I previously posted some warts-and-all email summaries of the ‘Curse of Strahd’ campaign I ran in 2017. It was the first campaign I sent summaries to players by email after each game (I was a bit lazy prior to that). Here’s the follow up campaign – 2018’s ‘Tomb of Annihilation’. We used experience points rather than milestones/level-based progression, which led to some ‘xp grinding’ along the way. Each session was 4 hours long. Some of the summaries may be amusing; don’t forget these are unedited emails, so please forgive their somewhat chaotic nature and poor sentence structure/grammar. If you’re a D&D fan you may enjoy them. And maybe even if you aren’t.
With the party temporarily weakened by the loss of two members to holidays (holidays?! No rest for the wicked in the tomb of annihilation…) they faced the next few challenges with aplomb. And a fair bit of death.
The party worked out the golem puzzle pretty quickly, killed the clay golem, used the key around its neck to open the chest, and recovered the final crystal eyeballs to open the mirror door. And then everything went to hell…
A big room with a veil-draped ball hanging 20 feet in the air, niches filled with treasure, a magically slick floor and an invisible Beholder (excellent guess, Dan). William’s Druid—dead. Mark’s Cleric—disintegrated. Clinton’s Fighter—asleep. Dan’s Warlock dragged Clinton’s fighter out and high-tailed it to the dungeon safe room to rest, posting an “Explorers Wanted” ad on LinkedIn at the same time.
Conveniently, Mark’s dilettante Dwarven Barbarian and William’s Goblin Monk (who believed he was the reincarnation of a red dragon) responded to bolster the ranks. Giving the mirror room a pass, they headed down to dungeon level 4, exiting into a throne room where they killed some mute and blind wall-painting zombies and fought a Tyrannosaur Zombie. Then William’s Monk tried on the Minotaur skull and went a bit crazy, so the party had to put him down (unconscious, not dead—what kind of party do you think they are?!)
A door needed blood (what a drawn-out solution that was…) and a bunch of ghasts were fought. Some clues from the sign on the central stairway, a bunch of Four-armed Gargoyle statues and a stairway to a chest and another mysterious room…
With two members on holidays, the intrepid Party of Five (sans Neve Campbell, who has gone on to co-star in the upcoming Skyscraper, with Dwayne Johnson) made their way through a series of trap laden rooms…
First up: big ball on the stairs, a pit of acid and an interplanar maze mural with some crystal keys. William’s Goblin Monk showed he can be a real ass by stealing the key Mark’s Dwarvish Barbarian found and opening the sarcophagus, to claim a robe of scintillating colours, a charm of nine lives AND be inhabited by the spirit of Unkh for extra high CON! Oh, and doesn’t he love those shell bracelets… Then a big fight with ten Minotaur Skeletons that had the party worried for a bit.
A long rest later, then off to a stone door with a picture on it that almost made the party give up trying to get in. Copious hints later, and the party faced off against two death-dealing Bodaks and Mark’s Barbarian recovered a fabled crown worth 5000GP. “That’s enough to kill a fellow party member for,” said Davor’s Ranger, with a wink. Unable to escape the maze, Mark’s barbarian sacrificed an arm to get out, then grew it back with the charm of the maimed.
Then Davor’s Ranger decided to stick an arrow into the mouth of a big demon skull, killing the talking lizard who resided there. “I only had two weeks left until retirement,” gasped the lizard. “Potentially a smart lizard that could have helped guide us through the tomb?” said Mark’s Barbarian.
Onto the bottom of the staircase, where the giant, four-armed Gargoyles needed payment in one of every coin. Unfortunately, the party didn’t have any coppers or platinum. DOH! Big, worrying fight, where the Gargoyles trounced the party (five attacks per round each – ouch!), knocking Davor’s Ranger, Mark’s Barbarian and William’s Monk unconscious (well, William’s Monk has the charm of nine lives, so he came back with 1 HP…), to be saved by Dan’s cowardly—I mean brave—halfling Warlock.
Another big day out in the dungeon!
Morgan was back from hols this week, rolling up a new Druid. Welcome back!
After a well-needed long rest (they just had a big fight with Four-armed Gargoyles, after all), the party decided to check out the pit in the centre of the room. Down on a rope went Mark’s Dwarven Barbarian, who found a hexagonal iron room filled with lots of sickly plants and compost. The party joined him and then decided exploring a new level probably wasn’t the thing to do right now, so climbed back up the rope to level 4 and went to the last unexplored room on their map.
The room contained a mirror of life trapping that sucked in Davor’s Ranger, Clinton’s Fighter and Dan’s Halfling Warlock. Mark’s Barbarian broke the mirror, releasing all sorts of trapped beasties into the cramped 15-foot by 15-foot space, leading to a very squashed and messy fight between a Troll, a Minotaur, a Stirge, some humans and the party.
The party decided to use the alternate hidden spiral staircase to get back down to level 5. At the bottom of the stairs a door and a corridor. Taking the door, they found themselves in a huge cavern with a lake and three giant pentagonal rooms on massive gears. The door closed and a magic mouth appeared on it wanting to be fed. Mark dived into the water to recover a phosphorescent crab from the bottom, attracted the lake’s Aboleth and the battle was on! The Aboleth was finally defeated when Morgan’s Druid polymorphed it into a cat and Mark’s Barbarian threw it into the door’s mouth, where it was eaten (changing back into its true form when it died). Meanwhile, Clinton’s Fighter and Morgan’s Druid succumbed to the nasty Aboleth disease and can now only breath underwater. Doh!
Another long rest, more exploring (that’s one big cave, but with no secret doors). Davor’s Ranger decided to climb all the way up a waterfall to Level 1, then climbed back down and almost fell to his death. Thank the Lord for all those inspiration dice handed around by other players…
Through the garden hex room to an acid hex room, where the trap wasn’t working (use-by date expired, obviously), into a control room, used to make the hex rooms turn and change configuration. Davor’s Ranger took off to the garden room to test the hypothesis, while Mark’s Barbarian fiddled with the controls and Dan’s Warlock conveyed what was happening from the corridor. The hex rooms turned, poison gas flowed into the garden from a side room, three Shambling Mounds grew from the compost and Davor’s Ranger scrambled up the rope and out of harm’s way. Mark’s Barbarian, clutching at straws, hit the button that closed the iron door, and Dan’s poor Warlock, after a number of really bad saving throws (including a few inspiration dice from himself and other players) was crushed under the door and eventually died. Mark’s Barbarian, feeling really bad about that, had also released Aboleth slime into the room and tried all sorts of stuff to stop it. Eventually he had to dive in and try to open the door, and after many checks and many lost hit points, eventually lifted it. Unfortunately, by this time Dan’s Warlock was a smear.
Next Week: More dungeon crawling and nasty death traps! Yes, it’s the Tomb of Annihilation, and it’s nasty.