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Mannix, level 4 Human Inquisitive Rogue
Khaless, level 4 Half-Drow Assassin Rogue
Gillian, level 4 Triton Bard of Whispers
George, level 4 Tortle Battle Master Fighter/Rogue
Therin, level 4 Hill Dwarf Druid of the Moon
The party left a challenging scenario in Mbala, choosing to cross the swamps of the Aldani Basin and make their way toward the Heart of Ubtao. Little did they know what lie in their path.
The journey from Mbala to the floating rock across the swamp is about 11 days away, making it one of the longest they’ve done. They debated on changing their mind to the much closer Orolunga but I pulled DM executive privilege, telling them honestly that I only had time to prep one thing that week – and they had chosen the Heart.
I like that many of the encounters in Chult aren’t combat-related at all, and I try to insert little story moments whenever we get a chance, like the tabaxi confiding in Khaless. I used the Winterscape event to tease [Redacted] which I don’t think my players picked up on, though they were very interested in what was going on.
I did have a night encounter that’s a bit cruel, since the guard shift doesn’t help – bed bugs! Specifically swarms of centipedes attack the sleeping PCs. I rolled for which guard shift they appeared on, then had everyone roll a d20, with the lowest three rolls getting attacked. George, Gillian, and Therin were all rudely assaulted, though only Gillian would get hit in the opening salvo with the painful auto-crit.
In fact the swarms of insects nearly killed Gillian, and they stuck around awhile thanks to their resistance to normal damage – and my party is particularly low on offensive magic. It was a surprisingly harrowing but fun encounter that had us all giggling throughout.
The same can’t be said of the Shambling Mound in the swamp the next day. I originally planned this to be a surprise round (sans Mannix with his 15+ passive perception), but we took a break right after rolling initiative and I totally forgot. That really changed the dynamic of the fight as the Mound was dead last in initiative and only had a single round to attack compared to the 5 PCs + 3 NPCs.
I only got off one of its two massive hits, taking out half of Mannix’s health, but otherwise it was a disappointing paint-by-numbers battle of everyone shaving off chunks of its huge HP pool.
After that the party stumbled upon the 20-ft thorn walls of Dungrunglung, which I plopped into the middle of the Aldani Basin. Being able to move most of the locations around Chult has been very handy, mostly in helping condense the jungle and cut down on tedious travel time.
Using a hedge maze map in Roll20 is tricky since the players could easily find their way around. But this section uses a series of Survival skill checks, with a chance for encounters in between. So I only put the players on the map during combat encounters, which I think worked out well.
Therin absolutely killed it on the Survival check rolls, already racking up four successes, and only two encounters: a trio of ghouls that were easily dispatched, and a patrolling group of grung, which Gillian laid into with an opening Thunderwave as the rest of the party surged forward to finish them off.
I would’ve loved to stretch out the session a little further to reach a better stopping point, but we reached the end of our time limit, and somehow still included four combat encounters within a single session! We leave off as our heroes are solidly in the middle of the thorn maze, hearing lots of disturbing croaking, screaming, and roaring sounds from somewhere inside.
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