Guest poster Brian McGee started playing fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons with my home group earlier this year, quickly discovering enthusiastic enjoyment from the world’s greatest roleplaying game. After a few sessions playing in my Spelljammer campaign, a one-shot as a tribe of grung and a pickup session of Sunless Citadel he went all-in as a Dungeon Master. We all had a terrific time playing in his iteration of Matt Colville’s Delian Tomb, and when his turn behind the screen came back around Brian wanted to run Tomb of Annihilation. We decided to use the same party we started his game with and took them on the journey to Chult. When the Tomb of Annihilation Companion landed on my desk, we’d just played our first session. Since Brian expressed an interest in doing some writing for Nerdarchy I passed the guide along to him as both a resource for our game and his first writing assignment. – Nerditor Doug
Enriching Tomb of Annihilation
As the Dungeon Master running the Tomb of Annihilation adventure for our home group, Nerditor Doug passed along the Tomb of Annihiliation Companion by Dungeon Master’s Guild bestselling author Sean McGovern and wanted my thoughts on it. The guide is about 50 pages and can be broken down into about five sections: Port Nyanzaru, jungle exploration, City of Omu, new subraces and items, and world expansion. Let’s take a look at what is offered, starting at the top.
Right off the jump, the first chapter’s Alternate Dinosaur Racing Rules might be the best alternative concept given in this guide. I found the original version a little tedious to execute and it didn’t fit in well overall. Port Nyanzaru is most likely a large, confusing, and foreign city to your players. The alternate rules offer a seamless way to tour the city as well as offer up an intense action scene. Having the race in stages instead of achieving an arbitrary foot length, as well as imagining the racers moving in a tight pack, help keep this encounter brief and lively.
Following up the racing chapter and rounding out the port’s expansion, the idea of water tube transportation is introduced. These seem to function well and could add a neat moment or two. However for me, I don’t see them as a great fit. Travel isn’t very restricted in the city; these are purely just for some flavor.
Much like the adventure, the bulk of the guide deals with moving through, and surviving, the deadly jungle of Chult. You’re given a 30 day layout for encounters, foraging, and other events that may happen. While a DM could run write down each day pending player actions, I think this is best used as a template for structuring a few day’s worth of encounters at a time. It adds some cohesion and makes the game run smoother at the table, however there’s still room for throwing in a random encounter and your players aren’t railroaded.
A montage chapter is also offered in case your group isn’t as interested in the day-to-day trek or if things in Tomb of Annihilation just need moved along. My group of players got on a surprisingly quick path to Omu unbeknownst to them. The have a few clear goals and points of interest on their map that should take them right to the main show. Even still, Chult is huge and lots of time will be spent traveling. I would have liked to have seen the Artus Cimber encounters a little more involved, however every premade day offered is entertaining and can be dropped right in anywhere on your players’ trip.
Lost City of Omu
After the exploration sections, the Tomb of Annihilation Companion dives into Omu – the lost city everyone is looking for. The detail and additions here are great. However, I’m not sure how many groups will need it sadly. If a party made quick work of getting here, or just had no interest and a lot of the exploration is handwaved this section will be essential. Most parties will have had enough under their belts once they find the city, and the standard adventure has a good amount to do. Personally I’ll try to grab one or two of his building and encounter ideas but I think it may be hard to introduce this chapter much.
New items and options
At the end of the guide, we get some new magic items and subraces to play with. The items add much needed weight to their named counterparts in the original adventure without throwing off the balance too much. Speaking of balance, two new subraces are introduced: albino dwarf and yuan-ti. Any added dwarf content is OK in my book, and the yuan-ti sounds like lots of fun with one downside. The yuan-ti racial features are very strong here.
It’s pointed out that this character might be a little too powerful. I’d really consider what the players at my table like and how they enjoy the game before allowing this option. The template is there, though, and a DM could tweak it if he or she felt it necessary.
The final focus in the guide I would say is just general world enrichment across the board. A good job is done adding in detail and expanding minor characters, places, and items throughout the adventure. All of the fun bits we were teased about prerelease ToA find ways to get implemented from zombie T-Rex surprises to the batiri goblin stack coming out.
Overall I found this companion guide very useful, fun, and nearly a must have for running Tomb of Annihilation. Some parts an individual may not ever need, like the expanded Omu details, but for others these focuses will prove a life saver for a DM.
Ready to head to Chult?
Nerditor Doug here to say thank you to Brian for not only contributing his writing for Nerdarchy but also joining my home group and taking the extra step to give being a Dungeon Master a shot. And thanks to Sean McGovern for providing a copy of the Tomb of Annihilation Companion for Nerdarchy to preview for our community. We’ve got another preview coming soon of one of Sean’s other books as well as some Nerdarchy exclusives from this imaginative author that we’re very excited about.
Perhaps you’re prepping to run Tomb of Annihilation for your D&D group. Maybe you’ve started the adventure or even played through the entire thing and planning to run it again with new players. The Tomb of Annihilation Companion by Sean McGovern is available through the Dungeon Master’s Guild here. The digital book is $4.99, and while you’re there you can check out Sean’s other bestsellers like Emirikol’s Guide to Devils, A Guide to Curse of Strahd, and A Guide to Storm King’s Thunder. You can also use Nerdarchy’s exclusive coupon code DTRPG-Nerdarchy and get 10 percent off on any order of $10 or more, usable once per customer. [This coupon code is applicable to digital products only.]
Head on over to Power Score, Sean McGovern’s website, to find more from this creator like links to live game play videos, other products he’s written, his blog and an archive of podcasts including games set in the Planescape campaign setting.
And as always, stay nerdy![amazon_link asins=’0786966106,B071LF9DJ3,1945625937′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’nerdarchy-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’51b95d8f-df11-11e7-a8db-75c80a3805d7′]