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Friday, July 7, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - Tomb of Annihilation Clues and Hints

First off, I see that you can pre-order the Tomb of Annihilation dice set. I don't know why, but I really like them. I guess it's the tin.

Today I'm going to roll up my sleeves and dig up clues as to what's actually in the Tomb of Annihilation. We know the basics, but we don't know a lot about the actual tomb itself.

There are two things out there that bear scrutiny. In Dragon Plus, they printed four pages of handwritten grung notes by Adam Lee, one of the authors of the adventure. Also, Chris Perkins tweeted out a massive list of things that may be included in the adventure. Let's do the grung first.

The Grung

The new issue of Dragon Plus has 4 pages of notes about the Tomb of Annihilation. They are full of sketches and pretty concrete ideas from an author named Adam Lee. I decided to check them out and see what we could learn. There's a lot there!

The grung are frog people. Most of these notes have to do with the place that the grung live in. Apparently, the new season of Force Grey takes place in this grung village.

It's been said elsewhere that this location was designed so that people could pull this out of the book and use it in their own campaign with no problem. First, let's go over grung basics.

Grungs are on page 156 of Volo's Guide to Monsters.

They live in a caste system, separated by the colors of their skin. They each have their own hatching pool. The castes:
  • Green: Warriors, hunters and laborers.
  • Blue: Artisans with domestic roles.
  • Purple: Supervisors and commanders.
  • Red: Scholars and magic-users. Their spells include cure wounds, barkskin and plant growth.
  • Orange: Elite warriors. They can emit sonics that stun all those within 15 feet.
  • Gold: Leaders.
In rare instances, a grung who does great deeds is allowed to move up in the ranks by taking herbal tonic supplemented by ritual magic. Other factoids:
  • Their skin secretes venom.
  • They take slaves.
  • They must immerse themselves in water for 1 hour per day. 
  • On the Perkins list below, they are referred to as "flower eaters."
OK! So what' in the notes?

Dangerous: Guides will want you not to go here unless you are seeking grung venom.

The Story: The Grung now live in a zombie wasteland. Their favorite dish, humanoids, is now scarce and it is very dangerous to go hunting. Their tactics currently revolve around lurking in treetops, waiting for prey. Their poison doesn't work on the zombies, and they're somewhat stymied by the entire situation. That seems like a way for the group to become allies with them.

The Grung Leader: Queen Groak is their leader. The grung live in a matriarchal society.
  • She has quote: "Come, let us worship Nang Nang (a grung god)
  • She is basically a female version of Immortan Joe from Mad Max.
  • She does deals with "Jessamine", trading poisons for favors and gold.
Types of Grung: There are two types of grung mentioned. These might just be expanded ideas on existing types of grung:
  • Poison Arrow Frogs: These grung have poisonous skin. Their highly-toxic grung skin is worth a lot of gold.
  • Grung Shapers: They can reshape trees into unique designs.
How They Deal with Adventurers: If you look tough, they won't attack. They'll do one of the following:
  • Welcome you to the village and at some point, try to poison you in a sly way.
  • Hide!
  • Take a hostage.
  • Cut a deal.
"The grung are evil, but not stupid."
The Ancient Grove: The grung live in an area that has gigantic, weird trees.

Dungrunglung: This is the grung village. It has a massive tubtub tree in the center and is protected by a maze made from giant thorny vines. It has 15-foot deep pit traps full of zombies!

Pools: There's a sketch of a possible layout of Dungrunglung. Near the trees and the yoda huts are pools of poisonous liquid where eggs hatch tadpoles.
  • Some of these pools are actually up in the trees, in bowls of fungus growing outward from the bark like balconies.
  • The Grung Eggs: They might have special properties, maybe granting poison resistance or dulling pain.
There's some sort of frog-shaped temple. Inside the body is pool and it looks like if you're in the head you can see out of the eyes.

Tubtub Trees: There are short and squat "tubtub" trees, wide trees that look like they have bridges connecting them.
  • Infested: There are dangerous "tubtub beetle larva". There is a quote: "When you see tubtub trees, don't touch the vines."
  • Weird Wood: Tubtub wood is spongy and waterlogged, which is good for grung who need their skin to be moist and damp.
Falling: If you're traveling in the tree tops and you fall, there are a few ways to save yourself:
  • Grab a vine.
  • Fall in a giant plant (seems like a lot of cool things could happen there).
  • Land in the canopy of a shorter tree.
Dangers of the Environment: There is a fantastic list of dangerous things in the Chult environment. Here's some of my favorites:
  • Poison Dart Flower: If you sniff this flower, if shoots an "instant paralytic" at you.
  • Dancing Monkey Fruit: If you eat it, you dance like a monkey.
  • Tumbilli Leaves: When you chew tumbilli leaves, you see through the eyes of the monkey. You can't be surprised, you can track by scent, and "you act like a monkey person."
Chult Cuisine: The bats of Chult are delicious. "Bat with rice can feed a hearty adventurer."

The Tomb of Annihilation List

Apparently, they started working on this adventure two years ago. Chris Perkins recently posted a bunch of images of a wipe board full of notes presumably from a planning or brainstorming session.
One main thing I learned is the Volo's Guide to Monsters has a heck of a lot of monsters that are featured in this adventure.

There's a really good thread on ENWorld speculating on future adventures. They mentioned that Spelljammer was discussed on Dragon Talk, so I'll check that out ASAP. 

There is a free 2-page pdf from D&D 4e right here that gives some information on Chult.

I went over the Perkins list and googled this stuff. I don't know much about the Forgotten Realms, but this is what I dug up:

Mezro, the Lost City (ruins): It was destroyed in the 4e Spellplague and was a holy city. The pdf above has a few paragraphs on Mezro, which I think is a city important to one of the villains of this adventure. Mezro is a "vine-shrouded cavity in the earth", a pit that contains all that remains of the once-great holy city. There are zombies with blue triangles tattooed on their heads, liches and ghouls.

Omu, the Forbidden City (ruins): It has a flooded garden in which a froghemoth dwells.

Pterafolk Roost: Pterafolk are pterodactyl people. Their home is some kind of Elemental Evil beacon. In 2nd edition, pterafolk had three forms: a lizard man with no tail, a lizard man with webbed wings, and a miniature pteranodon with a 15-foot wingspan. They are vicious and self-centered, they live in huts up in trees and interestingly, they eat goblins. That might come up in this adventure, since there are tribes of mask-wearing goblins all over the place.

Goblins ("Batiri"):  "Howdah-town, Goblin 'town' and markers." The batiri are a collection of goblin tribes in Chult ruled by a single queen. They wear dinosaur skins (!). Every clan worships its own deity, each of which has a dinosaur avatar.

Yuan-ti: There's a lot of yuan-ti stuff in Volo's. Mind whisperers serve Sseth, and they focus on using their powers to convert new followers. Nightmare speakers make pacts with Dendar the Night Serpent. They send Dendar the fears and nightmares of their victims.

We know that a prominent villain of this story is a yuan-ti named Ras Nsi. Ras is an immortal, a Chosen of Ubtao. Ras leads an army and he often takes the form of a weak-willed noble.

Ubtao is the god of Chult, also known as the Father of the Dinosaur. Ubtao is apparently a primordial (a god-like elemental entity).

Girallons (bodyguards): These are four-armed white apes. Girallons are in Volo's page 152. Check this out. Girallons were "...created through magic to serve as bodyguards for some lost empire." Yuan-ti enslave them, turning them into border sentinels for their border kingdoms. Further down on this Perkins list is "girallon temple guardians", so we have a good idea what we're getting in this department.

Albino Dwarves: They're crazy. In the Chris Lindsay game at the Stream of Annihilation, the group needed to get dust from the corpse of an albino dwarf. There is a mention here about wild dwarves who make pilgrimages to an emerald crater in Chult, which is home to an emerald dragon named Esmerandanna, the Resplendent Queen. She guides their carvings.

Firenewt: Firenewts live in the peaks of flame, a range of volcanic mountains in the center of Chult. It is said that this will be the point of entry when Dendar the Night Serpent enters Toril at the end of the world. This is interesting, because Dendar is referenced at the end of Storm King, where a bunch of yuan-ti throw sacrifices to Dendar in a pit. Later on in this Perkins list is a "lava plain w/ firenewts."

Firenewts are in Volo's on page 142. It says that they worship Imix, one of the Elemental lords from Princes of the Apocalypse.

Vegepygmies: They're on page 196 of Volo's. Nothing too Chult-y, though at the end it mentions that nobody is sure where russet mold comes from. There are a few listed possibilities, including: A forbidding mountain range that has a strange metal dungeon, a reference to the space ship in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

Su-monster: Primates with psychic powers. Don't see many connections.

Zhent Flying Snake Catcher: Flying snakes are in the MM on page 322. "A flying snake is a brightly colored, winged serpent found in remote jungles." The Zhentarim use them to deliver messages. I find the idea that the Zhentarim have people who chase these things around, catch and train them extremely amusing.

Dinosaur Detector Sticks: These are apparently dinosaur bones painted gold. Merchants sell them as "dinosaur detectors," but apparently it's a scam.

Dracolich: There's a note: "cult of the dragon explanation." The cult of the dragon were the bad guys in the first D&D storyline, Tyranny of Dragons. That cult wanted to bring Tiamat to the world.

Originally, the cult of the dragon was founded by a mage named Sammaster, who wanted to create dracoliches. There are still a few cultists loyal to the dracolich concept, so maybe this is where that sect ended up.

Sammaster believed that there will be an apocalypse, and from then on the dead dragons will rule the world. So... Dendar show up, ends the world and eats the sun. Dracoliches, also known as "night dragons" in Dragon #110, take over.

I'm trying to figure out if there are any named Forgotten Realms dracoliches that live in Chult. There's a huge list. It's possible that these cultists raised one of the dragons presumably slain in Tyranny, like the white dragon in the castle or the green dragon by the waterfall.

It could be Aurgloroasa, a dracolich who took over a cult cell.

Red Dragon Lair: On this page it says that red dragons are drawn to the Peaks of Flame, which makes sense. I bet it's on this list.

Crashed Halruaan Airship: Magic flying ships. No idea who crashed it. Maybe Artus Cimber?

Dinosaur Graveyard/Cultural Burial Ground: Can't find anything on a dinosaur graveyard, but it's an awesome idea. I'd imagine that this is where the zombie-barfing undead t. rexes are.

Monkey Swarms: I hope this is statted out. They should steal from you.

Ring of Winter "Event": I don't know what the event is. In Storm King's Thunder, frost giants are hunting for Artus Cimber, who has an extremely powerful artifact called the ring of winter. There's a whole novel about it. On the Perkins list is a "frost giant gang," which I presume means that the giants have followed Artus to Chult.

Abandoned Shield Guardian w/Amulet: On page 271 of the MM, it says that each shield guardian has a magic amulet linked to it. The guardian's sole focus is to protect the amulet's wearer. It looks like the group can get their hands on one. Or maybe some villain snatches it before they can get to it.

OK! That's it! I think we learned a little something here today, yes indeed-y.


Unknown said...

The "strange metal dungeon" in Volo's vegepygmy entry is certainly a reference to the flying saucer (no joke) in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the adventure where vegepygmies originated.

Unknown said...

Very nice collection of clues! Already helps stir some ideas in the mind. EP is right, since the only origin I know for Russet Mold is from that old adventure. I'm going to be really happy to finally have some more adventures to do with the Yuan-Ti, one of my favorite monster races. The way they are connecting the other adventures is wonderful, as it helps make the world feel alive. Also, Chris Perkins mentioned that the dinosaur detector sticks are actually just gold painted dinosaur bones. A non-magical item merchants are trying to con people into buying.

Carl Jonard said...

As someone mentioned, the "metal dungeon" is from Expedition to Barrier Peaks. The second reference likely refers to this adventure—note that it mentions "vegepygmies infesting the dense jungle nearby."

Sean said...

Experience Points: Ah! I forgot about that. OK, I will fix it, thank you!

Nykademos:: Ha! I didn't know about the painted bones. I'll add that, thanks. They definitely seem to be doing a lot with the yuan-ti! The Dendar thing is very interesting.

Carl Jonard: I see, thank you!