I have a copy, but so far have resisted reading it because I'd like to be surprised when I play it at my local game store. The big thing (I think) is the way they treat the Curse and character death. Once your character dies, bringing him back comes with a lot of baggage. Not a huge deal at my store so far, as few 5E characters die to the point of being revived by a non-party cleric, but I can see that the potential of the Curse could really suck.
Marv / Finarvyn DCC playtester (2011) S&W WhiteBox author (2009) C&C playtester (2003) Builder of the TrollBridge for T&T; Amber Diceless player since 1993 OD&D Player since 1975; Metamorphosis Alpha since 1976
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!" - Dave Arneson
I wanna build up Acererak to be a mega-villain on the level of Darkseid or the Loc-Nar from HEAVY METAL. I want the players to feel like they are EPIC HEROES just for opposing him. The Lord of the Rings meets King Kong and Cannibal Holocaust.
I did it. I put the poster up at my local game store. If I haven't ran anything but con games in a long time and if I didn't commit to running it I just would have kept putting it off, so I'm jumping in with both feet.
1) Fans of grindhouse cinema might notice that the poster is an homage to the European poster for Cannibal Holocaust. 99.9% of all normal, decent, sane people won't get the reference, or would be repelled by it if they did get it, but I thought "This is a really deadly jungle adventure, so what better way to subtly get that across than echoing the most infamous jungle movie of all time?".
2) Imagine if Hitler was immortal and got a second act after WWII, occasionally coming back again and again to start other wars, rule over other totalitarian regimes, etc. That's my take on Acererak -the ultimate tyrant, a true global supervillian like Dracula or Kirby's Darkseid. He's going to return- after an absence of a few hundred years- and take over one of the major nations in my campaign world and turn it into a black metal fascist nightmare. The whole "Soulmonger" plot from ToA is just a side project.
3) In the module as written, there is no way to find Acererak's phylactery and permanently kill him. I'm gonna change this. As much as I'm a fan of dark, brutal games, there should be that catharsis at the end. This is a really deadly module so anyone that makes it to the blood-drenched finale-IF anybody makes it to the blood-drenched finale- should really see their actions have an effect on the world.
4) The cannibals in the jungles of Chult are all white men- greedy and vainglorious foreigners who came to Chult to conquer but were BROKEN BY THE JUNGLE AND DRIVEN MAD BY IT. Think Aguirre, the Wrath of God or the really trippy parts of
5) NO BORING MONSTERS! The Yuan-Ti get to stay because Yuan-Ti are sexy and tap into that sweet Howard/Lin Carter "Primordial serpent men" archetype. The kobolds are gonna get replaced by neutral-but-pitiless pygmies. The batari (sp?) jungle goblins are just weird enough to stay (I'm gonna emphasize that they're hive creatures with no individual sense of self as we would understand it- alien even to other goblins. Also, they have to eat their own weight in raw meat a day to survive-think the army ants out of old jungle movies except sentient and tool-using.)
6) The old, massive, half-blind dragon turtle at the beginning is awesome and I'm really looking forward to role-playing him. Like a Kaiju that can talk.
7) This is probably WotC's best module but even it has parts that get too complicated and that I will ruthlessly cut down.
8) This would have even better if it was a boxed set rather than an unwieldy hardcover. Yeah, I know, boxed sets are so 1995, VAT, bookstore distribution, etc.,etc. But still...
I've only heard of this module via YouTube. Is it just the Tomb of Horrors under a different name? Acererak and the Green Devil Face sound pretty familiar.
It's a direct sequel to Tomb of Horrors (and to I1: Dwellers in the Forbidden City). The arch-lich Acererak has built a machine called "The Soulmonger" that eats the souls of all who die while it's on (Resulting in no Resurrection, heroes that have previously been resurrected slowly rotting alive, and persons who are badly wounded dying more frequently (i.e. 5th e death saves are harder). Our heroes must travel to the sweaty, dinosaur-filled, cannibal-infested, zombie-ridden land of Chult (Pulp fantasy Congo) to find the machine and shut it down.
I've ran two sessions so far. Observations:
1) DC 15 survival rolls are HARD for non-woodsman characters. City-rats and dungeon-crawlers will get lost in the jungle a lot, wasting a lot of precious time. Bring a country boy (Druid, ranger, barbarian or anyone with the Outlander background).
2) The Outlander background's ability to automatically forage food & water is REALLY HELPFUL in this adventure. A triviality in most dungeon-based games, it's a life-saver here.
3) Pay attention to fresh water supplies. The dehydration rules are HARSH. There is a reason why nobody in Vietnam walks around in plate or chain armor.
4) I don't want to give any spoilers, but... there are some mini-dungeons on the way to the big dungeon. I'm not usually big on puzzles or riddles in D&D but one of them has a Indiana Jones-ish trap puzzle that is exquisitely simple, poetic, and fiendish.
5) Maybe my players have just gotten really lucky with wandering monsters, but the encounter tables are nice mix of combative brutes and critters that can be negotiated with, befriended, traded with, etc.
I've been running this module for a group and one major thing I discovered is that the whole Syndra countdown to death is in tension with the otherwise sandbox/hexcrawl design. I recommend either ditching that as an adventure hook or introducing it when they're higher level. I should have caught that issue in reading but it made itself known in play!
As ritt points out, it's really amenable to old school play, and probably the most amenable out of all the 5e modules. The random encounters aren't meticulously balanced so you get some tough combatants. I also run 5e with monster reactions and morale rules straight out of Moldvay, which then means those encounters aren't automatically combats. The players get a lot of opportunities to be creative problem-solvers. I also rejiggered it so that XP is for gold (and stocked locations accordingly!).
I'm thinking about adding in stuff from the Mythras book Monster Island. The map is mostly empty, so there's a lot of room to make additions.
Not that there’s anything wrong with using the Moldvay rules but the DMG does include mechanics for reactions (pp 244-245) and morale (p 273) if you’ve got that book.
I’ve got the adventure but haven’t played it or run it yet. Just from reading it, it seems really well put together.
I should've been clearer, but I have used the reactions rules in part. So if a player roleplays out the encounter, I use adjustments -2 to +2. If instead a player uses a Cha skill, then I use my adaptation of the DMG rule with DCs and the like scaled for different outcomes. The morale rules I found not to work all that well in practice as the wisdom stat is all over the place for monsters, so I use the 2d6 method.
The spirit, though, is straight Moldvay. I know modern D&D hates using anything but d20 and the occasional d100 for subsystems but I like having the 2d6 curve.