By Kat (@SunsStepchild)
All eyes on Chult is a 2-3 session adventure for 1st level players, found in the Platinum Bestseller Xanathar’s Lost Notes to Everything Else, the brilliant source book from DMSGuild. It’s set in Chult’s Port Nyanzaru and will raise the players from level 1 to level 3. While it takes place in Chult it’s not directly related to Tomb of Annihilation, the Death Curse, or any other major plot points.
I have actually played a PC in this adventure and had a blast! You can watch our gameplay on Twitch or youtube. While we’ve already finished this adventure, we’re currently playing Shore of Dreams and plan to start Tomb of Annihilation afterwards.
The adventure itself is written by James Haeck (@jamesjhaeck), lead writer of D&D Beyond, co-author of the Critical Role Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, author of Adventures League adventure DDAL07-10 Fire Ash and Ruin, The Temple of Shattered Minds, and Kobold Press’ Gem Dragons of Faerûn. Haeck also did an interview with Greg Tito for the official D&D podcast that I found very interesting.
Meat of It
The adventure starts with the party investigating two ships flying black flags that mysteriously enter port during the night and focuses on two major Faerûnian factions, the Zhentarim and the Xanathar Guild and their plot against the merchant Princes of Port Nyanzaru.
Zhentarim & Xanathar Guild
For those new to D&D or otherwise unfamiliar with Faerûn lore (like myself, I’m much more versed in Pathfinder’s Golarion), the Zhentarim are a mercenary company endeavoring to enrich themselves and enforce a monopoly, destroying any competition, occasionally resorting to attacking rival caravans, extortion, or even arson and murder. The Xanathar Guild is a thieves guild operating out of Skullport, a city in the Underdark below Waterdeep. The Guild’s businesses include assassination, blackmail, enforcement, extortion, information gathering, mercenary work, slavery, smuggling, and of course, thievery. While most members know the guild is controlled by The Xanathar, the most powerful crime boss in Waterdeep, few know that the Guild is controlled by the infamous beholder The Eye. Upon learning the Guild was controlled by a beholder of another hive, The Eye killed him and claimed the title of Xanathar and control of the Guild for himself.
Part I: Adventure Start (SPOILERS)
The adventure offers 3 hooks to lure the PCs into the plot, with either Harper Agents, Zhanthi a Merchant Prince, or Harbor Master Zindar requesting the PCs investigate the ships. Zindar offers the PCs 25 gold each in exchange for evidence of the ship’s cargo and reminds the PCs that killings within the city are illegal, even those committed in self-defense. In their investigation, the PCs discover a letter that leads them to a shop in town, implying that the writer of the letter is being blackmailed and their family threatened. The second ship conceals a much more dangerous and frightening clue to the Xanathar Guild’s plans in the city- concealed within the ship are 2 intellect devourers. Thankfully (even one intellect devourer constitutes a Deadly Encounter against 4 level 1 characters), both are already dead but there is evidence that 3 more arrived with the ship but are unaccounted for.
Part II: Investigating Further (MORE SPOILERS)
Part I ends with the party being accosted by a group of dock guards unaware Zindar requested their aid, looking to apprehended them for trespassing. The leader of this group is actually controlled by one of the surviving intellect devourers. In our game however, the party rolled remarkably well Stealth checks and managed to leave the docks unseen. This group showed up later at a predictably terribly inconvenient time.
This part starts with investigating the Grand Souk market, attempting to find the shop mentioned in the letter they found. They soon learn that the shop is owned by a fence working with the captain associated with the Zhentarim and that the guild is working with the Xanathar Guild to plunder the wealth of Chult together. The moment either of them realizes why the PCs are there, they bolt triggering a chase scene. For my group, this was particularly difficult as our party consisted of a bard, druid, wizard, and NPC bandit, none of whom were able to easily pin down the Captain as she nimbly escaped into the crowd. Thankfully, we did eventually apprehend her and return to Zindar. The group split in two, my bard and the wizard escorting the Captain to Zindar while the druid and NPC doubled back to retrieve the shop owner fence. Oh yeah! Remember that guards and intellect devourer encounter? Yeah, they ambushed the druid and npc while we were separated. The druid survived getting his brain eaten only by a lucky shot from the NPC with a crossbow.
When interrogated the captain reveals her plans and mentions that the Xanatar Guild agent that arrived on the other ship planned to recruit any Merchant Princes unfavorable to their cause by getting them under “total and complete control”, a phrase that will instantly remind most players about the remaining missing intellect devourers.
Part III: Rescue Mission (EVEN MORE SPOILERS)
The next day, Zindar calls on the PCs again, breathlessly requesting their aid to save a captured Merchant Prince held hostage in his own home by the Xanathar Guild. The Merchant Prince is alive and relatively safe for a short time, as the Xanathar Agent demands the city release his impounded ships but his captors patience wears ever thinner in response to the passage of time and the actions of the PCs.
The Merchant Prince’s Villa contains several encounters including (from my calculations, assuming a party of 4 level 3 PCs) 1 easy encounter, 4 medium, 3 hard encounters and 3 DEADLY ENCOUNTERS. In our game, my bard went to 0 HP twice, the wizard went to 0 once, and the NPC went to 0 HP three times. We managed to make it to the room the Prince was held in but as soon as we arrived the intellect devourer went after the prince and while we did manage to kill or maim most of the enemy combatants, several including the Xanathar Agent made it out. We were forced to kill the Merchant Prince to prevent the intellect devourer from escaping in it’s stolen body.
Conclusion (minor SPOILERS)
Regardless of the fate of the Prince, the PCs are awarded 50 gold each (more if the Prince survives). In our game, the DM ruled that the Prince owned enough wealth that his widow could afford a Raise Dead spell cast by one of the priests in the temple of Sune. During the casting, the DM described everyone in the room (everyone in the city in fact, although we didn’t know at the time) feeling a strange pulsing energy, obviously magical in nature. A moment later, the Raise Dead spell failed to take hold. While this was an improvisation by our DM, i personally found it incredibly compelling, much more so than simply being told at the start of Tomb of Annihilation about rumors of a wasting disease folks are calling a death curse.
I really enjoyed this adventure. It has a good balance of role playing, intrigue/ investigation work, and difficult combat. There are some encounters that are pretty dangerous considering the PCs low levels, but most can be overcome by PCs that plan and scout ahead or a DM planning to have foes run rather than waste time killing unconscious PCs. The NPCs are interesting, compelling, and vividly described in a way that makes it easy to visualize them in Theater of the Mind.
It makes a great intro to the politics and NPCs of note in Port Nyanzaru and can be used to cultivate relationships with NPCs of note in Tomb of Annihilation as well as giving an easy and compelling place to tell the PCs about the Death Curse like my DM did (see above in Conclusion). It’s also a great way to let players earn a little coin with which to buy potions, rations, tents and other helpful gear for any excursions into the jungle they might make in Tomb of Annihilation or other adventures.