• COMING SOON! -- The Awfully Cheerful Engine on Kickstarter! An action comedy RPG inspired by cheerful tabletop games of the 80s! With a foreword by Sandy 'Ghostbusters' Petersen, and VTT support!
log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E From Phandalin to Tomb of Horrors (a challenge!)

Mercurius

Legend
As I mentioned in another thread, I'm starting up a new campaign and am going to be DMing for the first time in about five years, with a group of folks I played with from 2008-15 or so. I'm using my homebrew setting, which draws heavily from the world I used back then. I'd like to take an overall sandbox approach and want to focus most of my prep time on building up the setting, so will use pre-published adventures to reduce prep time. Meaning, sandbox setting with tons of adventure hooks leading to pre-published adventures, with the possibility of meta-arcs woven throughout as we go along.

I just picked up Candlekeep Mysteries on a whim and an idea struck me: What sort of campaign could I run, from 1st to 15th+ level using only adventures from the three main anthology books: Tales from the Yawning Portal, Secrets of Saltmarsh, and Candlekeep Mysteries? How could I weave them together within a sandbox environment, but with some sort of "connective tissue?"

I'm going to start with "Lost Mines of Phandelver," on the basis of EN World recommendations (I was originally thinking of "Sunless Citadel" but was convinced otherwise, partially because we're all rusty and LMoP is very easy to run). And I like the idea of ending with "Tomb of Horrors," as arguably the classic high level adventure. But what comes between?

So here's the challenge for you all: How would you craft a campaign that starts in Phandalin and ends in the Tomb of Horrors? Which adventures--particularly from those three books--would you use, and how would you tie them all together?

I'm sure that no matter what outline I come up with, things will develop very differently than planned, and I will, of course, offer a wide range of adventure hooks. But it is fun to think about, and at least consider possibilities.

Alternately, feel free to switch things around with different starting and ending points. The main thing is that I want to see what EN World comes up with following the general guidelines above, piecing together different pre-published adventures within a sandbox environment.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

I wouldn't recommend Tomb of Horrors as a place to send characters anyone is invested in without major modifications. My group just played it as a one shot (over three sessions). One of my characters fell into lava and instantly died after failing a single athletics check. Another character died because he choose the silver side of a scepter rather than the gold side (no save, you chose wrong, you die). In both cases no bodies to revive, just dead. A funhouse where a single wrong step can bring you instant, meaningless death can be fun if you have zero investment in the characters, but for most people it's not a satisfying end for a character they've spent any time with.

Also having not been told what the one shot was going to be we did not design characters with a "the point of the game is to acquire treasure at all costs" mindset, so we ran into a character roadblock after the first few horrible things happened at this tomb we had minimal investment in raiding as to why sane characters wouldn't just cut their losses and leave. Basically the metagame conceit of "this is the whole module so we're going to play it" won out over character motivations. But had it been something offered to us in a wider game world where we had had other adventures we probably would have left for other adventures.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
This is an incomplete answer, but Ghosts of Saltmarsh actually contains suggestions on how and where to combine the Tales from the Yawning Portal adventures into the Saltmarsh region and basically use those two books together, which may be helpful for you in figuring this out.

I also second the sentiments of the post above re: Tomb of Horrors being fundamentally non-fun and dissatisfying.
 

Mercurius

Legend
Yeah, I hear that re: ToH. Who knows if it will ever come to that, but if it did I would probably fiat-on-the-fly to prevent meaningless deaths. Just pain and more pain.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Yeah, I hear that re: ToH. Who knows if it will ever come to that, but if it did I would probably fiat-on-the-fly to prevent meaningless deaths. Just pain and more pain.
You’d be fiating the whole dungeon. Meaningless deaths are the entire point of Tomb of Horrors. I know its reputation as D&D’s most challenging dungeon makes it seem tempting to use as the epic capstone for a campaign but it just plain isn’t fun for that purpose. Use Tomb of Annihilation instead; it pays homage to the Tomb of Horrors and its similarly meat grindery, but in a way that actually works as part of an adventure.

The best use I have ever seen for Tomb of Horrors is as a one-shot where everyone has a huge stack of character sheets and a bunch of booze. Drink if your character dies. Drink twice if you get teleported to the start of the dungeon naked. Drink three times if your character’s sex gets magically changed. Etc.

Seriously, watch an actual play of Tomb of Horrors before deciding to use it as the final adventure of your campaign. You will quickly see that it is nothing but mean-spirited gotchas and nonsense “puzzles” you aren’t given enough information to solve.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Honestly, if you just take all the elements from the Starter & Essential Sets, and those 3 books in a given area, and just let the PCs choose their next move from leads leading to the next logical options from all three...you have it all right there.

It might just end up being island hopping in a pirate ship using the random tables from Saltmarsh, though.
 

The best way to run TOH is to trap the characters in a Groundhog Day time loop that they can only break by getting to the end and defeating Acererak.

(Foreshadow, but don't actually tell them they are in a loop before the first run through. Write the opening narration down on a note card, seal it in an envelope, and dramatically tear it open and read it again after the first TPK.)
 

Mercurius

Legend
The best way to run TOH is to trap the characters in a Groundhog Day time loop that they can only break by getting to the end and defeating Acererak.

(Foreshadow, but don't actually tell them they are in a loop before the first run through. Write the opening narration down on a note card, seal it in an envelope, and dramatically tear it open and read it again after the first TPK.)
That's awesome. I went from thinking "OK, no ToH"--from what people have said in this thread, and vague memories from 35 years ago--to "oh boy, I have to try that."

You saved Tomb of Horrors from doom.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The best way to run TOH is to trap the characters in a Groundhog Day time loop that they can only break by getting to the end and defeating Acererak.

(Foreshadow, but don't actually tell them they are in a loop before the first run through. Write the opening narration down on a note card, seal it in an envelope, and dramatically tear it open and read it again after the first TPK.)
Ok, that’s pretty neat.

One thing to note though, when doing a Groundhog Day time loop adventure, don’t make your players re-play the same content over and over. If they successfully do something in one loop, they should be able to repeat it in all subsequent loops with a hand wave and a brief bit of narration, otherwise it will get very tedious very quickly.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
I have notes (but not a real plan) to use the tombs of the Nine Trickster Gods plus the Princess as a mini-version of Tomb of Annihilation. This offers a positive goal (retrieve the regalia of state) and some nifty personal power-ups (if you keep a shadow of the trickster gods' blessings when you leave) to motivate and reward the PCs for going in there.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top