D&D 5E Advice for running Tomb of Horrors with a twist (+)

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I’m going to be running Tomb of Horrors as a stand-alone New Years Eve one-shot. I pitched it to the players as a lighthearted romp through D&D’s most infamous killer dungeon, with optional drinking game element: the suggested rule is to enjoy a drink of your choice at your own pace while playing, but if your character dies, you can finish your drink to resurrect them (but also I don’t want anyone to feel pressured to drink more than they want to, so it’s really just “infinite resurrections, and drink if you want to.”)

Now, I know to some, the idea of running a dungeon like Tomb of Horrors with the ability to freely resurrect your character may seem blasphemous, and to others the idea of running a dungeon like Tomb of Horrors at all may seem unfun, which is why I included the (+) in the thread title. This is the game I’m running, my players have all enthusiastically agreed, so if your advice is to not run this adventure or to not run it in this way, thank you for your input, but this is how it’s going to go. I am, however, willing to entertain revising the rules of the drinking game. Maybe instead of drinking when you die, you can drink to get a hint on a puzzle? I dunno, just spitballing there.

Now, with that out of the way, I’m seeking advice on how to make the most out of this premise. A big part of that will be hitting the sweet spot of just enough character deaths that people want to keep up the drinking game element, so what would be a good character level to facilitate that (assuming a party of 5)? I was thinking in the 11-16 range, but not sure exactly what level to go with. Also, starting equipment? I was figuring 2 permanent Uncommon magic items with the option to swap one or both for 4 Uncommon consumables each, plus whatever non-magical equipment people want.

Folks who have read more than a few of my posts probably know I’m big on a source of time pressure, and typically use wandering monsters to fill that role in dungeons. But wandering monsters definitely doesn’t seem appropriate for the Tomb of Horrors, so what might be a more fitting source of that pressure?

Something I’m not sure about is entering the dungeon. I don’t think poking around a hill with 10-foot polls to even get into the dungeon is going to start a party like this one off on the right note. But I also don’t want to skip over the possibility of finding one of the false entrances. Any ideas on how to handle that?

And of course, any general advice people might have on running Tomb of Horrors would be appreciated.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Something I’m not sure about is entering the dungeon. I don’t think poking around a hill with 10-foot polls to even get into the dungeon is going to start a party like this one off on the right note. But I also don’t want to skip over the possibility of finding one of the false entrances. Any ideas on how to handle that?

Perhaps a famous local archaeologist and his peers are currently trying to excavate the tomb and have identified three possible entrances, but are looking for braver souls to actually open them. Souls like the PCs, who can be hired in a local tavern.
 

jgsugden

Legend
It is a one shot. Give it a harder boost. Have them each give you a paragraph backstory for their PCs and then tell them that something/someone from their backstory has been taken into the Tomb of Horrors by a villain and that they've been told information about the entrances. There is enough for them to go on from there.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
Maybe start from the end?

The PC are the ghosts of a previous party soul-trapped by the lich, who were released when he shattered his Staff of Magi(?) during a fight with a group of adventurer who now lay slain in the room.

They barely have any memories of their past life, need to collect shattered memories (that can be used once each to resurrect) by making their way back to the outside for a final walk under the sky. They start with many useful items found in the boss room of the Lich.
 

pemerton

Legend
I’m big on a source of time pressure, and typically use wandering monsters to fill that role in dungeons. But wandering monsters definitely doesn’t seem appropriate for the Tomb of Horrors, so what might be a more fitting source of that pressure?
Given your infinite-res approach, I don't think you need time pressure. It's not part of the Tomb. It seems that the pressure will come from the need to stay sober enough to keep playing!

And of course, any general advice people might have on running Tomb of Horrors would be appreciated.
I really liked this old thread: WIR S1 Tomb of Horrors [SPOILERS!! SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!!]‏
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Perhaps a famous local archaeologist and his peers are currently trying to excavate the tomb and have identified three possible entrances, but are looking for braver souls to actually open them. Souls like the PCs, who can be hired in a local tavern.
That’s perfect! Thank you.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Given your infinite-res approach, I don't think you need time pressure. It's not part of the Tomb. It seems that the pressure will come from the need to stay sober enough to keep playing!
The problem of leaving no time pressure at all is that some rolls become pointless. For example, there are a lot of hidden doors with suggested DCs to find them. But with no time pressure, what consequence would there be for failing any given attempt to try and find one?
Ooh! I’ll definitely be giving this a read, thank you!
 

pemerton

Legend
The problem of leaving no time pressure at all is that some rolls become pointless. For example, there are a lot of hidden doors with suggested DCs to find them. But with no time pressure, what consequence would there be for failing any given attempt to try and find one?
My ToH knowledge is AD&D - so there are no retries, and that's the consequence.

I don't know how that translates to 5e.
 

Celebrim

Legend
My experience with the dungeon goes up only to 3e.

The sweet spot of the dungeon is about level 10. Above level 10 and spellcasters can make a mockery of the dungeon with easy button spells like Find the Path, True Sight, long duration flight, etc. etc. This would probably not apply to 4e but would still I suspect probably apply to 5e. Below level 10 and the dungeon is beatable, but the players get absolutely no margin of error and have so few resource that victory probably depends on having read or played the module beforehand. Review the spell list heavily before deciding what level to allow, because in 1e-3e the dungeon is brutal at 9th-10th level but becomes a cake walk by like 13th (other than the demilich itself, which is a whole other discussion).

Finding the hidden doors isn't really the issue. The players are supposed to find them eventually if they are through so basically let the players find them if they are looking in the right area long enough (unless the text explicitly says no amount of looking helps). I would however suggest that you play the dungeon more as a 1e style test of player skill. That is to say, if the PC's don't succeed on the first roll, rolling more times doesn't help. This is very much a roll once and go with the results sort of thing. However, on the other hand, most doors have a procedure described for finding or opening them. So if the dice don't solve the problem, players should be encouraged to be hands on with the fiction. If they dig the plaster off the wall they find the door, no dice roll needed. In fact, difficulties for the dice to solve the problem for them should be so high as to make that unlikely. This is very much designed as a hands on fictional environment with concrete and not abstract actions on the part of the players.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
My ToH knowledge is AD&D - so there are no retries, and that's the consequence.
I don’t think that’s gonna work for me, since that leaves open the possibility of making the tomb impossible to complete.
I don't know how that translates to 5e.
There are different interpretations of what to do about retries in 5e. But regardless, I don’t call for checks unless there’s a consequence for failure, and in Dungeon contexts, time wasted is a pretty common consequence.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top