Yes, we have to give at least a little slack in our critique of things like this. We have to remember that when Gygax wrote this, (and other things of the very early era), he may have had a relatively very large game group for play testing, but even a few dozen players under one DM doesn't give the vast array of ideas that thousands and thousands of players under hundreds and hundreds of DMs give.Hussar said:Votan - to be fair, in AD&D, there are ALL sorts of things like this. You could abuse stuff six ways from Sunday because they hadn't really come to grips yet with legalese rules codification to prevent it.
Just because the Players in one group don't abuse or break something doesn't mean that others won't try. And a designer, especially in the beginning stage of the game, can be forgiven for not thinking of every possible abuse someone else could think of.
Sure, Gygax's group may not have thought to put effort into something like looting the adamantite and mithril doors from the Tomb; they may have all agreed, (probably passively and unspokenly), that PCs don't deconstruct the dungeons. Heck, I could even imagine Gygax making the excavation work extremely difficult and dangerous just to discourage those who did think of and try it. That was his style, (judging from what I've read of his style). "You didn't have the proper amount of support for the scaffolding around the adamantite door, so it falls, crushing the fighter. No save. He's dead." He admitted in several articles that he made rulings like that to punish tricksy Players. It was his style for keeping control of abuse.
When I critique the Tomb of Horrors, I try not to judge it by how devious Players could twist and undermine things in ways the designer didn't expect. I try to judge it on things the designer intentionally designed and planned.
For instance, the scepter and crown and the wishing gem are things that, yes, could be crazy powerful when taken outside the Tomb by Players/PCs. But I think it's apparent that the designer didn't intend or consider that when making this module. Taking non-treasure things out of the Tomb weren't part of the plan, and so the designer shouldn't be too derided for that oversight.
But, for me, it's the designer's intent within the framework of the Tomb that bothers me. The various arbitrary things stick in my craw.
In one area, detection spells don't work at all. But the Players/PCs have no way of knowing they don't work there. They cast detect X and get no pings. Does that mean there's no X? Or did the spell just not work at all? Then in another area, detection spells work, but they give false positives. Then in another area, detection spells are required as the only method of finding/discovering something.
And then you have situations where you must cast specific spells in ways that don't intuitively/thematically/logically fit the spell. Like using remove curse to unlock a door. Can you fault a Player for not making the mental connection that a lock could be a curse? Or the spells useful against the demi-lich's skull. Disintegrate is useless, but shatter does 10 hp damage? A thief using magical sling stones does nothing, but a thief using very expensive gems found in the demi-lich's treasure pile is effective?
It's these things that Gygax intentionally designed into the Tomb that make the adventure faulty, to me. Requiring the Players/PCs to search everything in one area so they can move forward, but then punishing the Players/PCs for searching in the next area is a fault.
Rewarding blind leaps in one area, but punishing such in another is a fault.
Preventing certain actions in one area, but requiring them in another area is a fault.
Now, I have to admit, that my calling these things "faults" comes from angle of the premise that all the hype about the Tomb is accurate. The hyped premise that the Tomb is fair and gives clues and is logical. That premise is how I like my "thinking person's" adventures.
But, to be honest, I don't think that Gygax intended the Tomb to be fair and logical. I think he intended it to be a pure madhouse of aggravation with harm and death. I mean, he designs many areas with a spectacle of dungeon dressing and designs and colors, all screaming out to be considered for/as clues. But in the end, nothing there is actually a clue or hint.
It's like being handed a kaleidoscope and mistaking it for, (and trying to use it as), a telescope. Or being handed Rorschach cards and mistaking them for, (and trying to use them as), clue notes.
Presuming that the Tomb is designed, (by Acererak), as a logical and "fair" challenge is the first mistake of the Players/PCs. Trying to use any of the presented information as logical and "fair" clues is the second mistake of the Players/PCs. [Going to and into the Tomb at all is Mistake Zero.]
Tomb of Horrors is to standard D&D what Paranoia is to standard RPGs.