D&D General Best Version to Experience Tomb of Horrors? (+)

Retreater

Legend
I've never run it, despite 30+ years in the hobby. My nephew, who is really getting into the history of the game, is very curious to try this death trap dungeon. My wife wants to test her problem solving and deal with puzzles.
Yes, I know it's dated and has a bad reputation, but I have family asking for it...
My nephew has only played 5e. My wife dislikes the TSR era games (4e is her favorite edition).
Is the 4e version any good? Does the 5e version capture the essence of the original? Is the original the only way to go? What about the 2e "Return to..." - does that clarify and present it better than the original? What about tracking down the 3.5 edition PDF - would that be the best version?
Thanks for any guidance.
 

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Celebrim

Legend
Use the version you have the highest system mastery in.

Whatever system you use, the module depends on adopting processes of play that emphasis player skill over character skill, and which encourages players to interact with the fiction in concrete ways. At no point in the module can you adjudicate the claim, "I do a search check." You always need to know with what and how, and you the GM will need to decide if the answer to that proposition is "Yes success", "No failure", or "Roll the dice" in a way that is fair and which is exciting. The module won't for the most part tell you. You need to be an expert at that.

The module doesn't for the most part depend on the rules. Mostly the text says, "IF this happens, the players are dead.", and the players aren't going to survive because of hit points but because in three seconds after you said something they come up with some sort of plan. Many sections involve adjudicating the situation in real time or using fractions of rounds. You'll need to be really comfortable with the rules of the edition.

Whatever edition you have, have the 1e version of the text and be familiar with it so you really understand what Gygax was going for.

I would use 1e or 3e edition myself. Remember that the module is not about combat though. A proper translation of the dungeon makes it survivable by characters of any level. The only advantage being higher level gives you is slightly more resources to survive making a mistake. If the translation forces lots of combat on the players, or conversely if the translation doesn't have instant death no save and problems no amount of character skill can solve, then it's not a good translation.
 

aco175

Legend
I'm running into the same problem that @Celebrim is talking about with running Against the Giants. The conversions to 5e of the old modules are not great. They are not changed to account for the way the game is played now as opposed to the 'gotcha' play of old. I had to remind my players that old modules were full of secret doors that make no sense and traps that kill. One of my players had no idea of the 10ft pole and back up weapons and armor to deal with the taking of things from the PCs that happens in old modules. I'm changing a lot of it as we go.

I would still run the module (ToH) in the format that my group knows most about. There is another thread around about running this as well that has some good ideas. Maybe remind them about how old modules were set up and to bring spare PCs.
 


Shiroiken

Legend
I concur with @Celebrim on using whatever system you find best, because you will have to do a lot of adjudication. The best method of running it is a balance of character and player skill. I think using the original 1E is optimal, but the 5E version can show how to implement some mechanics. I know the 2E version was a great expansion on the idea, but it's another dungeon in a similar vein, not the TOMB OF HORRORS everyone thinks of. I know nothing about the 4E versions, but I've heard it's the party going in after another group cleared out the tomb (making it rather weak sauce).

Since this adventure is designed to be a kill zone, pushing the players to the limit, I recommend you run it as a "coin-op." You create a dozen or so pre-generated characters, and they start with a number of poker chips/quarters. Characters can be purchased for 1 chip, with a random starting player. When you die, you can buy back in for a chip, picking a new character (you can decide for yourself if you want to allow playing the same character again immediately). You can either provide a prize to the player who has the most remaining chips at the end, eliminate players who run out, or have the chips be a pool for everyone. Just make sure you clarify the rules up-front to avoid any confusion or hostility.
 

Rabbitbait

Adventurer
I didn't enjoy the Tomb of Horrors (not a fan of insta-death and trying to trick the players), but I did enjoy Return to the Tomb of Horrors (4e) and Tomb of Annihilation (5e) might just be the best D&D module I have ever run.
 

Redwizard007

Adventurer
I'm running into the same problem that @Celebrim is talking about with running Against the Giants. The conversions to 5e of the old modules are not great. They are not changed to account for the way the game is played now as opposed to the 'gotcha' play of old. I had to remind my players that old modules were full of secret doors that make no sense and traps that kill. One of my players had no idea of the 10ft pole and back up weapons and armor to deal with the taking of things from the PCs that happens in old modules. I'm changing a lot of it as we go.

I would still run the module (ToH) in the format that my group knows most about. There is another thread around about running this as well that has some good ideas. Maybe remind them about how old modules were set up and to bring spare PCs.
I ran into the same issue with the 5e adaptation of Isle of Dread. It was beautifully adapted, but just not a good fit for 5e as written. Rangers, in particular, just nerffed the heck out of the hex crawl. A couple sessions in, I gutted the whole damn thing and reworked it to be more focused (railroady) and up the challenge. These great old adventures were sometimes rules dependent. That isn't a criticism, but it does limit their playability in newer systems.

For ToH, 3.5 would probably work well. It's close enough to 5e that newer players can adapt, but still maintains some of the same limits of older editions.
 


Lidgar

Gongfarmer
I’ve run it in every edition except 4e. All work as long as you tweak it (if not doing 1e) for the edition to capture the intent. For 5e, we used 10th level characters…and there were many deaths, as intended. Wouldn’t do higher level characters than that for 5e.
 

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