Tomb of Annihilation

From 1d4chan
ToA cover.jpg
Lich feeding souls to an aborted god-fetus, nothing to see here.

Tomb of Annihilation is a self-contained adventure module for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Set in Chult, the dinosaur-inhabited tropical jungle region of southern Faerun, it is a spiritual sequel to/ remake of the Tomb of Horrors spliced with Dwellers of the Forbidden City.

The plot kicks off when a strange, magical curse begins affecting everyone who has ever been resurrected from the dead, causing them to slowly weaken day by day until they die, irrevocably. The "death curse" is due to the machinations of the demi-lich Acererak (better known as the creator of the Tomb of Horrors), who has constructed a trap-riddled tomb deep in the jungles of Chult to house a necromantic artifact called the Soulmonger; this is feeding on the souls of every individual who has ever been resurrected in order to strengthen an atropal (an undead abomination that can only be described as the miscarried fetus of a god, which does not stop it from being a dangerous spellcaster in its own right), which Acererak hopes to transform into a full-fledged undead deity under his control.

The party must make a race against time to find the tomb and penetrate its traps so they can disable the machine and destroy the atropal before Acererak's plans come to fruition. While the premise makes it sound as though this is predominately a dungeon crawl, the book is set into four different stages or chapters, in which only the last is a trap-filled nightmare labyrinth. Exploration is a stronger focus, and the included maps make for an exciting romp around the continent. The adventure is also the only one of the Fifth Edition with a time limit of sorts. The quest-giver for the party is dying of the Death Curse, and if the party doesn't self-destruct the Soulmonger within 79 days, they fail the quest. Of course, they can still keep going, but they don't get a reward, and they have to settle for vengeance.

Spooky Stuff[edit]

SO. You might be wondering: Gee, handsome and exquisite 1d4chan grognard, what makes this book special? Simple. Aside from the awesome art, the hair-yankingly FUCK dungeon at the end, and the canon reintroduction of everybody's favorite divine abortion, this book introduces two optional rules to the 5e campaign tools: Meatgrinder Mode and Death Curse.

Meatgrinder Mode is explicitly for making character death more likely. In this mode, the players must roll a 15, not a 10, to get one pass on their death saves. That by itself is insane, but there are other things to offset it, like how all characters who survive anything that grants XP or arbitrary money in this mode earn 10% more automatically. Thus, after you hit level 2, you are less likely to take a lethal hit, since you will always be earning new hit point totals faster than the encounter CR can keep up with you (at least in official Wizards of the Coast publications), but if you do go down, you are statistically half again as likely to die.

This couples beautifully with the Death Curse. Under the Death Curse rules, all living things that had died at least once before already begin dying again. This is unblockable and insurmountable. You can still gain XP and more HP from leveling up, but nothing, not magic nor time, can allow you to recover hit points past a formula of [Total HP value - {days since Death Curse began * 1}]. Therefore, when you drop to zero, you stay alive for the usual 1d4+CON hours, then die. And thanks to the other half of the Death Curse, you are fucked. Why? Because the Death Curse blocks ALL resurrections. All of them. Raise Dead, Resurrection, True Resurrection, Reincarnation, even Wish and the Deck of Many Things are all nonfunctional. The only way to not die is with Spare the Dying and Revivify, since the soul doesn't leave the body before the time limits on those spells.

So what's the dealie, yo? Well, remember that atropal? Yeah, Acererak commissioned a soul-injecting necrowomb from some hags, and they thought it was hilarious, so they built it for him. He plugged it into the atropal, and it's eating hundreds of thousands of souls from across the Realmspace Sphere (including the sun and Glyth) as nourishment. Which is awesome, but also very bad. When it hits critical mass, at which point it will have consumed millions of souls, Acererak hopes it will erupt into a neonate god, one he can control, which will begin ripping the souls from every living thing on Toril and give him a cut. Now, whether that would work or not, nobody knows, least of all Acererak, who can always nip out to his pocket dimension if it doesn't work. He's not from Toril, he doesn't give a fuck. One wonders what Larloch and Szass Tam think of all this, and one would learn that they are fucking angry. Both have sent their dudes to fuck things up, and you can even take Larloch as a patron of your Warlock if you want to play one of his agents sent to destroy the fucking thing.

So what happens next? Canonically, the party finds the trickster gods (actually just trickster spirits) that Acererak wrecked so he could turn their temple into his new Tomb of Annihilation, gets all kinds of juiced up by them, and blows up the adamantine support struts holding the Soulmonger above the lava pit beneath it, then double-aborts the atropal and kills the current body of the lich. He doesn't like that, but not knowing how they're so powerful since he didn't know the trickster gods were still extant, he just reforms his body elsewhere and plots to murder the party's children. He's eternal, he has time for that.

In Doomed Forgotten Realms[edit]

So remember how weird it was for Acererak, of all people to seem to be doing this all for shits and giggles? Well according to the new campaign book Doomed Forgotten Realms (a What-If book that details what happens when ALL the 5th Ed official modules get a BAD END), this was all but step one in a plan to allow Vecna, of all people, to manifest in the Realms, and claim a huge swath of the Sword Coast as his own domain.