Session 14b – Vandalism & Tomb-Robbing

Disclaimer: This play report is my own take on The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (the 5e version from TofYP). Lots of spoilers below but it’s not  a “standard” playthrough of this classic module by any margin.

Characters:

  • Shin (level 4), Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness
  • Flyzus (level 5), Wood Elf Ranger (hunter), Outlander; sole survivor of his tribe after an orc invasion
  • Rufb (level 5), Half-Orc Barbarian (berserker), Mercenary Veteran; captured by pterafolks, his fellow mercenaries killed, seeks riches and glory

Ziggurat’s Middle Tier

Map Room (1)

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The PCs got out of the shaft and landed inside a large room. The tiled floor was, in fact,  one big mosaic that showed a detailed map of the Chult Peninsula, divided in 5 distinct areas (West Valley of Mist, Central Bleak Marshes, South Peaks of Flame, East Black Jungles, South-East Great Plains) with dotted features that revealed many secrets. An incredible find for explorers but, unfortunately, dust hid most of it and taking a closer look proved a difficult task as the entire room had all kind of magic traps. Shin had the odd idea to use a Swarm of Spiders to remove the dust and it did part of the job until the spiders got in the “Great Plains” area and refused to leave the place (2).

Gibbering Mouther

A door in the map room opened on a small room with a few items lying on stone  tablets in the back (a dried heart amongst them). In the middle of the room was a big pile of dirt, or it looked like it  before eyes and mouths started popping open everywhere. The adventurers evaded disgusting spittle attacks and killed the aberration before looting the place.

Ooze the fairest?

Exiting the map room, the PCs weren’t fooled into taking a suspicious-looking pile of gold coins heaped at the far side of the corridor. They did found a secret door that led to a room with mirrors  and no other doors. Rufb looked into one mirror, his reflection kind of misty, and an Ochre Jelly detached itself  (revealing an opening behind) and attacked him! The Barbarian was even more surprised when his powerful axe stroke split the jelly monster into 2 perfectly functional smaller ones. The Tabaxi resolved the conundrum with a well-placed explosive arrow that sent jelly matter everywhere! Flyzus, wiping away jelly from his face, dared looked into another mirror and was disturbed by a vision of his own death as his reflection was assaulted by some horrific wasp-like monster that pierced his face with a large sting.

The PCs had enough of the room and cautiously entered the secret passage. This led to a smaller lozenge-shaped room with a strange statue of an octopus, with a large red stone on its forehead. Seeing the glyphs on the statue and its creepy appearance was enough to send the PCs back to another part of the dungeon.

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They found a stairway going deeper into the ziggurat but they activated a complex trap: a stone statue of a dragon let out a gust of steam on them but, fortunately, the 3 adventurers managed to evade most of it, were only lightly burned, and they dashed forward before the next gust.

Ziggurat’s Lower Tier

In a large room (6) full of rubbles, Shin found some valuables and a short sword, with a crocodile etched on the serrated blade, that he later gave to Flyzus.

Chop Chop

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The PCs got across a long corridor with only corroded metal bars to cross over a pit with spikes (3) at the bottom. Rufb’s axe was a lot more efficient against next room’s guardian, a magic statue made of wood (4). A powerful axe’s blow chopped it in two and that was it (5).

On the far wall, a huge stone visage suggested some kind of secret entrance. Careful inspection revealed a keyhole in the statue’s eye. The platinum key they had found earlier fitted perfectly and opened a door inside the mouth.

Vandalism & Tomb-robbing

Rufb opened a set of double doors, broking a seal made of gold in the process, this triggered a trap: 5 heavy crossbows shot at him but only one bolt actually hit the Half-Orc. Next room was the most impressive area to date, lavishly decorated, with all sort of unusual features, the most outstanding being probably the copper coffin put on a raft shaped like a dragon.

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Pyramid replicas, lots of urns, the coffin, terracotta warriors; the room was chock-full with things to meddle with. Of course, by now the PCs were a little wary of traps and other hazards. Flyzus, in particular, as since he was wounded by the Crocodile Mummy he couldn’t be healed by any means, not even with magic (7).

Rufb didn’t like the look of the terracotta warriors and decided to bring them, one by one, and thrash the whole lot at the bottom of the spiked pit they had crossed earlier (8).  This demanded considerable efforts and it also attracted a Swarm of Bats.

But afterward, Rufb felt more secureand inspected the pyramids. Those were in fact chests, the top could be removed. Some were trapped but, proceeding carefully (9), he managed to loot a substantial treasure all in all. And, the coffin…

None of the PCs could read the writings, was it dire warnings? All they could guess was that some kind of high priest, most likely from Zotzilaha’s cult, had been laid to eternal rest there. They removed the coffin’s lid and they could see a desiccated corpse, in full regalia, and many unusual items carefully placed around it.

Zotzilaha

The defilers weren’t that surprised when the priest’s corpse reacted to their avidity, sitting straight and regaining some semblance of life by the second. They also understood right away the urgency to slay the thing before it was fully in combat shape and gave their all. With the Ranger and Barbarian slashing and hacking and the Arcane Archer shooting powerful magic arrows, the Vampire Spawn barely had the time to take his frightful form before vanishing from the surface of the world, this time, forever…

Near dead himself, Flyzus, in desperation, resolved to drink a potion found with the priest. It turned out very well for him as he felt liberated from the atrocious mummy’s rotting curse/disease (10).

That monster on the cover of the MM?

In another part of the dungeon, the PCs opened a door and saw something spherical, with many appendices on top, floating 2′ from the floor. An arrow from Shin made the Gas Spore explode, freeing its spores in the room. The PCs waited for the spores to deposit on the floor before going through.

Rolling Stone

Even further in the complex, the air was more intensely acrid than before. The PCs had several set of stairs in front when they activated a trap: a huge rolling stone threatened to crush them! Fortunately, the 3 PCs are formidable athletes (if very bad at deciphering things!) and they all managed to evade the incoming rolling stone. Passing them, it finished its course at the far side of the corridor, breaking through double doors with incredible ruckus… This stirred up some local residents, fire beetles, easily dispatched by the adventurers.

DM’S notes

  1. I’m rather happy with the stuff I added as the original room, as designed, was entirely pointless…
  2. Nonetheless, this revealed many locations on the map, options for future expeditions!
  3. Shin got across and earned  an inspiration point by… not caring how fared his companions (his flaw)!
  4. Wood Woad. I didn’t care much for the petrified werejaguar that turns to flesh, for some reason, as soon as the PCs touched something
  5. With a critical hit from Rufb, nice!
  6. Removed the encounter there to soften the dungeon a little.
  7. That meant assured death in a few days if he couldn’t find a solution. Pressure!
  8. Funny, as it wasn’t a threat at all and just fluff!
  9. Or one time, by just throwing a big rock inside. That did the job but damaged the goods.
  10. He was lucky that it was an Elixir of Health!

Session 14a – The Hidden Shrine

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan in Chult

Disclaimer: This play report is my own take on The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (the 5e version from TofYP). Lots of spoilers below but it’s not  a “standard” playthrough of this classic module by any margin.

Characters (1):

  • Shin (level 4), Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness
  • Phileas (level 4), Half-Elf Bard (College of Swords), Archeologist; “it’s not tomb-robbing if you do it respectfully”
  • Flyzus (level 5), Wood Elf Ranger (hunter), Outlander; sole survivor of his tribe after an orc invasion
  • Rufb (level 5), Half-Orc Barbarian (berserker), Mercenary Veteran; captured by pterafolks, his fellow mercenaries killed, seeks riches and glory
  • Vorn, Shield Guardian, founded by the party aside a gaping hole in the ground

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Shin, Kalohan, Corpos and Phileas had been at the site for many days, collecting clues  while evading Batiri patrols when Flyzus and Rufb unexpectedly joined them for the venture. As for Lucky, he had left, having received a disquieting omen from his goddess, Tymora.

Vorn, the Shield Guardian (2)

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The Tabaxi had climbed down through the large hole in the ground, next to the Shield Guardian. The automaton’s master, a non-chultan wizard, had fallen to his death, his body laid broken at the bottom. Fortunately, Shin found  the amulet that controlled the construct and it was still intact. He also found the wizard’s spellbook, a decent amount of gold and some exploration gears. A quick inspection of the room below revealed a locked door and many statuettes that evoked meaningful scenes from this lost civilization.

Beware Defilers! Your Genitals Will Shrivel and Fall Off

Atop the impressive ziggurat stood a temple dedicated to the cult of a scary demon-bat thing/god/mighty Jungle Spirit: Zotzilaha. Inside the half-collapsed temple, a trapdoor was visible, but glyphs on it indicated that a powerful curse would befall any would-be defilers that entered that way. The PCs also found out a hole inside the mouth of the Zotzilaha statue. It certainly looked like a trap. They resolved the matter with their first use of the Shield Guardian as Shin ordered it to grab whatever was inside the hole (a lever). The statue’s jaws did closed on the construct’s arm but to no great effect (3). This revealed another entry, one apparently without threat of cursing…

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Ziggurat’s Upper Tier (4)

Mummy Rot

After going down the stairway and taking a few turns and removing a block of basalt (put in a way so it fell on invaders), the PCs, accompanied by Vorn, entered a large room with a tomb guardian on the central dais: a Crocodile Mummy (5).

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The creature proved hard to slay (6) but they eventually prevailed, with the opportune help of the powerful Shield Guardian (7). Flyzus was bitten in the course of the fight and he could feel that something was very wrong with his wound… The PCs looted some urns in the back and found some trinkets.

Hostile Fountain

In the next room, three fountains could be seen, one still had water, one was filled with grime and the other cracked and empty. Rufb took the mummy’s pike to search through the grime and managed to fish a chained platinum key.

Approaching the water-filled fountain incited the resident Water Weird to attack. It pummeled Rufb and tried to pull him in the water but the strong Barbarian resisted the attempt easily. Yet again, the Ranger was inefficient with his (non-magic slashing) attacks but the combined might of the party still proved more than enough, splashing the walls as they bashed the Water Weird (8).

The empty fountain could be slid, revealing a vertical shaft going deeper into the ziggurat. And down they went.

Spider Sympathy

Rufb, descending first (9), put a foot on something sticky: spider webbing. A mere second later, a Giant Spider got out of its lair (a hole in the shaft). It would have attacked Rufb – he would have had a hard time defending in such a place – but for the timely intervention of Shin. Using his Hat of the Spider, the latter convinced the Giant Spider to let them pass and so, they all got on the next tier without further complications.

DM’s notes:

  1. I had hoped that most of my players and the archeologists in particular, would be there for the first “true” ruin of my Ruins of Chult Campaign but life got in the way and it was not to be…
  2. The PCs stumbled into those ruins while searching for the Shield Guardian in the jungle.
  3. Phileas insisted that they put (animal) blood inside the statue’s mouth as demanded by the proper ritual. Interesting
  4. The party, with all the missing players, would have been too weak for this dungeon without some help.  They also badly lacked utility spells/abilities…
  5. Instead of the Centaur mummy, because I had this cool looking mini.
  6. Félix/Flyzus learned the hard way that he should have spent some of his gold to have at least one magic weapon!
  7. My 6 y-o son, Isaac, happily rolled the dice for Vorn!
  8. If I remember correctly, Shin shot an explosive arrow at it too
  9. Vorn is too large to follow down the hole.

Session 13 – Naumachia

Characters (1)

  • Flyzus, Wood Elf Ranger (hunter), Outlander; sole survivor of his tribe after an orc invasion
  • Rufb, Half-Orc Barbarian (berserker), Mercenary Veteran; captured by pterafolks, his fellow mercenaries killed, seeks riches and glory
  • Lucky, Half-Elf Cleric of Tymora (Trickery), Street Urchin; the lowly will be exalted

Massacre at the Tej House

With their mission with the grungs finished, Flyzus and Rufb were going back to Port Nyanzaru. At the river’s mouth they met scouts sent to survey the gnolls’ activity. They learned that the Tiriky’s Tej House  had been attacked by bloodthirsty gnoll reavers, with many casualties. With the scouts was Lucky, and whilst the others departed to report to Port Nyanzaru’s authorities, he decided to join his erstwhile companions to take a closer look at the site of the massacre.

Sure enough the members of the Tej House’ staff were all dead but, there was also 2 gnolls amongst the corpses, killed by fishermen customers by the look of it. The Ranger sensed that something was amiss, the awful odor of a Giant Hyena was terribly overwhelming and very much recent, like less than an hour-recent. They knew that they had to prepare for a fight…

Lucky hid in a damaged straw house and summoned his illusory double. Rufb and Flyzus prepared their weapons. A Giant Hyena emerged from the jungle, followed by a Gnoll Hunter. Another gnoll, a large and battle-scarred Pack Lord, howled a warcry and the 2 dead gnolls got up on their feet: Whiterlings!

The Barbarian filled his soul with rage and cursed the gods that he had lost his great axe in a chasm… He only had this ridiculous lameass trident (however well-balanced), not a true warrior’s weapon at all (2)! Nonetheless he charged the Gnolls with abandon. Flyzus’ skillful swordmanship did great damage while Lucky’s double provided opportune distraction and soon, the PCs had triumphed (for the third time) against the savage Gnolls.

Naumachia (3)

Finally back in town, the PCs  spent well-earned gold and learned that the next big gladiatorial event was near ready. The pirates of the Stirge were to meet justice in the arena, and the organizers were quick to publicize the participation of the “Lord Elf “(Flyzus), the very one that had helped capture them!

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At the Grand Coliseum:

The Pirates vs the Mercenaries!

1 swashbuckler, 2 thugs, 6 bandits

vs

Flyzus, Rufb, 4 bandits, 1 halfling acolyte, 1 halfling archer

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Water pumped in the arena wasn’t deep, 4 or 5 feet max, but it was sufficient so sharks could swim in, adding to the spectacle. The pirates couldn’t hope to surrender this time and thus were determined to fight ’til the end. The pirate captain, showing off his acrobatic skills, jumped behind his foes while his men crossed the planks. The Barbarian got in a duel against a tough pirate lieutenant while Flyzus got in a confused melee at the center. The pirate captain tried to take advantage of a busy Flyzus and wounded him with quick rapier stabs but the latter killed the outclassed men around him and focused his attention on the dishonorable scoundrel.

The so-called “mercenaries” had only  lost 2 men and another had fell in the water and had been helped out just before a shark could attack him. As for the pirates, they were decimated, with the Ranger and Barbarian responsible for most of it. The pirate captain fell last, but not before attempting some daring manoeuvers. With multiple wounds already from Flyzus’ swords, he couldn’t escape the enraged Rufb dead set on killing him.

Victory to the Mercenaries!

DM’s Notes

  1. The passage of time in my campaign got a little fuzzy so I could accommodate players to have their characters together…
  2. It was funny as hell as Chris seemed to botched rolls every 2 rounds and blamed the trident!
  3. It was many sessions ago that we had an arena fight. I figured that an aquatic set-up would be suitably memorable!

 

Hat of the Spider

I think it’s good practice as a DM to let players gain the magic items used against them, as opposed, as we see often in published modules, to inventing contrived reasons to keep it away from them. The PCs killed a Goblin Boss spider-rider last session who wore this weird hat, so here it is.

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Hat of the Spider

Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

While wearing this hat, you gain the following benefits:

  • You ignore movement restrictions caused by webbing.
  • You have the ability to comprehend and verbally communicate with spiders.
  • You can use an action to conjure a Swarm of Spiders (Monster manual: Swarm of Insects statistics) within 90′ of you that will be under your control for 10 minutes and then disappears. Once used, this property of the hat can’t be used again until next dawn.

A note on Ubtao

Chult is a special land (dinosaurs!) and so, apparently, it also deserves its own unique religion in the margin of the faerunian’s pantheon. Ubtao is the god of Chult. Or was. And, in fact, he’s not a god but a primordial, but whatever, it’s all very confusing. In Tomb of Annihilation, the module designers took the easy way out and Ubtao is simply absent. To be fair, the FR’s lore concerning him is a mess, as it often happens when the primary source is a (bad) novel (and several editions’s retconning doesn’t help either).

But what is, maybe, the most mind-boggling thing about Ubtao is that he’s both the Father of the Dinosaurs AND the one who invited humans to settle in Chult. I mean, how did that go? “Come to my land, I built a great city just for you. But, uh, don’t wander too much outside its walls ’cause my beloved children will eat your guts…”

Mezro

(Also, I’m putting aside the Shadow Giant, Dendar the Night Serpent, all the Maze stuff and, most of all, Mezro the City in Heaven. Less confusion this way.)

Let’s just say that he’s a dual entity (like Janus or Hoar in Faerun), with a cycle where he’s active towards helping civilization, followed by a cycle where he’s more dissipated and all about claws and teeth and no pity for the weak.

Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur

What’s interesting with this take is: what if his devoted followers can nudge him, just a little maybe – with appropriate behavior, ritual, quest and whatnot – towards his next phase, whichever it is?

 

 

Session 12 – Terrible Mandibles

Characters

  • Lucky, Half-Elf Cleric of Tymora (Trickery), Street Urchin; the lowly will be exalted
  • Shin, Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness
  • Corpos, High Elf Wizard (Necromancer), Archeologist; antiquary, strange fixation on the undead
  • Kalohan, High Elf Wizard (Evoker), Inheritor; noble Elf, ill-suited for adventuring life
  • Phileas, Half-Elf Bard (College of Swords), Archeologist; “it’s not tomb-robbing if you do it respectfully”
  • Goro-Tso, Human NPC (Berserker template), Mercenary, devotee of Malar; bought by promises of gold and tej, have yet to see much of either

I had a cold and was dead-tired but it was still a worthwhile session, if a little of the filling sort. Guillaume had to look after his baby son (the joy of parenthood!) but he managed to join us halfway in the session.

Spider Riders (1)

The previous session the PCs had a fight against a small patrol from the Canopy Drummers (batiri goblins)  and had emerged victorious. They had then tried to put some distance before nightfall, between themselves and their goblin foes, and had crossed into another tribe’s territory. This, apparently did not suffice to deter pursuit, or at least, from some fast-moving skirmishers: Spider Riders.

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An Insect (spider) Swarm descended from the trees upon the poor, terrified Kalohan, while 3 Spider Riders moved to attack the PCs from a distance. Shin, quick to assert the main threat, let loose 2 magically-charged shadow arrows, killing the leader of the skirmishers, a goblin wearing a weird spider hat. The cleric of Tymora and the Elf wizard blasted to bits the Spider Swarm with magic bolts and divine fire while the bard tried in vain some mind trick on a Giant (medium) Spider.

The 2 remaining spiders failed to catch anybody with their webs. The goblins threw venom-dripping javelins and one downed Kalohan and the other wounded Philleas. However, the adventurers still clearly had the advantage after these first exchanges and they finished the skirmishers despite their annoying shoot-and-hide tactic.

A few antitoxin vials and healing spells from the cleric later and the PCs were ready to go.

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Jason’s character is now wearing this, on his head… The start of a new trend?

The Mantis Warrior

On top of a huge fallen tree stood a Giant Mantis, eerily still (2). Already upset with her recent encounter with giant spiders, Kalohan immediately hurled a fire bolt at the thing. The Giant Mantis dashed towards the PCs but their combined attacks forced its transformation into its true form, that of a disgusted-looking goblin shaman. The latter didn’t wasted time and transformed back into his more threatening Mantis shape and attacked savagely Philleas with spiked forelegs and bite.

The Mantis Warrior proved to be a worthy adversary but he was alone against 4. His wild shape once again used up, he tried to flee but the adventurers shot him in the back

Should have killed that dude the first time

Later the same night, the PCs were alerted by some ruckus, something was approaching. In fact, it was Corpos and Goro-Tso, running away from a pack of ghouls (3). Scavo, the ghoul they’d freed earlier, told them that he wasn’t such a big fan of goblin flesh after all…

The 5 ghouls caught up with the 2 they were pursuing, but the cleric of Tymora intervened and his Turn Undead sent 3 of them sprinting wildly the way they came. The PCs had no intention to let them flee however, they used their always efficient ranged attacks to mow down the flesh-eating monsters.

Scavo attempted a pathetic plea for mercy (yet again) and Philleas the bard responded: “indeed, I know, I totally agree, it’s just a big misunderstanding”, then he lopped the ghoul’s head off…

A Giggle in the Dark

Now near exhaustion from back-to-back fights, the PCs  saw goblin scribblings on the trees that Lucky deciphered as a warning to Batiri, that further ahead laid a dangerous area. That certainly posed a conundrum, it would mean a place away from the goblins but at what risk? What if whatever it was that rendered this area dangerous for the goblins proved too lethal for the depleted adventurers? They tried their luck.

But what was that they heard? A giggle? (4)

They were fortunate to have stumbled (5) in a friendly, somewhat over excited dryad’s territory. After some chatter to satisfy the social-starved fey, the PCs could finally have a decent rest. Next day, after offering them a delicious breakfast of berries and nectar, the dryad asked if they could solve a problem of hers: a burrowing monster was damaging the nearby trees’ roots to her great dismay. She had gifts for them if they would be so kind…

Acid-Spitting Giant Motherfuckin’ Centipede!

The PCs accepted gladly. Following her advice, they baited the monster with dead animals placed near its lair. The thing did showed itself and combat ensued (6). The well-rested adventurers had many tools at their disposal. The Tabaxi blinded the (Large) Centipede with a special arrow. The beast’s tremorsense couldn’t detect the levitating Kalohan, Shin perched on a branch, nor Corpos and Lucky whom were too far. It left the tough Goro-Tso and nimble Philleas as targets. It did managed to grab the bard between its fearsome mandibles, grievously wounding him, but it soon succumbed under the combined onslaught of its attackers.

The Dryad was overjoyed with this victory and gave the PCs well-crafted bows and magic mu-ngyengyue bracelets.

DM’s Notes

  1. I’m a bit cruel with my arachnophobe sister…
  2. The Mantis Warrior wished to make a deal with the PCs. It just didn’t happen the way I planned!
  3. A player that is late is very often the cause of such a dissonant scene, whereas his character oddly re-appear just like that…
  4. Okay, turns out that  I’m totally inept at giggling! Ha! Ha!
  5. Lenient DM
  6. Took an ankheg from the monster manual and boosted it a little.