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D&D 5E Too Many NPCs! Tomb of Annihilation Spoilers


Hi all!

I am running my middle daughter, my wife, and a married couple who are mutual friends of ours through Tomb of Annihilation (mixed with a bit of Acq Inc). Their PCs are all level 9, and we are now a good chunk of the way through the Tomb of the Nine Gods.

While exploring Omu initially, the PCs managed to secure eight of the puzzle cubes. The surviving Red Wizards had one left. I thought it would be fun (and thought it made sense) for Valindra to show up at that point and propose a truce. My reasoning was that the book states that she's there to study the Soulmonger on behalf of Szass Tam, but it doesn't give her anything to do. I thought it could be fun to have her help the PCs survive the tomb only to betray them at the last moment because she wants to keep the Soulmonger for study whereas the PCs want to destroy it. That way, they can fight two liches potentially right at the end.

Anyway, the players all agreed, and so the party that entered the tomb consisted of 4 PCs and 5 NPCs. The NPCs were Orvex the scholar (scout), the PCs' intern Dengo (a thug-turned-warrior sidekick), Valindra (lich), and Dyrax and Zagmira (two Red Wizard mages).

Valindra also acquired the gray slaad during their exploration of the tomb. Luckily for me, the bodaks on level 4 managed to kill the slaad. I also managed to have the magical boar trophy on level 3 kill Dyrax.

Things were looking pretty good for winnowing down the NPCs ... until the group encountered the mirror of life trapping. Now Lukanu the Chultan champion, her pal Zaal the minotaur, an insane Chultan commoner named A'tan, Tlad the drow mage, and Pox the doppelganger have all joined the party!

The book states that Lukanu will help her liberators. Zaal obeys Lukanu, so he will also help. The doppelganger "tries to join the party and stay out of harm's way". The drow "aids or betrays" his liberators depending on which way the wind is blowing. And A'tan "follows his liberators around, talking nonsense". (The PCs also have the talking golden skull of Yakka.)

The first thing that comes to mind is: Does the party have enough food and fresh water for that many people to survive? I'll have to get them to look into that. One of the PCs is a cleric who should be able to cast create food and water every day, but I'm not sure that will cover the party's needs.

Aside from the disintegration trap that killed one of the PCs early on, the group has managed to do most things "right" in the tomb and thus haven't found it all that dangerous. With so many NPCs, some of whom are quite powerful (the lich, the mages, and the champion in particular), it will become even easier.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how best to handle this?
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Perhaps the folks from the mirror of life trapping are subject to the death curse and slowly wasting away?
That's a possibility, but I think most of them have enough hit points to survive for quite a while, and that would also just give them more of an incentive to help the PCs.


Orvex = becomes victim of betrayal by another NPC

Dengo = victim of dwarf wight, potentially zombified

Valindra = tentative ally who conserves her resources, with foreshadowing that she could flip sides, only for the big reveal that Acererak has her phylactery and he can use it to banish her / kill her / compel her servitude (as you see fit)

Dyrax & Zagmira = target them with traps and/or Sewn Sisters Nightmare Haunting; barring all else you can have Valindra life drain one or both as punishment for disobedience or foolishness

Lukanu = let them be a frontline fighter for PCs, and let the dice fall where they may; would be a great target for petrification; but definitely play up the horror of some of the undead being people Lukanu knew while alive

Zaal = isn't there a charm/confusion trap in the Tomb? it's been years, but I'm pretty sure there is, and a charmed minotaur would make for a nice complication in the midst of a scene

Tlad = give him a nefarious motivation and have him act on it soon (perhaps his original reason for visiting Omu was as a slave-taking emissary for a drow kingdom that once existed in Chult, and he wishes to rebuild that kingdom in the long-term, and reclaim his ancestral magic items in the short-term); his betrayal might lead to Orvex's death

Pox = he's the reason (or a contributing factor) why the Company of the Yellow Banner died, he's the "false ally" who seems to have your back until he's twisting a knife in it, and he led them to their doom...just as he will with the PCs; you could even make him related to Zagmira's spy "Ishmakahl" in the Fane of the Night Serpent if you wanted; his betrayal might lead to Orvex's death

A'tan = trap bait, o ha ha


Lukanu and Zaal you want to try to keep alive in case one PC gets killed, so you can have the player take them over. There is nothing worse than having a player sat twiddling their thumbs.

Do the PCs know that Valindra is a lich? Have Valindra fully on the side of the PCs, except that when it comes to killing the atropal, she wants a flesh sample - if she succeeds, this can be a plot point when the PCs are much higher level as the atropal will still be un-alive. She might take her sample early on and teleport out. Plot twist: the atropal knows Acererak's plans and will help her succeed, knowing (?) that Valindra will be its patsy.

When in doubt simplify. Kill them. Let them serve to demonstrate how dangerous and horrific the PC's opponents are. Early ones should be the madman and the doppelganger.


Another twist: kill off Valindra before the final fight. Then, during the fight with Acererak have him point at a phylactery and say, "Valindra, arise!" And nothing happens. Her soul got munched. Clever players will be able to point out to Acererak that, despite him being so powerful, if they manage to destroy his body his soul will also get munched before it gets back to his phylactery.

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