I’m not much into reviewing on this blog, even if I read tons of books, but I’m making an exception for this one…
It’s just… perfect.
Even more, it’s perfect perfect…
And that’s coming from a nitpicky bastard like myself.
On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family take shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it.
The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say—and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return.
But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark . . . and discover the truth about their world.
The alien world truly feels alien. I mean, the humans are doing good, even if they’re so few and ill-equiped, not just surviving but thriving somehow, yet there’s something truly disturbing about this imaginary sunless planet where the six-legged animals don’t bleed red.
And what I like the most is the myth-building throughout the novel. It reminded me of the lost children in mad max-thunderdome or the backstory of the pandorum movie or again, of Joseph Campbell’s Hero with the Thousand Faces.
I gotta say, all this nonsense of Lost World-style D&D I’ve been doing for a year now has rekindled my childhood’s interest. Not too surprisingly, the D&D Monster Manual (where fungi is classified as plant!) isn’t very accurate when it comes to dinosaurs, at the very least the section should have been called “prehistoric creatures”.
Pterosaur, plesiosaur and dimetrodon are not dinosaurs at all, they belong in other clades. The latter in particular became extinct 40 millions years before the first dinosaurs and is, in fact, closer to the mammals in the evolution tree.
Crocodiles (crocodilians) are contemporary of the dinosaurs. Some, as the deinosuchus, a 36′ long crocodilian, easily justify the use of a giant crocodile template without any stretch of imagination.
Many dinosaurs lived in big herds and as such, would have lived in vast plains with big meat-eaters trailing them.
There’s a paleontology bias for recovering bigger fossils as big bones are more likely to be preserved than smaller ones. In all likelihood, dinosaurs occupied every possible ecological niches and diminutive (gliding, tree-climbing, insect-eating, etc.) dinosaurs were abundant.
Birds are non-extinct dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs in a fantasy world
It’s all about what we accept as tropes of the genre. Dinosaurs in a vanilla fantasy setting will readily seem awkward. Dinosaurs in a Lost World-themed setting à la Isle of Dread or Chult, now, that’s far more easy to swallow. In such a place, dinosaurs should be seen as nothing more than exotic animals (or just plain animals for the locals).
I would go further, if there is dinosaurs, lets give them (most of) the place. I mean, would there be still jaguars, elephants or whatever, if packs of deinonychus roamed the jungles?
What about monsters? In fact, one option would be to monsterize dinosaurs from time to time, to spice things up. Here’s some basic reskinning:
For the last few weeks the main theme (that my son came up with), has been Ninja & Robots. I mean… that’s pretty cool, right? So, recently, we’ve defeated the Evil Ninja Boss, in his lair, which was basically a skyscraper full of his minions and, after beating him, we’ve discovered that he was only one of 6 Big Bad Evil Bosses… Of course!
The next in line (the second weakest, ’cause that’s how it goes) is hidden in a castle.
Isaac: His special power is invisiblity.
Me: Does he have minions?
Isaac: Yes, 800 of them!
Me: That’s a lot!
Isaac: And all of them can turn invisible. Except one…
Me: *sputters coffee* Except one?! How’s that?
Isaac: Because he’s the weakest of the 800. He wasn’t always the weakest but his whole team (of weaker dudes) got killed except him. Now, he stands guard for the rare treasures.
Me: He’s alone to guard the rare treasures?
Isaac: Yes. He would like to be the strongest but he’s the weakest…
In the Renown option the DMG tells us that it cannot get lower than zero. I disagree, I think it can reflect an increasing enmity. As I see it, a -5 renown score would lead to a NPC/faction actively trying to hinder the PCs. A +5 renown would be the opposite, helping the PCs as they can.
Here’s how the 7As renown stands after a few more dealings & side quest with Port Nyanzaru’s denizens:
defended the Amnian Fop (+1)
Pokor asked for support on behalf of the Chultan Diaspora (common goal: +3)
played an important part in capturing the pirate ship The Stirge along with its captain (main interest: +2)
freed a spy working for Captain Soshen that had been held prisonner by the Bridgerunners in Malar’s Throat (took side: +2)
exterminated the critters in newly acquired mine (+1)
have freed a spy working for Captain Soshen that had been held prisonner by the Bridgerunners in Malar’s Throat (took side: -2)
the meddling of Pokor in an arena fight, from his spectator seat, led to a scuffle with a pair of affiliated hooligans (-1)
killed more Bridgerunners that attacked them, with the help of Purple Hands (-1)
secured a shipment of frogmen-made pottery by helping the tribe overcome a crisis (+1)
killed Bridgerunners that were encroaching in affilated Purple Hands‘ territory (+1)
Ifan Talro’a: 0
participated in many events at the Grand Coliseum (+1)
crossed swords against Flaming Fist allies (-1)
Port-Nyanzaru’s Populace (+3)
participated in the finals of Liberation Day’s Tournament (+1)
captured pirate ship the Stirge (+1)
killed the pirates in naumachia event (+1)
Flaming Fist: -3
killed flaming fists to save a merfolk (took side -3)
Pink Reef’s Merfolks: +4
traded with the merfolks (+1)
saved a captured merfolk by killing its assailants (took side +3)
Three-Cascades’s Frogmen Tribe: +5
saved the tribe from a terrible plague by getting the cure in the Forbidden Valley (+5)
Rainbow Poof opens the third room and wants to roast his foes with lightning but all he gets is a feeble spark (3 curses for his Chain-Lightning!).We all laughed at that, everybody, except annoyed Rainbow Poof…
As me and Rainbow Poof fight Dead-Fleshies, the Ghost-Lady is a little behind and followed close by the non-living. Noisy Lucky-Charm says he will protect her: “I will change tempo suddenly and the monsters will be immobilized”. I mean, *WTF* but it worked…
I push a dead-fleshy into a trap as Rainbow Poof blasts the other with magic and the way is clear for the altar room.
My battle-axe cuts great chunks of dead flesh and Rainbow Poof joins the fun as fire spews forth from his fingers toward the baddies.
Frantic lute-playing Victory Tune!
this escort mission was a lot of fun, nice change of pace
the soothsinger stacked our decks with bless cards and cursed the monster’s: incredibly useful
I did A LOT of damage with those bless and could kill elite living-corpses easily
his main song, his level 4 card, gives disadvantage to all attacks from the monsters, that’s amazingly strong
at one point we considered doing more vs the monsters behind but we didn’t (except the soothsinger a little) and it proved unnecessary
I have to be exhausted for my new Life Goal, I did it but we had to block Hail for 2 rounds (to get the treasure too)
the soothsinger looted 9 coins the greedy bastard :p
My ongoing D&D campaign is set in the jungles of Chult. I have the Tomb of Annihilation adventure book and while I don’t use its main plot *shudders*, I love the setting. I mean, I could very well have done the same thing with the old Isle of Dread module, but I didn’t know of its existence when I bought ToA. Anyway, I feel like ToA grafted a sandbox to something that wasn’t exactly meant for it. The PCs must find a specific location (the tomb duh) and have no real incentives to explore the fantastic locations on their way (not that there’s much of it tbh). More so, the players have this bigass map with the blanks… well unless you have a really dedicated cartographer player, it doesn’t see much use in my experience. Which is a shame.
In retrospect, what I would have liked is stickers. I’ve discovered the fun of it in my recent experience with legacy-type boardgames (gloomhaven, betrayal legacy).