The Tomb of Horrors

Over a year ago, I started my 4th Edition players on the Tomb of Horrors superadventure.  They are still in the early stages, having just finished the first of four chapters.  After a few intervening adventures, they're almost ready to start chapter two, as soon as we find time  to get together for tabletop gaming.  In the meantime, we've been having fun with online sessions using Maptool, a handy online tabletop.

None of my players have played the original Gygaxian masterpiece, which is a legend among D&D adventures.  Since it provides both back story and insight as to the 4e adventure, I decided to run them through it, using their old 2nd edition characters, to which they're hopefully no longer so attached.

It's interesting, because we're a 4th edition group, but now we're switching back to 2nd edition rules to play a 1st edition adventure.  The conversion isn't seamless, but it's helping us realize why we switched to 4e in the first place.  We resisted 3rd edition and 3.5, holding firmly to our grognard attitudes, but when I read the 4e PHB I realized that the changes were very much for the better.  Thac0 is whacko.  Problems arise playing a 1e adventure, though -- especially one that says things like "there is no saving throw" and "this trap cannot be discovered".  This makes things difficult, and I've had to pull out rule zero more often than I'd like already, and after one session we're just getting started.

What follows is an accounting of our first foray into the Tomb of Horrors.

I created an NPC cleric of Tymora by the name of Xewt, who tracked down the PCs and led them to the location of the tomb.  They found the skull-shaped hill and stood at the base of the gravelly cliff, looking for the way in.

The rules state that the only way to find the entrances is by prodding high on the cliff with a spear or pole.  As a DM, I thought this was just stupid.  Why make the adventure so difficult to start?  I decided to use a regular search for secret doors.

The wizard, Keryth, took the lead and started searching for secret doors.  Soon after following the cliff, he found the middle entrance.  The other players helped him dig it out, and they looked into the ornate corridor.  Then he promptly tromped down the corridor, avoiding the red path.  His 18 dexterity saved him from falling into a pit trap. My dice were rolling in the PCs' favor, it seemed.  Fine by me.

Next, the Paladin, Usul, walked in.  He opted to follow the red path.  He triggered a pit trap and fell in.  I rolled my d6 and he managed to avoid any of the spikes.  Huh.  The DM's dice once again saved a PC.

At this point, the PCs noticed the message on the floor, and decided that this must not be the actual entrance.  (Teehee).  So they went outside again and started looking for another way in.  (I suspect that one or two of them has read the adventure once upon a time, but I don't think their memory is helping them.  Good deal.)

They found the eastern entrance first.  The thief, Ryld, examined each square thoroughly for traps before proceeding, and he did manage to find cracks in the wall.  He couldn't figure out how the trap was triggered from where he was standing, though, so the innovative PCs hauled in the biggest rocks they could find from outside and started chucking them into the hallway.  *Blam* went the stone trap, and all of the PCs were outside.  They'd avoided another.

Then they found the western entrance.  The Paladin hoisted the Dwarf fighter, Rak, onto his shoulders, and Rak held his flamtongue sword up and burned off the cobwebs.  They noticed the ceiling, and decided to play it safe.  Keryth, standing outside, used his rope of climbing to open the false door.  *Boom* went the ceiling, and the PCs went back to the middle entrance.

Keryth started searching for secret doors, and although he didn't succeed in finding the secret door in the hallway, he cast a knock spell on the painting of the door (the pit trap had already been sprung by Usul), which succeeded in blasting out the plaster and lath that covered the portal.  Meanwhile, one square to the north, the Dwarven fighter/mage (yes yes, I know that dwarves can't be mages in 2e, but I allowed it anyway) Oktober was examining the box being held by the jackals.  Ryld was standing next to him.  Oktober pushed the button, but made his save vs. poison when the "easily detectable" dart sunk into his flesh.  Then he grabbed the lever in the box and said, "Well, we came here to die, didn't we?" and pulled the lever.

Ryld has a ring of feather fall, so he was fine.  Oktober plunged downward for 3d10 damage, but once again the dice saved a PC and he avoided any spikes.

The rest of them got him out of the pit, and forged ahead into the room with the gargoyle.  They actually completely pummeled the gargoyle before he even got a hit in, so that was...amazing.  Then they started with the square rooms.

Guys, I know you're reading this, and hindsight is 20/20.  If you all would have gone together, only one bolt would have hit a random character in each room once per round.  That would have saved some HP.  However, that's not what happened.  Keryth, the wizard with the lowest HP amount, spent a lot of time in those square rooms finding secret doors, figuring out how to open them, and getting blasted by bolts.  Side note here:  The adventure just describes them as bolts, with no ability to be disarmed.  I described them as something like a magic missile (to explain why they can't be blocked by protection from normal missiles) and instantly my mages wanted to dispel the magic.  There was a 'soft' rule zero here - more of a rule Gygax - they can't be dispelled, so I had to say that the wizards weren't able to find the source of the magic in order to dispel it.

After Keryth became dangerously low on HP, Ryld took his turn.  (He had actually been spending some time in the rooms with visible doors.  He found several doors as well, and then retreated.  Then Rak took a turn.  This went on for a while, and eventually they found their way into the long hallway.  At this point, the party decided to call it quits for the night.

For me, it was a lot of fun so far.  I'm not sure if it was fun for them, but I can't wait to continue with it and see how far they get.  I'll post more each time we return to the Tomb.

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