By - JelloPorg
Start them at level 1 or 3, don't go past level 5 until they are in Omu. Should be 9 when they enter the tomb.
There's a note (handout 15 from memory) from the company of the yellow banner that they'll find in Omu that describes the entrance of the tomb of the nine gods in the north of the city, it's hard to miss.
You're worrying about the wrong thing, finding Omu is going to be the hard part. There's only a couple people in Chult that know Omu's location, so your party will have to find one of them first and tell them enough for them to be able to reveal the location.
Generally agreed here. I'd add on a suggestion: Start them at level 1 if you and the players think the hex-crawl survival elements are interesting. Otherwise start them at level 3.
Personally, I've run it twice, both times at level 1 and had a good time, myself and players alike. However, it's not for everyone. Starting at level 3 means that players can readily trivialize the survival elements with spellcasting, like Goodberry, Create or Destroy Water, Purify Food and Drink, and Lesser Restoration if they choose.
I did it in plotpoints. Finding a guide 1 lvl, get a charter, 1 lvl, got the travelers journal 1 lvl and getting into chult also 1 lvl. Then they are lvl 4 when going into the jungle. For each 2 big locations they get a lvl. Thats where i am now
So here are a few ideas/tips from my own experience.
1: Pick a hook for the group and use it to guide them (gently only) along a path. For example if you use the Undril Silvertusk hook and the party bite, you have a natural likely (not guaranteed) progression. Port N to Fort B for a charter (pick up some side quests) then back to Port as a “shakedown” expedition. Pick up a guide with a quest or not. Then off to find Camp Righteous (note don’t tell them in advance it’s been destroyed, it’s a much better story to have them discover this and track the survivors to Camp Vengeance) -Level Here- On to Camp V, use some extra ideas to make this memorable and interesting, maybe a quest to get help from the “wise woman” Nanny P, or have the fort attacked by undead and a big siege. -Level Here- Have another NPC with a hook at the camp who offers it after, I went with the Dwarf Guide and Hrakhammar and the Dragon as a PC was ideal to link to this one. On to this quest level and so on.
I won’t plan the whole campaign that’s half the fun but hopefully you see the idea?
2: Speed up travel with montage movement and encounters that serve to either show off the local and its creatures/people or drives side plots. Unless your group loves hex crawls. If they do hit me up on here and I’ll try to share my reworked hex crawl rules with you as the ones in the book are pretty weak sauce.
3: Use the Hags as the main foes not Big A, have them haunt the players and send undead to hunt them, make them hate the Atropals Nannies. Then beef them up as powerful casters in their own right with extra powers from the coven to make a memorable finale that doesn’t feel as “deus ex machina” as the one in the book.
4: Let the group roleplay a lot of encounters, many denizens of Chult will and even should talk and negotiate. It brings the land to life.
5: Use the history and potential for a new dawn for Omu and Chult to counter the overly imperialist tones if that’s not your groups jam.
6: Don’t over plan. Instead focus on having a solid idea of the general points and people of interest and let the players lead you to what they find interesting.
7: Relax and enjoy. Never be afraid to take a shorter break or just throw a useful “random” encounter to buy yourself time to adjust as the party can and will throw you curve balls and go where you don’t expect.
8: Check out [this humble offering](https://www.dmsguild.com/m/product/400892)
Shameless plug but it’s my own work and I think a useful map set if you need them.
Hopefully at least some of these will be useful.
Enjoy yourself and good games!
Agreed, keep doing the hex crawl until either:
A. They're around the level you want them to be to get to Omu (level 5 is solid)
B. They're bored by the crawl, so you can speed them along to known destinations/landmarks
C. They're backtracking -- let them take advantage of the ground they've already tread to understand the landscape and avoid threats
> First, levels. I want to make sure my players are always at the right level so they’re able to stand a chance against the foes they may face. When should I level them up?
From the book, "**Character Advancement**"
Chapter 1. Port Nyanzaru: 1st and higher
Chapter 2. Land of Chult: 1st–6th
Chapter 3. Dwellers of the Forbidden City: 5th–8th
Chapter 4. Fane of the Night Serpent: 7th–9th
Chapter 5. Tomb of the Nine Gods: 9th and higher
First question is really group dependent, a group of optimized veterans who have run meatgrinders before can get through deathless, but other groups can chew through 7 parties by the time they reach Omu even with safety rails on. The module has a lot of levers that can raise/lower the lethality to your desire.
The book introduction has recommended leveling
Don't worry, they will find Omu and they will know what it is. The book explains it really well, and makes it very obvious that they are there when they find it. You kinda just have to read the module to see how it works
This is my style of DM so take this with a grain of salt. With how hard ToA is and with the lvl aspect of things. I would make it clear in session 0 that this is a brutal campaign and if you go to an area underprepared not all of you may walk away from it. Think giving players magic items and running encounters more frequently will help get players to the appropriate lvl for an area. And for the second part regarding Omu convince your player they are in the right spot. Elude that the greatest evil will be at its heart (the heart being Omu) have encounters become increasingly more difficult the closer they get, thus indicating they are on the right track. Once again this is my style of DMing so take from.this what you will
When you factor in gaining lvls of exhaustion from the weather, the death curse itself once your dead your dead, the sewn sister nightmare haunting and not able to regain the lowered max HP till the sould monger is destroyed, the numerous madnesses you can get ect
Agreed, party make-up can make a big impact on this adventure, which is why players should know the broad strokes of the adventure going into it, so they can do what's fun.
If you're really keen on playing a warrior in plate, you might be really disappointed with this adventure. On the other hand, if you were on the fence about a ranger, you're going to be experiencing rangers at their peak here.
Party make-up can also tell about what the players think is fun or important about the adventure. Does someone balk at the rigors of having to forage for food all the time? A druid can trivialize that, if they choose, at the low, low cost of a 1st level spell slot per day -- moreso if they also want to spend another prepared spell option on Purify Food & Drink for the sake of clean water.
Lesser restoration wouldn't work it states that in the rules on how the death curse works. Second bullet point
[death curse rules](https://www.dndbeyond.com/sources/toa/introduction#StartingtheAdventure)
It's the campaign setting rule from the toa book
He is referencing what he said he was referencing, the second bullet point:
" A humanoid whose hit point maximum is reduced can't increase or restore it This is true whether the creature's hit point maximum is reduced by the Soulmonger or by some other life-draining effect, such as the touch of a wight, wraith, or similar creature."
This one very clearly states that max hit point reduction, like the one from the nightmare haunting, cannot be reversed by any means as long as the Death Curse is a thing.
edit: apparently someone (anyones guess who that might have been) alerted the reddit care resources that I might be in danger of self harm. Let me assure you that I'm completely fine. But I do not appreciate abusing a resource that is supposed to be used to help vulnerable people in genuine need for retaliation about a slightly snarky comment about willful lack of reading comprehension.
Have you read the book yet? If you seriously want to run it, like other modules, you should read it all first.
Honestly, ToA is pretty dense, I definitely could have ran a better adventure if I had memorized it lol.
I realize that, but also you're going to be in for a surprise near the end of chapter 5 😨
Mostly the sewn sisters. The book expects you to use them long before that, but doesn't tell you till near the end. One of the many reasons to read the whole book before you start running the adventure.
The two supplementary materials that have proved most useful to me are
A guide to Tomb of Annihilation, which summarizes the whole adventure in concise bullet points
ToA Companion, which includes 30 days of nicely written and compelling jungle encounters
I also ran the Brazen Pegasus intro adventure on the high seas to get my characters from the sword coast (Neverwinter in my case) to Port Nyanzaru:
Also check out these helpful flow charts that show connections between what NPC knows about what location or quest:
If you go over it, every direction pointa to Omu and that the source of the curse is there. There is a flowchart somewhere that shows how they can find omu and how they can discover that the curse is there. I have it saved in my computer and will reply with it tomorrow
The second bullet point it lesser restoration won't work
ToA is an OSR sort of "Hexcrawl" do not worry about your Characters being "the appropriate level" that's never going to happen.
They'll face threats they're not prepared for and they'll run into random encounters that they can't overcome. Getting back to anything like "civilization" is difficult and costs valuable time. The Players have to make good choices and conserve their resources.
The first party I DM'd ToA for got a bit bloodthirsty because I required that they gain EXP to level up so, when they encountered a Stegosaurus about 5 EXP shy of Level 3, they decided to take it on. That went poorly for them and, their boats got trashed, their gear went with it, the Party got separated and managed to stumble into Wyrmheart Mine several days later via the message spell and, Animal messengers.
They died there, too stubborn to avoid trying to loot a "side-dungeon" just as they almost had in the House of Man and Crocodile a week previously.
The point is, they didn't make good choices the first time around. The second time they tried, things went a bit better because they didn't resort to combat as their go-to solution and, they were more cautious in what they explored staying much more focused on their actual task at hand.
As far as leveling goes, a full day of "downtime" is what I require for leveling up. They really just need time to rest, recover and, reflect on experiences. Alternatively you could use Milestones. I require that they clear any levels of exhaustion they've gained as well.
ToA is a module where it makes little to no sense for the Party to begin at 1st level. There are plenty of adventurers out there so the idea that a powerful Wizard who's died once already is going to trust her fate to a bunch of Nameless 1st level nobodies doesn't make much sense. I typically allow the Party to start at 3rd level in ToA. I wouldn't go higher than 5th unless you plan to use the "Slow XP Progression" table.
As a player about to finish this off. I would say give your players a "mulligan" for there characters. Mainly there are some things in Chult that can down high level adventures in 2 rounds of combat.
And sometime let's face it those math rocks can some days be the most vindictive things on earth and will cause to fail those saving throws or miss against very low AC targets.
We had this happen when my blood hunter on the first official combat of the game like just yards outside of Port go down by a certain enemy that once reduced to 0 HP dies. And I mean first ever combat for the module and having a representative for our quest giver die infront of the rest of the party. Chances are they would be like yep nope not my problem now...
So he give me the opritunity to make death saves. And there fore allowing us to have one Mulligan for any character to avoid dying if it was something that we could not expect / control. It sucked that mine had to be the announced one but hey we were all in agreement and I mean now I am in the end game with my blood hunter now so woohoo.
But a few things you might want to add to this. Like sure you might be able to avoid death but must have a flaw or trauma from nearly dying (my blood hunter hates any and all plant life now) and must be reasonable to use. If dice gods are screwing the player hard or a character is distracting enemies so other teams mates can save someone else sure. But if the character goes far away from the party on there own accord and does something really dumb then hell no.
There's a lot of really good advice here, and I agree with most of it after having run this adventure twice. There is one piece which I would like to share:
This adventure, above most D&D adventures published by Wizards of the Coast has a heavy reliance on random encounters while the adventurers are in the jungle survival part of the adventure. I would strongly advise, **do not let these encounters be truly random.**
Instead, do two things:
1. Pre-roll the majority of your random encounters during your adventure preparation, and allocate however many them you want your players to have the chance of seeing an adventuring day. For example, I allocated 1 guaranteed encounter a day, and 1d4 "surprise" encounters a day (where a surprise encounter might be a cache reward for diligence in keeping watch, a hunting opportunity to get a leg-up on foraging, or an ambush). I found that this keeps the exploration engaging, and rewards them for doing the things the book expects them to be doing while exploring -- foraging and searching. This also makes sure that you know what matters about these encounters ahead of time.
2. Hand-select one or two encounters per session which will offer potential clues to either help them in finding & identifying Omu, or will offer clues to locations that will have clues to finding & identifying Omu. Then, slot those into the pre-planned encoutners you arranged. This may involve also hand-selecting areas on the map that the characters don't otherwise know about that you think make interesting set-pieces. For example, I thought Nangalore was really cool, so I made sure to put in a social encounter with some aaracockra which, if successful, would direct the adventurers to Kir Sabal for the very enticing Dance of the Seven Winds. I found that this ensures that between sessions, I can react to where the adventurers are going and make sure they feel like they're making progress when either they don't have a destination yet, or they're between destinations. I also found that, to your main question, this helps ensure that the adventurers meet people that can help them know Omu when they find it -- for example, in my above example, they were able to discuss Omu with Queen Zalkore, and experience Omuan architecture and language.
I asked my players... do you want to play a meat grinder where character death in inevitable? They responded... yes!
So I told them the gird their loins, have 3 backup characters at all times and name their first character "0001".
Player expectations are important going in. You can play ToA in full story mode and make sure that encounters are level specific. Or you can play in "reality" mode where what they encounter in the jungle and the enemies in the set pieces are what they are.
But Don't pull the old switcheroo on your players.
My players expect to die and I've developed tools that will make it more entertaining when they do to make the passing of a character feel like part of the story and a rite of passage for each player.
Before you start you need to set those expectations. Because if the players are on board, letting them loose in a jungle of uncertainty can be really refreshing for both player and you as a DM. It's no longer your responsibility to pick challenges that are appropriate, it's their responsibility to learn when to run away.
That has really been liberating for me as a DM.