Rebooting Tomb of Horrors, Gary Gygax's incredibly hard D&D module for "invincible characters"

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/06/01/traps-vs-monsters.html

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…using their almighty THACOs…

Need to point out that PC’s did not have THAC0s in 1st edition AD&D (not in sense that To Hit AC 2 was THAC0 - 2). They had these oddly nonlinear To-Hit tables for particular classes:

“Need to point out” because, apparently, I am an easily nerd-sniped D&D geek. :smiley:

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S1 - Tomb of Horrors was for First Edition AD&D, not the original 3 book set. I still have my original copy of both.

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Why don’t any of the tombs have pleasant names? Can you imagine having to attend a funeral service to inter your grandma in the “Tomb of Horrors?”

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Only Egdod need apply.

such wonderful memories.

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According to my son, who has extensive knowledge of D&D, here’s how you solve this.
Here’s how you solve Tomb of Horrors:

Encounter first trap
Encounter second trap, make Intelligence check to see if your character can deduce that the whole damn dungeon is gonna be this way
Exit dungeon, find nearest farm or village
Buy a herd of cows. They’re cheap.
Drive the cows into the dungeon to trigger the traps.
Collect loot.

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Just played through the updated 5e version with some friends, and it’s still a ridiculously hard module with the nuttiest murder rooms. We got to the very last room and were all killed just as we were about to finish. GYGAX!! shakes fist

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Warhammer?

Warhammer is a game from Games Workshop. And Games Workshop is very much not the TSR/Wizards of the Coast/any publisher ever of D&D.

No idea why Amazon would even file this under Warhammer accessories…

Also, note the new art + Tomb of Horrors reprint is the icing on the deluxe version of the cake that is the D&D Art & Arcana archive of ephemera. Said cake is available without the Hydro74 art or ToH for about half the price.

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In truth, it was called “Hillcrest Cemetery” when we buried her there. The horrors came afterward…

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Seeing the three original books (I had them, once upon a time… ) always brings a sharp pain of nostalgia in my gygax, right below my arneson. thx!

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Tomb of Horrors was meant for tournament play, not for campaigns. Large parts of it are based on player wits, not character abilities. In a tournament it doesn’t matter if it’s a killer–your objective is to do better than the others, not necessarily to survive.

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Something Awful did a little review of the module here.

It’s one of those things that doesn’t sound challenging or witty; it just sounds kinda stupid. The pen-and-paper equivalent of Wizardry IV, or maybe The Tower of Druaga.
https://web.archive.org/web/20041210202426/http://www.ntsc-uk.com:80/feature.php?fea=Druaga

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Except in this case, the players would be better off stopping at step 3, exiting the dungeon and never coming back. Nothing would be made safe by the cows (who, even with hands, wouldn’t get past the first room). It’s arbitrary and basically nonsensical in its cruelty. It’s all traps. The traps have traps. Literally - there are traps set off by act of trying to find traps. All the usual methods of finding and making traps safe are actually deadlier in there. All the doors are traps. The traps are almost all permanent - that is, they’re magic or otherwise reset after triggering, so you need to see them triggered to gain any benefit, which would often kill you as well if you were in the room. The chief monster is indestructible, except for some semi-random spells and arbitrary acts that no one would reasonably think of doing. (I have no idea how anyone is supposed to figure out some of the “solutions” outside of cheating and reading the scenario.) To properly roleplay it would involve getting a couple rooms in (at best) and deciding that there are easier ways of making money - like invading a nearby kingdom.

Yeah. The solutions to some of its more deadly problems are pretty arbitrary. Presumably they only exist as something players might do because they’ve exhausted all reasonable approaches and just got frustrated and starting doing things like throwing random shit at the monster. But the odds of anyone surviving that long seem nil. It’s just designed to kill characters.

Well the owner of this one is undead, and based on the whole tomb being a series of traps, obviously doesn’t want visitors. So it’s clearly a PR move.

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Well, my daughter’s grandma, on her mother’s side…

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First, the arbitrary puzzles are why you actually invest spell slots in divination.

Second, kill PCs is exactly what this is supposed to do. It’s a tournament adventure. You and your team of mostly-expert players take the same party of pregenerated as everyone else, and you all run through once to see which team gets the most treasure and gets farthest before you all inevitably die. The goal is to identify both the best team and the best player in a trial by fire that takes maybe an hour or two, because you’ll have to run it 4 or 5 different times.

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Wasn’t THAC0 regular D&D?

Also I think I need this.

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Are you saying that my bard’s “knowledge - genre savvy” check attempts are illegitimate?

As for the lethality of the traps; these ones are intentionally gratuitous; but it seems like one would scarcely want to think about the sorts of clearance-resistance and anti-handling techniques that would become possible with the wide assortment of divination, detection; and illusion magical effects available.

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In the sense of being in the rules as published, THAC0 was a 2nd edition thing. However, I know I started using something like it long before 2nd edition came out - because looking at the first edition to hit table, it was obvious you could replace a tedious lookup with a bit of mental arithmetic as long as you knew the minimum needed to hit a specific armour class.

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It’s an old school module. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, adventures were designed around the idea of challenging player skill. It didn’t matter if your magic user had only two hit points and one memorized spell, she could still walk out of the dungeon with mondo experience and wealth if the player running her used caution and wits and outside the box thinking. Hard puzzles and fiendish traps that meted out character death to players who charged ahead without thought or who tried to bash their way though every obstacle were par for the course. Tomb of Horrors is hard, yes, but it’s not impossible for a skilled, disciplined, and clever group of players.

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