To say we were excited would be an understatement. The other DMs wanted a book to try and kill players with. I wanted a book with zombie dinosaur jungle safaris. And we were all made happy.I’m really impressed with Tomb of Annihilation (ToA). I think it does some amazing stuff with D&D lore, provides an amazing source for all sorts. So lets iron that into a top ten list!
(Note: I’ve only scratched the surface of the adventure, so this is not a future proofed list. And they’re not in any particular order.
- The Random Encounter Tables
Okay, SKT had a pretty decent table. It took up about half a page and I thought it was fin. But it only had like 20 items, so after a while of walking, things start repeating. That’s a while away in ToA. I have a FULL 2 PAGE SPREAD of jungle encounters. Which is just amazing. I’m sure its going to be things that will always be fairly easy for my party to defeat, as they’re coming in a bit above what they ought to be for the part of the adventure they are at, but that just means they’ll rush to the scary parts faster
Okay, talking about this one a bit early in the list, but boy, as a DM? I don’t think I’ll get tired of this; I’ll just get better. There are 10 guides that the party can take and through careful plotting I can make them take whoever. Each has their own goal and will be their own experience. There’s so much going on in Chult that you’ll never see all of it with one play through.
In addition to it having a lot going on, you can put in more! Easy! More guides? Simple! More exploration sites? A cinch! Diseases? Pile them in there. Better add some more medicnal plants while you’re at it.
The players don’t even get a map that has all the words, to the DM can move stuff wherever!
While it’s a bit annoying that a good chunk of the monsters in this book are reprints from Volo’s, its nice that you only need this book and the MM to run and the new beasts are a lot of fun. I can’t wait until my AL group runs across a Froghemoth or a Flailsnail!
- Adventure sites
This was a thing done not badly in SKT, but as a concept, it was a thing they couldn’t easily do. in SKT, you basically walk from town to town and WotC isn’t going to design each town for you. They gave you a rough idea for an encounter that could take place their and that was it.
In ToA, though, there are no towns. They don’t have to name each inn, each NPC, how the giants are messing things up. Instead, they can draw a simple little map of this forgotten shrine to whoever, list a few of the wilderness denizens making this their home, and provide a small map showing the basic floor plan. And they can do this everywhere! So the book is full of microdungeons you could lift into whatever (the reverse of the modability benefit)
So in SKT, the party has a lot of burden on their shoulders. There’s abit of “walk in that direction” but there isn’t much of the standard quest for mat of “Do this, come back and I’ll reward you.” That formula is the basic insertion of characters into ToA. And all through it, you can see the formula repeating. Some guides will work for free if you assist in their quest. There’s a handful of quest exchanges throughout Port Nyanzaru. It works fairly well. And the player’s don’t suffer from a “Where are we going and why are we here?” that I saw in SKT. They’re headed into the jungle for Gold, XP, and Quests.
And yeah, there is the big story quest. But it actually doesn’t matter. If you hand wave away the death curse, it changes like 3 NPCs. That’s it. Everything else is still there. You can ignore the main quest and just play the side quests, just like in Skyrim.
I don’t think its very spoilery to say there is this crazy powerful Necromancer named Acerak. He jumps between dimensions and build crazy dungeons as basically traps to harvest the souls of adventurers. He build the Tomb of Horrors. He built the Tomb of Anhilation. He built whatever crazy dungeon you can think of that seems to exist to be laden with treasure and designed to kill everything. It is now established lore that these places come from him. That is exciting.
I think the faction material is a bit light, but that ties in well with the modularity and replay. If your table wants to play a party of Zhentarim and deal with their goals instead you can do that. Hapers play against the Zhents and its a race. Order of the Gauntlet and the Emerald Enclave are more PvE. Hopefully they’ll get some expanded scenes in modules.
Lord’s Alliance aka, Sir “Barely Appearing in this Module except as having hired some mercenaries who are” also need some work, but I’m not sure what. But in addition to the player factions, there are Giants, Dragons, the Wizards of Thay, Pirates, Plenty of Undead, Yuanti, Pterafolk, Seven Mrechant Princes, plenty of sources for any kind of intrigue and opposition. ANd, while it might not be acceptable in AL, I think you could do some fun “Monster Play” with this setting. Like Yuanti warriors raiding a library. Or maybe as pterafolk, grung, or goblins
So, its actually kind of weird, but the players and characters reaction to dinosaurs should be vastly different. Characters take things like giant reptiles in stride. Players are kind of geeking out over every one described.
You can also race dinosaurs. Enough said.
- Wilderness Survival
Man, it’s probably been a year since I had the idea for the wild sof GOthregel and just kind of let them sit. I hadn’t run anything like it, didn’t know what I was doing. But now, I have a template I can work off of. Honestly, if I make some tweaks, ToA is better than what I had been planning. I might even have a mental vehicle to make West Marches possible in it.
So I am excited about the new season of AL and the new adventure. Here’s hoping for some fun times!