Posts Tagged With: D&D

Tomb of Annihilation – Session 10


After a week of travel or so, the group finally made their way across the marshy basin, finally arrived at the Heart of Ubtao. At first glance, there did not appear to be a way to ascend and explore the floating earthmote. A elf woman called down to them from above, inquiring as to their identities and purpose, then invited them up with an arcane doorway. She introduced herself as Valindra Shadowmantle. Sobek’s superior sense immediately identified her as undead and he was able to detect several others behind a closed door, as well. Valindra was interested only in talking, however, and told the group she, at the behest of her master, sought a relic in the jungle called the Soulmonger. Even now, she had minions searching for it, though she suspected it might be someone in the vicinity of Omu. Our heroes confirmed that they were headed for Omu and she seemed pleased as her minions had not yet investigated the lost city.

Sobek relayed to Baersora in Draconic that the woman was, in fact, undead disguised to appear living, and Baersora shared the information with her brother and Nali in Dwarven. At this, Valindra revealed that she spoke both Draconic and Dwarven and suggested they take this opportunity to part way peacefully, unless they intended to attack her. Despite Sobek’s misgivings about leaving undead undestroyed, they decided she was likely very powerful, perhaps a lich, and took advantage of her offer to part ways peacefully. She opened another arcane doorway for them to reach the jungle floor and bid them good fortune in their travels.

A few days after leaving the Heart of Ubtao, they veered of course from Omu to investigate something else they spotted while on top of M’bala. Lodged in the trees, about halfway between the Heart of Ubtao and Omu was a ship. A voice called down to them, asking for help, then shouted a warning as a corrupting ooze, a purple slime, and a mold zombie emerged from the surrounded muck. They fought off the oozes and undead to the gratitude of the marooned crew in the branches above. Their ship had crashed in the tree tops and they were injured, unable to descend and now, without food for four days. Sobek and Herrick worked to get everyone up into the ship where the captain, a cat-man (perhaps a Tabaxi) introduced himself as Captain Ra-Jareez*.

Their ship was a Spelljammer. He explained, in brief, how it flew and that their helmsman caught a tree branch through his face. Sobek shared some of his food with the remaining crew and they discussed how best to get down and back to civilization. Ra-Jareez was not keen on hiking through the jungle for weeks to reach Sasserine and eventually came up with an idea to build a raft out of the wreckage and attach the spelljamming helm to that. Unfortunately, they had no one to pilot the vessel. Ri-Tikki Stargazer perked up and suggested perhaps HE could learn to fly it. Ra-Jareez thought this was an excellent idea and gladly accepted the Kenku’s offer of aid.

After saying farewell to Ri-Tiki Stargazer, they proceeded uneventfully for another week or so, losing track of time as the days ran into one another until at long last, they approached the Lost City of Omu.

* The Wreck of the Star Goddess was originally a Halruaan sky ship. However, since I set Tomb of Annihilation in the World of Greyhawk instead of the Forgotten Realms, that really didn’t work for me. Personally, I think it should’ve been a crashed Spelljammer all along, so I just changed it. How did Ra-Jareez get another ship of his own and part ways with Captain Straxius and Sea of Stars, and how did he crash it in the Amedio Jungle? Well, that’s a story for another time. If you didn’t keep up with my Spelljammer game here, Ra-Jareez is not a Tabaxi, but is, in fact, a Nkosi from Midgard. He’s still an unlucky scoundrel, however.

Switching jungle travel to narrative mode was something I should have done several sessions ago, particularly when it became clear that the Gloomwalker Ranger Sobek’s class/racial abilities made overland travel in the jungle trivial (they cannot become lost and he automatically finds food and clean water). Moving, cat death, Gen Con, and new cat** provided enough of a distraction that I didn’t think of it until just last week. Things should progress much more meaningfully now. Plus, next session, they’ll be in Omu. Won’t that be exciting? (No spoilers if you’ve played/read it!)

** Yes, new cat. We adopted a kitten three weeks ago. He was born on May 4th (Star Wars Day!) so we renamed him Bendu. Our little Bendu bears little resemblance to the Tom Baker-voiced character in Star Wars Rebels, however. He spends our game nights going from person to person, wanting snuggles.

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 9

The hiatus lasted longer than we intended due to player absences, but at long last, we have returned to the Tomb of Annihilation! When we last left our heroes, they had just discovered a secret passage leading out of a large chamber full of cat imagery (cat statues, cat murals, etc. etc.). Down they go…

The cramped passageway lead into a hallway containing multiple doors, after find a false door hiding a trap, they tried the double doors at the center. Beyond those lay a city in miniature, with rivers of molten silver. Despite the liquid metal flowing through the room, the air was chilled. Herrick stepped in and was immediately engulfed in flame, the victim of a trap. After tending to Herrick’s wounds, the group figured out the best way to explore the room and took the opportunity to claim some loot and recover from their trials so far.

After that, they tried the last door in the hallway and stumbled into a trap that teleported them back into the deep passages they already explored, they spent an hour or so retracing their steps to the cat room, where they chose a different door. This led them to a collapsing room with a great number of agitated baboons and a hole in the ceiling leading outside. Sobek calmed the primates and with the aid of Herrick’s slippers of spider climbing, they escaped the hidden shrine, choosing the jungle above over further exploration of the buried temple.

Unfortunately, the partially devoured carcass of their triceratops rotted as evidence of an undead hoard having passed over them while they were in the shrine. They gathered what supplies they could and proceeded into the jungle on foot.

So, I skipped an encounter with a doppelganger that would have totally killed Herrick (he was down to 1 HP after the fire trap). Mostly, because I did not want to adjudicate a combat by notes or by having everyone else leave the room (the layout of the upstairs where the game room is makes that impractical). Plus, I didn’t want to introduce an element of one of the PCs being replaced by a shapeshifter at this point.

They were specifically supposed to be unable to exit the underground complex via that room with the collapsed ceiling and baboons, but when they have the tools to make it work and there’s no non-arbitrary reason to allow it, then you have to go with it. Frankly, I don’t even mind, despite all the really interested stuff being skipped, because they earned the gear that they used to get out and it was a good use of their abilities (abilities most PCs did NOT have when that particular adventure was written).

It’s pretty clear at this point that no one (even me) is interested in sandbox jungle exploration, particular with the time limit imposed by the adventure (I’ve spoken about this problem at length in previous posts), so I think I’m going to switch the weeks of jungle hiking to narrative mode.

Hopefully, we’ll get back on track now and be able to have many consecutive sessions of adventures.

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Founders & Legends

My friend, Luke Gygax (sorry if it seems like name-dropping, but I have known Luke for years), is teaming up with Wizards of the Coast, Iron Wind Metals, and Dwarven Forge to reflect on the foundation of Dungeons & Dragons and celebrate its resurgence. You can watch it live on Twitch on Saturday, July 28 starting at 10AM PDT.

Read more about it at the Wizards of the Coast website here.

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 8

After defeating a corridor full of zombies, our heroes decided to find a relatively safe location and rest for a bit. They returned to the secret door and fortified their position well enough to enjoy a brief respite. After their rest, the returned to their search for an exit.

The winding, maze-like corridors eventually led them to a room with two perfectly preserved bodies. When disturbed, the man and woman sprang to life, challenging the explorers first in Olmec, then in an antiquated form of common. They demanded a tribute for having had their glorious sleep disturbed. Dissatisfied with the party’s meager offerings, the two attacked.

Herrick chose to not deliver a fatal blow to the woman after they defeated her companion, hoping to interrogate her. Having been asleep for several thousand years, due to the silver powder they found near the pair, she, one of the Nacehual, or Achieved Ones, provided little useful information. The party did learn the name of the location onto which they stumbled, however: the shrine of Zotzihaaha in Tamoachan.

Having established that they were under in a sunken city from a long-vanished civilization, they agreed to let the monk return to her sleep, following her instructions to do so. More exploration revealed what appeared to be a tomb with dozens of statues in various states of disarray. Brief searching of the tomb revealed a few trinkets, but nothing else. Then continued their delving, eventually finding a route to a higher level. Through cautious exploration and clever planning, the party avoided traps which might have led to their untimely deaths.

When they arrived at a chamber dominated by a life-sized statue of a cat-man, an unsettled feeling came over them. They carefully searched until they found a secret door leading to a small, sloped passageway. Leaving the statue and various other curiosities in the room untouched, they prepared to investigate the chute….

I didn’t expect the PCs to try to interrogate the formerly-sleeping monk, and as always, I was hideously poor at handling the situation. I could have used it as an opportunity to drop some decent history, but I wasn’t really ready for that since I literally dropped this whole location into their adventure as a way to get back into D&D after the hiatus caused by moving.

art by Erol Otus

“The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan” (the classic AD&D adventure updated & reprinted in Tales from the Yawning Portal) fits pretty seamlessly into Tomb of Annihilation, though. It feels like a location that COULD be buried underneath the jungles of Chult (or the Amedio Jungle, since my version of the Tomb is in Greyhawk. In fact, until I wrote this (if any of my players read this far), I’ll bet they thought it was actually part of the Tomb of Annihilation book. This whole side-trek does serve a useful purpose in the overall ToA adventure, though; my PCs are speeding through the content too fast and while ToA is “supposed” to be deadly, I don’t want to say “Hey, suddenly you gain 3 levels” nor do I want to just have a dinosaur eat them because they beelined for the end game before they were ready. My players gamely bought into the “There’s a time sensitive curse and you only have X days before WE ALL DIE HORRIBLY FOREVER AND EVER” hook, perhaps taking it a little more seriously than the adventure writers expected (and that’s on the writers, not my players; don’t design your adventure around such a time sensitive hook if you really want things to be a wide-open sandbox). It’s fine with me. I’m not going to force them to take their time if they want to speed to the Save the World part. I do plan on giving them the tools to have a fighting chance, though.

Due to a player absence, this will be our last Tomb of Annihilation session until after we all return from Gen Con. We’re going to revisit our Blades in the Dark characters at the next session. Uxorious Gethsemane-Prince, the Crimson Crow, will scheme again!

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 7

The death of our cat right after this game makes me really not want to write this synopsis, so you’re getting the short, short version.
We rejoin our heroes exploring the buried tomb where we left off: in a room with crystalline walls and a beach. The woman they saw dove under water, but before they had a chance to figure out what was going on, a massive water creature rose from the pool and attacked. While the massive water creature was just a spell effect, the nereid and her giant lightning eel were not.

Still, our intrepid explorers prevailed. Sobek explored the pool and found some treasure and they found the exit across the water. After avoiding some, and not avoiding other, traps, they found a secret door in a long hallway, looted a bracelet from a sculpted eagle’s head and discovered a hallway lined with dozens of preserved corpses.

Naturally, no unnatural conglomeration of dead folks can just stay in one place and they fought a hoard of zombies in the tight confines of the corridor, emerging victorious and ready to continue their exploration of the underground complex in search of an exit.

Sorry for the brevity, but I was really off my mojo during the prime time to remember all of the details of the session and my motivation to do more than I just did still hasn’t returned. Hopefully, things will be better after the next game.

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 6

Tomb of Annihilation banner

We return from our moved-induced hiatus and jump right back into the action.

Following the defeat of Nanny Pu’pu, the intrepid jungle explorers sequestered themselves in one of the remaining intact huts to rest. Once recovered from the fight with the pterafolk and the hag, they set off to descend the plateau and join up with their triceratops pack animal.

Much to their relief, Stampy survived being left to her own devices at the bottom of the plateau. After a brief discussion, they decided to head to Omu by way of the Heart of Ubtao. They set off across the Aldani Basin, making a beeline for the Heart of Ubtao. After humid first day, their second day was plagued by constant rain.

Late in the afternoon of the second day, they noticed flat, cut stones poking out through the vegetation upon which they traveled. It as as thought the wilderness swallowed an old road. Just then, then ground gave way beneath them. As Stampy scrambled to keep from falling in, the others failed, falling into the darkness. Only Sobek remained above ground. Once Stampy was secured, he lowered a rope to his companions.

The room in which they found themselves featured multiple diorama-filled niches as well as a central display also containing a diorama. Assuming this was a lost temple of sorts, the group decided to explore a bit before resuming their trek toward the Heart of Ubtao. After admiring the craftsmanship of the dioramas, they turned their attention to the lone door leading out of the room. They chose a brute force method of opening it and proceeded.

Unfortunately, they tripped a trap in the corridor which blocked the way back to the diorama room, forcing their decisions; the only way out now was through.

They avoided a fight with a giant crayfish and it’s giant hermit crab master, Kalka-Kylla, both of whom could speak, much to their surprise, looted a statues, and negotiated with a giant slug calling itself Tecuziztecatl, deftly avoiding fights with these giants invertebrates.

After nearly drowning when a flooded room disgorged its water into their corridor, they came across a room that seemed to contain a beach, completed with a scantily-clad singing woman, who dove out of sight upon their entrance. They pondered what this could mean compared to their previous encounters….

We stayed pretty focused on the game, much to my surprise. Normally, after a month off, we can expect to get very little done due to all of the catching up we have to do. Of course, most of the game group was able to help pack/move/set-up at various points over the previous 3-4 weeks, so it’s not like we didn’t see or talk to each other that whole time. The new game room isn’t completely set-up, but most of it is. This is half of the bonus room above the garage; the rest is climate-controlled attic. At some point, I’ll have storage along the walls for my Dwarven Forge and miniatures. Currently, all my board/tabletop games are being stored under the table. They may stay there; I may need the space behind the GM station for minis and terrain, plus, behind and to the left of where I’m standing in this picture, I have a painting table, which may or may not remain in this room.

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View from the DM’s station

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What the players see; there’ll be more storage at the rear of the room… eventually

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The Game Room Library Nook

Holy cannolis, can you believe there’s only three more game sessions before Gen Con?

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 5

Having reached the summit of the M’bala plateau, our heroes searched the village in which they found themselves. Two huts remained fairly intact; the rest lay in ruins. From the nearest intact hut, they heard a voice calling to them. A fair-haired, bedraggled young woman welcomed them to the village, such as it was, and wondered why they would climb to the top of M’bala. They explained they were looking for Nanny Pu’pu.

The young woman claimed to be her granddaughter and that Nanny Pu’pu was ill; stricken with the same plague that ravaged the rest of the village. She was on the mend, but it was safest for all that she remain isolated in the other hut at the far end of the village. She told our heroes that if they wanted to help, they could deal with the tribe of pterafolk nesting in a cliff on the other side of the plateau. The pterafolk killed the weakened villagers and were the primary reason she was alone with her grandmother now.

Our heroes weren’t entirely convinced the young woman was telling the truth, and in fact, suspected that she was Nanny Pu’pu. Despite their misgivings, they decided to investigate the pterafolk, asking the young woman to show them exactly where the cliffside nest was located. She led them to it, though it was not visible from on top of the plateau. She left them to their task and returned to the ruins of the village.

Herrick used his shoes of spider climbing and his natural charm to lure the pterafolk out of their cave nests and chase him to the top of the plateau where the rest of the group waited. While the pterafolk proved tougher than they expected, after a short battle, they eliminated their foes. Herrick returned to the cave to search for valuables and found a few trickets, as well as a kenku calling himself Ri-tikki Stargazer. The kenku was bound, waiting to become a meal for the pterafolk.

Ri-tikki told Herrick he was captured while trying to talk to the pterafolk. He showed the dwarf the rock chimney in the back of the cave that led back to the surface; an easier route than scaling the cliff. The kenku knew little of Nanny Pu’pu, so they returned to the village while keeping an eye on the former captive. When they returned to the village, they found a gnarled, bent old woman stirring a cauldron. She greeted them and it was evident to our heroes that this was the true form of Nanny Pu’pu. She was disappointed that they only killed the pterafolk in the lair; the ones out hunting would continue to be a problem for her.

She was all too happy to tell them she had nothing to do with the increase in undead activity, but she knew a place more likely to hold clues: Omu. She strongly suggested one or more of them stay for dinner. In reply, Herrick stabbed her in the face and in a brutal smackdown, they killed the hag*.

After scouring her hut for a few valuable baubles, they contemplated their next move: an expedition to Omu.

And that’s it for Tomb of Annihilation until after I move and get settled into my new home. There are still two game sessions left, but I can’t GM for a game I can no longer prep for (I had to pack up the game room and all my RPGs), so someone else is taking over the GMing with Blades in the Dark. I expect we’ll get at least two to three sessions of that before I’m settled into the new house well enough that I can resume Tomb of Annihilation.

The new gaming area will be more spacious. In the first photo, you can see the 20′ long room, looking into it from the doorway to the attic storage (also I’ll be GMing from this end of the room). At the far end of the room will be the drink/snack station (plumbing is roughed-in, but I don’t expect to be able to put in a bar sink just yet; that’s for future expansion). The table will sit centered under the two ceiling fans (you can see the boxes they’ll be mounted to). To the left is the library nook, pictured in the second photo. I’m currently designing a wrap-around book case to fit in that space which will hopefully fit all my RPG books. The right side of the room will have Ikea Trofast** storage units in which I can keep all my Dwarven Forge and small shelves on top for my miniatures (pre-painted cheap plastic minis will go in bins, and stuff I’ve painted will be on the shelves). The left side of the room will be board game storage, hopefully with BoxThrone units, once they become available.

I had thought about hanging art on the slanted walls, and while I know that’s possible, it looks complicated for someone who is not particularly handy. I may just leave them bare until I can do something else with them, like maybe murals. How cool would it be to attach molding to those slanted walls to look like windows looking out over a sylvan glade? I don’t want the room to be too dark (I like to game in the light), but I dream of it evoking a sense of fantasy wonder (without it looking like a dungeon, thought that was my very first idea).

* Took me by surprise, lemme tell ya. Thus far, she’d been a little creepy and talked of eating people, but had not actually done anything aggressive or even threatened them. They beat her down in two rounds; too little time for her to activate the flesh golem buried in a shallow ditch right next to them (good thing for them).

** My wife should be proud that I remembered the name on the first try this time; I’ve been calling them Trocar, Tropan, Trostar, etc…. everything except Trofast.

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 3


We join our heroes in Camp Righteous. There will be spoilers for Tomb of Annihilation, if that isn’t clear by the post title and subject.

Batari goblins awaited our heroes as they fled the collapsing shrine. While the battlestacks intimidated them at first, they soon cut the gobbos down to size and defeated the snarling, smelly humanoids. After determining the goblins hadn’t injured their triceratops, now named Stampy, they searched the camp again. Sobek surmised the goblins were not the perpetrators of the attack on the camp, nor were they guardians of the shrine; they were simply a wandering band seeing an opportunity for looting.

The group found survivors’ tracks leading further along the river, and followed them. After another day of rainy travel, they encountered a group of adventurers from Sasserine clustered around a tortle showing off his shell. After their anti-social counterparts departed, the tortle greeted the heroes. He introduced himself as Baka, a jungle guide. A map of the jungle was carved in his shell, and he traded information with the heroes. He told them of a location nearby he called The Stairs to Nowhere, and told them about the hag at the Mbala ruins, Nanny Pu’pu. They decided to stay the course and continue following the trail. Baka thought it was possible the tracks lead to Camp Vengeance, a few more hours up the river, and they surmised that the hag was a possible candidate for the cause of the undead troubles.

They arrived at Camp Vengeance and were permitted entry. The Commander, a human native of the area and staunch worshiper of St. Cuthbert immediately attempted to conscript them into his service. As far as he was concerned, nothing they were doing was as important as going on patrol in the jungle to combat the undead. He knew nothing of the curse they’d been told about in Sasserine and didn’t care; people who died should stay dead and he was going to make sure as many as possible would do so. Fortunately, he was not entirely unreasonable, and Baer was able to convince him that their next destination, Mbala, might prove to put a stop to the undead scourge once and for all. He agreed to send two soldiers with them, and they settled in for the evening.

Camp Vengeance is encounter about which I have mixed feelings. As it is written, it seems like the writers think the PCs will have no problem whatsoever being conscripted by a commander who has piles of smoldering corpses just outside his compound. Yeah, you can assume the bodies are of undead, but once they’re in a burning pile, how can you really tell if they were undead or if they’re just the bodies of people who pissed him off. Plus, the fact that he just assumes the PCs are his to command, regardless of the circumstances and it’s written so that he will just outright arrest anyone who says “Screw you, man, we don’t work for you!”, well, that has the makings of a very ugly situation. The camp could easily turn into a TPK for an independent-minded group. I’ve never gamed with a group of players who, when confronted with an belligerant NPC who insists they now work for him, go along with it right away. “Yeah, OK! Cool, we’re now conscripts. Awesome!”

On the other hand, it could have been really interesting to see what happened if they set Stampy on a rampage inside the compound; Camp Vengeance’s stockade is strong enough to stop a rampaging triceratops from the outside, but is full of tents and squishy people inside.

So, that’s two major locations in two consecutive sessions in this adventure so far that I’ve come away thinking “How the F— is this supposed to be fun for the players?”

Also, I want batari battlestack minis. I had ZERO luck stacking my existing goblin minis, and if I had, that would have been AWESOME.

We will now be on a multi-week hiatus as I prepare for Gary Con X. Next session will be a playtest of one of my D&D adventures, “Fairy, Faerie, Quite Contrary” and the session after that will be a Cyborg Commando playtest so I’m familiar with the rules for the game I’ll be helping run a tournament of.

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 2


We join our heroes in the Amedio Jungle (or the Jungles of Chult if you think this should be in the Forgotten Realms), after having a dinner and breakfast of roasted (or raw, in Sobek’s case) allosaur. There will be spoilers for Tomb of Annihilation, if that isn’t clear by the post title and subject.

The next day, they pushed south, following the river deeper into the jungle. Camp Righteous, their ultimate destination lay several days away through difficult terrain. Fortunately, Sobek’s expert guidance allowed them to make better time than perhaps they would have.

While most of the journey proved uneventful, they did have a brief, though harrowing encounter with a swarm of stirges before being approached by some druids who warned them away from the jungle interior. The druids explained the increasing numbers of undead taking over the deepest parts of the jungle, though they knew nothing of the curse Syndra described. They parted ways amicable and the next day, arrived at Camp Righteous.

Rather than a camp full of pious knights, as they expected, they instead found the remains of an abandoned camp. Some force or creature clearly attacked the occupants of Camp Righteous, though it appeared as though some of the defenders escaped into the jungle. After searching the camp for clues, they turned their attention to the large statue of a man carrying a crocodile. A tunnel extended into the hillside upon which the statue was built.

They proceeded into the hill. Herrick fell into a large pit just over the threshold. After helping him out, they proceeded with more cautions and successfully crossed a puzzle-tile floor section only to be stopped at a near-duplicate tile puzzle upon a huge stone door. After much trial-and-error and a few missteps which almost resulted in Herrick’s death by thunderwave and fire trap, they opened the door to the inner chamber. Spiral stairs surrounded a pillar atop which perched an ornate jug. Deducing that there was yet another puzzle in this room, Baer and Nali retrieved the jug with no mishaps until they slipped on the stairs on the way down, triggering the trap and causing the entire chamber to collapse.

The heroes fled the crumbling ruins, avoiding the falling stone blocks and rocks only to be stopped short by a 9′ tall stack of goblins barking at them in their guttural language…

And we come to the first puzzle in Tomb of Annihilation where the PCs can waste MASSIVE amounts of time if they’re not on the same wavelength as the adventure writer. Technically, all the clues are in the story of Man and Crocodile, but what is required is for two characters to team up in a way that really most groups don’t think of, in my experience. Needless to say, my group was not a fan of this puzzle (“It sucked!” is an exact quote). In retrospect, once it because clear to me they were spinning their wheels, I should have just had them roll Intelligence checks to see the solution to keep the game moving.

Live and learn.

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 1


Dramatis Personae

Baersora “Baer” Stoneforge – dwarven sorceress (Divine Soul, anthropologist)
Herrick Stoneforge – dwarven rogue (Scout, archaeologist)
Nali Fim – dwarven fighter (Battlemaster, guild artisan)
Sobek – lizardfolk ranger (Gloom Walker, outlander)

The Stoneforge siblings, along with Nali arrived in Sasserine, aka Port Nyanzaru, on the heels of an expedition led by their mentor, with whom they’d lost communication. They disembarked from their ship in the mid-morning, a few hours before their scheduled meeting with their benefactor, Syndra Silvane. It was another fine day in Sasserine, hot and humid with the ever-present chance of rain.

Time was their to kill, plus they weren’t quite sure how to find Wakanga O’tamu’s shop, where they were to meet with Syndra.

After browsing the market and investigating one of the town’s two inns, they decided to go ahead and meet with Syndra. Wakanga welcomed them in and offered them refreshments before sending them to the back room, where a masked figure sat in front of the cold hearth. A lizardfolk warrior watched from the corner.

She explained that she was once an adventurer until an untimely death put an end to that. After her resurrection, she chose to outsource, hiring Herrik & Baer’s mentor, Geoffrey Mutcalf the Elder, to investigate the various ruins hidden in the jungle. Recently, however, she, and other like her, who’d been raised from the dead, were afflicted with a curse. According to her sources, this curse, a wasting disease, was instigated by a relic known as the Soulmonger. The effect remained localized at first, but spread now and within months would encompass the entire world. She immediately changed Geoffrey’s mandate to find the relic, however a few weeks ago, he and his time disappeared and Syndra’s had no further contact with him.

Syndra offered the group compensation to search the jungle for Geoffrey and continue his task of locating the Soulmonger and ending the curse. She introduced Sobek, an outcast from one of the lizardfolk villages who could serve a guide. They agreed and set out into the market to equip themselves for the trek ahead.

While gearing up, they decided a mount would help tremendously while trekking through the jungle and a large, beaked, three-horned reptilian creature caught their eye. Pooling their money resulted in too little money, despite their haggling, so the Baer returned to Syndra and asked for an advance on their funds in order to procure supplies. She bolstered their funds to the point they were able to afford the great beast. Sobek took the lead on handling the triceratops as they made their way out of the city.

The exited Sasserine through Old City and passed by Executioner’s Run, a rectangular pit where criminals fight for their exoneration and freedom by running from savage beasts. While they watched once such “execution,” Baer noticed her coin purse lighten. A scraggly man cut her purse and ran. The dwarves gave pursuit, trailing coins from Baer’s pouch until they lost the man in the crowd. Baer mended her pouch with a spell and they left Sasserine behind.

For their initial foray into the jungle, they chose to follow the river as depicted on the map Syndra provided. Sobek already knew the location of several ruins in the jungle, but they felt following the river would mitigated their chances of getting lost. As dusk approached, while inspecting a strange idol depicting three monkeys, an allosaur charged out of the brush, intending to make them a meal. Fortunately, they prevailed and instead made a meal (several!) out of the allosaur before making camp for the night.

And so we begin Tomb of Annihilation. The adventure comes with fairly detailed rules on exploring the jungle and how to determine if the PCs are lost. I won’t need those since the gloomwalker lizardfolk ranger has sufficient abilities to ensure they NEVER become lost (it’s certainly less bookkeeping for me that way).

The monkey idol encounter was their first potential TPK; I misread some details about that particular encounter and didn’t realize exactly how much damage it could dish out just because they happened to do X Random Thing within a certain distance or Y Random Thing even closer. I totally fudged that because I absolutely despise Session 1 TPKs during games where the players have spent so much time crafting their characters (I should wait until session 2 for that, right? :p).

Despite that mis-step, it was made abundantly clear that the level of challenge in Tomb of Annihilation would be substantially greater than they regularly faced before, so I suspect they’ll be very cautious. Appropriate for a part of (mostly) dwarven jungle explorers.

I set the adventure in Greyhawk instead of Forgotten Realms for several reasons:

  • I prefer Greyhawk.
  • Their Hoard of the Dragon Queen characters essentially failed and dragons are rampaging across the Sword Coast.
  • I think WotC should’ve been ballsy enough to explicitly set some of these adventures in other worlds (Hoard of the Dragon Queen/Rise of Tiamat in Dragonlance, Princes of the Apocalypse in Greyhawk, Out of the Abyss in Forgotten Realms, Storm King’s Thunder in Forgotten Realms, Curse of Strahd in Ravenloft (which they did, if I recall), and Tomb of Annihilation in Greyhawk).
  • I prefer Greyhawk to Forgotten Realms

It’ll be interesting to see what they do with their triceratops. On paper, it’s a powerhouse of a beast, capable of stampeding over lesser threats with impunity. Of course, they’re using it as a pack animal and it’s not really trained to support them in combat. (*mischief ensues*)

Oh wait, some of my players read this. Did I say that out loud?

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