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D&D 1E What are examples of "gotchya" encounters from Gary Gygax?

The entirety of the adventure is a series of gotchas. It was originally designed as a response to Gygax's players boasting that they could beat any dungeon, and Gygax wanted to teach them some humility.
And the kicker is that he failed and the players beat it with no casualties because they knew how he thought well enough to find the solutions. (If you know the trick of it it's relatively easy).
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
And the kicker is that he failed and the players beat it with no casualties because they knew how he thought well enough to find the solutions. (If you know the trick of it it's relatively easy).

While Robilar (Rob Kuntz) and Tenser (Ernie Gygax) apparently managed to survive Tomb of Horrors when it was beta tested, the actual outcome at Origins was not quite the same. When it was run at Origins 1975, 120 people entered (8 parties of 15 players).

One group of the eight got to the end. The other 7 groups were complete TPKs.

Also, it wasn't about his own players boasting- it was about other players, on other campaigns, boasting. At this time, people were already having arguments about characters with levels in the 50s+.

(Note- Gygax was actually lenient; other dungeons, such as the MIT meatgrinder, boasted of having regular kill rates in excess of 50%).
 

Willie the Duck

Adventurer
I think what Gary said on the matter (in 1998) is, like many things, a retroactive reinterpretation. The thing was a convention module meant specifically for Origins 1. As Tim Kask keeps reminding us, those conventions were, in and of themselves, huge moneymakers for TSR. It was designed specifically for the needs of a convention, including an expectation of expendable characters and a readily measurable 'score.' If only two characters exited the dungeon, with character 1 leaving with only the clothes on their backs, the other with one gem, and all other characters having died, there is a clear and obvious winner (which works great for a con game).

The module only got published when Gary/TSR realized that people really did want to buy pre-made game world and adventure content from TSR (something they supposedly did not expect). As such a product it was... well, three things:
1) It is, honestly, not a nightmare if you come to it understanding what it is and how you are expected to approach things. Everything is deadly no matter your level and you likely will not get warning, much less a saving throw to avoid (also: clearly designed for the pre-thief-as-class era). Your goal is the treasure and weighing further treasure versus further risk, you're not supposed to either defeat the evil in the dungeon or necessarily even for clearing out all the treasure (go in, get what you are comfortable getting, get out). That said, looking at the wikipedia entry of all the praise heaped on the module, I don't agree with that either. It is not one of the best modules ever made, it is simply not the nightmare routinely mentioned. I think many DMs made similar dungeons and made them as good or better than this one. It is fine.

2)The guidance at the beginning that it was a thinking player's dungeon was insufficient (and helped cement the idea to many that EGG was kinda condescending). It should have been upfront about the design intent (meant as a last-man-standing scenario with disposable characters, with a special emphasis on think-your-way-through rather than using spells and combat, and maybe even saying it was a 'gotcha' scenario and that was by design (for people who agreed up front to that premise). A bunch of 10 year olds who bought the thing (being one of the relatively few things you could buy for the game at the time, see point #3) thinking it would be a fun romp for their characters would justifiably feel like they'd been sold something under at best insufficient warning as to how things would go (kinda the lawn darts of gaming).

3) It was a terrible choice to be one of the first modules to be released (particularly without better guidance), as it cemented in a huge number of gamers' minds that this was the normal mode of intended play, as TSR saw things. Parodies of this era, like Knights of the Dinner Table, got the notion that TSR-era D&D was meant as a confrontational DM-vs-player meat grinder with dirty tricks and looking-for-loophole isms abounding and this was (one of many) part of that influence. Likewise, many a DM took this as a goal and made (often less fair, with less obvious ways out) like-minded dungeons and there were lots of hurt feelings around the lunchtable.
 
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BookTenTiger

He / Him
This is not my style at all as a DM, but I've got to admit I love reading about these Gygaxisms! The idea of describing the mouth of the Green Devil Face as "big enough to crawl into" is so funny.

It does make me think how I can use descriptions more purposefully in my adventures! If I want characters to interact with the environment more, I should put little clues or hints into the description... "The ceiling is held up by large stone columns that have cracked over the centuries... It looks like one strong push could topple them."
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This is not my style at all as a DM, but I've got to admit I love reading about these Gygaxisms! The idea of describing the mouth of the Green Devil Face as "big enough to crawl into" is so funny.

It does make me think how I can use descriptions more purposefully in my adventures! If I want characters to interact with the environment more, I should put little clues or hints into the description... "The ceiling is held up by large stone columns that have cracked over the centuries... It looks like one strong push could topple them."
I use descriptions like that not just to get the players to interact, but also as a warning. A ceiling bearing column that looks like one strong push could topple it lets the players know that being in that room is dangerous, even if they don't give it that push.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
This is not my style at all as a DM, but I've got to admit I love reading about these Gygaxisms! The idea of describing the mouth of the Green Devil Face as "big enough to crawl into" is so funny.

It does make me think how I can use descriptions more purposefully in my adventures! If I want characters to interact with the environment more, I should put little clues or hints into the description... "The ceiling is held up by large stone columns that have cracked over the centuries... It looks like one strong push could topple them."

If you're going Gygaxian, GO FULL GYGAXIAN!

The alien and strangely disturbing buildings of Erelhei-Cinlu are crowded together in a welter which confuse any not born and bred to the place. Its crooked, narrow streets and alleys are dimly illuminated by signs scribed in phosphorescent chemicals and occasional lichen growths or fire beetle cages. Not even the Drow are certain what horrors lurk in the sewers beneath, but the rooftops are home to many sorts of large, huge, and giant spiders.

The main ways of this ancient and depraved city are thronged with as unlikely a mixture of creatures as can be imagined. Green cloaked Illithids and Kuo-Toans rub shoulders with Dark Elves. Ghosts and ghouls roam freely, and an occasional shadow or vampire will be seen. Bugbears and troglodytes are common, as are other various servants and slaves of the Drow (dwarves, goblins, half-orcs, humans, and orcs are sometimes free inhabitants of the place). All are pale from dwelling in the sunless Vault. Trolls slink by evillooking men wearing the green garb. None are disturbed to pass a lesser demon or succubus, a night hag or mezzodaemon. These crowds part hurriedly for Noble Drow riding nightmares or the more powerful demons or nycadaemons (see special section at the end), but those of the Dark Elves with pack lizards must slowly force their way through traffic. Beggars of all sorts are seen, and half-Drow thieves, pimps, and harlots are as common as the enslaved human and elven prostitutes displayed before certain establishments.

Between 8,000 and 9,000 Drow live in the city, and double that number of half-casts, servants, and slaves. To this permanent population can be added a thousand or so creatures visiting for purposes known only to themselves. The tiers and dungeons of Erelhei-Cinlu reek of debauchery and decadence, and the city's inhabitants are degenerate and effete. (Those with any promise and ability are brought out of the place to serve the fighting societies, merchant clans or noble houses. The rest are left to wallow in the sinkhole of absolute depravity which is Erelhei-Cinlu.) The most popular places in the city are the gambling dens, bordellos, taverns, drug saloons, and even less savory shops along the two main streets. The back streets and alleyways too boast of brothels, poison shops, bars, and torture parlors. Unspeakable things transpire where the evil and jaded creatures seek pleasure, pain, excitement, or arcane knowledge, and sometimes these seekers find they are victims. All visitors are warned that they enter the back streets of the city at their peril.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Back in middle school, a friend of mine tried to start a D&D club at our school. A group of kids showed up to play. The first encounter was a group of rot grubs, which resulted in a TPK. The club broke up the same day it started.
Note to self: Middle schoolers aren't necessarily the best at marketing role playing games to new players.
 


If you're going Gygaxian, GO FULL GYGAXIAN!

The alien and strangely disturbing buildings of Erelhei-Cinlu are crowded together in a welter which confuse any not born and bred to the place. Its crooked, narrow streets and alleys are dimly illuminated by signs scribed in phosphorescent chemicals and occasional lichen growths or fire beetle cages. Not even the Drow are certain what horrors lurk in the sewers beneath, but the rooftops are home to many sorts of large, huge, and giant spiders.

The main ways of this ancient and depraved city are thronged with as unlikely a mixture of creatures as can be imagined. Green cloaked Illithids and Kuo-Toans rub shoulders with Dark Elves. Ghosts and ghouls roam freely, and an occasional shadow or vampire will be seen. Bugbears and troglodytes are common, as are other various servants and slaves of the Drow (dwarves, goblins, half-orcs, humans, and orcs are sometimes free inhabitants of the place). All are pale from dwelling in the sunless Vault. Trolls slink by evillooking men wearing the green garb. None are disturbed to pass a lesser demon or succubus, a night hag or mezzodaemon. These crowds part hurriedly for Noble Drow riding nightmares or the more powerful demons or nycadaemons (see special section at the end), but those of the Dark Elves with pack lizards must slowly force their way through traffic. Beggars of all sorts are seen, and half-Drow thieves, pimps, and harlots are as common as the enslaved human and elven prostitutes displayed before certain establishments.

Between 8,000 and 9,000 Drow live in the city, and double that number of half-casts, servants, and slaves. To this permanent population can be added a thousand or so creatures visiting for purposes known only to themselves. The tiers and dungeons of Erelhei-Cinlu reek of debauchery and decadence, and the city's inhabitants are degenerate and effete. (Those with any promise and ability are brought out of the place to serve the fighting societies, merchant clans or noble houses. The rest are left to wallow in the sinkhole of absolute depravity which is Erelhei-Cinlu.) The most popular places in the city are the gambling dens, bordellos, taverns, drug saloons, and even less savory shops along the two main streets. The back streets and alleyways too boast of brothels, poison shops, bars, and torture parlors. Unspeakable things transpire where the evil and jaded creatures seek pleasure, pain, excitement, or arcane knowledge, and sometimes these seekers find they are victims. All visitors are warned that they enter the back streets of the city at their peril.
This is all why I love Erelhei-Cinlu and the Drow series of Modules. Also the Alabaster Slab bordello is slightly disturbing.
 

Jmarso

Adventurer
Rot grubs
Green Slime
Yellow Mold
Rust Monsters

Those sorts of things. All the stuff that requires immediate action (implying you know what to do) or you basically die on the spot or a few rounds later. Stuff that eats your stuff, leaving you weaponless / armorless / even disrobed.
 



Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
By the way-

"What are examples of "gotchya" encounters from Gary Gygax?"

Am I the only one who keeps seeing this and reading it as "Gotye" encounters?

... I can't stand mimics ...

tumblr_mq3bejoxp41sb4py2o1_500.gif
 

That is, unfortunately, a quintessential D&D story of youth. I think many of us have stories where we started playing in a game, TPK'ed the first session, and that was it for that group!

Back in middle school, a friend of mine tried to start a D&D club at our school. A group of kids showed up to play. The first encounter was a group of rot grubs, which resulted in a TPK. The club broke up the same day it started.
 




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