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Published by: JVC Parry
Using famous fables, stories, and characters within D&D, or any tabletop RPG, provides a fun shared cultural touchstone for your players. I would love to see more adventures that blatantly ripped off famous stories in fantastical ways, like defending a poor village against a tyrannical local lord (Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven), evading a relentlessly powerful enemy (Predator/Terminator/Alien), or shepherding a young person across a dangerous world (The Last of Us/Logan/Children of Men).
“The Wizard of Zo” takes one of the most famous stories of the twentieth century and it applies it to a standard D&D mini-adventure, perfectly set within the jungles of Chult. It’s a Tier 2 adventure, designed for 5-10th level, with an estimated play time between five and ten hours. It doesn’t try and retell The Wizard of Oz, instead cleverly pulling ideas and characters into a detailed cast and a fun dungeon design.
The adventure is divided into three parts as well as an introduction that suggests three solid plot hooks to get your players involved. It’s written with Tomb of Annihilation in mind, almost as a psuedo-replacement for Camp Vengeance (though there’s mention of Camp Vengeance as well).
However the reason, the PCs arrive at Camp Resistance in Part 1, which is functionality similar to Camp Vengeance, albeit a lot more interesting. It’s been set up by the Order of the Gauntlet along the River Tiryki and features an actual moat.
I was most impressed with the new cast of characters. The author really went above and beyond when it comes to the dramatis personae, with lengthy paragraphs for each of the five main characters – including an awakened giant snapping turtle, as well as wonderful character art from Danny Pavlov. The characters are all thematically appropriate to both Chult and the Order of the Gauntlet, with a woman named Dorothy (ahem, Lieutenant Dorothy Waters) in charge.
There’s a lot going on in this camp, including a violent zombie tyrannosaurs attack when the PCs arrive. Part 2 includes three encounters that can occur at the Camp, two of which are purely optional combat encounters. One involves fighting the undead at the nearby mine, and the other is helping a pair of characters fend off a Spinosaurus attack. Again, perfectly themed for Tomb of Annihilation.
The main plot involves the titular wizard. Turns out it’s a Zorbo who stumbled upon a magical circle and spellbook, granting him intelligence and magical powers. He uses illusions to conjure up the classic giant green head, and along with a pride of Weretigers, extorts money and supplies from the Camp. The Camp is suffering terribly as a result. It’s up to the players to follow him back and deal with this odd threat once and for all.
Part 3 is a straightforward dungeon crawl in the wizard’s lair, a neat design called the Tomb of Impersonation that’s filled with secret doors, a deadly trapped hallway, and multiple puzzles and denizens.
It’s here the players should be delighted to see the decidedly D&D-ified references to the film (or book) – a large pack of Flying Monkeys, chained Helmed Horrors who yearn for hearts, an insanely cackling scarecrow, a lion statue who must be given courage to proceed (like the heroism spell!) and of course Toto, who’s somewhat randomly and hilariously represented as Zo’s pet chimera.
The dungeon includes winding branches throughout, like a monkey’s habitat at a zoo, allowing for Zo to zoom through the dungeon and jack with the players with his spells. I love a boss that isn’t content to just sit back and wait for the adventurers to arrive.
There’s also a complex gauntlet of a trapped hallway that takes no less than an entire page to explain the various traps inside. The author does suggest several viable methods to disabling parts or all of the trap, which I appreciated.
With its clever use of thematically appropriate creatures and traps, the mini-adventure is perfect for Tomb of Annihilation campaigns, and good enough to warrant dropping in to any ongoing campaign to make your players fear the words “follow the yellow brick road!”
- Fits perfectly within Tomb of Annihilation, while making obvious but fun references to The Wizard of Oz.
- Transforming the wizard into an awakened Zorbo is both clever and hilarious.
- Amazingly detailed cast of characters – with great portraits!
- Separate DM and Player maps for the Tomb of Impersonation dungeon.
- Dungeon map could use a bit more detail, given the complex traps and branching systems.
The Verdict: “The Wizard of Zo” has a nice blend of combat, role-playing, and exploration, and does a great job utilizing fun references while still providing an original, and enjoyable, D&D dungeon crawl.
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