Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tomb of Horrors/Ready Player One Challenge & the Epic Fail

Armed with their own reference copy of the module, can a simple third level, Basic D&D Fighter survive the infamous adventure, 'Tomb of Horrors'? As postulated in the novel Ready Player One.

Warning: Contains Spoilers to the Tomb of Horrors Adventure Module.

Thacko II, Son of Thacko!
Level 3 Fighter
Str 17 (+3)
Dex 15 (+2)
Con 17 (+3)
Int 9
Wis 8(-1)
Cha 8(-1)

HP: 29
AC: 3

Begin Again the Quest!
Thacko II, Son of Thacko, continued the quest that claimed his father by ignoring the false entrances and moving directly through the teleport gate to Room 11. Since this time I am allowing for automatic Secret Doors finding, he proceeds through the tunnel to Room 13, taking 14hp total damage from traps and falls while retrieving the Ring of Protection +1. He also steals the crystal box (worth 1,000gp). He now has 15hp left, but has fulfilled one Condition of Victory!

Proceeding down the next tunnel, he enters the Chapel of Evil and loots the pews, collecting all the coins. He decides to leave all his loot here since it too heavy to carry now and he will have to back-track to collect the Gem of Seeing anyway.

Unfortunately, he must sacrifice his Ring of Protection to trigger the secret door and leave the chapel. Easily passing through the pit-doors, he ignores the sounds of music and … here we come to an insurmountable end for young Thacko.

To proceed in any direction from this point in the Tomb requires at least one of the following A) The Gem of Seeing, B) some sort of Magical Fire and/or C) Detect Magic a Dispel Magic spells. Since it is impossible for a third level Fighter to have any spells, and he has no gems to go back and collect the Gem of Seeing, he is essentially stuck here. Even getting out of the tomb means facing the Mutant Gargoyle, which means any third level fighter is now effectively dead.

Therefore, I must declare that without some serious tinkering, the premise of the book is declared untenable! A lone, 3rd level fighter with basic equipment cannot hope to defeat the Tomb of Horrors.

Conditions of Victory Met: None. You can collect the Ring of Protection +1, but you later have to destroyed it. And it has been a long time since I’ve bothered to convert silver and electrum pieces, but I don’t think he’s collected the full 20,000 yet.

So Now What?
I'm going to reread that section of Ready Player One to see if there are any further clues as to how the character manuevered through the Tomb, but by this point we are wandering farther and farther away original spirit of the module.

Speaking with BFX, we've come up with two ways to modify the premise to make it gameable:
1) A party of third level characters finds a hand drawn map of the Tomb. Some of the dangers are marked, but certainly not all of them.

2)One night in a tavern, the third level party plies an old, half-mad adventurer with ale to tell of the time she and her friends braved the tomb. Allow the players to read over the module once, then take it away from them. To be especially devious, make them read it the week before.


  1. See if you can get a non-gamer to read it and make a map with notes, then give the players that. Probably have to bribe the non-gamer to do it.

  2. Good idea, but you'd have to find a very understanding non-gamer.

  3. I remember going through Tomb of Horrors with an instantly-created 9th level character (can't remember which class, but I do remember having around 40 hp.)

    I lasted all of 15 minutes or so. Choosing the wrong entrance is baaaaad :)