

Legend
That's true. But level one (Rotten Halls) have areas connected with surface - small cracks in stone. Players can easily polymorph themselves or use gaseous form to exit and reenter Tomb at will. Heck, they don't even need to find the cubes to enter.
If your DM allows that, he or she really doesn't know Acecerak...
 

wizardlvl80

First Post
Hello guys!

So here are the problems I encountered with my players entering Omu. It's not like I can't manage to handle them by myself but I think it's a really poor gamedesign (again) in their adventures. Let me share some of my previous/current issues with this adventure and maybe you will be able to avoid many of them.

My players are a 7th level party of wizard, rogue, barbarian, cleric and sorcerer. They already cleared most locations pointed on the map of Chult and they always do it ninja style. So far, we got two deaths in this campaign but I consider it fairly low when compared to their achievements in Chult.

They are kind of in some truce with Valindra, they established a new base for Camp Vengance in the jungle and with the money they got, they bought the supplies for them, weapons and armor. They hired more people to team up with Order of the Gauntlet. They made friends with Kir Sabal, Artus Cimber and they totally nailed Dungrunglung.

They are entering Omu now and are aware of Tomb of Nine Gods. Knowing my players, they will try to check the entrance to Tomb end they will do it without finding the puzzle cubes. "How" - you will ask? I am pretty sure they will polymorph whole team into tiny creatures (no matter how long it takes, or to write polymorph scrolls or they come up with something else) or come up with something else like polymorphing into Giant Ape which has 20+ strength and mining the entrance with giant hammer or pick.

But that's actually not so much of a problem, as it is with that they have tons of allies. Some of them are pretty powerful. They can literally come to Omu with tons of companions and flood the Tomb of the Nine Gods. And with so much firepower, they can easily bruteforce this dungeon and everything inside there.

Seriously, this whole Omu area is based on an assumption that player's chcaracters act like they are on a first level and have no resources and ideas to come up with.

They are heroes at this point of gameplay. They can use powerful magic and they are not suicidals. It's not like "hey, I am a powerful lvl 9 wizard who has its own magic guild but I will gladly go to this tomb and die". It's more like "I will crack this tomb and I won't play by the rules it wants me to play".

My players are very cunning and smart. They will come up with things I don't even imagine now and they surely won't risk their lives like idiots and just "go into the dungeon".

Tomb of Horrors was an adventure based on assumption "we are treasure hunters and there is a dungeon with treasures - let's go get it". Tomb of Annihilation is an adventure where you kind of save the world and you are not some random adventurer but at the point you reach this Dungeon, you can even call Elminster and tell him to bomb this place with magic nukes.

I'm kind of babyraging now cause I bought a ready to play product that is so problematic. Any thoughts comrades? I really don't even want to fix something that should be adressed by design team. At this moment I think I will let my players do what their imagination will tell them to do.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Hello guys!
Sorry for breaking it to you but ALL adventures assume the heroes act like it's "first level", in that they venture forth (all five of them) alone, to seek out danger and glory in equal measure.

I'm not flippant. I am genuinely sorry. Maybe you need to consider how bounded accuracy in 5E has made numbers much more important (whereas level was paramount in 3e and 4e).

In short, it boils down to this:

"Yes, we could have brought an army, but we choose not to, because we want to experience the danger and glory ourselves."

In the final analysis, yes you could play "smart", but that's not the genre D&D is emulating. Indiana Jones didn't bring any allies. Why? Because it would have made a less exciting movie.

That really is the crux of the issue.
 

Onslaught

Explorer
Hello guys!

Or... you could let them do just that. They try to brute force the Tomb, you can play all the traps as extremely deadly and gruesome. What will happen to their followers morale when there's a dozen lives wasted in the first few rooms of the Tomb? Will they keep following them by then?

In that cenario, I would also make "normal" NPCs do dumb sh*t. Make them pull the wrong lever, step the wrong tile or just fail some needed skill check (they aren't as skillfull as the PCs). Make one them run with some treasure just to trigger some awful trap.

Also, remember there's the time constrain of the Death Curse. You can brute force the front door, but make it take very long as it's magic-enhanced-stone, hard as Adamantine. And you don't have that much time.
 

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