More locations for Chult sandbox

Dinosaur Boneyard

Miles upon miles of massive bones. No vegetation whatsoever. Somewhere in the middle is an ancient mansion. But first you’d have to get past the carrion critters and the undead dinosaurs

Pit of the Broken Idols

A cave. A long-lost civilization had thrown statues that they found offensive down the 60′ deep shaft. There’s still some residual power in some of them.

Treant Permaculture

A spectacular array of flowers and rare medicinal plants amongst the tallest trees of the jungle. This is the works of a cigar-smoking treant that doesn’t take kindly to trespassers.

Ubtao’s Tooth

Rogue, evil aarakocras, have made their lair atop this lonely peak. They’re given to banditry. They keep tongueless harpies as wretched slaves.

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Sacred Cenote

A very ancient site of worship, originally to some obscure amphibian deity. Glittering precious stones can be seen in the pristine water of the pool.

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Tunnel Cave (Mistcliffs)

A several miles long cave makes the link from dense, batiri-infested jungles to the coast, through the mistcliffs mountains. There’s many divergent paths and a lot of dangerous critters along the way.

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Jagged Summit (Mistcliffs)

The greatest aarakocra « nest » of the mistcliffs, the numerous sentinels patrolling the air don’t miss much. There’s an outpost for trade and only rare visitors are considered trustworthy enough to be allowed further.

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Sunken Firefinger

One of several rock tower that served to guard the border of the now defunct mezroan empire. This one has sunken below ground, only the uppermost tip remains. The lower part is now in the middle of a cave system.

Session 15b – Serpent-Skinned Monks

The PCs could not afford to take another long rest if they wished to be away from Tamaochan before the arrival of the Pick & Axe co. 

Characters:

  • Shin (level 4>>5), Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness
  • Flyzus (level 5>>6), Wood Elf Ranger (hunter), Outlander; sole survivor of his tribe after an orc invasion
  • Rufb (level 5>>6), Half-Orc Barbarian (berserker), Mercenary Veteran; captured by pterafolks, his fellow mercenaries killed, seeks riches and glory
  • Vorn, Shield Guardian, found masterless beside a gaping hole in the ground

Stay Still Forever

In a part of the dungeon yet unexplored – the PCs had successfully avoided a sand-filling trap – a few turns later they got almost in the middle of two rows of skeletons, a sort of honor guard by the look of it, standing on a ledge each side of a passage. The 15 skeletons jumped down and attacked (1)…

The adventurers kept their calm, even after seeing a skeleton still fighting after receiving a killing blow, what should have been a killing blow anyway. It helped that they could  now count on the powerful Vorn to back them up. An exploding magic arrow from Shin did a lot to soften the undead warriors. It took some time but they managed to prevail with only a few light wounds in return (2).

You don’t see any traps

At the end of another passage they could see a golden bat statuette. Rufb took it from its pedestal and got shot in the back by several crossbow bolts. Wounded and angry, Rufb smashed the statuette under his foot. This released a creature made of light, a will o’ wisp they knew from previous experience,  that quickly got away along another passage.

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Shed Skin

Now, for some reason, having a will o’ wisp on the loose didn’t sit well with the PCs (3) so they tried to find it, backtracking a little doing so. Flyzus ordered his pseudodragon pet to follow the evil light but the poor creature got zapped and… died (4). Next, the PCs got into an room they had opened but had chose to ignore earlier, a room with two slabs of stone with shed serpent skins… wait a minute… weren’t there bodies the first time around? Darn! More things roaming free…

Stuck in the Middle with You

To go further in this area, the PCs had to move a heavy block of stone on some rail mechanism up a ramp, the Shield Guardian was put to the task. They were halfway when things got complicated… First, there was sudden resistance against the block, something was pushing back… Second, bats. Lots of bats. Third, the will o’ wisp chose this moment to reappear…

Vorn proved more than strong enough to keep the block from crushing them. The Ranger got rid of the bats around him quickly and then attacked the will o’ wisp. He was joined soon after by Rufb (Shin was still swarmed by bats) and the two successfully avenged the pseudodragon.

No Escape

Finally out of this passage, the PCs saw two nimble figures sprint away from them. The Barbarian, the fastest runner, caught up with them in the central room of the ziggurat’s lower tier. Attempting to communicate  proved fruitless, as Rufb could not understand a word they said. Resigned, the two mysterious sleepers-no-longer assumed fighting stances (5).

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Rufb wasn’t in full combat shape at all, so facing these two adversaries with unknown abilities was daunting. He chose to use one charge of his gem of mud elemental summoning, a reward he had received from the Three Cascades’ frogmen. This proved a wise move as the mud elemental pummeled and mired in mud one serpent-skinned monk. Rufb then finished her with one massive blow of his greataxe. The surviving monk shrieked in anguish and attacked Rufb, sweeping his legs from under him.

Flyzus and Shin now got at the scene too. The outnumbered monk turned his back and fled once more. Shin shot an arrow at him but amazingly, he catched it middair without even looking!

Try to dodge that

He then started to cross the passage to the north, the one with spikes at the bottom, swinging from bar to bar. Rufb got back to his feet and jumped right beside his foe and started grappling him. He easily outmuscled the monk and sent him crashing through the spikes. Flyzus put an end to his life with precise sword thrusts (6).

The PCs finally felt comfortable enough to get down below, to the Hidden Shrine.

DM’s notes

  1. I had described them as skeletons but they were statted as zombies, with the undead fortitude that do a lot for their durability. But this fight was meh.
  2. Too easy! Would have been better if they had to be smart about it…
  3. Players paranoia!
  4. Félix kept forgetting that it existed, so… no big deal, I guess?
  5. The monks tried their best to escape, the PCs, the barbarian in particular, just wouldn’t let them.
  6. This proved to be a really good fight, with a lot of cool, cinematic manoeuvers.

 

 

 

Session 15a – No Stone Unturned

Third session inside the Hidden Shrine of Tamaochan. I had kept it relatively faithful to the module (70% maybe?). But now? Less so…

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
  • Vorn, Shield Guardian, found masterless beside a gaping hole in the ground

Psychic Cyclop. Psyclop? huh

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After a well-earned rest outside the PCs got right back to exploring the ancient ziggurat. They went  to a room they had passed the first time, in the second tier (1). The bronze door had a strange engraving on it, a couatl and a cyclop locked in a fierce struggle. Rufb pushed the heavy door and, to his surprise, found himself in the middle of the jungle in front of the very same cyclop warrior, now coming wildly at him with a greataxe! That was all in his head, of course, but the imaginary combat was taking a very real toll on him. Shin ignored his companion’s plight and went straight into the room and got into troubles of his own as a set of giant antique armor assaulted him. Meanwhile, Flyzus was at a loss as to what he could do to save Rufb, as smacking the Half-Orc behind the head did not look like it helped that much… Finally, with scrambled brains and bleeding nose, Rufb managed to overcome the psychic invasion by himself and the three defeated the helmed horror together. This activated some kind of magic from the (avenged) crystal couatl statue that was in the middle of the dais, as they were rewarded a Tray of the Ages (2).

Terror from Above

Nrak, the Firefinger’s ertswhile pterafolk leader, had apparently found a way to track down Flyzus in a vain attempt to avenge himself for the attack on his lair. One of his underling let drop something in the middle of the ruined temple where the PCs were  resting. The package, wrapped in leaves, exploded as it touched the floor, releasing some kind of poisonous pollen. Other pterafolks then dived and hurled javelins at the PCs, some blocked by the Shield Guardian. Mostly unfazed by the surprise attack,  the adventurers responded with projectiles of their own. The Tabaxi Arcane Archer, as always, was utterly deadly with his bow, but the decisive blow was delivered by Flyzus as he hurled back a javelin, powered with an ensnaring strike, that sent Nrak crashing to the ground to his death (3). The few surviving pterafolks had had enough and flew away.

A Sticky Situation (4)

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A few hours after the doomed pterafolk attack, the Ranger could see a giant spider coming their way. Using his hat of the spider the Tabaxi had a quick conversation with it, he learned that the giant spider was upset about being followed and, uh, aggressively courted… Said courter arrived a moment later, it was Mister Sticky the ettercap, who had lost his precious Darling at the hand of the party a while ago. Mister Sticky pleaded to give crucial information if only the PCs stopped besmirching him in front of this « magnificient specimen » of a spider. And so the party learned that members of the Pick & Axe co were on their way towards Tamaochan. The PCs accepted to pay the Ettercap to learn more:

  • P&A group is made up of  seasoned, armored and very sweaty dwarves
  • they have an ankylosaurus
  • the leader have a flying monkey (the PCs had spotted it flying around their camp earlier)
  • they are armed to the teeth, all have crossbows
  • they are half a day’s walk from Tamaochan

Another Way In

As the previous foray in the shrine had proved almost fatal for Rufb, the PCs sought a way to get the mighty (and large) Vorn in the lower tiers with them. They resolved the matter using a scroll of shape stone on a part of the cliff that connected to a room below the ziggurat. The magic scroll enlarged a small hole already there, but getting inside, the party disturbed a family of stone-skinned zorbos. The PCs dispatched the cute but ferocious beasts and had another go at exploring the ancient ruins.

DM’s notes:

  1. I’ve kept the couatl, phantasmal force and helmed horror but changed about everything else in this room
  2. The original treasure is a Balance of Harmony but an item to detect good and evil is rather useless in my game. The Tray of Ages (homebrewed) is me being generous, as the PCs can cast identify as a ritual with it, so they don’t have to wait to be in town (like in 3 sessions) to know what their items do.
  3. Being a large creature, Nrak had advantage on his str save to resist the ensnaring strike and still failed!
  4. That part was, hmm, maybe a little too much on the silly side…

 

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, found masterless by the party, beside 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.

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… »

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(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.

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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 11 – The Hanged Man

Characters:

  • Lucky, Half-Elf Cleric of Tymora (Trickery Domain), Street Urchin; the lowly will be exalted
  • Phileas, Half-Elf Bard (College of Swords), Archeologist; “it’s not tomb-robbing if you do it respectfully”
  • Corpos, High Elf Wizard (School of Necromancy) , Archeologist; antiquary, strange fixation with the undead

Short session. Sadly, both my brother and sister couldn’t make it. That changed my plans. That, and we started awfully late. It is what it is…

Reinforcement

Corpos and Lucky were recuperating from their previous ordeals inside the ruined Camp Righteous when a supply convoy heading to Camp Vengeance made a quick stop. They were happy to see Phileas disembark to join them. The half-elf was spying on the Pick & Axe Company and had a few intel bits to share.

Also, Corpos, anticipating the difficulties ahead, managed to hire a fearsome-looking Chultan named Goro-T’so (1) with promises of gold and tej.

The Canopy Drummers

As to be expected in Batiri territory, the PCs saw that they were tailed by goblin hunters, with trained velociraptors.

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With Tymora’s opportune help, Lucky managed to spot more batiri ambushers further ahead. Acting on this knowledge the PCs started the hostilities before the trap could be fully sprung on them.  A well-placed Sleep  from the Elf wizard put the small but ferocious velociraptors out of combat early on. The bard charged one of the raptors’ handlers while Goro-T’so went the other way to attack 4 Batiri archers, with Lucky firing his crossbow at them too.

The Chultan hireling got severely wounded but he also skewered 2 Batiri, with Lucky finishing a third. The fourth managed to flee. Phileas dodged several poisoned arrows and killed 2 more Batiris with the help of Corpos flinging spells from behind.

Corpos, after the fight, decided to keep one velociraptor (tied up) with the idea to try to befriend the diminutive dinosaur with time.

The Hanged Man

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The PCs walked at a brisk pace, wishing to put distance from themselves and a tree platform batiri village they had spotted after their skirmish. A few hours later they saw an unusual sight, a man, or what looked like a man anyway, was hanged by the feet, some 10′ in the air. Closing in, with a horrible stench now assailing them, they could see that the man was in fact a ghoul!

The undead creature, a non-chultan male, immediately started to plead with them to let it go, offering information in exchange of its freedom.

After some back-and-forth (2), the ghoul, going with the name of Scavo, revealed many things:

  • an old creature, sporting a blue triangle on its forehead, was responsible for his present state
  • he was a Flaming Fist mercenary prior to his demise
  • those had been asked by powerful people from Baldur’s Gate to eliminate « prince » Jobal but had not (yet) complied
  • he had overheard a meeting between Pick & Axe members and Batiri goblins to cement a deal against a rival tribe

The PCs finally cut the rope and let him go, suggesting that he could make himself useful and eat some goblins nearby…

DM’s notes

  1. An evil devotee of Malar, that could be troublesome at some point…
  2. including some unsavory methods of intimidation

A note on Batiri Goblins

Most intelligent creatures in Chult fear the
Batiri. They are relentless trackers, skilled in
jungle lore and the use of the bow and spear.

That comes from the Jungles of Chult (1998). That makes sense, I mean, the Batiri have been in Chult for a long time, in the middle of friggin‘ Dinosaurland! They have to be some tough goblin mofos, don’t they?

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Art: Raph Lomotan

But guess what, in Tomb of annihilation, the Batiri are comic relief… With the dumbest combat strategy EVER!

Anyway, I rarely see eye to eye with the writers of 5E on a storytelling perspective, that’s just one more thing that bothers me.

The point is, battlestacks and catapulting villages aren’t for me. In my campaign the Batiri goblins are clever little killers…

They’ll have some annoying tricks too!

  • poisoned arrows
  • jagged arrows
  • snares, nets, exploding spores, etc.
  • steeds & pets: giant wasps, troodons, giant mantis, spiders, bats, etc.
  • shoot & hide tactics (hide as a bonus action) is PERFECT for jungle warfare
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A Tasloi from the Dwellers of the Forbidden City module