Friday, July 16, 2010

Really, WotC? I mean...Really?!

So I was down at Ye Olde Game Shoppe, talking about how many copies of the B/X Companion they wanted to stock to begin (more than a couple, as it turns out), when I couldn't help but notice this:

Holy Horseshit, Batman.

I openly guffawed as I flipped through this thing. 156 pages. I mean...what the F? 156 f***ing pages?!

The store manager pointed out, "to be fair 4E insists on putting entire monster stat blocks in their pages, which might take up some room." Dude at the counter said, "well, only the new ones right? They don't bother re-printing stuff from the Monster Manual, do they?"

I don't know...I looked at one of the quarter-page stat blocks:

Animated Campfire Logs.

No...I am not making this up. It's THAT ridiculous.

[hmm...I wish I'd bothered to write down what skills and feats a campfire log has...I might have to go back to the shop later]

If you remove the illustration book from the original S1: Tomb of Horrors, and dis-count both the cover leaf AND the last two pages which contain ONLY pre-gen characters, do you know how many pages of text was in the original Tomb of Horrors?


NINE PAGES. Nine pages with which to craft one of the most fiendish, legendary, sadistically clever, most talked about, classic adventure modules of all time.

I've got many hours of entertainment out of S1 and have run it at least half a dozen times...several times with repeat players...despite or because of it's absolutely despicably un-fair nature of its challenge. It was ranked the 3rd Greatest Dungeons & Dragons Adventure of All Time in 2004...considering it was published in 1978, that's a lot of years to stay in the Top Three of any category.

Nine pages. How long do you think it takes to read S1? To prep it for play? To actually play the game?

How long do you think it takes to read and prep a 150+ page monstrosity?

Jesus long do you think it takes to complete a 4th edition romp through the "New & Improved" Tomb of Horrors? An evening of play? A full weekend? A mother-freaking year? You'll have to tell me, 'cause I won't buy the mother-f****r. It would be less use to me than a $30 door stop (at least a doorstop is shaped better to hold the door).

They say there's no such thing as "bad publicity," so I should probably completely ignore this product. Nah. Go ahead and buy it, if you feel like being a sucker for WotC. If we put money in their pockets, they'll continue to publish this kind of shit, riding the coattails of the legends that came before them rather than attempting to create their own legacy.

And then I'll have more to write about on my blog.


***EDIT: I changed the title of this post...I'm sure something more tragic and damning will rear its head in the future requiring the "J.H.C." sense wasting it here***


  1. RPGA DMs got this as a reward for free. Our regular group (that plays all editions and many other systems and tabletop games) is going to play through this right after Gencon. The DM who will run it regularly runs 4E and has run the original version, though he updated it for 3.XE (prior to seeing the 3.XE ToH that WotC created). He has all of them and is very familiar with how to off PCs. So we will have a pile of PCs to throw at the legendary character-killer, and when one dies, the player will take another and "come running up from behind to join the group." Should be fun.

  2. I wonder how many pages the 2e Return to the Tomb of Horrors took up.

    (I have a soft spot for the "Return to" adventures, since they were the ones which introduced me to the original modules. A bit more hand-holding, a good bit more defined and less on-the-fly, but excellent introductory material for me a decade ago or so.)

  3. JB, it's WotC... what did you expect?

    Also, from my 4th edition experience, both playing and DMing, "balanced" combats seem to consistently take an hour. If you've got four combats, it will take you about four hours, plus about an hour for everything else combined.

  4. I've said it before elsewhere, is there nothing they won't remake? Sometimes stuff is perfect the first time through and nothing can be added by re-doing it. Things can only be subtracted.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I figured it would be 'splat' garbage. Odd that an older version can still be downloaded:

    So much I want to write about that damned tomb...

  6. OK, I'm not a 4e fan, but can we at least complain about its actual flaws?

    First, @MarkCMG: the free RPGA giveaway is different from the for-sale product.

    Second, the for-sale Tomb is a "super adventure" featuring a lot more than the actual Tomb. From the description, it sounds more like a mini-campaign (maybe similar to the 2e boxed set adventures?) so it's not really fair to compare it to the original based on page count.

    Last, I haven't checked it out myself, but if I had to guess, "Animated Campfire Log" sounds like the result of someone casting Animate Object (or a similar spell) on the party's campfire. That's actually kind of a cool tactic.

  7. I flipped through this other day and looked it up online. Apparently the story follows the events of the original tomb, which had been looted back in the day. Afterwards a cult of necromancers have reared a city around the original tomb to learn all they can of the ancient master's secrets. And it goes on to outline a number of other tombs created by the lich and an underlying storyline and other plots.

  8. If I remember correctly, that's basically the 2nd edition Return to the Tomb of Horrors boxed set?

    I got to play through the boxed set and it was a hell of a lot of fun. I distinctly remember the city of necromancers and all the fun I had laying waste to it as a high level cleric...

  9. @ MCMG: Ye Old Wikipedia states WotC released two versions of Tomb of Horrors in 2010. The first was the freebie conversion at RPGA. The other is a "new version using the 4th edition rules" and was scheduled for release in July. I'm pretty sure I saw the latter...not sure if it's the same as your DM.

    @ Allandaros: I have Return to White Plume Mountain and think it's actually a pretty darn good adventure, despite being 2nd edition. It's the only 2nd edition ANYthing that I still own.

    @ Ryan: Mmm...I try not to have expectations about games. It often leads to disappointment. I had an ASSUMPTION of what I would find in a 4E analogy regarding pigs and lipstick comes to mind...
    ; )

    @ Jim: But when you need to milk the cash cow...?

    @ Scottsz: Thanks for the link. Downloaded and will be converted to B/X for my readers soon enough.

    @ Drnunch (& Faux):Tell ya' deserves a closer look so I can REALLY rip into it. I'll check it out a bit tomorrow if I have a chance.

    I will say that the animated logs appeared to be less of a spell and more of a wilderness encounter with a...well, with a campfire. Because that's what all 15th level characters fear, right? This is the kind of thing they expect to encounter? Come on.

    @ Amanda: Never had a chance to check out the 2nd edition boxed set...a little bit after my time, I'm afraid. Choice of class was much less pertinent to success in the original module (I don't think any of the undead in the adventure were subject to clerical turning/destruction). Luck and wit (both in large amounts) were about all that would carry the day.
    : )

  10. There's some irony in WotC providing free, non-protected, downloads of classic scenarios. I thought they were worried about pdf piracy? ;)

  11. I didn't really have to turn the undead in the Necromancer city because I used a spell from 3E called Divine Wrath or something. 9th level spell that causes a biblical storm that rains down destruction over a large area. I kinda broke it. It was really cool but my husband said nobody is allowed to cast that particular spell ever again. :P

    We've run through the original Tomb as well. Both were fun, just different from each other.

  12. I see, now, that the free RPGA adventure is a sort of conversion of the original for 4E and the one on sale is an expansion, sort of mini-campaign setting adventure themed to the ToH history and such. Much more extensive. I'm glad that our group is playing conversion as that was our intent. Thanks for the heads up on the difference.

  13. @Kelvin- Didn't you hear? WotC pulling the plug on classic PDFs stopped all piracy, everywhere, forever. With that out of the way, here's your free ToH.

  14. I posted a rant about this as my facebook status, and a few people got so offended they swore never to buy anything I wrote again. So I took the status update down. I sometimes forget that game designers aren't supposed to have negative opinions of things. Sigh. In any case, I agree with everything the OP wrote about this new ToH. The only thing horrific about it is how WotC bastardized a classic to try and make a cheap buck by tricking the old school community into thinking they're one of the gang. As you say, they should concentrate on building their own legacy, not re-hashing someone else's.