log in or register to remove this ad

 

5E [SPOILERS] Enhancing Tomb of Annihilation

gelatinouscub

First Post
My party are about to descend to level 6 of the Tomb and have collected all the skeleton keys. I'm a little worried about the Trial rooms both because they've been in the dungeon so long already and I'd like to just get to the boss fights, and because some of the puzzles seem like they might slow the session way down as the players struggle to work them out. Thinking of removing all except the Trial of the Pentagon (which seems fun and has consequences for the next battle itself) and just calling that the Control Room with the lever opening all the keyholes.

Wondering what people who've run that part think - would I be cutting out anything essential or important, or were those rooms really fun in a way you think it would be a mistake to skip?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

MockingBird

Explorer
Tonight we descend into Omu. Really not sure when to pull out King of Feathers. They are 5th level and I feel I need to get them leveled up to 6 fairly quickly. I'm excited for them to explore the ruins for puzzle cubes. I hope I can role play Nsi the way I have him in my head.
 

Onslaught

Explorer
I was familiarizing myself with the actual Tomb of Nine Gods, when I got to Level 5 and the giant cogs.Analyzing the possible ways the cogs are organized, it seems that:A) There's no way to just go from Controls to Area 68, which leads to Level 6 (and dungeon end bosses)B) In order to reach Level 6, one character should be left behind at Control as the others go to the third cog and are rotated so they can reach Area 68I mean... this sound unfair and unfun... is there any other way to do it?Or players are supposed to do just that: leave someone at Control, reach Area 68 and get the last player back from Controls through the small passage above it?
 



Nebulous

Legend
Look at page 186 under Area 77 of the Tomb, specifically Wrath of the Trickster Gods. Your answer is there – PCs possessed by trickster gods get major buffs.
Speaking of Trickster Gods...I'm merging Nangnang's shrine with the Drungulung scenario and having Yorb escape to the grung city with a puzzle cube. I want the chieftain to have the same plan as outlined in the book, to summon a consort of Nangnang, but I was wondering if it would work having the Chief possessed by a Trickster God. Would that be something logical to have happen outside the Tomb? Might give the PCs a clue or hint that the cubes are not innocent entirely, or merely keys. I was going to have the Chief get possessed by an ethereal spirit and change form into a grotesque giant grung.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Speaking of Trickster Gods...I'm merging Nangnang's shrine with the Drungulung scenario and having Yorb escape to the grung city with a puzzle cube. I want the chieftain to have the same plan as outlined in the book, to summon a consort of Nangnang, but I was wondering if it would work having the Chief possessed by a Trickster God. Would that be something logical to have happen outside the Tomb? Might give the PCs a clue or hint that the cubes are not innocent entirely, or merely keys. I was going to have the Chief get possessed by an ethereal spirit and change form into a grotesque giant grung.
Cool idea!

The purpose of the Tomb of the Nine Gods is to contain the "dead" spirits ("dormant" or "disembodied" is perhaps a better term) of the Trickster Gods. So you'll have a lot of editing to do in Tomb...For example, Acererak's 2nd Warning refers to Nangnang, so you might want to change that...and of course Area 24 (Nangnang's Tomb) wouldn't have Nangnang's spirit inhabiting the petrified egg / pearl of power.
 

Plutancatty

Explorer
My party faced Acererak last night. I felt like he was a little too easy to defeat - and therefore a little anti-climactic - but my players assured me it didn't feel that way to them. They said they felt like they'd very narrowly avoided a TPK. And yet, from my perspective, while he did manage to (temporarily) kill two of the PCs, I still felt like he spent most of the fight just desperately trying to survive the 5-against-1 onlsaught.

I gave him max hit points and may have allowed him to take an extra reaction once or twice (not necessarily on purpose) during the fight, but I think the extra bennies from the trickster god spirits made all the difference. Acererak really struggled to do any lasting damage to the PCs with his spells what with the constantly regenerating 50 temp hp. (Four out of the five PCs had spirits inhabiting them.)

The sphere of annihilation seemed really ineffective too. Yes, it could reach anywhere in the chamber at any time with its 90-foot movement speed, but the Dex save is too low, and it does no damage on a success, so it just wasn't doing much. I'll admit to being somewhat disappointed that none of the PCs got devoured by it.



In retrospect, Omu proved to be the deadliest part of the adventure. The tomb did not live up to its hype. Nor did Acererak. But my players seem to have a different view - with all of us feeling like we were on the back foot the entire time - and I guess that's all that matters, right?

The PCs are now 11th level, and we'll be moving on to Against the Giants.
My DM ran Acererak with better spells, and facing him after the Atropal was really tough. My paladin had three levels of exhaustion already, and had taken a bunch of damage from falling into lava. Acererak was flying around blasting us with fireballs while our sorcerer tried to damage him, to no real effect thanks to his at will counterspell, our monk just made a beeline for the back door almost straight away, and our ranger had a really hard time, I think he may have been exhausted as well, and his bow wasn't magical so his damage wasn't what it could have been. In the end, the sorcerer was disintegrated, my paladin was forcecaged and the cloudkilled to death (gas chamber style), and upon seeing this the ranger hid but was eventually found and tortired to death. The monk managed to escape with Volo (who was in the bag on the altar) and we actually saw this near TPK as a kind of win. :)
 

MockingBird

Explorer
Here are my notes on Ras Nsi which helped me get a better feel for his character.
This is really good stuff. Thanks for linking me to it. Ras Nsi is a really cool villain IMO. I want my players to have a relationship with him and not just try to hack him to bits. If he survives this adventure he will make an appearance again later in the PCs career.

My PCs have been in Omu for a little while now. They have found 3 puzzle cubes. Salida (the guide) will soon betray the party and get them captured. Real life things have popped up and havent been able to play regularly in a few months. I'm ready to get back to it.
 

JediSoth

Semi-Professional Author
Epic
I was familiarizing myself with the actual Tomb of Nine Gods, when I got to Level 5 and the giant cogs.Analyzing the possible ways the cogs are organized, it seems that:A) There's no way to just go from Controls to Area 68, which leads to Level 6 (and dungeon end bosses)B) In order to reach Level 6, one character should be left behind at Control as the others go to the third cog and are rotated so they can reach Area 68I mean... this sound unfair and unfun... is there any other way to do it?Or players are supposed to do just that: leave someone at Control, reach Area 68 and get the last player back from Controls through the small passage above it?
I'm curious myself how others have handled the seemingly mandatory requirement in Gears of Hate that PCs split the party. It seems like the entire level is one giant puzzle and the only way to solve it is leave one character behind in the control room and hope, eventually, the rest of the group find their way back to it via the hidden tunnel under the console. My group doesn't have an NPC guide, so leaving them to handle the controls isn't an option.

I'm also curious about the monodrone that comes out of the wardrobe. That room can't be solved without slaying everything that comes out of every wardrobe, but monodrones aren't evil per se, so it seems like unless the DM decides its confused state causes uncharacteristic aggression, the PCs are going to have to murder it (that won't sit well with the paladin).
 

Dark_T_Zeratul

Explorer
In my group, the paladin had a hadrosaur mount (it felt more appropriate to the region than a horse), and she had him work the controls while they communicated telepathically. Obviously not a solution that works for every group, but illustrative that creative thinking can definitely solve the issue (as could the Gaseous Form spell).

For the monodrone, it ended up working itself out without any ethical dilemma. After the first few they all readied actions to murder whatever came out, and the poor modron exploded before they even registered what it was.
 

JediSoth

Semi-Professional Author
Epic
I get a sense that the Gears of Hate level is going to cause them a LOT of frustration. I'm tempted to put a lever in one of the small rooms that, when pulled, takes them directly to the atropol. It would be total schmuck-bait, but frankly, no more so than some of the other traps in the Tomb of Nine Gods.
 

snaggle2th

Explorer
My group was wrapping up Level 5 last session, when we had a campaign-changing series of events.

First--in reference to previous posts--my experienced group is savvy enough that they reasoned that the upper passages would eventually link up with the control room, so they were not particularly stressed about the whole 'Gears' situation.

The trouble started when the wizard--who has to do everything--sat in the Armillary Sphere and aligned the planets. Got him to roll a percentile check for the effect (not telling him why) and he rolled the 'contact an unknown entity' result. Rather than try to work out a huge personality change on the spot, I decided that this was Acererak. I have been planning for some time, that when Acererak appears, he will offer to let everyone live if the wizard will become his apprentice--so he made this offer telepathically, just a bit ahead of schedule. The player asked to defer this decision for a bit, and this was agreed to, with a warning not to take too long--perfectly setting up this twist for the final encounter.

The party retrieved the monk from the control room, and backtracked to the Mastodon room with the key. At the last minute before engaging the key, the two tanks inexplicably decided to wait out in the hallway. Down comes the block and the rest of the party are left to fight the devils, and it eventually goes south. The Erinyes offers to let them go in exchange for one soul, as written. They debate for many minutes. To avoid a TPK and to avoid anyone having to sacrifice themselves, they decide to tempt the devils with the Soul Monger. The Erinyes takes this offer straight to Asmodeus. While the party are debating this, the wizard secretly, telepathically asks Acererak (no one else knows what happened in the sphere) to intercede with the devils.

Ahem. Uh, guys, I have to go to the bathroom.

While they are continuing to debate, I am pacing around the bathroom, trying to think through all implications. I realize that there are several ways that this could be a campaign-ender, not a campaign-changer. I conclude now that Asmodeus knows about the SM, and Acererak knows he knows, there is only one possible outcome: Acererak offers the SM to Asmodeus with no strings--other than Acererak gets to do what he wants with the PCs.

Back at the table, the PCs debate for a while longer, and eventually, I end the session on the cliffhanger.

In the days after the session, I message each of the players with an individual offer that they received from the Erinyes telepathically during negotiations. Then I tell everyone that the Erinyes informs the PCs that a side deal has been reached, and the devils disappear.

The players lose their minds. There are hours of them messaging back and forth with accusations and threats. I sip my coffee and pretend it's their tears.

So now, I will run the rest of the dungeon as written, EXCEPT there is no Soul Monger and the Atropal is very, very, hungry. Six fresh souls will really hit the spot.

Side note: Ordered this 3D printed Atropal. It is awesome.
Got a guy locally to paint it for me. I told him when I put it down on the table, I wanted them to ask, "What is WRONG with you??".

The encounter will run as normal, except in place of the four tentacles, the Atropal will attempt to drop PCs into the lava with its umbilical cord. I am making this a legendary action. Acererak will show up as normal, monologuing about his deal with Asmodeus, and outing the wizard, who told nobody about their negotiations.

Long-term, the players now have to deal with the consequences of their actions. The Death Curse will still be ongoing, and I have a bit of time to decide if the Soul Monger is now installed in one of the Hells (say, Avernus?) or somewhere else on the Material Plane.

TLDR: Be prepared for your players to make an offer like this when dealing with the devils. You can safely assume that they devils are not aware of the SM if they are not told, and you can rule that they are bound in the chamber and cannot communicate with the 'big boss'. But maybe if the players talk and the devils are sent back to hell the hard way, they have information to run up the chain of command...
 

azathosk

Explorer
Tonight we descend into Omu. Really not sure when to pull out King of Feathers. They are 5th level and I feel I need to get them leveled up to 6 fairly quickly. I'm excited for them to explore the ruins for puzzle cubes. I hope I can role play Nsi the way I have him in my head.
My players have just entered Omu as well. I let them know about the legend of the nine gods when they entered the lost city, but they just dismissed it as "ancient storytales". So now they're on their way to the shrine of Kubazan. I'm thinking of playing up the King of Feathers as they suddenly hear a roar (play the t-rex roar from Jurassic Park) from time to time and then either let him show up as an random encounter or in the amphitheater.

They're level 6 at the moment, but since they're just four players I think I'm going to level them a bit faster than the book suggests.
 

snaggle2th

Explorer
Follow-up on my post above: My players dispatched the Atropal in three rounds, but it was fairly tense. The cleric cast Dawn, which amounts to ongoing radiant damage, which sped things up, and that was fine. The Atropal was doing its best to target the cleric and force concentration checks, but didn't really succeed; that said, I was reasonably happy at how the encounter went.

Acererak was another issue--not because he had the party outclassed, but because his spell list did not match the encounter and terrain. Here's his spell list from the stat block:

Cantrips (at will): mage hand, ray of frost, shocking grasp
1st level (at will): ray of sickness, shield
2nd level (at will): arcane lock, knock
3rd level (at will): animate dead, counterspell
4th level (3 slots): blight, ice storm, phantasmal killer
5th level (3 slots): cloudkill, hold monster, wall of force
6th level (3 slots): chain lightning, circle of death, disintegrate
7th level (3 slots): finger of death, plane shift, teleport
8th level (2 slots): maze, mind blank
9th level (2 slots): power word kill, time stop.

I put in time preparing for the encounter, as this was my first high-level wizard NPC, and as the party also has a wizard, it would turn out to be a bit of a wizarding duel. I came up with my 'action order' list, divided by whether he would be attacking multiple targets, or just one. Here's my list:

Multiple targets - Chain Lightning (6+); Circle of Death (6+), Cloudkill (5+), Ice Storm (4+);
One target: Maze (Troll); Power Word Kill (9), Finger of Death (7); Disintegrage (6+); Phantasmal Killer (4+); Hold Monster(s-5+); Blight (4+)
Melee: Staff attack; Paralyzing Touch

Here are the problems, and my recommendations for fixing them:

1) Mobility - As written, Acererak has no way to get around, other than to waste a seventh-level spell slot on Teleport. Looking at the available teleportation spells, I would probably add Thunder Step as 3rd-level at-will spell. Its 90-foot range is enough to get around this chamber, and it deals damage to everyone within 10 feet of the spot you just left.

2) Dispel Magic - As mentioned in a previous post, Acererak absolutely needs Dispel Magic. He has to be able to get rid of the PC caster's spell effects, also as a 3rd-level at-will.

3) Silence - As written, if the party casts Silence, Acererak has no way of dealing with it. Even if you add a teleportation spell, all of these have a verbal component, so if he is on one of the platforms, he has no way to escape the area of the spell. He has enough attacks to deal with anyone in melee (especially if he can paralyze them), but would not be able to do a thing about spells cast from range. One solution could be for him to drink a potion of flying prior to combat, which would give him a fly speed without requiring concentration (this would also address #1 above...)

4) Lava - The lava is a real threat with the Atropal, but once Acererak arrives and the PCs have 50 temp HP per round from the trickster gods, the average of 55 per round they get in the lava doesn't seem to scary--unless Acererak is also targeting them with spells. Just something to keep in mind.

NOTE: Only in the course of writing this did I come acrosse Sly Flourish's analysis of Acererak's spell list at:

Wish I had seen this beforehand. The only change I would make to his list would be the addition of Thunder Step--and probably that potion of flying.
 

pukunui

Hero
I am gearing up to have a second go at running this adventure. I’ve been posting some of my thoughts in another thread here but I've had an idle thought that I figured I could post here: Ras Nsi is described as having been a paladin back when he was one of Ubtao's Chosen and a barae of Mezro. However, he broke his oath and now, over a century later, we find he's trained himself up as a wizard.

However, in the DMG, there is the oathbreaker paladin subclass. Ras Nsi is an oathbreaker, so has anyone ever given any thought to giving him the oathbreaker subclass powers instead of wizard powers?

Just a thought.
 
Last edited:

CapnZapp

Legend
Follow-up on my post above: My players dispatched the Atropal in three rounds, but it was fairly tense. The cleric cast Dawn, which amounts to ongoing radiant damage, which sped things up, and that was fine. The Atropal was doing its best to target the cleric and force concentration checks, but didn't really succeed; that said, I was reasonably happy at how the encounter went.

Acererak was another issue--not because he had the party outclassed, but because his spell list did not match the encounter and terrain. Here's his spell list from the stat block:

Cantrips (at will): mage hand, ray of frost, shocking grasp
1st level (at will): ray of sickness, shield
2nd level (at will): arcane lock, knock
3rd level (at will): animate dead, counterspell
4th level (3 slots): blight, ice storm, phantasmal killer
5th level (3 slots): cloudkill, hold monster, wall of force
6th level (3 slots): chain lightning, circle of death, disintegrate
7th level (3 slots): finger of death, plane shift, teleport
8th level (2 slots): maze, mind blank
9th level (2 slots): power word kill, time stop.

I put in time preparing for the encounter, as this was my first high-level wizard NPC, and as the party also has a wizard, it would turn out to be a bit of a wizarding duel. I came up with my 'action order' list, divided by whether he would be attacking multiple targets, or just one. Here's my list:

Multiple targets - Chain Lightning (6+); Circle of Death (6+), Cloudkill (5+), Ice Storm (4+);
One target: Maze (Troll); Power Word Kill (9), Finger of Death (7); Disintegrage (6+); Phantasmal Killer (4+); Hold Monster(s-5+); Blight (4+)
Melee: Staff attack; Paralyzing Touch

Here are the problems, and my recommendations for fixing them:

1) Mobility - As written, Acererak has no way to get around, other than to waste a seventh-level spell slot on Teleport. Looking at the available teleportation spells, I would probably add Thunder Step as 3rd-level at-will spell. Its 90-foot range is enough to get around this chamber, and it deals damage to everyone within 10 feet of the spot you just left.

2) Dispel Magic - As mentioned in a previous post, Acererak absolutely needs Dispel Magic. He has to be able to get rid of the PC caster's spell effects, also as a 3rd-level at-will.

3) Silence - As written, if the party casts Silence, Acererak has no way of dealing with it. Even if you add a teleportation spell, all of these have a verbal component, so if he is on one of the platforms, he has no way to escape the area of the spell. He has enough attacks to deal with anyone in melee (especially if he can paralyze them), but would not be able to do a thing about spells cast from range. One solution could be for him to drink a potion of flying prior to combat, which would give him a fly speed without requiring concentration (this would also address #1 above...)

4) Lava - The lava is a real threat with the Atropal, but once Acererak arrives and the PCs have 50 temp HP per round from the trickster gods, the average of 55 per round they get in the lava doesn't seem to scary--unless Acererak is also targeting them with spells. Just something to keep in mind.

NOTE: Only in the course of writing this did I come acrosse Sly Flourish's analysis of Acererak's spell list at:

Wish I had seen this beforehand. The only change I would make to his list would be the addition of Thunder Step--and probably that potion of flying.
Obviously you're already done, but for other interested readers, I pretty much switched out Acecerak's entire spell load out.

Yes, I know the writers probably selected weak spells because they were concerned about a TPK.

But it makes no sense whatsoever to first hype the BBEG as the world's most powerful lich, and then give him such a weak spell selection.

If there's a single enemy in the history of D&D that you want to give the most fiendishly min-maxed spell combos, it's Acecerak!

If that means you can't (or dare not) feature him as a full lich (with double level 9 spell slots etc), then you need to rewrite the encounter to make it clear to the players they're facing a level 11 caster, or level 15 caster. (A young or weak or cloned Acecerak, or whatever. Anything but a caster that COULD have cast painful spells, but weren't clever enough to pick them :-/ )

A less epic version, but STILL one with a hyper-intelligent and optimized spell selection.

Zapp

PS. When I get access to a desktop I'll see if I ever posted my spell selection and tactics. I do remember thinking long and hard to find "unfair" spell combos suitable for an opponent of Acecerak's reputation and stature, and IIRC ended up with a horizontal prismatic sphere that the heroes were thrown through twice through casting and then ending reverse gravity, which also weaponized all the lava.
 

azathosk

Explorer
We're going down to level 3 in the Tomb and the characters have started to understand that they might need the help of the gods. They've deflected some of the gods already, but now one of characters wants to explore them more.

The book states:
With a successful DC 16 Charisma saving throw, the creature resists the god’s power, and that god can’t attempt to inhabit the same creature for the remainder of the adventure.

But! What if the character invites the god in after a successful saving throw?
 


Dark_T_Zeratul

Explorer
We're going down to level 3 in the Tomb and the characters have started to understand that they might need the help of the gods. They've deflected some of the gods already, but now one of characters wants to explore them more.

The book states:
With a successful DC 16 Charisma saving throw, the creature resists the god’s power, and that god can’t attempt to inhabit the same creature for the remainder of the adventure.

But! What if the character invites the god in after a successful saving throw?
Honestly, I'd go with the interpretation that the gods are fickle and once rejected would go with someone else. Since a successful save only blocks that specific god for that specific character, the character can get a different god and the god can get a different host.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top