Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tomb of Horrors - Introduction


Update!  This post has been updated with breaking information.  Please scroll down to end to see the updated information.  Thank you!

Ask me what my favorite DnD adventure of all time is (regardless of edition), and I'll tell you without hesitation - "The Tomb of Horrors".  This classic delve, written by Gary Gygax himself, is probably one of the most frustrating, difficult, confusing, and deadly adventures ever put on paper.  Filled with puzzles, traps, and maddeningly vague clues, this adventure ends up killing more characters than it rewards.

And it's great fun.

Granted, the adventure isn't for everyone.  If your players are combat focused (hack & slash) types, then this module is probably not for them.  In fact, the original module notes specifically state that this isn't "that kind" of adventure.  I'll add my recommendation to Gary's.  If you don't like puzzles and traps, this adventure is probably not for you.

Okay, assuming you think your heroes are up to it, go out and grab a copy of the adventure...

What's that?  It's not available for 4e?  What?

Well, you're right.  At this point, Wizards of the Coast hasn't seen fit to rewrite this classic adventure, and perhaps they never will.  However, that doesn't mean I can't apply my own DM magic to it and create something suitable for 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.  So that's what I'm going to do here, one blog post at time.  

Here's how it will work.  Slowly but surely (in order of the listed encounter key in the original module), I will describe the encounter area and retool it for 4e.  It will be imperfect, and probably a bit messy.  However, I think I have enough chops to pull off a reasonable simulacrum.  Each keyed encounter from the original module will be written up in the 4th edition format (as per limits of my blogging medium).  Much later, when I have the encounters completed; I'll put the whole thing into one work, and place it out on my Scribd site.

I know what you're thinking, "That sounds like a lot of work, Mr. Deadorcs."

Well, you're right, it is.  I love this adventure, though, and any opportunity I have to keep it's spirit alive (much like the demi-lich,  Acererak), I'll take it.

But wait...that's not all!

Not only do I want to retell the story of Acererak with a 4th edition spin, I want to depict the glory of his tomb in three dimensions.  THAT'S RIGHT!  THREE DIMENSIONS!  

I've been working with the fine products from Hirst Arts for a long time now, and have many of their molds.  My summer project will be to begin recreating The Tomb of Horrors to 4th edition scale in 3D.  You won't even need to wear those weird glasses they give you at the movie theater!  I intend to incorporate special effects and everything.  I'll be doing this part right, and so each piece will probably take quite awhile.  While the 4th edition encounter descriptions might take me through the rest of the year (what with blogging about other issues as well), the actual construction could easily become a 2-3 year project.  I don't have any final numbers on that, so we'll just have to see how it goes.  Periodically, I'll post images of my progress on the 3D portion of each encounter area.  I'll give those a special tag so that you can find them easily.

Historical note:  I actually did manage to get a 1.0 version of the Tomb done about four years ago.  Managed to get all the way to Encounter Area 14.  Sadly, after a basement cleanup, little of that survived and I have no pictures that I can find.  Hence, another motivation for wanting to do this again the right way.  I have better tools now, and some of the engineering should go a lot easier.  And trust me, there's engineering.  Acererak was a devious bastard.  By the way, does anyone have a lead on where I can get a marble sized Sphere of Annihilation?  

Well, that's about all for now.  I'm heading out for vacation in a couple of days, and probably won't have the opportunity to blog in that time period.  However, I'll try to be keeping up with Twitter and such, so I won't be far off.

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.

Update!  Okay, so it looks like I should have done a little research.  Seems that Wizards of the Coast IS releasing a version of Tomb of Horrors in July.  Based on the Amazon blurb I just linked, it seems they be treating it as a sort of mini campaign setting.  I haven't seen the adventure, so I won't judge.  However, I don't think that even this is enough to change my mind.  I'm going to take a wild guess that WotC will probably give this adventure a complete makeover.  I'm okay with that, but it's not what I intend to do.  With my treatment, I hope to remain as closely faithful to the original version as possible while still remaining within the 4e rules.  Hopefully, despite the actual upcoming release, you'll stick with me and see what I have to offer.  Thanks to commenter Mactep and @DaveTheGame (via Twitter) for pointing out the link.  Much obliged!


  1. Мастер12:04 PM

    Hmm, just for you info.

  2. R.M. Walker12:09 PM

    Hmm...interesting. Well, it looks like they might be doing it after all. I'm still going to go ahead, though. While I love WotC, I have a feeling they will probably be changing so much of the adventure, that it will be the same in name alone. Granted, I don't have any verification of that, but I remain undaunted.

  3. Also, just FYI, Acererak (and related creatures) appear in Open Grave & Revenge of the Giants. Search for Acererak in the compendium and you'll see what I mean

  4. R.M. Walker12:35 PM

    @Aoi. Yep, I remember the reference to him in Open Grave. He's a popular figure. Didn't know he was mentioned in Revenge of the Giants, though. Glad to see WotC is keeping the pesky lich alive (well, sort of alive, I guess :-) )