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    Default Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Last warning, for those of you hovering mouse cursors over this thread to see a preview: I won't be marking spoilers and will be discussing Tomb of Annihilation stuff in here. So if you are playing in it, I strongly advise you not to read this thread. There are also spoilers for Sunless Citadel.







    Everyone left have good reason not to care about spoilers for ToA or Sunless Citadel? Excellent.


    Some background and changes

    I'm running this as the first adventure for two players, and the first 5e game for two others. Because I felt like the canon starting point was designed for Forgotten Realms veterans and to try to get extant parties with a couple adventures in the Sword Coast under their belt into the game, I tossed it out the window and let it hit an NPC party on the way down. Instead, I gave the PCs each their own reasons for being there (or, rather, let them come up with them). I have a half-orc gladiatrix who works in the arena and is in Chult because there are so few orcs there (she's exiled from her clan), a wood elf wizard apothecary who moved there because of all the exotic plants (he's been there for more than 50 years, but hasn't "gone native" because that's not all that long to his perspective), a dwarven archeologist (ranger) who's newly arrived with a map from her background items that points to Hisari (though she doesn't know that, and I've got plans to have Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan placed there for them to plunder), and a monk who's on this quest looking for the Gulthias Fruit because the Grand Master of Flowers has fallen ill (he's an ex-adventurer and is dying of the death curse).

    The monk and the ranger were hired in Waterdeep by Obaya Utumbe, who's returning to Port Nyanzaru with the magical artifacts she paid handsomely for adventurers to dig out of Undermountain. The Monk has the Hermit background, so I gave him an interesting secret: In his monastic records, there's information that another monastic order from long ago that followed "the Tao of Oob" had lore of a god in Chult who had a child with Mystral, but Karsus slew her before the child could be born. What may or may not come up is that I have decided the Atropol is this stillborn child of Ubtao and Mystral. This gives me some reason for Ubtao to show interest, if I wish, in the doings of the campaign.


    The PCs I have don't yet know of the Death Curse, and will find out about it (if things go as I predict) when their current mission, which is to rescue or recover the corpses of a party that went looking for the fruit that some Baitiri sell every year in the black market that is said to cure any ailment. Said party are working for Syndra Sylvane, the canon starting NPC. They picked up Tiryiki, the son of one of the Merchant Princes, who has a bit of a crush on her. (I have made her an elf, rather than a human, so she still looks young and - if one can look past the wasting of the death curse - attractive enough to inspire the heart of a strapping young gladiator and dino-racer.)

    His mother doesn't know of the death curse, only that he's trying to help a sick mage-woman he has a thing for. She's willing to pay to have him brought back from the dead if the party will recover his corpse. This is how the party will tragically learn of the curse: when it fails.


    For those familiar with the Sunless Citadel, I've placed it a day or so north of Firefinger, and will have the PCs going through it with a couple of little tweaks to the decor (e.g. the goblins are Baitiri of the Smokey Jaguar tribe, and their bugbear leader is either going to be two Baitiri stacked on top of each other and so good that they can't be separated, or at least have two masks he wears to give that impression) to make it fit into Chult a little better. I've decided that the Gulthias Fruit - which is just about ripe when the PCs arrive - is, in fact, able to defeat the death curse...a little. Its necromantic source means it can actually restore up to 70 hp to the eater's max hp, and relieve the symptoms back to up to 70 days' worth of decay. It won't halt the continued progression, though. (I doubt it'll come up, but feeding oneself to the Gulthias Tree would also protect one from the Death Curse, because the soul is trapped in the evil tree's wood and thus not so loosely bound as to be sucked slowly out by the Soulmonger.)

    Belak (who I'll probably re-spell to Belaq or something to try to make it more Chultan) is brother to the druid guide at Fort Beluarian, though they are not close, and that connection didn't wind up coming up because the PCs didn't go to the fort. (It was an off-chance thing, one of many hooks laid.) I've also decided that the circle that kicked him out were worshippers of Kubazan, and that scattered remains of the cults of the Nine Gods may reside around Chult, still, as druid circles (since druids do not depend on the gods to give them spells).

    The Baitiri will have a mix of jaguar and frog iconography, as they've conflated Kubazan and Nangnang and mostly view the "god" as a god of selfish savagery.

    My request for commentary and advice

    This is relevant for two reasons. For one, I would like some ideas on how to scatter references to the legend of the nine gods without just having Eku (whom they've hired as their guide - I almost had them getting the weretigress, but they changed their mind at the last minute, which is ironic because the weretigress would've saved them a tenday of travel up the wrong river by sheer luck of her preferred one being the right one) spout the whole story and pooh-pooh the notion of them. I think part of it can be that Eku may not know for sure what the Nine Lost Gods of Omu really were, only that they weren't as powerful as Ubtao who'd turned his back on the Omuans. But I want to make sure the notions of them are at least present by long before the PCs arrive in Omu.

    For another, I have a PC who is a half-orc barbarian who has a complicated relationship with her patron deity, Gruumsh. She is, you see, Chaotic Good, and thus has a lot of issue with his...teachings. But she also firmly believes that her Barbarian Rage comes from Gruumsh himself, and that abandoning him will leave her diminished. Or even that she has no ability to abandon him, due to his divine rage burning in her veins. She (and her player) would like to find a different god closer to her own alignment to take up worship of, but said god must have a holy rage or she won't be able to really transfer her faith.

    The player has, of the gods of the Forgotten Realms setting, named Selune as the closest she can come up with, basing the "rage" aspect on the "constant battle with her sister, Shar." To make the shift, she'd need some sort of "religious experience" that would make abandoning Gruumsh for Selune seem emotionally satisfying. A conversion experience. This is complicated by the fact that I'd have to introduce Selune references to expose her to, but that's doable.

    She has expressed a preference for a campaign-specific deity, and I think Kubazan (the froghemoth) would be ideal...if he were actually able to do any sort of reaching outside of the Tomb of the Nine Gods.

    Fortunately, because this is more about her personal faith than about being actually chosen by the god, I can probably swing it if she feels she's found "her god" in some fashion. Which is part of why I want to up my foreshadowing game with the Nine Trickster Gods by scattering references across Chult. Unfortunately, there's a little bit of a time crunch, because she wants to go the Zealot subclass for Barbarian, and she's level 2 as of the end of last session. So we basically have 1 level's worth of play to expose her to Kubazan and his concepts and give her a religious experience that makes her feel empowered, uplifted, and excited about him, able to identify her rage with his wild (but not hateful) fury and frenetic energy.

    Now, I haven't told the player about Kubazan, though I did mention "froghemoth" while I was looking through the back of the book at monsters and she snorted that that sounded like a name her character would give a monster because she couldn't describe it any better. So that's promising.

    I also mentioned there was a spoiler-prone possibility for her conversion, though I haven't told her what. She seemed interested, though obviously with so little information she can't really get excited.


    So, aside from throwing references to Nangnang and Kubazan in front of her on the way to the Sunless Citadel (and within it), I am looking for suggestions for how to give her an inspiring and uplifting experience that connects with Kubazan's wild and furious nature while being more about boldness and daring than about hate and crushing people for fun. I need to do this, preferably, without having Kubazan "cheat" by reaching outside of the Tomb, though I could potentially alter the setting to allow all nine gods to be seeking for help. That feels a bit forced, though.

    There is Ubtao, who may have reason to operate through false proxies impersonating the Nine Gods if he wants attention brought to what's being done to his stillborn son or daughter. But again, active "and here's a god choosing you!" feels too forced to me.

    What I would prefer is a set of events which can dredge up her discomfort with Gruumsh and her reasons for said discomfort, and some way of showing Kubazan and the Froghemoth iconography as also being "angry" but not in the hateful, kill-them-all way she's uncomfortable with with her CE patron right now.

    I can use Eku to tell some stories, if needs be, but she's reluctant to speak too much of Omu, and I am reluctant to taint things with her likely disgust at the nine trickster gods' deception over the Omuans.

    I considered replacing Belak's giant frog with a froghemoth, but CR 10 is a bit much for a level 2 party. I'll likely have the bugbear's dual masks represent a grung and a froghemoth, though.

    "Too long, didn't read" summary: I'm looking for advice on how to construct a sequence of events to allow a reluctant believer in Gruumsh to shift her personal belief in her source of rage to Kubazan without having to have any explicit miraculous events attributed to Kubazan. Failing that, as subtly as possible, Ubtao tossing Kubazan (and the other Nine Gods) around as faux proxies to try to draw attention to Omu might facilitate this. But I still need ideas for actual events to make Kubazan seem inspiring and uplifting as an icon of fury and violence-as-sport (rather than as tool of brutality and murder) for a half-orc barbarian.

    Failing that, ideas for how Selune might try to woo a CG half-orc away from Gruumsh, tying into her constant battle with Shar for rage. Or Tempus, perhaps, instead of Selune, though the player didn't seem to be grabbed by Tempus as a notion.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    When is the next session? This is a really interesting scenario and I'd like to think about it for a bit, but I'm not sure I'll be able to devote any time to it till after the weekend.

    On the minor matter of Belak becoming Belaq - I immediately thought of Belloq, archrival of Indiana Jones. If you think your players might make that same connection and be influenced by it, it might be better to keep it as Belak.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Next session is Friday. They’re back in Port Nyanzaru after having gone up the Shoshenstar and running into Camp Righteous and Yokka. They didn’t know which river the other party took nor which the Fruit-selling goblins came from, and guessed wrong. But Yokka pointed them to the Smokey Jaguar tribe after they beat up his men. Well, Yokka got away, but one of his men they captured did. They decided that going back downriver and up the Tiryiki was the fastest and most reliable way to find the Smokey Jaguar clan of goblins.

    So last session ended with them getting to town, and they have some business there to attend to. They’ll probably get to the Sunless Citadel before the session ends, so any ideas about encounters along the way probably need to happen before Friday evening. Anything in the Citadel or after will remain good.

    I thought about redoing the citadel to be a shrine to the nine gods, but the dragon imagery is too ingrained for that to be a cosmetic effort, and I don’t want to spend the time and effort to rewrite the encounters. It would wind up feeling hacked together and prone to me making errors. But I can add stuff and alter small things and do cosmetic changes.

    One thought I had was hat the citadel was taken over around 140 years ago by Omuans preparing to enact their Queen’s decree and using it as a forward staging ground for an attack on Mezro. If Ashaldaron was a dragon who led a monastery of elven worshippers of Ubtao, doing some vandalism that defaced Ubtao’s mazes with nine gods iconography would make some sense, while leaving the dragon icons intact.


    Also, I’m thinking Eku will refuse to enter he Sunless Citadel with the party, but I need a better excuse than “you’re not paying me enough.” Thoughts on that would be appreciated, too.

    Thanks!


    Edit: I wouldn’t have thought of Indiana Jones, but they would. Good call.
    Last edited by Segev; 2019-05-22 at 11:27 AM.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Could you replace portions of the iconography with scenes of the 9 Trickster Gods interacting with dragons? Rather than doing a full rework into a shrine, overlay a light patina of Chulty iconography overtop. That would let you keep the encounters unchanged, introduce the tricksters outside the tomb, and give you a cool frieze or mosaic or statue of Kubazan froaking with joy while he wrestles an ancient gold dragon or something. Maybe a door that's opened with a circular maze, and it's bordered by images of the nine trickster gods and the main true dragon types. And maybe it's a bit on the nose, but you could foreshadow the trickster god possession bit by having each player need to trace through the maze starting with a particularly chosen trickster god. They touch the image and it feels warm or tingly or some tactile confirmation that that's the right place to start.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Quote Originally Posted by QuickLyRaiNbow View Post
    Could you replace portions of the iconography with scenes of the 9 Trickster Gods interacting with dragons? Rather than doing a full rework into a shrine, overlay a light patina of Chulty iconography overtop. That would let you keep the encounters unchanged, introduce the tricksters outside the tomb, and give you a cool frieze or mosaic or statue of Kubazan froaking with joy while he wrestles an ancient gold dragon or something. Maybe a door that's opened with a circular maze, and it's bordered by images of the nine trickster gods and the main true dragon types. And maybe it's a bit on the nose, but you could foreshadow the trickster god possession bit by having each player need to trace through the maze starting with a particularly chosen trickster god. They touch the image and it feels warm or tingly or some tactile confirmation that that's the right place to start.
    I was already going to do some facelift stuff: it's hot and dank even underground, more colorful woods and glazed stonework. Having the nine gods interacting with dragons in obviously-added motifs could be interesting.

    I won't be touching the possession bit; the trickster gods are not meant to be reaching out of the tomb. I'm looking to try to introduce them more as things that were, that are lost or missing now. History, not present fact. Something to go looking for, probably.

    If I do it right, the half-orc barbarian will want to seek out this new being in which she has taken faith, and this will help propel them towards Omu in addition to the death curse stuff.


    Edit to add: Any suggestions for what to dress up the giant rats that attack early in Sunless Citadel as? I’m sure rats exist in Chult, but since they literally show up nowhere in the random encounter tables and I haven’t seen them called out as being in any of the dungeon set encounters, they’d...stand out...here.

    I’m thinking “giant ants” (while still using rat stats) or “giant scorpions.” But is there something better?

    Or should I just find excuses to add rats elsewhere?
    Last edited by Segev; 2019-05-22 at 03:25 PM.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    I'd favour Selune or Tempus over Kubazon. Keep in mind the Trickster gods are called that for a reason. They aren't very effective "gods" and were easily defeated and enslaved by Acerak. I suspect that the half-orc would be very disappointed to change their allegiance from Gruumsh to a being who is at most a minor god who was only worshipped by some fraction of Omuans after Ubtao left them.

    On the other hand, Chult is filled with storms. Heavy rains, thunder, lightning, the power and rage of storms can easily be presented to any character playing in Chult. They will encounter it every day. As a result, Tempus, god of storms and war might be a very appropriate choice given the character and the setting. There could be a temple to Tempus in Port Nyanzaru where folks pray for good luck in the weather when traveling Chult. A cleric of Tempus could sense the lack of resolve of the half-orc and their willingness to embrace another faith and could invoke the divine to reach out to the half-orc in some way to show them the "light" and give them the experiences they need to choose their path.

    Also, ALL of the party have to be good aligned or Eku will not work with them. Eku is a very particular guide. In addition, Eku is one of the few who is fully aware of what is going on and can lead the characters to the source of the problems. However, Eku is also likely very picky. They will probably try to evaluate the party. Are these the right ones? Will they be able to succeed where so many have failed? Eku will also be able to judge when the party is likely capable of the challenges represented by Omu so she is unlikely to reveal any of her knowledge until the appropriate time since she wants adventurers capable of destroying Ras Nsi and the undead menace as well as the tomb so she won't be in any hurry to rush a group of inexperienced characters to their doom when she wants and needs them to succeed. When I played this, my party ended up with Azaka. We didn't discover she was a weretiger until much, much later.

    A couple of additional comments, you might consider adjusting the jungle travel times. The stated rates are 1 hex/day overland and 2 hexes/day on a river. These are fine if you are going directly to a destination but Chult is a sandbox. There is a lot to do and a lot of it is scattered around the borders of the continent. This means that travel times can be very long if you actually try to do some of the far spaced content which can interfere with the time limit imposed by the death curse. The time limit does instill some urgency to drive the plot but you'll need to juggle overland travel times with what the characters want to do and the available time frame.

    Finally, there are very few magic items available in ToA, especially magical weapons. However, some of the creatures encountered later, especially in the tomb, are resistant or even immune to non-magical weapons (roaming were-tigers for example). This can make it difficult to deal with some of the situations you might encounter so you may want to consider tweaking the availability of what they might find or incorporating some of the guild adept content (e.g. Return of the Lizard King, Ruins of Hisari) or adding ToYP content like Hidden Shrine of Tamochan since these typically have much more magic than ToA. You may also want to consider milestone leveling rather than XP since the random encounters in the jungle don't provide that much XP unless you want to bog down every session with several random encounters while traveling in order to pad the XP. The jungle is good for levels 1-5 (really slows down getting to 5) or so but bridging to levels 5-7 so they can be at least 7 when entering Omu can be a tough.

    P.S. Instead of giant rats just use some sort of dinosaur - that is the Chult theme and there should be all sorts of subterranean dinosaurs possible (modified Velociraptors from the back of ToA would be an option. They are CR 1/4 but are very nasty though not much different from giant rats except that they have 2 attacks each).
    Last edited by Keravath; 2019-05-23 at 08:38 AM.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Quote Originally Posted by Keravath View Post
    I'd favour Selune or Tempus over Kubazon. Keep in mind the Trickster gods are called that for a reason. They aren't very effective "gods" and were easily defeated and enslaved by Acerak. I suspect that the half-orc would be very disappointed to change their allegiance from Gruumsh to a being who is at most a minor god who was only worshipped by some fraction of Omuans after Ubtao left them.
    I'll offer Tempus; I'm not sure she really saw him. That said, she's not worshipping Gruumsh because he's powerful and has a huge church; she believes she gets her rage from him, and venerates him for that (and that alone), while being very uncomfortable with nearly everything else about him. Given that she's not deriving her class features nor expecting divine favor from her patron, it's more about the faith she has in where her Rage comes from than anything else.

    I agree, Kubazon is not powerful. In fact, I don't intend for his power to reach outside the Tomb, which is one of the reasons offering him as a possible vessel for her belief is tricky. I like the notion because it helps provide more character-links to the Tomb, though I won't twist her arm on it, and if she likes Tempus better (or just finds a better "conversion story" wrt him), that's fine with me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Keravath View Post
    On the other hand, Chult is filled with storms. Heavy rains, thunder, lightning, the power and rage of storms can easily be presented to any character playing in Chult. They will encounter it every day. As a result, Tempus, god of storms and war might be a very appropriate choice given the character and the setting. There could be a temple to Tempus in Port Nyanzaru where folks pray for good luck in the weather when traveling Chult. A cleric of Tempus could sense the lack of resolve of the half-orc and their willingness to embrace another faith and could invoke the divine to reach out to the half-orc in some way to show them the "light" and give them the experiences they need to choose their path.
    Is Tempus god of storms? I know he's the god of war, but his entry in my 3.5 FR book didn't seem to mention storms. (I could have just missed it.)

    Torm's not likely, if only because Camp Righteous gave her a severely negative impression of the competence of his followers, and the fact that he's LG while she's CG. In a sense, he's no better, alignment-wise, than Gruumsh. From her perspective.

    A proselytizing cleric of Tempus is a possibility. I'll have to think how I could work that in in the limited time they have in town, or in a "random" encounter on the way to the Sunless Citadel (which I've placed 1-2 hexes north of Firefinger).

    Edit: I'm considering trying to use Chwingas as a possible medium for exposure to the Nine Gods.

    Quote Originally Posted by Keravath View Post
    Also, ALL of the party have to be good aligned or Eku will not work with them. Eku is a very particular guide.
    They are, so far as they've told me. And I haven't seen them being wicked.

    Quote Originally Posted by Keravath View Post
    In addition, Eku is one of the few who is fully aware of what is going on and can lead the characters to the source of the problems. However, Eku is also likely very picky. They will probably try to evaluate the party. Are these the right ones? Will they be able to succeed where so many have failed? Eku will also be able to judge when the party is likely capable of the challenges represented by Omu so she is unlikely to reveal any of her knowledge until the appropriate time since she wants adventurers capable of destroying Ras Nsi and the undead menace as well as the tomb so she won't be in any hurry to rush a group of inexperienced characters to their doom when she wants and needs them to succeed. When I played this, my party ended up with Azaka. We didn't discover she was a weretiger until much, much later.
    Yeah, they almost went with Azaka, too. The elf changed their mind; I still am not sure what made him prefer Eku. The dwarf actually distrusted her espoused charitable nature and thought Azaka's self-interest more believable; she was concerned that Eku would turn out to make all her money by leading marks into traps and looting them.

    I stayed out of it, beyond offering the handouts, because I didn't want to influence them. (Had I been influencing them, I'd have pushed Azaka, because she would've led them to the Sunless Citadel more directly; she has interest in Firefinger, after all. Eku knows the region west of the Shoshenstar better than the region surrounding the Tiryiki - and also knows that the undead meanace are probably too much for a group she hasn't evaluated yet - so when asked her advice, she advised the Shoshenstar. She didn't know where the baitiri with the mysterious fruit came from any better than anybody else, and the party's clues only gave them enough to know that Tiryiki's group took canoes, thus went up one of the two rivers.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Keravath View Post
    A couple of additional comments, you might consider adjusting the jungle travel times. The stated rates are 1 hex/day overland and 2 hexes/day on a river. These are fine if you are going directly to a destination but Chult is a sandbox. There is a lot to do and a lot of it is scattered around the borders of the continent. This means that travel times can be very long if you actually try to do some of the far spaced content which can interfere with the time limit imposed by the death curse. The time limit does instill some urgency to drive the plot but you'll need to juggle overland travel times with what the characters want to do and the available time frame.
    They don't even know of the death curse, yet. And the only one with a person he cares about suffering it is the monk, who may or may not make the connection to his retired Grand Master of Flowers's illness. It'll be sad if they don't make it in time to save people, but the urgency remains even if Syndra and Jesamine die. But it ceases being quite so immediately urgent as to require rushing.

    With them back in town and the apothecary in the party wanting to do some business, I'm debating coming up with an excuse to have him meet the Merchant Prince he answers most directly to as the one with authority over the goods he sells. Jesamine is suffering the death curse, too, after all.

    Still, travel times have been well-paced, according to my players, so far. They've liked the random encounters. If anything, the half-orc's player wants tougher ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by Keravath View Post
    Finally, there are very few magic items available in ToA, especially magical weapons. However, some of the creatures encountered later, especially in the tomb, are resistant or even immune to non-magical weapons (roaming were-tigers for example). This can make it difficult to deal with some of the situations you might encounter so you may want to consider tweaking the availability of what they might find or incorporating some of the guild adept content (e.g. Return of the Lizard King, Ruins of Hisari) or adding ToYP content like Hidden Shrine of Tamochan since these typically have much more magic than ToA. You may also want to consider milestone leveling rather than XP since the random encounters in the jungle don't provide that much XP unless you want to bog down every session with several random encounters while traveling in order to pad the XP. The jungle is good for levels 1-5 (really slows down getting to 5) or so but bridging to levels 5-7 so they can be at least 7 when entering Omu can be a tough.
    I've got them heading to the Sunless Citadel as (it turns out) the second dungeon they're doing. (The first was the little House of Man and Crocodile at Camp Righteous, due to how they chose to explore.) The dwarf ranger archeologist also has a map to a ruin as part of her starting kit; I doctored a map of the area around Refuge Bay so that Ishau was still shown as being on land, and an unlabeled ruin is shown a few days south-west of it. This is the ruin of Hisari. I've placed the Hidden Temple of Tamochan in Hisari, because I don't have the guild adept stuff on it and I don't want to try to cram the guild adept stuff in now that I've already determined the Hidden Temple is there.

    I'm actually a little worried about them being over-leveled by the time they finally hit Omu, especially since they already have heard rumores of Nangalore and Eku is quite capable of leading them there from Hisari if they like. She's mentioned the naga at Orolunga, too, though that's so out of their way and they feel an urgency to rescue the party that went missing searching for the baitiri and their goblin fruit. (The Gulthias Fruit, as it turns out.)

    So your advice gives me some encouragement that maybe this won't over-level them, and will give them some much-needed loot.

    Given that the half-orc has a trident as a favored personal weapon, I may also spread rumors of Wave being in the Flame Peaks and put White Plume Mountain in there as a potential side-quest. (If she worships Tempus instead of Kubazon, that would be particularly fitting. Though Kubazon, as a froghemoth, could be argued to be at least aquatic. That's a stretch, though.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Keravath View Post
    P.S. Instead of giant rats just use some sort of dinosaur - that is the Chult theme and there should be all sorts of subterranean dinosaurs possible (modified Velociraptors from the back of ToA would be an option. They are CR 1/4 but are very nasty though not much different from giant rats except that they have 2 attacks each).
    That's definitely in-theme. Tiny scavenger dinos that use rat stats would probably work.

    I'm also debating having some ghouls show up with rat packs in the undead-infested jungle to either side of the Tiryiki as a way of introducing the notion of rats being harbingers of the undead, though that would be misleading in the Sunless Citadel, so...

    Well, I have until tomorrow evening, at the least, to nail that down. Possibly longer, depending how much time they spend in session in town.

    Edit to add: Also, I discovered that the twig blights that are very much a part of the Sunless Citadel module are the same CR as giant rats, so I could do a straight replacement, there.
    Last edited by Segev; 2019-05-23 at 09:53 AM.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    A good way to spread the lore of the Nine Gods little by little would simply be to have statues, shrines and monuments in the jungle dedicated to them, or at least telling the legend.

    You could also have them meet friendly (or at least open to discussion) Albino Dwarves, Grungs, Goblins, Druids, archeologists or the like, near those locations, and have them explain what they are.

    A sage meditating on top of a tentacle-frog statue could be a fun encounter.

    Also, nothing indicates that the Nine Trickster Gods are the only "small gods" in the jungle. Far from it, some of the Albino Dwarves are described as having gotten power from the jungle spirits.


    You could very well have have one of those tiny gods observe the Barbarian's rage, find it similar to its own, and offer the Barbarian to be its first worshiper. Heck, said tiny god could be a foil to the Nine Gods/the Atropal.

    That what'd I do, at least. It's a great opportunity to have fun with an entity which is both divine and weak.
    Last edited by Unoriginal; 2019-05-23 at 09:59 AM.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    A good way to spread the lore of the Nine Gods little by little would simply be to have statues, shrines and monuments in the jungle dedicated to them, or at least telling the legend.

    You could also have them meet friendly (or at least open to discussion) Albino Dwarves, Grungs, Goblins, Druids, archeologists or the like, near those locations, and have them explain what they are.
    All good ideas. I may need to expand the in-book random encounters table. Maybe just add extra encounters on something like a 13-15 on the d20 (usually only has a random encounter on a 16+) with their own table.

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    A sage meditating on top of a tentacle-frog statue could be a fun encounter.
    Could even be a cleric of Tempus (edit: or maybe Valkur) who's studying great battles and battle-gods of old as a way of better understanding aspects of his own god. This has potential.

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    You could very well have have one of those tiny gods observe the Barbarian's rage, find it similar to its own, and offer the Barbarian to be its first worshiper. Heck, said tiny god could be a foil to the Nine Gods/the Atropal.

    That what'd I do, at least. It's a great opportunity to have fun with an entity which is both divine and weak.
    Indeed. Kubazon seems a good idea for it because he has the rage thing, the CG alignment, the Chultan tie-in, and gives a quest to a would-be follower to try to find him.

    Chwingas also work as agents of this kind of thing. Especially as the spirit that gets fascinated by the raging barbarian using tools and weapons in her battles.
    Last edited by Segev; 2019-05-23 at 10:28 AM.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Well, game's this evening. The player of the Barbarian didn't seem interested in choices about gods when I spoke to her last night, saying "I thought you had a local deity in mind," so she'll probably go for Kubazon when presented. I'm going with the "sage sitting on a statue of a Froghemoth" idea as an encounter on their way to the Sunless Citadel. I'm also going to have the jungle as they draw near be particularly blighted, even compared to the rest of the undead-infested area, due to the Gulthias Tree's children (twig blights, vine blights, etc.) slowly spreading and choking it out. I'm thinking of renaming it to the "Zotzilaha Tree," using a "vampire god" referenced in Hidden Shrine of Tamochan rather than the distinctly not-Chultan-sounding "Gulthias."

    I'm torn between using face-lifted "tiny dinosaurs" in place of the rats, or having rats heralding ghouls along the undead-choked riverbanks to justify them. I'd then add rats to ghoul encounters throughout the undead-infested areas of Chult.

    I might use a chwinga that takes an interest in the barbarian as a lure to get htem to the statue. The sage I'm planning on being a Priest (from the MM; they seem built using the War Priest domain) of unclear patronage - could be Tempus, could be Valkur, could be something else. He's on a pilgrimage to study the gods of Chult, himself. (Alternatively, I might make him a monk.) But the idea is that he'll challenge the barbarian to a fight to see what she's made of, and have commentary on her deity of choice, suggesting Tempus, Valkur, and "even" Kubazon as ones who might interest her more.

    Might use him to drop a first reference to a "sacred weapon" rumored to be hidden in the Flame Peaks. Wave is in White Plume Mountain, which I'm placing in the Flame Peaks; the barbarian wields a trident as her preferred weapon. Though if she doesn't go for Valkur, I'll have to see if I can justify stretching Wave's insistence on worship of sea gods to the froghemoth being "good enough."

    Meanwhile, the players have informed me that they have a lot they want to do in town, so I might have another week before I have to close on most of this. They've got an outstanding side quest to get the welsching Gladiator to pay up on his 500 gp gambling debts, and the elf's player has suggested faking a Ytrpka Society iron coin to give him to try to scare him into it. Ironically, Zindar is impressed by their handling of the incident that brought the party together (an anklyosaurus got spooked and went out of control in the harbor, and the party rushed to contain it), and is considering tests for them to potentially invite them (particularly the elf) to join. He's mentioned the pirates, once, and the bounty on them; the barbarian is interested because stealing a pirate ship sounds like fun to her. So we'll see where that goes.

    I doubt they'll spend more than a day on whateve they do in town, simply because they feel a time pressure on rescuing Tiryiki and his party from the dungeon full of Baitiri and their goblin fruit. (The Zotzilaha fruit. ...eh, maybe I need a name that'd be more obscure. I'll dig through Tamochan for the name of one of the vampires in it.)

    If given an opportunity to bring it up, I might have Valkur-worshippers having an impromptu religious ceremony/drunken brawl that I can use as an encounter to introduce him to the barbarian, just to make sure she has options.


    Anyway, thanks for all the advice and help! Still open to more ideas, so if you've got any, please do share them. :)

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    I can't recommend the dinosaur races in town enough. By far my players' favorite part of the whole adventure.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Quote Originally Posted by QuickLyRaiNbow View Post
    I can't recommend the dinosaur races in town enough. By far my players' favorite part of the whole adventure.
    I know! I heard about those, and that's what made me think, "My friends (particularly the barbarian's player) would love this!" and pitch the adventure. Weirdly...they weren't all that interested. They didn't even actively watch, let alone participate when offered an opportunity. (The barbarian's player's lack of interest surprised the other players, too.)

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    I'm not sure I get what you're planning to do with the chwinga. Would it try to get the Barbarian to be its first worshiper to start shaping itself into a god, or are the barbarian's choices limited to the ones the sage brings up?

    As for the fruit, why not call it the Lord of Bones' Fruit, given that Nanny Pu'pu ritual to the Lord of Bones is the only other thing known to counter the Death Curse?

    Or if you want to give it an entity's name without being too obvious, a linguistic shift could have occured with Myrkul's name, resulting in something Chultan-sounding like Myrhal. You could even combine his "lord of bones" title with a known Chultan title and call him Ras Myrhal, ending up with Ras Myrhal's Fruit.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    I'm not sure I get what you're planning to do with the chwinga. Would it try to get the Barbarian to be its first worshiper to start shaping itself into a god, or are the barbarian's choices limited to the ones the sage brings up?
    Mostly as an introduction to "something spiritual" going on. I might give this chwinga a frog-mask, or something. One idea I had is, if the party takes an interest in it, having a ghoul grab it and run off, or otherwise having it try to get them to follow it, and lead that to the froghemoth statue and the sage-priest-pilgrim sitting on it.

    Essentially, still futzing with how to exactly set up the encounter, since they'll be on the river. I suppose there's no reason the statue couldn't be visible from the river, as long as there's no loot piled around it that would've been scoured by passing explorers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    As for the fruit, why not call it the Lord of Bones' Fruit, given that Nanny Pu'pu ritual to the Lord of Bones is the only other thing known to counter the Death Curse?

    Or if you want to give it an entity's name without being too obvious, a linguistic shift could have occured with Myrkul's name, resulting in something Chultan-sounding like Myrhal. You could even combine his "lord of bones" title with a known Chultan title and call him Ras Myrhal, ending up with Ras Myrhal's Fruit.
    I was trying to keep to the "it grew from a stake through a vampire's heart" origin for the evil tree, though you're right; I don't have to. Just something that would in some way be related to life and death and the corruption of both.

    Using Zotzilaha would allow another reference to the Hidden Shrine (at Hisari, to which the Archeologist ranger dwarf has a map). I don't think any of the Nine Gods had vampiric traits that would associate them with the Gulthias Tree in a way I could swap their names in.



    Also, unrelated to the above, but I think I'll try to get stats for a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing for 5e so, after the party encounters an Almiraj at some point, I can have a "second" encounter with such a creature actually be a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. It's a perfectly weird jungle creature, and replacing the cute bunny with a cute almiraj amuses me.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Well, they did something unexpected and picked up Udril Silvertusk by convincing her that they'd take her to Camp Vengeance after they're rescue mission. (She'd had no luck finding another party to take her that way.) The CG half-orc barbarian raised by orcs is rather uncomfortable with the LG half-orc priest of Torm that I've determined was probably raised by humans. This hopefully will give me an opportunity to use Udril to broach the subject of spirituality with the PC. I also have a planned encounter with a priest of Tempus.

    The elf wizard and the human monk had an encounter overnight where they saw a Chwinga wearing a kamadan mask, so I have introduced both the tiny elementals and a first hint at the Nine Gods.

    Also, looking over Sunless Citadel again, I think I will make the hobgoblins a new addition to the Smokey Jaguar tribe of baitiri they took over (the ones working for Belak); the former captain of the Dragonfang was a hobgoblin, I've decided, and these are the survivors of the mutiny. This will give a potential way to find clues regarding Jahaka Anchorage, which the party has expressed interest in eventually hunting the pirates thereof.

    Still not 100% sure how to really give the half-orc a "spiritual" experience, but I've got opportunities set up.

    The random encounters table also gave them a run-in with a giant crocodile, which they did beat, but it almost killed the monk. I think I was too nice, and had it attack them rather than their canoes for the most part. Regardless, they managed - barely - to kill it, and drag it ashore with the fisherman's gaff (I used pike stats) the barbarian specifically bought while they were in town.

    Rolling treasure, I used the "hoard" table, and came up with 3 magic items: a ring of swimming, a necklace of adaptation, and a potion of growth. Plus some 50 gp gems that I need to decide on.

    I'm thinking I'll have the ring be caught in the thing's jaws, possibly still attached to a boney forearm caught by the wrist. The gems might belong to the same unfortunate adventurer, unless I can justify making the crocodile's body parts worth the same amount.

    THe necklace of adaptation, I want to say they can make themselves by stringing the teeth into said necklace, and the apothecary (the elf wizard) can brew the potion of growth from the giant crocodile's blood and some other fluids.

    I know the rules for making magic items are supposed to have fighting a creature as just step 1, followed by time and effort, but I feel like altering that when it's technically making them work for treasure I rolled is not going to break anything. I am open to criticism and suggestions, though, if this seems like a bad move for reasons I am not seeing.)

    Given how often the half-orc wishes she could jump in the water, I suspect she'll appreciate the ring, and maybe the necklace. I'll have to try to make sure other loot is available for the rest of the party in future encounters!

    I am debating whether the underdark connections lead anywhere interesting in the Sunless Citadel, in particular the one the kobolds came in from.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    You could say the kobolds where sent by Tinder the Red Dragon, who as a dragon wants more treasures.
    Last edited by Unoriginal; 2019-05-28 at 05:32 AM.

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    Default Re: Foreshadowing and Character Development Help in Chult (unmarked spoilers for ToA)

    Possible, though why they're there isn't really the question I was raising. The module provides adequate reason: their leader wants to become a dragon, and believes this old temple/keep dedicated to the worship of the dragon Ashaldaron can facilitate this apotheosis. I've already decided that Ashaldaron was a leader of a monastery devoted to the teachings of Ubtao, which I can tie into the PC monk's interests. In the tradition of "Tinder," I will probably have the kobolds refer to Ashaldaron as "Ash" or "the Master of Ashes" or "Master Ash."

    All I was saying about "where the kobolds come from" is whether it's interesting enough to have the underdark access lead anywhere.

    Leading back to Hrakhamar and the Wyrmheart Mine is a possibility, but those are 35 and 39 hexes away, respectively, so the likelihood is that, in that 350 miles, there'd be something else interesting that showed up. The Underdark should probably be harder to traverse than the surface, even in jungle-ridden Chult.

    ...huh, also, counting that out, it occurs to me that Chult is a lot smaller than I was thinking. The part the main campaign is meant to explore is only about the same land mass as Missouri; the whole of it is significantly smaller than Texas. Here I was thinking it nearer the size of Brazil, but it's nowhere near.

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