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5E [SPOILERS] Enhancing Tomb of Annihilation

My group has been in Hrakhamar for the last two sessions. They are levels 5-6, so I beefed things up some. Here are some of the changes I made, and some issues I discovered:

There are significant issues with the map scaling and the number of monsters in several of the areas. The biggest issue is the Giant Striders stables. The Giant Striders are Large creatures. There are supposed to be 12 of them in the stables. The stables aren't anywhere close to large enough. (in fact, most of the "stable" area is 5 ft wide "tunnels" that are too narrow for one!).

I added magma mephits along the magma "river" that would attack anyone crossing the "river" My party can take down 3 CR 5 monsters outdoors without breaking a sweat, but 2 magma mephits per character nearly TPK'd them! What a difference terrain makes!

I generated a list of fire elemental related creatures that I could add to the various rooms, depending on the party composition of the session, and how other battles had gone. They included:
Fire Elemental (haven't used)
Medium Fire Elemental (a homebrew monster on DnDBeyond) (used in the southern forge room)
Salamander (haven't used)
Fire Snakes (added to the sleeping room with the Warriors of Imix)
Fire Elemental Myrmidon (as a possibility for the Shrine, although the shrine cave needs to be expanded)
Cinderslag Elementals (from the Taldorei campaign guide) planned for area 8 (smoke mephits)
 

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pukunui

Hero
Quick question: In Withers' journal excerpt (handout 22), there is this line: "The All-Seeing is blind to its existence, and the Mother of Illusions looks past it! Sweet irony."

I'm guessing that the "All-Seeing" is the god Savras, and from what I've been able to find out, the "Mother of Illusions" might be the goddess Leira. But I'm not really sure why her "looking past" the atropal would be ironic?

I realize it's mostly just a throwaway line that intimates that the atropal is hidden from the gods but still ...

Anyone got any thoughts?
 

Eltab

Hero
I realize it's mostly just a throwaway line that intimates that the atropal is hidden from the gods but still
I just realized that Bhaal should be jealous of Acererak and try to interrupt the plan for his own benefit, once awareness of the Death Curse spreads. Who needs the Murder in Baldurs Gate metaplot when you can let what happens naturally gain you what you seek? Much lower chance of detection / interruption.

Leira is supposed to be able to detect and see through any illusion, since she knows all about crafting illusions 'from the inside out'.

Whatever technique Acererak is using to hide the Soulmonger*, it's not an illusion - he can create a 'blind spot' in the gods' perfect vision. (Let's see you top THAT, Mordenkainen! :p ) But Withers hasn't figured this out.

* and the demi-plane where he hid his phylactery, come to think of it !
 

pukunui

Hero
Some good thoughts, [MENTION=6803337]Eltab[/MENTION]. Thanks!


On a different note, last session we noticed a flaw with the Zombie Door (Area 21 in the Tomb of the Nine Gods). The default assumption seems to be that a cleric can turn the zombies so that they will run away, thus pulling the door open. However, the expected level range for the tomb is 9-11. A cleric of that level *can't* turn zombies. They can only destroy them. So the only way anyone is going to be opening that door by turning the zombies is if a) they're in the tomb at a much lower level than intended or b) they're a multiclassed character with only a few levels of cleric.

Hmm.
 
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jasper

Rotten DM
I just came across that flaw Pukunui. They killed the zombies thru the door. I just made opening the door the total strength must be 35 ? Don't remember it was a weird night.
Edit the book has the check at 33 but my pcs had whimpy whimpy whimpy str scores. See my session 12 TOA write up about some changes and OPPS I made.
 
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Some of this stuff may have already been discussed, but here's some of the things I've done in my ToA campaign to make it more friendly to my table.

1. I've nerfed the whole idea that the adventure is a "time bomb" style adventure. I wanted the players to not feel pressured into getting to Omu, and have them really explore Chult. I could more easily persuade them to go to other locations without them worrying about how much time is left before Syndra dies.

2. The players got into the jungle pretty quick (Lvl 2 I think), and I didn't pull too many punches when it came to random encounters. I stuck to the books way of producing random encounters and found that if I pre-planned some encounters the players enjoyed the action, and it made the jungle feel full of life. Even if the encounter was an easy fight, I still played it out (usually skipping the "mop up" stage, or having the baddies run away), just to give travelling some more flavour.

3. River and Flask were the party's guides, and I hated having to control them myself. I essentially just used them as sources of info about Chultan culture, flora/fauna and a few locations. Having 7 players at the table is already tough, adding 2 more NPC's would just grind the game down way more. I could see how beefing them up and using them in a campaign of 2-3 players would be useful.

4. I really wanted to play on the idea that surviving in the jungle wasn't easy and finding food and water was essential to the party surviving the campaign. Then the ranger with the Outlander background showed up and can find food and water for 5 players and herself each day. There was some discussion about whether or not this was an automatic thing or if she still had to roll to forage for food and water. Ultimately we decided it was an automatic thing and as long as the Ranger is foraging, the party has food and water. As much as I wanted there to be a large element of survival in this campaign, I'm actually relieved someone in the party has this capability. Managing lbs of food and litres of water was becoming monotonous and not fun.

5. Three of the players are interested in finding rare plants (two of them wanting to make their own healers kits, and the other poisons). So instead of foraging for food I have them forage for ingredients. One of the players found this really good table for foraging and making poisons, with DC's and lists of ingredients. I use the same DC's for non-poison related items, but just change what they find. I was using the list of plants in Appendix C of ToA.

6. The party's first location was Mezro. They had learned about it's destruction from Ras Nsi, and not having any other clues as to where to start looking they set out for it. I played on the idea that the Flaming Fist had picked it clean, and instead of finding the ruined city completely empty, the players were met by a large contingent of the merc group who were in the process of moving all their loot onto ships. The players were able to befriend the Flaming Fist captain and were led to a dungeon I created with a flying monkey motif. I used a premade trap hallway from XGTE, which almost resulted in a TPK. Anyway, the party found a magic item, which let them cast animal friendship every 24 hours. I felt that since this was their first trip out into the jungle, that if all they found was a completely empty city with zero treasure in it, they'd be let down.

7. Kir Sabal was their next destination. I beefed this place up and made it so the bird people live on top of the large plateau above the cliffside village. The skill challenge to get up to the cliffside village was a hoot. I cut it short once a few of the PC's made it up and convinced the guards that they were friendly. The guards then assisted the struggling players by showing them where to step exactly and providing some rope. Here they found out about the lost city of Omu and it's location. I had Asharra tell the party that if they needed more info, they should seek out Orolunga and the great seer who dwells there. And because Orolunga and Omu are so far away, Asharra offered to do her bird dance and grant them wings. I also got the princess to plead her case to the bard

8. I love the map of Nangalore so I bought it and printed it out on a regular sheet of paper for reference while the players were exploring (if combat broke out, I'd get down to the nitty gritty on the battlemap). I'm going to try and do this as often as I can. At first the party was able to avoid combat with Zalkore the Medusa. The bard even made the deal with her to stay as her slave in return for the black orchid. His plan was to sneak away during the night, but that went to hell when he drank a vial of hallucinogens and got high for 6 hours. To make matters worse, the rogue decided to steal Thiru-Taya's ashes, which resulted in him being charmed by the Eblis's Zalkore uses as servants, which then led to the rogue being turned to stone after a really bad saving throw. Combat eventually happened betwenn Zalkore, her Eblis's, and the party. She would have died hadn't I used the dying bard as ransom for them to leave.
 

Stormdale

Explorer
I have ended up ditching most of the tomb of the nine gods, my guys did level 1, part of level 2 (room 22 was real challenge for them Pukunui- they couldn’t figure out how to damage the bronze warrior) before leading them straight down to level 4 which then led into level 6. I ditched the running round looking for skeleton keys, instead had Withers amulet become the key that unlocked the doors to the soulmonger chamber etc.

A few reasons for this. Short attention span as a dm and finding dungeon crawling a slog these days, & trying to wrap things up before I head back overseas for the rest of the year in a couple of weeks.

Last week the party got side tracked with the mirror (rm 50)- lost a pc to it, and fought lots of creatures that came out of it and Lukanu became a replacement (N)-pc for one of the players as they sought to locate the missing pc. Withers showed up to deal with the intruders but he was slain and his amulet has become the main key to unlock certain doors, so we moved things along to the entrance to level 6 this week and last night ended up a rather large, and unfinished fight vs the Sewn Sisters and also the atrophy as the party unlocked the door to area 77 using Wither’s amulet- the fight is not over but the party doing okay. One Sister dead, one feared and one ethereal at present.

Stormdale
 


My crew is now in Omu. We may end up with a TPK in Shagambi's shrine (unless some parties flee). Once again there appear to be map scaling issues. The gladiator pit is awfully small for 4 gladiators plus part members.

The adventure says that once the adventurers start finding cubes, there is a 25% cumulative chance per day that the Red Wizards find additional cubes. If the RW find a cube on day 2 (following first find) is the chance for day 3 50% or does it reset? By day 4 they are guaranteed to find a cube a day. Maybe this is intentional?
 

Stormdale

Explorer
We had 2 game nights of intense battle there. My solution with most 5E maps, go back to the AD&D standard of 1 square= 10 ft.

However, in the end we lost 1 pc in that temple- a barbarian jumped down into the pit while the rest of the party tried to offer fire support form above- not a good tactic, he got surrounded and cut own in very short order!

They nearly lost nearly lost another pc trying to repeat the trick on their second assault but creative use of banishment to banish the isolated & outnumbered pc to extra dimensional safety saved them and eventually the party managed to extract themselves from a very dangerous situation. It was poor tactics and lack of proper scouting that was nearly the party's downfall but once they realised they were in over their heads my party fled.

Third time round they finally got their acts together and tactics sorted. If your guys are the sort to stand toe-to-toe all the time then yes, you could face problems.

Other advice
I recently finished a truncated final temple and had an epic fight vs the Sewn sisters and Antropy, the arrival of the Big A after that was a disappointment (from my PoV) and I should have ignored it.

It was a combat where I needed to pull my punches to give pcs a chance and so IMO is a waste of their and my time- of course it was partly their fault for combining the Antropy and Sewn Sisters into one very epic multi-week battle that really went down to the wire and stretched the resourcefulness and skills of all my players (and their characters).

We'd have been better finishing on a triumphant note having defeated the antropy, destroying the soulmonger and then fleeing to safety (I had destruction of the antropy as creating a minor volcanic eruption destroying the dungeon and part of the city).

So my advice leave the Big A out of it and only as a background strings puller rather than someone the party have to fight as a creature with his sklls/spells should wipe the floor with most parties if played smartly.

Still it may lead us to a new adventure using the 2E return to The Tomb of Horrors, we will see when we pick up the campaign next February...
 

Raunalyn

Adventurer
I'm having an issue.

My group is now in the Fane of the Night Serpent. So far, they've just dipped their toes in and have only explored a small area (they used Water Walk to skirt the eastern side of the map). They've encountered the Hydra and Ras Nsi. Right now, they are fairly close to 7th level, which is within the level guidelines for this portion of the module.

After this, they will likely head straight for the Tomb of the Nine Gods. According to the module, they should be 9th level. I seriously doubt they will be even 8th level when they complete the Fane. What are you guys doing to boost their experience points? Or, are you just letting them go in and get chewed up by the Tomb?
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I'm having an issue.

My group is now in the Fane of the Night Serpent. So far, they've just dipped their toes in and have only explored a small area (they used Water Walk to skirt the eastern side of the map). They've encountered the Hydra and Ras Nsi. Right now, they are fairly close to 7th level, which is within the level guidelines for this portion of the module.

After this, they will likely head straight for the Tomb of the Nine Gods. According to the module, they should be 9th level. I seriously doubt they will be even 8th level when they complete the Fane. What are you guys doing to boost their experience points? Or, are you just letting them go in and get chewed up by the Tomb?
For your 7th level (or thereabouts) party, each needs about 11,000 XP to level up.

Simply going by the monsters in the temple – which is 5e's basic assumption for how PCs gain XP – there are about 50,000 actual XP worth of monsters the party may face. Thus, clearing the temple would be enough XP to level up a four-person party of 7th level PCs.

If the PCs choose a non-combat tactic (e.g. infiltration), that gives you an idea of how many XP the Fane is worth.

However, while negotiating with Ras Nsi could be a fun and tense encounter, it would seem to take much less table time & involve less risk than (a) combat or (b) infiltration. If your PCs opt for negotiating & you run it using the limited guidelines in ToA, then I would give them a small XP reward (e.g. 2,900 for Ras Nsi) and then let them delve into the Tomb under-leveled.
 

Raunalyn

Adventurer
For your 7th level (or thereabouts) party, each needs about 11,000 XP to level up.

Simply going by the monsters in the temple – which is 5e's basic assumption for how PCs gain XP – there are about 50,000 actual XP worth of monsters the party may face. Thus, clearing the temple would be enough XP to level up a four-person party of 7th level PCs.

If the PCs choose a non-combat tactic (e.g. infiltration), that gives you an idea of how many XP the Fane is worth.

However, while negotiating with Ras Nsi could be a fun and tense encounter, it would seem to take much less table time & involve less risk than (a) combat or (b) infiltration. If your PCs opt for negotiating & you run it using the limited guidelines in ToA, then I would give them a small XP reward (e.g. 2,900 for Ras Nsi) and then let them delve into the Tomb under-leveled.
Unfortunately, there are 6 of them. They've already encountered Ras Nsi...the negotiations did not go well. However, it was one of the most epic encounters I think I've run in my 30 years of DMing.

I'm going to keep them in the Fane a bit longer. I changed it so that Ras Nsi did not have the last cube...Fenthaza does. This will keep them in the Fane longer and possibly provide more XP. Also, the Fane is on alert, so I will probably start sending forces after the group...we'll see how it goes.

I want them to be around 8th level, minimum, before they start delving into the Tomb.
 

Eltab

Hero
Or, are you just letting them go in and get chewed up by the Tomb?
From Acererak's point of view, letting them enter the Tomb under-levelled is perfectly fine; he wants a steady supply of souls. Over-eager volunteers should be encouraged, not warned !

And when the Tomb chews them up (or swallows them without a trace), its reputation is enhanced - win-win.
 

Raunalyn

Adventurer
From Acererak's point of view, letting them enter the Tomb under-levelled is perfectly fine; he wants a steady supply of souls. Over-eager volunteers should be encouraged, not warned !

And when the Tomb chews them up (or swallows them without a trace), its reputation is enhanced - win-win.
Some people enjoy that type of play-style; I am not one of them.

I want the adventure to be difficult, yes...not overwhelming.

Besides...the party is very cleric-heavy; one grave cleric, one light cleric, and a multi-class ranger/forge cleric. They are difficult to bring down.
 

Stormdale

Explorer
My guys were levels 10, 9, 8, 7, 7, 6 and an NPC (Lukanu?)released from the mirror in level 4 who replaced a fallen 8th level PC when we finished the tomb- which I shortened it as wandering dungeons to find keys to unlock the next level is fine for video games but bores me as a DM.


As for the earlier Q about the red wizards finding the keys in my case my party did 6 dungeons and I had a show down with the wizards in the ruins who were out to collect the other 6 from the pcs- was a great fight.

I also ignored Ras Nsi & fane, seemed little more than a (needless) diversion so downplayed/ignored that aspect but will use him and his lair in another adventure...


Stormdale
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Unfortunately, there are 6 of them. They've already encountered Ras Nsi...the negotiations did not go well. However, it was one of the most epic encounters I think I've run in my 30 years of DMing.

I'm going to keep them in the Fane a bit longer. I changed it so that Ras Nsi did not have the last cube...Fenthaza does. This will keep them in the Fane longer and possibly provide more XP. Also, the Fane is on alert, so I will probably start sending forces after the group...we'll see how it goes.

I want them to be around 8th level, minimum, before they start delving into the Tomb.
Your solution seems simple. You’re playing with greater number of PCs than average, but you’re wanting to use XP leveling guidelines in book designed for 4-person party...so just add some extra monsters.
 


Raunalyn

Adventurer
Please, tell us what happened!
The group consists of an Elven Hexblade Warlock/Shadow Sorcerer, a Fire Genasi Diviner Wizard, a Tabaxi Scout Rogue, a dwarven Ranger/Forge Cleric, an Aasimar Light cleric, and a human Grave cleric. All of them are sixth level. The group has gone through each of the various shrines within Omu, tracked down the red wizards who beat them to two of the puzzle cubes and defeated them, then descended into the Fane of the Night Serpent to chase down the final one.

They spend the first day probing into the secret entrance to the Fane, killing off the Yuan-Ti guarding the entrance and then defeating the brood keepers and the slaver in the southern portion of the dungeon. Then, they used Water Walk to move across the river, encountering the Hydra and handily defeating it. The group decides to call it a day, gather the drugged slaves they found, and return to their base camp in Omu (the group rescued all of the sailors who were in the wreck of the Sea Goddess, rescued Orvex from the Red Wizard Camp, and also convinced one of the mercenaries working for the Red Wizards to join them after wiping out the rest of the mercenary crew). I rolled secretly to see when the temple would discover the group's incursion and then started rolling for reinforcements.

On the second day, the group again used Water Walk on the river (damned Clerics and their rituals) and found the main throne room. There, they find Ras Nsi and his crew. Ras Nsi tries to convince the party to work for him, promising them the last puzzle cube if they do. The group wants nothing to do with it and attack.

The wizard throws a fireball. Ras Nsi recognizes this and tries to counterspell...which is then counterspelled by the Wizard. Meanwhile, Ras Nsi's bodyguard rushes the Dwarf and the Hexblade. The Hexblade soon falls (Sekelok deals some crazy damage!), and the dwarf is doing everything he can to survive. The Light cleric throws a fireball, taking out a few more of the Brood Guards, and the Grave Cleric rushes to heal the Hexblade (Grave clerics are really good healers). Ras Nsi decides to withdraw to his lair for his magical shields while the rest of his guards delay the party. The Tabaxi Rogue sets himself up to target Sekelok, and the grave cleric uses her channel divinity to inflict vulnerability to the rogue's incoming sneak attack.

Needless to say, the entire encounter took 10 full rounds...the wizard and the grave cleric both dropped once, and the warlock came very close to dying twice (once due to massive damage, and once due to rolling a 1 on his death save after being taken down by one of Ras Nsi's fireballs). Spells were flying left and right, and the party (even though they were completely fresh coming into the encounter) were almost completely out of spells.
 

PabloM

Explorer
Needless to say, the entire encounter took 10 full rounds...the wizard and the grave cleric both dropped once, and the warlock came very close to dying twice (once due to massive damage, and once due to rolling a 1 on his death save after being taken down by one of Ras Nsi's fireballs). Spells were flying left and right, and the party (even though they were completely fresh coming into the encounter) were almost completely out of spells.
Hah! That´s a really epic encounter! Two party members down and up, spells going around and counterspells. Amazing!

ps: I don´t remember a combat with ten rounds since 5e has been published...
 

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