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Is TOMB OF HORRORS the Worst Adventure Of All Time?

Prevailing opinion here in the EN World community has traditionally held that the worst adventure module of all time is 1984's The Forest Oracle. 7th Sea designer John Wick (whose upcoming edition of 7th Sea is the third most anticipated tabletop RPG of 2016) vehemently disagrees; he nominates the classic adventure Tomb of Horrors for that position, contending that it "represents all the wrong, backward thinking that people have about being a GM." In an article on his blog (warning: this uses a lot of strong language), he goes into great detail as to why he hold this opinion, stating that the adventure is the "worst, &#@&$&@est, most disgusting piece of pig vomit ever published".


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[lQ]"My players picked the entrance with the long corridor rather than the two other entrances which are instant kills. That’s right, out of the three ways to enter the tomb, two of them are designed to give the GM the authority for a TPK."[/lQ]

Very strong words, and you can read them all here. As I mentioned before, there's lots of NSFW language there.

The article also includes an anecdote about a convention game in which he participated. In that game, being already familiar with the adventure and its traps (and having advised the DM of this), he played a thief and attempted to discover or deactivate the traps, up until a near TPK occurred and he left the game.

Wick is, of course, no stranger to controversy. A couple of years ago, he created widespread internet arguments when he stated that "The first four editions of D&D are not roleplaying games."
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

jamesjhaeck

First Post
John Wick was probably the player in his group (and there was always one) who stomped out of a session when he didn't get his way. Gary Gygax hurt his precious little feels and now he's burying a dead guy's work.
Sounds like you didn't read the article. Wick was the DM!
 

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MwaO

Explorer
I'd point out that most people who played Tomb of Horrors in convention or near the time that it came out were also highly aware of the illusionary wall story from I think the previous year.

Namely, 8 out of 9 parties found an illusionary wall and stepped through. Then died. The winner of the RPGA tournament was the only group who thought to tap around with a 10' pole.

If you were playing an RPGA mod from that time period, the general assumption was that there were a bunch of absolutely lethal traps that needed to be carefully thought out. Such as using a 10' pole or sending cheap, mostly trained, kind of party-sized creatures(aka mules) into things to see if they came back out.

https://www.reddit.com/r/rpg/comments/2x63mm/the_good_old_days/
 


eleran

First Post
My ToH experience.

Or you could play the whole thing is a nightmare where death is not permanent, forcing the players to TPK after TPK ground hog day style until they escaped the nightmare.
I had a similar yet different experience. Our DM set the whole thing up as a quest to travel to Acereraks tomb and vanquish the evil and rescue something or other from the tomb. We went through all the trouble of following clues to the well hidden dungeon. Went inside and went through the grinder, which was obviously pissing of some players. it ended with an almost total TPK. We got to the tomb, and everyone got killed but me, the thief of the party who had always been played as a coward when it came to BBEGs and the like, but was a total beast on traps and locks and other thiefy things. I split as soon as the skull rose up and struck down our mage. The entire rest of the party met similar fates. But since I had been mapping and taking care of traps I knew the best way out.

It turned out to be a dream/nightmare sequence. We were assured through a Commune spell that would be our fate if we ventured into the Tomb. So we made the decision that rather than enter the tomb we would do our best to magically seal and ward it so no one else would go in, and hopefully nothing would come out.

He gave us full experience because of the trauma the players went through. I have never been sure if he did the dream sequence on the fly because of the result or if he had that planned from the beginning. I think it was planned out that way.

At least that is whats left of my memory of this dungeon. It was over 30 years ago.
 

Or you could play the whole thing is a nightmare where death is not permanent, forcing the players to TPK after TPK ground hog day style until they escaped the nightmare.
I once ran it in a similar manner. The dungeon's entrance(s) was in a haunted graveyard with ten open graves and a bell; every-time someone died, they woke up in one of the open graves and the bell rang once, slowly breaking apart each time and crumbling to dust at the 30th, basically giving the party 30 lives to spend together.

It worked surprisingly well.
 


neobolts

Explorer
Glad to see so many people who "get" it. This is a one shot deathtrap for bragging rights and tale telling. It would be a terrible addition to a long running epic fantasy tale. Worst to me means poorly written or unplayable.
 

Dahak

Explorer
Sounds like you didn't read the article. Wick was the DM!

Sounds like you didn't read my post. He wrote in his usual bratty tone, about how he had to save his players. Then he whinged about how EGG was mean to him. That he ran the game has nothing to do with me comparing him to the player who rage quits when things don't go his way. He's a control freak, or at least writes like he is. Caveat: I don't know the guy, he may be the sweetest man alive outside of gaming.
 

mach1.9pants

Adventurer
A great way to get your name back in the news for your upcoming rpg release, well played Mr Wick. As to his review, he totally misses the point of the module, as had been pointed out numerous times up thread.
 




Zelofcad

First Post
Funny: it's the second time in a few day that I read a negative opinion on the Tomb of Horrors, and I quite don't understand.
I incorporated the 3.5 version of the Tomb in my campaign and my players liked it. A little more than a year has passed since the battle with Acererak, and they sometimes still quote the initial poem or recall some funny episodes: even if they lost some characters in there, they gladly remember the Tomb.
I have to say my players entered the Tomb with extreme caution and they used a lot of... let's say creativity to manage it, but that's what I expect from a group of adventurers entering an old ruin filled with traps protecting what was inside (they were aware of that: it was part of the story).
 


Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Not familiar with John Wick's work or why his opinion means a lot but I think many have stated it already, its a tournament module to challenge the players more with traps and tricks and often "unfair" encounters that lead to instant TPK. Its without a doubt not the more modern challenge the character sheet type game, or even a game for those looking for hack and slashing as its mostly traps. You could play it in an ongoing campaign but you better be the type of player who doesn't mind losing a long term PC. ON a note, we had an off night in my gaming group so I was going to run it in 1e with the pre-gens. It was last minute and I didn't have time to put all the PC stuff together which was a problem but I quickly realized that we had been playing 3e/5e for so long that we really forgot how to run 1e. We are long term players from the late 70's to mid-80's and were struggling with things like "why is there no search skill under the thief....". Its a different gaming mindset with old 70's D&D products. Bad module no, but not everyone's style especially if they are looking for deep storytelling.

And I don't understand the statement "two of them are designed to give the GM the authority for a TPK". :erm:

Read his blog post. Just made me go "awwwwww the poor baby". Gary's comment echo my feelings honestly. Then again I'm more into D&D as a game rather than a shared storytelling experience.
 
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Nagol

Unimportant
What? You never played like that before? That's TRUE old school playin'. ;-)
Killing your players goes well old-school and veers off into "D&D is the tool of the devil"/"All D&D players are sociopaths" ways of thinking. Old-school stops short of real world violence; we only kill characters.
 


MwaO

Explorer
Funny: it's the second time in a few day that I read a negative opinion on the Tomb of Horrors, and I quite don't understand.
I think a lot of it is about expectations. Do your players expect their PCs to die on a regular basis? Is staying dead a problem? Is the how the DM reacts to a TPK a problem? If the players come up with an interesting/funny/smart/clever idea that isn't anticipated by the mod, will the DM let them bypass it? If the players do something apparently stupid(such as step into a pure black area that light doesn't bounce off of nor does it reflect...), does the DM assume that the PCs might do something to stop it?

Depending on what your group decides how the world works, it can be a very different adventure...

An example of the problem is what Wick describes when he's playing the Rogue - he establishes that he knows where the traps are, so the players logically assume that when he doesn't tell them to do something, it must be safe. That's a really bad thing that the DM let happen and if I were DM, I'd say immediately, hey, we need to re-define what the rules of a trap are before something like that happens(if I were going to allow Wick's know-everything Rogue in the first place)

These vary a lot in terms of campaign by campaign.
 

Zelofcad

First Post
I think a lot of it is about expectations. Do your players expect their PCs to die on a regular basis? Is staying dead a problem? Is the how the DM reacts to a TPK a problem? If the players come up with an interesting/funny/smart/clever idea that isn't anticipated by the mod, will the DM let them bypass it? If the players do something apparently stupid(such as step into a pure black area that light doesn't bounce off of nor does it reflect...), does the DM assume that the PCs might do something to stop it?

Depending on what your group decides how the world works, it can be a very different adventure...
I think you are right.
My players know that the world their PCs live in is dangerous, that death is an option and that if they decide to enter a clearly dangerous place they should reasonably expect they could die.
That said, I like when my players come up with a clever or a funny idea: that's the way they avoided some of the dangers, or reduced the damages. The sphere of annihilation is a good example: they analyzed it (detect magic and so on), and didn't simply jump in. That way, they survived.

An example of the problem is what Wick describes when he's playing the Rogue - he establishes that he knows where the traps are, so the players logically assume that when he doesn't tell them to do something, it must be safe. That's a really bad thing that the DM let happen and if I were DM, I'd say immediately, hey, we need to re-define what the rules of a trap are before something like that happens(if I were going to allow Wick's know-everything Rogue in the first place)

These vary a lot in terms of campaign by campaign.
I completely agree.
 


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