14 comments on “Tomb of Annihilation Review Part 3: World Building

  1. Pingback: Tomb of Annihilation Review Part 1: Chult in 5e | POCGamer

  2. Pingback: Tomb of Annihilation Review Part 2: The Adventure | POCGamer

  3. Thank you very much for the in-depth review. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your breakdown of the adventure, and find myself in agreement. It is a good adventure, but as a sourcebook it is lacking. I would have loved to see a crafted setting that would have allowed players choosing to play characters with a Chult background, and a good exploration of the culture and history of those peoples, instead of just assuming the characters would all be European equivalents dropped into the setting, and blending in about as well as Dr. Marcus Brody.

    I mean, think about how awesome it would have been to play characters that were responsible for thwarting the machinations of Acererak, preventing the birth of a new evil god, and fighting to bring back the favor of a benevolent god, all done in a setting rich with its own cultures and not relying upon the tropes of the Red Wizards or the Flaming Fists.

    As it currently stands, I find that it reminds me more of old Expert modules like X1: Isle of Dread (including the maps to be filled in by players, and dinosaurapalooza). As an adventure, it can be a blast. But it does have all the trappings of colonialism, including a story arc about finding a Dr. Livingstone equivalent…

  4. I’ve enjoyed reading your break down of ToA. After your first section, I shared it with a friend. Who then challenged me to create a game for this setting. I pulled several DM Guilds published pieces for more material, and found still find them lack as well. As I begin to process and plan, I notice that in none of the materials does it mention the Chultans source of Arcane, Bardic, Druidic, or Rouge schools or organizations. So are all of these skills and sources for training from outside? I’m having to invent these places. The then there is a brief mention of the Beggar Princes. This would have been a great source of information and tense in area, even after ToA is resolved. Another section I’m having to invent.I’m having to figure out way to syncretize Ubtao in the temple for Clerical options. As I dig in more I’m certain that there is much more that I’ll have to create.

    For this game the players will be required to play natives of the Chult, I’ve figured at least 6 race options for them, 2 of which are Lycan.

    • Good luck with your project!

      I found The Grand History of the Realms, and Serpent Kingdoms (both 3.5e) to be great information sources for the general region and its deep history with the larger FRCS. I found the following canonicaly native to Chult player races between 2e AD&D and 5e:
      – Human (Chultan, Amnian, Tethyrian, Calishite, Illuskan)
      – Dwarf (Wild, Albino, Gold)
      – Elf (Wild)
      – Half Elf (only mentioned as being specifically Chultan)
      – Aarakocra
      – Lizardfolk
      – Yuan-ti
      – Tortle
      – Naga

      Hope that helps!

  5. May I suggest a review of the “Ki Khanga” RPG, from MV Media, as a contrast to this sourcebook?

    • Funny you’d mention that! I’m currently waiting for my copy of Milton Davis’ game. Once I have it, I plan on doing a review.

  6. Lot of stuff to dive into here – Been thinking about it quite a bit lately as I’m part way through playing it as a PC and have DM’d several of the extended AL adventures into it as well as reading up on the core book to prep for a run.

    I feel like there needs to be a part 4 – one that specifically dives into the content around the open and first epic (peril to the port) as well as the remaining Adventurer’s league and DM’s Guild content. One thing that really pops up here is that the externally created content (and it’s all officially sanctioned at that) is quite literally outpacing the content of the hardcover, and we’re not even done w the season yet

    I wholeheartedly agree that the source book itself is extremely thin when it comes to Port Nyanzaru, having run Peril to the Port twice, which triples the NPC character count, you specifically start to see some of the internal politics start to show, and I wanted to build on that in the sourcebook… and found the hints of it that lead to the existent content, but not much else to work with. A perfect example is how in PoTP Mother Sibonseni (priestess of the trade goddess Waukeen) controls major defensive forces, but is totally willing to let the city burn down when the port comes under threat. It’s the princes who are stepping up to the plate to save the town, while northern based factions both aid and attempt to subvert their commands (in one case, asking you secure evidence that would incriminate a prince who is working w dark forces).

    Two things you left out: – the Ytepka Society – which is specifically mentioned as being anti-colonialist (both anti-faction, and anti-pirate, and all of the pirates are colonials/working w the colonials) . – I haven’t seen a mission using them using them yet, but I plan to make them a big component in my game.

    Second is the Nine Trickster gods of the Omu – who apparently stepped up to the plate in Obtau’s absence – they don’t premier until later in the book, but they have some history that gets expanded on in AL content

    I also noticed that during AL, many of the poorly described areas (hisari comes to mind) get expanded upon and you do visit them for specific missions.

    In Return of the LIzard King, that big section of to the south is expanded on, the lizard tribes start to get fleshed out, and you learn of several new existing settlements.

    • Here’s the thing, and I’m sorry if it sounds harsh, but I do not, and will not, consider DM Guild material (even if AL legal). The reason being that, while it may be well written, thought out, and presented, it is not canon material, which means in the long run, it does not effect the campaign setting and can be superceded at any moment by something released by WotC. That said, now that AL has finished producing its official series of bolt-on adventures, I will be reviewing those with the same critical lens.

      The Triceritops Society was left out because, to be honest, they’ve been a joke of a faction since their appearance in 2e AD&D. They have, like most things in Chult, a lot of wasted potential. As presented in the book, they were so sadly and laughably inept and ineffective that I just passed them by to deal with the larger issues.

  7. Hey! I just wanted to drop a comment to say that I’ve been reading through a lot of your articles after finding you over Twitter. Really enjoyed the review, I find your insight particularly helpful because as a white dm running d&d for two entirely poc (predominantly black) groups at my college I’ve been working for the past two months on cracking a lot of the problems you identified in your articles. If only I’d have found your articles sooner I’d have saved myself some serious head/desk related injuries.

    In particular I’ve focused on reworking Chult’s history and have actually planted the peninsula in my personal game world to save myself the trouble of dealing with forgotten realms canon nonsense. Decolonizing and writing unique lore for the nations/factions there has been really rewarding and it just seems like such a shame that the sourcebook itself turned out the way it did.

    Some (not quick, nor entirely easy) fixes I wrote myself were:

    -remove all colonial influences from Chult, give Chult complete autonomy over trade within it’s region and establish unique relationships between it and other world powers
    -establish history of various communities which translate into still present factions
    -establish the Kingdom of Chult as an egalitarian society ruled by a figurehead but by and large for (and by) the people, establish Kingdom of Chult as technologically/magically advanced
    -establish a unique Chultan take on religion, differences in religious beliefs fuel most of the debate/conflict and fill most of the chultan’s time as they’ve automated/magically enabled food production
    -give specific and non-colonial reason for the Kingdom of Chult’s collapse (Ras Nsi was a Chultan Priest who was seduced by Dendar the Nigh Serpent and who raised his army of the dead to destroy the Kingdom)
    -establish the kindgom of Chult not as ancient history but as returnable, with multiple factions with direct ties to PCs seeking to defeat Ras Nsi and preserve Chultan lore/culture/knowledge

    And with all this effort many of my PCs who’ve had characters die have rolled new Chultan characters!

    Not sure where this comment is going but its late and I’m rambling. I guess I wanted to thank you for the list of “things you’d wished you’d seen” in part 1 because it gave me even more inspiration to continue to build Chult into another vibrant region of my home brew world. If you had any comments or insight on those fixes I listed above I’d really love your feedback! All my players are very invested in the game, but they’re all very new and are pretty shy about giving feedback about the setting and the like.

    Thanks again for the great article, you’ve definitely got a new reader!

  8. Stumbled across this review by accident, and I just wanted to say; I support everything you say in ripping ToA a new one – sadly, returning to the “Forgotten” Realms from the Nerath setting of 4e meant a return to Gygax’s precious humanocentrism, which itself tends to lead to a fixation on “historical-realistic fantasy” (which is why ToA, Maztica or Al-Qadim are so much worse than Ixalan), as this was an attendant part of the baggage they are so desperately bringing back to appeal to grognards.

    That said, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the fact that, prior to 5e, the Wild Dwarves of Chult were literally based on “headhunting cannibal pygmy” caricature, a trait they even maintained into 3rd edition.

    • Truth be told, with all the other stuff already going on in ToA, I wasn’t able to get into that aspect to the degree I wanted to. I will be doing a “Demihumans as the Other” type post in the future though, and they will be in that one.

  9. I’m considering writing a supplemental material for this, and I’ve been looking at your article a lot for things to fix in the subsetting.
    Forgotten Realms isn’t really my cup of tea, but I guess it is what it is.

    What can I do (that mostly doesn’t directly overwrite what’s already written in ToA) to make Chult feel more alive?

    Can it be salvaged? Is it worth it? Should I put my efforts somewhere else? I kinda wanna get your thoughts before I put too much work into something that may not work out for me.

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