Thursday, August 1, 2019

My Tomb of Annihilation campaign, source material and mechanics

A few years ago I received Tomb of Annihilation as a gift for Christmas. I was stoked to play a hex crawl for fifth edition that wasn't in a very standard European setting. The jungles of Chult were perfect, different enough and much more deadly and unknown.

I wanted to place it outside the forgotten realms since my group of players ran through an epic level 20 Tyranny of Dragons campaign and nuked the world. I'm a big fan of Frog God Games and their work so Chult was placed just south of the main continent from The Lost Lands.

I'm a big fan of the work done by Swordfish Islands on Hot Springs Island as well. Thematically it fit and those two books are perhaps the best organized and well written adventures ever.

The next thing before gathering all of the resources I was going to need was to change the hexcrawl into more of a point crawl. I wanted to reduce the amount of material i would have to prep and encounters in the savage jungle and the power score RPG companion greatly reduced the workload. Each hex would contain at least one interesting thing, some from published material and some just adlib. For each session I found I just needed 6 cool things/locations and 1 major thing/location/battle that would happen.

I also threwin some rule changes to make things a bit more challenging. We've been playing for over two years and going back to level one and upping the danger level was needed. So I added a few house rules.

Death saves were replaced by a single luck die roll. Roll 1 D20 and get 10 or higher. Dropping to zero and failing the luck roll means you get two choices, die or get resurrected back in town but take an attribute hit. The player rolls 1 D6 for the attribute and 1 D4 for the amount penalized.

Simplified encumbrance: Equipment = Strength + 1 (Backpack). Rations/Torches = 2 for 1 slot. Encumbrance = -10ft + 1 level of exhaustion. 100 Coins =1 slot. Armor and weapons = 1 per slot 2 pouches / waterskin  = 0 slots.

Gold for XP: Get the gold back to town, resupply, or go up a level etc. I had real trouble with player gold bloat before and this has helped keep me and the players a bit more in check.


Tomb of Annihilation
Optional map pack

Our main source for the adventure. Rename all of the factions as the names of the factions for Forgotten Realms tend to bore me to tears. Hot Springs Island's Martel Company makes for a perfect bad guy in this adventure. Putting your main quest giver as the head of this company and in charge of the merchant princes makes for a fun Weyland Yutani like mob controlled faction that rules the city.

Hot springs Island plus the players guide

What's in the Hex? Use a few hex ideas to flesh out your adventure. Perfect for treasure and rumor tables. The art alone is worth the price. The players guide can be used as player handouts or lost documents. The flora and fauna is a great add to the base adventure for when they need to make a survival check.

Encounters in the Savage Jungle

Another great supplement so that each hex isn't 1d6 lizard people. Well thought out and organized. Bookmark a few and off you go!

Power Score Tomb of Annihilation companion

Essential for summarizing the module, getting hex content ideas and choosing what you are going to pick and discard from the module as a whole.

Fever Swamp 

The disease table was refreshing to use if they eat or consume anything without making a check or describing how they are cooking it.



Syrinscpae's interface sucks, as does the ability to preview sound board or make your own. That being said, since they are more or less the official place to get D&D music. Here are a few sound packs and the moods that might help you out.

Classic Adventure
Jungle (Tropical)
Friendly Tavern
Seedy Tavern
Tott The Ukulam Expedition
River Journey
Ghoul Battle
Undead Battle
Zombie Battle

Tabletop Audio

Xingu Nights

DM flow prep:

With all of this data and text it's hard to boil down how to prep a session or how to get things into a workable format so you aren't stumbling during play. We can get things down to a few major steps.

  1. Where is the one major cool thing they are going to see or could see?
  2. What direction are they headed in? What type of terrain or monsters will they come across
  3. Prep that one major locale and six interesting things that are happening along the way through the jungle. Pull info from Power Score or Hot Springs Island or Encounters in the Savage Jungle.
  4. Make a flow chart with branches that weave together those six new interesting new things.
  5. One page has your flow and any references to outside material with page numbers. If need be recreate rolling charts for quick reference.
  6. Music! In the notes next to each locale, have a playlist ready to set the mood.
  7. Totally optional but I like to have at least one new miniature painted per session. A bit of a reward for those players that attend often.

Appendix N:

All movies but things to have on in the background to get you inspired while you prep!

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Jurassic Park
28 days later

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