Return of the Lizard King is a 55 page, 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons PDF for character levels 1-4 and designed to be a thematically sound and solidly written adventure, set in Chult, leading into the meat (grinder) beginnings of Tomb of Annihilation. My first glance at the adventure revealed some great original artwork, including monsters, NPCs and maps, and a pleasant background to the pages looking akin to old parchment. I have been informed there will be a printer friendly version of the adventure dropping in the near future, which won’t look as nice, but, won’t devour your inky resources.
While this adventure includes new monsters, new magic items, new races, a new Druid Circle, a new cleric Domain, new backgrounds and new spells, I am going to focus my review on chapters 4-6 which are the player specific content. Full disclosure, I really want to play this adventure and I am not interested in spoiling it by reading it.
Chapter 4: New Playable Races
Shawn Merwin and his design team at Encoded Designs did a fantastic job fleshing out the Lizardfolk of Chult by adding 4 (!) distinct subraces which would allow an adventuring group to comprise a party entirely of Lizardfolk and play almost any class they would want, without suboptimal ability modifiers. Adding to the Lizardfolk are the Wilden, a race of Fey-touched tree creatures and their 3 subraces. These 7 playable races, at a glance, feel distinct and offer enticing racial abilities. This section is a solid, well executed offering.
Chapter 5: New Class Features
I am most excited about this section’s new Druid Circle, Circle of Reaping. This Circle uses a new mechanic for Druid, in which spell slots are used to power various Aspects of Death. There are some great mythologies that, I assume, were drawn upon for the Circle of Reaping. You can feel the influences of Shamanistic Masks from around the world, the Native American legends of The Pale Horse and the European legends of the Grim Reaper. I know what class I am playing next!
This section also contains a new divine domain; Survival Domain. This domain is geared to provide the feeling of the shaman protector of a tribe, a spiritual leader who pushes the tribe to fiercely defend its home and overcome the odds to stay alive and fight another day.
Chapter 6: Backgrounds Feats and Spells
An inconsequential nitpick, this chapter, though titled Backgrounds Feats and Spells, actually begins with new Feats.
There are 4 new feats designed to augment the Circle of Reaping class and 2 new Survivor feats that could help any PC stave off death in the jungle of Chult.
There are 4 new spells, all for cleric, druid or ranger, which makes perfect thematic sense. I think they have the flavor and feeling evocative of Voodoo Shaman performing rites in the jungle. Of note, I love that the new spell Consult Healing Spirit requires a potion of healing as a material component.
Finally, to flesh out your new Komodo Lizardfolk, Circle of Reaping Druid, there are 2 new backgrounds; Touched by the Fey and Member of the Tribe.
Without reading or playing the adventure, or fighting the new monsters and taking the new magic items, I can say the original player content alone is worth the cost of this adventure. Additionally, there looks to be enough material here for those of you who write home campaigns to flesh out a deadly jungle. Well done!