Tomb of annihilation: not a review

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I’ll soon DM this adventure module and as such, would like to comment on a few issues prior to actual play.

One hex a day

The PCs’ party will move one hex in jungle/swamp/ any difficult terrains and two hexes on rivers and coasts. Easy. I like this. The map of Chult is freakin’ huge and there’s a lot of options on how to explore and quite a few surprises (for a crafty DM) to spiced up things along the way. It’s my first hexcrawl ever and I’m quite excited to try this formula.

“Death Curse” Hook

The first time I read the story overview from the ToA I was intrigued. A death curse that prevents the raise from death spell AND slowly kills all these powerful dudes and dudettes that ever used that death-cheat? I mean, this should have profound & far-reaching repercussions isn’t that right?

Well, it doesn’t.

A dudette archmage scrambles to send adventurers, to solve this world-shattering matter. What she finds, it seems, is lvl 1 No0bs. She then proceeds to teleport (!) them at the adventure’s homebase in Chult.

CONVENIENT?

AND FUCKING LAME.

After that she sits on her death-cursed ass and patiently waits for the aforementioned noobs to save her…

Meanwhile, the evil Red Wizards of Thay, those evil meddlers, sends an evil team to retrieve the evil artifact, for their own evil ends. They’re led by an elf-lich, far too powerful a threat for the PCs at any moment of the adventure but that’s okay, she also prefers to sit on her (bony) ass, and I dunno, be part of the decor? Also: waste of a cool location (the levitating earth-mote).

There’s no other hints that indicate that what’s happening IS A BIG DEAL.

Whatever. I’m gonna flush the main plot down the drain.

An Alternative, Quite Intricate (Not) Plot Hook

Okay, here’s what I offer:

Hmmm. What about treasure? You like treasure? Well, I mean, there’s a jungle full of ruins… Go do your thing, you know, murder people/things and get rich? Yeah, of course you like it.

No seriously, I will put some fluff over it, but that’s all we really need.

Port Nyanzaru: Home Base

The map of the City is very nice. It will make a cool home base. The one thing it sorely misses is: inhabitants. NPCs. WHERE. ARE. THEY. Well, there’s seven merchant princes that barely have more personality than potted plants. And as rulers, they don’t make any sense at all. There’s also a high priest that can offer a lame-ass divination. Okay… The guides characters. The guides’s backtsory isn’t bad. But the guides are useless. The PCs will get lost as easily with or without them.

Am I being difficult? I need more.

Factions

The Forgotten Realms being such a fucking mess of a setting, I think the D&D designers didn’t have much choice to limit the number of esoteric factions found in the adventures. Did they have to put the same stupid, boring factions in each adventures though? Zhents, Harpers, Emerald Enclave, Order of the Gauntlets, Lords’ alliance… Isn’t the land of Chult exotic or far enough?

Oh they got one new faction: the Ytepka Society, here’s what we can read about them:

In many respects, the society’s goals are similar to those of the Harpers.

A local clone. That’s just great… How about inventing something new, huh?

The next sentence offers a lot more:

The Ytepka Society was instrumental in liberating Port Nyanzaru from foreign powers and facilitating the rise of the seven merchant princes.

That’S better. Wish there was more. There’s still a few invaders, hmm? I’ll take it from here. Even if it was YOUR FUCKING JOB WotC.

What’s missing the most?

  • Rivals! Surely there is other murderhobos around?
  • Side Quests that actually matters
  • NPCs
  • Motivations/Goals for NPCs
  • Weirdness
  • A few other locations, so that exploring don’t become a chore

 

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