After the adventurers arrived in Chult through a misfiring teleportation spell that had brought them via the Feywild, they were surprised to find themselves in the middle of a battle between some lizardfolk and some dinosaurs. They were even more surprised when their wizard dropped dead, as the magic that had revived him in the Feywild no longer worked. And surprise was no longer even a functional term when a human druid ran up to them and implored for their help against the dinosaurs. (Yes, it was Josh’s new character. The players weren’t at all surprised to find him there!)
The second chapter of Return of the Lizard King
– a more focused start to Tomb of Annihilation – brought the adventurers into the middle of a conflict between two warring tribes of lizardfolk. I’d hesitate to characterise them as “good” and “evil”, but as one group is helpful and kind and the other group are fiend-worshipping warriors in search of conquest, such terms seem appropriate in this case. It always helps when the players can easily identify the bad guys!
The adventure does make a lot of assumptions that the adventurers will help the friendly lizardfolk. It didn’t concern my players; they were happy to have the direction (which is one reason I opted for this start to Tomb of Annihilation). If the party had chosen to no aid the tribe, then the main book of Tomb of Annihilation would have come out and the PCs would have a long walk in front of them!
The second part of RotLK is very combat-focused. The adventurers needed to defeat some giant lizards, rescue a lizardfolk scout named Lungan from the yuan-ti who had captured him, and fight off two groups of pursuers before reuniting with the friendly Zopchik tribe. This chapter introduces a lot of the special monsters used in the adventure: gila lizardfolk brutes and savages, chameleon lizardfolk snoops, and giant spitting lizards. As they’re new monsters, the players aren’t familiar with them and provide variance from the goblins and kobolds prevalent in other low-level adventures.
The fights are also tough! By the time of the final combat – against a gila lizardfolk savage augmented by a potion of invulnerability – the adventurers were running on fumes. It was tough. It was brutal. And the players loved it!
They were aided by having four characters who could cast healing spells. This was important, although it occasionally led to my least favourite form of D&D combat: adventurers being reduced to 0 hit points, receiving a healing spell, and then having their next turn as if nothing had happened.
Still, against the lizardfolk savage – able to inflict 32 damage in a round when using average damage scores – this was needed. No-one quite died this session, although they got close. That potion of invulnerability? I quietly removed it from the adventure as otherwise the group would never have been able to win the final battle. Which may have had an extra savage in it because the group had six players rather than four. I adjust combat difficulty all the time: you want the players to have fun, not slaughter their characters every session!
The role-playing in this session was limited. We had moments with the friendly lizardfolk, but mostly we rollicked along from one combat to the other, stopping along the way briefly to remark on how hot and humid it was, and to admire some tropical flora.
With Lungan rescued, he persuaded – one might almost say “railroaded” – the adventurers into accompanying him to the local human settlement of Eelstead, where he feared the evil Akabkan tribe had been working against his friends there. Their adventure there would have to wait for the next session; for the moment, the players happily advanced their characters to level 3!