Here’s the Chant: problems with Chult, Eberron aasimar and trial by ordeal

Each week I put together a roundup of content related to roleplyaing games (mostly 5th edition D&D). I’ve just recently started publishing these on Thursdays instead of Wednesdays. Here’s this week’s roundup:

For players and dungeon masters:

  • ‘Dungeons & Dragons Stumbles With Its Revision Of The Game’s Major Black Culture’ Kotaku – this article looks at the problems with how black characters and cultures have been portrayed in D&D in the past. Cecilia D’Anastasio says that in Tomb of Annihilation there are some improvements but many of the same mistakes.
  • ‘Knife Theory’ reddit/DND – this thread shares a way of writing a player character’s backstory, which offers the dungeon master lots of options for raising the stakes of the story for each player character
  • ‘Dragonmarks: Aasimar’ Keith Baker – in this post Keith Baker looks at how the aasimar player race could fit into his Eberron setting

For players:

For dungeon masters:

For anyone who wants to reflect more deeply on the themes:

My recent content:

  • ‘Thoughts After Running In Volo’s Wake’ – last week I finished running In Volo’s Wake with my regular D&D group. Here are my thoughts on how I think this simple adventure can be deepened, and also some observations on how I could improve my DMing if I was to run it again.
  • ‘Zygmunt Bauman, Social Division and Flesh Golems’
  • I’ve just started running Out of the Abyss with my weekly group. These are some character illustrations I made for the non-player characters who the party found themselves imprisoned with: 

Poverty or subsistence?

I’ve been reading through Tomb of Annihilation since it became available last week. Last night I got to use some of the content for the fist time, when I ran City on the Edge, which is based in and around the city of Port Nyanzaru. Surrounding the city, but outside its protective walls, there are three districts where the poorer people live. The Old City is home to workers who can’t afford to live within the walls. Tiryki Anchorage is home to fishers (and possibly also smugglers). Malar’s Throat is described as the slum of the city, the place where the poorest people live. But I wonder what that means? Could it just mean that they don’t participate much in the cash economy? What if they’re hunter/gatherer people who subsist on resources from the jungle? Maybe they’re people who once lived in the jungle? Maybe they’ve relocated to the gorge outside the city for protection from the thunder lizards, zombies and other monsters that roam the jungle? Maybe they’ve moved to the outskirts of the city because their food sources in the jungle have been depleated by the death curse?

A few years ago my friend Jonothan Cornford spent time on the Mekong River, learning about the lives of people in the subsistance economy, and the impact new industries in the area were having on the subsistance economy. You can read his report, Hidden Costs, here.

Total party kill

This week two members of my regular Dungeons & Dragons group weren’t available, so tonight I ran a short one-shot adventure, City on the Edge. City on the Edge is the first short adventure in the Adventurers League’s Tomb of Annihilation series. You can buy it on DM’s Guild here.

Initially I thought we’d have three players, which I think is close to the optimum number. (Four players is just as good if not a little better, but beyond four I think it can get hard to manage as a dungeon master.) In the end we had one player have to cancel, so we ended up just having two players, a dwarf barbarian and a gnome wizard. I wondered if I should adjust the difficulty of the adventure. But I decided not to, because the current series of adventures, set in the jungles of Chult, are supposed to be brutal. During these adventures players are impacted by a death curse. This means that characters who die can’t be resurrected and characters who have previously been resurrected are gradually withering away. I really like this aspect of the adventures, because it means death is significant again. (Earlier in the year I wrote a bit about death in D&D as an opportunity to consider our own mortality.) So I didn’t really mind that the challenges might be a bit overpowered for the party of two first-level characters.

Like the Adventurers League’s previous introductory adventures, City on the Edge is actually made up of five related mini-adventures that should go for about an hour each. I prepared the first three mini-adventures, so that the players would have a few options when they arrived in the tropical city of Port Nyanzaru. Since I’d used a drawing of a dinosaur street race to promote the adventure, one of the players were pretty sure that was what he wanted to do, so we started off with the second mini-adventure, which involves participating in a race and then fighting in the arena. The party won the race (which was a lot of fun) and then they were defeated in the arena. I thought it worked well the way this happened. The adventure says that, because of the death curse, contestants in the arena aren’t allowed to do lethal damage. So the defeat in the arena didn’t mean the death of their characters. But I think it did forshadow their death…

After the tournament, the party decided to head into the jungle to see what was warping the plant life. They managed to avoid being bitten by disease-ridden insects, but then the wizard was poisoned by some thorny bushes that seemed to be semi-sentient. When they tried to rescue some fellow adventurers from as mass of vines, they were attacked by a group of blights. The adventurers put up a good fight, taking out the two twig blights and taking the two needle blights down to three hit points each, but were ultimately defeated by the needle blights.

Here’s the Chant: 5E Spelljammer, Filipino/a monsters and Monty Python options

Since I’ve been reading more content on Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying games in general, I thought I’d start doing a roundup of what of what I think is worth looking at:


Illustration: Gerald Brom

For players:

For DMs:

For anyone wanting to reflect more deeply:

My recent content:

Here’s the Chant: adventures in Chult


Illustration: Robh Ruppel

Over the weekend, during the Stream of Annihilation event, WOTC announced the next hardcover D&D adventure: Tomb of Annihilation. TOA will we set in the jungle continent of Chult. While there are the usual complaints (eg. ‘How long do we have to wait for Eberron?’) it seems like a lot of people are excited about exploring a new area of the Forgotten Realms in 5th Edition. If you can’t wait until September 19, there’s a lot of content already available which you could use to run an adventure in Chult. 

Tales from the Yamning Portal

‘Lost Shrine of Tamoachan’ and ‘Tomb of Horrors’ are both set in Chult and included in Tales from the Yawning Portal. Because Chult is a big area, you could start your adventure in Chult at one of these locations, and begin your exploration before Tomb of Annihilation is released.

2E Jungles of Chult

If you download the PDF version of Jungles of Chult from the DM’s Guild, you’ll find that there are a lot of creatures that are already in published for 5th Edition. There’s also a fair bit of homebrew content that folks have made. I’ve made a list of everything and where you can find it further down the page.

DM’s Guild adventures

There are already a few adventures set in Chult on the DM’s Guild:

Official material

I’ve made a list of creatures and monsters that are mentioned in Jungles of Chult that are already represented in 5E, with info about where you can find the content. (I’ve also included the froghemoth and grung, because it was revealed over the weekend that they’ll be in Tomb of Annihilation.)

Title abbreviations: MM is Monster Manual, VGTM is Volo’s Guide to Monsters, HOTDQ is Horde of the Dragon Queen, OOTA is Out of the Abyss, EEPC is Elemental Evil Player’s Guide, COS is Curse of Strahd, PSZ is Plane Shift: Zendikar, PSI is Plane Shift: Innistrad

  • aarakocra – MM 12, player race EEPC 3-4
  • aboleth – MM 13
  • ape – MM 317
  • baboon – MM 318
  • basilisk – MM 24
  • bullywug – MM 35; Castle Naerytar, a bullywug lair – HOTDQ 43-61; Pharblex Spattergoo, a bullywug chief – HOTDQ 91
  • chuul – MM 40
  • crocodile – MM 320
  • deer – MM 321
  • dinosaur – MM 79-80 and VGTM 139-140
  • dragon – black dragon MM 86-89, green dragon MM 93-96, blue dragon MM 90-92
  • dragon turtle – MM 119
  • elephant – MM 322
  • froghemoth – VGTM 145
  • ghoul – MM 148
  • giant centipede – MM 323
  • giant eagle – MM 324
  • giant fire beetle – MM 325
  • giant frog – use giant toad, MM 329
  • giant wasp – 329
  • goblin – MM 165-166, VGTM 40-52; player race VGTM 119
  • grung – VGTM 156-157
  • hunter-gatherer human: druid – MM 343, archdruid – VGTM 210, tribal warrior – MM 350
  • hyena – MM 331
  • hydra – MM 190
  • lion – MM 331
  • leopard – use panther, MM 333
  • lizard – MM 332, giant lizard MM 326
  • lizardfolk – MM 204-205; player race VGTM 111-113
  • mongrelfolk – COS 234
  • myconid – MM 230-232; Neverlight Grove, a myconid community: OOTA 83-94
  • naga – MM 233-234
  • piranha – use quipper MM 335, swarm of quippers MM 338
  • psuedodragon – MM 254
  • sahaugin – MM 263-264
  • salamander – MM 265-266
  • skeleton – MM 272-273
  • snake – constrictor snake MM 320, giant constrictor snake MM 324; poisonous snake MM 334, giant poisonous snake MM 327, swarm of poisonous snakes MM 338
  • troglodyte – MM 290; trogolodyte lair – OOTA 168-171; champion of Lazogzed OOT 229
  • troll – MM 291
  • vampire – MM 295-298, PSI 16-17; player race PSZ 14-15
  • wild boar – MM 319
  • wyvern – MM 303
  • yuan-ti – MM 207-310, VGTM 92-102 & 202 206; player race VGTM 120
  • zombie – MM 315-316

There are also a few monsters that aren’t mentioned in Jungles of Chult, but which I think would fit well:

  • blight – MM 31
  • drake – ambush drake: HOTDQ 88; guard drake: HOTDQ 91, VGTM 158 
  • flying snake – MM 322
  • spawn of Kyuss – VGTM 192
  • vegepygmy – VGTM 196

Homebrew material
While there are a lot of creatures from Chult that aren’t featured in official 5e publications yet, there are a number that are represented in homebrew content:

Is there anything you think I should add? I’m particularly interested to know if there is any homebrew material around for pterafolk or zorbo. If you think there’s some content I’ve missed, feel free to mention it in the comments or let me know over Twitter.