The Keep seemed particularly busy this weekend. Would-be adventures were crawling around the Caves of Chaos like cockroaches, and buzzing about the tavern like flies on horse manure.
Matthew made a post that sounded fun. The premise was to see how far a level 3 character could get in the Tomb of Horrors. I shared the post with Sue and we planned a Memorial Day weekend game around it.
While I thought the idea was interesting, I did not think it was possible to meet any of the goals with just a level 3 Fighter.
I rolled up three characters. Sue would be the Dungeon Master.
Sitting across from Len and Selenor was Doltoran. They nodded in confirmation to the dwarf. Indeed, there was lizardmen infesting the Vast Swamp.
The dwarf called for another drink, while the two friends continued their conversation.
Selenor: I’ve made several copies of my Tomb map. Lots of fools come in here. I’m sure we could make a nice profit.
Len: You might have to do this on your own. I’m headed back to Eastbrook in a few weeks to let my parents know I’m not dead. Maybe stay there for awhile.
Selenor: Ah, come on! I think . . .
Their conversation was interrupted as the dwarf Doltoran shouted at the barkeep.
Doltoran: Who cares about a lost elf!
Collaborating with Sue is a lot of fun. We put thought into how this might work in the game world and how it fit into our established Greyhawk. We decided that one of the survivors of the Tomb of Horrors, Selenor, could sell my characters a map.
At one point Selenor was at the Keep. While at the Keep, she could easily be scheming gold from low level characters who sought a better challenge than the Caves of Chaos.
The map would also share information about how to get through the Vast Swamp unmolested by the the denizens. Normally we would not hand wave the hex crawl, but for this case it was okay. Not only did Selenor’s map provide a safe passage to the Tomb, but it would also explain why I knew certain things about Acererak’s traps and treasure even though my characters had never entered the place.
One of the ideas Matthew postulated was that the player could reference the module during actual play. We disregarded this idea; I did not want to look at the module. While I have run ToH many times for others, I did not have it memorized and I did not look through it before our game.
We were not going to use the goals listed on Matthew’s post either. I expected to die, but we were curious to see how it played out.
Challenge Rules, Established Lore, Avoiding Paradoxes – the Usual
We came up with a few of our own rules along with the simple question “How far can you get?”
- I could only use one character at a time.
- One character would enter in the morning, the next noon and the last at sundown.
- The characters could play tag-team once inside.
- I could have the first hall with the pit traps pre-mapped.
This last idea was just to avoid the tedium of discovering the six pits. I knew where they were all located.
Entering at different times seemed like it would be a challenge, but it was no different than keeping track of normal time spent inside the dungeon. We just wanted to make sure the positions of the characters matched up, so we spread the time frame out to prevent any paradoxes.
Established in the previous Tomb of Horrors game was the fact that Tarnhem resets the dungeon every night to its initial state (this was taken from the Return to the Tomb of Horrors box set lore), so they had one day to do it.
Dungeons & Drinking
To explain why they would enter the Tomb of Horrors one at a time, we decided to blame alcohol.
One night three men were making drunken boasts at the Keep’s tavern about their successes in the Cave of Chaos. Of the three men, who was the best? Selenor overheard them and decided these men were perfect customers to her new business endeavor.
After selling the men three copies of her map and wishing them luck, Selenor realized this was a lot easier than risking her life in a dungeon.
Three Foolish Men
Aside from purchasing the map, my characters bought standard dungeoneering equipment, torches, ropes, iron spikes, ten foot poles, crowbars, large sacks to carry the loot and so on. They pooled their left over gold together to purchase 10 large gems.
- Balthazar was a male human Fighter. He was armed with a spear and long sword and armored in scale mail with a shield on his back.
- Melchior was a male human Thief. He was armed with eight daggers and dressed in leather armor.
- Caspar was a male human Magic-user. He carried a single dagger and was the keeper of the 10 large gems (most of his gold went towards this purchase).
To avoid being encumbered on certain characters (I wanted to leave with some loot!), the fighter would use his spear instead of a ten foot pole, the thief would use his daggers in place of iron spikes and so forth.
The three men trekked through the Vast Swamp following Selenor’s trail.
A few weeks later they found themselves in a small clearing with a hill surrounded by various make shift camps and supplies scattered about.
They had arrived at the Tomb of Horrors.