Anyone want to share the humiliating story of your first attempt at the Tomb of Horrors? Here's mine:
I was in junior high. One of my friends had an older brother, in high school, who played D&D, too. We pestered him to run us through the Tomb of Horrors. He didn't want to (he wasn't really interested in hanging out with a bunch of younger kids), but we bugged him until he agreed. He said, "You know you're just going to die, right? I'm not going to try and kill you, I'll be fair -- but you're going to die." That, of course, made it all the more enticing to us.
We didn't have any "real" PCs that were high enough level (technically, I think even low-level PCs could survive the Tomb, if very well-played, but we didn't know that), so we rolled up high level characters, first. I remember thinking "man, with characters like this, how could we lose?"
When the game started, we spent forever just trying to find the entrance to the tomb. We wasted a lot of time messing with the big rocks that formed the skull-face on the hill. We finally discovered the entrance, made our way inside, and died when the ceiling fell on us. Oops.
We asked for another chance, of course. Brian (the older brother) just smiled and said no, we'd had our chance, and we died. I never did try my hand at the Tomb, again; I was the main DM for our group, and I ended up buying and running it, instead. A pity, really -- I still wonder how I would've done, later.
I DM'ed a group in high school with the pre-made's - I think there were 8 PC's. First they died of starvation in the false door which seals them off from the world. So they got a do-over and died in the cave-in. By this time they were royally ticked off so I let them make super-characters. In they went and proceeded to die one by one. Eventually, one player made it out after finding the false treasure (which he thought was the real one)
Cpt John "Jack" Hammer 6A84A6 Age 22 male Rifle SMG Grav Vehicle Trc Vehicle Gambling Leader
My first time playing ToH involved a pretty large party (high level characters w/henchmen). In the end my fighter had his soul sucked out of me by the demilich after a third assault on it, but the party did eventually defeat the thing (there may have been some DM fudging in the mix somewhere - I assume there was - but it was never revealed to us). Anyway, my soul survived, and the rocket scientists that were my fellow players decided to crush the gem in the same room as the corpse of the 4-armed gargoyle. I became the gargoyle, went prompty insane, and took off into the hills to terrorize the local farming communities. Only by the intervention of the party cleric was I able to avoid being lynched by the angry citizens and rejoin the party, but the character became something of the party "Mongo": kept on a chain and driven into combat in front of the party, like that big guy in 300. Needless to say I abandoned that character . . .
(Note, these are the same clowns who, when another of my characters was turned into a gold statue, sold me. With friends like those, who needs monsters?)
I never played ToH but I ran it, for two players (one an experienced vet the other a rank newbie) with 1st level characters. Player #2 mostly just observed while player #1 led the way. This guy was good, really good -- through clever play, outside the box problem-solving, and avoiding unnecessary risks he was able to avoid or circumvent all of the traps and make it through the entire dungeon, all in a single session. I nerfed the actual combat encounters (both of them -- the 4-armed gargoyle and the hasted mummies) and must have done something (don't remember what) about that one section where the party has to cast a dispel magic in order to progress further, but otherwise I ran the adventure straight, and I ran it ruthlessly -- I was fully intending to kill these characters, and was surprised again and again by this player's cleverness and resourcefulness.
When I posted this at ENWorld a couple years ago I was scoffed at and told that this player surely already knew the module and had snowed me. That's possible, I suppose -- it's been probably 20 years and I don't remember all of the details exactly -- but I never had that impression at the time (I had an epidemic of players reading the module in those days so I developed a strict zero-tolerance policy -- if I suspected you of having read the module I started changing things on the fly to make them tougher; if I had proof you'd read the module I ended the session/campaign and refused to keep running it), I was mostly just amazed at all the clever stuff he came up with. If he was snowing me, he did so very well.
Man, it's been a long time since I ran ToH. I can't remember it all but I do remember some highlights. I'm not sure how concerned anyone is since it's an old module but if you don't want any spoilers don't read anymore.
I had 8 players at the time with high level characters that decided to try it out. They came in decked out with all the equipment and magic they owned. I still remember the looks on their faces when they were unceremoniously teleported out, naked as jay birds. The two female players started yelling at the guys, "Don't look, don't look" as if they were really there!
I remember the halfling thief taking massive damage when he shoved his 10' pole into the mouth containing the sphere of annihilation. I was generous there and gave him a save rather than destroy him outright. After all, I reasoned that he was being cautious by using a pole instead of his arm.
We played about 18 hours a day on a 4-day weekend and it was finally down to just two guys. These guys had lost all of their stuff for the umpteenth time and had their gender changed. They finally just ran in wearing grass skirts and brandishing clubs. You can guess how that ended.
The Tomb became a legend in our campaign and no-one ever tried again to take it down. If anyone ever became full of themselves about something someone would say, "When are you going to the Tomb then?" and they would remember a little humility amid much laughter.
I ran it for a friend who played all the characters. I gave him "save game points", but each time he used one I split the ending xp award in half. So when the entire party crawled into the devil mouth, we simply went back to the last saved point. The party actually did complete the adventure from that point on, though I nicely supplied a scroll with power word kill in the lich's treasure for them to use against it.
ken-do-nim on DF
Mayhem's spells: scroll with [bless, cure light wounds, cure light wounds, and detect magic], protection from evil
Post by scottenkainen on Sept 19, 2008 10:22:58 GMT -6
I've never played Tomb of Horrors and never ran it until about two years ago, when I finally used it for my party of up to 8th level PCs. Instead of having them enter at the front of the dungeon, I had an enemy lich teleport them all into the pillored hall towards the end. Then they had to find their way out of the dungeon. Unfortunately, even with the dungeon beefed up with monsters (more mummies, xorn), it was a cake walk for them (these are experienced players with up to 25 years experience under their belts). I was disappointed, given the module's reputation.
I never played it but ran it once in high school. Seem to recall the party making reasonable progress, then setting off the 100" pit trap. I was generous enough to allow the magic user to save the party with a web spell cast net-like in the pit -- it was a cool bit of desperate creativity. But they were unable to extricate themselves safely and we faded the game to black with the party stuck in the web and waiting for the spell to expire.