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Virtual Scribe Reviews

Tomb of Annihilation by Wizard of the Coast

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https://www.fantasygrounds.com/store...p?id=WOTC5ETOA

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First Impressions: 4 Stars, 42/50 Points
I’m really excited about this adventure and I really like how this product has been arranged in Fantasy Grounds. Simply put, there is a massive amount of content that has been expertly put together into what promises to be an exciting adventure and a great resource for expansion and/or homebrew creation.

The DM and Player versions of the Chult maps are key to using this adventure because there is simply so much content, so many images, maps and story entries that having these location-based links are key to navigating the content. It is very important that you read the entry (Story or Reference Manual) titled “Using This Module in Fantasy Grounds”, it is well written and has a lot of important information.

There are a few things though that are either inconsistent or lacking that bother me. These mainly are around not having unidentified values for the images and not all NPC’s being included in encounters when it is expected they will need to be added to the Combat Tracker.

Quality: 11/15 Points
Though I expect some minor issues to become apparent when DM’s start to use this in running campaigns, a detailed review reveals next to no errors, mistakes or omissions.

The most significant quality issues are with many of the maps. At least a dozen battlemaps (Acid…, Blood…, Rot…) are rotated so that the embedded squares are not horizontal/vertical. Which means an FG grid can not be applied and therefor token auto-scaling etc. is not possible. This is one of the key capabilities of FG and these images really should have been rotated and had an FG grid applied to them. Also, it would have been nice if the battlemaps had been provided to SmiteWorks without grids already in the images so that FG grids could have been cleanly overlaid, but the images have been scaled cleanly and an appropriate FG grid overlaid so this is not much of an issue.

Lastly, not all traps and hazards are handled consistently within the story entries. In some cases, they are included in encounters, and others they are not even though in these cases it is likely that the DM will want to add them to the Combat Tracker in order to apply their effects or actions.

Completeness: 7/10 Points
Unfortunately, there are a couple of serious issues that should be addressed; No images have unidentified names. In my view, all images should always have a set value for the unidentified name, even if it is a duplicate of the identified name or something simple like “Vista”, “Ship”, or “Scary Statue”. Something else that should be noted is that the DM battlemap versions do not have FG grids on them, so they are not encounter ready. Though since both Player versions of the battlemaps with FG grids have been provided, this is not much of a detractor, only something to be aware of.

And, even though there a relatively large number of maps (and both DM and Player versions), there are still many encounters and locations that do not have maps. Fortunately for FG users, Zacchaeus has provided a free map module with more maps for these encounters (just search the FG forums for the thread).

Creativity: 10/10 Points
As I said earlier, I really look forward to running this adventure, it promises to be unusual and fun and has a bunch of cool artwork that will help inspire everyone in the group.

As for the Fantasy Grounds module, the conversion has been well done except for what I mention elsewhere. Plus, there have been several useful additions to the FG module including the creation of NPC’s for the traps and hazards, and the first time I’ve seen this, the addition of the “You Are Here” and “The Party is Really Here” story entries and map pins. These two story entries and pins are so useful that they should be considered mandatory for all future location based adventures.

Value: 10/10 Points
I’ll say that if the FG module was being sold at the suggested retail price, the value would be questionable, but at $25 USD, this is a great deal that not only did I not hesitate to buy, I can recommend buying this module just for all of the new NPC, maps, items, and story elements.

Versatility: 4/5 Points
There is a great deal of re-usable content in this module and it also serves as a location reference for Chult (a jungle island). The number of locations, characters and related resources promise that this module can be used multiple times with vastly different play experiences with only minor adjustments or additional material being added.

For details on the review system and interpretations of the ratings, see Virtual Scribe Reviews.

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Updated September 11th, 2017 at 05:59 by LordEntrails

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Review , Adventures

Comments

  1. Zacchaeus's Avatar
    Rotated Maps: To understand why the maps are rotated you need to understand the puzzle to which they apply - an explanation is given in the Template 'Gears of Hate Mapping' which needs to be read in order to understand. These are not battlemaps and are not meant for combat. They are provided so that the DM and players can have some idea how this extremely complicated puzzle operates. Without the rotated maps it would all be theatre of the mind. Obviously you can ignore all of those maps since they were not provided within the paper copy of the adventure but especially created just for the FG version. Incidentally a grid can be applied as noted in the template - it just won't match the baked in grid.

    Image: It isn't possible to give images unidentified names; that's up to the DM to do that - if they want to.

    DM Maps: DM maps don't have, and never have had, and never will have grids. Why do DM maps need grids? No combat will ever take place on the DM maps.

    Traps/Hazards: As noted in the 'Using this module' story entry all traps and hazards which offer a saving throw, do damage or cause an effect have been included in an encounter. If you see any which don't then please report on the bugs thread and I will fix them. If the trap/hazard doesn't do any of the above they won't be needed in an encounter. Also as noted in the 'Using this module' entry not all traps/hazards might appear on the map. Only those which the PCs might interact with in some way are generally shown on the map; it's sufficient that these be on the CT for the DM to do whatever they need to do as regards effects/saves/damage etc.
  2. kp9911's Avatar
    Nice review Lord!
  3. LordEntrails's Avatar
    Thanks for the detailed response Zacchaeus. I appreciate it and am sure everyone else does as well. But let me respond because we may still disagree on one or two things.
    Quote Originally Posted by Zacchaeus
    Rotated Maps: To understand why the maps are rotated you need to understand the puzzle to which they apply - an explanation is given in the Template 'Gears of Hate Mapping' which needs to be read in order to understand. ... Incidentally a grid can be applied as noted in the template - it just won't match the baked in grid.
    Thank you. As you can tell, I was not aware of this. I'm still not sure I understand if the rotated maps should be rotated at the angles you have them at, perhaps it's just so players know they are oriented at some angle other than "regular"?

    Image: It isn't possible to give images unidentified names; that's up to the DM to do that - if they want to.
    Actually it is. For example I have done this in the AAW modules I've converted (and I believe it is standard for all AAW modules), for example, A Murder in Stoneholm. Of course, in the development campaign you have to enable the image identification option, or add the unidentified name in the xml itself.

    DM Maps: DM maps don't have, and never have had, and never will have grids. Why do DM maps need grids? No combat will ever take place on the DM maps.
    DM maps don't need grids. Unless a DM wants to add tokens to them and have the tokens auto-scale. Or in case a DM wants to do something with the map that most people would never think of. It's easy to add a grid, even if it will almost never be used and I think it is a better approach to facilitate capabilities rather than exclude them. But, as I said in the review, it's something to be aware of, it's not something I lower the rating for.

    Traps/Hazards: As noted in the 'Using this module' story entry all traps and hazards which offer a saving throw, do damage or cause an effect have been included in an encounter. If you see any which don't then please report on the bugs thread and I will fix them. If the trap/hazard doesn't do any of the above they won't be needed in an encounter. Also as noted in the 'Using this module' entry not all traps/hazards might appear on the map. Only those which the PCs might interact with in some way are generally shown on the map; it's sufficient that these be on the CT for the DM to do whatever they need to do as regards effects/saves/damage etc.
    Two hazards that cause damage and do not have an encounter for them are the Aboleth Slime hazard in entry "05.12.00 Level 5: Gears of Hate" and the Magma hazard in entry "02.18.01 1 Magma Rift". I noticed it other places, but the Magma hazard is the only one in my notes, I will mention both of these in the bug thread. Agreed that many of them do not need to be added to the maps and that's why I didn't mention that. Also as noted in the review, the "Using this module " entry is very well done and essential reading for everyone using this module.

    As a reminder, just in case anyone thinks that a 4 star rating is anything less than impressive, I will re-post my definition of 4 star rating;

    • 4 stars: Great Work, if you have a need for this, then you will want this and will love it. It’s solid, well thought out, well executed and meets all my expectations of an experience professional product.
  4. LordEntrails's Avatar
    One other critique I will add (that I forgot about last night) is that the story entries that are pinned to the various maps do not have links back the map they are pinned on. I know many conversions do not do this, but it is something I think adds a significant level of navigation to the adventure. In short, it allows someone to navigate in both directions, from the map to the story, and from the story to the map.
  5. Zacchaeus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails
    Thank you. As you can tell, I was not aware of this. I'm still not sure I understand if the rotated maps should be rotated at the angles you have them at, perhaps it's just so players know they are oriented at some angle other than "regular"?
    They are rotated at very specific angles for very specific reasons which once you understand the puzzle you will see.
    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails
    Actually it is. For example I have done this in the AAW modules I've converted (and I believe it is standard for all AAW modules), for example, A Murder in Stoneholm. Of course, in the development campaign you have to enable the image identification option, or add the unidentified name in the xml itself.
    Not in par5e it isn't. And I probably still wouldn't add non ID names to maps even if it were. I'd have to sit and think up non specific or generic names for dozens of maps.
    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails
    DM maps don't need grids. Unless a DM wants to add tokens to them and have the tokens auto-scale. Or in case a DM wants to do something with the map that most people would never think of. It's easy to add a grid, even if it will almost never be used and I think it is a better approach to facilitate capabilities rather than exclude them. But, as I said in the review, it's something to be aware of, it's not something I lower the rating for.
    No, that would mean I'd have to mess with getting the DM maps to the right scale to take a grid. It takes a lot of development time getting player maps to be the right size to take a grid. If the DM wants a grid on the DM maps then that's up to them to put it there. Since the module wasn't created in FG figuring out the grid size and position is a little more tricky using par5e.
  6. Zacchaeus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails
    One other critique I will add (that I forgot about last night) is that the story entries that are pinned to the various maps do not have links back the map they are pinned on. I know many conversions do not do this, but it is something I think adds a significant level of navigation to the adventure. In short, it allows someone to navigate in both directions, from the map to the story, and from the story to the map.
    This one might be worth thinking about.
  7. LordEntrails's Avatar
    I think re-considering adding the non-ID names is something you should think about. That an external tool (Par5E) doesn't do something that the FG client itself is capable of is not an excuse to not do something. Yes, thinking of and adding non-id names to hundreds of images is a PITA. But rather than the converter doing it once, you are asking a large number (the majority?) of DM's to each do it each time. It's done for items, imo, it should be done for images as well.

    Let's see what other people think
  8. Zacchaeus's Avatar
    It isn't an excuse; as I've said it's not something I'd even consider doing. I have a feeling that only images that are exported from FG can have a non-id name attached. In any other method the image is just imported into the module. I don't think anything can be attached to it during such an operation. All that happens is that the image is put into the folder for images within the module. However I've noted this on the list of things for Zeus to look at when he next updates par5e.
  9. LordEntrails's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Zacchaeus
    It isn't an excuse; as I've said it's not something I'd even consider doing. I have a feeling that only images that are exported from FG can have a non-id name attached. In any other method the image is just imported into the module. I don't think anything can be attached to it during such an operation. All that happens is that the image is put into the folder for images within the module. However I've noted this on the list of things for Zeus to look at when he next updates par5e.
    I'm not sure I understand what you are saying. Though I don't think it matters because the capability is in FG to have non-id names for images in modules. How to get there for your modules is something really outside my purview (nor do I think anyone using the modules cares how it is achieved).

    Anyways, hope you find the thoughts useful, and hope everyone else finds the review enlightening as well. And would love to hear the thoughts of others on the review and the question of non-id names on images.
  10. Talyn's Avatar
    I'll add my two cents on the Unidentified Title for images. My own practice has been, for a Reference Module, I will duplicate the regular title as the unidentified title as well. For a playable Adventure Module, I leave it blank because those items are not set to read-only. It's not my place as the DLC Developer to make an assumption for the author or artist — or for the GM for that matter — what it's "vague title" should be; I leave that to the GM just like Zacc does. For items, something like a named magical weapon I might just set the unidentified name to "longsword" or whatever the item is and leave it alone because there's no question what that item is. But art can be used differently and only the individual GM knows how she has set the scene for her players, and thus would use a more appropriate unidentified title for her players on that share.

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