Unlike previous Adventurers League seasons, the Tomb of Annihilation storyline provides a set of introductory missions for tier 2 (levels 5-10) characters. The module here gives players a good taste of the sorts of enemies and puzzles they’ll face in ToA, and in that sense it’s quite good. But it shares some weaknesses with earlier DDAL adventures, so DMs will want to spend some time making sure they’re ready to run it.
In response to a new but as-of-yet-unnamed threat, the factions have called upon adventurers to venture into the jungle in search of a location for a new base of operations. As such, you have been charged with scouting several locations to assess their viability. Surely something so trivial as a scouting mission couldn’t go wrong?
(As with all my reviews, SPOILERS abound. Players shouldn’t read further.)
What I liked
Some of the missions really stand out. None as much as the dinosaur races, of course, but they still will be a lot of fun. The adventurers will investigate a highly atmospheric and creepy temple of a death cult, a fortress built into a cliffside filled with yuan-ti, a tobacco farm, a wizard’s tower, and an a shrine to Ubtao. Most of the missions have some fun toys in the environment, allowing the players to make more interesting choices than “I swing my sword again”. The hooks are a little improved – you don’t need much, to be honest.
Just like DDAL07-01, they’ve come a long way with the editing. A few mistakes still can be found, but they are clearly typos and don’t detract from the text in the way that modules in previous seasons suffered. At this point, I think AL has basically fixed this issue.
Two of the missions include some story awards. (I kind of wish all of them did, but I guess this makes them a little special.) As we haven’t seen the future modules in this storyline, I don’t know if they will come up again, but assuming they do, it’ll make players feel pretty cool.
What I didn’t like
This module is implicitly biased towards convention or store play, in my opinion. As in almost every single DDAL product, the maps look like somebody spent 30 seconds with a ballpoint pen and graph paper. (Fortunately, Gail D has stepped up and provided some really nice replacement maps.)
It also assumes the characters are already in Chult, or at least that the players don’t care why they are there. I wish it gave at least a few suggestions to DMs to provide hooks, much like the ones in the actual hardcover.
Tips and conclusion
In terms of usage: consider running these as encounters during the hardcover adventure rather than as standalone. In that context, they could probably provide a lot of fun while the party is out in the jungle looking for the Soulmonger.
Ask each player if this character played any of the DDAL07-01 adventures, because some of the NPCs there show up again. That can provide a nice feeling of continuity and shared worldbuilding.
Pay attention to scaling, because in the tobacco farm it can get out of control quickly. The warlocks can each summon a fey creature up to CR 6 – which can mean an Annis Hag. I recommend being very careful in using it. Also read the conjure fey spell closely – while it is a concentration spell, it doesn’t work exactly like most concentration spells.
I don’t know if I’ll run all of these three times each for the Chultan DM reward, just because finding players to run tier 2 adventures can sometimes be a challenge. But we have had fun with them so far!