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

Hussar

Legend
There's at least two examples of intelligent play in handling the last encounter.

Robilar (Rob Kuntz) fled after scooping up as much treasure as possible rather than fight the demi-lich (not sure if he touched it or not, I would guess not).

The tournament winning group that used the scepter and crown solution.
How is the first one actually intelligent behavior though? How would you know that this actually was a monster? Remember, this is 1976. You've got a skull full of honking big gems. You've already "defeated" the ghost that was guarding everything. What would tell you "Don't touch the skull"?

Now the scepter/crown thing? That's cool and creative. But, remember, you had to sacrifice at least one character (either PC or NPC) to get to that solution.
 

jmucchiello

Adventurer
4) Get a custom helmet with a solid metal visor. Attached a rod to the back (or a loop to the top- any way you can carry it while guaranteeing it's always facing away from you). Apply Sovereign Glue to the inside and capture the skull from behind like a big metal butterfly net. Now you've got a Demi-Lich-powered Death Ray! (tm) Shake > point at foe > raise visor.
Too much Belkar for you. Giant In the Playground Games
 

GQuail

Villager
I'm sorry to see the end of this thread. I enjoyed it a great deal and it has been the only thread I've been following on ENWorld for months. (And before it, I hadn't checked the site out in ages.)

As well as a good, in-depth analysis I also enjoyed it because during it's run I ran my 3.5-era players through a game of 1E and the Tomb of Horrors. It was interesting comparing the comments about "Smart players will do this/no-one would be fooled by that/etc" with their actual in play reaction, especially as none of them have the 1E mindset but they all knjow a bit of the modules reputation as a deathtrap.

I think this thread definitely makes it hard to argue any real logic in the traps placed in the Tomb. The dungeon is fun, yes - with the right mindset, watching your group fail and get pulped/poisoned/sex changed can be quite amusing - and you can argue that it makes sense that this mega-evil-mega-genius demilich would trap his dungeon appropriately. Still, it is hard to find any pattern of any sort and lots of moments in the dungeon do amount to guesses and random chance.

I mentioned our experience activating the many-armed gargoyle statue and how much time that took - that was enormous fun but is exactly the sort of thing the Tomb is full of. Will doing this action be positive or negative? No evidence exists to deduce it beyond just trying and hoping for the best!

I'm not sure I'd "fix" the Tomb per se, since I still found it enjoyable, but I think it's better to play up the reputation of "challenging module to get out of alive" and ignore the sentence "unless you're a superior player". Victory in the Tomb of Horrors is as likely to dependant on coin flips as it is on player skill.
 

Bullgrit

Villager
Stoat said:
IMO, anyone advocating the "walkthrough" theory of the Tomb has to account (at least) for the following:
On this "walkthrough" idea:

We have reviewed everything in the ToH, now, and so we have all the answers. We have the ultimate "walkthrough." Question: Knowing everything, is it possible to go through and complete the Tomb without relying on any good luck, (or any non-bad luck)?

I think Stoat does a good job answering this question in this post: http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/306885-wir-s1-tomb-horrors-spoilers-spoilers-everywhere-16.html#post5763064

So it seems the answer to my question is, No, even knowing all the correct things to do and avoid, there is no way to get through the Tomb with no reliance on some luck.

What is the bare minimum party (number of characters, classes needed, levels, etc.) that can complete the Tomb? It seems that thieves and fighters aren't necessarily required, but leveled magic-users and clerics may be. The old legend about a novice thief getting through it seems bogus, unless that thief got extremely lucky with saves and used scrolls to cast certain spells. I mean, to get the second key, you have to make a spell save, and to get past the area 17? secret door requires detect magic, and either dispel magic or remove curse -- and this is just a couple situations off the top of my head, without going back and looking for others.

And something more: Say the DM is of the antagonistic bent, and wants to interpret the vague stuff in the most bastard way, (but a legitimate, rules-legal way), can he stop even Players who have read and memorized the module?

Bullgrit
 
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FoxWander

Villager
Question: Knowing everything, is it possible to go through and complete the Tomb without relying on any good luck, (or any non-bad luck)?
<snip>
What is the bare minimum party (number of characters, classes needed, levels, etc.) that can complete the Tomb?
I think it's entirely possible to get through the Tomb without relying on luck. A single magic-user who can cast 3rd level spells (although 5th level spells makes it even easier) could get through unscathed. In fact, of the pregens in the module #10 is both the correct classes/levels and ideally equipped for the task. He (or she) can cast 3rd level spells as both a cleric and a magic-user- so the requisite detect/dispel magic is covered as well as magical healing, food, and water creation to take as long as needed. Plus he's got the Boots of Levitation which bypass 90% of the traps.

For the most part you simply follow Stoat's excellent guide, so I'll just cover the tricky parts…
  • The secret door to area 14, the Chapel - Cast Knock. Who cares how hard it is to find. 1) it's quite logical to expect one to be there and 2) we're already assuming an all-knowing perspective.
  • The secret door at area 17 - As stated, any cleric/m-u level 5+ can cast the necessary spells- pregen #10 is both.
  • The First Key - Unseen Servant can get the first part and any number of spells can kill the ochre jelly to get the second part.
  • Area 21, The Agitated Chamber - Boots of levitation FTW! Since there's no need to touch the floor anywhere in the Tomb, why should this room be any different.
  • Area 23, The False/True door - Again, knowing the doors are there, cast Knock to open them both. Go down the stairs and skip the juggernaut completely.
  • Area 28, The Wonderous Foyer - Avoid dealing with the Antipathy spell on the Second Key completely by picking it via Unseen Servant. Alternatively, Animate Dead is only a 3rd level cleric spell. Have an undead servant pick up and carry the key. Just bring enough to deal with a few failed saves, eventually one of them will get lucky.
  • Area 29, The Valves of Mithral - To figure out the scepter/key problem again, pick a servant type, either unseen or undead. Either way, the Valves get open with no risk to you.
  • Area 30, The False Treasure Room - The problem here is moving that darn statue. Luckily there's an efreet available. Or you can simply bring a block-and-tackle with enough rope to multiply the character's own strength (remember- this is one strong half-elf at an 18/62!) sufficiently.
  • Area 33, The Crypt! - Honestly, this character has no real chance of "defeating" the lich aside from the crown and scepter trick. But he can still simply loot everything in sight while ignoring the fake ghost and the skull.
But there you go- a one-character walkthough that shouldn't result in a single lost hit point!
 

Freakohollik

Villager
A lot of posters are claiming that this is a "bomb squad" module and not a "thinking person's" module. I don't see these things as mutually exclusive and it seems that Gygax didn't either. I would say that most of the bomb squad elements are what makes this a thinking person's module.

I feel that a lot of posters think that the module should have a solution to all the problems written into the module. Instead, solutions are often left out and the task is placed soley on the party to figure out what to do. And if even if you do die, you can just get resurrected.
 

Hussar

Legend
Frekaohollik - the problem is though, it's billed as "thinking man's" module. Infinite monkeys typing is not a thinking man solution, it's inelegant and brute force. Some of the solutions really do come down to flipping a coin - there is no possible way to deduce the right course of action without trial and error.

I guess that's where I get off the train. If I have to simply guess the right answer, that's not thinking, that's just grunt work.
 

jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
Systematic use of trial and error *is* intelligent play.
I'd argue that it is a parallel issue here, and not directly causal.

Trial and error gives you a collection of experience and guidelines.

The right collection makes you intelligent.

The wrong collection just makes you likely to succumb to a dumb error.

The Tomb requires one not to stagnate to a particular style, i.e. to do what experience has shown as working in the earlier rooms, because the Tomb switches styles on you. What worked before may kill you on the next hurdle. Sometimes you've got to be all touchy feely all over the place, other times keep your fingers off or you'll lose them. So every single location requires its own set of trial and error.

Unless you're playing as Bigby. ;)

Or doing a massive overuse of Augury.

I pity the DM who tries to run the module for a group that actually does all of the proper precautions. Oh, the time it'll take to get through one room.
 

Freakohollik

Villager
Frekaohollik - the problem is though, it's billed as "thinking man's" module. Infinite monkeys typing is not a thinking man solution, it's inelegant and brute force. Some of the solutions really do come down to flipping a coin - there is no possible way to deduce the right course of action without trial and error.

I guess that's where I get off the train. If I have to simply guess the right answer, that's not thinking, that's just grunt work.
Yeah a lot of it is trial and error. That's the key. Find ways to try things without getting yourself killed.
 

Maggan

Explorer
Trial and terror

It's trial and error that will take me as a player through the Tomb. The problem for me is the meta aspect of that. To apply the experience from one run where my PC was killed, I have to rely on knowledge that I as a player has gathered, but which really shouldn't be available to my PC.

And if I willfully disregard that meta knowledge, and go into the Tomb expecting to solve it, my PC will in all probability die. That makes the Tomb a module not suited for my tastes.

Still is a classic module, of course.

/M
 

Bullgrit

Villager
Freakohollik said:
A lot of posters are claiming that this is a "bomb squad" module and not a "thinking person's" module. I don't see these things as mutually exclusive and it seems that Gygax didn't either. I would say that most of the bomb squad elements are what makes this a thinking person's module.

I feel that a lot of posters think that the module should have a solution to all the problems written into the module. Instead, solutions are often left out and the task is placed soley on the party to figure out what to do. And if even if you do die, you can just get resurrected.
Yes, meticulous bomb squad-style play is a sort of thinking play. But as I've mentioned several times through this thread, that is not the style of play many of ToH fans portray it as.

This is not a matter of some of us wanting ToH to be different than it is, it's a matter of so many ToH fans telling us it is different than it is.

For instance, read this description of ToH:
First, TOH is primarily a test of player ability and not of character ability. There is almost no combat in TOH. There are very few saving throws in TOH. There are numerous traps that by pass hit points completely. Until the very final encounter, which seems by intention to be one that the wiser player avoids, what is on your character sheet is almost irrelevant in determining whether you succeed in the module.

Secondly, this amounts to a spoiler of some sort, but Tomb of Horrors is fair. Acererak plays fair. He's so uncannily and unusually fair given his apparant goal (killing adventurers) that it had to be lamp shaded and explained in the game universe in 'Return to the Tomb of Horrors'. He's not using reverse psychology on the players to force them into guessing what's behind door #2. If you must guess whether to go left or right, then success depends largely on luck. Acererak follows a pattern and sticks to it, so that with care you really don't have to guess after you successfully enter the tomb. If success depends on hitting the target AC or making a saving throw or doing enough damage when rolling damage, then success is at least in part luck and even a party which makes the correct choices might still be defeated in the module. Tomb of Horrors is almost entirely singular in being a killer dungeon where this is not true. If you make the right choices, you can 'beat the dungeon' with practically a party of 1st levels. Of course, with 1st level characters you'd practically have to be perfect in your play, to the extent that I think no one could do it without having first read the text, but really to 'beat the dungeon' requires you to make no big mistakes in play anyway and so even 10th level characters only gain the ability to survive minor mistakes.

This is the main reason why Tomb of Horrors has acquired such a reputation. It really is entirely different from everything else. S2 'White Plume Mountain' is a killer dungeon, but its often a killer dungeon in the obvious sense of having very dangerous monsters. The puzzles are still there, but environment is reduced to being only an equal threat and challenge. A first level party even making all the right decisions still has no chance of defeating the module, because so many dangerous monsters stand in the way. By something like S4: 'Caverns of Tsojcanth' its almost entirely the dangerous monsters and the ability to make saving throws and use your characters abilities effectively that determines success. It's not remotely the same sort of dungeon.
This post, here on ENWorld, received a bunch of xp awards with comments like, "Great analysis," "Exactly right," "Very good explanation."

So many people think/believe/espouse the above as truth about ToH. But as we've seen in this thread, most of it is completely and demonstrably false.

Now, I'm not calling out the particular poster who said all the above, nor the people who gave the post xp. It is just one of many examples around here, (and from outside ENWorld), but it is a recent and extensive example, and it is from the thread that prompted Stoat to start this particular discussion.

I feel that a lot of posters think that the module should have a solution to all the problems written into the module.
No, it's that we have always been told that the module gives a solution to all the problems. But it doesn't. And we're left wondering why this has been misrepresented to us.

Again, this is not all to say that ToH isn't, or doesn't deserve to be, a legendary classic D&D module. It's just very odd that ToH's biggest fans describe it as something very different than what it actually is. The way the ToH's fans describe it, I would think I'd love it. I'd love to run/play a module with the style and features it is said to have. But when you read/play the actual module as written, it's very disappointing to see that it is not at all like how it is described.

It's like hearing that a particular movie is a deep mystery story, but when you watch it you see it's actually a thriller horror flick. When you complain that it's a horror flick, someone else comes back with, "What did you want? A mystery story?" Well, yeah, that's what I was told it would be.

Bullgrit
 

FoxWander

Villager
For instance, read this description of ToH:This post, here on ENWorld, received a bunch of xp awards with comments like, "Great analysis," "Exactly right," "Very good explanation."

So many people think/believe/espouse the above as truth about ToH. But as we've seen in this thread, most of it is completely and demonstrably false.

Now, I'm not calling out the particular poster who said all the above, nor the people who gave the post xp. It is just one of many examples around here, (and from outside ENWorld), but it is a recent and extensive example, and it is from the thread that prompted Stoat to start this particular discussion.
Wow, the people who agreed with that post must have played a different Tomb of Horrors than I did because they couldn't be more wro... Oh yeah, I'm the guy quoted as "Exactly right," up there. :p But that does go to prove the point I made a few pages ago (here). Nostalgia and misremembering a lot (apparently QUITE a lot) of the details accounts for much of that, as we've learned here, mistaken idea of what the Tomb is. However, in keeping with the post I linked to above, I will say that I still stand by my XP comment to that other post in regards to how the Tomb felt (as far as how I remembered it at the time)- unfortunately that feeling does mesh with the actual analysis and details of the Tomb.
 

Remus Lupin

Explorer
I wonder if part of the issue is the difference between how it is experienced as a player vs. how it is experienced as a DM. If you're a player, and you've got a decent DM, and you've never actually read the module yourself, you may walk away thinking that the whole thing was "fair," because it was never apparent to you just how arbitrary it all was.
 

Swedish Chef

Villager
I wonder if part of the issue is the difference between how it is experienced as a player vs. how it is experienced as a DM. If you're a player, and you've got a decent DM, and you've never actually read the module yourself, you may walk away thinking that the whole thing was "fair," because it was never apparent to you just how arbitrary it all was.
I think this sums it up completely. I've followed the thread right from the start. I ran the ToH for my 3ed group a few years ago and this is exactly how it played out. I read and re-read the module several times. I made notes of things that I felt needed to be changed as they weren't clear to me, so they'd be even less clear for the players. I decided what sort of searches would reveal what secrets/clues/traps in a given area. I was the one that helped make the module "fair" for the players. Whether I succeeded in that is up to my players to tell you, but I believe so, as no one complained about it at the end.

I think the majority of "classic" modules are viewed that way for two reasons. 1) There was a shared continuity at the time. There weren't many published modules available, so pretty much everyone played several of them at some point in time before DMs started scripting their own and 2) many DMs at the time relied more on their own judgement for written modules as many of them had such flaws in their descriptive text.

I'm not putting down today's modules. I enjoy running many of them, as it is just easier, especially with all the new rules. But a relatively simpler game back then resulted in relatively simpler modules which, conversely, required DMs to invest more creative thinking into running them. And I think that creative thinking is what makes the difference.
 

Freakohollik

Villager
Yes, meticulous bomb squad-style play is a sort of thinking play. But as I've mentioned several times through this thread, that is not the style of play many of ToH fans portray it as.

This is not a matter of some of us wanting ToH to be different than it is, it's a matter of so many ToH fans telling us it is different than it is.

For instance, read this description of ToH:This post, here on ENWorld, received a bunch of xp awards with comments like, "Great analysis," "Exactly right," "Very good explanation."

So many people think/believe/espouse the above as truth about ToH. But as we've seen in this thread, most of it is completely and demonstrably false.

Now, I'm not calling out the particular poster who said all the above, nor the people who gave the post xp. It is just one of many examples around here, (and from outside ENWorld), but it is a recent and extensive example, and it is from the thread that prompted Stoat to start this particular discussion.

No, it's that we have always been told that the module gives a solution to all the problems. But it doesn't. And we're left wondering why this has been misrepresented to us.

Again, this is not all to say that ToH isn't, or doesn't deserve to be, a legendary classic D&D module. It's just very odd that ToH's biggest fans describe it as something very different than what it actually is. The way the ToH's fans describe it, I would think I'd love it. I'd love to run/play a module with the style and features it is said to have. But when you read/play the actual module as written, it's very disappointing to see that it is not at all like how it is described.

It's like hearing that a particular movie is a deep mystery story, but when you watch it you see it's actually a thriller horror flick. When you complain that it's a horror flick, someone else comes back with, "What did you want? A mystery story?" Well, yeah, that's what I was told it would be.

Bullgrit
Fair enough. I agree with the majority of the quote you posted, but I can see how such descriptions would give the wrong impression of the module. The "Acererak follows a pattern and sticks to it, so that with care you really don't have to guess after you successfully enter the tomb." line is outwright wrong and is the most misleading part.
 

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