The new D&D book, Tomb of Annihilation, has already been available at your Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS) and is available everywhere as of Tuesday September 19th, 2017. Tomb of Annihilation drops players into the deadly jungles of Chult, tasked with finding a legendary artifact that can end a death curse. As players explore the jungles and ruins of Chult, they will face off against undead, dinosaurs (even undead dinosaurs), puzzles, traps, deadly plants and diseases, and other hazards.

What is Tomb of Annihilation?

During the Stream of Annilhilation event back in June, Wizards of the Coast announced that Tomb of Annilihation would be the next storyline for Dungeons & Dragons. Mike Mearls, D&D’s lead designer, described Tomb of Annihilation as “Indiana Jones meets zombies”, set in a ‘Land of the Lost’ full of volcanoes, jungle and dinosaurs.

The Tomb of Annihilation storyline begins with the discovery of a death curse. The bodies of people that have been raised from the dead are slowly deteriorating. Divination magic has pointed to the jungle peninsula of Chult as the source of the curse. Adventurers are tasked with stopping the death curse by traveling to Port Nyanzaru to secure guides to lead them into the dense rainforest. Players will find a lost world, where insects, disease and weather can be as deadly as the monsters and ruins hidden deep in the jungle. If they can survive long enough, the adventurers will face the challenge of the Tomb of the Nine Gods and a horrifying villain (see cover).

From the Official Website:

Dare to defy death in this adventure for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.

The talk of the streets and taverns has all been about the so-called death curse: a wasting disease afflicting everyone who’s ever been raised from the dead. Victims grow thinner and weaker each day, slowly but steadily sliding toward the death they once denied.

When they finally succumb, they can’t be raised—and neither can anyone else, regardless of whether they’ve ever received that miracle in the past. Temples and scholars of divine magic are at a loss to explain a curse that has affected the entire region, and possibly the entire world.

The cause is a necromantic artifact called the Soulmonger, which is located somewhere in Chult, a mysterious peninsula far to the south, ringed with mountains and choked with rainforests.

Where Can I Buy Tomb of Annihilation?

Price: $49.95 C$65.95
Release Date: 19 September, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages

You can purchase the book at your local game store, book stores such as Barnes & Noble and Indigo (Canada), or online at retailers like Amazon. You can also find Tomb of Annihilation at Roll20, Fantasy Grounds and Steam.

Getting Started

What You Need to Play

  • Copies of the fifth edition Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • A copy of Tomb of Annihilation
  • Dice and lots of character sheets (everyone should have an extra character ready to go)
  • The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide can be used for additional character backgrounds, but is not required.

What Does the Book Include?

This book provides a Dungeon Master with material to run a group of 4-6 players though a Dungeons & Dragons adventure from levels 1 to 11. Here is what you’ll find withing its 256 pages.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE: The book starts off with a Dramatis Personae right after the table of contents, outlining all of the major Non-Player Characters (NPCs) in the adventure and where to find them in the book. This is something I was really hoping they would continue after introducing it in Storm King’s Thunder. This is great to see and I hope they continue to provide for future books.

TABLE OF CONTENTS: listing of the book’s contents including a list of stat blocks of the monsters in Appendix D

INTRODUCTION: 9 pages of intro and then the book jumps right into the adventure

  • overview of the story, the main villain and running the adventure
  • explanation of the mechanics of the death curse and meat grinder mode (for those who want this to be even deadlier)
  • character hooks for 15 backgrounds from the Player’s Handbook, Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and 2 new backgrounds found in this book (Anthropologist and Archaeologist)
  • a look at the races of Chult which include aarakocra, bataru (tribal goblins), albino dwarves, tabaxi, flying reptilian pterafolk, froglike grungs, weretigers, yuan-ti and countless undead

ADVENTURE: The adventure is broken down into 5 chapters (more detail below)

  1. Port Nyanzaru
  2. The Land of Chult
  3. Dwellers of the Forbidden City
  4. Fane of the Night Serpent
  5. Tomb of the Nine Gods

APPENDIX A: We get two new character backgrounds that are a great fit for this adventure… the Anthropologist and Archeologist.

APPENDIX B: Random encounters to run for the city, wilderness and ruins

APPENDIX C: Discoveries to find while exploring that include flora, fauna and seven new magic items.

APPENDIX D: 30+ pages of creatures not found in the Monster Manual needed to run adventures in this book. Some new, some seen before and reprinted from Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

APPENDIX E: Player handouts such as details on jungle guides for hire, puzzles and maps

APPENDIX F: Details for running each of the nine trickster gods of Omu

FOLDOUT MAP: The book also comes out with a two-sided, full color foldout map (just like Curse of Strahd). The Dungeon Master side of the map is a full of location details. The reverse side is a map is for players and a large portion of the center of the map is missing hex areas, waiting for players to explore it.

The Adventure

Tomb of Annihilation is a new campaign designed for parties level 1-11. It takes heroes to Chult, a new region south of the Forgotten Realms.

This storyline was designed by Christopher Perkins, Will Doyle, Steve Winter and Adam Lee. When designing this storyline, the team thought that a deadly adventure where characters try to stop a death curse might be a bit too grim and bleak. To offset this, the team thought it was very important to provide humor. They brought in Pendlelton Ward, the creator of Adventure Time and long time D&D player, as a consultant. Any fans of D&D who have watched Adventure Time know that Ward’s love of playing D&D in middle school is prevalent in the show’s quirky take on typical tabletop RPG tropes. You and your players will find unexpected, humorous, and quirky moments to balance out the deadliness.

– SPOILERS AHEAD! –

Acererak, a powerful lich known throughout the multiverse, provides Tomb of Annihilation with a villain. While he spends most of this time off screen, his Soulmonger artifact is counting down and putting constant pressure on players. Your players will feel the pressure as they choose between much needed rest and the need to continue on to find a hidden temple.

Your characters are pulled into the story by Syndra Silvane, a retired adventurer and merchant, who was raised from the dead years ago. Syndra is withering away with no cure, but she has found that the cause of her demise is an artifact called the Soulmonger. Syndra hires the party to travel to Chult and find and destroy the Soulmonger.

The adventure begins with players arriving via teleport on the docks of Port Nyanzaru, the only civilized area of Chult. They are tasked with finding a guide, gathering information and getting outfitted so they are ready to travel into the deadly jungle. While exploring the city and meeting the movers and shakers, they’ll have a chance to participate in dinosaur races and a number of side quests. The side quests have lots of variety such as debt collection, finding Artus Cimber (callback to Storm King’s Thunder), and hunting pirates. Shopping for special items such as canoes, insect repellent, and rain catchers is a must as well. Selecting a guide should be a fun exercise and shape the direction of the adventure. The guides are a colorful bunch that include a one-armed dwarf, an albino dwarf, tabaxi siblings, a weretiger in disguise, a couatl in disguise, a yuan-ti spy, a gladiator, and a pair or incompetent treasure hunters.

After exploring the city, the characters embark on an expedition into the wilds of Chult and the expedition begins. Using the poster map, the players travel from hex to hex through the jungle. The characters may have some idea where they want to go, with some help from their guide (which may be useless or even dangerous). The players will face the challenges of dehydration, deadly plants and disease, getting lost, and facing random encounters with the local wildlife and undead. If they survive, they’ll find treasure get closer to their hidden destination. This chapter does a great job on making the journey as important as the destination. There are so many great locations for your players to stumble onto such as a temple inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark, a goblin village that will catapult away if threatened, an abanonded mine full of kobold traps and working mine carts, and a shipwreck high in a tree.

Eventually, after visiting interesting locations, meeting NPCs, and facing many encounters, the adventurers should find the forbidden city of Omu. The city of Omu contains nine shrines that each have a puzzle cube the adventurers need to attain, but the city is not uninhabited and the adventurers will meet a senile tabaxi, a grung chief and others. As the adventurers explore Omu they be captured or have to confront the Yuan-Ti (snake people) to find the final puzzle piece.

With all the puzzle pieces, the players are ready to face the Tomb of the Nine Gods. The Soulmonger lies deep within a six level dungeon, which is riddled with puzzles, traps, monsters, and magical wards. If they can progress through the tomb, the adventurers will face the Cradle of the Death God and Acererak himself. If the heroes are able to defeat the lich and destroy the Soulmonger, the will end the death curse. If the adventurers are defeated, they will fail and their souls will be devoured.

– END OF SPOILERS –

Conclusion

After reading the book, I think this is my favorite adventure to come out for this edition of D&D. Many of my favorite adventures have my players exploring deadly wilderness, searching ancient ruins full of puzzles and traps, and battling some mysterious lost people. If you are a fan of Indiana Jones, Clive Cussler’ Dirk Pitt, and Tomb Raider, this adventure brings a real pulp adventure feel to Dungeons & Dragons. This book provides interesting NPCs and locations, many of them deadly, some of them even silly. If you are looking for an adventure where the journey is as important as the destination, you’ve found a match.

Who Might Want to Avoid It?

  • Groups that aren’t interested in a high level of lethality and time pressure. There are notes for starting the adventure at 5th or even 9th level, which would make the early levels much easier… but that doesn’t sound fun to me.
  • Groups looking for a more traditional D&D medieval-inspired high fantasy adventure. Stick to Tyranny of Dragons and Storm King’s Thunder.
  • Anyone hoping to get detailed notes on running this in another setting, the notes provided in this book are very minimal. The adventure can be easily adapted to places such as Mystara‘s Savage Coast, Oerth‘s Amedio jungles, or the jungles of Eberron‘s Xen’drik
  • Groups who really don’t like wilderness exploration (hex crawl) and puzzles
  • Players looking for new options for their characters – the two new backgrounds (Anthropologist and Archeologist) while awesome, are not worth the cover price alone

Who Should Buy It?

  • DMs looking for a legitimate reason to have their players fight dinosaurs.
  • DMs looking for ideas and materials for running their own jungle adventures. There are plenty of monsters, random encounter tables, temples and puzzles here to keep your players busy for countless adventurers.
  • Groups looking for a deadly adventure that really tests them. The death curse makes character death permanent. If a group wants to go extra deadly, there is a meat grinder mode where death saves require a roll of 15 or higher.
  • Groups looking for an adventure that emphasizes jungle exploration and puzzles. There is a massive hex crawl and many puzzles, traps and other hazards.
  • Groups looking for an adventure that is something different from saving the Sword Coast from dragons, giants, etc.

If you think that a deadly jungle adventure would interest you or your players, I’d recommend picking up a copy of Tomb of Annihilation (just make sure to check it for traps first).

In early October, I’ll be starting a running this adventure, moving the setting to Eberron, with Xen’drik substituting for Chult.

Let us know if the comments below what you think of this book and if you’ll be running the adventure.


Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher’s PR agency.

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  • Manos Ti

    Once again, great review Shawn!!!

    I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    It is spot-on for Primeval Thule as well.

    I’ll be back with my impressions as well as soon as my copy arrives.

    • Ooh, didn’t consider Thule at all till you mentioned it! This really would fit into that setting with minimal adaptation.

    • Manos Ti

      Yes it would! The first thing that comes to my mind about tinkering is the nature of the curse, as there are not many resurrected individuals in Thule, but this is easy.

    • epiccarlson

      I was thinking about Thule as well and might do the opposite… everyone that dies is raised a zombie and those that fail Death saves witness the void causing Insanity.

    • Manos Ti

      That’s splendid idea!!!

    • Good point on Thule.

  • The Meat Grinder mode with 15 or higher death saves is not something I’ll be running for my group. It is a really great way to emphasize how strong the death curse is and the power to make death permanent very quickly. It would be a fun to add when playing any of the Yawning Portal dungeons.

    I’m moving this from FR to Eberron. I’m actually taking out inspiration and replacing it with Action/Hero Points. I just can’t seem to remember to give out inspiration, so putting extra dice into the players hands each level works better for me. Should make the adventure a little less deadly.

    • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

      We have one player in our group who tends to quickly lose interest in the characters he plays. He’ll be begging me to run the group in meat grinder mode.

    • That should solve the issue of players asking to retire PCs mid adventure.

  • Dave(s) 4 Goombella

    I picked up my copy on the 11th. It looks great, and I hope I get a chance to run it soon. There are so many neat little side areas to be found while exploring the jungle. And for the DM whose players are making too much of a beeline to Omu for their own good, there are all sorts of ways to encourage them to take side treks. (For example, a particular NPC might demand one service from the players before they’ll cooperate. Or, at the DM’s option, they may demand two or three services from the players, which send them off to various areas of interest around the map.)

    There are a surprising number of ways for PCs to amuse themselves, given that this is a time-sensitive campaign.

    I also picked up the Tortle Package from the DM’s Guild. (In addition to a playable Tortle race, it also provides more detail on a mysterious island off Chult, which has some additional encounters and side quests.) Tortles look like a very neat race to play. Their signature feature is their shell, obviously, which gives them natural armor and the ability to hide. It’s a great option for building a melee/caster hybrid that uses Strength-based weapons and wouldn’t normally get access to heavy armor (Bard, Blade Warlock, Death Cleric, etc.) as you won’t need Dexterity for your AC.

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