Running Tomb of Annihilation in Eberron’s Xen’drik
I reviewed Tomb of Annihilation earlier this month and even before I read the book I wanted to run this adventure in Eberron. When Princes of the Apocalypse was released back in 2015, it contained an Appendix C: Adapting to Other Worlds that was 8 pages long. Popular worlds beyond the Forgotten Realms such as Dark Sun, Greyhawk, Dragonlance and Eberron were all given notes on adapting the adventure to those worlds. Anyone hoping to get detailed notes on running Tomb of Annihilation in another setting will find that the notes provided in the book are very minimal. The book briefly states in the introduction that 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. After reading the book, I totally agree that running this in any official or homebrew world can easily be pulled off.
I am starting a Tomb of Annihilation (ToA) campaign set in Eberron‘s Xen’drik. I really want to use this adventure as is, so I am really going to keep the changes to a minimum. This article will outline some of the minor changes and additions I am looking at to fit the adventure into an my imperfect version of Eberron. Please steal these ideas or provide your own in the comments below.
The goal of this article isn’t to provide a detailed outline for the Eberron setting. But here is a quick primer.
Eberron is an award winning D&D campaign setting created by author and game designer Keith Baker. Eberron was selected from over 11,000 entries in a competition to establish a new D&D world. The campaign setting book released in 2004, was written by Baker, Bill Slavicsek, and James Wyatt. A new version of the Campaign Setting was released in 2009 for 4th edition. In February 2015, an Unearthed Arcana article provided an unofficial update to Eberron for 5th edition.
Most adventures in Eberron are set in a period after a vast destructive war on the continent of Khorvaire. If you can find it in D&D, you can find it in Eberron. The setting combines a fantasy tone with pulp and dark adventure elements, turning many conventions upside down such as gold dragons can be evil, goblins can be law-abiding city folk, and elves can like necromancy. Adventures are full of action, adventure, intrigue and mystery. In Eberron, you’ll find non-traditional fantasy technologies such as trains, airships, and “robots” all powered by magic.
– SPOILERS AHEAD! –
Tweaking the Story
Here is a rework of the blurb from the D&D website’s Tomb of Annihilation page.
The latest talk on the streets and in the taverns of Sharn has 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. Experts in divine and necromatic magic from the most prestigious temples and universities in Khorvaire are at a loss to explain this curse and its cause.
Syndra Silvane, a former explorer and adventurer has discovered the cause is a necromantic artifice called the Soulmonger, which is located somewhere in Xen’drik, a wild and untamed jungle filled land far to the south. She has hired your small group of explorers and adventurers to create an expeditionary force to go south to Xen’drik and secure the Soulmonger and end the death curse.
Starting out in Sharn
ToA begins with a quick meeting in Baldur’s Gate with Syndra Silvane and then a quick teleport to Chult’s largest settlement, Port Nyanzaru. I am going to be changing the meeting place to a location in Sharn, the City of Towers. You can have the players meet Silvane at her home or one of these alternatives:
- Morgrave University. The university has a number of well defined locations to meet Silvane, who could be at the university as a professor or sponsor of an expedition. The university also has two museums that would regularly pay for expeditions to Xen’drik.
- Wayfinder Foundation. Part philanthropic trust and part professional networking service, this well funded organization sends many expeditions to Xen’drik. Silvane could be using the foundation as a front for her own hunt for the Soulmonger.
Traveling to Xen’drik
Xen’drik, is a month long sail from Sharn, so teleporting to Stormreach is a great idea. In Eberron, there are other fast ways to travel to Xen’drik that you might want to look at. Here are some notes for alternative ways of traveling to Xen’drik.
- Most expeditions depart from Sharn’s Cliffside ward, but an airship could depart from the top of a tower or even the floating Skyway district.
- Find a captain with experience sailing across the Thunder Sea and surviving Shargon’s Teeth, sahuagin, and free-roaming elementals.
- For 45gp you can hire a ship to travel 1500 miles and the journey takes a month.
- There are faster Lyrandar and Soarwood ships which can make the journey in half the time at a steeper rate.
- For 432gp you can hire a elemental powered Wind Galleon and the journey takes 3 days.
- Airships do not normally make the trip, but if you want to go in style it will cost 1440gp and take 3 days.
I really like Port Nyanzaru, and I don’t plan to change it too much to match Stormreach. The biggest changes I will make are:
- Map the Port Nyanzaru locations to my map of Stormreach
- Have lots of half-giants (I would look to the Goliath for ideas) lumbering around
- Look at the side quests to see if I could incorporate some of my own Stormreach flavored encounters and locations
- Rename the Merchant Princes as Storm Lords. The Storm Lords are 5 hereditary nobles, with the Harbor Lord running the port and with the rest called the Coin Lords who maintain the city and Stormreach Guard.
- I might tweak a couple of the guides to fit into Eberron a little better, such as switching someone to a shifter and/or a drow. But overall, they are very good and a fun part of the adventure.
- Stormreach is a melting pot of cultures and races from across Eberron. The names of characters truly reflect this with people taking names from outside their culture and race. Many residents looking to keep their past behind them swap their surname for a title or nickname. I’ll likely rename some of the NPCs to reflect this.
Exploring the Jungle
Xen’drik is a wild an unpredictable place. ToA asks the players to explore and avoid getting lost in a vast unexplored region of Chult. When running this in Eberron, something called the Traveller Curse, provides DMs with the ability to steer the players and provides a greater explanation for how mysterious Xen’drik is. The curse, which defies magical explanation, may be the effect of a lingering cataclysm or meddling by the Dark Six. Here are some ideas on how to run the curse:
- The curse twists the perception of time and distance, both in perception and reality.
- The curse could have two rival groups of explorers follow the same path, but arrive at weeks apart with no logical explanation.
- The curse could be a blessing, helping a group (who rolls well) speed through dangerous terrain.
- The curse could just as easily rush exploreres into unexpected dangers or an unintended location.
- The curse also explains why there is a huge area of the map the players are given that is unmapped.
- The curse also provides a reason to hire a guide (especially one who is giant, yuan-ti or drow), as it has a lesser effect on natives and those who have knowledge of a destination.
- As the players map areas, they gain knowledge of destinations and push back the curse themselves.
- The curse doesn’t really need any mechanics. It acts more as a reason for why the jungle is so mysterious, other than the obvious tons of monsters that eat explorers before they can create reliable maps.
ToA has plenty of monsters. If you wanted to add some Xen’drik-ness to the story, take a look at adding some of these monsters. You can find stats and lore for these in Secrets of Xen’drik.
- Drow Elves and Scorrows (like a drider, but scorpion instead of spider)
- Alchemy Beetle
- Dream Serpents
- Giants (not just frost giants)
- Quorcraft Warforged
- Warforged Scorpion
- Tentacle Spider
- Ereg’s Animated Cats
- Abiel (bee people)
- 2 Headed T-Rex
There are lots of notes on converting factions from the Sword Coast to Eberron in Princes of the Apocalypse‘s appendices. In Eberron, the Dragonmarked Houses and many other factions are the movers and shakers of the world. Here’s some key factions that can be important players in the adventure:
- Morgrave University (Harpers) is there from the start the adventure for my players. I would have Artus Cimber be an associate of the university or one of its museums.
- Church of the Silver Flame (Order of the Guantlet) would have been working to stop the undead threat at Camp Righteous and then Camp Vengeance.
- Emerald Claw (Zhentarim)/Blood of Vol (Red Wizards) could be trying to get control of the Soulmonger to provide them with an undead super weapon. They could even be the ones who found/built the Soulmonger, and you could swap out Acererak for Erandis d’Vol (thanks bruc_ on reddit for this idea).
- The Gatekeepers (Emerald Enclave) defend nature against undead.
- The Twelve (Lords’ Alliance)
- House Deneith (Flaming Fist) and its blademarks are for hire as sellswords
- House Tharashk could provide most of the guides that are for hire.
- The Ytepka Society can be just left as is or you could swap them out with the The Twelve
- Lhazaar Sea Princes (Pirates of Jahaka Anchorage)
- The Undying Court could believe (rightfully or not), that the Blood of Vol are behind the curse.
Dragonshards are magic stones found in Eberron that are used to enhance the powers of a Dragonmark, or in the creation of magic items, artifacts, or constructs. As your players explore Xen’drik, why not have them find (or quest for) a dragonshard. Dragonshards come in three varieties, and Xen’drik is known to be a good place to find golden Siberys dragonshards.
– END OF SPOILERS! –
Races, Classes, Backgrounds and Feats
If you can find it in D&D, you can find it in Eberron. Here are some notes on what player character options I am providing for my ToA campaign in addition to what is found in the Player’s Handbook.
- It’s not Eberron without adding Changlings, Warforged and Shifters. Check out the UA Eberron for playtest ready racial traits.
- Another Eberron racial option are the Kalashtar, but they are heavy on psionic stuff and 5th edition hasn’t provided much outlining psi-powered characters.
- I am going to skip the player options in Elemental Evil and Volo for my campaign to focus on more typical Eberron specific races.
- Adding Goblinoids as playable races would fit well in Eberron.
- Having Tabaxi living in Xen’drik and Sharn might work well, but I would provide shifters as the player option to fill this niche.
- Goliaths are a good fit for Half-Giants.
- Eberron introduced the Artificer, a class which combines magic, alchemy, tinkering and engineering.
- The UA Eberron document included an Artificer Wizard tradition which really isn’t a good match to the previous versions of the class. I would avoid this option.
- The D&D team took another crack at the Artificer in the UA Artificer, which is pretty good. I playtested this build last week in a one-shot as a player and it worked for me at level 6.
- The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide provides a number of subclasses which are not only a good fit, but notes are provided on how to map them to Eberron in the appendices.
- I would allow other options from Unearthed Arcana, and upcoming options from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything on a case by case basis.
- ToA provides two new backgrounds which are a great match for tomb hunting adventures in the jungle in any setting, the Anthropologist and Archeologist. These backgrounds work really well in a world like Eberron that has major universities and museums.
- There are some good options in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and I would allow pretty much anything from that book other than backgrounds that are specific to the Forgotten Realms (but even those could be easily tweaked).
- Homebrew content can be untested and overpowered, but breaking a background is harder to do than overpower a feat, race or class. The following homebrew backgrounds are all specifically created for 5th edition Eberron campaigns.
- Foreign Infiltrator
- House Renegade
- House Scion
- War Torn Hero
Dragonmarks are an important part of the Eberron setting. Dragonmarks are sources of primordial power and a signs of the Draconic Prophecy. These marks appear as decorative tattoos and provide their bearer with spell-like abilities. UA Eberron provides DMs with the playtest ready Dragonmark Feat to provide us with an option to include dragonmarks in 5th edition.
Tools & Equipment
Previous edition books released for Eberron have lots of equipment options which can easily be converted to 5e such as chapter six of the original Eberron Campaign Guide. I’m tempted to write an entire article just on converting the boomerangs, exotic weapons, smokesticks and acid flasks. The UA Artificer class provides a decent start for providing Eberron flavored equipment and weapons.
I found some homebrew Eberron equipment including the tool below at Eberron 5e
Inquisitive’s Kit (50 gp). Made popular by freelance inquisitives, this kit contains some of the most often-used tools of the investigation trade. It includes containers of various shapes and sizes made of glass, metal, and wood; fine silk gloves; mundane dusts and brushes; tweezers, picks, and probes; a magnifying lens; ink and quills; chalk and charcoal; parchment sheets; and a small journal for recording notes. It may grant a bonus on investigation checks made to investigate the scene of a crime or other mystery.
I created a bunch of steampunk equipment. While Eberron uses magic, not steam to create anachronistic technology levels, they match up pretty well. Here are links to all of the equipment lists for you to steal to add onto the equipment list found in the Player’s Handbook.
The Eberron campaign setting introduced action points to reflect characters who are larger-than-life heroes destined for great things. Action points allow a player to add a bonus on any d20 roll so that characters can dodge or at least mitigate the effects of bad luck. Here are the rules converted to D&D 5th Edition provided in the Eberron Unearthed Arcana.
You start with 5 action points at 1st level.
Each time you gain a level, you lose any unspent action points and gain a new total equal to 5 + half your level.
- You can spend an action point whenever you roll a d20 to make an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw.
- You don’t have to decide until after you make the roll and learn if it succeeded or failed.
- If you spend an action point, roll a d6 and add it to your d20 result, possibly changing a failure into a success.
- You can spend only 1 action point per roll.
- In addition, whenever you fail a death saving throw, you can spend an action point to make it a success.