Grinding through the Tomb of Annihilation

A portrait of an undead necromancer wielding a staff standing askew of a horned demon statue
"Tomb of Annihilation" by Wizards of the Coast

In case you thought I focused solely on opening Fables Bookshop, rest assured, I’m still running my Tomb of Annihilation game.

In our last session, the players split the party, though not entirely by choice.

Warning: Here there be spoilers

In the previous session, the players fiddled with a Mirror of Lifetrapping. They ended up freeing several Non-Player Characters (NPCs 🔍), most of whom required little convincing to help the party: a Chultan champion of a past empress, a minotaur soldier loyal to the Chultan champion, a human rogue once part of another adventuring group, and a drow mage that came to learn about the culture.

With a group of 5 NPCs (a human veteran and the above-listed NPCs) and 5 player characters, it felt much like 1st Edition with it’s necessary plethora of henchmen and hirelings.

They came upon a stone slab with a painting of a faceless gaunt creature, left arm extended with palms open. After some trial and error, they mimicked the painting, which triggered the stone slab to lower and grant them entrance to a room.

The room that they chose to explore had a gold crown, a 20,000gp black opal, and a faint hint of transmutation magic. Their greed got the better than them.

Stone slabs rose, separating the cleric from the party. I gave the members closest to rising stone slab an option to attempt to dive through; No one took it. Inside the room with stone slabs now closed, they saw a similar painting, but instead of an extended arm, the painting had an extended stump of an arm.

As they inspected the stone slabs, two bodaks stalked into view, bringing almost instant death to an NPC. The party rallied and dispatched the bodaks, one slain outright and the other banished. They did sustain significant Hit Point (HP 🔍) loss and contemplated a short rest.

And then things went sideways fast. The slabs did not open. They thought to use the NPCs body to solve the puzzle. They began discussing teleportation options. They explored the green demon head around the corner; Learning that the black maw disintegrated objects.

The plan, take some short rests and allow the warlock to use teleportation to get them out of the room.

First, the warlock and sorcerer opted to teleport out of the room, to the other side where the cleric waited. The warlock and sorcerer disappeared, failing to reappear where expected. Instead they appeared in a room with:

  • A previously banished grey slaad that had made a deal with a Dao (banished at least one long rest ago)
  • A Dao released from captivity by the Player Characters (PCs 🔍), that chose to plane shift away
  • An Otyugh guardian
  • The banished bodak

In a hot moment, I rolled some checks. First the grey slaad and dao, still a team, killed the otyugh. Upon the arrival of the bodak, hater of life, they fought. The Grey Slaad failed their saving throw (and I ruled it died). The Dao then dispatched the Bodak handily.

The warlock and sorcerer, arriving moments after the bodak’s death, find the Dao and parlay. They began probing for a way out.

Meanwhile, back in the still trapped chamber, the party worked to bust the grey demon statue from its housing. They planned to use its maw to disintegrate their way out of the room.

The NPC minotaur and NPC champion and PC barbarian team up to take a crack at moving the statue. The first attempt fails, but the second attempt succeeds. With a sphere of annihilation encased by a green demon statue, I figured the sphere wasn’t going anywhere. As the statue began passing through the sphere and the pushing gained speed, I called for a Difficulty Class (DC 🔍) 15 Dexterity saving throw to avoid tumbling into the sphere.

The NPC champion rolled a one (1), and NPC minotaur failed by eight (8) I forgot that a champion has the Indominatable feature, so I’ll be retconning this . Whoops! They fall into the sphere. The dwarf barbarian fails, but not so horribly, managing to lose his right arm instead as it passed through the sphere; Thus creating a way to open the door and join the cleric.