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"Cruel, but most entertaining for the DM."
July 12, 2013 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Some wonderfully enterprising nerd has created a mod for the real-time grid-based 3D dungeon crawler Legend of Grimrock (twice previously) based on the the Dungeons & Dragons module Tomb of Horrors (previously, funny SA rundown here). It's available via nexusmods and Steam Workshop. Have a nice weekend.
posted by cog_nate (58 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, just to head this off at the pass; haha no it is not Legend of Grimlock.
posted by cog_nate at 9:51 AM on July 12, 2013


Tomb of Horrors was a terrible module. Way too boring for the first 90% of the way, mostly a few pit traps and random wandering monsters, certainly nothing to really get your XP up, then out of nowhere you're thrown into a confined room with a demi-lich. If they live the characters will have a ton of experience and some decent treasure, but more likely than not if they were of the the suggested levels, they won't.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:58 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


See, this is where I kinda get lost in the mix with regards to this campaign being hard and fun, or should I say fun because it's hard? Note, I'm not a D&D guy, so maybe that makes a difference...

Zack: Okay, there are three entrances that can be found on the cliff. The first one is a tunnel with a fake door and when you open the door the tunnel collapses and everyone is crushed for huge damage.

Steve: You don't even need to tell me. That was how our cleric died.


So, before you even start, you're given a basically one in three chance of getting WTFPWNED no matter what? That seems... broken or a bad inside joke at best. Because isn't it possible that some of these groups play with perma-death as a given? That is to say that your character that has been your pride and joy for X campaigns can be gone forever. Also, how much replay value would something like that provide? It seems like a layer that's not adding much besides lolz trolling.

Don't get me wrong, I play rogue-likes and EVE, where punishment for the simplest of mistakes is often, no usually, pretty harsh and swift but... and I'm still reading more in the article so maybe I'm just not groking something... I don't see how that can be fun.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:59 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Agreed, 10th foot. Traps and then a way-powerful monster. Not a well-designed experience.
posted by Mister_A at 9:59 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Steve: Acererak is a DICK. He put a magical hole on the wall that completely destroys a character. For no reason!

I guess I should have read on. The RP value seems to radiate from the assumption that the owner of the tomb is just an asshat. That makes things make so much sense.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:02 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Holy crap awesome.
posted by Artw at 10:02 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Further confirmation of the abovesaid asshattery....

Steve: Right, all throughout it there are teleport traps that strip you of your equipment and dump you naked back at the beginning. If you're lucky. Some of them will dump you into rooms where Acererak mocks you and tell you that you're going to die and then guess what happens.

Zack: Do you die?

Steve: Yeah, probably, unless you have some obscure ass spell that is only ever mentioned in the really old D&D books that didn't even have color covers.

posted by RolandOfEld at 10:05 AM on July 12, 2013


There are so many great moments in Tomb of Horrors, but the teleport trap that spits you out of the green devil statue (which, of course, removes every atom of your body from existence if you climb back in) might be my favorite. It's such carefully crafted dickery.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:16 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, if anybody is reading this and wants to try the Grimrock thing for the first time, it's $3.75 on Steam for the next couple of days.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:17 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


So this is the Demon's Souls of D&D modules?
posted by naju at 10:22 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


So this is the Demon's Souls of D&D modules?

No, Demon's Souls kills you with punishingly difficult combat. Tomb of Horrors kills you with repeated "save-vs-bullshit or die".
posted by murphy slaw at 10:24 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pft. Dark/Demon's Souls is fair. Tough as nails, but if you know what you're doing and play perfectly, you can rip the game apart. Tomb of Horrors kills you for not knowing what the rulebook says you're supposed to do next, often when there are no hints, not even absurdly obscure ones, telling you that the door on the left is a portal to poison-covered-spike-land but the door on the right will take you closer to the treasure room.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:26 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait. How did I miss that Rimrock had come out for Mac? Fuckin' A!
posted by brundlefly at 10:26 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tomb of Horrors kills you with repeated "save-vs-bullshit or die".

That isn't true at all.

Tomb of Horrors has lots of stuff that kills you with no saving throw (the aforementioned Sphere of Annihilation in the green devil face being possibly the most infamous).
posted by Gelatin at 10:28 AM on July 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Tomb is written for very high level characters. These are highly powerful. The only way to make it at all interesting is to have traps like this. Otherwise, you have to either slash tons of lower level monsters, which is boring, or fight every god every other minute, which makes the game boring as well, because it is like that movie Speed, where the whole movie is a chase--there simply is no up and down to make it interesting.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:28 AM on July 12, 2013


So this is the Demon's Souls of D&D modules?

Not really. It's tremendously hard, but where Demon's Souls is basically fair, Tomb is almost comedic in its unfairness. I actually think it's a great module, but you have to understand the intent behind it: it intentionally breaks the player/DM covenant. It basically says to the players -- it was specifically designed to kill players who were doing everything in their power to literally game the system at the time -- that if they weren't going to play the game, then neither was the DM.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:30 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Tomb is written for very high level characters.

And, as the story goes, written by Gygax specifically to kill high level characters played by his regular game group, including his own son's.
posted by Gelatin at 10:30 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


See? Hilarious.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:31 AM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, Tomb of Horrors is well known because it is total BS, not because it is fun.
posted by demiurge at 10:32 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean it is hilarious in a sense because the whole thing is so comically murderous and even arbitrarily so, but as a DM my group wasn't like that so we didn't really enjoy it. My group played more like explorers than warriors in a lot of ways.
posted by Mister_A at 10:33 AM on July 12, 2013


If you really want to get the full comic effect out of Tomb, it should be played as a Paranoia module.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:34 AM on July 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


Also, Tomb is a total blast to play with an army of disposable, pre-generated characters and hirelings. The string of deaths no matter what you do is hilarious and great fun. But only a DM who doesn't know what the module is meant to do would actually put characters the players care about into it.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:35 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


One thing I'll say in ToH's defense is that most players should know by now what an insane deathtrap the whole thing is, and play it just for laughs just to see how far one can get before you're inevitably and horribly killed,

(Also, it was nerfed considerably for 3rd and 4th Edition D&D.)
posted by Gelatin at 10:37 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Played correctly, all CoC scenarios are Tomb of Horrors.
posted by Artw at 10:39 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, Tomb is a total blast to play with an army of disposable, pre-generated characters and hirelings. The string of deaths no matter what you do is hilarious and great fun. But only a DM who doesn't know what the module is meant to do would actually put characters the players care about into it.

I sort of thought that was actually the point, that it was more along the lines of a complicated puzzle to play with high-level characters you rolled up that day than anything that would be part of a serious campaign with ongoing characters.
posted by Copronymus at 10:40 AM on July 12, 2013


I sort of thought that was actually the point, that it was more along the lines of a complicated puzzle to play with high-level characters you rolled up that day than anything that would be part of a serious campaign with ongoing characters.

Yes, because most of the characters wouldn't be ongoing any more.

According to TVTropes, one party solved the problem by hiring a group of dwarf miners to spend months tunneling around all of Acerak's deathtraps.

Another used one of those sucker-bait-kills-you-with-no-saving-throw deathtrap items to destroy Acerak, and the DM consulted Gygax himself (who was at the convention where the game was played), who admitted the party's scheme would work. The module was later rewritten to prevent it. Awesome.
posted by Gelatin at 10:48 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Tomb is written for very high level characters.

The problem was when it came out that it was one of the very first prepared modules, so all those supposed "high level chatracters" had been brought up to those levels through hand-made DMing or early Basic (B) modules. Any players agreeing to sit in for ToH were used to DMs keeping things interesting, then they get this thing. Pretty snoozy stuff and then wham-o.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:49 AM on July 12, 2013


One thing I'll say in ToH's defense is that most players should know by now what an insane deathtrap the whole thing is

Right, but back in the pre-interwebs 1978 when most of the players (like me) were kids that scraped together lawnmowing money to buy these things based on what level characters in our little group were at at the time were in for a real shock. I remember the first time I ran this module I was the most hated man on the block!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:53 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


See? Hilarious!
posted by Artw at 10:55 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'll also grant that Acererak is a cool name.
posted by Mister_A at 10:58 AM on July 12, 2013


Ace Erik should be a Viz character.
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"See readers? I put the 12th Level Magic User IN MY TOOTH! *chortle*"
posted by Artw at 11:02 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tomb of Horrors is a party destroying tool, to be used with great care. Seeing it on your GM's bookshelf should be a warning to would-be power gamers. As a player I loved it the one time we played it, we didn't get very far of course but it was heaps of fun to see our party get slowly decimated. Besides, any role-player worth his salt should have horrific crushing death experiences of his PC to share with others at Cons; it's how you get your chops.
posted by Vindaloo at 11:31 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always been somewhat bemused by the emphasis and emotion invested into character death-- it's basically collaborative fiction, you can always just bring your character back to life through authorial fiat. I've only played D&D a couple of times, but if a wandering DM killed off a character I was attached to in the ToH I would just 'roll back' the character to before the tomb.
posted by Pyry at 11:51 AM on July 12, 2013


you can always just bring your character back to life through authorial fiat

Then you're playing a game without consequences. You should be bringing your character back to life with a horcrux, a handful of diamond dust and a kidnapped necromancer held at glaivepoint. What your character will be coming back as should be in question.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:59 AM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Once played ToH with a bunch of low level characters, a DM prepared to wing it a bit, and a lack of seriousness... seem to remember my Palandin headbutted the fuck out of Acererak
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:11 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


you can always just bring your character back to life through authorial fiat

Then you're playing a game without consequences.

I agree. There are many different styles of play, and bringing a character back as a result of the storyline is another thing (and I would also add that the former 4th Edition Lair Assault program actively encourages that sort of game play; bringing back the same character to try again is perfectly okay), but for me a dead character is a dead character.

I once had a DM explicitly permakill a character of mine on my last session with the game group. He did it to create a story hook for the remaining players, and he may have expected me to just continue with my character once I left, but I've never forgiven him, because to me that character, which I'd enjoyed playing, is well and truly dead.

(That said, I decided I could re-create that character at first level in the D&D Next playtest, so it turned out okay.)
posted by Gelatin at 12:16 PM on July 12, 2013


One thing I'll say in ToH's defense is that most players should know by now what an insane deathtrap the whole thing is, and play it just for laughs just to see how far one can get before you're inevitably and horribly killed,

It would be a shitty DM who had the players encounter it as a hole in the ground on a wilderness trip. But if you're like "oh let's check out the tomb of that demi-lich former 27th level wizard," well, its their own fault."

Interesting bit from wikipedia:
Tomb of Horrors was written by Gary Gygax for official D&D tournament play at the 1975 Origins 1 convention.[3][5][6] Gygax developed the adventure from an idea by Alan Lucien, one of his original AD&D playtesters, "and I admit to chuckling evilly as I did so."[7] Gygax designed the Tomb of Horrors modules for two related purposes. First, Gygax explains, "There were several very expert players in my campaign, and this was meant as yet another challenge to their skill—and the persistence of their theretofore-invincible characters. Specifically, I had in mind foiling Rob Kuntz's PC, Robilar, and Ernie Gygax's PC, Tenser." Second, so that he was "ready for those fans [players] who boasted of having mighty PCs able to best any challenge offered by the AD&D game."[8]
Characters die. They are there to be killed. You don't wipe them all out, but a game where every adventure is perpetually safe is boring.

My greatest moment as a DM was when a stupid character decided to fire at a melee between a monster and another character. He was an archer. I informed him of the 50% chance the other character would be hit and not the monster. He went ahead anyway. He hit his own party member, killing him with multiple arrows. I was like, your character is dead.

No way the player can look at anyone other than the dumbass who opened fire in the first place.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:29 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


To my mind, if your players are playing things you consider too powerful you might try talking to them instead of making an entire module to passive-aggressively kill them with bullshit.

It's even more shameful if their characters were created in a system you designed and a campaign you ran.
posted by squinty at 12:42 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Take 'em to Barrier, give them fucking laser beams.
posted by Artw at 12:44 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's great to quote some thing that happened at GenCon, but I still think very, very few who bought this module in 1978 had any idea what they were getting other than a module for level 10-14 characters. Remember this thing predates the DMG! The basic set didn't even have dice for christsakes and only went up to level 3!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:45 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which is, again, awesome.
posted by Artw at 12:46 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]



Also, if anybody is reading this and wants to try the Grimrock thing for the first time, it's $3.75 on Steam for the next couple of days.


Not days, hours. This is a Flash Sale, not a full Summer Sale sale. So it is only guaranteed at that price for the next four and a half hours or so.
posted by persona at 1:15 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a bit in the Wikipedia article about players getting though ToH by driving a herd of cattle ahead of them. Why didn't I think of that?
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:54 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's called Tomb of Horrors, for crissake.

Not "Bouncy Castle and Kittens"
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:59 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Bouncy Castle and Kittens" OF DEATH.
posted by Artw at 3:01 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Acerak's Bouncy Castle would be full of acid that explodes unless you bounce seven times in the middle and then exit through the south-east door.

Meanwhile, the kitten is just a Dire Scorpion with fur glued to it.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:06 PM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Don't even think about the jelly and icecream.

(Of death.)
posted by Artw at 3:10 PM on July 12, 2013


OH GOD YOU WENT NEAR THE PUDDING.
posted by Artw at 3:22 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gelato cube of dire espresso flavor.
posted by cog_nate at 3:54 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Shambling mound of chocolate parfait?
posted by GoingToShopping at 7:43 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I loved Tomb of Horrors for the awesome visual aids included in the booklet. I'm not sure we ever actually played it. I've read it dozens, if not hundreds, of times though.

Artw is right though, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is super fun for both DM and players and we actually played that one with real characters at least once when I was a kid.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:38 PM on July 12, 2013


Tomb of Horrors walkthrough.
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:24 PM on July 12, 2013


Take 'em to Barrier, give them fucking laser beams.

I loved the purposefully weird design of the sci-fi weapons to help simulate how confused sword-n-sworcery characters ought to be, not even knowing which way to point the things, and might end up shooting themselves.
posted by straight at 10:57 PM on July 12, 2013


Barrier Peaks is neat, but it was remarkable to me for having the worst-designed sci-fi weapons I've ever seen, from an ergonomics and usability standpoint. Granted it had to be inobvious what these objects were so that the players couldn't guess their function based on the picture, but if these guns were designed by humans for human use, they were humans with dire carpal-tunnel problems who were frequently lasering off their own ears.
posted by rifflesby at 10:59 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I played TOH once - our DM let our group create really powerful characters to take through it, so it was a "special" thing we did, as opposed to our regular campaign characters. It was a smart move, because it prevented a lot of anger, but at the same time a soul crushing experience in a different way: we all got to play these awesome characters that we thought were badass, with all of these amazing abilities, only to watch them get wiped out. I had some trauma from losing my thief to the gloryhole of evil.

Once I got over that, I really started to wonder about Acererak - I mean, you get that powerful, figure out how to cheat death and live on, and your plan at that point is to apparently sit at the end of a series of deathtraps and kill whoever manages to get there?

Speaking for myself, I always thought that was a pretty empty way to spend your undeath.

and yes, I know now that demi-liches (what is the correct plural of demi-lich, anyways?) exist on other planes, seeking our knowledge, carrying out evil plots, blah blah blah. At the time I played this I was like 12, and I figured if I was that powerful, I wouldn't be building the Tomb of Horrors but more like the Tomb of Hot and Scantily Clad Women. And yes, back then I failed my saving throws against social awkwardness all the time, thank you for asking. Nowadays it's only like 50% of the time.
posted by nubs at 10:04 AM on July 13, 2013


Uh, it's called "Tomb of Horrors" for a reason.

Imagine you're a demi-lich and you need to have your skull protected for a few more millennia as you wander various planes of existence — just long enough so that your skull turns to dust. You may need to occasionally be sustained by souls as your final transformation occurs. Oh, and you're evil. Not like "I'm misunderstood" or "my goals are highly personal and do not often align with the mainstream," no. Evil like "Oh, this ritual did not call for kittens to be added to the flaming pit? Well, let's see if it still works anyway. Might work better with more kittens!" You're capital E Evil, so evil that Death is sort of hanging back and considering just giving you a pass because, fuck, you're scary.

Now, do you construct your final resting place so that adventurers may survive an encounter with you? No, you do not. You make sure that just about all of them die, period. Those that don't you can devour. You're not making this fantastically elaborate mausoleum so that Thockrill, the Dwarven Cleric, can gain some experience points smiting you in the name of whatever milksop deity "good" entities worship, fuck no. Not a lot of fabulous prizes doled out you spent most of your dosh on getting this place built. You want death, and lots of it. Oh, sure, once a century some lucky fool comes staggering out with a nice gold crown clutched in her remaining hand, with tales of impossible danger and fantastic reward, just enough to keep the idiots trickling in like a fresh bottle of milk delivered to your door every two days.

Would a beyond-human intelligence who wants a nice retirement home build anything else than a series of lethal "fuck you" tricks, with a sphere of annihilation there and green slime over here? Might as well ask a hunter to lay out easy-to-escape traps.

Your souls are delicious.
posted by adipocere at 4:25 PM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know those architectural designs for long term nuclear storage that are spikey and ominous looking to warn people off even if civilization fails and people forget what nuclear waste is? Maybe the Tomb is sort of like that, a long term lich storage facility, only the adventurers keep failing to get the point.
posted by Artw at 5:12 PM on July 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


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