Saturday, April 11, 2020

In The Tomb

Happy Holy Saturday! As we all await our own "resurrection" from the caves in which we're sheltering (see what I did there? Easter humor), I figured I'd post up a few addendum notes to yesterday's post. I mean, why the hell not?

Regarding my re-typing of OD&D:

Finished doing Book III...well, as much of it as I plan on writing at this point. The thing devotes a LOT of space (about a third of its page count) to aerial and naval combat, neither of which are incredibly pertinent to my campaign at the moment. I understand the authors' original intention of including everything necessary for a "complete game," but this is more appendix kind of stuff for "special adventures" (this may be a B/X prejudice as the original Expert set put ship and waterborne combat info in a just such a chapter at the end of the book). For better or worse, I don't see my players doing a lot of aerial combat maneuvers in game.

That leaves a lot of space, however, which I will be using to fill out GM info (from later works) that I really want to include. I went through the later OD&D supplements, as well as The Strategic Review and early Dragon magazines...

[ha! in the other room my daughter is having a video "play date" with one of her kindergarten friends and she's attempting to explain the Dungeons & Dragons game we've been playing. Funny stuff.]

...and made notes of the things I want to incorporate into the text. There are some interesting world assumptions I'm finding in the text. The fact that orcs are readily available for hire as mercenaries (and for low prices) says something about their place in the world/civilization of the game...especially as other humanoids AREN'T (goblins are too feral? I suppose). But how does this easy relationship sit with rangers? Not good I suppose (which is why they prefer to live in the wilds). Still, it helps explain half-orcs when orcs are regular participants in inter-species relationships...

Then there's the whole issue of evil (i.e. "chaotic") patriarchs. The same rules for high level clerics apply to evil high priests...which means any such individual that builds a stronghold is going to attract a large force of "faithful" fanatics...not to mention the automatic "tithes" (20 g.p. per inhabitant per year!) that starts rolling in to the EHP's coffers. Apparently all gods are honored in this fantasy setting...sets up all sorts of Isle of Pan Tang ideas.

Regarding the Tomb of Horrors:

Man, that adventure is the gift that just keeps on giving. After The Keep on the Borderlands, I've got to believe it's the module I've run the most over the years (yes, more than White Plume Mountain). Last night, I ran the original OD&D tournament version of the module for the kids, though using the illustration pack from the later 1980 publication. Kids each took two of the pre-gens from the adventure: Diego used an 8th level paladin ("Rider") and a 12th level magic-user ("Winklebart"); Sofia used a 4th/6th level Elf fighter-mage ("Fiddly Fiddler") and a 10th level cleric (first call "Sheila May," later changed to "Lovine the Artist"). The kids had a lot of fun picking out all the cool spells their high level characters could carry, and spent a good amount of time selecting equipment that provided them the right mount of utility with the most efficient encumbrance.

Because we were starting rather late at night, I declared we'd go with the two hour tournament time limit (though we probably went over by a bit). The players started by exploring the "right-hand" (western) false tunnel. The collapsing ceiling killed Fiddly, necessitating the use of Lovine's raise dead spell. Fortunately, the elf made his resurrection survival roll and two weeks later they were healed up and ready to try again.

The party's second foray into the dungeon saw them exploring the "left-hand" (eastern) entrance. Despite the rumbling they heard behind them, they decided to press forward and try to open the doors. It was only after they discovered the blank wall behind the doors that they turned to find the tunnel behind sealed by a shifting wall. "What do we do now?" What do you want to do. "Well, we'll check out the fake doors, but we'll be careful for traps." I think you've already set off a trap don't you? Oh, right. Fortunately, Winkle had memorized the passwall spell so they were able to escape.

Next up was the main (central) tunnel entrance. Here they managed to fall in most every pit trap along the path, but led by their stalwart paladin (with high hit points and amazing saving throws) they managed to traverse the length, finally arriving at the corridor's end. Finding and reading the the cryptic message on the floor, Diego decided to try the misty arch while Sofia's characters remained behind to "watch for monsters." The teleportation deposited Rider and Winkle in a rather messy heap in the chamber of the four-armed ghoul who surprised the pair (apparently they were still disoriented by the mist's effects). Random die showed the ghoul going after the wizard, who quickly died. Rider fought a round with the creature before deciding to flee due to low hit points and the strategic disadvantage of facing a monster with 4 attacks per melee. Charging through the exit he kicked open the plastered door to the main tunnel, only to plunge into the pit lying on the other side (death by impalement...he still made his saving throw). Hearing the commotion the rest of the party retraced their steps, recovered Rider's body, and retreated from the tomb.

The paladin was raised (easily making his resurrection roll) and two weeks later the party was back at the Tomb. Down a man (even had they attempted to retrieve Winklebart's corpse, it had been too long since his death to revive the wizard), they party decided to exercise the utmost caution. Taking a vote, they decided to go through the devil mouth this time. Once again, the paladin was chosen to go first (it was really Sofia's idea to try the devil mouth, but then she chickened out of taking the plunge; rock-paper-scissors was executed and Rider was given the job). Tying a rope around his waist and hoisting the lantern, the paladin pushed his way into the mouth, disappearing completely into darkness. Pulling on the rope brought back...nothing. After sticking a few odds and ends into the mouth (torches, both lit and unlit) it gradually dawned on the players that the devil's mouth was a one-way trip. "So where am I?" asked Diego. In were disintegrated! Time for bed!

[there was a lot of laughter at my son's expense, even his own. "Sofia, why do you keep letting me make stupid mistakes?!" followed by the realization of his own words. Ah, D&D...I've missed you]

The children were suitably impressed that the Tomb of Horrors was exceptionally deadly and as fierce as its reputation suggested. Of course, they are also interested in going back, though they realize they're going to have to create some more characters. For my part I feel...refreshed by the experience. Maybe in my own way I'm like some sort of withered demilich that needs to bathe in the blood of young adventurers to get the creak out of my bones!

Regarding the chipa:

It turned out delicious. Here's a picture (we made more, all got eaten):

Used a combo of queso fresco and mozzarella cheese in place of the queso paraguayo. The video was good (converted everything to English units of measure) and did a half order...still made a ton of chipa. Very tasty.

Enjoy your weekend best you can.
: )


  1. I've always kind of wondered how that devil face was supposed to work. I mean, if someone crawls in head-first, and their head gets disintegrated, wouldn't the body fall limp right then and there?

    1. It's really up to the DM to interpret: I've run it different ways over the years. In this particular instance, I took a more magical and less horror/gross approach because of my players (the kids get a little spooked by too much "ick"). Dead is dead anyway...the paladin was toast from the moment he stuck his head in the mouth.

      That being said, my son *was* egging on his sister to try sticking "just" her arm in the thing. Fortunately, she was too smart to take him up on it, so we didn't have to see what happened.
      ; )

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