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5E Tomb of Annihilation for high level PCs

Uller

Adventurer
I'm running ToA for a party of 13th level PCs (Wizard, Warlock, Shadowmonk, Paladin and Barbarian). They are in Port Nyanzaru right now and have hired Salida as a guide (along with River Mist and Flask of Wine...the guides don't know about each other yet as they have hired them separately). They described what they know about Omu to Salida (the info they got from Zitembe) and she claimed to not know of it but the wizard got nat 20 on his insight check that he is trained in so they know she is lying. They intend to get her away from town and get the info from her one way or another.

I figure she will let Ras Nsi know about them and eventually maybe what they are looking for at which point, he might even want them to come to him.

Right now I am trying to think of ways to make the adventure a challenge for them without changing it too much (I will be adding monsters and maxing hit points for many of them). One thing I am thinking of is that the more powerful NPCs will become a lot more active in the adventure and work to actively thwart the PCs or use them. Valindra Shadowmantle will definitely become more active, I'll give her some arch-mage lackeys to help her. The Frost Giants can become an issue. Maybe once Ras Nsi learns what is going on he'll help the PCs then betray them to try to get the Soulmonger for himself...The red dragon will be an adult or maybe even ancient and I am adding some adult and young red dragons to the volcanic areas. Maybe some fire giants? I'm adding a pair of adult black dragons and some young black dragons to the basin as well.

All the PCs, having visited Ravenloft, are under the effect of the Death Plague to give them a meaningful time pressure without being too overbearing (I modified to to take away one HD per week then it will start into one max hp per day).

Anyone have any suggestions or thoughts?
 

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Al'Kelhar

Explorer
[Sorry, "me too" post...] I'd also like people's thoughts and suggestions on any changes to Tomb of Annihilation for higher-level PCs. I intend on using elements of it in my modified Savage Tide campaign, but on current plans, it sits in a part of the campaign when the PCs will be around 10th-14th level.

Cheers, Al'Kelhar
 

I'm running ToA for a party of 13th level PCs (Wizard, Warlock, Shadowmonk, Paladin and Barbarian). They are in Port Nyanzaru right now and have hired Salida as a guide (along with River Mist and Flask of Wine...the guides don't know about each other yet as they have hired them separately). They described what they know about Omu to Salida (the info they got from Zitembe) and she claimed to not know of it but the wizard got nat 20 on his insight check that he is trained in so they know she is lying. They intend to get her away from town and get the info from her one way or another.

I figure she will let Ras Nsi know about them and eventually maybe what they are looking for at which point, he might even want them to come to him.

Right now I am trying to think of ways to make the adventure a challenge for them without changing it too much (I will be adding monsters and maxing hit points for many of them). One thing I am thinking of is that the more powerful NPCs will become a lot more active in the adventure and work to actively thwart the PCs or use them. Valindra Shadowmantle will definitely become more active, I'll give her some arch-mage lackeys to help her. The Frost Giants can become an issue. Maybe once Ras Nsi learns what is going on he'll help the PCs then betray them to try to get the Soulmonger for himself...The red dragon will be an adult or maybe even ancient and I am adding some adult and young red dragons to the volcanic areas. Maybe some fire giants? I'm adding a pair of adult black dragons and some young black dragons to the basin as well.

All the PCs, having visited Ravenloft, are under the effect of the Death Plague to give them a meaningful time pressure without being too overbearing (I modified to to take away one HD per week then it will start into one max hp per day).

Anyone have any suggestions or thoughts?
I bought Tomb of Annihilation but haven't run it. My perception is that there are 3 things you'd want to consider running it for 13th level PCS...

First, and most importantly, are that high level PCs often have access to modes of exploration (flying and teleporting) that could circumvent large swathes of the adventure. If you're ok with that, no problem. If your group would enjoy the streams of random encounters and joy of exploring the jungle, then you may want to address this issue.

Second, several traps may need upgrading, mostly numerically & damage-wise, but sometimes conceptually.

Third, the monsters need a massive boost. For example, with Ras Nsi you might mix some of his identifying traits/actions onto the Yuan-Ti Anathema in Volo's Guide to Monsters. Personally, if you don't have it, I'd strongly consider getting Tome of Beasts by Kobold Press; plenty things that would fit thematically in Chult (e.g. serpopards, smaragdine golems, mask wights, titanoboas, dragon eels...the list goes on and on). I've also noticed the monsters pack more "bite" than most of those WotC has produced, so that might make for a fun challenge for your experienced players.

Btw, I like how you modified the Death Curse; that makes for a real impact without making it insanely urgent; perfect blend of looming pressure and time to explore the jungles of Chult. Works well for 13th level PCs.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Boost the hazards of the jungle. Make DCs tougher and more frequent for things like exhaustion, and add additional penalties for dehydration and overall exposure to jungle rot (penalties like CON penalties, disadvantage, diseases, etc). A high level party will most likely have access to spells to mitigate all of this, but it still forces the players to choose to spend valuable slots to constantly keep up with the jungle.

Make speed a priority. Make random encounters frequent. These two things will prevent the party from taking rests whenever they want, recharging their spells. Combined with the above, and the decision on when and how to use spells to overcome the jungle become more important.

As far as monsters, I’d use lots of swarming monsters. Swarms of insects, snakes, undead, and large packs of dinosaurs. With bounded accuracy, swarms can still make life tough on higher level PCs. I’d also make sure all important monsters had legendary actions and minions at the ready. Have a few monsters with access to counter spell. That always ruins a PCs day ;)
 

Uller

Adventurer
I forgot about the yuanti section on volo's. I'll have to check that out.

I have no problem with them using whatever resources they have available to skip parts of the adventure. The paladin has a griffin. The warlock can cast fly (although that only lasts 10 minutes). They don't have access to teleporting yet. But if they get it, great.

I do plan on beefing up random encounters. First, all monsters will have max hp.

Any fight in undead areas will attract undead within 2d4 rounds and then every 2d4 rounds after. Each time a new pack of undead shows up it will be an additional roll on the undead table. One roll the first time. Two rolls the 2nd, etc. Camp Righteous was taken down by "hundreds of undead." This is how that happened.

Also I modified the rest rules a long time ago. During wilderness travel a short rest is an overnight rest and a long rest takes 24 hours.

These two combined should make them learn quickly that they should break contact asap during wilderness fights. This could be tough considering the barbarian has a Berserk Axe...he takes a hit and he's not willingly ending the fight until someone casts remove curse.

I think I will say that no trap DC will ever be less than 15 unless there is good reason.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I'm running it for a party that arrived to Chult at level 5 (they're well on their way to level 8, and might be even 9 or 10 before they reach Omu, depending).

The most important change I made was "no long rests possible in the jungle". This alone meant I could use the random encounters as is, since every hit point lost meant something.

I can't say it's a complete success, since already now those random tables are getting a bit long in the tooth, with many encounters being entirely trivial (regardless of rests). But if they held up for three levels, I guess I'll have to be content.

But your party is 13th level. I must say I would not even try to make the existing random jungle events relevant to that level. It's just too much of a level difference. Almost every encounter would be a time waste, if looked from a combat challenge perspective. Of course, the occasional encounter to reinforce the jungle theme could still be relevant. But all the whoopie about rolling for weather, navigation, exhaustion, and random encounters... nah, forget it.

Just hand pick out the dozen or so most interesting encounters from the table, and have the party experience them. They will probably find out where Omu is straight enough (given level 7 divination spells) and simply walk straight there (with no random encounter even capable of slowing them down).
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Here are my incomplete notes for the party of Red Wizards that explore Omu.

First off, they don't do anything as stupid as what the module is suggesting they do - splitting their party. Not even at the minimum level would a single Mage be a challenge for the heroes.

Secondly, I'm using the Volo NPC stat blocks to make them true specialist Wizards rather than some generic Mage. That is, with a focus on a particular school of magic.

This is what I've come up with so far (in preparation of my party, which aren't there yet):

Zagmira is an Abjurer (Volo 209) AC 15 (mage armor) hp 74+30 DC 16 but replace Arcane Ward with
* gains MR (advantage on saves) vs incoming Abjuration spells
* foes save with disadvantage on RW's Abjuration spells
* tattoo (circle magic)
* can cast a spell as a bonus action (4/rest) and then also cast Blade Ward (this is essentially what circle magic does for her; getting the equivalent of 8 Sorcery Points or four Quicken Spell. SPs can also be used to regain used up spell slots, but that seems like too-much-detail for a NPC. Feel free to point out any other cool way to use SPs, though!)
Items:
Zagmira's Red Cloak (req attn): 19 Intelligence (if lower), 30 temporary hit points (replenished by taking a long rest). (I'm riffing from her given backstory; when she took over her granddaughter's body, the girl rebelled and in the magic mishap Zagmira lost her brilliant mind. But she still managed to craft this cloak to recover from that otherwise devastating handicap for a Wizard).
Zagmira's Spellbook: choose one Abjuration spell from your spell list – you count as having this spell known and prepared. (It also works like a regular spellbook. Why I phrased it this way was to make it useable as loot for other casters than Wizards. My party has one Sorcerer and one Druid, but no Wizards)
3 Potions of Supreme Healing (50 hp)
Tactics:
targets most dangerous foe at a time; isn't afraid of warriors (she counts on Blade Ward to keep her alive for four rounds)
Attack spells w/o Concentration: ...
Concentration spells: ...

Dyrax is an Evoker (Volo 214) AC 17 (mage armor) hp 78 DC 15 but replace Sculpt Spell with Red Wizard traits
* gains MR (advantage on saves) vs incoming Evocation spells
* foes save with disadvantage on RW's Evocation spells
* may choose to replace damage type with Fire for Evocation spells
* tattoo (circle magic)
Items:
Dyrax' Red Cloak (req attn): +1 AC, fire resistance
3 Potions of Superior Healing (25 hp)
Tactics:
all-out attacks, the true blaster of the team

Yamoch is an Evoker (Volo 214) AC 15 (mage armor) hp 54 DC 14 but replace Sculpt Spell with Red Wizard traits
* gains MR (advantage on saves) vs incoming Evocation spells
* foes save with disadvantage on RW's Evocation spells
* may choose to replace damage type with Fire for Evocation spells
* tattoo (circle magic)
Items:
Red Cloak of Dancing Flames: you gain Control Flames and Dancing Light cantrips. Furthermore, you can spend your action to gain Fire Stride (1/day). During one minute (concentration), you can spend ten feet of movement (once per round) to move from one fire (camp-fire or bigger) you're adjacent to, to another fire you can see within 500 feet, appearing adjacent to it.
Staff of Fire (req attn): per the DMG you gain fire resistance, cast Burning Hands, Fireball, Wall of Fire
3 Potions of Greater Healing (15 hp)
Tactics:
brings up defensive wall of fire if surprised; enables Fire Stride to attack foes from an unexpected direction (trying to make foes not focus-fire).

Thazma is a Diviner (Volo 213) Init +6 AC 16 (mage armor) 67 hp DC 15 with Portent, and
* tattoo (circle magic)
Items:
Thazma's Red Cloak: You become proficient in making Initiative checks. You may cast a Divination spell as a reaction once per day. (This also gives her one more Portent)
Goggles of Night: +60 ft darkvision
18 Potions of Healing (6 hp) - for herself and mercenaries
Tactics:
Links all four with Telepathic Bond
Handles the mercenaries
Provides information for the group - can cast things like Arcane Eye, Comprehend Languages, Detect Thoughts, See Invisibility...
Attack spells w/o Concentration: ...
Concentration spells: ...



For a party of level 13 (or higher), this would probably be an appropriate straight combat encounter. With the advantage/disadvantage sheenanigans their Red Wizard training gives three of them, it would be deadly, but that is as it should be.

For my party (which probably won't be level ten) the point is that attacking a party of senior Red Wizards on a personal mission for Szass Tham head-on should be a hellish experience. (Either talk to them, or manage to take them out piecemeal).

Th
 

Uller

Adventurer
But your party is 13th level. I must say I would not even try to make the existing random jungle events relevant to that level.
Rolled all the encounters they will face on a weeklong trek from PN to Camp Vengence and then boosted some to make them more interesting. Crocs for hp maxxed Giant Crocs for example...all told it works out to about half their daily xp budget. Could be more in a horde of undead shows up...several encounters I just left trivial and will hand wave any combat.

If it gets tedious we'll hand wave more of it. The only thing I expect to get out of letting them travel through the jungle is to help establish setting and maybe to trip some encounters with more level appropriate NPCs. The witch in Mbala could certainly be boosted to something interesting. Getting the attention of the Red Wizard lich can make things much more difficult...after all, I don't think she'll see abparty with LG paladin as a potential ally...likely I will have her try to trun some of the less virtupus party members to help her and if that fails she will acrively try to thwart the PCs to the end.

Ras Nsi will likely be able to learn from them what they are up to and might actually help them but in the end he will decide the soul monger is needed to summon his dark god and will try to take it before it kills him.

I'm probably going to put some flying magic items around or a scroll of teleport to help them mive faster.
 


Skip right to Omu and the Yuan-Ti Temple. Boost the threats at the Yuan-Ti Temple (make Ras Nsi a Necromancer, max HP all the Malisons and add some, etc). Have Ras Nsi's treasure trove have all the puzzle cubes and go right to the Tomb. Then you'll need to up the tomb encounters substantially to make a decent challenge, though the traps should still be pretty darn tough. Good luck!
 

Uller

Adventurer
Secondly, I'm using the Volo NPC stat blocks to make them true specialist Wizards rather than some generic Mage. That is, with a focus on a particular school of magic.
Oh my gosh. At first I thought you literally meant to use the stat block FOR Volo. I just looked and was very confused. I forgot about the NPCs in VGTM.
 

Uller

Adventurer
Skip right to Omu and the Yuan-Ti Temple. Boost the threats at the Yuan-Ti Temple (make Ras Nsi a Necromancer, max HP all the Malisons and add some, etc). Have Ras Nsi's treasure trove have all the puzzle cubes and go right to the Tomb. Then you'll need to up the tomb encounters substantially to make a decent challenge, though the traps should still be pretty darn tough. Good luck!
This is probably what will happen in practice but I want to let them figure out how to skip ahead using all the resources they have available so that they can trigger the attention of all the NPCs that are around.

Tonight they finished futzing around Port Nyanzaru. They spent a total of 3 days there gathering supplies and information. They got the "collect a debt" side quest to collect a gambling debt from a gladiator...instead they offered to cover the debt of the Gladiator for him to join their party and he agreed. They then went back to the bookie and told him they wanted to go double or nothing on the Gladiator's debt on a dinosaur race and then cheated to ensure their dinosaur won so they got the gladiator to join their party for free (actually they bet on a dinosaur that had 1:3 odds so they turned a profit too).

Once out of town and heading into the jungle they cornered Salida to confront her about what she knew about Omu. In the two days that passed since they originally hired her, she had communicated with Ras Nsi and told him about these wealthy and seemingly powerful strangers that showed up seeking out what was clearly Omu and I decided that he would have instructed her to bring them to him but continue to watch them and learn about their intentions and capabilities. When they interrogated her they cast Detect Thoughts and Zone of Truth and she failed both saves so she just gave up the goods, told them where the city is, offered to take them to it and that her "boss" Ras Nsi will want to meet them. They know that Ras Nsi is a multi-headed snake thing (because I'm making him a yuan ti anathema/spell caster) or at least that is what Salida thinks about when she was talking to them. He will need the Soul Monger to power his own ritual and will need the atropal destroyed. He'll also want the Red Wizards and the PCs to weaken each other. The Red Wizards probably withdraw from any direct fighting but will probably try to scry on the PCs as they move through the tomb and maybe show up after any final battle to claim the prize at the end. The PCs would be best served to destroy Ras Nsi and the Red Wizards before going into the temple.

The party wizard has Teleport. I assume they will work themselves closer to Omu to reduce the chances of accidentally teleporting out to sea or into a volcano so I think they will go at least to Camp Vengence. But eventually they will just teleport there, I bet. Their best course of action would be to find a ship captain that is sick of the Dragon Turtle and tell him that in exchange for them killing it, he will sail them closer to Omu so they can teleport safely at least near it. I'm not going to tell them that, though. They know about the Dragon turtle and the Paladin spotted it from his griffon mount harassing some merchant ships as they moved toward Camp Vengence on their first day of travel. I was hoping they would go fight it. The warlock can cast water breathing on all of them and they have done a good deal of fighting in the water (and killed a young dragon turtle in PotA) so they aren't all that intimidated at the idea of fighting in the water.

I doubt the Paladin will agree to work with Ras Nsi. So I'm expecting a full on battle to break out once they meet. But who knows? Might be epic.

Maybe I'll drop a hint to the Warlock that Salida has a sending stone and get the Warlock and Ras Nsi talking separately from the rest of the party or introduce a disguised Red Wizard...some betrayal is always fun.
 

Uller

Adventurer
I am thinking that rather than make Ras Nsi a yuan ti anathema I'm going to change the hydra to be an anathema. It will be the vessel intended to hold Dendar the Night Serpent and when Ras Nsi learns of the Soulmonger, he will see that as a way to channel Dendar into his creation. He will want to replace the atropal with the anathema.

The guidance given for what happens when "the gong is struck" seems to be to deliberately to keep things from getting too deadly for the PCs. Ras Nsi goes and hides and his underlings go investigate. Instead, I'll have Ras Nsi, Sekelok and the anathema stay together with the ghouls and the broodguards. Just Nsi, Sekelok and the Anathema count as a 32,600 xp encounter which would be deadly for 13th level characters. Add in ghouls, broodguards, purebloods and such and a straight up fight in the Fane will probably be one the party can't win outright.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Boost the hazards of the jungle. Make DCs tougher and more frequent for things like exhaustion, and add additional penalties for dehydration and overall exposure to jungle rot (penalties like CON penalties, disadvantage, diseases, etc). A high level party will most likely have access to spells to mitigate all of this, but it still forces the players to choose to spend valuable slots to constantly keep up with the jungle.

Make speed a priority. Make random encounters frequent. These two things will prevent the party from taking rests whenever they want, recharging their spells. Combined with the above, and the decision on when and how to use spells to overcome the jungle become more important.

As far as monsters, I’d use lots of swarming monsters. Swarms of insects, snakes, undead, and large packs of dinosaurs. With bounded accuracy, swarms can still make life tough on higher level PCs. I’d also make sure all important monsters had legendary actions and minions at the ready. Have a few monsters with access to counter spell. That always ruins a PCs day ;)
Sorry but no. A spell such as Wind Walk essentially means that any time spent on jungle details is wasted.

This particular spell means a party covers ten times as much distance a day than if they were on foot. And not trekking in a jungle, but walking across the plains of the Sword Coast at that.

Regular travel speed is three hexes a day (and not one as in the jungle). This means a high-level party covers thirty hexes each day, and that's before considering to make a forced march.

Given their resources, they will likely use magic (or money) to find out where Omu is.

All in all, expect them to reach Omu in two or three days bypassing every single encounter in the random tables.

TL;DR: don't spend too much time on the jungle details. In fact, if you spend any time, that's too much. A jungle trek simply is not an appropriate challenge for a level 13 party, and should be skipped entirely.
 

Eltab

Hero
I would think about having a Certain Powerful Dragon sending the Party an airship (See also Storm King's Thunder) so they can just get from here to there.
Also opens up the chance to do one scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in the dirigible. Any Archeologists in your party? :p

I found a cool idea in a D&D sourcebook a while back, but you can't use it near civilization: a galley (ship) with skeleton rowers. The control amulet is permanently attached to the Captain's Chair.
Something similar might be hidden away in the jungle, on one of the rivers that does NOT lead to town.
 

Aebir-Toril

Creator of the Elfgrinder Mech
When the players reach the end of the Tomb, forget the whole "The Nine Gods grant you power" thing. Run the encounter as it is.
 

Uller

Adventurer
All in all, expect them to reach Omu in two or three days bypassing every single encounter in the random tables.

TL;DR: don't spend too much time on the jungle details. In fact, if you spend any time, that's too much. A jungle trek simply is not an appropriate challenge for a level 13 party, and should be skipped entirely.
So far they travelled up the river via keel boats, stopped at camp righteous and explored the man and Crocodile shrine (and set off every trap), arrived at camp righteous, fought off waves of undead, attempted to arrest breakbone but killed him instead and are now heading off to find the shield guardian.

They don't have windwalk. They have teleport but their info on Omu is not accurate enough for them to feel confident in using it yet. They intend to try after they get the shield guardian.

They do have with them ( but dont k owbit yet) what the need to scry Ras Nsi. That would greatly improve their chances (you can teleport to a place you can see as if it is vey familiar). There is an encounter with some hags coming up. Hags can scry. They will want to make a deal of some sort.

For wilderness encounters I role on the ToA tables and the level appropriate Xanthars tables and take the one that seems more interesting.
 

Eltab

Hero
Give them a few "atmosphere of Chult" encounters, but don't bury them in the jungle.

I think letting them stay the night in a clearing, wake up next morning and "a Brontosaurus is eating its way through the forest ... it does not see your camp (or doesn't care) and just keeps coming" (along with a suitable-size mini or cutout) should provide the sense that "we are in a different place here".
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Sorry but no. A spell such as Wind Walk essentially means that any time spent on jungle details is wasted.

This particular spell means a party covers ten times as much distance a day than if they were on foot. And not trekking in a jungle, but walking across the plains of the Sword Coast at that.

Regular travel speed is three hexes a day (and not one as in the jungle). This means a high-level party covers thirty hexes each day, and that's before considering to make a forced march.

Given their resources, they will likely use magic (or money) to find out where Omu is.

All in all, expect them to reach Omu in two or three days bypassing every single encounter in the random tables.

TL;DR: don't spend too much time on the jungle details. In fact, if you spend any time, that's too much. A jungle trek simply is not an appropriate challenge for a level 13 party, and should be skipped entirely.
Yay! you quoted me from 2 months ago, and I'll tell you the same thing I've told you between then and now in other threads.

Your primary flaw you keep doing is assuming that PCs have whatever the most effective spell is for situation learned, prepped, and slots available. You do it all. the. time. It's white room speculation that rarely actually plays out like that. Not to mention, if a PC did decide to devote slots and use spells for all these super easy bypasses you bring up, they wouldn't have any spells for combat encounters. You can't have it both ways. Especially when you consider what I wrote in what you quoted regarding throwing challenges at parties that keep them from resting often (and regaining spell slots and switching which ones are prepared).
 


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