Dnd/Pathfinder Tomb of Horrors - example of many, or one of a kind?


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    Tomb of Horrors - example of many, or one of a kind?

    Crothian said this in another thread:
    Tomb of Horrors: I know it is a meat grinder and has huge problems with the new school way of gaming. But it is one of the few modules I try to run for each new group because I think it is important for people to know what gaming used to be like.
    Now, I'm not calling him out specifically, but this is the latest example of something I've seen said here many times.

    Is Tomb of Horrors an example of standard old school gaming, or is it a single outlier, an exception from the standard? Is Tomb of Horrors what gaming used to be like? Or is it something unusual, even unique from old gaming?

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    I wouldn't call it unique, but I wouldn't call it "standard" either. To me, Tomb of Horrors is a bit of an extreme example of a style, but it isn't so different from others that I'd call it an exception either.

    Depending what he is calling "old school" I'd think White Plume Mountain would be a better archetypal example than the Tomb, but that's just me.

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    I think it's the exception. The whole killer death-grinder dungeon wasn't as prevalent as people seem to remember. There were a couple dungeons like that in the early days but the majority of "classic" 1st ed dungeons/scenarios were more reasonable.
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    I think you are likely to get as many different answers as responses. The entire premise assumes that there is some sort of standard old school play in the first place.

    People played vastly different games with the same sets of standard rules. For some people the tomb may have been kind of a typical adventure, for others it might be far removed from what was typically run.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ExploderWizard
    I think you are likely to get as many different answers as responses. The entire premise assumes that there is some sort of standard old school play in the first place.

    People played vastly different games with the same sets of standard rules. For some people the tomb may have been kind of a typical adventure, for others it might be far removed from what was typically run.
    For example:

    http://www.enworld.org/forum/general...hool-vote.html

    http://www.enworld.org/forum/general...e-modules.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raven Crowking View Post
    The basic design parameters of ToH -- this is a dangerous area, the builders are out to kill you, some of the things are just intended to be funny, clues abound, etc. -- was hardly unique. ToH was unique, though, to the degree that it made use of those parameters.

    You can see similar bits in many (if not most) TSR 1e modules, but not so densely used, and usually broken up with other types of play (more potential combat, more potential role-play, etc.).
    I think this sums up what I think the best. Things *seemed* deadlier back in the old days of gaming. My recollection could be clouded though!

    In either case, I think ToH to the extreme in its nature, but does showcase some of the deadliness - just all in one very dense format.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bullgrit View Post
    Is Tomb of Horrors an example of standard old school gaming, or is it a single outlier, an exception from the standard? Is Tomb of Horrors what gaming used to be like? Or is it something unusual, even unique from old gaming?
    I believe it is one of a kind.

    Much like Tolkien's imitators completely fail to capture the most important aspects of his text, the many Tomb of Horrors imitators fail to capture the most important aspects of the module.

    There are LOTS of old school killer dungeons. IMO, Tomb of Horrors isn't even the most deadly of the old school dungeons. 'Ravenloft', 'Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth' and 'Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan' are IMO all harder to succeed in with characters in the suggested levels of play. And that's to say nothing of things like 'Grimtooth's Traps' and other silliness that resulted from designers inspired by TOH but who failed to understand what made it work. But Tomb of Horrors stands apart from other killer dungeons generally and its imitators specifically.

    First, TOH is primarily a test of player ability and not of character ability. There is almost no combat in TOH. There are very few saving throws in TOH. There are numerous traps that by pass hit points completely. Until the very final encounter, which seems by intention to be one that the wiser player avoids, what is on your character sheet is almost irrelevant in determining whether you succeed in the module.

    Secondly, this amounts to a spoiler of some sort, but Tomb of Horrors is fair. Acererak plays fair. He's so uncannily and unusually fair given his apparant goal (killing adventurers) that it had to be lamp shaded and explained in the game universe in 'Return to the Tomb of Horrors'. He's not using reverse psychology on the players to force them into guessing what's behind door #2. If you must guess whether to go left or right, then success depends largely on luck. Acererak follows a pattern and sticks to it, so that with care you really don't have to guess after you successfully enter the tomb. If success depends on hitting the target AC or making a saving throw or doing enough damage when rolling damage, then success is at least in part luck and even a party which makes the correct choices might still be defeated in the module. Tomb of Horrors is almost entirely singular in being a killer dungeon where this is not true. If you make the right choices, you can 'beat the dungeon' with practically a party of 1st levels. Of course, with 1st level characters you'd practically have to be perfect in your play, to the extent that I think no one could do it without having first read the text, but really to 'beat the dungeon' requires you to make no big mistakes in play anyway and so even 10th level characters only gain the ability to survive minor mistakes.

    This is the main reason why Tomb of Horrors has acquired such a reputation. It really is entirely different from everything else. S2 'White Plume Mountain' is a killer dungeon, but its often a killer dungeon in the obvious sense of having very dangerous monsters. The puzzles are still there, but environment is reduced to being only an equal threat and challenge. A first level party even making all the right decisions still has no chance of defeating the module, because so many dangerous monsters stand in the way. By something like S4: 'Caverns of Tsojcanth' its almost entirely the dangerous monsters and the ability to make saving throws and use your characters abilities effectively that determines success. It's not remotely the same sort of dungeon.
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    With regard to what I consider old school play the tomb has a more tightly packed potential for lethality than other adventures of similar size and scope but operates on the same parameters of play, which is that the adventure is there to be overcome by the players rather than the characters.

    Old school adventures depended more on player input and decision making than the stats of the PCs. A clever player could acomplish more with a less able PC, statistically speaking. The tomb represents this approach in adventure design more sharply than some others.

    This is in contrast with many modern adventures which are designed to be overcome by the right combination of build decisions (collectively known as the character).
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    Tomb of Horrors wasn't 'standard' in its day- but it wasn't a total outlier either.

    It takes certain tropes from 1e and pushes them to the extreme.

    I maintain that it is one of the best, most challenging modules ever, but that it is ultimately fair.
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