The Mind Behind Adventure Time Helped Craft Dungeons & Dragons' Newest Story

Image: Wizards of the Coast.
Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Over the weekend, Wizards of the Coast held its biggest-ever streaming event for D&D’s next adventures. Dubbed The Tomb of Annihilation, it will take players to a new land to tackle a mystery that strikes at the very heart of a mechanic parties have taken for granted for years—and it’s an idea shaped by none other than Adventure Time’s Pendleton Ward.


Designed by Christopher Perkins, Will Doyle, Steve Winter, and Adam Lee, with story consultancy handled by Ward, Tomb of Annihilation is a new campaign designed for parties level 1-11. It takes heroes to Chult, a new region south of the Forgotten Realms. There, a necromancer’s artifact called the Soulmonger has inflicted a curse on the world at large that stops the spells used to raise the dead—whether it’s ordinary citizens or fallen adventurers—from working, and those who have already been blessed with the spell are slowly withering away to an unavoidable death. There’s even a new difficulty modifier called “Meatgrinder Mode” that makes it even harder for players making their Death Saving throws—the check they make when they’ve reached 0 health points to see if they cling on to life or actually die—to emphasis the fact that the stakes in Chult have been well and truly heightened.

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Chult itself is a bizarre enough region without the Soulmonger, a peninsula surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, and covered with dense rainforests. Tomb of Annihilation—apparently designed with a nod toward more exploratory elements, rather than combat or straight roleplaying, to allow dungeon masters to craft more open-ended adventures for their parties—will take players into those rainforests to attempt to break the curse, or to places like the port city of Nyanzaru, where townsfolk are more likely to be riding along on giant dinosaurs than they are a horse or any other form of transport. And yes, if you get tired of saving the world from near-certain doom, you can apparently race them there, too, which already makes this adventure sound fantastic aside from the otherwise dire stakes.

Tomb of Annihilation is set to release September 19, for $50. If you’ve got heaps of free time, you can check out the first full day of Wizard’s livestream that announced the adventure to find out more about what you’ll be up to in Chult—although you’ll want to skip to around 30 minutes in to get to the actual start.

[Wizards of the Coast]




“There’s even a new difficulty modifier called “Meatgrinder Mode” that makes it even harder for players making their Death Saving throws”

Oh god, do I hate this mechanic on sight...

I don’t know for you guys, but as a DM I really don’t like killing PCs. Especially not because of random unlucky die rolls. The goal of tabletop rpgs is to tell and experience epic stories, to make your own amazing tv show about awesome characters you’ve created from the ground up. How can you do that if the awesome cyaracters you’ve worked on for months/years die because of a missed saving throw?

That isn’t to mean PC should never die. They should, from time to time, but their death should mean something. The death of your character should be a story as epic as its life. Dying fighting a group of orcs because one orc got lucky and rolled three critical in a row is no fun. But dying in combat against the Lich-Prince Zarovar after sacrificing yourself to buy time for the wizard to complete her ritual of sealing? Now that is an awesome death.

So a mechanic that makes it easier for PCs to die due to a single die roll is not something I am interested in. If anything, it makesy job as a DM harder and more stressful, because one miscalculation in the difficulty of an encounter and I get a TPK, which is fun for no one.