Few adventures in D&D 5e are as sweeping, epic, and mind-numbingly dangerous as Tomb of Annihilation.
Everything about this adventure is larger than life. From the call to action to the locations to the titular Tomb itself, it stays exciting!
Well… for those who like to test fate, that is…
If you’re considering diving into one of the greatest challenges in all of D&D 5e, read this review first!
Overview – Tomb of Annihilation
Let’s start with a birds-eye view of what Tomb of Annihilation is, what it’s not, and who this adventure is even for.
For this part of the review, I’ll be making it a point to avoid any spoilers. I’ll call attention to the part of this review that may include some.
Trust me, there are so many twists and turns in this adventure that half the fun is not knowing what’s coming next!
What is Tomb of Annihilation?
The name of this adventure wasn’t lying. It’s incredibly difficult for many reasons that we’ll cover, but it’s also more than just a meatgrinder.
Tomb of Annihilation is an adventure that takes the party from level 1 up to level 12.
This adventure sees the party traveling to the far-away peninsula of Chult. This is a tropical land packed with dense jungles, roaring volcanoes, and threats both natural and otherwise.
The hook is that a mysterious Death Curse has fallen over the world. Those who have been previously restored to life are beginning to wither away. Meanwhile, any attempts to bring people back to life have also failed as their souls are snatched away by… something…
Gathered intelligence is tracing the root of this Death Curse to the land of Chult and something called the Soulmonger.
Beginning in the settlement of Port Nyanzaru, the party must traverse the deadly jungles of Chult. Learning the lore of the land, discovering ancient temples along the way, and navigating the many dangers on their quest, the party eventually finds the titular Tomb of Annihilation.
But it is within the Tomb that real trials truly begin.
Can the party find and destroy this Soul Monger to save the souls of the entire world? Or will they ultimately find their own souls trapped within this foul, necromantic device?
The adventure is part wide-open exploration and part dungeon crawl.
Port Nyanzaru allows for plenty of roleplaying and some intrigue as the party learns more about Chult. From there, it’s off into the jungle…
What Tomb of Annihilation Is Not
Tomb of Annihilation is not the kind of adventure where the party can move at a leisurely pace. The very hook of this adventure sets it up as a ticking clock.
While there are definitely fun and exciting things all throughout this adventure (like DINOSAUR RACING!), the party is there for a specific job, and time is working against them.
To really get the most out of Tomb of Annihilation, players need to know that they’re walking into a very difficult adventure. I mean, this is meant to be the spiritual successor to the infamous Tomb of Horrors from back in the day.
While Tomb of Horrors is deliberately unfair, Tomb of Annihilation presents as more of an unbiased cause-and-effect type of difficulty. It’s less of the mechanics in this adventure that makes it so difficult and much more to do with the players’ choices. Seemingly simple choices might have serious repercussions as the adventure goes on.
Some might associate dungeon crawls or exploration games with a lack of roleplaying. That might be fair in some cases, but certainly not here. Your character’s decisions are everything.
This isn’t a walk in the park. It’s a strong callback to the classic D&D experience where careful planning and caution are rewarded much for often than charging in blindly.
Despite the truly brilliant worldbuilding with this adventure, it’s also not a setting that is meant to be explored in its entirety. The clock is ticking, the threats are dire, and the party has a seemingly impossible job to do.
Who Is Tomb of Annihilation For?
Tomb of Annihilation is not an adventure that even slightly pulls its punches. Even the smallest misstep can spell D-O-O-M for a character or the entire party.
If your group enjoys games with a huge challenge (like the Dark Souls or Elden Ring videogames for example), this will be right up their alley. Tomb of Annihilation is one of the most challenging adventures in all of D&D 5e if not THE most challenging.
A constant and persistent feeling of danger adds a ton to the experience of this adventure. It’s that feeling of having to keep your wits lest your next mistake becomes your last.
Tomb of Annihilation is not for all types of players, and it is definitively not for new players.
However, it is for those who enjoy high-stakes adventures, bushwhacking exploration through jungles, and perilous dungeon crawls.
If you want to get lost in a rich and exotic setting filled with danger and ancient treasure, you’ll be very happy with this.
Full Review of Tomb of Annihilation
So now let’s trek deeper into this adventure. I’ll be going into more detail about the setting and the chapters of this adventure.
This is your SPOILER WARNING!
Seriously, unless you’re a DM that’s looking to run this adventure, don’t read further!
With that out of the way, let’s get on with it!
I absolutely love everything about Tomb of Annihilation’s setting. The locations are all vibrant and ALIVE in ways that really capture the imagination and create memorable moments for the group.
The NPCs are fun and exciting with very few feeling generic. From the seven Merchant Princes of Port Nyanzaru to the guides that the party can hire to help them navigate the jungle, it’s exciting.
But of course, we can’t forget the villains!
Encountering the serpentine Yuan-Ti in the depths of the jungles of Chult, Ras Nsi makes for an incredible villain. His command of both the Yuan-Ti and hordes of undead make him a threat unlike most others in other adventures.
But gracing the cover of the book we have the adventure’s big bad: the lich, Acererak.
As the party navigates the Tomb of Annihilation (more specifically, the Tomb of the Nine Gods), Acererak watches. He is in possession of a creature, an atropal, that he is feeding necrotic energy with the intent of transforming it into a deity that can claim full dominion over death.
The party’s ability to manage their resources, plan effectively, and work together is incredibly important here.
While the adventure does include some sections that advise DMs on how to make this adventure more or less deadly, there is still a challenge built into this setting that goes beyond hit points and stat blocks.
Tomb of Annihilation is an adventure split into five chapters. The type of game being played changes throughout these chapters as the party progresses.
The adventure is initially about the party getting acquainted with Chultan culture and learning about the area while gearing up for their quest. There are a ton of exciting things to interact with, people to meet, and intrigue to be had.
From there, the adventure moves into a hexcrawl as the party begins to navigate the jungles of Chult. Random encounters abound as well as the opportunity to find interesting locations with their own unique risks and rewards.
Lastly, the adventure turns into a classic dungeon-crawl with the Tomb of the Nine Gods. Puzzles, vicious monsters, traps, and more await the doomed souls who enter Acererak’s lair.
There are sections of this adventure that are clearly designed to appeal to most different types of players.
The adventure kicks off with the party being teleported to Port Nyanzaru in Chult. It’s a vibrant city that provides plenty of opportunities for the party to learn about the setting and flesh out who their characters are.
There are 10 side quests here that the party can do. Each introduces them to new aspects of Port Nyanzaru and provides opportunities to meet interesting NPCs and get helpful gear for the journey ahead.
Speaking of which, getting gear to help with the journey ahead will be one of the most important things for the party to do. The jungle is filled with dangers, but few compare to the diseases or slow threat of dehydration that await the unprepared.
A standout moment in Port Nyanzaru is the dinosaur racing. It’s fun and exciting whether players choose to ride the dinosaurs or simply bet on the races.
More than anything, Port Nyanzaru offers opportunities for the party to gather information to help them for the journey ahead.
As a part of this, the party will also need to hire a guide to assist them on their quest. There are 9 guides in total that the party can hire. Some are more effective guides than others while some may also have their own motivations for helping the party beyond payment.
When the party has gathered their guide, information, and gear, it’s time to head into the jungle.
The Land of Chult
Chapter 2 of Tomb of Annihilation is a huge hexcrawl. It is very possible for a group to spend months in this chapter alone if they find themselves getting turned around with regularity. (Though hopefully their guide is able to help them out a bit more.)
Each hex presents opportunities for exploration, encounters, and complications to the journey.
Some of my favorite standout locations include:
- The catapult village of Yellyark (yes, you read that correctly).
- Nangalore, a great garden full of hallucinogenic flowers and a Queen of Omu.
- The ruins of Mbala and the mysterious Nanny Pu’Pu.
- The Heart of Ubtao and the Elven Lich who resides there.
But there are tons of possible locations and encounters for the party to find in this chapter. Very few aren’t exciting or don’t add to the experience.
Dwellers of the Forbidden City
In the ruins of the city of Omu, the party must acquire the nine Puzzle Cubes necessary to enter the Tomb of the Nine Gods.
Exploring the city of Omu, they contend with Yuan-Ti, evil Red Wizards of Thay, vegepygmies, kobolds that are bent on preventing the party from acquiring the cubes.
Very importantly, the party can learn more about the Nine Trickster Gods and what happened to Omu. The lore in this section is incredibly important as it will come in handy later when the party is in the Tomb of the Nine Gods.
As it just so happens, the Red Wizards of Thay are also attempting to enter the Tomb of the Nine Gods. It’s actually possible to make an uneasy alliance with the wizards and their group.
However, even if the party and the Red Wizards pool their resources, they still do not have all nine cubes.
For that, they must go deeper beneath Omu into the snake nest (literally) of the Yuan-Ti. There, a villain possessing the other cubes awaits…
Fane of the Night Serpent
If your group isn’t scared of snakes, they will be soon!
Leading the Yuan-Ti of Omu, the villainous Ras Nsi plans to summon Dendar the Night Serpent to bring about the end of the world.
Striking a deal with Acererak, he and the Yuan-Ti are charged with guarding the Tomb of the Nine Gods. Would you know it, he’s got the remaining puzzle cubes the party needs to enter and isn’t the most helpful of people.
It’s incredibly easy to have a party completely wipe here. Ras Nsi is a very strong enemy and the party is surrounded by hordes of Yuan-Ti.
Depending on how things go, the party might take the direct approach and storm into the Fane of the Night Serpent. Though they might also be captured (or pretend to be) in an attempt to weave the intrigue of the Yuan-Ti in their favor.
Even though the adventure hasn’t even entered the Tomb of the Nine Gods yet, this is such a wonderfully exciting (and incredibly dangerous) part of the story. I always both look forward to and absolutely dread this part of the adventure!
(I’ve played this adventure once and been the DM twice. At least one character always dies in this chapter.)
Tomb of the Nine Gods
With the puzzle cubes in their possession and plenty of anticipation (and maybe some desperation) at their backs, the party is now able to enter the Tomb of the Nine Gods.
The six levels of this dungeon are filled with puzzles, terrifying enemies, and deadly reminders of Acererak’s madness.
The party will encounter the servants of Acererak, both living and undead. Other standout encounters include a Beholder, one of the most interesting Aboleths I’ve ever seen, a delightfully wicked coven of Hags.
To navigate this dungeon, the party can receive help from the spirits of the Nine Trickster Gods. If they’ve paid attention to the lore, this is a great mechanic that rewards them for engaging in the story.
By allowing the spirits to inhabit them, characters gain new powers in addition to some new personality traits that add a fun twist to the roleplaying experience in the dungeon.
Even though I’ve warned about and given spoilers for this adventure, I will not be going into more detail about the specific puzzles and challenges within the tomb. They are so brilliantly insidious that you just need to experience them for yourself!
By the adventure’s conclusion, the party has braved some of the greatest dangers in the world. Not only have they done the impossible and survived the Tomb, but they’ve also saved the world in the process.
As far as conclusions go, completing Tomb of Annihilation just feels rewarding. It’s a rush that is very difficult to fully describe, but one that your group will talk about for years to come!
The land of Chult is filled with interesting flora and fauna that live within the deep jungles.
The bestiary for Tomb of Annihilation includes creatures unique to Chult including almiraj (horned rabbits), flying monkeys, fungal vegepygmies, and strangling assassin vines.
You’ll also find plenty of dinosaurs including the evil Pterafolk who resembled humanoid pterodactyls.
Of course, we can’t also ignore the terrifying undead such as bodaks who can incapacitate adventurers with just a look.
Oh, yeah, there’s also a zombie t-rex that vomits more zombies. Because who needs sleep, right?
Is Tomb of Annihilation Worth Buying?
Ever since its release in 2017, this is an adventure that I just keep coming back to. Whether I’m a player or the DM, I don’t know that I’ll ever get tired of this adventure.
Tomb of Annihilation stands along with the time-tested Curse of Strahd (you can read that review here!) as one of the greatest adventures released for D&D 5e.
Most importantly, Tomb of Annihilation is a love letter to those great adventure stories that have captured our imagination for decades. I mean, the only thing better than watching Indiana Jones is getting to BE Indiana Jones!
With plenty of handouts and an exciting adventure in a fully-realized setting, I just can never get over Tomb of Annihilation.
If your group is looking for an adventure that offers tons of exploration and one of the greatest challenges in this generation of D&D, Tomb of Annihilation should absolutely be your next adventure.
Conclusion – Tomb of Annihilation Review
I know I keep singing this adventure’s praises, but I just can’t help but get excited when discussing it. It’s affected me on both sides of the DM screen in a way that few other adventures ever have.
If your players enjoy a challenge and are down for some exploration, this is an adventure that you simply have to experience for yourself!
But that’s it for this review of Tomb of Annihilation.
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