Warning: The following contains detailed spoilers for the final dungeon of the Tomb of Annihilation. Obviously.
Note: For brevity’s sake, I don’t say every time I check for traps, search for secret doors or use detect magic. Just assume stuff like that happens in every damn room!
21 days to go, continued
Heading down the stairs to the final level, we saw the green glow from a smouldering cauldron in the centre of a dungeon room. There were three empty rocking chairs, haberdashery lying around and a spinning wheel. There was a caged prisoner in the middle of the room, and three little dolls made of various bits and pieces limped up to us. They warned us that the Sewn Sisters would come, and they asked us to free them. We said we would. Gathering the miserable looking things up, we moved into the room properly.
That was when the caged prisoner turned around and I got the shock of my life. It was me. I yelled out that I wasn’t going to be so easily spooked. But as we got to talking, she revealed to us what she was: a clone, created by the Sewn Sisters, and used to spy on our progress. Nanny Pupu, all that long time ago, had taken some hairs from me and sent them away to the Sisters, before we killed her. We freed and dressed my clone, and took her to be with our small band of refugees.
Then we settled into breaking the puzzle of the room we were in. At the end was a door that had five plaques on it: one triangular, one a square, a pentagon, a hexagon, and finally an octagon. Behind each of these would be a keyhole corresponding to the skeleton keys we had liberated. But to move the plaques, we had to solve the puzzle in each of the five rooms on the mezzanine level above us. So we started with the room with a triangle on the door.
This one did not take us too long. There was a lever, but it was behind a glass cylinder which we couldn’t lift or move. Zagmira used a misty step spell to get in and out of there. The first keyhole was revealed. In the next room, the square-plaqued door, we found pages of spells flying around. We were able to grab three spells: Alarm, Immolation, Unseen Servant, and Investiture of Ice, before the rest turned into a whirwind of dust mephits. One we dispatched that, we had to figure out how to touch the level, which was in an ethereal state. It took us ages, trying all sorts of methods, but finally Orvex thought to just try drawing a square around it. And that worked.
In the next room, the pentagon room, a gaunt man setting up a feast invited us to eat. Ignoring him, we inspected the tapestries around the walls. One patch was different from the others. It had a devil face, a motif common in the room, but the mouth was real. I had a skeleton poke its finger in, and that solved the puzzle. Unfortunately, we left the room without eating, which made the man lay a curse on us. We decided to rest up, and return once Hugo had asked the chwingas for a spell to remove the curse from all of us.
19 days to go
We wasted an entire day just removing the curse, and were finally ready to go again. The Sewn Sisters had not yet emerged, so we went to the hexagon room next. Within was a cracked six-sided mirror with the words ‘Piggy piggy piggy’ written above it, and five candles. I got the team to search for the sixth candle, and we found it, lit them, and then said piggy three times. A lever appeared in the mirror, and we pulled it (a bit weird, seeing oneself holding something that wasn’t actually there). Then it was onto the final room.
This one was where it nearly all went wrong. There was a leather tome upon a lectern with a rhyme written in infernal, and eight skeletons along the walls. We read the rhyme in our heads, front to back, and back to front, and were trying to decide which way it should be said aloud. Hugo, Flask and I were the only ones in the room when I accidentally triggered the trap while exploring the room. The gravity went upside down, the ceiling opened up, and beneath us was a giant metal blender. I cast Fly on Hugo and myself while Flask clung for dear life onto the lectern. We read the rhyme quickly, and the trap reset, and the lever appeared.
Outside, the rest of the team were standing there, watching the approach of the Sewn Sisters. I was fed up, not keen on talking, so we quickly dispatched them, focussing on the closest of the witches first so as to break their coven and diminish their spell power. With that done, the other two were easy to take down. The three little dolls were now inert, and free I suppose. And the five keyholes were now revealed. We decided to have one last rest before confronting Acererak.
18 days to go
We placed the keys in the door and unlocked it to reveal a huge chamber with lava beneath us. We were able to safely assemble on a wide ledge near the door, while Acererak was on another ledge to the right of us, and the Soulmonger hung suspended in the air by metal cables to the left of us. Some… thing… was attached to the Soulmonger, tube in mouth. It looked like it was made of different bits and pieces of different people.
Acererak started to speak to us. It was standard bad guy monologue, but Orvex whispered to me to keep him talking as long as possible, and then he whispered something long and complicated to Hugo. Meanwhile the rest of us tried to hide them, keeping Acererak going on and on about how he was using the Soulmonger to build a new god, a vessel for some being called Tenebrus, his master. Alas, we couldn’t keep him talking forever, and the fighting began.
He made a sphere of annihilation and sent it amongst us. It focussed on Zagmira, and she ran around the ledge jumping and cursing as bits and pieces of her voluminous robes got singed off into oblivion. Flask ran dashingly up the cables, all the way over to stab Acererak… and got killed in by single spell of Acererak’s, his corpse sent flying back to us with the impact. If that wasn’t shocking enough, my skeletons and zombies refused to attack Acererak! Hugo ran between us all, shouting to give him the Nine Gods, so we started doing so, and the more nimble and ranged amongst us started attacking the god-golem in the centre. It opened its eyes, and hit us with some sort of whammy that exhausted us all. Zagmira was finally overcome by the sphere of annihilation, and a second corpse lay on our side now.
We ignored Acererak, who seemed untouchable, and continued to stab and shoot the god-golem, until finally Ninya hit it, killed it, and leapt off it before it became insubstantial. Acererak was cursing us, but saying it would only delay him a little. Thankfully, he had been distracted enough by the flurry of the rest of us, to fail to notice that Hugo now had all the Nine Gods’ holy objects, and was starting to glow. Chwingas started to appear around the cavern. Acererak pointed a bony finger at Hugo, and annihilated him with another single kill spell.
Hugo died, but in that moment the Soulmonger exploded, and a giant laser shot for the sky from its heart, through all six levels of the tomb above. The laser resolved itself into a figure… a giant figure of a man… but was it Hugo? Or was it, as a celebrating Orvex cried out, the Nine Gods reconstituted into the original god, the one that ‘vanished’ before they appeared… Ubtao?
Acererak was mad now. All the power of the Soulmonger was wasted now, not given to Tenebrus, but instead to Hugo/Ubtao. Not only that, but Flask and Zagmira stood up, and all of us were refreshed by wave after wave of energy from the giant glowing figure above us. So we naturally attacked. It was still a hard fight, even with Hugo sending us energy and healing, but we managed to wear Acererak’s spell power down, and our tabaxi attacked with unrelenting energy even after Zagmira and I were well out of spell power ourselves. Above us, Hug-tao was growing, expanding his consciousness, testing his powers. Ninya became Acererak’s focus, as she was dealing him the most damage, and he managed to knock her down. But when we got her back up again, she finally managed to kick the stupid skull of his neck vertebrae, into the lava below.
My oldest friend, once Hugo, now Ubtao, but maybe still Hugo, wished us luck, and left. There was no corpse, so… maybe it was Hugo? Either way, the waters of Omu were starting to fill the dungeon so we decided to destroy what we could, save what was needed, and leave as soon as possible. We found, in the same cavern as us, a ton of phylacteries of the servants of Acererak, so we threw these in the lava. Further back in the cavern we found a teleporter that took us to Acererak’s private chambers. In his chapel of hate, we found some nothiks chained up, a font for the baptism of the new god, and an unconscious man in a body bag. We picked him up and kept exploring. There were many strange things, like a portal to Arcadia, a pool of black ooze, a music box that could sound like many instruments (I took that), and a library full of arcane texts, looked after by a man named Mr Fox. We tried to get him to escape with us, but he said he was bound here. Zagmira said she was staying too. When we said she had to escape before the tomb became a lake, she said it was fine, she’d go to Arcadia instead, and besides, she needed some other prize now that the Soulmonger had exploded. But we still had to get out before it was too late, so we fled the chapel of hate, out the teleporter, across the quickly cooling lake of lava and water, and through the tomb which was now a wonderland of waterfalls. I noticed, as we escaped, that the Starfallen had set free as part of the destruction of the works of Acererak, but Nepartak, the princess in the skull, was still with Copper Bell. That was confusing. Shouldn’t Acererak’s death have freed her? Of course we hadn’t killed him completely… he’d have many phylacteries in other places… but we’d ended the horrid spell on our plane, and that’s why we came here.
When we emerged in Omu, Mwaxanare received us happily. We gave her the chalice of Chigakare, and told her of the return of Ubtao. The yuan-ti had been purged completely from Omu. We travelled with her back to Port Nyanzaru, where she announced the return of the Omuan monarchy and of Ubtao. Later that first day, the man we carried out of Acererak’s chapel came to. He said his name was Volo, and he was very thankful to us. He seemed a little put out when none of us recognised his name. As we travelled he regaled us with many tales of his adventures.
On our way up the river-routes, we passed Camp Vengeance, only to find it in ruins. There seemed to be a colony of were-tigers living there now. Some on the bank shouted to us to leave them alone, unless we wanted to convert to were-tigers and join their free love colony. I recognised them as they spoke to us… it was Cipactonal and Oxomoco. Well, at least they seem happy. And they destroyed that abysmal self-righteous camp. Win-win.
My master Syndra was pleased to see me, and seemed to be at peace with the fate of Hugo. She said I seemed to be glowing. I couldn’t really see it myself. She invited me to come back with her to Waterdeep, but I told her I had promises I made here that needed fulfilling first. Besides… I don’t think I can go back to being servant to a master again. I’ve learnt too much on this adventure.
It was time for the band to go their separate ways. For River and Flask, this happened quicker than I could think. River only had time to say a quick goodbye to me, carrying an unconscious Flask over her shoulder, one week into our stay in Port Nyanzaru. Flask, bored back in town, had gotten in trouble with a merchant prince, and so she had arranged for them to get passage out of town on the first boat out. She refused to wait for me to organise something else for her, but I did at least see them safe on their ship, and I did manage to create a diversion on the docks so they got away safely. Who knows where they’ll end up? But they are so much more powerful now than when I first hired them. I’m sure they’ll be fine, wherever they end up.
Orvex chose to return to Omu with Mwaxanare. He couldn’t resist a chance to study aarakocra culture up close. She’s hiring him as an advisor, and paying in antiques! I can’t think of a happier place for him to be.
Copper Bell has held onto the skull of Nepartak and continues to communicate with her still. Nepartak has asked for her to find her ancestor, Zalkore, a former queen of Omu who may still be alive due to a curse. They think she might be able to help restore Nepartak to a living body. It’s believed she is in Nangalore, yet another ruined jungle city. So Copper Bell is off on another adventure, but she seems a lot happier and full of purpose now that she has a child to care for again.
I’ve given Fionn the Eye of Zeltec as she asked, and she is taking it to Halruaa with the survivors of the flying shipwreck to find a gemcutter and a workshop. Watch this space, she said to me before departing…
Ninya went back to Waterdeep with Syndra, thanking me for my help. I asked if she wouldn’t stay and adventure further with me, but she said she had to get back to her best friend and make sure she was still alive.
There are people who helped us who we may never see again, and some who I know we won’t. Eeyal and Inete seem like distant memories. Theeka’s loss is a little fresher, and I even still have her murderer’s corpse in my skeleton army (his bones always seemed to hold some memory of his excellent marksmanship). Those three I know are dead and gone, and because of the Soulmonger there was nothing I could do. Except, I hope, maybe their souls were freed when Hugo became Ubtao. I wish I’d thought to ask him. I feel like Artus and Dragonbait may have made it out though. I have no real evidence to base this on, except the fact that the frost giants haven’t turned the whole world into one big snowball. I’ll have to see if I can research a spell to contact them and see. But that will have to wait for my other promises first.
The first promise I have to fulfill will find me heading back to Wyrmheart Mine, to meet again with Tinder. There’s something we want to try…
So! That’s finally it for Tomb of Annihilation! Wow.
James and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the last two campaigns we’ve played through. There were moments in it that were amazing. I particularly loved the actual city of Omu itself, with all the different elements it had: collect the Nine Gods, beat the other people who are trying to collect them, watch out for the environmental dangers (e.g. Bag o Bones, King of Feathers) and defeating the yuan-ti and Ran Nsi. But as a whole it lacked the cohesion of Curse of Strahd, and the sandboxiness of it (a part of Storm King’s Thunder I loved) was ruined by the time limit (which James would not run with again, in hindsight). It meant we never tried the tortle adventure add-on, sadly…
Let me know if you want more of an in-depth analysis of this campaign (or any others) from James’s perspective as a DM. I’ve been trying to encourage him to write or vlog about it, as he’s very experienced and thinks a lot about what he chooses to play or not. He’ll have a much more in depth analysis, if you’re interested in hearing that.
What are the impacts for the meta-plot of our meta-campaign? Well, as you might have seen if you followed the whole campaign, TOA tied into our SKT playthrough with the presence of Artus Cimber and the ring of winter, and obviously the presence of Ninya, who was there to save Genora’s (second) life! But it did also tie into the Dirwin mega-campaign, with the mention of Tenebrus. This is very much James’s invention here, so don’t get confused. He rewrote parts of the ending of TOA, particularly the part with Hugo turning into Ubtao, but also with Acererak’s god-golem being intended for possession by Tenebrus. (Basically he likes to see me scream when things tie into the meta-plot, haha). Also with the Mechanus scene happening on level five of the tomb, that directly ties into what Dirwin is doing right now with the March of the Modrons. So this does complicate things if you’re trying to make our campaign stick to the popularised timeline of events in standard Forgotten Realms… but basically, don’t worry about it.
So what’s next for Sky Bear Games’s D&D games? We’re probably taking a little break from these one-player home campaigns for a little bit because life is busy, but we’re finishing off our home brew setting campaign very soon too… check out the blog for that here: http://dragonprincescarnevale.blogspot.com/
As for the one-player games though, I am very torn! We actually have three options. Comment if you’ve got an opinion on what you’d prefer to see:
- Get back to the main Dirwin storyline (currently he is halfway through the March of the Modrons)
- Return for a brief adventure with Genora/Serissa, who, having recovered from the soulmonger curse, has to now defend her throne from those who think her weak, and protect against mortality by… getting married and producing an heir?!
- Or start anew (but still part of the meta-plot) with a young tiefling girl in Waterdeep, and her plucky gang of friends, as we play through the very exciting looking campaign Dragon Heist?