It's been a minute since we had a complete adventure guide from Dungeons & Dragons hit our shelves. Oh sure, Tales from the Yawning Portal gave us some classic adventures from over the years, but the last full adventure guide was over one year ago in the form of Storm King's Thunder. So to see a brand new adventure in Tomb Of Annihilation is both very awesome and exciting for those who are looking to continually progress their characters by these adventures alone. Wizards Of The Coast were kind enough to send us a copy for review, so keeping things as spoiler-free as possible, we're going to explore what the latest adventure has to offer.
Tomb Of Annihilation is a self-contained adventure module for characters who are level 1-11. Without getting to spoiler-heavy, the story revolves around a mysterious plague that has started affecting the people, and the source of all these problems seems to be centered on the island of Chult. If that name rings a few bells for you longtime players, it's because it's one of the many locations in Forgotten Realms, sitting between the Great Sea and the Shining Sea (formerly known as The Sea Of Broken Dreams). It's a really cool location to stick the game in as you're being given an area that is primarily jungle and beaches with some mountain terrains and pockets of active volcano lava deposits. Oh, and dinosaurs!
One of the very appealing aspects of this adventure is the idea that you can mess around with dinosaurs. You can hunt them, ride them, race them, eat them if you can manage to cook them, and of course run like hell from them because it is a healthy mix of herbivore and carnivore creatures. But unlike other realms where only a few of a creature type would be captured and tamed as if they were a special breed while others roam free, this island has them working almost half-and-half as modes of transportation and even pets. So if you can, find a dinosaur and snag them with your animal handling for the troubles that may lie ahead.
Once you delve deep into the jungles in Tomb Of Annihilation, the adventures really take off as you'll find yourselves going through weird little temples and mazes constructed by people long forgotten and now controlled and inhabited by weird groups and monsters who just have zero desire for you to be around. A good portion of what you'll be doing is coming across landmarks throughout the island that leads to bigger and better things. A good example of this is the Gungurnglung, which includes a thorn maze you need to navigate leading to a shrine surrounded by water. That kind of stuff is the very essence of discovery in a D&D game that can bring out the best in players, even if they don't know what is to come of the adventure.
By far the best portion of the entire campaign is when you finally reach the forbidden city of Omu, as seen below. This place is basically a dungeon crawler's wonderland as you get high cliffs, a lake of lava, a maze to navigate, shrines to explore, old city ruins (half of which seems to be buried underwater from a nearby waterfall), and a couple dozen unexpected surprises if your perception is high enough to find them. If you're the Dungeon Master, you could spend multiple sessions in Omu alone, creating a dozen different scenarios for your players to run into and deal with as they try to piece the main story together.
The overall reward system in the game isn't just based in XP or random trinkets you pick up along the way, it's in doing the right thing to save the people who live in the game. It's a weird sense of reward to do something at that level, especially since you're usually dealing with defeating large creatures with the goal of eventually getting a prize. But the storyline behind this is much bigger than you realize because you're not just saving one specific town or even just the area, you're saving the world at large from a terrible curse. There are several ways as a DM that you can spin the story of what's happening to make your players true heroes while also the swine of the earth to others, and ultimately make them better understand their place in the mythical universe they've been thrown into.
Tomb Of Annihilation is one of the best complete adventures I was able to check out in recent memory. The book does a fine job of getting you all the way through an adventure with several chances to take alternative paths and get your characters up in levels before moving onto harder adventures. DM's will get an extra amount of use out of it because Chult as a location has great potential for side quests and original adventures. The island is massive and one of the better places to play in from Forgotten Realms, and this book gives you the ability to use the island more as you now have the resources to explore unused parts. The was a fantastic adventure that must be played in full!