Tomb of Annihilation (Return of the Lizard King) – Part 3

Did you know that bears have trouble fitting through doors? That was what we learned this session of D&D!

The session began with the adventurers on their way to Eelstead, a frontier outpost in the land of Chult, where the adventurers’ guide, the lizardfolk Lungan, feared that something bad had happened. The journey to Eelstead, a 50-mile hike through the tropical jungle of Chult, would take about five days.

This was my first opportunity to use the Tomb of Annihilation random encounter tables, an extensive list of potential encounters. I let the players roll to see if encounters would occur… and their dice were kind. No encounters! They reached Eelstead without difficulty. Mind you, if their dice continued to roll that way – low – they’d likely have trouble with the rest of the adventure.

Eelstead only consisted of a handful of buildings on the coast where a river flowed into the ocean. Unusually, there were no villagers on the streets. It was all quiet – too quiet! And Lungan chose that time to become ill so that he couldn’t accompany the rest of the adventurers into the village. (Good! I hate running NPCs! This was a scripted part of the adventure, but I would have been tempted to exclude him in any case – I want the focus on the players).

The adventurers did what any adventurers do upon entering a new town: They went directly to the tavern. It had patrons, but the villagers inside were strange, detached and uninterested in the arrival of the adventures. This is except for one, who quickly became violent – and as she did so, mutated, with lamprey-like tentacles growing from her neck as she attacked the characters. Something was wrong in Eelstead! The mutated dwarf proved to be a terrifying foe, and the adventurers were forced to kill her before she killed them.

During the combat, they’d noticed that one of the townsfolk had paid more attention to the combat than the others, and seemed aware of their presence. Upon confronting him, the elf – Splitoak – confessed that he’d not been affected by whatever curse was afflicting the townsfolk. He’d been out of town and returned to discover the townsfolk as they were now. He blamed the alchemists in town and pointed out where they worked to the adventurers.

The alchemists proved not to be available to comment. Their guards – who were not suffering the affliction of the rest of the village – politely asked the adventurers to leave. Impolitely, the adventurers refused. And Josh’s druid turned into a bear and attacked them.

Bears are big. Josh as a bear was blocking the doorway, meaning he was attacking the guards, the guards were attacking him, but no-one else could enter melee. The other party members tried ranged attacks but mostly couldn’t see the guards because a bear was in the way. Eventually, the bear was reduced to 0 hit points, and Josh returned to human form. He entered the alchemists’ house, along with the rest of the party, and the battle resumed – and he turned back into a bear.

The last alchemist fled the house. Josh was next in the initiative order and ran after the alchemist in pursuit. And got stuck in the doorway. A few rounds of round cursing followed from the other adventurers – who couldn’t get out the house to give chase because there was a bear in the way!

Eventually, Josh wrenched his bear free, and they followed the fleeing alchemist to the house of the chief alchemist.

Incredibly, they then talked to the chief alchemist, rather than fighting her, and discovered she was attempting to find a cure to the affliction. She’d made a deal with the evil lizardfolk so they’d leave the town unharmed, and something had gone a little bit wrong with the concoction she’d tested on the villagers using ingredients provided by the lizardfolk.

Despite the misgivings of some in the group, they agreed to let her go in exchange for her notes, from which they were able to engineer an antidote to the curse. All they now had to do was administer it to the townsfolk. It wasn’t easy – mutated hunting dogs attacked them, as well as a group of Akabkan lizardfolk, and another poor cursed villager before they were finally able to find and cure all the villagers.

In the process, they rescued a yuan-ti pureblood, Salida, an enemy of the Akabkan, who told them of a ritual the Akabkan were planning that would elevate their leader to godhood or something like it. Salida offered to guide them to the location of the ritual. The party accepted; hesitantly, but it was their best chance of stopping a great evil from rising in Chult. As opposed to the great evil that had already arisen!

And that was the conclusion to the third part of Rise of the Lizard King. The characters had now attained level 4, and the final chapter awaited!

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