Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A look at the 1975 Original Tomb of Horrors

A side by side comparison
of the original 1975 Tomb of Horrors Tournament Game
and the 1978 mass market S1 Tomb of Horrors Module


The deluxe version of the newly released D&D Art and Arcana by Ten Speed Press includes a bonus booklet with scans of the original Tomb of Horrors as run at Origins I. At long last we can now compare the 1978 published version of the Tomb of Horrors to the 1975 original. It is considered a classic of dungeoneering, so a couple of years back I dissected it piece by piece to see what I could learn. This seemed only fair since it was usually the one doing the dissecting.  Acereak’s final resting place has also gotten some new press lately because it plays a big part in the novel “Ready Player One”.




Let's compare and contrast. What you will find at the bottom of the post is a room by room description of where they are the same and where they diverge. Surprisingly, the mass market version that we all know and love is almost exactly the same as the tournament game run in 1975.

Except for two things:

The first major difference is that the “fake Lich” was added to the 1978 module. In the 1975 tournament version this ruse is not present. Keep in mind it was designed to be played by fifteen players in two hours. One hundred and twenty minutes divided by thirty three keyed areas equals 3.63 minutes of real time per area. The later addition of the “fake Lich” could only exist with the added luxury of having unlimited time to play through the tomb.

The second difference is that the revised version is even more cruel. This dungeon has a well earned reputation of being quite merciless and was specifically designed to spank players who had over large egos. In the 1975 version there are many places where a character could be instantly killed. The revised S1 brings torment to a whole new level by adding tweaks like the Chamber of Hopelessness. With this addition you are transported to a room just beyond the original Portal of Scintillating Violet (also known as the “killing room”) where this message in glowing letters reads:

“YOU WHO DARED TO VIOLATE MY TOMB NOW PAY THE PRICE. STAY HERE AND DIE SLOWLY OF STARVATION, OR OPEN AND ENTER THE DOOR TO YOUR SOUTH WHERE CERTAIN BUT QUICK DEATH AWAITS - WHICHEVER YOU CHOOSE, KNOW THAT I, ACERERAK THE ETERNAL, WATCH AND SCOFF AT YOUR PUNY EFFORTS AND ENJOY YOUR DEATH THROES”.

The chamber is thoughtfully provided with “a small fountain” so that there is always “plenty to drink”. There are “numerous skeletons, rotting equipment and 30-300 each of s.p., e.p., g.p. and p.p. hurled about. Crushed gems and broken magic items are littered about - the work of insane victims and attacking swords”. If players try to pass through the only exit to the south all the swords and shields from the walls will “swoop to attack”. There are 16 swords and 8 shields. The first pair of swords are +1 to hit and damage, the second pair +2 to hit and damage and so on, the last pair being +8 to hit and damage. I calculated a maximum damage of 202, it’s fair to say that each round a character will probably get whacked for an average of 80-100 points. The original 1974 text includes 15 pre-generated characters and the character with the most HP is an 8th level Paladin with 40.


Going through the module again opened a couple of strange doors. Characters who enter the Archway of Glowing Orange within the Evil Chapel have their sex and alignment diametrically switched. When I was playing back in the old days (i.e., before the turn of the century) it would be fair to say most D&D players were male and they played male characters. This would mean that as groups of these good male characters were systematically run through the tomb, that a sizable percentage of the survivors would return as groups of evil females. Maybe they would get together to form some sort of she-woman man haters cult. I think I might make the dungeon they would have made as a response to the Tomb of Horrors. Something to think about.


There is also this thing where you are teleported nude back to the beginning. It's supposed to be a punishment. But maybe it’s more like streaking. What if that was the thrill, not getting to the end and getting a magic widget or sticking to the Lich-man. Think about wearing armor constantly, the infrequent bathing, having itches that could never be reached, the chafing,  the constant sound of metal sliding across metal… And then you get sucked into this devil's mouth and suddenly that tiresome sweaty stinky scratchy burden has been lifted off your back! You can scratch anywhere you want. You feel like a floating bubble and understand now what it's like to be truly free.  Maybe that's the real goal of the Tomb of Horrors, to be able to scratch anywhere you want.

Enjoy!
(good luck with the part below. You're going to need it.)

Link to the document, below as a PDF

A comparison of the
Original 1975 Competitive Tournament Version of the Tomb of Horrors
and 1978 S1 Module Tomb of Horrors

O = the original 1975 competitive tournament version of the Tomb of Horrors
S1 = the 1978 TSR published S1 Special Module Tomb of Horrors

Number of pages in the key:
O: 10 pages and 33 areas
S1: 9 pages and 33 areas
Note the S1 pages contain 3 to 4 times number of words than the original version.

Artwork:
O: 24 full page illustrations (by Tracy Lesch).
S1: 8 full page, 29 half page and 2 smaller illustrations (by Jeff Dee, David C. Sutherland III, and David A. Trampier).

Map:
They are both essentially identical. The 1978 S1 map includes the addition of room 27a and hallway #20 extends a further 20’ to the east.


Legend:
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Introduction:
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Locale:
Both list out six “random” locations, about half the list on each are the same.

Notes for the Dungeon Master:
Included in the 1978 S1 only. For the original 1975 tournament this was probably verbal.

False Entrance Tunnel (west):
O: #1 / S1: #1
O: 4d10 damage
S1: 5d10 damage

False Entrance Tunnel (east):
O: #2 / S1: #2
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Entrance to the Tomb of Horrors:
O: #3 / S1: #3
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Pits:
In the original 1975 text pit traps are described as “All pits except the green one open if stepped on or pressed heavily. Spikes are poison”. In the 1978 S1 they warrant a separate detailed description which describes how they function and inflict damage.



Door covered by plaster:
O: #3a / S1: #3a
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Message in Mosaic Floor:
O: #4b/ S1: #3b
The 1975 original text reads simply “GO BACK TO THE WALLS OR THRU THE ARCH. SHUN GREEN. FIND BLACK. RED COULD MEAN DEAD. TWO PITS FOR THE WAY WILL LEAD. UPON THE THRONE THE KEY, AND LOOK CLOSELY FOR THE STATUES OF IRON”. The S1 version is much longer.

Two Jackal Figures Holding a Box:
O: #4 / S1: #4
Both same, S1 much more descriptive. 

The Arch of Mist:
O: #5 / S1: #5
In the original 1975 text if you press the glowing stones correctly you go to Great Hall of Spheres. Otherwise you sustain 1d6 damage and teleported to the Lair of the Gargoyle. In the 1978 S1 if you press the glowing stones correctly you go to the room of The Three Armed Statue. Press them incorrectly or stray off the path and you are teleported to The Forsaken Prison or back to Entrance to the Tomb of Horrors.

The Face of the Green Devil:
O: #6 / S1: #6
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

The Forsaken Prison:
O: #7 / S1: #7
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Gargoyle Lair:
O: #8 / S1: #8
In the original 1975 text there can be 1,  2 or even 3 Gargoyles, depending on how big the party is. In the 1978 S1 text there is only one Gargoyle but has additional clues about the tomb on a slip of parchment.

Complex of Secret Doors:
O: #9 / S1: #9
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Great Hall of Spheres:
O: #10  / S1: #10
The red and black spheres lead to the same locations in both versions (red to Chamber of Three Chests and black to Chapel of Evil). The 1978 S1 adds the gold sphere which leads to the room of the Three Armed Statue (an area which is not in the 1975 original version).

Magic Archway:
O: #11 / S1: #10a
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Three Armed Statue:
O: - / S1: #11
Added to the 1978 S1. If you complete a number of complex tasks you will earn an invisible Gem of Seeing.

Trapped False Door:
O: #12 / S1: #12
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Chamber of Three Chests:
O: #13 / S1: #13
In the gold chest the original 1975 version has 10 asps, the newer has 12. In the silver chest the 1975 original has a lift ring covered with a fatal poison, while the newer S1 version does not.

Chapel of Evil:
O: #14 / S1: #14
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Opalescent Blue Alter:
O: #14a / S1: #14a
In the original 1975 text players sustain a base 26 HP damage from the Lightning Bolt and if the altar is only struck by a magic weapon it then explodes for 30 HP more. In the 1978 S1 the Lightning Bolt inflicts 40 HP damage and any object that touches the alter causes it to explode for 60 HP in a 30 foot radius.

Archway of Glowing Orange:
O: #14b / S1: #14b
In the original 1975 text this area reverses players sex and alignment the first time in. The second time in it switches them back and inflicts 1d6 HP. The 1978 S1 has the same effect upon the first entry. However, on the second time in only alignment (not sex) is restored and 1d6 damage is suffered. Entering a third time restores their sex, however they are teleported to area 3, the Entrance to the Tomb of Horrors.

Stone Gate:
O: #15 / S1: #15
In the original 1975 text the stone gate is a one way door, in the later 1978 S1 a stone block sinks into the floor revealing the opening. This area of the tomb is one of the most critical areas because one of the pits in the hallway has a secret door at its bottom which is the only way into the rest of the tomb. In the original 1975 version this is a tiny notation on the map, while in the 1978 S1 this secret doors importance is described in detail.

Locked Oaken Door:
O: #16 / S1: #16
Both same, S1 much more descriptive. In the 1978 S1 can be found the infamous words “snuff them out”. 

Magical Secret Door:
O: - / S1: #17
In the original 1975 version this is noted on the map as “Detect Magic to Locate”. This secret door is the only way into the rest of the tomb, much like the Stone Gate, above. You can find the secret door normally, but must use a Gem of Seeing or Detect Magic to “locate” the magic. Once located a Dispel Magic or Remove Curse must be cast to open the secret door. 

False Crypt Protected by Fear Gas:
O: - / S1: #18
Added to the 1978 S1. The original 1975 does not include the false pseudo-lich. Instead, there is faint notation on the map written here indicating “12 Skeletons”. Keep in mind the original was designed to be played by 15 players in two hours. One hundred and twenty minutes divided by thirty three keyed areas equals 3.63 minutes of real time per area.

Laboratory and Mummy Preparation Room:
O: #17 / S1: #19
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Huge Pit Filled With 200 Spikes:
O: #18 / S1: #20
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

The Agitated Chamber:
O: #19 / S1: #21
Both same, except in the 1978 S1 if the tapestries are burned they turn into Brown Mold.

The Cavern of the Gold and Silver Mists:
O: #20 / S1: #22
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

False/True Door:
O: - / S1: #23
In the original 1975 text what happens is simply noted on the map. Both areas work the same, however in the 1978 S1 original the Shambling Mound is replaced by a Juggernaut.

Adamantite Door:
O: #21 / S1: #24
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

The Pillared Throne Room:
O: #22 / S1: #25
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Devil Face (Green Mosaic):
O: #23 / S1: #25a
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Devil Face (Blue Mosaic):
O: - / S1: #25b
Added to the 1978 S1. It teleports you to The Portal of Scintillating Violet (see below).

Charred Remains:
O: #26 / S1: #25c
Both same, S1 much more descriptive. On the S1 map the “c” is missing from the key.

Ebony Dias and Silver Throne:
O: #27 / S1: #25d
Both the same except that the effects of touching the silver/gold ball to the crown in the 1978 S1 are reversed.  On the S1 map the “d” is missing from the key.

The Portal of Scintillating Violet:
O: #25 / S1: #27
Both the same except that the 1978 S1 is more deadly than the original.

The Chamber of Hopelessness:
O: - / S1: #27a
Added to the 1978 S1. Victims are teleported here from the Devil Face (Blue Mosaic) noted in the 1978 S1, above.

The Wondrous Foyer:
O: #28 / S1: #28
Both the same except that the 1978 S1 key has an Antipathy spell on it.

The Valves of Mithril:
O: #29 / S1: #29
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

The False Treasure Room:
O: #30 / S1: #30
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Bronze Urn:
O: #30a / S1: #30a
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Granite Sarcophagus:
O: #30b / S1: #30b
In the original 1975 text it contains unidentified scraps.  In the 1978 S1 the sarcophagus reads “Acererak” as a ruse. A broken and useless Staff of the Magi is also present.

Iron Chests:
O: #31 / S1: #30c
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Iron Statues:
O: #30 / S1: #30d
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Two One Way Doors:
O: - / S1: #31
In the 1975 original the words “one way” are written on the map. In the 1978 S1 these are Phase Doors and described in detail.

Secret Door:
O: #32 / S1: #32
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.



The Crypt of Acererak the Demi-Lich:
O: #33 / S1: #33
Both same, except in the 1978 S1 if you insert the wrong key (gold) there is an explosion that causes 5d6 damage.

The Demi-Lich:
O: #33 / S1: #33
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.





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