Tomb of Horrors

Tomb of Horrors

Tomb of Horrors

0 comments 📅06 September 2017, 15:57

The Nerd Dome group had waited a long time for a chance to take a crack at the Tomb of Horrors. Now that it’s done, I’m going to briefly review our best moments in the dungeon with some spoilers. This will be more of journal entry for our group Monster Hunters 4 Hire as the Tomb marks the end of a chapter in our campaign. Without further ado:

Welcome to my Tavern

The Tomb of Horrors begins with an explicit warning to DMs not use it in their campaigns. Why? Because it will completely stop any campaign for a couple of sessions with no story element and will undoubtedly kill your party. And really, why on earth would you want to play this? The only people who think that playing the Tomb is a great idea either don’t know what this module is or they have a sadistic DM that loves inflicting pain on players. Unfortunately for the Nerddome Podcast, the latter reason applied (I gave them a chance to vote on which module they wanted to play and prefaced the Tomb with “My personal favorite”… poor souls).

A couple of things need to be noted about this particular session of the Tomb of Horrors. First, the Tomb has been released for every single edition of D&D and has gotten progressively easier with each iteration (though there is some argument for one edition over another). The group is playing the newest fifth edition, so it’s not nearly as fatal as previous editions.

Second, the Tomb initially debuted as a tournament in which players were given a time limit to see how far they could get. Gygax would place hidden doors in odd locations to waste time. An example would be a hidden door placed 5 feet into a long empty hallway which ends in a dead end. In those cases, I either gave the group a free perception roll aside from their Passive Perception to indicate something was nearby or I would remove that feature entirely.

Third, I raised the difficulty in some areas. A lot of areas. Ok, maybe most of the areas. Over the years the traps have gone from fatal to a mere annoyance. In response I either increased damage output to fatal levels, made the traps harder to avoid, or removed the option of a saving throw just like in the original.

Also, I used a play mat that coincidentally fits the Tomb perfectly. This led to some meta gaming on the player’s part at various times, but had a large impact on play when it became obvious that there was nowhere else I could draw.

Up to this point in the story:

Monster Hunters 4 Hire, the business started by both the halfling monk Snapdragon (Uncanny Ryab) and the pirate fighter Valdis (Podcaster Without Fear Luke) has reached levels of wealth beyond their wildest dreams. With the help of the crazy wizard Galvannus and his clerical wizard alter-ego Kalen (played by Luke’s brother Blair) and the constantly drug-high Clerical Ranger Raijin (our fellow friend Dakota), they’ve been able to acquire enough resources to build their business to great heights. They’ve decided to expand to Valdis’ home-island of Mintarn which would take a great deal of an investment. To cover this expense, Galvannus/Kalen recommends that they search for a tomb where legends say is the resting place of a powerful lich. And wouldn’t you know it, the tomb has treasure! Loads of it too. No one has been able to locate it for some time, but Galvannus deduced that it was probably on an island named Chult (What a useful wizard). And so the team finds their way to the front of the tomb. Soon after their expedition begins they are greeted by a halfling rogue named Oryan (another friend and Ryab’s BF) who provided gifts for the entire party and joined the team.

Traps, traps, and more traps

Uncanny Ryab’s character got to experience this first hand…. several times.

[From this point on, SPOILERS] The team progressed cautiously through the Tomb at first. They avoided death a couple of times despite falling into trap doors or getting poked with poison needles. Turns out that Valdis can’t avoid spiked pitfalls and Jass loves shotgun blasts of spears in the face (see the drawing included in the Tomb module). Despite these minor setbacks, the team progressed forward.

Come on guys! I promise I’m super cool!

The beginning of the tomb was slightly disappointing for me as the team didn’t touch the Green Devil. Yes, that Green Devil. Everyone avoided it like the plague which was sad for me. I really wanted them to become familiar with one of the Tomb’s better qualities.

The lack of deaths was perplexing for me… Was I playing the Tomb wrong? Was this edition of the Tomb too lenient with damage? Did the Tomb’s reputation precede it so much that the team took each step with the utmost caution? All of this was nagging in the back of my head… until a revelation came over me: Oh ye of little faith, said the ghost of Gygax to me, have patience.

And then it happened.

The team found a gem that functioned like the See Invisibility spell when it was used like a looking glass. They discovered that it only had 12 uses, a “use” being defined as looking through it and putting it back down. They thought they were being clever when they decided to fix it up as a monocle with miscellaneous junk they had on hand. Their thought was that someone could wear it constantly without expending “uses” and see all the hidden stuff in the tomb. When I read up on the See Invisibility spell, I found that they can actually “see into the Ethereal Plane…” with the gem. I grinned.

For those who are not familiar with the Tomb’s rules: traveling into or seeing into the Ethereal Plane makes you a potential target for demons. Eventually, Ryab ran into one.

“G-G-G-GHOST!” yelled Ryab.┬áThe demon was around level 20 and delivered 60 points of damage to his chest killing him instantly.

Tomb: 1. Players: 0

And then Ryan went slack-jawed. His eyes widened as he looked up from his character sheet. “I’m dead…” was all he said. In an instant, his Shaggy-Scooby impersonation was wiped off his face as his character’s chest was strewn about the room. Luckily for him, he was revived by Kalen (Luke’s brother, Blair). It was the only revival spell they had in their arsenal. Poor fools should have saved it for later. Actually I’m kidding, it wouldn’t have made any difference.

Out of the frying pan and into the lava pit

Loads of damage later, the team had decided that they wanted to back track to an unexplored hallway. The main advocate for this was Ryan, whose internal completionist habits was nagging at him. Already there were so many items and passageways left unexplored that he just couldn’t handle it anymore. The team turned back and proceeded down the empty corridor to be greeted by a really sturdy door that would not budge. Jass decided to try damaging it with a few punches and was successful. This tipped off the rest of the party and they proceeded to carve their way through. Once finished, the team was hesitant to continue. Jass took a step in, nothing happened. Oryan followed, nothing happened. Valdis threw his hands in the air, “It’s a damn hallway,” he said. “We just walked through 20 of them!” He proceeded forward in frustration. To the party’s horror, they saw me grinning.

That’s supposed to be them sliding to their doom.

The hallway tipped like a seesaw in the direction Valdis was walking. Galvannus and Raijin didn’t enter the hallway and witnessed the room ahead zoom upward like an elevator pulled by a weight. Jass, Oryan, and Valdis failed to grip anything and they slid down into a pool of lava.

Tomb: 4. Players: 0

I’ll quickly fast forward to the end as nothing much happened since the hallway seesaw except for more traps and humiliation for the team.

There came a point in the group’s journey where the rooms and hallways brought them into a completed loop. My mat fits the tomb perfectly, like I said before, and the players realized that they had reached the end. They became excited and began searching the walls for hidden entrances. Lo and behold, they found a keyhole. Their journey through the Tomb brought two unused keys in their possession, so they tried one of them. Success! A small hallway revealed itself with another small keyhole on the floor at the end of it. The team was animated, did they finally reach the end? They used the key again… The hallway exploded and two more people died.

Tomb: 6. Players: 0.

They tried a different key this time and bingo! The actual tomb of Acererak revealed itself (they had to jump out of the way or they would have been crushed by moving walls). Then they found this room…

See that skull there? Let me zoom in.

See it?

It killed them all. Sucked the souls right out of everyone like the grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Tomb: 11. Players: 0.

This article is already full of spoilers and the skull is by far the biggest one so I left out the details of their encounter. The only thing I’ll say was that the group was devastated when they saw how powerful it was. Ahen somebody had a bright idea… Be aware that even though this article has already entered spoiler territory, I’m about to go over one of the few possible ways to defeat the skull, which is actually Acererak.

At some point in the adventure, you find this gem of evil Wishing. Wish is a powerful spell in D&D that can break the game and campaign, so most DMs leave it out or limit the options for a wish. This gem could cast Wish, but it would be distorted. If you saw the monkey hand Halloween episode of the Simpsons then you have an idea of how this thing works. It also has another gimmick in that it immediately explodes, bypassing all resistances and instantly killing everybody in a 60ft range. Not knowing how it worked, someone pulled it out during their first attempt against Acererak and made a Wish. It exploded and wiped someone out.

When we reset the encounter, someone wished for a turkey sandwich and then chucked the gem down the hallway. Acererak died, and they got a slightly dry sandwich in response. Yay.

Final Score

Tomb: 11. Players:1

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