5E (Spoilers) Running Tomb of Annihilation up to higher levels

Plutancatty

Explorer
So after playing through ToA as a player (with our party suffering 25 deaths throughout the course of our campaign) I am prepping to run it myself for another group.

However.

I like to add modules I DM to my homebrew setting, giving new flavors and explanations for things. And I wanted to add a real emphasys on the exploration part of ToA, since as a player I basically got to see none of all the cool locations I'm reading about now, and I want my players to experience all of those (hopefully). And also add new cool stuff on top of what's already there.

So I was thinking of closing off each level of the Tomb and only make it accessible after recovering a certain object (which can range from a key to the blood of a specific individual, etc). This would make the party experience more of Chult and be better prepared for each successive level. By adding more stuff in the jungles, they will probably be higher level when they go through the tomb (and other jungle locations too)

How would you handle up-leveled characters in the tomb and jungle?
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I'm running this too. Did your DM not take you through the jungle first, or did you start right at Omu and the Tomb entrance? I think the adventure can be tweaked for higher levels without too much trouble. The jungle part is hard to make difficult for D&D characters; the weight of armor, the heat, humidity and awfulness of insects and disease is easily circumvented by magic. And long time habit of those things being meaningless and ignored in regular campaigns.

I made sure to squeeze in nearly every planned encounter in the jungle exploration part of the book. This brought them from 1st to 6th level, right when they reached Omu, and 7th by the time they entered the Tomb. If you want a supplement, there are several great ones on DMs Guild that add extra encounters, including the entire city of Mezro, which in the campaign module is skipped over as "empty".
 

Plutancatty

Explorer
We just did a couple of (near TPK) random encounters in the jungle and the red dragon's lair, which resulted in three more deaths
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
Were you lower level when you encountered the dragon? I had to actually make that fight harder with a beefed up dragon and extra kobolds, because Artus Cimber was in the party with the Ring of Winter and firing off cone of cold multiple times. Even then, Artus and another PC were killed. I actually WANTED Artus to die, his being in the party with the Ring was unbalancing. So if you include him, keep in mind that he shouldn't stay with the party the whole time. He might even voluntarily leave. Although I do love the imagery of sweaty, hateful frost giants stomping through the jungle looking for him...
 

Plutancatty

Explorer
Yeah, I do want them to meet him, and then have him leave (and be mostly tied up in combat offscreen during encounters, using the ring to just save from hairy situations)

Our problem was mostly that our cleric went rogue (no pun indtended) and sparked an inter-party battle, so we were already banged up when we met the dragon since we hadn't really given the kobolds much thought.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I highly recommend the Mezro supplement. At the core, it is all about Artus Cimber's story, and ranges from low to mid to high level. I think it is probably 40+ pages and comes with a fantastic full color map.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
@Plutancatty you can read all my campaign recaps here (well, a good bit of them) on this thread if you want to.

 

Plutancatty

Explorer
@Plutancatty you can read all my campaign recaps here (well, a good bit of them) on this thread if you want to.

Much obliged, thank you :)

Anything else other than fleshing out Mezro?
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
Much obliged, thank you :)

Anything else other than fleshing out Mezro?
Any other changes or suggestions? I didn't change much from the core adventure really. Other than Mezro, but that fits pretty seamlessly into the adventure. One thing you're going to have to do so that the PCs are not "pushed" a certain direction: sometimes you're going to need to change locations of set-piece encounters so that the heroes run across them when you want them to, not when the map dictates. So smudge distances. Move villages or ruins. If you want to make sure they hit all the cool encounters (Firefinger, Kir Sabal, Nangalore, Star Goddess, Saja Nbaza, etc..) you'll need to nudge them those directions.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
@Plutancatty I'm curious, how DID your DM start your adventure? Port Nyanzaru was an awesome place, but I was so eager to get the PCs into the jungle I bustled them through it pretty fast. They only returned one other time, at 6th level, and again we were in a rush, so I never did get to fully utilize Nyanzaru. No dino races! Although I did refer to it several times, the players didn't take the bait.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
My party came to Chult as 5th level adventurers (we began before the book was released; I used the Red Larch & environs part of PotA to amuse us while we waited) and levelled up to 16th (I think) before campaign end.

I used pretty much all the tricks there is to make the adventure work for characters that aren't just overleveled for the content, but much stronger than the baseline too (given "all options on": feats, mc, items).

In some cases (Ras Nsi's headquarters) I simply threw everything at the party at once. In some cases (King of feathers) they were separated and had to fight solo. In some cases I didn't change anything so they could wipe the floor with their opponents. In a few cases, I just pulled out the stops (Bag of Nails being given pretty much the most lethal sneak attack I think the game can yield; Acecerak using one of the best Time Stop PHB combos I could think of; an Ancient Green Shadow Dragon and its lizardmen tribe completely taking them by surprise) But mostly I upgraded the opposition - and since I'm lazy, by "upgraded" I mean replaced (a CR 5 devil became a CR 10 devil and so on...). I tried to limit the "just twice as many" approach, since 5E becomes boring and drawn-out if the foes' main resource is an absurd amount of hit points.

The big things was to forget about the death clock - even at 5th level, losing 1 hp a day is entirely unworkable (since it panics the players into ignoring everything that isn't a direct lead to Omu). The writer who included that ticking clock really must have been utterly clueless of what makes hex crawls work! :(

And that I denied the party any long rests during the hexcrawl (overland) portion (before Omu): that way even low-level fights had significance, meaning I could use the meaty random encounter info as written.

Apart from the hardcover my main sources was the Companion thingie (by that Power Score blog), and the Guild Adept content on Mezro.

Finally there's a thread around on the magic item shoppes I offered in Port Nyanzaru. Lots and lots and lots of useful items for any mid-level adventurer!
 
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Plutancatty

Explorer
@Plutancatty I'm curious, how DID your DM start your adventure? Port Nyanzaru was an awesome place, but I was so eager to get the PCs into the jungle I bustled them through it pretty fast. They only returned one other time, at 6th level, and again we were in a rush, so I never did get to fully utilize Nyanzaru. No dino races! Although I did refer to it several times, the players didn't take the bait.
First off, sorry for the late replies, I’ traveling atm and don’t have my pc on me to check regularly.

But. We started at Sindra’s mansion, then she teleported us to Port Nyazaru. We walked around for a bit, but we basically just looked for people to bring us into the jungle and find wherever the death curse was originating from (our DM had also told us we had 80 days to finish so we really rushed through): we never went back to Port Nyazaru, when we lost characters we would just find replacements wherever we were, we found the Heart of Ubtao and then made a beeline for Omu.

We never saw it as an exploration of awesome locales and discovery of the jungle’s secrets because we were too goal driven imo. (We did win some money off dinosaur races, and even named our adventuring company after the one that made us win)
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
First off, sorry for the late replies, I’ traveling atm and don’t have my pc on me to check regularly.

But. We started at Sindra’s mansion, then she teleported us to Port Nyazaru. We walked around for a bit, but we basically just looked for people to bring us into the jungle and find wherever the death curse was originating from (our DM had also told us we had 80 days to finish so we really rushed through): we never went back to Port Nyazaru, when we lost characters we would just find replacements wherever we were, we found the Heart of Ubtao and then made a beeline for Omu.

We never saw it as an exploration of awesome locales and discovery of the jungle’s secrets because we were too goal driven imo. (We did win some money off dinosaur races, and even named our adventuring company after the one that made us win)
I let my party wander wherever they wanted and did not reinforce the time frame, although they knew one existed. Syndra was the grandmother of a PC so he had personal motivation to save her. Partway through the jungle exploration, a chingwa shows up with a letter from Syndra, saying that she will die soon, and she wishes the heroes the best of luck in their ongoing quest, so that completely ended any time crunch. UNTIL the barbarian died and was brought back, and now he has the Death curse, although leveling up mitigates the losses.

The adventure is much more fun if it has a leisurely pace.
 

Plutancatty

Explorer
I let my party wander wherever they wanted and did not reinforce the time frame, although they knew one existed. Syndra was the grandmother of a PC so he had personal motivation to save her. Partway through the jungle exploration, a chingwa shows up with a letter from Syndra, saying that she will die soon, and she wishes the heroes the best of luck in their ongoing quest, so that completely ended any time crunch. UNTIL the barbarian died and was brought back, and now he has the Death curse, although leveling up mitigates the losses.

The adventure is much more fun if it has a leisurely pace.
I actually plan on triggering the Death Curse (ingame) weeks after the party arrives in Chult. I will try to give them plenty of hooks to do other interesting things and gather loot, hopefully giving them faint hints as to what's to come, then have the Soulmonger activate in spectacular fashion once I want them to start looking for Omu.

Also, do you guys think the Tomb needs tweaking for higher level characters or is it good as is?
(Also also, what are some good ways to tie in locations in the jungle to Acererak & minions?)
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
Also, do you guys think the Tomb needs tweaking for higher level characters or is it good as is?
(Also also, what are some good ways to tie in locations in the jungle to Acererak & minions?)
I've only just started the actual Tomb at 7th level, but yes, if you're doing it much higher you will need to up the damage of traps and increase DCs.

One of the supplements I mentioned on DMs Guild (Tomb of Annihilation Companion) has an excellent jungle encounter system, you should check it out. It introduces the Sewn Sisters way, way before the PCs ever enter the Tomb. Also, you will want to drop hints of the various artifacts hidden in the Tomb before they reach it.
 

dave2008

Hero
I will second @CapnZapp 's comment to beef up Ras Nsi's headquarters. I haven't run it, but I just happened to read it this weekend and my first thought was: this needs 2x or 3x more guards. I would also beef up Ras. That might give the party incentive to do something instead the murder hobo route.
 

dave2008

Hero
Also, do you guys think the Tomb needs tweaking for higher level characters or is it good as is?
(Also also, what are some good ways to tie in locations in the jungle to Acererak & minions?)
Yes, it needs tweaking for higher level characters. I think @CapnZapp gave some good examples in an earlier post.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
I will second @CapnZapp 's comment to beef up Ras Nsi's headquarters. I haven't run it, but I just happened to read it this weekend and my first thought was: this needs 2x or 3x more guards. I would also beef up Ras. That might give the party incentive to do something instead the murder hobo route.
The "Nazi Snake" HQ is written with the assumption the characters could conceivably end up as prisoners. Or at the very least that the yuan-ti's show of force compels the players to diplomacy over murderhoboing.

To make that happen, the party ought to be not over 5th level. And from the POV of the adventure as written, I guess that's theoretically possible if not probable. (The only scenario I can see is for the party to be confronted by the snake people very soon after entering Omu. Otherwise the Omu content will either kill the party or level them out of the range needed for the players to not just go "they're nazi snakes goddammit - since they are bound to backstab us sooner or later, why not kill them on sight?".

The problem is the death curse. The only way the party ends up at Omu soon enough for Ras Nsi to work is by ignoring everything else and going directly to Omu.

So yes, a much reasonable approach would be to be patient with Omu, and let the heroes come when they're done hexcrawling elsewhere. For the content to still play out as intended, however, I would think you need to basically double the challenge rating of the HQ denizens...

(As already reported, the heroes of my campaign took on everything at once* and simply fought on until every anguine thing was dead. So much for alternatives to murderhoboing...)

*) for a value of "at once" that includes close to two complete sessions of continuous fighting.
 

Plutancatty

Explorer
The "Nazi Snake" HQ is written with the assumption the characters could conceivably end up as prisoners. Or at the very least that the yuan-ti's show of force compels the players to diplomacy over murderhoboing.

To make that happen, the party ought to be not over 5th level. And from the POV of the adventure as written, I guess that's theoretically possible if not probable. (The only scenario I can see is for the party to be confronted by the snake people very soon after entering Omu. Otherwise the Omu content will either kill the party or level them out of the range needed for the players to not just go "they're nazi snakes goddammit - since they are bound to backstab us sooner or later, why not kill them on sight?".

The problem is the death curse. The only way the party ends up at Omu soon enough for Ras Nsi to work is by ignoring everything else and going directly to Omu.

So yes, a much reasonable approach would be to be patient with Omu, and let the heroes come when they're done hexcrawling elsewhere. For the content to still play out as intended, however, I would think you need to basically double the challenge rating of the HQ denizens...

(As already reported, the heroes of my campaign took on everything at once* and simply fought on until every anguine thing was dead. So much for alternatives to murderhoboing...)

*) for a value of "at once" that includes close to two complete sessions of continuous fighting.
Dang, that must have been intense. We tried attacking full on and got roflstomped (although that was partially due to the ranger healing enemies and then firing into my paladin's back to get into the good graces of the snake people -a bit late for that since we were already attacking)
 

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