Tales from the Yawning Portal Part 7 (The Tomb of Horrors)
Hey Game fans, we’re back with another look at the brand new hardcover adventure compilation Tales from the Yawning Portal. We’re going to break down each one of these adventures and take a look at the adventure as it’s presented and compare it to its original presentation from a previous version of dungeons and Dragons. Our quest comes to the end of its journey with Tomb of Horrors.
Tomb of Horrors
In brief, Tomb of Horrors was originally written by Gary Gygax and released in 1978. It is a reprint of a module created for Origins 1, in 1975. It is the first module in the Special Series (as denoted by the S1 designation) and is followed by some unrelated adventures. The cover by David C. Sutherland III and interior work by David A. Trampier are iconic to this era of Dungeons and Dragons. This adventure has been reprinted and updated for every edition of Dungeons and Dragons and is an extremely popular adventure. This adventure in its 1st printing has a 20 page adventure booklet, a 12 page book of pictures, and the dungeon map.
Those of you interested in picking this one up can pick it up at DM’s Guild for about $4.99 in its
Digital format at http://www.dmsguild.com/product/176871/S1-Tomb-of-Horrors-1e
Tales of Tomb of Horrors
This iteration of Tomb of Horrors is the seventh and final adventure in the Tales from the Yawning Portal. It is intended for characters of “high level”. This adventure is intended as a death trap of a dungeon and lives up to its intent. Characters are not long for this world when in the Tomb, so be advised that you can die at any point, doing exactly what you’re supposed to do.
Deep in the heart of an ancient tomb, a fabulous treasure is hidden. Brave adventurers and crafty explorers tell stories of the great and fabulous wealth hidden within, and dare generation after generation of adventurers to explore the tomb and find the secrets buried within. Are you willing to risk it all chasing this fabulous treasure?
This adventure assumes that the characters start at the entrance of the Tomb, and makes no attempt to explain how they got here. I would advise you to put some thoughts into this as the DM, and to give the characters time to do some research, shopping (get their affairs in order) and anything else they need to do before the adventure starts. Once it begins and they are in the Tomb, the ways to resupply and replenish are few and far between.
Tomb of Horrors is a deathtrap of a dungeon that doesn’t play fair. There are 33 encounter areas that comprise one of the most lethal combinations of traps and magical defenses that has been printed in a published module. There are longer dungeon complexes, and there are more monster filled dungeons, but for straight up killing power, Tomb of Horrors is astonishingly lethal. Since the Tomb occupies a single level, I’m going to discuss the tomb in a slightly different method than previous adventures.
The Big Lie
The Tomb of Horrors is an elaborate death trap built to fuel a single creature (Acererak) on its path to unliving immortality. The dungeon constructed is built to kill powerful heroes and drain their life force to power its continued existence, and while the Tomb has treasures within, they are most assuredly not worth the risk to life and limb that comes with any expedition to a Tomb like this. The adventure was originally designed to target the way players think and attack the player’s logic and thought process.
This adventure is defined by the traps that define it. There are traps scattered throughout this dungeon. And most of them are either undetectable until after they’ve gone off, undetectable period, or can’t be disarmed. This means there are a lot of traps you’re going to end up taking on the chin, or having a sense of which trapped areas aren’t needed to complete the adventure. That’s a hard sell for most adventurers, because the adventure is built on the notion that fabulous treasure that could be around every corner. We can’t leave that treasure behind, can we?
This adventure doesn’t feature as many monsters as other dungeons of its type. The monsters that are featured hit hard, have environmental benefits, and don’t pull punches. This adventure isn’t predicated on the belief that you can talk your way through the trouble. The combat encounters are vicious and bitterly contested fights to death. Should you somehow make it to the final boss of this dungeon, i hope you can defeat that particular challenge.
The treasure in this adventure is somewhat plentiful, but nowhere near as heavy as advertised. That said, there are some wonderful treasures to be found in the depths of the Tomb of Horrors. Explore the dungeon, but be careful, in most cases the treasure is rarely worth the risk.
This is one of the ultimate death trap dungeons, and it lives up to that reputation. This is a faithful reiteration of the dungeon, and it maintains the integrity and spirit behind that original dungeon design. If you’re looking for a new/different way of putting your dungeons together and are looking for ways to make encounters incredibly complex and difficult, you can do a lot worse than taking a walk through the Tomb of Horrors.
This adventure still has the same original critical issues that the original has. It is an inherently weighted adventure that heavily favors the DM, and the characters are going to be punished for behaving like the other six adventures in this book have taught them to behave. This is an adventure that is more critical of the players than their characters and you can do everything you are supposed to do and still fail at successfully completing this adventure. If your party (and you should know at this point if you are considering running the tomb for them) isn’t one for patience and planning, don’t run this adventure. It’s going to create hostility and ill will outside of the game and your group probably doesn’t need that.
Thoughts and Conclusions
I have made no bones about my dislike of this adventure, and the most current version doesn’t change my opinion. It’s a cheating dungeon designed to lay dead characters out like cord wood and if i knew i were playing this dungeon, i would make several characters each more annoying to the DM than the last. It’s a campaign closing adventure because a party that can handle the Tomb of Horrors is probably out of things to do, or they are all dead in the Tomb somewhere.
If you want an insight into how to build extremely challenging and difficult encounters and dungeons, the Tomb is rife with opportunities to learn. I wouldn’t encourage you to lift whole sections from the dungeon, but there are interesting pieces you can combine, breakdown, and recombine. Take a look at the Tomb and see what you can extract from it. Next week we’ll cover the Appendices, and then we’ll find something else to write about for a while.
Game On, Game Fans