Tag Archives: Tomb of Annihilation

Adapting Tomb of Annihilation for Mystara: Port Kastellos

I am running the campaign Tomb of Annihilation for D&D 5th but with several house rules (i.e. heXPloration) and a shift in the setting, as I have placed the adventure in the Mystara setting. This here is my presentation of the adaption so far.

My favorite D&D setting is the Mystara setting, thus I prefer to place my campaigns here, and in order to do so, some adaption has to be done, though I try to keep adaptions minimal in order to keep my extra work at a minimal.

Tomb of Annihilation takes place in Chult in Forgotten Realms, bit I have chosen to adapt it to Mystara, and have placed the area on the northern coasts of Davania, since a part of that region is not too far off the map from the adventure, as I am using the Chult map for the adventure. There is not much canon material on Davania and less on the region, that I have chosen, so new material must be added. Other fans of the setting have through Vault of Pandius created new material, but it did not fit my vision of the game, so it is not in use.

The Great Evil

In the official campaign an evil entity sucks life and souls to it, in order to become a divine being, and this is causing resurrected people to wither away.

Since my players my spot this blog post in the forays into the web, I will not reveal too much here, but in general the same curse has hit Mystara, however, the origin is of another nature, and one that the Immortals are silent about.

Another consequence of the curse is that, creatures that extend their life through magic, has also begun to wither away. This has great consequences for nations such as Alphatia and Glantri, where wizards live for a long time through the application of magic. They too are now dying, and they have an interest in finding and stopping the cause, but their foes and rivals are tempted to let the curse run its course in order to hurt Alphatia and Glantri. The Hattian Order of the Storm Soldiers for instance have in interest in stopping anyone trying to end the curse (and in the campaign the order replaces Order of the Flaming Fists).

Davania/Chult –  Some Notes

As long as the campaign lasts the map from Tomb of Annihilation takes precedence of the normal maps of Mystara’s continent of Davania, and certain cities and areas are thus changed, and some of these deals with the nature of the campaigns evil.

Hattian Storm Troopers have a presence on the continent, as they try to interfere with anyone trying to stop the curse.

Heldannic Knights are present as well (they replace Order of the Gauntlet), and they are explorers of the region – for reasons for now kept secret – in part because a strange phenomenon in the jungles stops their flying ships from working, and the knights needs to know how and why.

The wreck of the flying ship The Star Goddess is now a wrecked Sky Gnome flying ship from Serraine stranding a small colony of Sky Gnomes in Kastellos, where they patiently await the return of Serraine and try to fund an expedition into the jungle to retrieve their wreck.

Kastellos/Port Nyanzaru – The History of the City

Build on top of ruins from a former unknown civilization (remains of the Milenian diaspora into the Davanian continent; was abandoned when the empire collapsed around 50BC), the Thyatian Empire established a farflung colony here during the reign of emperor Androikus II late 400 or early 500 AC. The colony was named Kastellos, and though chroniclers mention the ruins, they have no knowledge of the builders, nor their name.

During the 700s the nation of Hule begins expanding its influence in to the northern coasts of Davania, and this isolates Kastellos and its sister colony Garganin from the Thyatian Empire, and around 750 Garganin briefly becomes a colony under Hule control, though around 800 the Yavdlom Divinarchy returns to power and wrestles Hule’s control of the region from it. Garganin becomes independent again, while Kastellos remained independent during the whole period. An influx of Yavdloms to both Garganin and Kastellos begins, and when explorers in 852 from the Minrothad Isles discovers the sea routes to Kastellos and Garganin, they describe the two city states as populated by Yavdloms.

Kastellos and Garganin enters the sphere of influence of the Yavdlom Divinarchy, and they become two satellite states culturally and politically aligned with the Divinarchy, but also still independent cities, and they become places for Yavdloms to emigrate, if they do not want to accept the governing style of the divinarchy. In Kastellos – which is called Nyanzaru or Port Nyanzaru in the native tongues of the Yavdloms – a governing style inspired by the Minrothaddian traders consisting of a council of Merchant Princes arise, and one that is at odds with the divinarchy as it openly uses divination and welcomes rogue diviners from the divinarchy.

In 965 Thyatia returns to the Davanian continent as colonies are established in the Hinterlands, but no new relations are established with the still distant Kastellos or Port Nyanzaru, however, the city still contains a considerable minority of descendants from the Thyatian colonial period 500 to 300 years earlier, and they begin dreaming of returning to Thyatis as an official colony causing a schism with majority of the city’s population. The Thyatian descendants have not been in contact with the empire for 300 years, but that is about to change.

During the latest outbreak of lycanthropy some 40 years ago as large community of Minrothaddian wererats chose to leave the islands, rather than suffer through another Night of the Long Knifes, and at the time they chose to establish themselves in one of the most distant trading ports known to Minrothaddians, and thus they fled or moved to Port Nyanzaru, where they brought their knowledge of ship building technology with them, and became famed ship builders in the city state – and no one knew, what they brought with them. The wererats seek to keep a strict control on their hereditary and infectious lycanthropy and often forbid their members to marry outside of their ranks causing much grievance and rebellion amongst the youth.

At present in the year 1004, Port Nyanzaru is mainly populated by emigrant Yavdloms and their descendants, who has left the divinarchy and set up a council of merchant princes inspired by the Minrothad model. In the city is also a minority of emigrant Minrothadians, many of whom are wererats or related to people suffering from the curse of lycanthropy. The city has a minority of Thyatian descendants many generations removed from their ancestor’s empire, though they dream of returning to the empire, which they have no knowledge of beyond tales told innumerable times.

Of the original founders, the Milenians, there are no trace, as they are completely lost to history, but the foundation of the city is build upon their city – and perhaps there are people in Kastellos or Port Nyanzaru, who knows the earliest history of the city?

More on the city and continent, as I begin my write-ups on the campaign’s game sessions.


Houserules for Tomb of Annihilation hex crawl XP: hexPloration

I am running a Tomb of Annihilation campaign but as with my previous major D&D campaign set in Mystara, I have begun modding the game adding house rules of various kinds. Some are simply dealing with adapting the campaign to the Mystara setting, which required some changes. Other rules are for adapting the game to our play style. One such set of rules are the alternate XP-system we are using to emphasize the settings hex crawl aspect.

heXPloration

XP are gained from travelling through and exploring the wilderness.

XP gained:

  • 1 XP for exploring a mapped hex (some parts of the map are mapped before the game begins)
  • 2 XP for exploring an empty hex
  • 1 XP for exploring a location in a hex
  • 1 XP for each week spent in the wilderness

XP needed to level: 5+lv*5 – so 10 XP is needed to reach level 2, 15 to reach lv 3 etc.

Spending XP: XP are kept in a pool, that can be spent on characters in safe locations (each player has three characters).

Multiple characters and levelling: each player controls three characters. A character can be no more than two levels higher than the lowest in the trio (e.g. a character cannot reach level 5, if one of the other characters is at level 2).

And that is it. The XP-system entices the players to send their characters into the wilderness and even to take detours, as it gains them XP while they risk running into strange and unplanned encounters and risk running out of supplies.


Tomb of Annihilation – Captains of Chult

Large stretches of Chult are coasts, and with Port Nyanzaru being a port, it is an obvious choice to reach distant parts of Chult by sailing along the coast rather than braving the jungles or the sluggish rivers – but ships are expensive, so how does explorers in Tomb of Annihilation get there? By hiring transport on a ship, and in the dingy taverns of Port Nyanzaru, there are captains who offer their services for a reasonable fee.

I really like the concept of guides in Tomb of Annihilation. It may seem obvious, and yet it is so rarely done this well in wilderness adventures. Expanding upon the idea, thus allowing us to increase the scope of expeditions into the wilderness, I added Experts for Hire as mentioned in my previous post, and now I have Captains for hire. An assortment of captains, each with their own little kernel of a potential adventure, and a series of random events ranging from bad weather to weird and inexplicable phenomena. Captains of the Coasts of Chult can now be found at DM’s Guild. My previous Expedition Crew supplement was Experts of Chult, and I am considering adding a third one.

I am running my own Tomb of Annihilation set in the Mystara setting, and there may be hidden a few references to that setting among the captains, but easter eggs seems to a part of D&D 5th edition, so it is merely keeping with the style.

 


Tomb of Annihilaton – Experts of Chult

Tomb of Annihilation is an interesting campaign module, not just because of the modern attempt to create a hex crawl adventure but also because of some the tools the adventure contains. One of these tools are the Guides. They are NPCs with well-developed personalities, quirks and secrets, and not just that they are set-up with nice handouts, making them easy to present for the players and keep in mind.

The guides may not be a revolutionary thing, but they are still something I have not seen in other hex crawl adventures. Some adventures may suggest hiring a guide and even add a few details, but having a roster and letting the players choose between these set-ups is quite inspiring.

For my ToA campaign (which is set in the Mysrara setting) I am planning on running larger expeditions with more henchmen, and thus I wanted to add more NPCs for hire, and they did not all need to be Guides. Some could be experts with valuable skills, and thus I set up a bunch a small selection of Experts for Hire. The Experts of Chult – which now can be found at DM’s Guild.

Using henchmen, that are more than anonymous torchbearers and sword caddies, is also an opportunity to add role-playing situations to an otherwise eventless trek through the wilderness. Travelling through the wilderness may present the players with obstacles and challenges, but many are dealing with savage beasts or difficult terrain, but many does not include beings to interact with, and having NPCs jog along means there continuously will be beings to interact with. The experts add skills or bonuses to skills, but getting access to these require interacting with them, and that creates opportunities for role-playing.

Experts of Chult is the first of my Expedition Crew supplements to Tomb of Annihilation. The next one is Captains of the Coasts of Chult, as seafaring along the coasts will likewise be a part of my campaign.


Tomb of Annihilation – Using the Mystara Setting

This fall’s great adventure for D&D is the Tomb of Annihilation, and I picked up the book with some interest. I like the idea of a hex crawl having the players to travel deep into jungles searching for lost cities and ancient ruins, but without finding everything on their first go. Instead, they will have to make multiple journeys mapping the jungles bit by bit, and between expeditions they have a home base in a large harbor town.

I like this. I do not care much for the backstory with the curse killing people, who has been resurrected and making the raising of people impossible. It is a fine, grandiose plot, but not one, that I care for, and neither does the jungles of Chult nor Forgotten Realms have my interest. That is mostly because, when it comes to D&D settings, my favorite is The Known World or Mystara. So, I want to run this campaign, and I want to run it in the Mystaran setting.

But where to place this wonderful, empty hex map filled with deadly wonders and ancient secrets?

An obvious choice would be the major hex crawl adventure for D&D becmi, namely The Isle of Dread from module X1 The Isle of Dread (1980), which is an obvious choice, and I could simply just use the map from X1 with the adventure from Tomb of Annihilation, but I have already explored The Isle of Dread, and it could be interesting to try some other area.

Tomb of Annihilation itself suggests The Savage Coast, but they are probably not thinking of module X9 The Savage Coast (1985) but rather the (sub)-setting later published for AD&D 2nd edition The Savage Coast (based on the expanded material from the articles Voyage of the Princess Ark), but even though the region is called ‘savage’ it is far from unexplored or inhabited, and adapting Tomb of Annihilation to this region would require a lot of work, if I want it to stay true to the Mystaran setting.

There is, however, an interesting alternative. South of the Sea of Dread lies the continent Davania, and though parts have scarcely been colonized by Thyatis, it is at least from the view of The Known World unexplored lands, that are vaguely known, and near the Serpent’s Peninsula on the opposite side of The Serpent’s Sound the continent of Davania is somewhat shaped reminiscent of Chult area from the ToA book, which means that I can use the map from ToA without it being too far off, and that saves me time.

The coastal city being used as a base in ToA will be replaced with its Mystaran equivalent – there is actually one on the continent of Davania in the right place – called Kastellos. The name could indicate a Thyatian origin, but its position is just next to the Yawdlom Divinarchy, which means that I can keep large parts of the material from ToA and add materiale from the box set Champions of Mystara, which describes The Serpent’s Peninsula and The Yawdlom Divinarchy.

Adapting ToA to Mystara

The Mystaran Tomb of Annihilation plays out in the harbor town Kastellos on the continent of Davania. The town was originally a Thyatian colony, but Thyatis was unable to maintain its control of the city, and soon a large part of the population were newcomers from the Yawdlom Divinarchy seeking adventure. The city still has a large minority of Thyatians, and both traders from the Minrothad Isles and Thyatis pass by regularly keeping Kastellos in the orbit of The Known World-region.

Besides Thyatians and Yawdloms, Kastellos is home to a thriving colony of wererats, who arrived from Karameikos, as well as a large group of skygnomes stranded here, when their skyship crashed, and they are waiting for the flying city of Serraine to pass their way again. Elves are rare, but the few that are here, are mostly forest elves from Karameikos and sea-elves from Minrothad. Dwarves are here as travelling artisans, and the few hin finding their way here, are mostly hin pirates from the coasts of The Five Shires. Small groups of tortles from the Savage Coast also call the northern coasts of Davania for home, and they can be seen in the streets of Kastellos. Davania is home to nomadic tribes of Rakasta – some are related to the Rakasta from Isle of Dread – and Lupins. This should give a hint as to which playable races will be used in the campaign.

I am right now in the process of adapting ToA to run it in the Mystaran setting. This is first post in a small series of posts about adapting ToA, and fitting its backstory and plot into the existing framework of Mystara.