REVIEW: Tomb of Horrors. By Gary Gygax

1. What kind of adventure is it? (Location based? Dungeon? Town? Etc.)

This is a thinking man’s meat grinder style dungeon crawl in a trap infested tomb of a legendary demi-lich.

2. How long is it?

It is fairly long, took me roughly 5 (maybe 6), 4.5hr sessions to get through the entire dungeon. This includes additional roleplaying, dream sequences, random monsters I dropped in for my pleasure, and a unique “Dungeon Collapse” game sequence I created where the players had to flee the dungeon before they were irreparably crushed by the crumbling tomb.

3. Were there any particularly noteworthy things in it? (Monsters, traps, plot ideas, mechanics, etc.)

This is mother of all Death-Trap Dungeons. The Tomb of Horrors was created by the evil Demi-Lich Acererak not as a tomb or stronghold, but literally to entice heroes to overcome the obstacles within and attain great treasure, so that when they die, their soul is siphoned into the magical aura of the tomb strengthening Acererak and his eventual ascension to Godhood. If this sounds rather brutal, it’s because it is. Everything is a trap, or misleading, or dangerous in one way or another. Thus making it a delight to run.

Of particular note is the elemental vortex trap. Players here sounds of many people, laughing talking and playing music down a corridor, just beyond a door. When the door is opened they see a long hallway and the sound of people running away. Once they move into the hall, BAM, the floor drops down on the far end creating an intense slope, culminating in an elemental vortex attempting to suck them in and destroy them.

The caveat to this trap is that it is not THAT hard to escape from, however, if a player takes lots of damage and gets sucked into the elemental vent, and then dies. HE IS WHOLLY CONSUMED. Body, armor, weapon, and soul, nothing is recovered from his death. This makes it exceedingly difficult to Raise Dead since it requires a piece of the body. Yes dangerous indeed.

There are too many interesting traps and monsters to go through but most of them were enjoyable such as the many pillared hall, and room with three vats.

4. What sort of vibe is going on in it? (Creepy? Gonzo? Sword and sorcery? Chivalry? etc.)

This whole dungeon is a creepy sorcery feel to it. Once they enter and set off a few traps and realize just what kind of sadistic and deadly dungeon they are dealing with, the mood changes accordingly.

5. Would you run it? Why or why not?

Absolutely. This is the dungeon that I wish someone had run for me. There are puzzles galore and lots of fun and interesting details that went into making it. (Thanks Gary). However, it must be run correctly for the right group. If you have a hack and slash party, which just wants encounters every session, you should think twice about this dungeon. I sprinkled in a few extra minor encounters just for that reason, since there can be considerable time before monster based combat.

6. Does it resemble anything we might’ve seen before?

This is the original Deadly Dungeon, however I am sure there are other similar deathtraps out there. The neat part about this is that was written by Gary Gygax himself, and his a unique flavor to the text as well as the art. I will say though that death comes easily in this dungeon but not unwarranted. There are no instant death, no save, for no reason, traps herein. Things that cause severe injury usually are triggered by something a character does specifically. Like touch the altar, walk through the portal, pull the lever, etc. I fine balance of caution and bold action will create a memorable and dangerous game the likes of which are hard to top.

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