Monday, May 2, 2011

Origins 1 ToH review from A&E #4

I had hoped that this would be a retelling of a Castle Greyhawk adventure, but instead I soon realized that this poor group of adventurers (complete newbies for the most part) had wandered into The Tomb of Horrors. I have retyped this as I found it, spelling errors included (I just hope that I've added none of my own).

From: Alarums & Excursions #4 September 1975

Billy Balrog's Own Fanzine number three
By Mark Sawnson

ORIGINS I occurred this past weekend. This zine is con report, adventure description and critque and a multiple game review. Since it review a few details of a Dungeon that Gygax will be running as Gencon in mid-August it should not appear until the September A&E, regardless of how late the August one is, (unless it doesn't appear until September.)

We drove down from our gathering point in Conn. last Friday (july 25) New Jersey is still the Blasted Lands and Baltimore, outside John Hopkins, is a slum. $13 was very. low for 2 nights, even if they were un-airconditioned "coffin singles." The food in the cafeteria was acceptable, since there were no decent nearby cheap restruants a Good Thing,and I haven't heard of any problems with the campus administration. The minatures play was rare, but Dippy, Iron Ships & Wooden Men (or vice versa), and all sorts of board games abounded. After I picked the wrong method of finding two German Pak 75/L40's I was out of the armor minature play and devoted myself to kibutzing on one and all.
(Above report dedicated to giving Pelz something to complain about even harder than D&D - which follows.)

THE DUNGEON that Gary had brought along was being run in a tournament - all parties with identical characters (ranging from a MU 12 to a Fighter 4 - with strength of 18. As characters were assigned in alphabetical order I ended up as a 6th rate Magic user- supposedly the weakest in the group. Four of the fifteen had any previous experience. I grabbed the callers spot and announced the imposition of military discipline. Judging by the way the game went, Slobbovian army.

As I started to say- there were no wandering monsters (damn few monsters at all, in fact), plenty of traps (too many) and very few experienced players. It was run by Gary's son, who devoted no effort to keeping the characters in character. However, we did just as well as the other Friday night group- with 13 expert adventurers, that many would be callers- and perhaps just a shade to much caution.

We were to loot a tomb, hidden under a hill. Paul Bean having chosen our spells while I described D&D to the 11 novices and Gary's son wrote out the character descriptions (why they didn't make up several sets on 3x5 cards beforehand passeth understanding - to busy is the probable explanation.) No names were assigned to the characters. The remaining two experienced players- New Yorkers I think, retired into a corner to determine their own equipment. It quickly bacame obvious that they had tabbed me as the bossy type and didn't want to argue. The situation- which was dire- demanded such behavior, however. A little more assistance would have been usefull. Paul and I made a bad mistake at once- not being used to playing with single use spells we did not take enough multiple copies of the more usefull ones. Everyone had a magic item or two- I had levitation boots- in this dungeon the most usefull thing in the whole group. We had two magic users (12, 6), 2 clerics (10,6), 7 fighters (8 Palafine,3x7,6,5,4), 2 thieves (9,5)(Hobbit thief=5: in the other party they started down the tunnel to the tune of "Thieves aren't lawful, Hobbits aren't Neutral; where do Hobbit thieves come from" a case of that sub-Game- Grossing Out the Dungeonmaster). And 2 elves (M6 F4, M4 F4 C4!) No time to investigate Elvish clerics- and Gary's son was running things "by the book".

My fabulous career as caller began as we first entered the right hand entrance and emerged slightly ahead of the ceiling. We then tried the right entrance- and were trapped as a wall slid too behind us. Our Passwall spell got us out. (In the other party , tale-end Charlie responded to this event by "drawing sword and bow." His march position was readjusted. They hadn't realized no wandering monsters either.)

Finally we entered the central entrance, and headed down the 20' wide passage. The walls were plastered and covered with murals. 40' down there was a picture of two dogheaded beings holding a coffer- which stuck out of the wall. I decided that we could do without Anubis's kin and continued. Our elves reported no secret doors or traps. Ten more feet and out #2 and #3 fighters fell into a trap and lost minor bickerings with three poisoned, 5' spikes each. Poor quality elves we have hear, thought I. We dragged them out. Should our Patriarch raise them from the dead? After 5 hours in the Barren Lands my condition might have been described as numb. With a hazy idea of saving the spell for later I ordered them dropped back into thee pit for later recovery. Neither the Paladin nor the Patriarch protested. The Dungeonmaster did not tell them they should have (both were neos.) No one suggested that we take their useful equipment along with us (one had a bag of holding.) At this point I ordered a Locate Traps spell used- a bit late- and we avoided two more pits on the way down to the end of the corridor- 60'. Still plastered walls, still the elves detected no hollow spaces or hidden doors. What a time to pick defective elves!

At the end of the passageway there was a devil mouth- with an open, black mouth. Things shoved in did not return. On the left there was a door with a blue haze covering it. anything that went partway in came back, Things that went in all the way did not. Paul, a F7 and the only other useful person on the expedition to this point volunteered to investigate the door. He went through and the Dmaster took him outside. In a bit, I decided it was time to charge through all together. (How do you run a 15 man expedition- (all characters were male) why, most of the players are an attentive audience.)

Our Patriarch and the 7th level Dwarf decide to stay put, and went outside. the game room. We found ourselves inside a 10' square, 30' high room, without doors and possessed of 3 levers. At this point I announced that we were all driving spikes into the walls and standing on them. Various conditions of levers were tried. All three down resulted in the floor opening for a stimulating view of a 100' drop. At this point the Dmaster told that the levers had started in the neutral position. all three were put up, the ceiling opened and we climbed up and into a 3' high and wide crawlway.

At this point the cleric and dwarf were brought in and decided to enter the screen behind us. Somehow the floor had reopened behind us and we had one small and one holy mound of flesh 130' down from where we were. By this point I had a feeling that this was not going to be the most successful adventure of the tournament.

We crawled up the passageway, discovered a room above a trapdoor with wooden, golden and silver chests; containing a massive skeleton, 10 snakes and a magic ring with white dust inside. The hobbit thief tried it on, deciding not to remove the powder and promptly died. We wiped it off and took the ring along.

We got out along the crawlway. The room was plastered, the elves detected nothing and I had not yet grasped that a 1/2" of plaster was elf proof. Gygax's elves have to see secret doors, reasonable but not what I am accustomed to. We came back up in a pit with two old friends in it. I suggested departure. The rest of the party wanted a crack at Anubis's cousins- resulting, after a lever in a30' pit being found- from which Paul was extracted with only bruises.

Someone else had a brilliant thought- what's behind the plaster? We broke some and found a door. Blasted insensitive elves! Down a corridor and discovered two super-gargoyles, which were disposed of with difficulty- they being 8th level and no one on our side remembering whatmagic they had. Finally, a lightning javelin did the trick, while it was demonstrated once more that "Charm person" does nothing to gargoyles. (The rest of the party had not gotten the idea and ordered their characters around to a limited degree.) Two colars at 500 GP were thus acquired- our only treasure, it turned out.

Now through a maze of 10' square rooms with walls that pivoted vertically, horizontally, slid up,down,and sideways. Each direction had to be individually specified. The party agreed and our 18 (80%) fighter started making holes in the wall instead. This git up to another 20' corridor, with more plaster to break, thence into a crawlspace (thank Ghu for no wandering monsters!" which got us to a chapel. Blue altar-which our Paladin warned us not to touch (26 point lightning bolt as it turned red, so I learned from another party later) and an orange mist door. Our sixth level cleric walked into it. A female anti-cleric promptly emerged and threw a curse. "I'm attacking her with my +3 mace announced our sole living cleric operator. Gently the situation was explained to him. The Dmaster decided the curse had been hurled at the Paladin. Who picked the misguided female up and hurled her into the orange doorway; from which emerged our cleric with a sore jaw.

At this point we got a five minute warning and things started to move fast. The fing into a slot on the opposite wall (there went a 5' diameter protection ring, said the Dmaster.) Out along a 10' corridor, down a flight of stairs as three more panic- a landing, doors east and west...

"Games over" said Gary. Another, later party, possibly aided by rumors or led by someone who understood pits, elf proof plaster and the unpopulated nature of Gygax's dungeon- got th whole treasure. Sigh.

From this experience I deduce a couple of lessons.

1) Don't run D&D as a tournament. 2) Always shatter plaster unless you are in the dungeon of nasty minded people such as I who might put poison gas behind it. 3) Play a Gygax game if you like pits, secret doors and Dungeon Roulette. Play a game such as in A&E if you prefer monsters, talking/arguing/fighting with chance met characters and a more exciting game. of course, the game may not have been typical, but Gary can defend himself. I felt no real desire for a second, similar game.

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