Footprints #17 – The (False) Tomb of Horrors


by Joseph Pallai
Freely Distributed by Dragonsfoot
Levels 12-14

It’s the Tomb of Horrors. Do you like the Tomb of Horrors? If you do then you’ll like this. If you think the Tomb is a pain in the ass and not much fun then you won’t like this. Oh, and the intro states that S1 is Gygax’s masterpiece. BZZZZ. Thanks for playing.

This Tomb is meant to be played prior to the real one. It has several clues to the location of the real Tomb of Horrors and some misleading encounters that will help the party get the full Tomb of Horrors experiences once they make it there. For example, there’s a green devil face whose mouth can be climbed in to and searched. This would tend to encourage players to do the same in the real Tomb, to predictable results. There are several encounters like this and several themes repeated, such as the hunt for triple keys to unlock things, etc. The triple entrance seems to be favorite of Tomb of Horrors clones and it makes an appearance once again here.

I find it super interesting that Acererak would leave real treasure in his false tomb, as well as clues to his real tomb. What’s the point of that buddy? A throne set with giant expensive rubies? What, are you just tossing those out, they aren’t worth putting in your main tomb? And why do you have that Mist of Miracles in your tomb? To give robbers wishes and experience levels? I think not. Weird.

As for the rest, you know the deal. Save or Die. Touch it and take damage. Demons materialize in. Die with no save. Go blind with no save. Generic treasure. Generic magic items Generic monsters. Yeah, it’s s super deadly tomb and the room entries are long, just like in S1. Yeah, there’s a lot set pieces and a lot of stuff that has to be used in just the right way and a lot of pixel-bitching traps and secrets and the like. It’s the Tomb. That’s what the Tomb is.

Want a Tomb of Horrors? Go get this. Or The Howling Hills. Or anything by Alphonso Warden. Those all think The Tomb is a Gygax masterpiece also. If you think the Tomb of Horrors did real damage to D&D by teaching the wrong lessons, like, say, “it’s Gygax’s masterpiece!” then this ain’t for you. Or me.

(Although … using Howling Hills and this adventure just before the actual Tomb could be cool. A kind of trail with some practice runs. If you and you players are masochists.)

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6 Responses to Footprints #17 – The (False) Tomb of Horrors

  1. “I find it super interesting that Acererak would leave real treasure in his false tomb, as well as clues to his real tomb. What’s the point of that buddy?”

    To encourage more death, of course. Jeez, you’re just not channeling your inner sadistic evil demi-lich today. He imprisoned a siren in his actual tomb, why? Because he’s frickin’ Acerak, that’s why. This is a guy who find humor in changing a PC’s gender and teleporting them back to the start of the dungeon naked. If he didn’t want to inflict misery, why not have the same teleportation trap in the very first door that sends all interlopers smack dab into a volcano caldera? Tomb robber problem solved. He WANTS PCs to enter the deathrap. He needs all that adventurer’s blood for the awesome blood trap. The module specifically cites false tombs.

    All joking aside, ToH definitely has its place in AD&D and isn’t at all outside of the game as intended; it just dials the mandatory “trap/trick” dungeon component up to 11. High-level modules require high-level play. The actual playtest of the module demonstrates that: Rob Kuntz rolled all over Gygax’s carefully (and maliciously)-laid plans. One lone PC (albeit with an army of minions) played by an equally diabolical player defeated ToH. 😉

  2. John Klemme says:

    I’ve been converting OSR/AD&D modules to GURPS and running them to great effect (in my and my player’s opinions). This sounds like something that would be best ran as a funnel, and of course tweaking those no save things to very hard saves XD

  3. PrinceofNothing says:

    The tragedy of S1 is that it was made for a very specific purpose, to punish monte-haul players that had advanced far beyond their actual skill level by nerfing their high level powers and forcing them to use their dungeon crawling abilities that they should have mastered before attaining such a level to survive, and it succeeds brilliantly. It is the Terminus Est, the dividing line, are you a bad enough dude etc. etc.
    The problem is that this ethos was applied to high level design in general, and there it did irreparable damage and created a tonne of shit modules.

    You only need one Tomb of Horrors. Instead the hobby is polluted with a million inferior copies.

    • OSR Fundamentalist says:

      Nah, Greg Gillespie needs to write a 1000-room Tomb of Horrors homage megadungeon. Then we’ll have all the Tombs of Horrors we need.

    • PrinceofNothing says:

      Gillespie is good, I prefer Curtis, but Gillespie is no slouch. Also isn’t Rappan Athuk kind of S1 in megadungeon format?

      It would be interesting to see him try to tackle something like the H series, only to do a better job. A grand planar adventure. Dream-House by Anthony Huso feels like a sneak preview of an H4 that does not suck, but despite its vast size, it is still not as vast in scope or ambition as Throne of Bloodstone.

  4. ruprecht says:

    If I were a Lich I’d have no treasure in my tomb. What does a demi-lich need with cash? Put the bait in the false tomb and let that place get raided by idiot adventurers. Use the treasure to hire mercenary groups to guard the false tomb and hire assassins to spread rumors that lead dumb-ass adventurers to the false tomb, and then to slay them if they return from the false tomb. All the while I’d have as much peace & quiet as I wanted.

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