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WIR S1 Tomb of Horrors [SPOILERS!! SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!!]‏

jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
There's also the "Low and high for gold, to find a tale untold" riddle from Area 8. Back in the summer, Celebrim and Raven Crowking had essentially opposite interpretations of that one. Anybody want to try and parse it out now?
It goes:
“Look low and high for gold, to hear a tale untold. The archway at the end, and on your way you’ll wend.”

Celebrim's interpretation was basically that it was about the arch in area 5, and that it was itself a puzzle (which it is).

RC's version was that it's about the gold sphere leading to area 11, and also a warning about the arch in area 10A.


Well, what golden things are there in the Tomb?
- The gold sphere in area 10, which leads to area 11.
- The gold (but plate over iron only) chest in the chamber of the three chests, with the snakes.
- The mace at the foot of the stairwell to the false crypt.
- The solid gold couch in the false crypt.
- Golden key halves in area 19.
- The tapestries in the agitated chamber. (they are both green and gold)

There are others, but they are so late it mostly likely has nothing to do with them.

I think RC's interpretation hits closest to home. There's both a golden thingy and an arch in area 10 (and the arch is 'at the end').

But whether the party realizes that the arch is a trap from the clue is another matter. As warnings go 'The archway at the end, and on your way you’ll wend' is as vague as you can get.
 

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Stoat

Adventurer
It goes:
But whether the party realizes that the arch is a trap from the clue is another matter. As warnings go 'The archway at the end, and on your way you’ll wend' is as vague as you can get.

I can't get behind the idea that "on your way you'll wend" is any kind of warning. It's too vague.
 

Stoat

Adventurer
Area 33. The Crypt of Acererak the Demi-Lich

Huzzah! The "stone-sheathed adamntite slab" from Area 32 slowly descends into the floor, revealing at long last the fabled Crypt of Acererak. What horrors lurk within?

"The smallish 10' x20' burial vault has an arched ceiling with a 25' peak. There is absolutely nothing in the room."

Oh.

There is a divot about two feet square and a few inches deep in the middle of the floor. If you look close, you'll see a tiny keyhole in the middle of the divot. Maybe you should put the FIRST KEY there?

BOOM! Using the FIRST KEY causes a devastating explosion! You are blown smack up against the ceiling Wile E. Coyote style, taking 5d6 points of damage. That'll teach you to put keys into keyholes!

To open the divot, put the SECOND KEY (the one from Area 28) into the keyhole.

Turn the SECOND KEY three times to the right. If you don't nothing will ever happen. If you do, the floor underneath you will buckle and pitch upward at tremendous speed! All but the northernmost five feet of the room is rising toward the ceiling, fast. The DM should count to 5. Anybody who hasn't moved to safety at the end of the count is smooshed up against the ceiling.

Turns out there was a mithril vault under the floor. It is 10 feet wide and 15 feet long. The door to vault, I absolutely kid you not, is unlocked and untrapped. You can pull it open at absolutely no risk to yourself. Go ahead, quit screwing around and open it.

Inside, is this:

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/ToH_Gallery/ToHGraphic33.jpg

There's loot here: Gems and a ton of magic items. All of your stuff that you lost in the teleporting arches is here too. Also 2 cursed swords and 1 cursed spear of backbiting, because Acererak is not going to not screw you over at the last minute.

If any of the treasure in the crypt is touched, the dust in the crypt swirls into the air and forms the shape of a man. It advances and threatens the party, but does not attack. It never will attack. It just goads the PC's into attacking it. If they whale on it enough, the dust turns into a ghost. The 14th level pregen cleric can turn the Ghost if he rolls 7 or better on a d20. Otherwise, IIRC, ghosts are pretty nasty monsters to fight. So leave it alone and just scoop all the loot up into a sack.

Finally, Acererak himself is here. Ain't he handsome?

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/ToH_Gallery/ToHGraphic33a.jpg

Acererak won't bother you if you don't bother him. Let me repeat that. Nothing bad will happen if you leave the skull alone. However, "if any character is so foolish as to touch the skull of the demi-lich, a terrible thing occurs." The skull floats up into the air and automatically drains one PC's soul. The PC dies. Acererak settles back down, "sated." He will only attack a second time if you keep hassling him. Every time anybody touches or attacks the skull, it pops up and murders somebody. But it only attacks in retaliation. If you leave it alone, you can loot the tomb in peace.

Acererak can only be killed by a handful of spells that I would never think to cast and by a handful of magic weapons that can't be found in the Tomb. If anybody ever killed him, then either (a) they entered the Tomb twinked out with powerful magic weapons; or (b) they straight up cheated.

IMO: This business with the FIRST KEY and the SECOND KEY wears me out. Sometimes trying a key blasts you across the room, sometimes trying a key is the only way forward. There is never, ever any indication which it is. AND if you guess wrong, Gary Gygax will make fun of you.

I don't know that there's much to say about Mr. A. Take the loot and leave him alone. The skull is blinged out with all kinds of valuable gems, so it makes sense that somebody would try to grab it. But after the skull kills one PC, why keep fooling around with it? Oh, it killed two of you. Why not leave it alone? Whoops! Three down. It's the same sort of "stop hitting yourself" dynamic that causes entire parties to feed themselves to the GGD.

And Acererak's vulnerabilities are weird. A ranger with a Sword of Sharpness can hurt him. A fighter with the same weapon is screwed. A magic-user casting Power Word Kill is wasting his time, unless he becomes ethereal or astral first. Then, the spell will automatically kill Mr. A.

So that's it. I have a few concluding thoughts about the module. I'll post them next week. Y'all have a Merry Christmas in the meantime.
 

jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
And so, into the crypt stepped the remnants of the late paranoid wizards party.

A cleric, a fighter, and the rogue who'd barely escaped the wizards fireball staff rampage in the vat room.

All through this time the fighter had done nothing to contribute to the exploration. This was because he'd been carrying something between his hands that he'd found earlier in the Tomb. Something he'd sworn would prove to be useful. Something he himself had been cursing ever since he'd stepped into it. Earlier he'd had the wizard help him remove it onto a blanket, which he'd then been carefully holding.

But all this was fine with the cleric and the rogue who'd managed to survive the entire way while their party got smaller and smaller. They'd outwitted the Tomb, they'd survived.

And then the cleric died from opening the door to the crypt.

And then the mountain of wisdom and luck that the rogue had been up to this point goes and picks up the skull. And the fighters player is shouting "No! No! Put it down!"

And the rogue stumbles back, and the skull rises, and then..

..the fighter throws the web that was impervious to everything except magical fire and wishes over the skull. The web, and the blanket he'd been carrying it plastered on.

And then we had to stall the ending of the game as we pondered whether Acererak could see through the blanket or not. Or if he'd even react to the web being on him as the text talks about someone touching or striking. Could he brake free? He doesn't have access to wishes or he'd done something with them. Can he cast fire spells? No mention of anything like that. The web was stuck over him, and the blanket over them. Can you blind a demilich? But he might still be able to sense the characters through them, and do the soul sucking thing. The text in the module was very little help.

In the end it was pointless when we realized that it was the fighter whose soul Acererak wanted, and he acts instantaneously (since he chooses a mage over a fighter over a cleric over a thief).

So, interesting idea and all, and good job getting the web there and trying to use it, but the moment the skull rose the fighter went down and so did the web, and got stuck to the floor and itself.

And the rogue ran and never looked back.
 

Votan

Explorer
A magic-user casting Power Word Kill is wasting his time, unless he becomes ethereal or astral first. Then, the spell will automatically kill Mr. A.

I always found this to be especially odd. Does power word kill normally work on undead? And what is this astral/ethereal stuff? Few magic users are going to be 18th level and have memorized this spell to fight a Lich. To go astral you really need two ninth level spells . . .

It seems mostly to be have been included to be able to say "there is at least one way to kill the demi-lich with a single action".

As for other approaches, even with a boa load of magic weapons does it really seem likely that the party will outlast the demilich? Unless you happen to know precisely what to do, experimentation will be disasterous.
 


jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
I always found this to be especially odd. Does power word kill normally work on undead? And what is this astral/ethereal stuff? Few magic users are going to be 18th level and have memorized this spell to fight a Lich. To go astral you really need two ninth level spells . . .
Astral Spell (Evocation) is a ninth level spell.

Astral Spell (Alteration) is a seventh level spell.
 

Bullgrit

First Post
Area 33. The Crypt of Acererak the Demi-Lich
This is perhaps the worst case of Wall of Text in all D&D module history. This is one of the most complicated encounters in D&D publication, and it is explained in only a few dense, long paragraphs, filling a complete full page, (two columns).

"The smallish 10' x20' burial vault has an arched ceiling with a 25' peak. There is absolutely nothing in the room."

Oh.
Yeah, kind of anticlimatic after the designer said about opening the previous door, "There can be no real doubt that the end of the adventure -- one way or another -- is near."

Turn the SECOND KEY three times to the right.
If the riddle/poem at the beginning of the Tomb were useful, (made sense), the combination here should be turning two times to the left. But no.

The door to vault, I absolutely kid you not, is unlocked and untrapped. You can pull it open at absolutely no risk to yourself. Go ahead, quit screwing around and open it.
LOL!

Inside, is this:

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/To...HGraphic33.jpg

There's loot here: Gems and a ton of magic items. All of your stuff that you lost in the teleporting arches is here too.
*Here* is where the earlier note belongs. "There can be no real doubt that the end of the adventure -- one way or another -- is near." This area looks like the end.

If any of the treasure in the crypt is touched, the dust in the crypt swirls into the air and forms the shape of a man. It advances and threatens the party, but does not attack. It never will attack. It just goads the PC's into attacking it. If they whale on it enough, the dust turns into a ghost. The 14th level pregen cleric can turn the Ghost if he rolls 7 or better on a d20. Otherwise, IIRC, ghosts are pretty nasty monsters to fight. So leave it alone and just scoop all the loot up into a sack.
I think the odds of the PCs fighting this thing depend on how the DM describes and plays the scene, especially compared to how he has described and played monster encounters before, (in this Tomb and in his campaign). And how intent he is on tricking the Players/PCs into fighting it.

Acererak won't bother you if you don't bother him. Let me repeat that. Nothing bad will happen if you leave the skull alone. However, "if any character is so foolish as to touch the skull of the demi-lich, a terrible thing occurs." The skull floats up into the air and automatically drains one PC's soul. The PC dies. Acererak settles back down, "sated." He will only attack a second time if you keep hassling him. Every time anybody touches or attacks the skull, it pops up and murders somebody. But it only attacks in retaliation. If you leave it alone, you can loot the tomb in peace.
To put the temptation in perspective: the jewels set in the skull are worth a total of 130,000gp. That's a pretty hefty gp and xp score in a pretty small, (and easily portable), package.

jonesy said:
And then the mountain of wisdom and luck that the rogue had been up to this point goes and picks up the skull. And the fighters player is shouting "No! No! Put it down!"
<snip>
In the end it was pointless when we realized that it was the fighter whose soul Acererak wanted, and he acts instantaneously (since he chooses a mage over a fighter over a cleric over a thief).
Acererak's choice of "most powerful" classes is kind of odd. In A's, (Gygax's?), estimation, magic-user > fighter > cleric > thief. Is it ironic that the class most likely to disturb A's skull is the last to be targeted for destruction by the skull?

But after the skull kills one PC, why keep fooling around with it?
I think this will again depend on how the DM describes and plays the skull rising and draining. The text says the skull rises and scans the party before draining, and then goes back to rest. If the DM describes the skull going back to rest immediately, I could see it killing only one PC. But if the DM has a pause between the soul drain and the going to rest, I could see the Players/PCs assuming it will continue to kill unless it is stopped. In that case, I could see a TPK coming from the battle. (Does touching with a weapon or spell count to activate the skull's retribution?)

What if the PCs scoop up the skull in a bag of holding or something? I'm picturing an Indiana Jones slight of hand maneuver, <swip> "Got it. Let's go."

And Acererak's vulnerabilities are weird. A ranger with a Sword of Sharpness can hurt him. A fighter with the same weapon is screwed. A magic-user casting Power Word Kill is wasting his time, unless he becomes ethereal or astral first. Then, the spell will automatically kill Mr. A.
Yeah, the very specific weaknesses of the demi-lich are really weird. Not only the spells, and the fighter-ranger-paladin weapon choices, but a thief using a crypt gem does 1 hp damage per 10,000gp value of the gem -- but only one of the 3 gems found in the crypt, (valued at 10k, 50k, and 100k, so a total of 16 hp damage possible that way)?

Bullgrit
 
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Hussar

Legend
Bullgrit said:
Acererak's choice of "most powerful" classes is kind of odd. In A's, (Gygax's?), estimation, magic-user > fighter > cleric > thief. Is it ironic that the class most likely to disturb A's skull is the last to be targeted for destruction by the skull?

Funny how even in 1976, it was recognized that wizards were the top of the heap for power. :D

IIRC, didn't a holy avenger or +5 weapons do full damage? It's been many, many years, but, we did this adventure after doing G/D/Q and my paladin had a holy avenger and a hammer of thunderbolts (hey, sue me, we were like 12 years old :p ). As I recall, we smooshed the skull in one round. Hammer dumps out like 50 points of damage in a hit and at +5 (plus another 3 for gauntlets plus another 4 or 5 for girdle of giant strength which the hammer lets you stack) the odds of me missing were very, very small.
 

A

amerigoV

Guest
F It's been many, many years, but, we did this adventure after doing G/D/Q and my paladin had a holy avenger and a hammer of thunderbolts (hey, sue me, we were like 12 years old :p ). As I recall, we smooshed the skull in one round. Hammer dumps out like 50 points of damage in a hit and at +5 (plus another 3 for gauntlets plus another 4 or 5 for girdle of giant strength which the hammer lets you stack) the odds of me missing were very, very small.

I cannot XP you, but a legit roll on the treasure tables resulting in a Hammer of Thunderbolts for my PC later resulted in the DM putting big "Xs" through much of the DMG treasure system :)

Good times.

Merry Christmas Acererak!
 

Votan

Explorer
Astral Spell (Evocation) is a ninth level spell.

Astral Spell (Alteration) is a seventh level spell.

Fair enough. On the other hand, don't you get attacked by demons if you go astral inside the tomb? 1E magic users generally feared melee creatures like that and so you'd really need to know the combo in advance to even try for it.
 

jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
Fair enough. On the other hand, don't you get attacked by demons if you go astral inside the tomb? 1E magic users generally feared melee creatures like that and so you'd really need to know the combo in advance to even try for it.
We already talked about the demons earlier in the thread. They aren't much of a threat compared to the stuff in the Tomb. Just extra exp.

Although, if they did appear at this late stage it would make the final confrontation that much trickier. Imagine killing Acererak and then getting pasted by his pets.
 

Squire James

First Post
The Protection from Evil spell is not a panacea, but it can definitely hold the demons at bay long enough for Mordenkainen to finish the job. That was clearly who Gary was thinking of when he crafted the Power Word Kill vulnerability. As nice a guy he was in other respects, I can easily imagine him giving a post-Tomb group of players a smug grin followed by the statement that his character could have solved the whole Tomb in about 15 minutes!
 

Stoat

Adventurer
IIRC, didn't a holy avenger or +5 weapons do full damage? It's been many, many years, but, we did this adventure after doing G/D/Q and my paladin had a holy avenger and a hammer of thunderbolts (hey, sue me, we were like 12 years old :p ). As I recall, we smooshed the skull in one round. Hammer dumps out like 50 points of damage in a hit and at +5 (plus another 3 for gauntlets plus another 4 or 5 for girdle of giant strength which the hammer lets you stack) the odds of me missing were very, very small.

As far as weapons go, Big A worries about the following:

Fighter: Vorpal Blade
Ranger: Sword of Sharpness, Vorpal Blade, +5 weapon
Paladin: Sword of Sharpness, Vorpal Blade, +5 weapon, +4 weapon.

He's AC -6 and has 50 hit points.
 

jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
What are your opinions on this line:

Destruction of the demilich earns a suggested 100,000 experience points.
No, not that one. The one right after it:
This considers all actions within the Tomb of Horrors to gain the crypt. Treasure taken out should add an additional 1 experience point for every 2gp of value.
"..all actions within the Tomb of Horrors to gain the crypt.."

So, if they got to the crypt, but didn't kill Acererak, and still got out with the treasure, what would YOU give them?
 

Bullgrit

First Post
Tomb of Horrors said:
Treasure taken out should add an additional 1 experience point for every 2gp of value.
Is there any other published module that has such a statement about the gp-to-xp award? I have often wondered why Gygax halved the gp-to-xp award for the Tomb.

Bullgrit
 

Hussar

Legend
As far as weapons go, Big A worries about the following:

Fighter: Vorpal Blade
Ranger: Sword of Sharpness, Vorpal Blade, +5 weapon
Paladin: Sword of Sharpness, Vorpal Blade, +5 weapon, +4 weapon.

He's AC -6 and has 50 hit points.

Ahh, then I did remember it rightly. Paladin with Hammer of Thunderbolts=squished Acererak.
 

jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
Is there any other published module that has such a statement about the gp-to-xp award? I have often wondered why Gygax halved the gp-to-xp award for the Tomb.
I can't recall the same type of experience alteration, but Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth does have a fairly complex section about giving out experience for the treasure found. It talks about stockpiling treasure, only rewarding for treasure taken to civilization, only giving out 90% value in Gnome Vale, giving less for 'poor play', letting 'good players' train their characters on a level up without needing to go back to civilization, and even disallowing 'poor players' to level up at all.
 

Bullgrit

First Post
I wrote up the treasure and xp available in the Tomb of Horrors on my Treasure and Experience in Classic D&D Adventures page on my web site. Here is the info from that research and page:

* * *

Tomb of Horrors

Tomb of Horrors
by Gary Gygax

An adventure for character levels 10-14, for AD&D1.

Total gp value:* 305,790 gp

Total magic treasure:**
gem of seeing (12 uses, which will probably all be used up in the Tomb)
+1 ring of protection (which will probably be destroyed in the Tomb)
6 healing potions
scroll of 7 spells (1st & 2nd level spells only)
ring of fire resistance
potion of dimunition
flail +1
sword of defending +4
“cursed sword” x2 (no explanation for which kind of cursed sword)
cursed spear of back biting
12 potions (rolled for randomly)
6 scrolls (rolled for randomly)
1 ring (rolled for randomly)
1 rod (rolled for randomly)
1 staff (rolled for randomly)
3 miscellaneous magic items (rolled for randomly)

* Not included in the gp value above: Acererak’s skull contains 130,000 gp worth of gems. [Also see commentary below.]

** There are a few ways Tomb raiders can have [all] their items stripped from them and collected in the last chamber. If those characters died or gave up the adventure, their items can be found and recovered by successful parties. (Finders keepers, losers weepers!) [Also see commentary below.]

————————————

Commentary

I didn’t include the value of Acererak’s skull gems for three reasons:

1. I’ve seen some posit that Acererak’s skull is actually the last trap/test in the Tomb. PCs should leave it alone and just take the other treasure.

2. Whenever the skull is touched, it rises and drains the soul, (no save), of a character, (not necessarily the character who touched it). The method of killing the skull is so convoluted that it is doubtful the PCs will manage the feat on the spot.

3. If the adventurers do manage to kill the skull, they must crush the gems in the skull to release drained souls.

So the likelihood of gaining even some of the skull’s gems is very low.

There is a relatively very small amount of more treasure or magic items that can be gained, (and lost), in one chamber of the Tomb, but the actual item is determined randomly.

As for xp value in this adventure:

Treasure xp is half the normal, (1xp per 2gp value), so without defeating Acererak’s skull, the total xp value of this tomb raid is 152,895 xp. Defeating the skull adds 100,000 xp to the total, for 252,895 xp. So 150K or 250K xp to be split among the surviving characters. (Six surviving characters = 25,483 or 42,149 xp each. For reference: a 12th level fighter needs 250,ooo xp for 13th level; a magic-user needs 375,000 xp.)

Compare all of this to the total gp and xp that can be earned in Hall of the Fire Giant King (the adventure of equivalent level): 1 million gp, 1.6 million xp — 3.5 times more gp, and 10.6 or 6.4 times more xp.

Bullgrit
 

Bullgrit

First Post
jonesy said:
What are your opinions on this line:

ToH said:
Destruction of the demilich earns a suggested 100,000 experience points.
No, not that one. The one right after it:
ToH said:
This considers all actions within the Tomb of Horrors to gain the crypt. Treasure taken out should add an additional 1 experience point for every 2gp of value.
"..all actions within the Tomb of Horrors to gain the crypt.."

So, if they got to the crypt, but didn't kill Acererak, and still got out with the treasure, what would YOU give them?
Jonesy, that is a very good question. As you can see in my above post, I took this to mean that destroying the skull gave 100,000 xp, but you could still get xp (halved) from all the other gp looted from the Tomb. But that "all actions within the Tomb of Horrors to gain the crypt" line does complicate the idea. No other boss monster in other adventures has this kind of note about their xp awards.

Bullgrit
 
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