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5E [SPOILERS] Enhancing Tomb of Annihilation

pukunui

Hero
My group just collected all the crystal eyeballs and entered the room where the invisible beholder is. The skeleton key for that level just happened to be in there (they didn't know that at the time, so it was a chance encounter). One of them dispelled the magnetic sphere, which crashed to the ground. I had the beholder angrily fire some eye rays but they all missed, so the PCs ran away.

All well and good ... but what happens if they venture back that way at a later date? The crystal eyeballs have all disappeared ... but wouldn't Withers and his tomb dwarves want to reset this level? Surely they'd shut the door and then put all the eyeballs back in their starting places ... the problem is, not all of the eyeballs have starting places. Some of the eyeballs are found on the dead bodies of the Company of the Yellow Banner explorers, but it never says where they got those eyeballs from in the first place.

I will probably not bother having Withers and his dwarves reset the beholder's door, but I thought I would bring it up as a discrepancy in the adventure.


As an aside, I hate to say this, but I'm starting to get bored of the tomb. Six levels is perhaps a few too many. We've just spent two sessions with the players/PCs getting stuck on a number of the puzzles and making very little progress. Ugh.
 

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Stormdale

Explorer
Me getting bored was part of the reason I fast forwarded Pukunui- missed levels 3-5 and went straight to 6, getting rid of the collect the keys and using Withers amulet as the key to open to doors in 77.

Stormdale
 
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Raunalyn

Adventurer
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...
Actually, it was three party members, but yes, it was exciting. Really difficult to keep a party with 3 clerics down...
 

Nerditorium

First Post
I don't know if this has been mentioned, so I figured I would add it:

When I began the campaign I wanted to have a set adventure for my group without just leaving them to wander around aimlessly. Since I campaign doesn't really start until 5th level (according to the book), I decided to use the first adventure "There is No Honor" from The Savage Tides campaign from Dungeon #139. I changed a few elements to have it set in Port Nyanzaru, but otherwise it ran as written.

It worked wonders! My players were heavily invested, and it allowed them to connect with an NPC (Lady Vanderboren) that would eventually suffer from the Death Curse.

Just thought I would mention the adventure, in case newer DM's might be struggling with how to fill gaps in the campaign with material.
 

Mull Ponders

Explorer
My group is only 1 or 2 sessions from completing this. Since the module proper doesn't start until 5th I ran Lost Mine of Phandelver to start them off and have some equipment. Lost Mine has the best amount of AL legal magic items and is my favorite intro for 5e. So far no one has died, although I counted at least 6 "save or die" situations for individual characters. Inspiration re-rolls saved them 3 times, the others they just made. This is an experienced group of gamers except for one player. They are 9th level heading down to the final area.

(Edit) They have played once a week with a few exceptions since January. I definitely got my money out of the ToA book. I also bought the maps to speed things up so I didn't spend the entire session drawing while they sat around.
 

sim-h

Explorer
Inspiration re-rolls saved them 3 times, the others they just made.
Inspiration doesn't give a re-roll - you expend it before rolling to gain advantage on the dice. Not sure if you did that, or maybe you house-ruled it to allow a re-roll to go easy on your players. Or maybe, just maybe they SHOULD ALL RIGHTFULLY BE DEAD. :devil:
 

Mull Ponders

Explorer
Inspiration doesn't give a re-roll - you expend it before rolling to gain advantage on the dice. Not sure if you did that, or maybe you house-ruled it to allow a re-roll to go easy on your players. Or maybe, just maybe they SHOULD ALL RIGHTFULLY BE DEAD. :devil:
sim-h is correct, I was ruling Inspiration wrong. In 2 of those cases I think they would have spent it and gotten advantage, the other one probably no. But there is one huge back-to-back encounter left, so the adventure may still get some of them. The players are (mostly) very experienced, they have just skipped a few troublesome things they didn't need to do to complete the mission.
 

So in the Fane of the Night Serpent chapter, under the section labeled "Audience with Fenzatha," it says

While the characters sow confusion, she assembles her guards and priests (see areas 6 and 7), ambushes Ras Nsi, and attempts to kill him.

If the coup is thwarted, Fenthaza and her confederates are put to death. If the coup succeeds,....
But there is not direction on how to determine who is successful; the PCs are supposed to "sow confusion," not be part of the abush of Ras Nsi, so it's not a head to head fight, it's something that happens "off stage." I know I could just decide, or roll 2 d20s, but I'm interested in what other people did/planned to do in this scenario.
 

pukunui

Hero
So my group got all the skeleton keys and completed all the trials and got as far as putting one key in the gate when the Sewn Sisters showed up. They killed one hag, but the other two managed to grab the key from the door and go ethereal. They’re now heading for the ceiling, with the PC who befriended Strawbunde (and thus has the 3x etherealness spell charm) in hot pursuit.

If that PC fails to reclaim the key on her own, is that the end of the adventure?

None of the other PCs can go ethereal, so if the hags escape from the one who can, how will the PCs get through the door? There doesn’t seem to be any other way through except for using all five keys. So if they can’t get that key back, they’re screwed.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
So in the Fane of the Night Serpent chapter, under the section labeled "Audience with Fenzatha," it says



But there is not direction on how to determine who is successful; the PCs are supposed to "sow confusion," not be part of the abush of Ras Nsi, so it's not a head to head fight, it's something that happens "off stage." I know I could just decide, or roll 2 d20s, but I'm interested in what other people did/planned to do in this scenario.
Not there yet, but my notes are that Fenthaza would attempt to reveal Sekelok’s betrayal, implicating him and his lover Neema (one of Ras Nsi’s concubines) as being behind a slave revolt. With Sekelok executed and Ras Nsi’s suspicions alerted, that gives Fenthaza’s forces (Areas 5,6,7) a roughly equal chance against Ras Nsi’s forces (Area 11) if they act swiftly before Ras Nsi can call reinforcements. In other words, XP totals are 6,400 for Fenthaza’s vs 6,450 for Ras Nsi’s.

Personally, I imagine Fenthaza following up Sekelok’s execution with Invoke Nightmare on Ras Nsi as a surprise, then violence steadily increasing, with PCs encountering signs of yuan-to infighting throughout the Fane. Eventually, I’d have Fenthaza win a narrow and costly victory. Ras Nsi, however, would be entombed in some kind of cruel parody by Fenthaza, only to reawaken as a mummy lord later on!
 

Quickleaf

Legend
So my group got all the skeleton keys and completed all the trials and got as far as putting one key in the gate when the Sewn Sisters showed up. They killed one hag, but the other two managed to grab the key from the door and go ethereal. They’re now heading for the ceiling, with the PC who befriended Strawbunde (and thus has the 3x etherealness spell charm) in hot pursuit.

If that PC fails to reclaim the key on her own, is that the end of the adventure?

None of the other PCs can go ethereal, so if the hags escape from the one who can, how will the PCs get through the door? There doesn’t seem to be any other way through except for using all five keys. So if they can’t get that key back, they’re screwed.
While we’re not there yet, I decided early on that the Tomb was the lair of the Sewn Sisters (so I could draw on some cool ideas in Volos Guide to Monsters), and that the “Mirror Tomb” in Area 19 was simply the Border Ethereal Plane. This is a way the PCs could turn Ethereal en masse and go after the Sewn Sisters. It requires backtracking several dungeon levels, during which the Night hags surely conjure up stuff to oppose the PCs, but it definitely is a way forward.
 
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pukunui

Hero
While we’re not there yet, I decided early on that the Tomb was the lair of the Sewn Sisters (so I could draw on some cool ideas in Volos Guide to Monsters), and that the “Mirror Tomb” in Area 19 was simply the Border Ethereal Plane. This is a way the PCs could turn Ethereal en masse and go after the Sewn Sisters. It requires backtracking several dungeon levels, during which the Night hags surely conjure up stuff to oppose the PCs, but it definitely is a way forward.
That is a way forward, I suppose. I personally didn't like the concept of the "mirror tomb" myself, at least not one that the PCs could actually explore. The whole thing seemed extremely tedious.

By making it the Border Ethereal, did you get rid of the whole "auto-reset" aspect of the mirror tomb?
 

Quickleaf

Legend
That is a way forward, I suppose. I personally didn't like the concept of the "mirror tomb" myself, at least not one that the PCs could actually explore. The whole thing seemed extremely tedious.

By making it the Border Ethereal, did you get rid of the whole "auto-reset" aspect of the mirror tomb?
This is all theoretical, because my party is still in Mezro, but yes I would get rid of the “auto-reset” aspect entirely and play it up as a spooky section of the Border Ethereal which is confined by the existing structure of the Tomb on Material Plane because of gorgon’s blood in the mortar. That’s an older edition trick I’m foreshadowing by including gorgon skeletons, relics of Omu depicting gorgon sacrifice, and I think there’s a bull/Minotaur skull or mask in the Tomb which I’m replacing with a gorgon skull or mask.
 

pukunui

Hero
This is all theoretical, because my party is still in Mezro, but yes I would get rid of the “auto-reset” aspect entirely and play it up as a spooky section of the Border Ethereal which is confined by the existing structure of the Tomb on Material Plane because of gorgon’s blood in the mortar.
OK, so the gravity ring on level 2 doesn't lead to an actual mirror tomb, it just provides a way to enter the Border Ethereal. That could work. The only trouble is: my players completely ignored the gravity ring. They looted Devlin's body but didn't explore the ring itself. How can I clue them in?

That said, I'm not keen on prolonging this adventure any more than I have to. I'm tired of the tomb and want to move on to something else. Hopefully the one ethereal PC will be able to reclaim the key from the hags without too much difficulty. With one of them dead already, the coven is broken, so the two surviving hags aren't as much of a threat anyway. The only real trouble is that the other PCs can't help.

That’s an older edition trick I’m foreshadowing by including gorgon skeletons, relics of Omu depicting gorgon sacrifice, and I think there’s a bull/Minotaur skull or mask in the Tomb which I’m replacing with a gorgon skull or mask.
Yes, there are several minotaur and bull skulls around the tomb. Two that come to mind are the big minotaur skull attached to the throne in the room with the blind artists on level 4 and the bull's skull holding the ivory ring above the arch leading to the Mechanus chain room on level 5. You could make either or both of those gorgon skulls instead.

There are also all the minotaur skeletons in Unkh's tomb, plus the live minotaurs in Unkh's maze and the one trapped in the mirror (all on level 4).
 
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Quickleaf

Legend
OK, so the gravity ring on level 2 doesn't lead to an actual mirror tomb, it just provides a way to enter the Border Ethereal. That could work. The only trouble is: my players completely ignored the gravity ring. They looted Devlin's body but didn't explore the ring itself. How can I clue them in?

That said, I'm not keen on prolonging this adventure any more than I have to. I'm tired of the tomb and want to move on to something else. Hopefully the one ethereal PC will be able to reclaim the key from the hags without too much difficulty. With one of them dead already, the coven is broken, so the two surviving hags aren't as much of a threat anyway. The only real trouble is that the other PCs can't help.
Mr. Threadneedle, or one of the “child soul toys”, or the imprisoned clone (all in Area 71) might be able to inform PCs of the Portal to Border Ethereal.

You could allow a spellcaster PC to reverse magic on hag’s eye carried by Mr. Threadneedle to look into Border Ethereal or even cast certain spells into Border Ethereal (e.g. charms/divinations/psychic damage only).

Maybe there’s a ritual book describing the hag’s minions drinking from the Cauldron to journey to the Border Ethereal in “spirit form”, with long lasting consequences if their “spirit form” is destroyed (i.e. reduced to 0 hit points).

Yes, there are several minotaur and bull skulls around the tomb. Two that come to mind are the big minotaur skull attached to the throne in the room with the blind artists on level 4 and the bull's skull holding the ivory ring above the arch leading to the Mechanus chain room on level 5. You could make either or both of those gorgon skulls instead.

There are also all the minotaur skeletons in Unkh's tomb, plus the live minotaurs in Unkh's maze and the one trapped in the mirror (all on level 4).
Yes, those ones! Thanks :)
 
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Mull Ponders

Explorer
Being in the Border Ethereal doesn't do much for the hags. They can't leave the tomb that way. In the write-up for spells with restrictions in the tomb it says "The caster enters the Border Ethereal but can’t move through surfaces or doors in the tomb. Ethereal characters might encounter one or more of the Sewn Sisters." So the hags can't move around very much. And they are pitifully weak without the coven spells.
 

pukunui

Hero
Unless they are immune to those restrictions! Doesn’t it also say that the tomb’s denizens don’t set off any of the traps and stuff like that?
 

Mull Ponders

Explorer
Unless they are immune to those restrictions! Doesn’t it also say that the tomb’s denizens don’t set off any of the traps and stuff like that?
A skeleton key doesn't set off some traps. Withers has the amulet that gets around a certain restriction. I don't see much else.

I play the Night Hags as cowards, like Dragons. The book says if you kill two the last will bargain for her life, so they are not fighting to the death. Which could be the answer, your ethereal player only has to incapacitate or kill one hag and the other will give up.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
My players may go searching for Ras Nsi’s old palace - which is described as greatly diminished from its former glory (under “Possessions” in that wiki article):

Nsi lived in a literally moving palace. The four-towered mansion, complete with low defensive walls, stained-glass windows, waving banners, and white stone, was built upon a massive platform carried by twelve gigantic skeletal tortoises.[10] By the late 1480s, the palace had been abandoned, as it had been ruined by rampaging undead.
The PCs may go there to recover Dragonbait’s stolen voice, which I’m treating as a curse of muteness places upon him by one of the Sewn Sisters.

ToA describes the Nsi wastes as a bonestrewn wasteland with the demolishment of Nsi’s palace so complete that the jungle has swallowed most of it.

Taking some artistic license with the site, interpreting it as a lurking place of one of the Sewn Sisters when she’s not in the Tomb, how might I depict this place to my players?

I have the beginnings of a map I’m doing by hand...
 

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