Something evil is trapping the souls of the dead and draining life from all who have been raised from death by magic. This worldwide “death curse” not only prevents the raising of the dead but also causes creatures that were previously raised from the dead to wither and die.
The source of this death curse lies in a trap-riddled tomb hidden beneath a lost city in the depths of a vast jungle.
Tomb of Annihilation PDF is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure that takes place on the peninsula of Chult in the Forgotten Realms. Chult is a tropical wilderness composed mostly of jungles, plateaus, impassable mountains, and belching volcanoes. You can substitute a different jungle setting, changing location names as needed.
Alternative D&D settings include the Amedio Jungle of Oerth, the Savage Coast of Mystara, the jungles of Xen’drik on Eberron, or a comparable setting on your home campaign world.
This adventure is designed to begin with a party of four to six 1st-level characters, who should advance to 11th level or higher by the adventure’s conclusion.
The characters are drawn into the story by Syndra Silvane, a retired adventurer and merchant who, years ago, was raised from the dead. Now, she’s withering away. When she consulted priests, Syndra learned that the affliction was widespread and that no spell could cure it. She spoke to her friends among the Harpers, who determined the source of the affliction: an ungodly necromantic device called the Soulmonger.
The Harpers received their intelligence from a lich, but they don’t know much about the Soulmonger other than its name and general whereabouts. Adventurers willing to help Syndra must travel to Chult, a land of jungles and monsters, to find the Soulmonger and destroy it. Unknown to Syndra and her allies, the Soulmonger is trapping the souls of the dead and depriving liches of the means to trap souls in their phylacteries.
(The Soulmonger snatches up the souls before they can be trapped elsewhere.) Szass Tam, the most powerful lich among the Red Wizards of Thay have sent operatives to Chult to steal the Soulmonger or, failing that,destroying it. Leading the Thayan expedition is Szass Tam’s devoted lieutenant, Valindra Shadowmantle. Valindra has been warned that adventurers might cross her path, so she’s prepared for them.
Also lurking in the heart of Chult is Ras Nsi, a mythic, villainous figure among Chultans. Ras Nsi was a human paladin and a sworn protector of the city of Mezro. He betrayed his oaths and was banished.
Rather than redeem himself, he raised an undead army to conquer Mezro. The would-be tyrant was defeated and banished once more. Mezro was later destroyed by the Spellplague (or so it seemed), during which Ras Nsi lost his power to create and command undead. He withdrew to the city of Omu, leaving the vestiges of his undead army to roam unchecked throughout the jungle.
That was not the end of Ras Nsi, however. Bitter over his loss of power, he forged an alliance with the yuan-ti lurking in the ruins of Omu and underwent a ritual of transformation, becoming a yuan-ti malison. As a yuan-ti, Ras Nsi imposed his terrible will on the evil snake people and became their leader. Beneath the cracked and broken streets of Omu lies a secret yuan-ti temple called the Fane of the Night Serpent, where Ras Nsi holds sway and plots to bring about the end of the world.
Omu is also home to the Tomb of the Nine Gods. As the characters explore this multilevel dungeon, they encounter the spirits of Omu’s trickster gods and are potentially inhabited by them. Each god embodies a different alignment, and any character inhabited by one gains a special power as well as a flaw.
The nine trickster gods don’t get along, and they try to push one another out of the characters’ bodies. As the gods fight over their living hosts, the characters must deal with the deadly traps and monsters that guard the Soulmonger. Venturing deeper into the tomb, they uncover clues about the dungeon’s evil architect — the archlich Acererak — and learn that the Soulmonger is feeding souls to an undead horror called an atropal.
Once it consumes enough souls, the atropal will transform into an evil god. Destroying the Soulmonger ends the death curse affecting the world, while killing the atropal incurs the wrath of Acererak. Under normal circumstances, the enraged archlich would be far too great a foe for mortal adventurers to overcome, but with the trickster gods of Omu on their side, the heroes have a fighting chance.
Running the Adventure:
To run this adventure, you need the D&D fifth edition core rulebooks (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual). Text that appears in a box like this is meant to be read aloud or paraphrased for the players when their characters first arrive at a location or under a specific circumstance, as described in the text.
The Monster Manual and Volo’s Guide to Monsters contain stat blocks for most of the creatures found in this adventure.
You don’t need the latter reference to run Tomb of Annihilation, as all the necessary stat blocks from Volo’s Guide to Monsters are included with the new monsters in appendix D.
When a creature’s name appears in bold type, that’s a visual cue pointing you to its stat block in the Monster Manual. If a stat block appears in appendix D, the adventure’s text tells
you so. Spells and equipment mentioned in the adventure are described in the Player’s Handbook. Magic items are described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, unless the adventure’s text directs you to an item’s description in appendix C.
The adventure is likely to play out as follows.
The adventurers are teleported to Port Nyanzaru, the only major settlement in Chult. After exploring the city (chapter 1), they embark on an expedition into the wilds of Chult
(chapter 2), eventually finding the ruined city of Omu
(chapter 3). The characters don’t know that Omu is their ultimate destination from the outset; they must find clues or evidence pointing in that direction. In this adventure, three creatures know that the cause of the death curse lies in Omu: Grandfather Zithembe in Port Nyanza, Valindra Shadowmantle in the Heart of Ubtao, and Saja N’baza in Orolunga.
Several creatures know Omu’s location: the guides Eku and Salida in Port Nyanzaru, Valindra Shadowmantle in the Heart of Ubtao, the aarakocra of Kir Sabal, Zalkoré of Nangalore, Saja N’baza in Orolunga, and the red dragon Tzindelor in Wyrm Heart Mine.
If the characters are unable to locate Omu or ascertain the source of the death curse, the following additional creatures might possess the knowledge they seek, at your discretion: Krr’ook in Dungrunglung, Nephyr in Firefinger, Nanny Pu’pu in Mbala, Bwayes O’tamu in the wreck of the Narwhal, the survivors of the Star Goddess shipwreck, and Red Wizards under Valindra Shadowmantle’s command.
As the adventurers explore Omu, they are either captured by yuan-ti or forced to confront them in their underground temple (chapter 4). Not far from the yuan-ti temple is the entrance to the Tomb of the Nine Gods.
(chapter 5). The Soulmonger lies deep within the tomb, which is riddled with puzzles, traps, monsters, and magical wards. Best case scenario: the adventure concludes with the destruction of the Soulmonger and the heroes’ daring escape from the tomb.
Worst case scenario: the characters succumb to the evil of Acererak, and their souls are devoured.
WHO IS ACERERAK?
Acererak is a powerful lich known and feared throughout the multiverse. Much of his past is forgotten, but ancient texts assert that he comes from a world called Oerth. Acererak travels the planes in search of artifacts.
When he finds something useful or interesting, he locks it away. Although he’s powerful enough to pursue godhood as other liches have done (Vecna being a prime example), Acererak has no interest in being a god or being worshiped.
He prefers to create evil gods and unleash them on mortals and immortals who oppose him. Despite passing up opportunities for godhood, Acererak attracts his fair share of followers and worshipers. He doesn’t grant spells, nor does he give his devotees much of his precious time. Mostly he likes to watch them suffer and die as a result of their magical pursuits and folly.
Although he has lived on many worlds and crafted countless demiplanes, Acererak spends most of his time building tombs. He fills each one with treasure to attract powerful adventurers. He then kills them off in terrible fashion, using deadly traps and monsters while baiting and ridiculing them. The terror he evokes scars their souls, which he traps in his phylactery, the location of which is one of the multiverse’s greatest secrets.
Not too long ago by human standards, Acererak found an atropal adrift at the edge of the Negative Plane and built the Soulmonger to nourish it to godhood. The lich chose one of his tombs — specifically the Tomb of the Nine Gods on Toril — to serve as the atropal’s nursery.
Tomb of Annihilation PDF can be played as written, or you can make it even more difficult by running it as a meat grinder. This mode of play is suitable for experienced players who have highly optimized characters and who don’t mind putting those characters in jeopardy for the sake of a good challenge.
It is less ideal for players who are inexperienced or get anxious at the thought of losing their characters. You must choose to run the adventure as a meat grinder from the very beginning. In this mode of play, the Soulmonger gains the power to draw characters who are close to death.
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