Return to the Tomb of Horrors by DAD LOST MY IPOD
What the fuck is an Acererererereraker?Original SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 1: What the fuck is an Acererererereraker?
Before I begin, a preface: This is a long adventure. Really, really, really long. And involved. And it comes with tons of backstory, unique foes, unique items, and so on. So I'll post tonight about backstory, next post will be new enemies/items, and then we'll start the adventure itself. Obviously huge spoilers all over the place. Be warned. Although if you seriously want to play through this adventure, fuck man, you have my respect, and you may just want to forget to mention to your GM that you read this stuff. I'm not kidding about how fatal this thing is. Seriously, even extremely skilled min-maxing parties of all clerics and wizards will lose a few people permanently to this, and the chance of TPK is pretty high.
So, Acererak. Our story begins sometime past in the world of Greyhawk. Acererak's parents meet via that old story: wizard summons balor, wizard loses control of balor, balor eats wizard and rapes servant girl, servant girl gives birth to half-demonic cambion offspring. Mother killed by torch-wielding mob in front of ten year old son. Cambion child rescued by Vecna, gigantic evil asshole. Acererak, being the ambitious sort, vows to become an even bigger asshole than Vecna. Will he succeed? Yes, he will succeed. That part is pure speculation on my part but is basically a reasonable explanation.
So Acererak is a Huge asshole, but is not yet a Colossal asshole (+16 size bonus on dickishness checks). He worships Orcus, the demon god of undeath, and eventually becomes a lich himself. At some point, he discovers the True Name™ of his balor father and uses it to bind him into service, and through him, a whole swarm of lesser demons. With the help of these demons and some really naive and doomed mortal craftsmen, he constructs the TOMB OF HORRORS, where he sits. And waits. You see, the entire TOMB OF HORRORS is the first step in Acererak's ridiculously convoluted plan to harness the power of sheer assholery and ascend to semi-Godhood. So he sits and lurks in his TOMB OF HORRORS, encouraging the spread of rumors about the vast wealth that can be found within to entice travelers. Once they arrive, he taunts them with poems about how much smarter he is than they are, gives abstruse clues to getting past the many traps in his TOMB OF HORRORS, and then waits. If any of them make it to the end, he deals with them personally. At this point Acererak is a demilich, a floating skull with a penchant for soul-sucking.
That's the background to the original Tomb of Horrors. Since then, his plan has advanced a whole bunch of stages, and he's abandoned the original Tomb. It's still relevant for a bunch of reasons, but master's not home anymore. So who is?
Shitloads of necromancers! See, Acererak has gotten to be a fairly legendary figure. Scores of the bravest, strongest, smartest, quickest, and best-equipped adventurers descended on the tomb. Almost none returned, and those that did were horribly scarred in body and mind. Given that the TOMB OF HORRORS is, in some ways, a temple to undeath, and Acererak himself is one of the most powerful forms of self-willed undead that exists, it's pretty natural that necromancers would flock to the site. They worship him, in fact, as the Devourer; Acererak's best-known sigil, the great wide-mouthed demon face. He got this name for a bunch of reasons, not least of which because his TOMB OF HORRORS chews up adventuring parties (and then doesn't spit them out). The necromancers have built a city, aptly named Skull City, over the site of the tomb, along with a necromancy school that might as well be called Evil Hogwarts and so will be from here on out.
The adventure hook at the start is the Dark Intrusion. Corpses have started to wise fwom their gwaves, and nobody knows why. Even the necromancers aren't sure what's causing all of the but they're excited about it, because it means their God is Up to Something. Is he? he is .
One other setting deserves some background: Moil, also known as the City that Waits. You see, on the prime material world of Ranais, there was a city called Moil, full of assholes. They worshipped Orcus, the aforementioned demon god of undeath. Well, Orcus isn't a very nice guy even when you're worshipping him, and they probably got sick of random undead slayings in the middle of the night, so they found some other less killthirsty gods. Orcus took a very dim view of this and cursed the whole city with a horrible curse of dread and devastation! He cursed them... to fall asleep all night and only be woken up by the sun!
WHAT A JERK RIGHT GUYS
Oh wait, then he picked up the whole city and put it in a private little demiplane where, indeed, there was no sun and it would never shine again.
That's Our Orcus!
So of course all of the Moilians (as they are known, apparently) fell asleep and never woke up. One by one they died until the city was totally purged of the living. And Orcus went and got himself killed by Kiaransalee, but that's neither here nor there (well, actually, it's There, if There is The Great Modron March/Dead Gods, two of the best adventures ever written).
Acererak found out about the City That Waits through his occult research and instantly saw the possibilities. He raised a bunch of zombies from Moilian dead and used the demiplane's proximity to the Negative Energy Plane to have them build a citadel for him there. (As an aside, the Negative Energy Plane is probably the most hostile place in the entire cosmology of D and D; I'd rather be dropped naked and hogtied in the Abyss than step foot in there. GUESS WHERE WE'RE GOING!!!)
Moil's towers now rise out of and disappear into "writhing black fog" which is basically a big one way portal to the Negative Energy Plane. It's also full of these guys:
Why hello there, Zombie Richard Simmons!
Up next: Magic items, monsters, and new spells!
Monsters, Magic and MartifactsOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part II: Monsters, Magic and Martifacts
So. Before we dive into the adventure itself (next post, I promise!) I wanted to go over some of the cool magic items and monsters that this adventure introduces. Partially because I will be referencing them later, and partially because they bring up some themes that will recur throughout the adventure. In no particular order, let's start with the monsters.
It begins, innocuously enough, with the Bone Weird. This is a fairly powerful but not particularly unfair monster with a neat concept. It's basically an invisible, serpentine energy being, and its "body" is composed of bones animated by this energy into a pile. Warmachine/Hordes players will recognize the Boneswarm. It likes to grapple enemies and also bite them. If you're bitten, save vs. death magic or it rips out your bones to add to itself This causes 4d10 damage and a system shock roll. It's also stated that which bones you lose are random, so it could be anything from your coccyx to your tibia. Good luck! It turns as a lich (but can only be turned 25% of the time anyways), takes no damage from non-magical piercing attacks and 1 point of damage from any other non-magical attack, and must be reduced to -10 HP to kill it.
Moilian Heart & Moilian Zombie
The Heart isn't really much of a monster, more of a hazard, and in any case it functions the same as a Moilian Zombie so I'll describe them together. Both types of Moilian undead are naturally dormant, lying there in a sheet of ice until living things come nearby. Any living thing coming within 20 feet of either triggers their signature ability: roll a 12 or higher on a d20 each round (add your con bonus) or lose 1d10 HP, which the Moilian adds to its total. HP lost this way can only be magically healed, it will not return normally. If you die this way you have a 13% (?) chance of animating as Moilian zombie after death. They remain animated as long as they have HP, losing one per day until they stop moving and go dormant again. To permanently destroy either, you need to consume them in flames or acid or something similar to that. The only difference is the Zombie can project frost and beat on your with zombie hands, the heart just sits there because, well, it's a heart. The Zombie is Zombie Richard Simmons in my previous post.
Negative Energy Elementals
A lot of this adventure (well, some of this adventure) takes place on the Negative Energy Plane, where you might run into these guys. They have an aura that makes healing weaker and undead stronger. Their touch rots you and your stuff and drains levels. Pretty standard undead-type stuff, except for their aura, but they take bonus damage from elemental typed attacks so they're not super hard to get rid of.
These are weird headless bats made of negative energy. So ~kawaii~! They're not very strong, but they flock and can be very annoying.
Hoo boy. This thing is the manifestation of the nightmares the Moilians had as they died in cursed sleep. There's only one of it, and it's not really fightable because it's so deadly (to characters of the appropriate level, anyways); it's more of a hazard of Moil. It's insanely difficult to hurt with weapons, resists or is immune to most kinds of magic (and has 90% MR anyways against the few kinds it's not immune to), inflicts a -4 penalty on all of your actions just for being near it, can't be turned, can attack the whole party at once, drains Int, etc etc. You are explicitly supposed to run from it whenever you find it. Very evocative, though; it's a rolling fog that emits whispers, moans and murmurs (the sounds Moilians made as they died in their sleep) and it wants to absorb you and make its suffering yours.
The "oh, fuck you " monster and the first appearance of the dreaded blackfire . It's a skeleton coated in ice whose head burns with black fire (or blackfire I guess). It's pretty beefy and hits hard with decent MR and some immunities (obviously cold, among other things) and regenerates by "sublimating moisture" into the ice that makes up its body. The real threat is the blackfire . Anyone touching it automatically catches. Each turn you... blackburn, I guess, you roll a d20 and add your Con bonus, wanting an 11 or higher. Three successes in a row and it goes out. A failed check costs you 1d2 Con. This repeats until it goes out or you hit 0 Con, at which time you die and turn into ash. Not even a wish can restore you, from this fate-- notably, this is the first of many times you will hear "not even a wish " on this adventure. Acererak has no time for your reality altering magicks . If you go within 2' of someone who is on blackfire , you get to share the love. The only ways to put it out without passing those checks are an antimagic shell, negative plane protection spell, or getting hit with a fireball or lightning bolt or similar spell of at least 8 dice, which "blows it out." Yes, truly Acererak is history's greatest asshole.
That's all the new monsters, and really, isn't that enough?
Most of these are hideously evil things you can pillage from the Skull City and Evil Hogwarts. I won't go into too much detail.
Acererak's Haphazard Wheel
And we're off to a great start! This is a cursed roulette wheel, basically. If anyone says a number 1-6 while near it, it lights up and starts spinning. Roll a d6 to see where it lands! If it lands where they said, their "prime requisite" ie most important stat is instantly raised to 21. Wow, awesome! But if it misses, then you suffer the ill effects of wherever it lands. This can permanently reduce your HP, reduce your prime requisite, age you, drain a quarter of your levels, erase your eyes, ears and hands from existence, or simply suck out your soul into Acererak's phylactery. Good news! A wish will work to restore whatever the wheel steals. But nothing else will. Oh, and don't fuck with the wheel in any way while spinning, it sucks your soul out.
Amulet of the Void
This is a plot item with no powers outside of the plot. Neat!
Evil armor that gives you AC 7. The book helpfully informs us that only evil people would use this. EVVVVVVIIIILLLLLL ARRRRMMMMMOOOOORRRR.
The Blade Perilous
This is an intelligent magic sword used by the leader of Moil's armies, the Grand High Exultant. It is a sword of wounding +3 with a shitload of special powers and abilities, including the ability to entrace people who look at the wielder swangin' it around.
The Blood Codex
Turning yourself into a vampire for dummies. Reading the book makes you obsess and brood over it, and it makes you more eviler when you read it. If you collect tons of items and spend lots of gold and XP you can attempt to turn yourself into a . Failure turns you into dust instead and not even a wish can bring you back.
More EVIL ARMOR, this time made of bones. It's chainmail +3 and enhances your strength and gives you a few other bonuses. Hilariously, your armor can be turned, which is a bit awkward when you're in it.
A wand that contains various bone-themed powers, including some spells (suffocate, bone blight) and the ability to fuse all of someone's bones into one big megabone. Only evil people would even consider using it!
Brooch of Access
This is neat, it's a perma-Knock spell centered on you. You can walk through any door you want!
Cursed Rending Hooks of Dargeshaad
These incredibly metal hooks are daggers +1 that are +4 on a living target. On a hit, they magically fuse with you. Once they do, only a 15th level or greater dispel magic or similar spell will remove them. Until then they chew up 1d4 ability score points per round (save vs. death magic each round to prevent) until you die and your spirit gets sucked into the hook. Cumulative 1% chance per use of turning on the wielder, too, so everyone joins in the fun! Again, don't use if you're not EVILLLLLLLLL.
Much less than the Hooks, this dagger +2 sometimes does a bonus 1d4 damage to the target and if you want to use one you better be EVIL.
A brooch invented by Vampire Dumbledore, this lets her (and any undead wearing it) save vs. spells as a wizard to resist turning. Living creatures putting it on get fingered. Finger of Death, to be exact.
Gauntlet of Guard
A glove that grows to give your whole body AC 0 and 20% MR. It can also PEW PEW out of its finger for 10d6 damage three times a day (save vs. breath weapon for 0).
Headsman's Axe of Moil
Belonging to Moil's chief executioner, this axe is a vorpal sword +3 despite being an axe. If someone is standing or lying motionless and defenseless before you you can automatically, no dice required, just chop their head right off. Useless, unless paired with...
Headsman's Hood of Moil
This hood lets you, three times per day, use an uber- suggestion on a target, which must work to complete this task to the exclusion of all others. If you command someone specifically to lie motionless with their head on a chopping block, they get a -5 to save against this exact command. And of course these two items are encountered together.
When this stone is in your possession, you believe you are getting a +1 on all dice rolls, you are actually getting a -1. If you spin Acererak's Wheel, the DM rolls 2d6 and picks the worse result for you. No affect on attack and damage rolls, though. It looks just like a luckstone and is likely to be mistaken for one.
Mask of the Devourer
Hoo boy. Lots of stuff here. It's a green leather mask in the shape of Acererak's "Devourer" sigil. Actually, it's a permanently shapechanged tanar'ri, but shhhhh. The eyes open up so you can see through them but the mouth opens into utter darkness. Anyone putting it on can't remove it except by wish , and doing so steals your face; only eyes and two small nostril holes are left, you need a second wish to get the rest of your features back. At night, the mask has a 20% chance to "begin chortling in maniacal glee, belch forth sulfurous gas, drool copiously, or engage in some other annoying or disgusting behavior. The wearer is not aware of this and does not awaken. His or her companions are not so lucky and will find that only waking the wearer of the mask causes the disgusting mouthings to cease." The mask has an absolute assload of abilities as well, most notably the ability to make a bite attack once per day at a THAC0 of 7. If successful, the mouth grows huge and swallows whatever man-sized or smaller creature you hit, chewing and grunting contentedly. 1d10 memories, spells or both are transferred to the wearer, generally driving them insane. It has an 18% chance to attempt this attack whenever you try to do any attack, unless it already did today. Every time you do the attack, it has a cumulative 2% chance of turning on you, inverting and consuming you utterly. And, as you may have guessed by now, not even a wish can recover someone lost this way.
Ring of Negative Elemental Mastery
Lets you summon, command and converse with negative elemental plane elementals, and provides some protection from the attacks of negative aligned creatures (including undead). Has a few other powers as well but nothing super notable.
Ring of Universal Movement
Walk on anything you want! Water? Sure! Underside of a cliff? Ok! Up the side of a skyscraper? No problem! You can walk on air and thus fly a little, too.
This mask has a gemstone over one eye; wearing it, the gem acts as a gem of seeing , letting you see invisible and ethereal creatures, see through fog or mist, etc etc. You can even see through lady's clothes into their BATHING SUIT AREA.
A cloak with the essence of a wraith. Helpfully, the wraith does not level drain you while you are wearing it. Nor can other undead! Also you get an AC of 4, can't be hurt by nonmagical nonsilver weapons. The cloak can also attack, can be turned, and can take damage (if it takes too much it just becomes a normal cloak). Only evil people would want to wear this!
Not as many as new items, but just as fun.
This level 2 spell lets you light a magical candle made of intelligent-creature fat. It creates dim illumination that overrides the effects of a darkness or light spell. That's all!
Enlarge (Reduce) Undead
Creates a flying shadow-boat you can ride.
This blocks the sun from affecting objects, useful given how much stuff in this adventure is affected adversely by sunlight. Vampires can walk around in daylight for one hour per caster level. No sunburns on normals either!
Vapor of Idiocy/Agony
"Any creature with less than 4 Hit Dice that steps into the mist immediately becomes an idiot (as if feebleminded )." More hit dice gives you a save. Wears off when you breathe fresh air outside in daytime. Agony vapor just hurts and does a little damage.
Special Moilian zombies, anywhere you want them. Must be EVIL!!!
An offensive spell version of the horrible awful fire we saw above.
This spell turns a spell-absorbing ioun stone into a special blackstone that absorbs magic from spells, spell-like abilities, etc. If it enters the aoe of a spell, it absorbs and cancels it. Once it absorbs up to a set limit (the amount the ioun stone could have absorbed) it EXPLODES!!! for 4 points of damage/spell level stored, save vs. breath weapon for half. All inanimate objects save or be disintegrated. The holder saves at a penalty and takes double damage.
Yup. Of note: it's a 9th level spell, it requires a lab with lots of incredibly expensive and specialized equipment, and it only works 1d10% of the time (that is, roll 1d10, then try to roll percentile below that number).
Weight of the Wait
A hilarious spell! This one creates a parchment that stores 75% of the time that passes in its area. Time flows at only a quarter rate in the bubble, the rest is absorbed. If you move or break the sealed parchment, you (and everyone in the bubble) get hit with all of that stored time at once and usually age to death.
So that's what awaits us. Next time: The beginning of the adventure !
The Adventure BeginsOriginal SA post
Tomb of Horrors Part 3: The Adventure Begins
Sorry about the delay, folks! My apartment got really really hot and so I had to evacuate to my parents' house for a few days so my ferrets wouldn't die. A weird problem to have. I'll probably be on a once a week schedule. Sorry, busy.
Anyways, today we're going to start on the adventure. I'm going to lay out basically what's happening and briefly skim the encounters and what not, because this is a FATAL & Friends post so we don't care about the normal stuff. We care about insane, unfair encounters.
In the Beginning
The event that kicks off the adventure is known as the Dark Intrusion. Acererak's long-laid plans in the Negative Energy Plane are approaching fruition, and a side effect of this is that the area around his TOMB OF HORRORS in Greyhawk is becoming supercharged with negative elemental energy. The practical result of this is damn near everything rising from the dead. The necromancers of Skull City have noted this and are exacerbating things, though they're not privy to Acererak's plans (he's not so big on living servants; of which more later).
The PCs start in the typical tavern (though there's really a lot of ways to hook them in) in a city built on river trade. One foggy night, a gentleman leaves the bar and is immediately torn to pieces by angry wights in the mist. This serves as an intro combat encounter, incidentally also serving as a very quick way to weed out parties who aren't ready for the Tomb since it consists of ten Wights. Investigation of their corpses reveals tattoos that point to "Payvin's Pearl," which some investigations reveal is a river barge the unlucky owner of which was deserted by his crew the prior week. The wights provide pretty strong evidence of where that crew ended up, and hopefully the PCs seek out Captain Payvin, who's been drowning his sorrows. Poor Payvin relates a story of finding his ship deserted one misty night and being threatened theatrically by a pair of red eyes in the mist.
Here the adventure does one of my favorite things, which is to provide a great deal of background for the GM on what actually just happened. The PCs will likely never figure this out, but it helps to know where monsters came from, why they struck when and where they did, and what they're off doing while the PCs are blundering around. RttToH does this a lot, and it really helps build a sense of active enemies with agency not just waiting around to be pulled like mobs. Turns out the zombies were just crew dumped into the river after their blood was harvested by three evil vampires sent from Skull City for blood-harvesting purposes.
Anyways, the threat included a mention of "The Devourer" and this should set the PCs off. There's a few sages in the area, and the GM is encouraged to provide one of Acererak's trademark rhymes if they use legend lore .
"The city that waits was the city of Moil. Where dreams truly died, but bodies yet toil. In slumber unrelenting, they lie yet in wait. Biding their time to seal your fate.
Discovery of the void and my fortress within, demands exploration through peril again. Find amid towers degenerate the single key, and resolve the dilemma of problems three.
Beard the brine dragon in its frozen hallow, remove the key, avoid its starved swallow. Beneath webs of glowing emerald, hangs a riddle box rife to be solved.
The darkweaver endures the cold in her lair, grasp your fate with consumate care. The lifeless dream that marks the crime, is the vestage that guards the sand of time.
Each resolution removes one obstacle, for those who peruse this written oracle. The phantom released flies you in fashion, to my inevitable fortress of conclusion."
Acererak loves to give abstruse hints about the insane traps he's got set up, mostly 1) so that he can feel superior when people die anyways and 2) because he's an asshole.
So. Assuming they go to a sage, they get some very generic background that Acererak is a Bad Enough Dude and that another wizard, named Desatysso, was also interested in pursuing information on him-- along with directions to Desatysso's home. Hopefully the PCs realize that they're in something really deep and could use the help. His home is in a mountain range called the Glorioles ( ) and, as an amusing aside, the random encounter table for the trip ranges from a pack of ranging wild dogs (35 xp each)to a scouting party of mountain giants (7000 xp each).
Mission to Giantville
Anyways, after fighting past a couple of boulder-tossing hill giants that assail them as they try to climb a rocky slope, the PCs find Desatysso's ruined stronghold, which is now occupied by a pack of giants. This is the first and least fatal "dungeon" of the adventure, appropriately enough. In fact, it's possible for charismatic and quick-thinking PCs to talk their way past most of the encounters. It's full of hill and mountain giants who love to throw stones, so if you do want to fight you're in for a rough one. There's a magical fountain that's kinda broken and now infects you with a horrible disease that takes ten points off STR, CON and DEX while you poop it out of your system. There's also a magical trap with this charming description:
"anyone who passes through the corridor has a 90% chance to step on the large concealed rocky pressure plate that covers a 5-foot-by-4-foot section of the floor. If the plate is trod upon, the rocky walls of the cavern magically constrict in the space of a heartbeat, almost like the mineral analog of an organic sphincter muscle, pulping anything in the passage and causing 2d10+20 points of damage."
There's a fire elemental in the fireplace, swinging blade traps, fairly standard dungeon accouterments. As you can see, I'm kinda rushing through this one because it's not particularly interesting. There are a couple of notable encounters, though. "From the level of Desatysso’s Stronghold, the passage begins a very steep ascent, spiraling up and up a total of 1,000 feet before opening out onto the ledge at area 10, a giddy height above the valley floor. The tunnel remains 10 feet wide and 15 feet high throughout its steep length, and giant-sized creatures may only pass through it single file." Once PCs enter it, a giantess at the top releases a giant spherical boulder almost the exact dimensions of the tunnel to roll down and crush them! The DM is supposed to count down from 10 to add "dramatic tension." You can't outrun it without magical speed, but there's a 5 foot space between it and the ceiling. Amusingly, the GM is told that if any character 5 feet tall or above attempts to magically leap over the boulder, they bonk their head on the ceiling and fall back to the floor stunned in front of it. This is the first of many instructions to be a particular dick to the PCs. Anyone who can't figure out how to get safe takes 12d10 points of damage with no save.
Once you make it up, more giant-fightin' takes place. Notably, one of them prefers to pick up PCs, requiring a normal attack roll (ignoring their armor bonus). PC gets a Bend Bars/Lift Gates roll, then over the edge they go, for 20d6 points of falling damage (and effective removal from the fight). One of the giants is a shaman with some spells and magic items and a retinue of trolls. Here the PCs are strongly encouraged to negotiate, though the book notes it won't be easy with the belligerent, confident and stupid giants. There's also a helpless infant giant, though in a rare show of self control on the part of the writers it does not give XP if you kill it.
However they manage it, if the PCs get past the giants they get what they really want: access to Desatysso's notes in his desk. (It is of course trapped). Opening it reveals a battered piece of a document, noting that Desatysso felt he was ready for his expedition to confront the Devourer and that he wanted to contract the serves of Falon T'Selvin in Kalstrand. And this clue, aside from the treasure, is all there is.
Off to Kalstrand
Aside from an ominous but ultimately dead-end encounter involving a burial mount (the inhabitants of which have become more frisky due to the Dark Intrusion), the PCs make it to Kalstrand easily. They find easily enough that Falon can be found at the end of Elmwood Lane, but upon visiting this address, they find it's a cemetery . Falon's tombstone is easy to find, and finding it also finds his old friend, come to pay his respects: GRUNTHER!
haha what a
Grunther, despite losing his arm in the dumbest way possible (you will find out later), is a pretty cool dude. He'll come with the PCs if they let him and make it clear that they mean to attack the Devourer, even though he doesn't really know who that is beyond "the grinning skull." He's been to the TOMB OF HORRORS before so if a DM is feeling merciful, having him in the party might help them avoid some of the more unfair fuck-you traps. He'll also take them to the other survivor of the doomed expedition: Sather, the priestess.
The PCs pass through an abandoned town (everyone was kidnapped by the aforementioned vampires and taken to Skull City) and arrive in Pitchfield, Sather's hometown, where a "plague" is in progress. In actual fact the vampires have been killing people in the night, but nobody knows that. If the PCs stick around there'll be more wights to fight, but the priority is finding the priestess. A lot smarter than Grunther, she remembers the TOMB OF HORRORS pretty well, but she flat out refuses to accompany them and in fact can be sent into seizures just from being pressed to hard on it (an event which will make Grunther abandon the PCs). She wouldn't be much good, anyways, since her experience in the TOMB OF HORRORS destroyed her faith and cost her her powers. She has Desatysso's journal, which in addition to obliquely referencing many of the traps in the TOMB OF HORRORS, also provides some background on who Acererak is and what he wants. The important bits of info are twofold; first, a map to the TOMB OF HORRORS; and second, a reference to the Amulet of the Void, a magical item which can guide the user to the "true Tomb." What she doesn't know is that the Amulet broke in the struggle; half of it was left in the lair of the demilich by Desatysso, who no longer needed it, and the other half was left at the entrance by Sather, where it was stolen by the necromancers.
Into the Swamp
Skull City and the TOMB OF HORRORS are located in the middle of the Vast Swamp, which is exactly what it sounds like. It's full of swamp-appropriate random encounters, and one extremely nonrandom encounter. You see, throughout their trip, they are eventually noticed by the unfortunately named Dim Triad, the personal servants of Mistress Ferranifer, the master of Skull City. These three vampires (Absalom, Blaesing and Harrow) carry with them scrolls of sunward (see my last post) and some of their coffin soil. The vampires notice the PCs and night and send Blaesing down in gaseous form while the other two return to the city. Blaesing preferentially targets priests, or anyone wearing or possessing holy regalia. He has a base 95% chance, minus twice any active guard's Wisdom score, of silently killing any PC in their sleep without alerting anyone . If he silently kills three PCs he will flee in gaseous form. If discovered, he hits automatically, draining two levels and doing damage, then flees in gaseous form. The next night all three vampires do the same. This is by no means the last time a PC can be killed simply by not doing something it would not necessarily occur to them to do.
And with that, the (surviving) PCs arrive in SKULL CITY!
Next time: Skull City, the Black Academy, and maybe some of the TOMB OF HORRORS itself (but probably not).
We Built This Skull City On Skulls and BonesOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 4: We Built This Skull City On Skulls and Bones
Anyways, if the PCs made it through the vast, swampy Vast Swamp they have arrived at the outside of
The effects are:
-All undead are turned as if one category higher on the turn undead table.
-Spells of the "necromancy" school have their casting time reduced by 1
-Anything rat-sized or larger that dies in or near the city has a 20% chance to spontaneously zombify within 24 hours
Around the outside of the city is the Quaking Bog, a mat of vegetation floating on the stagnant waters of the swamp. You can only get within 300 feet of the city by boat (boats are, thankfully, provided), but the peat supports your weight-- it does kind of shake uncomfortably below your feet, though. The real danger, however, is the fuckton of ghasts that live below the peat. The mistress of the Black Academy set them there and instructed them to attack anyone who crosses the peat and doesn't chant a dirge while doing so. However, underwater ghasts can't hear all that well, so you can basically just chant anything loudly and they'll leave you alone.
If you do get attacked, they burst up through the peat, releasing noxious odors that cause a saving throw vs. poison to avoid suffering a -2 on all attacks. Ghasts can paralyze with a touch, so they paralyze PCs and drag them down into the water, where they drown and/or get eaten. It should go without saying that the ghasts almost always get surprise. Needless to say this is a very nasty and potentially lethal combat; four ghasts attack round one and two more join each round until 14 in all are attacking.
Still, ghasts are pretty low-level compared to the PCs, so let's assume they make it past. There are ways to do this without fighting-- flying over the peat works, and if they wait and scope out the city some necromancers will cross the peat chanting, which may give them a clue. Anyways, however they do it, the PCs make it to the wall. Here they face their next challenge.
The wall is pockmarked with pits about 18 inches across. In reality, the holes are tunnel entrances and the entire wall is honeycombed with them. Inside the wall dwells a whole family of dark naga. They constantly patrol the walls using ESP on anyone who gets close. PCs stand a 75% chance of detection if they get within ESP range of the walls, ie 80 feet. If the PCs are thinking about breaking into the city, the naga emerge from the wall and warn them to enter the city lawfully. If the PCs tell them to fuck off, combat ensues, and in 1d4+1 rounds the naga summon their matriarch. They also send someone in to warn the necromancers that asshole murderhobos are comin'. The necromancers send the three vampires from before to attack, unless they've been destroyed, in which case Evil Dumbledore comes herself. If the fight goes on long enough, regular Joe Necromancers come and join in against the PCs.
This is an extremely nasty combat and it's likely that even appropriately leveled PCs will have a hard time with it. There are five dark naga, each of which has poison stings, lots of resistances, and spells as a sixth-level wizard. The matriarch casts as an eighth-level wizard and has more hitpoints and damage. It's very unlikely that this fight could wrap up quickly, and if the inhabitants of the city get involved the PCs will quickly find themselves overwhelmed.
So, let's assume the PCs bluff or fight or trick their way past the naga. Again, there are plenty of ways to do it, the easiest of which is probably just to agree to enter the city lawfully. This presents its own problems, however. PCs are directed to the Bone Portal, a 10-foot wide gate in the wall that appears to be made of bony plates and spurs in a vaguely humanoid shape. The gate is, in reality, a custom, intelligent bone golem that can see right through illusion and invisibility. Anyone approaching the gate is asked "What is the Sign?" PCs can, hopefully, guess at this point (from repeated references) that the answer is "The Devourer." They can also lurk in wait and spy on incoming necromancers to get the answer. If they do, the bone golem folds itself up into a mobile form and steps aside to let them into the city. If they fail to answer correctly, it does the same, but attacks. The Bone Golem is a horrible foe, since it has absolute spell immunity (except the spell "shatter"), resistance to edged and piercing weapons, and the ability to laugh in a manner so frightening that you drop dead . Fortunately, like the naga above, this combat can and probably should be bypassed.
Skull City Blues
So we're in! Hooray! Directly inside the city is a graveyard, known as the "grave district." At first blush, this makes no sense, since anything and anyone that dies in here rests for about ten seconds before some necromancer raises it. But think about it: tons of necromantic spells rely on components from a graveyard: grave soil, pieces of a tombstone, etc. Plus those are useful components in spell research. So they do have a graveyard, the turnover rate is just extremely high. The necromancers capture people from outside (see previous segments), kill 'em, stuff 'em in the ground, then dig 'em up and raise 'em.
The next interesting thing to note is this wall:
See, one of the necromancers, Danele, was driven mad by visions of Acererak and expelled from the Academy, but allowed to stay in Skull City itself. He's torn out his own eyes to get rid of the visions, but they still come, and he still is compelled to draw and sculpt them down. He'll speak to the PCs, but nothing understandable; "At the Conclusion, the Devourer awaits your souls" and the like. He explains about the picture of the woman and child, "We made him what he became. The scorn of man birthed the rage of the Devourer." There is one vital clue to get from Danele, though, even though it's not important until the very end of the adventure. If asked about the glowing orb, he says "The Devourer's phylactery holds the souls of the lost. The souls can only be saved by the pure light of the sun; all other roads shall damn these souls eternally." There are also stats for Danele, but there's no earthly reason to attack him other than spite.
Back to the city, the book provides some descriptions of residential districts, and the contents of houses, in case your murderhobos want to go all Legend of Zelda on you. There's also a giant circus-style tent called the Dead Pool, full of skeletons and zombies. See, the necromancers drop off any undead they don't need here, and anyone who wants can come and pick up some for whatever purpose he requires. It's like necro-Communism!
There's also a market (a Black Market !), a courtyard with skeletal koi in the pond, and the Academy itself. It's basically a standard D&D village, but SUPER EVIL. It's Lawful Evil, though, so unless the PCs are openly displaying marks of Pelor or whatever, or actively trying to shut down the necromancers, they can basically wander unmolested. Getting into the Academy is something else, however.
The Academy itself is an imposing dark stone building built over the TOMB OF HORRORS itself. Much like the original hill, the facade of the building looks like a HUGE SKULL FACE, with giant pillars for teeth covered in EVIL CARVINGS. The PCs' real goal here is the recovery of the Amulet of the Void, which they read about in Desatysso's journal; asking the necromancers (politely) will get them the information that Mistress Ferranifer aka Evil Dumbledore wears a medallion during certain necromantic rituals. The best way to get in is, of course, to pretend to be necromancers; a frontal assault on the Academy is really really dumb and fatal, since it brings everything in the city down on the PCs at once. Getting in while ethereal is an extremely bad idea due to the Academy's location near the TOMB OF HORRORS; I'll leave the details to my next post, covering the TOMB OF HORRORS itself, but suffice it to say it is a very rapidly fatal plan.
The Dark Intrusion in here is double the strength it is outside: Undead are turned two levels higher, necromantic spells have casting times reduced by 2, and dead things have a 40% chance to reanimate within 12 hours.
In the entrance, there are a few necromancers just mancin' around, plus a guard. The PCs can chill and talk with the students if they want, but the guard (Leon) keeps everyone out of the Academy unless 1) it's nighttime and 2) they have legitimate business in there. He also tells them that the TOMB OF HORRORS, as a holy place, is off limits. The only way to get past Leon is to convince him that the PCs are established members of the Academy or want to petition to get in. If you want to fight him, sure, but he's a 14th-level fighter covered in magic items and, of course, everyone nearby comes to help him.
There's four bone naga lounging around in the foyer, making attacking Leon even more of a bad idea. Once inside, PCs can poke around various classrooms. Each one has a percent chance of being in session-- there's a few instructors, each of which might be in one of several places throughout the school, and if they happen to be in their classroom then class is in session. Closest to the door, there's an anatomy class (described as "remedial" ). If the PCs arrive while class is in session (40% of the time) Instructor Ngise says "Sit down, sit down! Take your seats in the front here, since you are so late!" and attacks if they try to skip class without a good excuse. He's a necromancer-- they don't do detention, I guess. Ngise is a pretty nasty and crazy necromancer, who will attack students or PCs for any reason at all.
Next class is "Adventures in Animation," an advanced class Ngise teaches to more high-level students, who are all armed with their own magic items ( Deathteeth and Blackcloaks from my prior post). If the PCs wander in here, Ngise knows they're not supposed to be here and kicks them out, violently if necessary. The blackboard has his complex and fascinating theory of necromancy:
After this is "Applied Necromancy," taught by Academician Drake, who's much nastier and crazier than Ngise. If the PCs come to the class while it's deserted, they can peek at Drake's tome (a Libram of Ineffable Damnation ,) but doing so without saying a command phrase summons a minor Death just as if they drew the Skull from the Deck of Many Things . So, to recap: it's a book that's got a really nasty and probably fatal trap preventing you from reading it, but if you get past this trap the book itself is useless and horribly fatal to non-evil characters anyways. Attached to this room is a "Necrohazard" lab, containing the results of some of Drake's experimentation: the Moilian Heart from my previous post. An attached lab contains a sample of blackfire also from a previous post, which is (in some ways) substantially more dangerous than the Heart. This version causes permanent Con damage instead of temporary, because of Drake's experimentation.
Drake's lab is attached to these "Necrohazard" labs and contains more of his research. Drake's been to Moil (quite by accident) which is where he got the Moilian heart and Blackfire, and he's obsessed with becoming a Moilian lich and giving himself the Moilian ability to steal life. There's a mostly-dissected by somehow still alive cat in his lab, which the PCs should probably put out of its misery, as well as Drake's book of research. Connected to this lab is his personal meditation chamber. See, Drake's so infused with negative energy from years of study that he doesn't sleep anymore; he just meditates and has horrible necro-dreams. He is a 16th-level Necromancer, though, and therefore a really serious threat if the PCs are unlucky enough to run into him.
The academy also has an auditorium (if there's a lecture going on and if Mistress Ferranifer is the lecturer, she'll be wearing her half of the Amulet), a backstage section with a secret passage to Ferranifer's quarters, some open-use labs full of low-level necromancers and their concoctions, and importantly the Hall of Petition. This is where Leon directs you if you pretend to be trying to enroll in the school. There's a big statue of a skeleton with hands upraised that says "Enter and be judged, petitioners!" to anyone who comes into the room. If you do enter, it says "To gain complete access to the Black Academy, place your hands in mine." If you do, it says "Hold still" and grabs your hands. This is an exceedingly bad idea, because the statue proceeds to scan you with eye lasers. You have one round to get free (bend bars/lift gates) before the Evil Sorting Hat finishes and sorts you into Dead. See, if your alignment is good, or you're any class other than mage or necromancer, you have to make a saving throw vs. death or die instantly and have your soul transported to Acererak's phylactery. Your body takes 20d6 points of damage with no save in any case. The statue then releases you and says "Admittance denied. Next!"
If you do meet the requirements, the beam burns a skull tattoo into your forehead and the statue releases you and instructs you to see Ngise for remedial classes.
Anyways, the statue swings out on a hinge if you find the secret activation stud. Back here is the entrance to Ferranifer's rooms and the TOMB OF HORRORS itself. She doesn't want people getting in who shouldn't be there, so Ferranifer trapped this hallway; Leon knows the way through, but cannot be compelled, even magically, to spill the beans. The walls are lined with sarcophagi, each a bit different.
-One has a depiction of a noble elf-lord on it. Opening it (bend bars/lift gates) reveals a poorly concealed false door in the floor. Stepping on this floor causes sharp blades to shoot through slits in the ceiling for 5d6 damage to anyone in the sarcophagus.
-One has a female warrior in full plate on it. Inside there is an actual, non-undead mummy. Behind that is a double-secret door (elves do not get a special chance to discover it) leading to Ferranifer's rooms. There's a small metal button that opens the door, but it is double-trapped. Pushing the button triggers a save-or-die needle trap; pulling the button opens the door and sets off a separate save-or-die needle trap. Ferranifer has learned assholishness from the master.
-A statue of a robed skeleton with a scythe. This is just decoration to wig out the PCs.
-One has a burly dwarf depicted on it with emerald eyes. Any attempt to tamper with the statue makes it open its mouth and spew forth green gas that makes PCs save vs. petrification at -4 or turn to stone. Also, the sarcophagus is empty. Also, the emeralds are cursed.
-A statue of a demonic skeleton with a scythe. This is an iron golem with a +3 scythe. Extremely powerful and nasty. There is a secret door behind it, however. It won't attack unless you try to get into the door or attack it.
-A sarcophagus with a human male warrior on it. It's empty; but if you search for traps inside it, the door slams shut (unless you propped it open with something that resists 20th level magic effects). The person trapped inside saves vs. spell at -4 or is subject to the sink spell, causing them to sink into the floor and be trapped, at which point the sarcophagus reopens.
-A sarcophagus with a human barbarian depicted on it. Bend bars/lift gates to open it, at which point it sprays you with iron shards for 6d6 damage, save vs. breath weapon for half.
-A sarcophagus depicting "three innocent children, holding hands in merry laughter." Empty, but a secret door in the back leads to the room of the Dim Triad.
-Sarcophagus depicting human male undergoing horrible torture. Empty, but with a door (with a viewing grate) leading to a room full of live captives.
-Sarcophagus with a human skeleton in flames. Empty and not trapped.
-Sarcophagus with a fishman hybrid on it. Secret door leads to experimentation chamber. No traps.
Some of these rooms are useful but not necessary; if the PCs haven't killed the Dim Triad, they'll find them in their room. The room of captives has 20 innocents in it; freeing them safely without being noticed would be very difficult, but is worth 1000xp per captive that makes it home. The experiment room has a grisly Frankenstein's monster chained to a table; PCs should probably put the poor guy out of his misery. The important rooms are Ferranifer's. There's her drawing room, complete with tea set (full of blood, of course); her study, complete with a massive library; her bedchamber; and her crypt (she is, of course, a vampire). PCs might encounter her in her study. If they study her notes (and take long enough-- it takes a full day to glean this info, during which time they will certainly run into her) they can discover the following:
The last is false, of course. Ferranifer only has half of the Amulet, which is why she can't understand it, but she doesn't know that.
Ferranifer's bedroom is full of Nice Things, because just because you're undead doesn't mean you don't appreciate them. Her dresser is trapped, however, and if tampered with releases an incendiary cloud while the door closes and locks itself. The trap is super dangerous and does tons of damage each round, destroying all of the furnishings (but she's rich enough to rebuy them whenever and regards the trap as conspicuous consumption). Reopening the door is difficult and requires finding a secret door, with difficulty modifiers due to the room exploding around you.
Her crypt contains a flameskull, which the party may mistake for Acererak (especially as it rises into the air and proclaims "You have found me and I am Death!"). Ferranifer will be here, lurking invisibly, if the PCs set off her bedroom trap; otherwise she may or may not be here. She is a deadly enemy, since she's an 18th level necromancer and Vampire Scion, covered in magic items. She also has a perma- contingency spell cast on herself. If she takes enough damage to cause her to shift to gaseous form, it casts a magic jar that shifts her essence into the Amulet of the Void itself. At some point later in the adventure she will attempt to possess one of the PCs from the amulet, usually while they are unconscious, and attempt to pretend to be the PC him or herself. So there's that to worry about. Also, 18th-level spellcaster.
After beating Ferranifer and taking her amulet, PCs can head into the corridor. There's a trap here, of course; opening the door at the far eastern end of the corridor reverses gravity, causing the western end to be the new "down" and PCs to fall all the way down the corridor, a usually fatal distance. Closing the door fixes gravity. The real exit is a secret door in the wall. Passing through it takes you to a shrine built around the original entrance to the TOMB OF HORRORS. And with that, we end our time in Skull City!
Next time: Into the TOMB OF HORRORS!
Fuck you, Fuck you, Fuck youOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 5: Fuck you, Fuck you, Fuck you
So, here we are. At the dread portal to the TOMB OF HORRORS itself. I'm going to cover the first half of the TOMB OF HORRORS in this post, and aim for another post later for the second half.
So, you've probably heard that the TOMB OF HORRORS is insanely fatal. And this is true. But why is it so fatal? A few reasons. First, there's a lot of instant-kill shit. There are exceptions, but most effects don't do damage (or don't JUST do damage), they flat kill you. Second, a lot of the traps force you to make a decision with limited or no information/time, and making the wrong decision (which may seem as wise as any other) will kill you.
But mostly, it's because the TOMB OF HORRORS breaks rules. All of the rules.
Stuff in here is just more fatal than stuff outside. Lots of effects kill you without rolling. Lots of stuff that would normally allow a save simply doesn't. Some magic items or spells that might work well for the TOMB OF HORRORS specifically don't work, or work poorly. Your shit breaks. Your spells fail. You are eaten by a Grue.
This is originally a 1st edition AD&D Module. Here, in a 2nd edition adventure, it's included in its original form, with instructions for the DM to modernize it. Doing so is not so difficult, since 1st and 2nd edition AD&D resemble each other much more than any other two editions (unless you count the different 3.xs as different editions). In modernizing it, you may choose to make it less fatal. You may choose to allow saves. If you do, you are WEAK. This is the TOMB OF MOTHERFUCKING HORRORS. If gruesome, wanton PC slaughter was not on your menu, you should not have opened this adventure in the first place. This is the one area I really grog out about D&D. I'm not normally a fan of PC death in games; I think it should happen by mutual consent and serve to advance the story, so my favorite systems are ones like Dark Heresy with "Fate points" one can burn to avoid death. But not here. Here, the Old Ways rule.
So, before we plunge in, a few notes. There are some effects that are present throughout the TOMB OF HORRORS. First is the Dark Intrusion, which is three times stronger than its original form (60% chance of spontaneous zombification within 1d6 rounds, undead turn as three categories higher, etc.) Second is the dangers of otherplanar travel: for each round you spend ethereal or astral, you have a one in six chance of attracting a vrock, hezrou, glabrezu or nalfeshnee. These demons serve Acererak indirectly. See, part of the ritual Acererak used to turn himself into a lich required him to know the "true name" of his demonic father, Tarnhem. Through this name, Acererak controls his father; and as his father is an extremely powerful balor who rules a layer of the Abyss, Acererak controls many lesser demonic servitors. These servants are in charge of "cleaning up" the TOMB OF HORRORS; resetting traps, repairing damage, etc to ready it for the next party of adventurers. The point is that going ethereal to just waltz through the dungeon is simply not going to work unless your party is capable of fighting off a horde of true tanar'ri-- tanar'ri who are likely to gate in friends as soon as they see the intruders "cheating" the Tomb.
Other notes: the TOMB OF HORRORS is, appropriately, festooned with pits. Unless stated otherwise, every pit is ten feet deep, and lined with five iron spikes coated in poison. Anyone stepping on a pit trap has a 100% chance of falling in, minus 1% for each point of Dex 1-12 and 2% for each point of Dex 13+. When a character falls in, in addition to falling damage, roll a d6; on a 1-3 that many spikes have wounded the character, on a 4-6 none have. Each spike that wounds you does d6 points and forces a save vs. poison or YOU DIE. Expect to see a lot of that.
Anyways, here's the map. I'll be going through the rooms in order.
Sections 1, 2 and 3 are entrance tunnels. 1 and 2 are false, 3 is correct. 1 is a shallow tunnel with big oak doors at the end and a cobwebby ceiling. If you clear away the cobwebs, you see that the roof stones are ill-fitting. Opening the doors or prodding the ceiling causes it to collapse on the PCs for 5d10 damage, no save. Section 2 has a low ceiling and doors at the end. When the PCs get 50' in, you let them know they hear a rumbling, then start counting to 10 at about 1.5 seconds per count. See, a 10' stone block has started to seal off the entrance, and when you reach 10 it slams shut and pulps anything caught in it. PCs who start to move get to move their movement rate per count out, so if they book it at 5 they get 5* their movement rate. An iron bar placed on the floor can wedge the door open, but if it's placed elsewhere it snaps, delaying the block only by one count. Once trapped, PCs can ONLY escape by disintegrate , phase door , stone-flesh (and then hacking), transmute rock-mud , wish . The adventure explicitly says only these means will work. Yay!
3 is correct. The floor is a colorful mosaic with a red band in the middle. The walls and ceiling are plastered and then frescoed. They depict animals, humanoids, human-animal hybrids, and places like a wizard's tower, a torture chamber etc. The Xs on the map are all pit traps, of course. The section marked "A" is the torture chamber painting; part of the painting depicts a door hiding a scaled and horrible creature. If you chip away the plaster and stucco, behind that door there's a real door in the wall. We'll get to that in a bit. If you study the mosaic to the end, you are rewarded by a sudden flash of insight, realizing there's a message in them: congratulations from Acererak on your powers of observation, and a poem:
"Go back to the tormentor or through the arch,
and the second great hall you'll discover.
Shun green if you can, but night's good color
is for those of great valor.
If shades of red stand for blood the wise
will not need sacrifice aught but a loop of
magical metal - you're well along your march.
Two pits along the way wiii be found to lead
to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall.
These keys and those are most important of all,
and beware of trembling hands and what will maul.
If you find the false you find the true
and into the columned hall you'll come,
and there the throne that's key and keyed.
The iron men of visage grim do more than
meets the viewers eye.
You've left and left and found my Tomb
and now your soul will die."
As I said, he is a huge asshole and loves to taunt people, knowing that he's smarter than they are and even with his help they'll die painfully in the end. This poem does have important clues, though.
Anyways, the section of the wall next to A, marked 4, is a fresco of a wizard's lab. There are two jackals, or jackal-headed men or whatever, painted on the wall, and between them is a bronze chest that is actually real and sticking out of the wall.
There's a catch on top with a poison needle trap (easily detected) that, when pressed, opens the chest. But it's empty! Although if you actually feel around, there's a lever inside! If you pull the lever... it opens a pit trap 30' deep below your feet! Full of spikes as the others are! Also, this trap's entrance is thicker, so it can't be discovered by probing with a ten foot pole (the 1st edition PC's best friend), and the spell true seeing only reveals a faint rectangular outline around the stone plug of the trap. There are no other treasures and nothing to gain here.
Area 5 is an archway into which the path leads. The arch is full of mist which cannot be magically dispersed or seen through. If you come within 1' of the door, the base stones will glow yellow on the left, orange on the right, and blue on the keystone. If the stones are pressed Yellow, Blue, Orange, the fog dissipates. Any other order does nothing. If you step through the wall arch while it's foggy, you are teleported to Area 7 (of which more in a bit). If you clear the fog, then stepping through on the path takes you to Area 11, off the path just back to Area 3.
Area 6 is a dead end with a huge green Face of the Devourer.
The statue's mouth is absolutely pitch black. The whole thing radiates evil and magic. The mouth is a sphere of annihilation and anyone or anything entering it is immediately and irrevocably destroyed. This is, incidentally, how Grunther lost his hand. There is literally nothing to be gained here.
Area 7, as you can see from the map, is a tiny prison. There is no means of exit, not even magic can detect one. The south wall has three iron levers that can move in any direction. Moving them all upward opens a small trapdoor in the ceiling, 10' above. Moving them all downward causes the entire floor to drop away into a pit 100' deep, and after 1 turn the floor seals up again. The trapdoor in the ceiling leads to a tiny crawlspace; it goes northward a ways, then terminates in a stone plug. This can only be detected a secret door by magical vision or, literally, rapping on the walls. Explicitly no other means will work. If you find it you can crawl east a bit until, as you see, the tunnel ends in a magical one-way door which deposits on on the floor of one of the pit traps in the entrance corridor.
Area 8 is a room containing a mutated four-armed gargoyle in temporal stasis. Opening the door to its room frees it from its stupor, and it immediately attacks. It's a nasty foe, with 12 HD, six attacks per round plus a bonus rend per two claws that hit, but if you beat Ferranifer you should have no trouble with this thing. It has a gem-studded collar with a secret compartment, containing a note from Acererak; "Look low and high for gold, to hear a tale untold. The archway at the end, and on your way you'll wend. -A"
Area 9 is, seriously, just one secret door after another. Each room has a secret door in the wall. Each must be opened by hand and each has a different required method. There are two "clear" rooms in the center, but aside from those each round anyone is in any of the rooms, concealed devices in the wall and ceilings are firing bolts at you, and one randomly determined PC per room must save vs. magic or take 1d6 damage. Each round. And there is no way to make them stop shooting. To quote verbatim from the adventure: "There is absolutely no way to prevent the bolts from being triggered and from hitting, and armor and spells will NOT have any effect either." The required methods for opening the doors are as follows:
Door A: pull down
Door B: pivot centrally
Door C: pull inward and up at the bottom
Door D: slides up
Door E: double panels pull inward
Door F: slide left
Door G: 7 buttons; if you press 1 or 7 the door falls inward for 3d6 damage, if you press all 7 it opens.
Area 10 is another tiled-floor room; the walls and ceiling are painted with weird animals, glyphs (meaningless) and humans/humanoids, each holding a sphere of a different color. On the west wall, the figures are from north to south:
-A gold sphere held high above the head (this is an illusion covering a crawlway to area 11)
-A false door
-An orange sphere held waist high
-Another false door
-A purple sphere held at the feet
-A grey sphere held at the shoulder
-A blank space
-A bright blue sphere held at the feet
-A white sphere held high above the head
-A turquoise sphere held at the shoulder
-A scarlet sphere held waist high
-A pale green sphere held at the feet
On the east wall, from north to south:
-A pale blue sphere held at the shoulder
-A silver sphere held at the feet
-A secret one-way door that can be opened by knock , disintegrate , rock to mud or stone to flesh .
-A green sphere held high above the head
-A yellow sphere held at the shoulder
-A pink sphere held high above the head
-A black sphere held at the feet (actually an illusion covering a crawlway to area 14)
-A pale violet sphere held at the shoulder
-A blank space
-A red sphere held waist high (actually an illusion covering a crawlway to area 13)
-A buff sphere held at the feet
-A blank space
-An indigo sphere held high above the head
Anyways, the area in this room marked A is another foggy arch. Same rules as before. This time, the colors are olive on the lower left, citron on the lower right, russet at the keystone. No matter in which order they are pushed, the arch remains foggy. Anyone stepping through is teleported to area 3. Oh, that's not so bad? Ok. Only the person him or herself is teleported to area 3. All of their clothing, gear, items etc. is teleported to Area 33. They arrive at Area 3 totally nude and defenseless. Snort.
Area 11 contains a broken 8' tall statue of a four-armed gargoyle. One arm is on the floor and cannot be reattached no matter what the PCs do. The three attached arms each have a concavity that exactly fits a gem... say, one of the ten gems from the prior gargoyle's studded collar. If a large gem is placed in each of the three hands, the hands animate and crush them to powder. If nine total gems are crushed this way, putting one more in one of the hands triggers a magic mouth which says "Your sacrifice was not in vain. Look to the fourth to find your gain." As it says this, an invisible gem of seeing appears in the fourth hand. Be careful not to knock the arm around and cause the gem to fall off! The gem is covered in an oil which renders it invisible, which must be wiped off before it can be used. Detect Invisibility and similar spells will not work; explicitly, only feeling around will find anything. The gem will operate 12 times, then shatter.
I was hoping to do this place in two posts, but I think it'll take three. Join me next time!
Next time: More suffering!
TPK'o'clockOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS part 6: TPK'o'clock
Welcome back! I had the New England Team Tournament for Warmachine yesterday and couldn't update. So here I am! We'll pick up where we left off in the TOMB OF HORRORS itself. For a refresher, here's the map again:
When last we left our heroes, they were poisoned, stabbed, gassed, crushed, trapped, annihilated, and teleported nude. We left off at Area 11. Where to next?
The marking 12 on the west wall (and elsewhere in the TOMB OF HORRORS, as you can see) indicates a trapped false door. The door opens into a wall, and opening it causes a spear to be launched. The target is randomly determined, and must save vs. magic or take 2d8 points of damage. Closing and re-opening the door produces another spear. This is one of the least lethal traps in here, but it makes up for it by being annoying and pointless!
The red sphere, as marked above, is an illusion covering a crawlspace. This crawlspace, unfortunately, dead ends. If the PCs poke around a bit they can (4 in 6 chance) discover a secret door. Hooray! Anyone opening this door will be dropped onto his ass by a tilting stone into the next room for 1d6 damage (Gygax notes "a mere annoyance, but it erodes the strength of the party." Also, I think it is a special mark of Acererak's unbelievable asshole nature that he interspersed his insanely deadly save-or-die traps with a bunch of really minor irritating ones.
Anyways, the PCs will find themselves in Room 13, a room with three chests. Could this be Acererak's secret treasure hoard? Are we finally, finally going to get some reward out of the TOMB OF HORRORS?
Joe Rogue is called to the forefront. The PCs, having suffered losses to unforeseen hazards so far, wisely tell Joe to check for traps before they open any of the chests. Poor Joe, who is strongly reconsidering his choice of career after his time in the TOMB OF HORRORS, does so. He checks the first chest carefully, detecting no traps. Opening it reveals...
OH SHIT SNAKES!
12 Asps, each of which can bite for 1hp of damage and a save vs. poison at -2 or... something, I'm not sure (I don't own the AD&D 1st ed monster manual) but presumably you die.
So poor Joe, his ophidiophobia now straddling the line between "latent" and "incipient," checks the second chest. Once again, he is relieved to find it trapless. Opening it reveals no nasty surprises-- in fact, the chest's only contents are a small crystal box inside which is a ring. Lifting this box triggers the chest to...
SHOOT DARTS AT YOU OH NOOOOOO
These can hit up to two characters, there are 8 total darts, and each deals 1d6 damage with no save. Thankfully they are not poisoned. The box actually does contain a normal, not cursed ring of protection +1 which, while pretty meager as a reward for the level of hardship suffered, doesn't suck. The box is worth something too!
So Joe's nerves are shot, but he figures he's had the bad luck to find the two trapped chests first. He checks the third and finds no traps. Well, fool me once etc. So he's real careful with this one. He opens it with the tip of his dagger to reveal...
FUCKING COME ON
Yup. The box can't even contain the skeleton, it is teleported it when the lid opens. It will ALWAYS strike first and wields two scimitars, attacking 2x per round for 2d6 damage per hit. It's a lot beefier than a normal skeleton and shares its near-immunity to edged weapons, plus complete magic and turning immunity. At least the fighters get to do something. Also, there's nothing else in the chest.
Back to the sphere room, the black sphere is an illusion covering another crawlspace. This one also dead ends, and this time the secret door is a 1 in 6 chance to find, with no magic useful except for the gem of seeing from earlier. It leads to a mysterious chapel area. The walls are covered in scenes of normal people doing normal people things, except they are rotting and decomposing, being eaten by worms etc. But it also has holy symbols of good gods and a faint aura of good! Is there more to Acererak than meets the eye, or is he just fucking with people? yeah he is
There's a mosaic up the center of the floor to the altar, and rows of pews. Each pew is hinged and opens. The back two each hide 4000 silver pieces! The next two each hide 3000 electrum pieces! The next two each hide 2000 gold pieces! The last two each hide gas traps! This gas fills up the chapel in two rounds and causes everyone inside to lose 2d4 points of Strength for 48 hours. There's some candelabras and other religious trappings, and stoppered white pottery urns in the corners. Area A is the altar, which is made of opalescent blue material and glows with inner light. It detects faintly as evil. Touching it causes a bolt of lightning to shoot up the aisle for 40 points of damage, save vs. magic for half. After it blows its wad it starts to glow blue-red, and touching it causes it to EXPLODE for another 60 points of damage within 30', save for half.
A human skeleton in rusted black chainmail points to Area B, an archway full of glowing orange vapor, with no stones that light up. Of course it is impossible to see through the mists with magic. Passing through the archway leads to a 10x10 room and reverses both your sex and your alignment (haha!). If you back out and go back in your alignment goes back, but you take 1d6 damage. A third time will fix your sex back to normal but teleport you nude to the entrance and all of your shit to the end room, as before. Only wish or alter reality can fix you without the arch's "help." But if you restore your own alignment with it, remove curse can restore your sex.
In Area C, careful inspection can notice (4 in 6) a small slot with a faint O above it. It cannot be magically detected. This marks the stone gate, area 15, a stone plug 2'x4'x10', which is heavily antimagiced so you cannot move, open or transmute it by magic. The slot will accept a coin or flat gem-- or a magic ring. Putting anything but a ring into it does nothing but lose you the item forever. Putting a ring in makes the block sink into the floor so you can proceed. From the other side, at least, it opens easily.
The following hallway has, as you can see, a series of three doors, each with a pit beyond it. In fact, the doors open so easily, that a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6 opening it indicates that the opener falls into the pit beyond. Even if they don't they're likely to step on it. Anyways, by the third pit the PCs expect and likely avoid it, which is awesome because the only way to proceed is through the floor of that pit. Assuming for now they bypass it, there's a long hallway leading north, with a locked oaken door at the end of it. Listening to the door reveals the faint sound of music and happy singing! Unfortunately the door is super-locked and can't be opened, even by knock or similar, instead requiring the party to disintegrate it or physically chop it to bits. Doing so causes the sounds to change to confusion and fleeing, and the party sees a faint glow northward. The tunnel floor from here is a carefully balanced beam. When someone steps on the point three squares from the door, the floor starts to tilt downward in that direction. DM starts counting to 5 as before-- anyone north of the door at 5 will start to fall at 10'/round northward. When they're 40' north of the door they take 1d6 heat damage per round, 50' it becomes 2d6, and after that they fall in lava and die with no save. Fun!
So, let's assume they backtrack. If they think to check on the floor of the third pit trap (as seen above) they have a 5 in 6 chance of spotting a wooden door painted to look like stone. Feeling up the walls also instantly discovers it. Proceeding through here takes us to Area 17, another magical secret door. This can be found in any way magical secret doors are found, but to open it requires 1) detect magic or 2) the use of the gem of seeing to pinpoint the door's magical aura, followed by dispel magic or remove curse to remove it. Once this is accomplished you can proceed to Area 18.
This begins with a tunnel filled with fear gas, which makes you save vs. poison or run at top speed for 2d4 turns (you can announce you are holding your breath though). It also blocks vision, so it's only 3 in 6 to notice the south door, though opening the door gets rid of the gas. This leads to a crypt full of magical webs that can only be removed by magical fire. Any other method simply tangles you unless you are burned or wished out. The bottom of the staircase has a silver-inlaid mace which glows brightly golden when a PC picks it up. The crypt itself is full of moldy old furniture and stuff, plus a SOLID GOLD COUCH upon which rests a lich with a crown on its head. A booming voice declares "WHO DARES TO DISTURB THE REST OF ACERERAK? IT IS YOUR DEATH WHICH YOU HAVE FOUND," and the lich attacks them. Actually, it's just a magically prepared zombie, so it's not super dangerous, though it does have magic resistance. It will pretend to cast spells by gesturing with its hands between attacks. If you hit it with the mace it will let out a roaring bellow (a magic mouth prepared by Acererak[/i] and the weapon staggers it (the DM is instructed to "roll dice and shake [his] head." Three hits makes the zombie poof into dust, shatters the mace, and makes the room shake and start to collapse. DM is instructed to take his time describing it. PCs who search can find a jade coffer, the crown, and a fine leather bag nearby. Now you count slowly to ten (and watch them run! The TOMB OF HORRORS is Pavlovian PC-training at its finest) as dust and stones fall from the ceiling. You're also now instructed to ask the PCs if they thought it was too hard.
Anyways, the treasure is real, but not super awesome; for instance, there's a scroll with only 1st level spells (though you are supposed to pretend to roll) and a fake treasure map to a distant treasure. The collapse was a programmed illusion , though, and the "lich" was a nothing zombie. Entertainingly enough, this encounter is depicted on the cover of the module, so PCs who saw it in the store are likely to think this was the climax. This is a hilarious little piece of metagame on Gary's part. Any magical means will reveal that wasn't really Acererak, though. So it's back to the stairs and secret door above, and on to Room 19.
This is a massively cluttered magical laboratory; tons of shelves, jars, dust etc. There's a couple of tables used to prepare mummies, and urns that used to contain herbs, oils, unguents etc. Mummy wrappings all over the place! The south end of the room has three big vats full of murky liquid. The first? Gross stinky water. The second is full of a slow acting acid that does 1d4+1 damage per round of substantial exposure to flesh (not just a tiny sprinkling). At the bottom of this vat is half of a golden key. The third vat has a giant grey ochre jelly with the other half of the key underneath it. The vats can't be moved, and the key parts are indestructible; if joined they snap together to form one real key. Killing the ooze is annoying but not super difficult, but getting the key out of the acid is difficult since it can eat through even magical weapons and reaching in to grope for it has a cumulative 1% chance per round of success (while it eats away at your flesh). This gold key is useful, though.
The corridor in Area 20 contains a HUGE PIT FULL OF 200 SPIKES. It's 10' deep, open, and completely fills the passageway. Walking along the bottom is safe until the final 3', when suddenly all of the spikes launch upwards and automatically hit each person in the pit or leaning over its edge 1d4+1 times for 1d6 points of damage each hit, no save allowed. It also regrows its spikes when this happens.
Room 21 is interesting. There's a normal secret door leading in, nothing special about it. It's full of furniture and funereal goods, but the stuff is scattered all over the floor, among 6 locked trunks and 24 locked coffers. There's also broken chairs, sofas, urns etc all over the place. It looks pretty thoroughly looted, except for the tapestries on the east and west walls. The trunks are all empty, but the coffers each contain either 1d3 asps, or some gems and money. There's two traps here. The first (and less deadly) is the rolling floor; each round PCs are in here roll a d6, and on an odd number next round the room is subject to a tiny earthquake as the floor jumps and bucks. Each PC has a 2 in 6 chance of falling and taking one damage in bruises from this happening.
The tapestries are trap #2. They depict undersea life-- weedy rocks and so on. If they are torn they instantly turn into green slime and cover a 20' long by 10' deep section of floor, including any PCs in that space. A PC covered in green slime instantly turns into green slime and is gone forever; of course, no save allowed. You can touch them, but don't tear them; but if you're holding one when the floor bucks, you have a 75% chance of tearing it. Burning them turns them to brown mold which drains 4d8 damage worth of heat from PCs near it each round. Of course the exit is a secret door behind one of the tapestries.
As you can see from the map, the next corridor has a couple of pits and another sex/alignment reversing arch. At the end is a grotto full of silvery mists shot through with golden streamers. These limit sight to 6'. It dimly radiates good. Inside the mists is a cursed siren. She's good-aligned, but you can't see her in the mist, and the only way to let her out is to ask her to come out-- and of course she can't tell the PCs this. Anyone stepping into the mist must save vs. poison or "become idiots until they can breathe the clean air above ground under the warm sun."
The siren's a pretty cool lady, and if the PCs free her she will be appropriately grateful and be their friend and adventuring buddy for life. She doesn't fight all that well but has a bunch of useful spell-like abilities, including charm person, suggestion, polymorph self, invisiblity, and the ability to heal "idiocy." She comes with two sacks, one large and one small. The big one is a bag of holding fulla cash, the small one has randomly determined contents that could be anything from wool to useful magic items. There's a catch, though. Asking the siren to accompany the party causes the sacks to disappear forever; touching either sack causes the other sack and the siren to disappear forever. You cannot touch them both simultaneously. The siren doesn't really know anything about the TOMB OF HORRORS (she was just abducted and placed here).
And with that, we're 2/3 of the way done! Hopefully the PCs didn't lose more than 1 or 2 more people this segment to slime, fire or poisoned spikes (save or die!).
Coming up next time: THE THRILLING CONCLUSION (of this one small part of the adventure).
Roll to see if you cry, and if so, how hard.Original SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS part 7: Roll to see if you cry, and if so, how hard.
Sorry about the lateness folks! In my defense, my pet ferret has cancer .
So as a refresher, here's the map:
Hopefully no adventurer tore, cut, or firmly held any of the tapestries in room 21, instantly turning into an unrecoverable pile of green slime with no save or magic defense of any kind possible. Also hopefully nobody touched any of the treasure with the Siren, dooming her to an ambiguous fate. Today: THE MYSTERY OF THE GEM, REVEALED! it is awful, don't touch it
It's a little hard to tell from the map, but our adventurers should be a bit stymied now. After freeing the siren, they head north, the last unexplored direction, at the four-way intersection, and reach Area 23. There is a perfectly ordinary door here, which opens into a perfectly ordinary solid blank wall of stone. This wall contains a secret door; this is almost needlessly petty and juvenile, which means it's perfect for the TOMB OF HORRORS.
The party continues to the north in this corridor, likely missing the secret door in the floor. As you can see, there's a door on the east wall to leads into a little side corridor. This passage goes east a little ways and then turns north. Opening this door to the north releases sleep gas which causes everyone to fall asleep with no save. This sleep lasts for 2d4 turns. Every turn that everyone is asleep, roll a d4. On a 4, a STONE JUGGERNAUT is released from that little square room. It travels 1d6 squares per turn, first south, then turning west. Everyone squished by it is instantly killed with no save of any kind allowed. In the words of Gary Gygax, "Everything it rolls over is squashed to a pulp. There is no appeal." It also provides this lovely picture, which you are instructed to show the PCs in case they are destroyed this way, I guess as a sort of triumphant little dance on their pulpy remains.
Anyways, assuming the PCs don't all FUCKING INSTANTLY DIE WITH NO SAVE DUE TO OPENING THE ONLY OBVIOUS DOOR, they can find the secret door (marked "s"). This opens into a narrow little passage towards Area 24. That's just an adamantite door that's totally impervious to everything, being heavily antimagiced. There are three slots on the door at waist height; shoving a sword blade in each at once opens it (for 5 rounds only, and it's a one way door). At least nothing in here kills you.
Area 25 is one of the more infamous areas of the TOMB OF HORRORS. It's a throne room full of pillars. There's lots to digest in here, so I'll take it one thing at a time.
The pillars radiate magic; touching one makes you float uncontrollably, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -style, towards the ceiling. Dispel Magic or Remove Curse will prevent this. While annoying, this is hardly life-threatening. However, there is a gentle breeze in the room at ceiling level. It will gradually push PCs either to the northeast or northwest. In the northwest, at area A, there's a mosaic of a green devil face-- just like the one at the entrance! This one doesn't annihilate you on contact; but if you get within 3' of it, you are forcibly sucked in and spat out of the other green face's mouth, way back at the entrance. (Note that PCs who have not yet discovered the TERRIBLE SECRET of this face may assume it's a two-way portal and jump back in to try to get back to the pillared room, tee hee). And of course, to add insult to injury all of your gear, clothing and equipment doesn't come with you, instead being teleported to Area 33.
If the wind takes you to the northeast, to Area B, it's a blue-tinged devil face. This one sucks you in the same way but spits you out in Room 27A (to be detailed later)
I'm a little confused, since areas C and D are detailed as being in this room, but don't appear on the map. In any case, C is familiar!
This gigantic, glowing orange gem is surrounded by corpses and menaces with spikes of EVIL and MAGIC if detected for. It's so powerful that you get the impression it's wish magic. And it is! It grants a wish to anyone touching it. Anyone taking such an incredibly obvious trap this deep into the TOMB OF HORRORS deserves everything they get: the reverse (or a perversion) of what they wanted happens, that brings doom to them and anyone named in the wish. This is basically handing a blank check to the DM, so for Gygax's sake, take it! The gem begins to pulse with light after casting the wish, count to ten as normal. At 10 it explodes, utterly annihilating anyone within 15' with no save of any kind, leaving behind only a puddle of stinking, purple mold which "bubbles and chuckles." It reforms as a gem in one week.
Area D is the south end of the room, a massive ebony dais on which sits a silver throne, on which sit a crown and scepter (both of which emanate magic).
The crown is gold and negates the floaty effect of the pillars. It's also cursed; outside of the pillared hall you are blind, and putting it on grants the knowledge that the only way to remove it is by touching it with the scepter. The scepter is electrum, with a gold ball on one end and a silver ball on the other. If the silver end ever touches the crown, the wearer is instantly turned into a fetid powder and cannot ever come back, not even with a wish . The gold knob lets you remove the crown. There's a small crown replica inlaid in silver on the front of the throne; touching that with the silver end causes the throne to sink into the ground, revealing a passage beyond. These are both exceptionally valuable items, but taking either from the TOMB OF HORRORS summons vrocks to take them back, so probably don't do that.
Because the PCs won't assume that fooling around with the scepter is the way forward, they're likely to go north first, into room 26 or 27. Room 26 has a shimmering, electric blue door (both Room 26s); touching the door makes it glow, but there's no effect. The western room is empty. The eastern room contains a wooden sarcophagus, looted funereal goods etc. Inside the sarcophagus is a mummy (just a mummified human) with tattered remains and a huge amethyst poking out of its forehead wrappings. Taking the gem animates the remains a mummy (the monster) with haste , permanent resist flames cast on its wrappings, and wearing a ring of fire resistance to boot.
The door to room 27 is scintillating violet. Also glows when touched. Entering it reveals a room with a door to the north and crossed pairs of swords hung on the wall. There are 8 pairs and each comes with a shield. Crossing the threshold makes one fly off and attack! Each has 11 hp and AC 3, and you must kill the shield first (it interposes itself) and attacks as a +1/+1 sword wielded by a 1st level fighter. They can ONLY be affected by magic in the following ways:
- Repulsion puts them back on the wall
- Heat metal or a rod of cancellation destroys one item
- Transmute metal to wood turns two items to inert wood
- Disintegrate destroys a set
- Enchant weapon turns one item into a normal iron weapon
Recrossing the threshold causes another set to animate and attack; this set has 12 hp each, AC 2, and attacks as +2/+2 swords wielded by a second level fighter. And so on. There are 8 of these sets. You will notice that the only area beyond this chamber is 27A, the place the blue face teleported you. This is a horrible little chamber, aptly called the "Chamber of Hopelessness." It contains a little fountain (so you won't die of thirst) and the following magically etched on the north wall: "YOU WHO DARED TO VlOLATE 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." Entering the south door before the swords and shields have been destroyed causes them ALL to attack you at once (and, I imagine, all get their respective bonuses). There are adventurer corpses here, plus some phat loot and minor magic item treasure.
So, we go south past the dais to area 28. There are some super fancy steps made of exotic materials and the walls are made of copper, ivory and rare wood. On the fourth step there's a big bronze key! However, it has a permanent antipathy spell cast on it, and anyone who touches it must save vs. magic at -2; failure means you will NEVER willingly touch the key or allow it within 2' of your presence. This is silly but not terrible. At the top of the stairs there's a pair of mithril doors with a keyhole!
These "valves of mithril" are 14'x28' wide/tall and 3' thick. They are heavily antimagiced because of course they are. There's a little hemispherical depression in them with a keyhole in it. Inserting the bronze key does nothing but shock the inserter for 1d10 points of electricity (no save) while using the gold key does 2d10 points (also no save). Touching the scepter to the depression is the key, but make sure you use the right end; the silver end spits you out nude from the Devourer face, as before, with all of your shit going to Area 33. The gold end, of course, opens the doors.
Attacking the doors is a super duper bad idea. Cutting it makes it start to gush forth blood; the blood of the victims of the TOMB OF HORRORS! In 6 rounds, it'll fill the area to the top of the first step; one more step per round, filling the foyer to the ceiling in 20 rounds. You can make the blood stop with cure critical wounds , heal , 2x cure serious wounds , or 4x cure light wounds . A few other spells affect it: cone of cold freezes it for three rounds, stopping the flow; create water turns it to normal water (but it's still flooding); disintegrate destroys it all; levitate causes it all to coagulate and float towards the ceiling, where it becomes a huge red ochre jelly; polymorph creates 3d4 wights which attack immediately; purify water turns it into a gas which reduces the Strength of everyone in it to 3 for one day; and raise dead or resurrection not only destroys all of the blood, it causes a shade to appear on the top step which will bless all party members, healing 10hp each and curing status conditions .
Oh, and any fire at all turns the blood into poison gas which kills you all with no save unless you're in the passageway leading into the foyer, in which case you can save at -4.
Let's assume they make it into Area 30. They won't, but let's assume. This treasure room has a silver ceiling, ivory walls with gold inlay, and two big 9' black iron statues with huge weapons; each has a huge magical aura and radiates evil. Each is also an inert lump that does nothing but troll the players with their existence. The room itself is lead-lined and in a permanent anti-magic bubble of some sort (it just says no spells and no magic items work inside of it except detecting auras). Area A is a bronze urn with gold fill on its stopper, letting out a thin stream of smoke. Prying out the stopper releases an efreet; if the PCs fucked with the urn violently, it's pissed and attacks, otherwise it performs three nebulously defined services and departs.
Area B is a granite sarcophagus with ACERERAK spelled out on it in platinum. There's broken shit and a shattered skull in there, nothing else. Area C is two big iron chests. Each is triple-looked with poison needle traps (duh); the eastern one has 10,000 gems of >50gp value each, the western one has 10,000 platinum pieces. Except once you get them 13 miles from the TOMB OF HORRORS you see they're actually 1gp quartz gems and copper pieces, respectively. Wah wah wahhhhh.
Anyways, the statue in area D can be moved by three burly muscular men of STR 16 or higher, revealing a ring pull. Pulling this raises a stone plug and reveals
The doors marked 31 are actually one way doors that lead back to the corridor outside the grotto. They're phase doors, so they can ONLY be opened from the north; you cannot possible enter from the south, no matter what magic you have, wishes included. Doing so summons a pit trap into the place it appears on the map.
The door marked 32 cannot be discovered by any magic means, but careful inspection reveals a keyhole. Of course the door cannot be penetrated by magic or force. Only the golden key causes it to sink into the ground.
And here we are, at Area 33. This room has an arched ceiling 25' feet high. It's otherwise empty but for a 2" square depression in the floor. Putting the gold key in here causes an explosion that blows you upwards for 5d6 points of damage. The bronze key fits in here but does nothing until you turn in clockwise 3 times. When that happens the room rumbles and the southern end of the floor peaks upwards. DM counts to 5; at the end of that anyone in the bottom 15' of the room (it's 10x20) is "squashed to jelly" against the roof. The southern part of the room is now full of a mithril vault. The door just swings open, no key required. Inside is:
-Everything stolen by teleport traps
-SHITLOADS of gems, including a 50k gp one and a 100k gp one
-12 potions and 6 scrolls (randomly determined)
-1 ring, 1 rod, 1 staff, 3 misc magic items (DM picks)
-a +4 sword of defending
-two cursed swords
-a cursed backbiting speak
-the other half of the amulet of the void
-one (1) Acererak
Because of the metaphysics of Acererak's plan, to be covered in more detail later, this can be his demilich skull and he can be present (the use of the keys magically alerts him, wherever he is, that there's intruders in his base killing his traps). Killing him won't make a difference (but hah, good fucking luck!)
All that's left of Acererak is the dust of his corpse and his skull, the eyes and teeth of which are replaced by extraordinarily valuable gems. A minor point: you could update the frankly unfair demilich stats to the ones from the 2nd edition Monster Manual, but that doesn't really make things better; a Demilich is still an absurdly powerful enemy, and you're also giving him all of Acererak's wizard levels (later on it lists which spells he has: it's a FUCKTON, and yes, one of his prepared spells is wish ).
So. What happens is this: Nothing. If the treasure is touched, the dust of Acererak's body forms itself into a vaguely humanoid shape and advances threateningly. It can be attacked, and attacks obviously stagger it. If it's ignored, it dissipates in 3 rounds. Attacks, however, grant it "energy levels;" 1 for a physical attack, X for a spell, where X is the spell level. At 50, it forms into a ghost and attacks. Still, not unstoppable.
Touching the skull is bar none the dumbest thing a party can do. If they do, it rises into the air, scans the party, and picks the strongest; magic user -> fighter -> cleric -> thief (yes, I know, but that's Acererak's opinion, not mine). The selected party member simply has their soul sucked out and dies instantly with no save of any kind allowed. Touching it again causes this process to repeat. If the
The only possible ways to harm it are:
- Forget or Exorcise make it sink down and not steal a soul
- Shatter deals 10hp damage
- Power word: kill if you're astral or ethereal kills it
-To harm it with weapons, you need: a vorpal blade if you're a fighter, a sword of sharpness +5 or vorpal blade if you're a ranger, or those items or a +4 weapon for a paladin
- Dispel evil hits it for 5 hp
- Holy word does 20 hp
-A thief can sling a gem at it, doing 1hp per 10k value of the gem, but the gem is crushed, and even on a miss it must save vs. crushing blow or disintegrate
Skull's AC is -6 and it has 50 hp (!) If it dies, everyone who's trapped in a gem gets to make a saving throw vs. death or disappear entirely forever. Those left alive can be freed into a fresh body by crushing the gem. But guys, just don't touch the goddamn thing. You'll get a shot at it later.
So why are we here again? Joining both halves of the Amulet reveals the rest of its message. It's a simple transformation cipher, with some intentional misspellings. It says, translated: "The face of the fiend does more than devour/with the least of my form, tis the path to power." The secret is some Acererak corpse dust, which can be collected without causing Bad Shit (as seen above). Having it on your person turns the Great Green Face into a portal (in the mouth, of course) to the City of Moil, where your next step lies. We're out the original TOMB OF HORRORS, but things really do get worse from here. There's nothing quite as "fuck you" as the original TOMB OF HORRORS, but it's just as deadly coming up.
Next time: Moil!
I love it when a plan comes together!Original SA post
Now seems like a good time to discuss Acererak's plan.
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 7.5: I love it when a plan comes together!
So Acererak is old. Very, very, very old. He was an apprentice of Vecna when Vecna was alive (or undead, maybe, but still farting around on
Acererak is very smart. If you were to, say, arbitrarily assign his intelligence a numerical value on a scale of 1-18, it would be 20. Watching adventurers burned, poisoned, impaled, annihilated, crushed, turned to green slime etc. was probably pretty entertaining for the first three thousand years, but the novelty's worn off. Plus his old master is now a God, and Acererak wants a piece of that pie. Not just divinity, though. He played second fiddle to Vecna for centuries, now to do it for eternity? No thanks.
Acererak wants to be more.
So he came up with a plan. A really, really horrifying, awful plan. Acererak has found a way, through the EXTREME expenditure of arcane energy, the sacrifice of literally thousands of souls of peerless quality, and magic unknown to anyone else, to bind his very essence with the Negative Energy Plane. If he were to be successful, he would merge with the plane entirely. Not even a perfectly worded wish would extract him. From there, his power would be godlike; all undead everywhere take their energy from the Negative Energy Plane, and so Acererak would be able to directly control any undead on any plane at any time. Any of them. Anywhere. Combine that with complete and true immortality beyond even that of the Powers (because the field of Dead Gods in the Astral points to their "mortality," even if it's not like ours) and nigh-infinite magical energy, and there'd be almost nothing beyond his reach.
Acererak's already partway through this plan (called the Apotheosis). He can directly control any of the undead under his command, hopping from body to body at will. He can control a demilich skull (of which he has more than one) just as easily as a humble skeleton-- and while the skeleton doesn't have "immune to nearly everything" listed under special defenses like the demilich skull, it DOES have access to all of Acererak's spells. Which, let's recall, include wish .
The Dark Intrusion is a side effect of this process, and a wholly unintended (but welcome) one.
So Acererak's goal is to collect the last few souls. The souls he needs now have to be of EXTREMELY high quality-- that is, they have to come from high-level PCs. He can't just soulsuck a bunch of 0th-level NPCs and call it a day. The TOMB OF HORRORS, the city of Moil, and the Fortress of Conclusion serve as a sort of sieve, killing any PCs who can't hack it and leaving only the toughest. Acererak's biggest flaw is his arrogance-- he's confident that any PCs who make it through all three can be defeated by him personally. He is an incredibly dangerous mage with extremely well-prepared defenses, so he's probably right, but that's the only hope left.
Moil, Moil, City of ToilOriginal SA post
Sorry for the delay everyone! I went to a wedding across the country.
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS part 8: Moil, Moil, City of Toil
So, when last we left our heroes, they were poisoned, skewered, crushed, exploded, electrocuted, melted, asphyxiated, hacked, burned, turned to green slime, made into idiots, had their gender and alignment reversed, stripped of their gear, annihilated and had their souls sucked out. But we're, like, so over that, because now we're in MOIL!
Some background: I mentioned this earlier, but to reiterate. Moil was once a city on the Prime Material world of Ranais (exceptionally spergin PCs will remember this world from Dead Gods, the Planescape adventure, as a place of Orcus worship). The Moilians were extremely advanced in both science and magic, but also very cruel and twisted-- they worshipped Orcus, after all! Gradually, though, they grew sick of their evil, capricious god and switched to ones less dedicated to fuckery. Orcus found their lack of faith... disturbing, and cursed them to sleep in a deathlike state until the light of the sun hit them. He then cast Moil into a private demiplane where no sun shone, dooming them to slow death in their sleep. One by one, the Moilians died, and their city crumbled around them, preserved by the bitter cold.
Until Acererak found it.
Fascinated by the unique Moilian zombies that the demiplane generated, Acererak experimented in Moil for a while, restoring parts of it to a "functional" state and using most of the inhabitants as labor to build his Fortress of Conclusion in the Negative Energy Plane. He then set it up as the next "leg" in his challenge to adventurers, for those who survived his original TOMB OF HORRORS. Moil is now full of the kind of devious traps that Acererak is known for, plus the remains of its original inhabitants-- not just their zombified forms, but the remnants of their culture, for Moil was an evil place indeed before its fall and bits of that remain.
Moil is laid out as a series of towers, like so:
Before I go into detail about the exact locations and puzzles, a few notes.
First, the Dark Intrusion is stronger in Moil than outside.
Undead are turned as four categories higher. Spells from the Necromancy school take 4 fewer units of time to cast. Living creatures rat-size or larger have and 80% chance of spontaneously animating as zombies within 1d3 rounds. Healing spells are only 75% effective, and finally, the city is supernaturally cold; you must make a Constitution check at -4 every 6 years or take 1hp damage.
Secondly, due to Moil's status as a pocket demiplane, some weird stuff happens. The "borders" of the city are a wall of writhing black fog; stepping through it earns you a one-way ticket to the Negative Energy Plane. As a reminder, this is the most hostile place in the multiverse, worse than the Abyss. There's nothing to breathe, so you immediately start suffocating. Life energy is drained from you at a rate of 2d6 hp/round. Dying this way means no resurrection of any kind is ever possible and also you become an Undead. Magical items lose two pluses, spells that cause damage cause the maximum amount while healing spells heal the minimum, anything created here with magic crumbles in a single round, and you can't conjure/summon from anywhere but the negative quasielemental planes (Ash, Dust, Vacuum and Salt). It's a death sentence. Flying up into the "clouds" above Moil gives you a 45% chance each round of being struck by a bolt of lightning for 10d6 damage with no save. The Vestige haunts Moil, and every four hours the PCs have a 20% chance of running into it; this is a "supposed to lose" fight and they had best run away if they want to live because the thing is fucking tough .
So, here we are. A vast, dark city, wreathed in black fog and grey clouds, lit by colossal lightning flashes. Bone-achingly cold, it's a city of narrow metal spires and fragile-looking bridges, haunted by beings of negative energy, the undead remains of its inhabitants, and one horrific monstrosity born from the fear and misery of thousands of dying people.
Welcome to Moil.
We arrive in location one. You stand on a BRIDGE. Before you stands a RUSTED IRON OBELISK. Exits are to the EAST, WEST and SOUTH. It is really fucking COLD. There's BATS or something in the sky, I don't know. I HATE it here already.
"Acererak is impressed; you now stand under the darkling sky that most never dreamt of. Your only path is forward through this crumbling demiplane of broken piety. The journey shall task you to your mortal limits. However, this verse may help you on your way to me within the Void, where you shall receive a fitting prize for your persistence:
The City That Waits was the city of Moil
Where dreams truly died, but bodies yet toil
In slumber unrelenting they lie yet in wait
Biding their time to seal your fate.
Discovery of the Void and my Fortress within
Demands exploration through peril again.
Find amid towers degenerate the single key
And resolve the dilemma of problems three.
Beard the brine dragon in its frozen hollow;
Remove the Key, avoid its starved swallow.
Beneath webs of glowing emerald
Hangs a riddle-box, ripe to be solved.
The darkweaver endures the cold in her lair;
Grasp your fate with consummate care.
The lifeless dream that marks the crime
Is the Vestige that guards the sands of time.
Each resolution removes one obstacle
For those who peruse this written oracle:
The Phantom released flies you in fashion
To my inevitable Fortress of Conclusion.
So, here we are on the bridge. The negative fundamentals swarm around overhead; they're annoying but not dangerous, unless they push you off the bridge, in which case sucks to be you. I'll start us off with the tower marked 2 on the map, the Tower of Morning.
It's mostly a rubble-choked ruin, and what's not tumbled stone is covered in a layer of ice; an open doors roll is required to break the ice and open each door. Unlike many of the other towers, only one level here is available. In fact, flying or otherwise clever PCs who manage to get to other layers somehow realize that they are empty; the tower's a hollow shell except this one part. Acererak's magic preserves the ruined city in even the shitty state it's in-- without it it would have collapsed long ago.
The arched doorway leading into the building is covered with frost, through which a carving of a sunrise is visible. Rubbing off the ice the get a better look gives you the idea that it's a sun set , not a sun rise -- and makes you save vs. spell at -5 or be affected by the curse of Moil, i.e. you fall asleep until the sun hits you! Remove curse gives you another save at -5, if you fail then it's lights out and not even a wish will wake you up. You gotta get in the sunlight, and there's no sun here.
Inside the chamber is a room with a lovely mural.
Touching a panel makes it glow dimly. Only one can glow at once-- touching another makes the glow in the first fade. They all depict a pastoral scene with a road and with the sun at a different position-- rising, noon, setting, etc. The paintings are marked with runes in ancient Moilian; while it's theoretically possible a PC knows it, yeah, no. Comprehend languages or similar reveals that they say "Manifest the power of the Wand of Days."
Next room is empty but coated in frost-- except for one bare patch on the floor, human-shaped, covered in bits of ice. Something pulled itself out of the ice here...
Next room used to be full of statues. Now, it's full of smashed statues. The floor is covered in stone arms, legs, torsos and heads, all rimed in the everpresent frost; it's very disconcerting. On the eastern side of the room, PCs spot an un-smashed statue. Actually, it's a Moilian zombie, and getting within 20 feet of it causes it to "activate," springing to life and draining the PCs of hp every round as Moilian zombies do. It pulls itself free and attacks. As a refresher, Moilian zombies are usually quiescent, but have a constant 20-foot radius life drain effect (in addition to a suite of cold-based powers and immunities). This is how they activate, and once they run out of hp they go back into sleep mode unless really hacked apart or similar. Anyways, this one has simple clothing, a non-magical headband with a carving of the rising sun on a metal disk, and 46 Moilian platinum pieces; they have towers on one side and Orcus's face on the other.
Next room is the Seat of the Long View, a stone chair in front of a window into the outer darkness. The Sect of the Morning Sun was based here, and this group was responsible for turning Moil away from Orcus. Too bad about how all that turned out. They focused their contemplation and adoration on the sun, so Orcus decided that if they thought the sun would save them, why not make it so? And so they died, waiting for the sun. Sitting in the seat whilst wearing the zombie's headband lights you up for an instant like a sunrise; you are suddenly invigorate as from a full night's sleep, and you regain 3 hp and can rememorize spells. Only once per PC per 24 hours. Sadly, the throne had more cool powers, but none of the keys survived.
Proceeding northwest, the PCs enter a hallway where the ice has grown very thickly into pillars, stalactites and stalagmites. Every 10 feet you travel, you have a 20% chance of dislodging an icicle; save vs. breath weapon or take 1d4 damage. Not crippling, but flavorful. The door at the end is frozen solid and requires magic or hard work to open.
Next room is filled with layers of ice, reducing its size to a ten-foot cube. In the center is a pedestal, topped with a vise holding a wooden wand. If the PCs touched any of the sun art panels in the previous room, runes on the pedestal and wand glow; the runes on the pedestal say "The choice of Days empowers the wand, but the choice cannot be made from here." The wand says "Kindle" on the side (all of this is in Moilian, of course). "Kindle" in any language is the command word, and causes the wand to shed light in a 50-foot radius for two rounds. The light is exactly identical to the light of the sun at the time of day indicated by the currently glowing panel, and functions as such for all purposes (injuring vampires, lifting the Moil curse etc). If the PCs chose the "sunrise" panel, Panel 2, triggering the wand instantly destroys any Moilian zombie in the radius as the curse is ended and its spirit is set free. The wand has ten charges and can be recharged once a week at the pedestal. This is the most important item in the entire adventure-- fortunately it's hard to miss.
The following chamber is a library without books (they all rotted years ago) and a Moilian zombie. Anticlimactic!
I will post more on the other towers later, but for now I will leave you with this.
Next time: Casinos and Bus Stations, Moil has Everything!
I call it "Lost Wages."Original SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 9: I call it "Lost Wages."
So when last we left our intrepid
As a refresher, here's our map of Moil.
The PCs arrived at location 1. I detailed Tower 2, but that one's kind of a dead end. We'll next go to Tower 3-- the Tower of Chance! The bridge leads into an archway surrounded by chaotic groupings of Moilian runes, which turn out to be numbers. They're not magical or anything, and they're truly random and meaningless-- because this tower was a casino. Yup.
Location 3.2 is a pretty massive room that used to be a casino floor full of intricate gambling machines, presumably slots and the like. They're all smashed up. The room definitely used to be a bit luxurious-- there were mirrors on the walls (all now smashed) and there's all kinds of crumbled stone, wood and metal all over the place. If the PCs feel like picking through the remnants of slot machines, they can get some cashola (141 Moilian platinum pieces).
3.3 is a cabaret-- I guess Moil really was like Vegas. There's scattered furniture everywhere, except for a single table and chair that have been drawn up against a window. There's a wine bottle and a crystal cup on the table. Along the western wall there's a long, low counter: a Moilian bar. Ice is, of course, everywhere, except for the ominous human silhouettes where something pulled itself free. The ground behind the bar is littered with smashed glass; searching through it or walking through it in insufficient protective gear forces a Dex check or suffering 1hp of damage from cuts. There are three intact bottles of red ("Warren & Son's Merlot") among the wreckage. There's a secret compartment in the bar with an exquisitely crafted crystal glass, enchanted to protect the drinker from any ill effects of the fluid within, including poison, inebriation etc.
The table was drawn up by Desatysso when he passed through here nigh-on 20 years ago and hasn't been disturbed since. PCs can tell by inspecting the table: he scratched "Desatysso was here" into the table with his knife. The bottle contains absinthe, which apparently requires a saving throw vs. poison to avoid losing 1 hp per minute for 20 minutes. I'm pretty sure absinthe doesn't deal 20hp damage on a failed save; maybe I'm just higher level than I thought. There aren't any monsters or traps in here, which is not indicative of Moil as a whole.
3.4 is a private suite with a naked body on a shattered table. The body is in fact a Moilian zombie and animates when the PCs get close. When destroyed, PCs can search it to find a deck of Moilian playing cards and some money. 3.5 is very securely locked and labeled "Final Round Games." It contains a wooden table and six chairs, with a large stone chair against the west wall.
This was a high-stakes gambling room. Very high-stakes: the souls of the players. The game master sat in the stone chair, and losers were subject to the effects of the mirror of life-trapping set in the ceiling. Typically, they'd be set free by the winner in exchange for an oath of service for a set period. Anyone searching or looking up becomes aware of the mirror-- if you look up you see your reflection and must save vs. spell or be trapped in the mirror. The command word that frees prisoners has of course been lost for ages, and you can't remove the mirror without breaking it. Fortunately, breaking the mirror releases trapped occupants! Unfortunately, occupants include more than any trapped PCs. There are two Moilian zombies stuck in there (they are not utterly mindless, and are intelligent enough to be trapped) and a woman named Lerxst, a Moilian from before the curse days, who was trapped there by a card shark named D'wart (details!) hundreds of years ago. Lexst speaks Moilian and Orcish despite being human, and is initially very disoriented and frightened. She will accompany the party, though, not having anywhere to go, once she adjusts. She's a Level 9 thief, with some magic items ( boots of spider climbing, short sword of venom +2, darts of homing +3 ) and decent abilities, and she's not evil, just chaotic neutral. She's not dressed for the cold, so she may need some help, plus she can't help too much with landmarks since the city looks very different from when she was last about (the towers are much taller, for one). She's very self-centered and won't give her life for the party or put their needs above her own survival, escape and enrichment. With Grunther though this party is starting to get a little bigger-- assuming he's still around (idiot almost certainly looked in the mirror if he made it this far).
Room 3.6 has three windows looking out into the city and several frozen columns of ice, including one with a human skeleton in it. Trying to bypass it reveals its true nature-- a winter-wight, who says "Come to feel my cold embrace, my darlings?" and attacks. This is a very, very dangerous and powerful undead, and unlike the ubiquitous zombies is likely to pose a serious threat, especially if a PC catches on blackfire . There are more winter-wights later, fought in more hostile conditions-- this is just an introduction to this kind of undead.
Area 3.7 is an untrapped staircase that takes the PCs into the next level of the Tower of Chance. So is 3.8-- but this staircase contains a satchel resting on the steps. The buckle is trapped with a save-or-die needle trap (because of course it is); there's a hidden catch that opens it. Inside the bag are spell components for evil spells-- bones, skin, eyes, fear-sweat etc. In the intense cold the labels freeze-dried and flaked off. Very careful handling (ie not picking up) the satchel and visually observing it can remove the vials one by one and match them with their labels (requiring a pick pockets roll)-- otherwise the labels become hopelessly jumbled. If the roll was good enough one of the removed vials is "Corpse Dust (Acererak);" otherwise, that vial is mixed in with the others. There are plenty of vials with similar stuff ("powdered bone, corpse dust (mundane), funerary ashes, mummy crumbs") so it's tough to guess. There's a few random items in there, plus three potions of extra-healing, which are frozen solid and must be carefully thawed to work. This is the spell component satchel of Academician Drake from the Bleak Academy (remember him?) who lost it here in a scuffle with undead.
Area 3.9 is a large, mostly empty chamber and the other exit from the tower. The chamber contains some rusting iron wire sculptures of humanoids, the one remaining standing holding a stone tablet. This is covered in Moilian runes, saying "... and by which token you are accounted guests in the Tower of Chance" (the other statue had the first half of this sentence, which is now smashed).
3.10 is a cloakroom-- there are still some clothes in there. Two are woolen cloaks, one's a red poncho, and one's a white brushed leather cloak. That one is a robe of powerlessness. , though casting remove curse on it before putting it on turns it into a handy robe of warmth -- you have to recast every time you take it off or put it on, though.
3.11 is a roulette room! There's a roulette table and a brass plaque on the wall, reading (in Common) "In games of chance there are risks to be taken/The winner is rewarded but the loser, forsaken." Acererak of course left that here, and of course it's a trap-- it's Acererak's Haphazard Wheel, as detailed in my earlier post. Suffice it to say that it is not to be fucked with lightly.
3.12 is a display room full of cabinets and shelves, all smashed up and shaken as though a giant had picked the whole room up. Only one item is intact: a glass-fronted curio cabinet in the southwestern corner. It's covered in ice, so you can't see inside, but glows golden from inside. This is one of my favorite rooms in the adventure. Acererak put this here to test adventurers to see if they were just greedy. The cabinet is magiced against x-ray vision and scrying (but not psionics, making them useful for perhaps the first time ever). Melting the ice to look through undoes the curse and fades the light. The cabinet is empty. Opening the door, on the other hand, has dramatic effects. Every source of light in the room, including the golden glow, is magically extinguished. A random party member must save vs. spell at -4 or be silently teleported 50 feet to the east, which leaves them dangling outside the tower; without intervention they will fall through into the Negative Energy Plane and be gone forever. Nice knowing you! If the save is passed, another member must save at -3, then someone at -2, then -1, then nobody has to save-- so likely at least ONE person is going outside. Relighting a torch, generating magical light or any means of creating light causes the cabinet to swing shut and resume a golden glow. Every time you open it this happens again.
Room 3.13 is a vault to hold valuables. It's lined with foot-thick steel plates, magiced against scrying, teleportation, or passing through them. Above the door is a symbol of death that will kill up to 80HD of creatures passing through the door who are unauthorized (like all of the PCs). The wheel that opens the door is locked, and the key is gone, and the lock gives you a -30% penalty to pick it, and also it has a symbol of insanity inscribed on it that will affect anyone with less than 120 hp fiddling with it. Man, that's a lot of security! Inside there's a fuckload of money. There's also a Moilian zombie, unfortunately, and this one's deadlier than most. It used to be the sentinel of the vault. In addition to Moilian zombie abilities, it has a sentinel mask and gauntlet of guard, both of which I described in a previous post. It can pew pew 10d6 damage energy bolts from its finger, has AC 0, and can see through almost all magical concealment. The vault, in addition to having more than 4000 platinum pieces, is a great place to hole up and recover, and it does open from the inside.
So that's the Tower of Chance. Tower 4 is the Tower of Portals, which used to be the hub o the Moilian transit network.
You can see there's not much of it left. The arch simply reads "Tower of Portals." Inside, it's hollow-- there are catwalks that the PCs can use to navigate. There's a bridge and stairway down to another exit.
4.2 is just the catwalk. It glows with its own illumination. 4.3 is a "Portal of Peril." It's a silvery metal arch filled with haze that makes it impossible to see through. Carved into the left-hand side is a circular depression with a humanoid palm print in blue tile. The symbols atop the arch read "Kainrath" in Moilian-- this portal used to transport people to city of Kainrath. Now, of course, it leads nowhere. Well, not nowhere. Walking through it takes you to a random location in the Quasielemental Plane of Vacuum, a place where there is... nothing. Without air pressure, you breathe out in one round of long continuous breath. After that you must make a saving throw vs. death every round with a -2 cumulative penalty per round until you die. You also bleed off 1 hp of heat each round-- it's deathly cold, but vacuum is a great insulator, so you'll suffocate before you freeze. The handprint actually opens the gate, causing a tremendous howl as all of the air (and everything else!) is sucked through due to the pressure differential. Everyone within 100 feet is subject to this (beyond that you can hold yourself back) and is swept towards the gate at a movement rate of 21. Within 100 feet, you can attempt a Dex check to grab something. If you fail, you get another chance-- make a Dex check at -4 to grab the edge of the archway. Anyone who grabbed something must make a Strength check every round or lose their grip. Items like ropes make an item saving throw each round vs. fire. You can re-trigger the palm print to close it or wait 10 rounds, when it closes automatically. Anyone who can fly will still be drawn in, but slowly-- at a rate of 3 per round, not 21 (since fly confers a movement rate of 18) and get a +2 on Strength checks to not be sucked in.
4.4 is another portal, inlaid with three symbols atop the arch-- a blue, a black, and a red-- and with three handprints: blue, black and red. This is the intra-city transport, and the three glyphs read "Tower of Health," "Hub," and "Periphery," respectively. This one still works. Pressing a handprint and walking through the arch takes you somewhere-- the Tower of Health is an interesting place (we'll cover it later-- it's Tower 7) and the Hub is an essential location for proceeding once you're done in Moil (it's Location 16) but the Periphery takes you outside the bounds of the parts of Moil that Acererak has preserved. You simply teleport into thin air and fall into the Negative Energy Plane, goodbye forever! Not touching any palmprints means the arch is just an arch and doesn't take you anywhere.
4.5 is a portal with a yellow haze within and a yellow palm print. This one takes you into a torture machine in are 6.7 in Moil's police station tower if you walk through it. Don't do that. Opening the palm print opens a two-way gate to Area 6.2, summoning the Moilian headsman-- a deadly foe, and one that will be described when we get to Tower 6. This portal is best not fucked with.
From here, the PCs can go to all manner of places-- the Tower of Chance's exit leads to a hub that can take you to Towers 11, 14 or 8, and the Tower of Portals exits into Tower 5. But I know where we're going: the best place of all!
Next time: A visit to the po-pos and my favorite room in any RPG, ever, ever!
Disregard the Law Enforcement Officials (And the Dragon)Original SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS, Part 10: Disregard the Law Enforcement Officials (And the Dragon)
Hello again everyone! Let's continue exploring Moil!
Tower 5 is known as the Aqueous Tower. Long ago, this was a reservoir of sorts-- this is where Moil got its potable water. Since then, the water's been polluted and salted, to the point of undrinkability. The salt has had the side effect of keeping it liquid in the intense cold of Moil, otherwise it would have frozen long ago. There's about 500 feet of water in the tower; the entrance is 20 feet above the surface, and magic keeps it in, but any PC who swims down the whole way for some reason is liable to be pulled into the Negative Energy Plane as normal. There is also a plug of solidified salt down there, which has been hollowed out into a lair for the tower's only inhabitant-- an adult brine dragon. While it is possible to try to hole the wall of the tower with spells and thereby drain out some of the water, the walls have been treated to reflect magic 45% of the time, and you'd have to blast through the salt to drain the tower beyond a certain level-- and doing so awakens and mightily pisses off the dragon.
So why do the PCs want to go into this deathtrap at all? Well, if not for the poem, they'd likely avoid it. There's one thing and one thing only they need down here: a key, necessary for proceeding past Moil to the Fortress of Conclusion.
There's a rusted iron ladder that leads down to the water and a ways below it; fortunately, it won't snap if PCs step on it. DMs whose PCs go down here should familiarize themselves with the rules for fighting underwater (they're really nasty and crippling without magical assistance like a ring of free action ), and should remember a few things:
1) Once you get into the brine caves it is pitch black. Infravision doesn't work well because the water is so cold, so bring a non-flame light source.
2) The water's so cold that hypothermia is a problem. Unless you're magically protected from cold, you must make a Con check every round, with each subsequent check having a -2 penalty. One failure sends you unconscious. A second failure kills you.
3) You, of course, cannot breathe underwater. Better get some water breathing cast on you.
It's up to you if you want to use some water pressure rules. I can't find the 2e ones, but the 3e ones are 1d6 points of damage/hundred feet subsurface/round. So, it adds up.
Anyways, the ladder goes down 40 feet underwater, where it terminates in a plateau of solid salt. This does not cover the entire floor-- around the center of the tower there's a lip, a 20-foot drop, and a wide cave mouth below. Entering this cave-- noted 5.4 on the map-- takes you to my favorite room in all of AD&D second edition. It's a trap, of course, but it's so elegant in its simplicity that I can't help but applaud. It's a grotto, fully submerged, and with salt making up the walls, floor and ceiling. One wall-- the far one-- is pitted, corroded iron; the interior of the tower. There's some glyphs scratched into the walls in typical Acererak style.
These glyphs, when read, unleash a 20th-level dispel magic . Spell, active magic items, potions, and everything else instantly fails.
It's... it's beautiful.
So assuming that your PCs can survive freezing, drowning, crushing and pitch-blackness, they can continue.
The next room has two skeletons, embedded in the salt wall-- victims of the dispel trap. The brine dragon stripped their bodies of possessions/nutrients and then stowed their remains here to keep his lair "neat and tidy" per the adventure. The bones are fragile and, if delicately handled, can be determined to be acid-scored (this is from the brine dragon's saliva).
Area 5.6 is the brine dragon's hoard.
And there he is, trollfacing at you!
The dragon's actually asleep, despite his massive grin. It's 50 feet long and has flippers instead of legs (brine dragons are wholly aquatic). It sleeps away the years, absorbing salt through its skin and guarding a silver key atop a salt pillar. The best way to defeat it is not to fight it-- grab the key and run like hell. You must pass a Move Silently check to do this, base 5% chance. Silently or not, 1d20 rounds after PCs enter its chamber the dragon wakes up. It is pissed off and hungry and will attack on sight-- it can't be reasoned with. In addition to biting, slamming etc. it has a breath weapon: a spray of alkaline salt and saliva. It also has Melf's Acid Arrow 3x a day. It's generally a nasty enemy, and it also doesn't suffer the really nasty underwater fighting penalties PCs do, as an aquatic creature. It has a hoard, if they manage to kill it, but the hoard's not too big, since the dragon can't leave the water. It has a lot of money, some potions ( extra-healing, speed, clairvoyance and [/i]oil of fumbling[/i]), some art and scrolls (all ruined by the water), a shield +2 , a rope of entanglement , a ruined magic tome, a dwarven throwing hammer +3 , a scarab of death and a rod of resurrection with seven charges, which will definitely come in handy.
So next we head to tower 6-- the Tower of Discipline. This is where Moil's criminal justice system was based, and the excesses of that system directly led to the rebellion and curse. As befitting an Orcus-worshipping city, justice in Moil was arbitrary and violent. There's only one level of this tower left, but that's dangerous enough.
6.1 is the entrance. 6.2 is the Hall of Slaying where public executions, a great source of spectacle for the depraved Moilians, took place. It's all smashed up now, except for Headsman, the magen executioner. A word on magen, since there are a few scattered about : magen are kind of like intelligent golems made of magically charged gelatin poured into molds-- they're human-looking, but designed for a specific purpose. Headsman was designed to chop off 'eads and that's what 'e does, especially now that he has gone insane from years without human contact or instruction. He wears a headsman's hood and wields an axe-- the Headsman's Hood and Headsman's Axe of Moil, , in fact. The Hood allows him to issue a suggestion 3x a day, but it's much more powerful than the standard spell-- the target will attempt to complete the command at the exclusion of all other tasks, and if they are asked to lay their necks down on the stone chopping block and wait motionless, they get a -5 saving throw penalty. The axe is effectively a vorpal sword +3 , but if a creature is standing or lying motionless before the wielder they can be automatically decapitated with no roll required, regardless of mitigating factors. Naturally this a very fair and balanced combat and definitely won't result in one PC after another failing a save at -5 and being instagibbed with no save. When the PCs first enter Headsman will be completely stunned at the sight of them, but it will quickly get to loppin' off heads with the help of its hood. Headsman also has a key around its neck on a chain that opens the door at 6.4.
6.3 is an "Interrogatorium," the only one of four that survived the transit to the demiplane. It's a torture chamber, of course. There's a 10'x10'x10' construction of iron bars against the south wall, suspended in the center of which is a giant cocoon connected to frost-coated webs. It's about 6'x2'. This tower used to contain tanar'ri torturers; the web is a remnant of a fiendish torture that killed its victim (so he didn't rise as a zombie). The body wears a chain around its neck and a loincloth-- attached to the chain is a brass vial containing a piece of durable parchment that reads, in Moilian, "Interrogation Until Admission," the fate of the prisoner.
6.4 is the entrance to the cell blocks, a 4' thick wall of iron enchanted against magical passage or destruction. The door has a bas-relief of a huge screaming face; if you try to pick the lock (-20% penalty) you have to be quick, because success or failure brings the jaws gnashing shut. Save vs. breath weapon to avoid it-- failure by 1-5 points means you take 1d6 damage, failure by more does 1d6 and you lose a hand (it's bitten off by the mouth!). Past the door is a cell block, complete with a mural of demonic beings preparing humans to eat. The cells contain flickering, multicolored lights that give the whole hallway an eerie aspect.
Any PC who studies the whole mural from beginning to end must take a saving throw vs. paralyzation with a -2 penalty or be wracked by horrible nightmares for the next five nights, preventing them from re-memorizing spells and suffering a -1 cumulative Thac0, ability check and saving throw penalty due to fatigue. Remove Curse will get rid of this effect. The cells are all empty aside from the outlines of Moilian zombies, and each has a strobing light in it that sends out the flickers PCs saw earlier (a calculated attempt to break prisoners' spirits). The key you got from Headsman unlocks the cells in case you really wanna go in there, but don't touch the bars-- it causes severe pain. If you touch them for a full round you lose 1d4 Strength plus suffer horrible agony; if you reach zero, you fall unconscious for 1d4+4 rounds.
One of the cells, 6.5, is dark; the light got smashed. Doing so is a very bad idea, since they're enchanted, and smashing them causes them to leak a mildly acidic black fluid endlessly (it deals 1hp of damage/round). Any prisoner who got rowdy and smashed the light was allowed to simply dissolve slowly and horribly in the acid that filled up their cell.
6.6 is actually occupied! There's a woman in there, shackled to the wall and with a hood over her head. She's wearing a frayed brown robe and her head lolls on her chest.
This is Isafel, until relatively recently one of Acererak's only living servants. Being a living servant of Acererak is risky and stupid; he has nothing but contempt for the living, and on a pretext he tossed her in here to "teach her humility" and then forgot about her. When she hears the party, she raises her head and shouts, "Acererak! Have you come finally to release me from this chill bondage? I've learned humbleness and will serve you faithfully! I beg you to release me!" She's smart and will quickly realize that, whoever the PCs are, they're not Acererak. She'll beg to be released and will promise to reveal all she knows if they do. She asks them to free her hands first, which she'll then use to free her head. See, there's something about Isafel she won't tell PCs-- she's not human at all, she's a medusa. She'll attempt to petrify them all as proof of her loyalty to Acererak.
Isafel still has her possessions, and they're what have enabled her to survive this long. She has a ring of warmth on one hand and a nonmagical emerald ring on the other, and a pouch with some personal possessions and a petrified heart and stomach, which act as permanent rings of sustenance and regeneration .
Anyways, area 6.7 is the Afflictionaria, another torture chamber. It's full of fully operational torture machines (one of the portals back at the Tower of Portals teleported a PC into one of these machines), including various harnesses and tables and razors and so on. The DM is encouraged to be creative when furnishing this room, and to just suggest a few items on a table next to a restraining chair and let the PCs' imaginations do the horrible filling-in of details. This is not Cthulhutech. There's a corpse strapped to a wheel that was tortured to death before the curse and didn't rise; his brass vial contains a parchment that says "Absolve," which the torturers chose to disregard. Fun!
Anyways, that's it for 6.7. Some magic items and one really nasty combat encounter. Next time we pay a visit to the doctor and see what Moilian medicine was like!
Next time: Spiders and Magens!
WAAAAAAMBULANCEOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 11: WAAAAAAMBULANCE
Sorry everyone! I've been really really busy, I just got a new job, and lacking motivation. But there's tons of cool stuff left! I'm only going to do one tower this time, but I promise I'll try to go back to a more regular schedule.
So Tower 7 is next.
This was the "Tower of Health," where Moilians went to get healed from the various horrors that could readily befall members of an Orcus-worshipping society. Moilian medicine was very advanced, with the ability to regrow limbs, heal afflictions, etc. Naturally it's all gone to shit now, but the PCs don't know that! And neither do the staff...
There are three levels of the tower left; one's empty and desolate and can only be accessed by flying because the bridge that once led to it has fallen away, so we'll ignore it. The entrances are marked by a Moilian caduceus symbol: a bandage-wrapped humanoid figure intertwined with two snakes, who stare at each other above its head. It's ominous and spooky but also pretty evocative and should give the PCs an idea of what's in here.
The lobby, 7.2, is shattered, and full of paper debris (if the PCs can read Moilian, it's all ancient medical records). 7.3 was a waiting room, with a huge open window that now looks over the dead city. There's a bunch of viewing chairs, but there's nothing interesting in any of them, except for one which has a pair of Moilian zombies!
7.4 is a convalescent room, containing a steel-framed bed, armoire and mirror. The bed covers are pulled up over a figure, but after the PCs spend a moment freaking out they'll realize it's just the skeletal remains of a Moilian who died before the curse. 7.5 is another such room, but this one's occupied! It's been totally trashed and destroyed, and there's a youthful woman in there wearing a grey robe and a long white coat with platinum blond hair, with her head in her hands.
This is Cyndia, a medron magen. Magen are, basically, golems of a sort. They're made of sorcerously charged gelatin poured into a humanoid mold, and they're much more intelligent than golems. They're all purpose-built and their personalities, interests and abilities entirely revolve around their purpose. As the term "medron" would imply, Cyndia and her former co-workers were all nurses and doctors. She's got skill proficiency in healing and herbalism along with 18/75 Strength, and she can cure light wounds three times per day.
When the PCs enter, Cyndia greets them, saying (in ancient Moilian, natch) "Hello? Are you feeling poorly? I am a fully functional medron. I can help you with your wounds or hurts. It has been so very long since I have laid eyes upon a living being!" Cyndia is genuinely nice and wants to help the PCs; it's her function, after all. If any PCs are hurt, she will try her best to help them. This includes leading them to the medical stores. If one's really badly hurt, she'll want to take them to Doctor Tarr, the remaining doctor medron, in the operating room, and she'll insist on carrying them. Cyndia will accompany the party if they let her (she really wants to keep living beings alive and hasn't had any to help in a long time) and she is very familiar with the Tower of Health. However, she's not familiar with the city outside at all, and she implicitly trusts everything in the Tower is working properly, which is a very dangerous assumption. She'll use a weapon if they give her one, but she'll never willingly harm a living being.
7.6 is a "deepview chamber" with a "deepviewer," kind of a magical x-ray. It's a huge iron cylinder 30 feet long and 10 wide, with a 3-foot hatch and a cracked crystal screen above it. The patient lies down on a platform which is rolled into the door, the door closes, then the patient is magically paralyzed (so they don't confuse the machine by accident) and the crystal screen shows a silhouette of the person's body with any kind of illness, injury, or even curse shown on it for easy diagnosis. Then the machine reads off the diagnosis, frees the patient and spits them back out. At least in theory. Cyndia, of course, is a strong proponent of it, saying that PCs really should get checked out. She won't force them, but she will say "good deepviewing can only be to your benefit... it will not hurt a bit!" and assuring them that any previous bad experiences they've had with medical equipment in here are down to their lack of experience.
Anyone who climbs up onto the platform is automatically paralyzed. The door creaks and tries to close, but can't. Regardless, the platform slides deeper into the machine, into a cargo pod, which hides the patient from sight. Steel-reinforced viewing grids close in around the patient, and the friends outside see the person's body, with injuries glowing green and yellow. Suddenly, the body convulses and gets bright red. The sensor grids closed a little too closely on the patient, and they must save vs. polymorph or take 4d10 damage. The deepviewer says in Moilian "This patient has been severely crushed, and needs medical attention immediately." The patient is then ejected and lands in a heap.
If Cyndia sees this happen, she screams and grabs the body, trying to take it to Dr. Tarr for help, or for preservation in the freezing room (of which more later) if the patient died. PCs can stop her with threats of violence, but she's very insistent otherwise.
Room 7.7 has a limb regrowing machine. It's a tall cylinder covered in glass pods, some shattered, with a human-shaped indentation in the side. It regenerated limbs and organs, not an infrequent requirement in a city as violent as Moil. The machine has not been maintained in a while and its effects these days are erratic, to say the least. Of course, Cyndia will encourage PCs to try it. If you step into the indentation with a full set of limbs and organs, nothing happens. Stepping in while missing something triggers the machine. The glass pods turn from green to yellow, and the whole machine hums. The smashed glass pods sizzle and crackle and fill the air with a burnt ozone smell. The DM can compare the PC's constitution to a chart, or roll a d20. In either event, this is what happens:
1-6 Subject killed outright. Also, limb doesn't regrow. Fuck you.
7-9 Subject falls into a coma for 1d4 days; withered, useless limb regrown. Haha.
10-14 Limb regrown with a mind of its own; attempts to bring about subject's demise. Snort.
15-17 Normal limb regrown. Neat.
18+ Limb regrown with beneficial supernatural characteristic of DM's choice (resistance to injury, strength, etc.
So that's actually kind of cool. And if you don't roll d20 on this you are a bad DM. You can smash more globes to truly fuck up the machine forever, if you really want to. Sections 7.8 and 7.9 are a stairwell connecting the levels.
7.10 is a deepfreezer; the floor is covered in 3-foot diameter pools, 16 in all, full of glowing bluish fluid. Three of the pools cast strange shadows, as if there's something in there blocking the light. The fluid bubbles and roils, and the room as a whole is VERY cold. This room used to be used to preserve critically ill or injured Moilians until a cure could be prepared. They contained a magically super-chilled fluid, and patients were dipped and frozen. An enchantment prevented cell damage or further injury from the freezing. However, this enchantment has worn off, but not the one that made the fluid super cold. Three of the pools contain Moilians, who simply died when the safety enchantment wore off. Any living flesh that touches the fluid takes 2d6 points of damage per round, and full submerging instantly kills anyone. If you're magically protected from cold you get a save vs. breath weapon, though even on a pass you still take 2d6 damage; a Dex or Str check at -4 each round gets you out of a pool. Fluid outside of the pool boils away almost instantly. Of course Cyndia trusts the fluid implicitly.
7.11 is full of medical supplies. It's magically locked against anyone but a medron. It's lined with shelves inside with a dizzying array of jars, pouches, etc., all of which are frosted and frozen. Some have been smashed and one of the shelves has toppled.
The toppled shelf, of course, rests on a Moilian zombie. Because fuck you.
And the referenced chart:
7.12 is the home of the infamous Dr. Tarr. He's the last of the other medrons, and was once a very competent surgeon. He's in a high-ceilinged room, filled with neatly made beds. It's an OR, in fact. Tarr himself descends from the ceiling when the PCs enter.
Meet the Doctor!
He's on the end of an "ectodraulic" appendage of rusted iron. The ceiling is covered in tracks he can move along. He can go anywhere in the room and about 20 feet past it. Tarr's primary function is to perform operations, and he hasn't gotten to in quite a few years; as a result, he's quite mad. He's good at disguising this fact, though, and it won't be apparent right away. He has excellent bedside manner and seems to be a concerned, gentle healer with patients' best interests in mind. He and Cyndia will urge a PC to get on an operating table so he can have a look at the problem.
If a PC gets on the bed, Tarr anesthetizes them, and from there will not ever let them go, no matter what. He'll keep putting the other PCs off, saying things like "He really needs a few more days of observation, and all of the tissue cell tests are not in yet!" He'll also try to get the other PCs to submit to examination-- he'd like nothing more than to have a whole party of PCs kept drugged and anesthetized so that he could operate on them until they inevitably die of complications from repeated surgeries, or old age. He'll really try to coax someone to agree to "just a basic checkup and physical," but if nobody will, he gets desperate and attempt to anesthetize the party-- he can shoot sleeping gas from one of his limbs three times per day. He is also a very competent fighter with his array of blades and stuff, due to his knowledge of anatomy. He won't kill any PCs, but he'll stabilize them and then knock them out and put them on tables. Cyndia will help him nonlethally, trying to restrain PCs. It's very hard to attack the iron pipe, so PCs should attack Tarr, but he's a tough customer himself. Nothing they can't handle, I hope.
7.13 is an emergency exit. This tower's not a bad place to rest a while, but it's not secure against the Vestige (always a concern). Cyndia's a great ally, though chances are it'll be hard to convince her to stay with them if they kill Dr. Tarr. No guidelines on that-- DM it how you think is appropriate.
Tower 8 I'm skipping. It used to be the Moilian mint, but the insides have totally collapsed, so it's hollow now.
Next time: Spiders and bridges!
A web is a kind of bridge, if you think about itOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 12: A web is a kind of bridge, if you think about
Here's the link to the archive of previous entries, by the way:
So. When we last left off... literally years ago... the PCs had just escaped from the insane Dr. Tarr of the Tower of Health, a Moilian hospital. Cyndia the nurse might be with them or might not. Either way, they're really no closer to their goal for the experience.
As a reminder:
Tower 7 was the medical tower. Tower 8 is totally hollow, having collapsed centuries ago (it was the mint, if anyone cares) (they don't). So on to Tower 9!
Like 8, the interior of 9 has collapsed. There are no floors or furnishings left. Unlike 8, however, it is occupied. By what? What manner of creature could live in a hollow tower trapped between planes?
The entire interior is filled with webs, starting about ten feet below the entrance. They glow a faint green, so as to be conveniently visible to PCs in the lightless tower (there are no windows). The web appears deserted, but poking it has a 10% chance of summoning a wraith-spider, but even if you do the spider can't or won't leave the web so it's not an immediate danger to PCs. Why bother descending into the web and braving these creatures? Well...
Acererak's poem posted:
Beneath webs of glowing emerald
Hangs a riddle-box, ripe to be solved.
Yeah, there's a piece of the key here. Probably the second piece, since the brine dragon had the first. The PCs start in section 9.1. 9.2 is the web. A few rules about it, since we're about to climb on:
1) The web is pretty tightly spaced. Gaps are no larger than five feet. Although this is good, because it means you probably won't fall screaming to your death, it's also problematic for fliers hoping to bypass the whole thing.
2) The web is also supernaturally cold, colder even than the surrounding air. Any living creatures touching it-- and this isn't bare-skin only, gloves and boots count-- suffer d4 damage per round and must save vs paralyzation or by paralyzed for d6 rounds (though whether this is a property of the cold or something inherent to the web isn't clear).
Walking along the web is probably a bad idea for that reason, and fliers have to be intensely maneuverable to make it. Probably the best bet is to hack through it like foliage, which does work.
Unfortunately, this definitely attracts the wraith-spiders, who are not happy about it. There are 13 of them and they arrive within d6 rounds. The spiders are fairly nasty; they have a level-draining bite that also injects Con-draining venom, and require silver or magical weapons to hit. They also have 15% innate magic resistance and immunity to cold, poison and death magic. They're vulnerable to turning, but you should remember that the effects of Acererak's ritual are stronger here than in the Tomb, and that includes making undead harder to turn (they turn as mummies, which, good luck). As a side note, if you die of having your Con dropped to 0, you automatically come back as a wraith-spider with a humanoid head.
At the bottom of the web hangs a riddle cube from an especially thick mass of webbing:
It's black, with red etchings, and of course that's a winter-wight (remember them?) wearing a ring of universal movement standing on the bottom. It is smart enough to hide on the underside of the cube and ambush PCs. It will also call the spiders for help and use its ring to pursue the PCs even if they run.
The bottom of the cube has a riddle engraved into it with three plaques below it that can be pushed like buttons. The riddle reads:
"Many tails have I,
or many a beginning.
If I fail people sigh;
wails mark their passing."
The three plaques depict a might oak tree with roots reaching down into the soil, a cat with hissing snake-headed tails, and a frayed rope. The answer is, of course, rope, and pressing that plaque...
does nothing visible, except make a click sound.
Exactly the same with either of the others.
If you press any other plaques after the first, nothing happens; it takes 24 hours to "reset" and accept a new choice. However, if you pressed the correct one, one of three portcullises at Area 16 raises. So, good.
You can also cut the rope and drop the cube into nothingness, but in 33 days some of Acererak's demon servants go and grab it and put it back.
Area 10 is a shattered bridge-- it still spans the abyss, but is dangerously structurally compromised. 10% chance of causing a crumble, which requires a dex check at -4 or over you go. Look out!
Area 11 is a weak bridge. It looks normal, but the magic preserving it is imperfect and the keystone has crumbled to dust.
When you reach the midpoint-- and here I should note that the bridge is 110 feet long-- a segment of stone drops away from the middle with a loud CRACK! The two halves each collapse backward toward their respective tower. Anyone within 10' of a tower entrance can check Dex to run back inside. Anyone else-- such as, say, the person who triggered the collapse-- has to make a dex check at minus ten to grab hold, then a Strength check at -2 to hold on as the bridge impacts the tower. If you fail either, down you go.
If you survived and are now clinging to a collapsed stone bridge... well, too bad, because a murder of negative fundamentals (those bat things, and yes, that's the correct collective noun) was roosting under the bridge and now swarms out to attack the luckless PCs clinging on by their fingertips.
It's -35% to climb up, which means that without skills you have a 5% chance to climb up, and it takes one round of climbing per 10 feet out you were on the bridge to reach an archway. You can't climb while defending yourself from fundamentals. After d10+4 rounds, the last remnants of the bridge fall away into darkness. Realistically, you pretty much need to be able to fly to get out of this one.
Tower 12 was the home of the Moilian Trader's Consortium and is now empty.
Tower 13 has stuff!
This is the Tower of the Forsaken One, a tower that once housed the Orcus-worshipping clergy of Moil. They were the lawmakers in this chaotic city, and it was their cruel and arbitrary decrees that drove the population to rebel. They were the ones that called down the retribution of Orcus on the people of Moil, but I bet this isn't what they were hoping would happen!
This tower is also inhabited by a spider, or at least a spider-adjacent creature. It's a darkweaver, a strange creature from one of the Planescape monstrous compendiums, and its web forms a maze of darkness the PCs must penetrate. Also, there's a real maze. Acererak likes mazes.
Note that there are no windows above or below the one surviving level to allow access; that would be too easy.
13.1 is the entranceway. Unlike most of Moil's towers, this one has a surviving door of granite with a big Orcus-head etched on it. It is a nasty trap, but since at the time this adventure takes place Orcus is dead and powerless, it does nothing. Wiping frost from the door reveals a message: "Ware the weaver in her lair- D." Desatysso barely escaped this tower with his life and etched this warning in, and it should reassure PCs they're on the right track.
13.2 is a split where PCs can go straight or rightwards. Vision here is heavily impeded by the darkweaver's web. It is, in fact, 1/2 normal, even magical light or spells allowing darkvision. The strands of the web are partially made of shadow and recoil from light, but they are not solid enough to impede your progress. Travel 10 feet into the gloom, however, and things change: now the strands do not shy away from the light, but actively try to prevent your escape. Trying at this point to return to the entrance requires a saving throw vs. spell, and even if successful, you only retreat at half speed; failing a save means you must go deeper into the maze. A light spell produces no illumination but destroys a 10-foot cube of web, while continuous light fares only slightly better, destroying d6 such cubes. Very powerful light spells, like sunray, destroy 2d6 cubes.
13.3 is a dead end (the web allows you to retreat far enough to get back into the main body of the maze) containing two withered, drained humanoid corpses. Acererak knows that the darkweaver needs to eat and has his demons fetch it mortals every now and again. This is a pair of brothers who managed to flee this far from the darkweaver's lair before being overpowered and each bears one piercing wound (from the darkweaver's proboscis).
13.4 is where the webs start getting really thick and clingy. From here onward, all vision is one-quarter normal, and anyone attempting retreat from this point must save vs. spell or move deeper into the web in their confusion; even successful saves slow you until the darkweaver is slain.
13.5 has a little gap in the web where rests a statue of a man in a flowing robe with a long beard. Two pinpricks of light gleam under the hood, where the statue's eyes would be.
You can pry out its gemstone eyes for 50gp each, but the real trick is the hands. They are cupped together as if offering or receiving something, and a plaque at the base says in Moilian "Quench the thirst of Golnar, and your reward will be great." Acererak has of course fucked with it; putting any liquid in the hands causes the statue to raise them to its mouth as if to drink, then to blow into its cupped hands, transforming the liquid into 8 map squares worth of poison gas. This is save vs. poison or die stuff, with d10 damage on a successful save, because of course it is. Every liquid has the same results.
13.6 is the darkweaver's lair.
The web is so thick here that PCs must save vs. spell or be held as hold person. Even on a success they are slowed. The area is also as dark as a darkness spell. The darkweaver itself is a nasty foe that has confusion, sleep and suggestion powers, as well as a very good AC and 50% magic resistance. In shadow it can become invisible, make mirror images, teleport, make solid fog, a symbol of despair, shades and other nasty stuff. It can spin one 10' cube of web per turn and can spend multiple turns on the same cube to make it thicker. It has six tentacles and a proboscis. Good news: it is vulnerable to light, and powerful enough light spells not only damage it, they dispel its protection, reducing its AC and Magic Resistance to much more manageable levels.
Killing it ends all outstanding slow and hold effects, as well as the omnipresent darkness. Doing so reveals that the ceiling has a lever of dark metal, currently pointing towards "-". The other setting is "+".
Next to it is a plaque that says "This is the mechanism you seek. Permanent activation will not only achieve one of your goals, but set in motion events of great magnitude."
Setting it to + and then returning it to - makes it light up green, indicating that a portcullis has been raised. Setting it to + and leaving it there makes a click, one round after which the floor, walls and ceiling of the chamber begin to shake wildly. A Wisdom check allows one PC to set the lever back, otherwise shit gets real. It's a Dex check every round to stay on your feet, with a full round and another Dex check to get up if you fall. Failing by 10 or more does d4 damage from falling debris. After nine rounds (the game notes that a PC with a movement rate of 12 who begins running immediately takes less than five rounds along the quickest route to escape), the whole tower crumbles into the abyss of the negative energy plane, along with anyone inside it.
Next time: The Tower of Test!
Face You My Trials Three!Original SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 13: Face You My Trials Three!
Here's the Moil map again, for reference.
We last left off after the heroes had activated two of the switches they need to escape Moil: the riddle box in the wraithspider-webbed tower, and the lever in the darkweaver's lair.
The next stop is Tower 14, the Tower of Test.
Moil was a potent city-state on its home plane, and part of that was its mighty standing army. The Moilians required their army to be constantly and rigorously tested, and so they devised this tower. It used to be the tallest tower of a complex series of keeps, barracks, armories, and all of the other elements that make up a great fortress; time, and Orcus's curse, has left only this small part remaining. The tower floors that Acererak has modified were once the testing ground for the Exalted Moilian Home Guard, or "exaltants," the army's elite. PCs are most likely to enter on the bottom level and proceed upward.
14.1 is the entryway. It has a sword, axe, fist and crossbow above the doorway, to give PCs a hint as to what kind of business went on here. Anyone who passes through the archway triggers an enchantment that causes war horns to sound: a proud martial bellow in the city's heyday, it is now a "lonely death knell." It also alerts Faericles that he has company, which... well, you'll see.
14.2 is a long, curving corridor with red and white checkered tiles on the floor showing martial scenes. The walls are covered in mounted human heads , in case you forgot what kind of city Moil is. These are the remnants of those who challenged the Lord High Exaltant, the leader of the Exaltants, to a fight to the death for his spot-- the loser's head would be stuffed and mounted here, so each of the heads has a brass plaque with a Moilian name (Daelis, Goerdyn, Vaekreeth and Suedlow are given as examples).
At 14.3, something unusual: Gus! Gustaeth was an unlucky challenger, and his head was mounted on the wall like the others. This head was animated by the Dark Intrusion and has some memory of its former existence. Gus doesn't know he was decapitated and thinks his body is trapped in the wall behind him. Acererak has promised Gus that he will come back to free him if Gus directs people to the first door of the Six Criterion, so that's what he does. He tells the party to enter the door to the south, then begs them to free him so he can feel the wind on his toes and flex his fingers.
If the PCs are dicks enough to convince Gus that he's a disembodied head, he loses the remains of his sanity and descends into screams and moans. Please don't be mean to Gus. The door he points PCs to is the entry to the series of six tests that prospective Exaltants had to face: the Six Criterion. Gus knows that Faericles was the last Lord High Exaltant, but assumes he's dead because he hasn't seen him in over a century. He'll tell the PCs what he knows about Acererak if they ask, which isn't much; Acererak came in the form of a winter-wight ("a skeleton encased in ice") and he saw Desatysso when the wizard passed through, though he's mad that the wizard wouldn't free him. He doesn't know that only five of the six tests are still functioning, either.
Once the PCs are within 80 feet of the tower's central core-- ie, when they walk through the door, and thereafter-- no magical or psionic effect that allows special movement or travel ceases to work. No teleporting past the test, or flying through them, or phasing, or anything.
14.4 has a battered four-foot-long horn attached to a plaque. It's faintly blue-black and "speaks of pestilence and dread." The plaque labels it "Horn of an Astral Dreadnought," which it is, although failing to kill the beast when taking its horn ended up proving the doom of the trophy-taker. The Dark Intrusion has suffused it and made it very unpleasant to be around. Anyone within 5 feet of it must save vs. spells at -4 or suffer fear for 1d4 hours. Touching it (why would you do that?!) means you save vs. death magic or forget the events of the past day. Touching a magical item to it causes the item to save vs. disintegration or lose all its powers. If for some insane reason you carry it around, once every 24 hours a random magical item you hold must save vs. disintegration or lose all powers.
You got it, book.
14.5 has a plaque bearing a wriggling severed human hand, labeled "The Hand of Tyr." It is not actually Tyr's hand. It was put up as a joke after being severed from a "lowly criminal" who ended up plea bargaining from death down to dismemberment. "At the time, all who saw the hand got quite a chuckle."
If you take it off the wall, it follows you around like a pet. You can graft it to a stub on an arm, and it will fuse and grant you 18/00 Strength-- for the 24 hours until it kills you.
Anyways, moving on, we get to the first actual test: 14.6. This is the Test of Deftness, the Standing Spires. The room is full of 4-sided iron pillars placed incredibly close together in a thicket, though a path can be traced through them. The way they're arranged, knocking one over sets off the dominoes from hell as they all topple with a horrendous clanging crash. Many of them fall towards the walls and ceiling and scrape along them, so you can't simply go around. When the first PC makes it halfway through the room, the enchantment binding the pillars triggers, and they start to topple. Everyone in the room has to "jump, dodge, scoot or run" to clear a path before all of the pillars fall. This is three dex checks at -2, -4 and -6 respectively, and each failure results in 3d10 damage as you get squashed by a heavy iron pillar. Getting hit once also gives you an additional -2 on your next check, increasing the likelihood that you get bashed again. It takes one minute for all of the pillars to fall, and then after one week the room resets itself.
14.7 is the depressingly simple Test of Strength. The only exit from the empty room (besides where you came in) is covered by a panel of gleaming silver that is strangely empty of the otherwise everpresent frost. There's a handle at the bottom of the panel which is frozen solid in a block of ice. The panel itself is solid steel and heavily enchanted to resist magic. It opens by sliding up on a pair of vertical tracks. The surface itself is nearly frictionless, due to the same enchantment, so the ice can't accumulate on it. You can only open it by grabbing the handle and lifting. You have to chip away the ice first, then you need someone with 18 Strength at least; less than that won't work, but what else are we lugging Grunther around for? You can also batter it down; it has an AC of -2 and can take 80 points of damage, which must be from blunt or piercing weapons. Hope the Vestige doesn't catch on to what you're doing here.
14.8 is a wide room holding a wide variety of spheres in a dizzying array of colors, all descending from the ceiling on copper chains. This is the Test of Forbearance. Sharp eyes with good memory might be reminded of the TOMB OF HORRORS. There's no actual connection, but I hope it freaks PCs out. Each orb produces a single, clear tone; however, the tones were selected the create maximum discord. You hear them as a low hum when you enter. It starts off unpleasant, but with every foot someone progresses into the chamber, it gets louder... and louder... and louder...
The room is 70 feet across. At 35 feet, the sound becomes actively dangerous. You have to test Constitution three times per round (ie once every 20 seconds) with -2 on the first check, -4 on the second, and -6 on all subsequent checks. You can only move at half your maximum due to the noise. Being deaf makes you immune, though a silence spell is not sufficient to block the noise.
If you miss a check, you fall over, trying to block the noise. The DM should know where you are at this point, because you have a number of rounds equal to the Constitution divided by three to get out of the room, or you die of a brain hemorrhage. If you pass a Con check at -10, you can get back up and stagger out. PCs will likely need to help each other here; once you're out, one minute of rest sets you to rights.
14.9 is the Test of Intelligence. The far door is a sealed iron valve bearing a plaque with five small gemstones set in it. They pulse with light in a seemingly random fashion. The whole door is completely magicked against cheating, and will only open if you can pass the test. Watching the gems gives you a Wisdom check to notice that they flash in repeating patterns: one series of 20-30 flashes, a 30 second pause, then the same series again, then a 30 second pause, then a new sequence. Repeat. A rogue attempting to Find Traps finds that the gems can be depressed and will spring back into position.
You've figured this out. You have to Bop it! Twist it! Pull it! Bop it! It takes three Int checks to follow the pattern, with each failure giving you a shock worth 2d4 damage. If you miss even one you miss the whole pattern and have to start over. Don't worry, you'll get it. Eventually.
14.10 is the Test of Logic... by GIANT SCYTHE! It's basically an Indiana Jones trap, with scything blades on thin wires oscillating back and forth along the staircase. They briefly part to let you through, then the space fills with sharp steel again. You must use patience and wit to figure out the safe path, which takes two Int checks and a Wis check. If you miss one, the next one is at -4, and then -8 if you fail again. For failing, you get hit with 1d4/2d4/4d4 blades doing 1d10 each. The book says a "lenient DM" may allow a player on the wrong path a chance to dodge each blade with a save vs. breath weapon at -3, but if you're a lenient GM, what the fuck are your PCs doing here?!
Once everyone's all cleaned up and bits have been reattached, then you can proceed to the... oh wait, that's five. You pass! Almost! The next room is 14.11, the Field of Glory, a mostly bare room with all kinds of weapons hung on the wall. This is where the Lord High Exaltant took challenges, which were always fights to the death with the challenger's choice of weaponry. PCs can find any mundane melee weapon they want here. They can also find Faericles, the last Lord High Exaltant, who suffered the fate of all the other Moilians: he died in his sleep. Acererak found that he had a use for Faericles and his martial prowess, and empowered him far beyond the normal Moilian zombie. Faericles spends his unlife endlessly practicing and "honing his martial arts and weapons kata" . If he is forewarned by the war horn or the spheres, he will hide and spring out when the PCs arrive. He appears as a leathery-skinned human backlit with an eerie violet glow, which is part of the necromancy. He is surrounded by vapor that extends out about 20 feet, which is also his life-drain power's range. Acererak taught him common, so he can challenge the PCs, which he does:
You don't have to fight him one on one, but he's not an idiot; a party of PCs vs. one uberzombie still doesn't favor the zombie. If you do pick a champion and Faericles wins, he'll admonish you to be on your way; if you win, you can proceed, though remember the next bridge is #11 (the collapsing bridge).
Faericles is a buffed Moilian zombie, with a lower AC, better Thac0, more attacks, and the Blade Perilous, which I mentioned earlier. It's a +3 sword of wounding, but it's also an intelligent weapon with an ego of 31, that can communicate telepathically. It glows a ghastly red in the air and leaves a shimmering trail behind it, can detect invisible in a 10-foot radius (presumably whenever it wants), and three times per day it can entrance by being swung overhead at least twice. Anyone who fails a saving throw vs. spells at -3 must remain entranced for as long as the blade is swingin' plus 1d4+1 rounds. It can entrance up to three times the wielder's HD, which is 16x3=48 for Faericles. When fighting a warrior (fighter, ranger, paladin, etc.) if they're wounded by it, in addition to not being able to heal (as per normal for a sword of wounding), the enemy loses 2 HP per round (instead of the normal 1 for a sword of wounding) for 10 rounds.
He also has all normal Moilian zombie powers. He's a fighter, though, so your magic-users will squish him, probably.
The last chamber here is 14.12, the sanctum of Faericles. The center of the room has a 10-foot square mat with four violet glowing stones around it, one at each edge. Faericles spends 12 out of every 24 hours here, meditating on the mysteries of his art. The stones give off "necromantic radiation" that animates Faericles. If you sit on his mat, you feel a sharp pain after one round, an unaccountable feeling of dread, and a strong desire to leave the mat. If you don't, the stones connect you directly to the Negative Energy Plane, sucking your life out and animating you simultaneously as a free-willed undead. This retains all of your stats and skills, except for paladins, who lose divine power and become fighters. You might not even realize what's happened to you!
Eventually, you'll figure it out; you don't need to eat, rest or breathe, your heart doesn't beat, your skin takes on a waxy pallor, and other subtle hints. It ain't all roses: Wounds don't heal normally and healing magic hurts you, plus you can be turned. Acererak can also possess you whenever he wants if he achieves his Apotheosis, so you have more reason than anyone else to want to stop him!
That's the tower. No switch in here, but you need to pass through it to get to Tower 15, which we'll deal with next time. Again, remember that the bridge that takes you there from Faericles's room is the one that collapses.
Next time: Welcome to dreamland!
It's The Red Ball!Original SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS part 14: It's The Red Ball!
When we last left our heroes, they had defeated the might Faericles, passed his trials, and earned the right to die in a really bullshit way when a bridge collapsed. Of course, let's assume they got past that, because it's kind of embarrassing to make it this far and then fall to your death.
So. We're approaching Area 15. As a reminder, the PCs stole a key from a brine dragon, solved a riddle box in a wraithspider lair, defeated a darkweaver and pulled the lever in its lair, and are now seeking out the last switch/lever/whatever. Area 15 is the Dreaming Tower.
The Moilians were very big on dreams. They believed that dreams allowed them to see the past and future and across great distances, all kinds of great powers. They developed powerful drugs to promote lucid dreaming for their experiments. Of course, Orcus's curse delivered an ironic twist to their dream preoccupation; what he probably didn't foresee was that their work would have consequences that persisted after their deaths. You see, as the Moilians twisted in their cursed sleep, their dream consciousness melded and mutated, creating something terrible from their pain and fear and confusion. One by one they died and one by one their anguish fed this growing evil: the Vestige, that haunts the deserted towers of Moil to this day. The PCs have probably already met it once or twice, and wisely fled from it, but this is its very lair and any disturbance is sure to bring it with a quickness.
Let's talk a bit about the Vestige. To start with, it is basically mindless. It does not eat or sleep or collect treasure. It is extremely maneuverable, and can fly, though it is not particularly fast. Its AC is an unimpressive 10, though it has 20 HD with an impressive 100 HP. Its Thac0 is 3, which is pretty great; it'll rarely miss. The problem with fighting it is twofold.
First, it is immune to damn near everything: it takes a +4 or better weapon to hit, and this being 2e, weapons lose pluses the farther they are from the plane where they were forged, so the chance your PCs have a weapon that can hit this thing is close to nil. Even if they do they only inflict damage equal to their bonus. It is completely immune to charm, hold, sleep, cold, poison and death magic. Magic it is not immune to, it has 90% magic resistance against. Lightning and fire deal only half damage. Protection from evil and similar spells keep it at bay... for 2d6 rounds, then it breaks through. Of course it cannot be turned.
Second, it can make 1d12 attacks each round, each one doing 2d6 damage (and dissolving a portion of your flesh!) Anyone engulfed in its misty body must take an Int check each round or lose 1d4 int temporarily (get one back every 12 hours). Going to 0 kills you and absorbs your consciousness into the Vestige's, where only a carefully worded wish can restore you.
It can sense sentience within 1000 feet and pursues it exclusively. Only an airtight seal can keep it out. It likes to sneak up on you along rooftops or the undersides of bridges. As it approaches, you feel a rising sense of dread; within 100 feet, you can hear the whispers, moans and laments of the Vestige's composite souls, even through a silence spell. Everyone who hears this must save vs. spells at -4 or suffer a -4 to all actions while in range due to immense fear. Fail by more than 4 and you flee in terror.
Do NOT fight the Vestige. You will NOT win. No reasonably-leveled party of PCs can hope to take it on. Even a higher-level party would struggle. Your best chance is to flee; if you can get more than 1000 feet away, it loses you, and it's not particularly fast. The Dreaming Tower, however, is the one place where conflict is unavoidable. The Vestige "lives" here and, while it doesn't think, it won't ignore intruders in its "home."
Area 15.1 is the entrance, the lintel of which is inscribed with a silver moon and a sprinkling of gemstone stars. They possess no special qualities, and inside the tower is dark and silent. Cross the threshold, and the vestige immediately becomes aware of it and beelines for the tower.
15.2 is the "lethargatorium." It has rows of beds and closed metal cupboards. This is where citizens would come for "dream therapy" with the "dream mystics." The cupboards contained materials for inducing a state of dreamy sleep. Each cabinet is locked but contains various soporifics, 10 per cabinet, in a variety of jars, bowls, vials etc. Using them on you induces unwakeable sleep for 1d10+1 hours. Each container has 4 doses, and taking more than 1 at once causes a saving through vs. poison at a cumulative -1 for additional doses. Failing the throw deals 2d10 per additional dose, passing deals 1d10 per additional dose. Don't OD on sleep drugs, kids. Needless to say they also put you out for much longer. One citizen died here and remains as a Moilian zombie.
15.3 is the store of "Lucidaphen," a special drug developed to induce lucid dreaming. The wooden door is still very well locked, apparently. Inside the room, cabinets are all toppled and smashed up. There are 30, of which 10 are smashed open and their contents destroyed. PCs can search the others and will eventually find one last unbroken vial of Lucidaphen. This stuff was highly addictive, and was considered a "fashionable addiction" in Moil. It contains 10 doses, marked by lines on the vial.
The passage of time has not been kind to the lucidaphen. Each dose has a 30% chance to do nothing and a 20% chance to make you save vs. poison at -2 or die. If it works, you must fall asleep within an hour of taking it. If you do, you have complete control of your dream, plus a 75% chance of learning the answer to "some difficult puzzle," which will be revealed in a cryptic, symbolic dream. The DM can, if he or she wants, choose to make the drug send you The Nightmare Court from Ravenloft. Whoops!
Each dose also has a 1 in 6 chance to be addictive. If you become addicted, you cannot get restful sleep without lucidaphen. You take a cumulative -1 on everything for each two days without sleep, and unless someone uses remove curse or heal (or similar spell) you'll die after two months.
15.4 is the Vestige's lair. It's a huge room with a giant hole in the stone floor. Through the gap, you can see the tower's support pillar, and a small platform attached to it about 30 feet down. If you get within 5' of the edge of the floor, you have a 50% chance to cause a break, which makes you save vs. breath weapon or topple into the gap and from there into the mists and the Negative Energy Plane. Every round you remain near the edge is a new check.
15.5 is the platform. It has little on it except a 3' tall stone dais bearing an hourglass filled with blue sand. The dais is inscribed with a message: "When the sand runs out, bring the glass about."
You can rotate the glass over, whereupon the sand begins to fall, but it will not turn back. Not for an hour, anyways. After one hour, you can turn it again, which produces a loud click as the last gate is opened. That's all it takes.
The complication is the Vestige's territorial nature. The PCs have to wait for an hour... but the Vestige is comin', and it won't simply leave you alone to turn the hourglass over. Nor can you just turn it and flee to return later; the hourglass must be turned back within 1 turn of its sand running out.
The Vestige arrives 1d4 turns after the hourglass is first flipped. It approaches from the south end of the tower, flowing up in 15.4's open window and then pouring out through the chasm like a waterfall of miserable murder ghost. The best hope at this point is to flee and lead it through the city. If someone enters the tower, the Vestige immediately heads there, breaking off pursuit if necessary; in this way it might be "tricked" long enough for the PCs to accomplish their goal.
Good luck. I really like this "trap," since it's very natural and organic to the setting and requires creative thinking. It's very open-ended. It still won't beat the dispel magic runes in my mind for best trap, but it's nice.
Next up: Blowing this popsicle stand!
Going NegativeOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS part 15: Going Negative
The Moil map again:
When we last left our heroes, they had escaped the dreaded Vestige with their minds (hopefully) mostly intact. They have flipped the three necessary switches and are ready to get the hell out of Moil. Where to next? Well…
As I mentioned earlier, Acererak went to a great deal of trouble to set all this up. He is close to the apotheosis of his great plan (called The Apotheosis by the adventure) and is waiting on the last few pieces to fall into place. What he needs now are souls. Not just any souls, however. The souls he needs must be of surpassing value; great souls of powerful heroes. In other words, high-level PCs. In order to identify these souls Acererak set up the TOMB OF HORRORS and City as “filters” to simply kill off anyone who couldn’t hack it. The third and final “filter” is his true power base in the Negative Energy Plane: the Fortress of Conclusion.
Reaching the Fortress is naturally difficult, because of the incredibly hostile nature of the Negative Energy Plane. Acererak has therefore set up a gateway that leads there at Area 16. Unlike the other towers, this is a construction that the lich added later; it’s a massive square spire made entirely of black ice. Powerful magic keeps it standing. It’s got a few traps, of course, because why wouldn’t it?
A bridge leads to Area 16.1 of the Spire, but there’s no door into the interior. It’s not hollow at all. Instead, a very steep, very narrow staircase winds around the outside of the tower, going down into the darkness. Each complete circuit of the tower is 300 feet down, making it hard to see lower reaches of the staircase from above.
While on the Spire, all Dex checks are at an additional -2 due to the slippery ice. If you hit or get hit while on it in combat, you must take a Dex check (with a tiny +1 bonus, netting to -1) or fall over; if you’re on the stairs, this gives you a 50% chance of going over the edge, with attendant consequences. The ice can be melted, though it’ll magically regrow at 1 cubic foot/turn.
16.2 is merely the descent. This takes about an hour, and at some point a murder of negative fundamentals burst out and startle a character, who must roll for surprise, and if surprised must take a Wisdom check or jump backwards… and then a Dex check, with failure indicating a plunge into the darkness. The fundamentals of course attack, and there’s 2d10 of them.
At the bottom of the staircase, the PCs find themselves just above the roiling mists that mark the border of Moil. There’s a wide landing (Area 16.3) with a 20’x20’ shaft bored into the side of the Spire. It’s the only way forward, so in we go! The tunnel is lined with jackal-headed ice sculptures reminiscent of figures within the original TOMB OF HORRORS. No doubt your PCs will look upon them with suspicion, but these really are just harmless statues. Acererak likes to fuck with people.
16.4 is, of course, a trap. The walls, floor, and ceiling are all filled with Moilian zombies frozen in place; their faint moaning and screaming can be heard by approaching PCs. Stepping into the corridor puts you in range of their life-drain ability, and since there are about 30 feet worth of zombies, it’s a bit of a gauntlet. To stop you from just running headlong through, the last 20 feet of the corridor are trapped. The ice is very thin and more than 20 pounds of weight will break it. Stepping on it will shatter it and send you plunging through! In one of the most gratuitous examples of dickishness in the book, you can check Dex (with the -2 penalty) to grab on to the edge as you fall, but even if you do the edge breaks off and you fall anyways.
The drop is 40 feet into a pit full of razor sharp icicles, with 4d6 falling damage plus 1d6+5 from the spikes. The bottom 20 feet of the pit also has a bunch more Moilian zombies frozen into its walls, so sitting down there puts you in range of their life leech—except for a 2’x2’ square in the exact center. The ice will gradually regrow if broken, and PCs can free the zombies if they want (but why?!).
We all know how much Acererak likes pit traps. Assuming the PCs get out of this one, they reach the end of the zombie gauntlet to find a concave depression in the far wall at area 16.5, with a 4-foot diameter shaft bored into it. It slopes away at 45 degrees, and the entrance is ringed with carvings of a ring of snakes writhing around each other. Their eyes gleam like living snakes, and coming within 20’ of the wall causes them to animate. They can’t get away from the wall but they’ll writhe and twist as though alive. If you get within 3’ of the wall they’ll attack you, 1d6+3 at a time, doing 1d4 damage each and injecting a paralytic venom. Fire attacks inflict double damage to these ice snakes but are a particularly bad idea. A fireball will collapse the last 60 feet of the tunnel, burying PCs under tons of ice for 10d10+10 damage. The heat also fuses the ice into a solid mass which takes a weak to naturally regenerate enough to allow passage. You can kill the snakes normally (there are 40) or just dive past them hoping to avoid their attacks; they can’t follow you into the shaft. Shockingly it is not trapped.
The slide dumps you out at 16.6, a slick and narrow platform inside the Spire. If you just dove stupidly into the slide you deserve what happens to you: a short trip over the edge into oblivion. If you actually slowed your descent with ropes, anchors etc. you are fine. If you didn’t you can try to arrest your descent by smashing something handheld into the ice, which takes an attack roll against an AC of 2. Any hit stops you. Once stopped, you can help someone else stop themselves, giving them a +2 to their attack roll, but if they miss you BOTH slide away and get one last chance each.
Also, there’s a winter-wight on the platform.
It’s a jerk, and if you’re hanging on to an anchor or clinging by your fingertips, it’ll stomp on your hands, kick out your lifelines etc. It’ll try to grapple you and throw you into the abyss. Also, being grappled by the thing sets you on blackfire.
Once it’s dead, you can get your footing and look across the Last Chasm, the yawning gap that leads to the Negative Energy Plane. You need to either scale the walls somehow or fly to get to 16.7, a 30x30 foot landing. There are three sets of bars here sealing off a door-sized opening: one red, one blue, one green. They glow with a light that does nothing to dispel the shadows that pool in the chamber beyond. Observant PCs can spot movement beyond the bars: two black tentacles, a pair of massive wings, and a broad back are dimly visible through the gloom. Above the door is another message from Acererak.
“When the bars fall away
The flyer stands revealed.
It can bring you my way,
By the route once concealed.”
The three switches the PCs hit earlier each retract one portcullis, so if they came here in the correct “order” then they can just walk right through. The door leads to a holding cell of sorts, and one that is very well protected by magic: nothing short of a wish will get rid of a set of bars, and it’ll take a separate wish for each one. You can’t teleport in or out, and tunneling does nothing; the cell is in a pocket dimension, and approaching it from any direction other than the proper one gets you nothing but solid ice.
Past the three sets of bars is a specialized kind of golem: a Phantom Flyer. It’s manacled to the wall with golden manacles that only unlock with the key from the brine dragon’s hoard. A Phantom Flyer is, despite its horrific appearance, a harmless creature: it is massive, larger than an elephant, and exists to carry up to 10 people to a set destination. Acererak has enchanted this one to provide an envelope of survivable atmosphere around itself to let its passengers survive in hostile environments, and to find its way across the planar boundaries from Moil to the Negative Energy Plane and, in fact, to the doorstep of his Fortress of Conclusion. Freeing it causes it to move out beside the platform, unfurl its wings, and kneel down as if awaiting riders. It cannot communicate but will obey instructions to grab anything the PCs want to load up. When they order it to leave (anything from “go” to “take us to Acererak!”) it will dive into the mists and wing our party straight to the Fortress.
Next time: The beginning of the Conclusion
The Beginning of the ConclusionOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS part 16: The Beginning of the Conclusion
Home stretch, guys.
We’ve shot the chutes, climbed the ladders and arrived at Acererak’s doorstep. From here on out, things are at maximum realness.
The Negative Energy Plane is a vast expanse of nothingness. Not just the lack of matter, or of life, but the absolute antithesis of both: no heat, no light can exist here for long. This is where things come to end. There is no air to breathe, and even if you don’t need air, life is drained directly from your body at a rate of 2d6 HP per round. Reaching zero instantly, permanently and irrevocably kills you and transforms you into an undead. Negative Plane Protection stops this effect, but the lack of air and heat still present a problem. Any item with a magical bonus forged on the Prime loses two pluses while on it (a +3 sword becomes +1, for example). Conjuration/summoning magic can only draw on the planes of Ash, Dust, Salt and Vacuum. Healing spells heal the minimum amount of life; damaging spells inflict the maximum. Any matter created by magic crumbles to dust after a round (that includes food). Likely you won’t be stupid enough to end up here yourself, but if you try to burrow or carve through the stone, it’s only 5’ to the plane. Breaking through will cause it to draw you in like a vacuum.
The Fortress itself is somewhat insulated from these effects, but as Acererak is unliving himself (and, indeed holds nothing but contempt for the living), he did not feel the need to make it very safe. These effects apply inside the Fortress:
1) Undead are turned as if they were five categories higher on the turning table.
2) Necromantic spells have their casting time reduced by five units.
3) Anything rat-sized or larger that dies has a 95% chance of animating spontaneously in one round as a zombie with the same HD as the original creature.
4) Undead regenerate at 2 hp/round, or an additional 2 hp/round if they normally have regeneration.
5) Healing spells are at 50% effectiveness.
6) It is chillingly cold, dealing 1hp of damage per hour to unprotected creatures, and infravision is nearly useless here.
7) Because this Fortress is in the Negative Energy Plane, it does not connect to the Astral or Ethereal planes (except the ledge at Area 1, which connects to the Ethereal). You simply cannot access those planes within the Fortress.
8) Items with magical bonuses lose one “plus” in the Fortress unless forged there.
9) Finally, Acererak can freely and spontaneously “possess” and control any undead in the Fortress at any time. Destroying his “host” does not affect him at all. In these forms he can cast any of his array of spells, which is truly gigantic. I won’t list them all, but it starts with Magic Missile x2, goes through Fireball and Cone of Cold, makes a detour at Invisibility and Dimension Door before turning at Finger of Death and Banishment and ending up with Time Stop and Wish. He has 37 spells prepared of 1st through 9th level and is very smart about using them.
Here, have a map:
So, we begin in Area 1. The Fortress projects incongruously out of an unimaginably vast wall of blackness somewhere on the edge of the plane. The façade is a truly massive Face of the Devourer, Acererak’s symbol, and the ledge is its tongue. The Phantom Flyer deposits you here before a rusted iron post holding a single emerald lantern, before which stands the door. It is politely marked “Fortress of Conclusion.” No word on if there is a mat or not, or what it might be made of if so. The Flyer will wait patiently for one month before tanar’ri come to take it back to Moil, so hopefully it’ll be here when PCs are done with it. The door itself is unlocked and untrapped, but try convincing your PCs of that at this point.
welcome to you're "doom"
Area 2 is the first room inside the Fortress proper. It is, much like the entrance to the original TOMB OF HORRORS, plastered, with paintings along the walls, floor and ceiling in a chaotic jumble. They depict unsettling and horrific scenes; insectoid dragons zoom through scarlet clouds while battling massive tentacles rising from the sea, gargantuan worms annihilate towns in their squirming wake, man-sized insects flee from hordes of tiny humans. A worm's mouth yawns open, forming a doorway to the next area.
worms, oh my god worms
Acererak has spent millennia in contemplation and solitary wandering between the planes, and he has left these paintings to depict strange things he’s seen. Remember, his chief motivation is proving he’s Smarter Than You, and this is a way of showing you: look at all I’ve done, everywhere I’ve gone. He wants people to understand his long, strange unlife.
Anyone damaging the plaster is in for a nasty surprise. Acererak really likes it and doesn’t want it marred. For each 1’x1’ section of plaster you scrape away, you must make a saving throw vs. spell, with a cumulative -1 (to a max -5) for additional 1’x1’ panels. A failed save draws you into the painting, where you become nothing more than a masterfully illustrated two-dimensional figure. The paintings grow back at a rate of 1’x1’ per turn, trapping you as part of the image. Only a wish can extract someone, though you can carefully chip away the portion of the painting they’re in to carry them around—but doing so counts as damaging the painting. Damaging the depiction or destroying it hurts or kills the PC.
Proceeding through the door takes you to Area 3, where we finally learn the fate of the mysterious Desatysso.
WARNING, THIS IS KIND OF GRUESOME
It turns out that this wizard was more resourceful than we thought. He made it all the way to the fortress. Unfortunately, his luck ran out, and for mysterious reasons of his own Acererak did not soulsuck him. Instead, he left him here, as a trap for later arrivals. Desatysso is hanging from a hook on the ceiling by a leather strap. He wears only the remnants of a cloak, and his arms have been sewn to his sides with black thread. His legs are similarly sewn together, and his eyes and mouth are shut likewise. However, Acererak kept him alive, and allows him to communicate. He obviously can’t talk but he can project his thoughts at PCs, and does so; anyone with a Wisdom of 13 or higher can hear a hoarse whisper in their heads as he introduces himself and pleads for release. If PCs agree to release him, he will tell them what he knows: he came here as they did, on the Flyer, but was met on the platform by a gaunt figure in a robe. The figure greeted him scornfully, saying it had no use for just one, and moved to attack, but Desatysso blew it away with a lightning bolt; it was a mere skeleton. After that his memory is more vague. He remembers navigating a few rooms with unspecified dangers, a pit of animate bones, an abyssal creature kept bound, a dark laboratory, and deadly traps everywhere. The last thing he remembers is coming on a crystal sphere in which he could see phantom faces moaning in anguish.
A picture of Desatysso:
Desatysso is, of course, a trap. He’s easy to kill, but anyone who does so must save vs. spell at -4. Failure to do so means the stitches wriggle free of Desatysso’s body and sew themselves onto the unfortunate PC. The leather strap and hook pick up the new victim and hang him or her where Desatysso was before. This inflicts 4d10 damage, drains a level, and forces a System Shock check at half normal chance or you just die from shock. If you live, you’re just where he was before: stuck, able to communicate only mentally, but surviving indefinitely with no need for sustenance. You can free such a person by cutting the stitches free, but there are 13, they deal 1d6 each to remove, and as long as any are attached no healing of any kind will work on the victim (so you can’t free Desatysso this way without killing him). Of course, killing a bound PC passes on the curse.
This room has a secret door which can be found by pushing in and then sliding up the stone façade covering it. You can also use chimes of opening, but not knock. The door can also just be smashed down if you feel like it. We'll deal with what's on the other side next time.
Area 4 is a dead end. It’s very dark here, darker than normal, and as you progress down the corridor your light fades. That’s because the end of the corridor contains a Nightwalker, a nasty and powerful monster from the Mystara Monstrous Appendix. Acererak has cast a modified continual darkness on it to generate the light-dampening effect, which can be dispelled. The Nightwalker is native to the Negative Energy Plane and embodies destructive entropy. It will ignore PCs unless they probe the end of the corridor or dispel its darkness. Once roused, it’ll pursue them throughout the complex.
It’s huge—20 feet tall—and very tough, with two 3d10 fist attacks at Thac0 5 and a ridiculous AC of -6. It’s immune to weapons of less than +3 enchantment, spells of less than 6th level, poison, petrification, cold, illusion, charm and hold effects. Its presence spoils rations, potions and holy water, anyone hit by its fists must save vs. poison at -2 or die, and it can cast at will, once per round, at 21st level, cause disease, charm person, cloudkill, confusion, darkness, haste, hold person and invisibility. Once a day it can cast finger of death. Once a round it can curse someone up to 60’ away, save vs. spell to resist, with -4 to everything until they get a dispel evil or remove curse from a 21st+ level caster. Finally, it destroys any item it strikes if it fails a saving through vs. crushing blow, and can just destroy any weapon or magic item it chooses by smashing it flat between its hands.
Also, there’s no treasure here, and the corridor is a dead end.
Do not mess with this thing. I will say that if you must, it has no magic resistance at all (aside from its spell immunities) and so a party with high level spells prepared can maze it long enough to get away, but damn. Unlike the Vestige, this thing is hard to shake, and it's about as difficult to kill.
Next time: Balls and Bones
Dodge BallOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 17: Dodge Ball
Welcome back. We left our heroes in Acererak's terrible Fortress of Conclusion, nestled against the cold, hateful bosom of the Negative Elemental Plane.
Don't dwell on that.
Assuming that the Nightwalker in area 4 doesn't pound the heroes into goop, we can assume they find the secret door in Area 3 and proceed to the real next segment of the Fortress.
The corridor they now find themselves in goes straight north. There are two ways to proceed here: North takes them to areas 12-17, which contain nothing but death for the unwary, as well as Area 9. which contains a secret door that leads to where they want to go. They can also proceed south in the corridor, through a secret door, and take an alternate route through areas 6-8, which is much shorter (but much, much deadlier). Either way, we'll end up in the same place, so I'll just do the areas in numbered order-- which starts us with the short route.
As an aside, canny observers will find this place FULL of callbacks to the original TOMB OF HORRORS, traps that evoke the original or reference it in some way. It's actually really cool. See what parallels you notice!
If they find the southern secret door and travel that way, the corridor bends west and immediately ends in a dead end at Area 5. The wall contains a wooden lever, currently parked in the "neutral" position, and an iron plate that says Push Me. If they push the lever up, the whole corridor from the bend onward thrusts upward and mashes you into the ceiling for 4d10 points of damage. You can check Dex at -4 to dodge out of the way! If you push the lever downward... the exact same thing happens. What you're supposed to do is push the plate itself into the wall, which slides open the secret door and forward you go. Bashing down the door triggers the masher, of course.
Area 6 is the Pit O'Bone. It's a deep pit, spanned by a catwalk, filled with thousands of bones of every possible description. They rise almost to the level of the path.
do a little turn on the catwalk
These are not just for decoration, though. This room is the result of some of Acererak's tinkering and experimentation with the forces of the Negative Energy Plane. By messing with negative energy, he was able to create a new form of undead: a bone weird, four of which occupy this chamber. The weirds attack as soon as the PCs are ten feet into the chamber, and have a chance of knocking you off into the bones, which deals 2d6 damage from poking and an additional 2d6 each round as the animated bones clatter and swirl around you.
Bone Weirds are invisible creatures that can occupy bones. They create a serpentine body from a cloud of bones (which takes two rounds) and attack by biting or bashing. The bash deals d8 damage and knocks you into bones if you fail a save vs. paralyzation, whereupon you take damage as above. A bite also deals d8, but requires a saving throw vs. death magic. A failure indicates that you lose 1d6 bones straight outta your skelly which the Weird steals. This deals 4d10 damage and calls for a system shock check to avoid death. Bones lost are randomly determined and can be ANY bone.
Bone Weirds have an AC of 0, a decent Thac0 of 9, and take no damage at all from piercing weapons, and only one point from nonmagical weapons. They are immune to all magic except for magic which affects undead, which they have only a 25% chance to be affected by. They can be turned as liches, but again, 25% chance to work. You must reduce them to -10 hp to kill them; 0 just disperses their essence, and they'll be back in 4 turns at full HP. Acererak has bound these here with five opals buried beneath the bones; somehow locating and stealing these disperses the Weirds' essence.
Area 7 is... well...
It's that trap from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The floor is covered in letter tiles of green stone, most of which have just regular letters, but some of which have numbers or weird symbols. There's a message on the wall that reads "Name me true or name me false. Your decision shall lead to loss."
This puzzle is intensely psychological. PCs who look to see if they can cross by stepping only on tiles that spell out ACERERAK or DEVOURER will find that, indeed, this is the case. Stepping on any tile that does not spell either of these names causes the stepped-upon tile to glow black and sound a deep, ominous chime throughout the chamber. This does absolutely nothing and PCs who just walk across randomly will be perfectly fine. Flying over the puzzle has a similar effect and is likewise safe.
If you get clever and decide to step on tiles that spell out ACERERAK or DEVOURER, though, you done fucked up. Each tile you step on incurs a save vs. spell with a cumulative -1 penalty for each after the first. Both names have eight letters, so that's eight saves. Failing them has the following results:
1) 1d6 cold damage
2) 1d6+2 cold damage
3) 1d6+4 fire damage
4) 1d6+6 fire damage
5) 2d6+6 electrical damage
6) 3d6+6 electrical damage
7) Lose 1d2 levels
8) Your soul is ripped from your body and deposited in Acererak's phylactery in Room 30.
Also, if you somehow manage to survive all of this and make it across, you are teleported back to the start of the tiles.
Area 8... let's talk about area 8. It's another great green Face of the Devourer, just like the famous one in the TOMB OF HORRORS... the one with the sphere of annihilation in its mouth. Remember that guy? Seems so quaint now, doesn't it? This looks pretty much identical to that. But it's not.
This face does not contain a sphere of annihilation. This face contains a blackball.
For those of you who have not read the Mystara Monstrous Compendium (ie all of you), this incredibly horrible thing is basically a living, mobile sphere of annihilation. Acererak has bound it in, we are told, one of his most personally dangerous feats. It lives in the Face's mouth and sits there quietly, waiting, absorbing all light that falls into it, until poked or prodded by dumbass adventurers, whereupon it comes to get you. it moves at a speed of 3 (so, not too speedy, at least) and is utterly implacable; it can sense intelligent creatures within 60 feet and will unerringly beeline for them, disintegrating anything in its way with no saves of any kind allowed. It will not stop for anything, ever, unless you can get 60 feet away from it, at which point it will slink back to its hidey-hole and wait.
I'm not going to bother providing stats for this thing. It barely has a statblock anyways. Anything that touches it gets annihilated with no save, except maybe artifacts and relics (DM's discretion). This is what can affect it:
1) A wish
2) A rod of cancellation will stop it for one round and be destroyed in the process.
3) The explosion that happens when you put a portable hole into a bag of holding can send it to another plane. In this circumstance that is not very helpful.
4) Touching it to a real sphere of annihilation destroys the sphere and everything within 200 yards and sends the blackball to another plane.
That's it! Good luck!
You can dodge past it in the corridor, but doing so incurs a Dex check at -3. If you fail, roll a d6 to see what gets annihilated:
5) Lower body
6) Completely Absorbed
If you lose a leg or lower body and fall, it swoops down and leaves nothing but a groove in the floor of the corridor to mark you were ever there.
Why mess with this thing? Behind it, in the mouth, there's a secret door. It won't follow you through the door, so if you can lure it out long enough to find the door, then bypass it and slip through, you're safe. Well, as safe as you can be in a sadistic lich's personal fortress.
is that one guy a ghost or what
Good news is, that takes you straight to Area 21 and the way out. Bad news is... everything I just read, basically. So let's go the long way. Assume the PCs go north in the corridor they get to Area 9. This is the "vapourdrome," a 40' wide hollow sphere full of vapor-- much like some rooms in the original TOMB OF HORRORS. This vapor is vapor of idiocy/agony as described in the new spells section; Acererak modified his original Idiot Fog recipe and made it permanent here. Entering the vapor causes a save vs. poison (with no penalty if you have more than 6 HD, which all PCs here should) or become feebleminded, as the spell, until breathing fresh air outside in the daytime. This version also causes agony, which requires a save vs. poison each round or you take 1d6 damage (1 point on a successful save). It is extremely painful (for you). The PCs aren't alone here, though through the thick mist that won't be apparent at first. There's a dretch, an absolutely pathetic form of tanar'ri, bound here; Acererak stationed a glabrezu in Room 10, who gated in this poor fellow to torture for his amusement. The dretch is immune to the damage and idiocy but not the pain, and is bound at the bottom of the dome. It'll squeal for help when the PCs arrive, and the glabrezu will hear and set up an ambush in Room 10. You can free the dretch, but the manacles that bind it are hard to pick and it doesn't know anything anyways, plus it's a tanar'ri. Why would you trust anything it says? There IS a secret door here that leads to a passage to Area 18, but the dretch doesn't know about it.
Area 10 is the glabrezu's lair, full of stinking offal and garbage with a nest burrowed into it. Sharp hooks on chains dangle from the ceiling. These are cursed rending hooks of Dargeshaad as I described earlier; if you are hooked on one, it melds with you, and only a remove curse at 15th level or greater can free you. It chews into you, causing a saving throw vs. death magic each round, with failure indicating a loss of 1d4 from a random ability score. When anything hits 0, you die. Each round you must make a Con check to do anything but writhe in agony.
The glabrezu here has a ring of invisibility he will activate to prepare an ambush. He's sadistic, bored, and bound here (and to Area 9) by Acererak, so he has a lot of frustration to work out on you. His plan is to use sneakiness and, if necessary, his power word: stun to grab you and stick you on a hook until all three hooks are full. He's a pretty nasty demon; five attacks (at fairly low damage, but still), a killer AC of -7 and a passable Thac0 of 11, immune to weapons of less than +2 enchantment, etc. He has a ton of spell-like abilities: in addition to the stun (7x/day) he has burning hands, charm person, confusion, dispel magic, enlarge, mirror image, reverse gravity, and always-on detect magic and true seeing. He can also try to gate in other tanar'ri, though I'm not sure if he would. At least he can't plane shift because of the terms of his service to Acererak. Once he's dead, the PCs can find his treasure: 3.5k sp, 2.4k gp, various jewelry worth lots of cash, crystal earrings that function together as a ring of protection +1, and a vorpal blade. There's also a secret door in his room that leads to area 11.
Area 11 is not, however, a place you want to go. The tunnel opens into a room scattered with humanoid bodies in an otherwise empty room. You can enter normally, but leaving triggers a death ward over the door which can kill up to 42 HD total of creatures who try to leave the room and fail a save vs. death magic at -4. The door radiates magic and a thief can detect the trap at -50% efficacy, so at least you have a shot. But seriously, there's nothing here, leave it alone; it's just where tanar'ri toss people they're bored with. They come in periodically to scatter the bodies (which tend to pile up at the exit) and Acererak comes here once a week to reset his ward. When the PCs enter, the bodies here animate and attack them as basic skeletons; however, Acererak is instantly alerted, and comes to see what's up. If a PC is killed by the death ward Acererak will instantly possess that PC's animated corpse and attack with all of his spells. He'll leave you alone if you "kill" his possessed form after he does a decent amount of damage, but if he's unsatisfied with the mayhem he'll switch to one of the skeletons here and let you have it.
There's some shitty treasure here, too, but it's totally not worth it. That could really be the byline for the whole adventure.
Next time: More nightmarish traps and unremitting horror! Seriously, how the fuck did Desatysso solo his way through this?!
I Am Become ArtOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS part 18: I Am Become Art
Hello again, friends! We last left our heroes fleeing for their lives from Blac-Man (wakka wakka). Let’s assume that they weren’t subsumed into a void of eternal nothingness.
The gateway to the inner sanctum of the Fortress is in area 21. As I mentioned last time, there are two paths there: the quick and extremely dangerous route goes via the lair of the Bone Weirds, over the Tiles of Trepidation and through the Great Green Face Mk. 2. Let’s take the scenic route, instead. We started in Area 9, the Vapourdrome, and hopefully avoided being stuck on a hook like a side of beef or killed by The Man himself in Area 11. The way forward is a secret passage in the ‘Drome, but let’s assume that the PCs bypassed that for now. The corridor stretches north, after all! What could be up there? Is it traps? It’s traps, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s traps. More callbacks here, which I like.
Area 12 is the Hall of Artistic Splendor. The floor is marble-tiled, the ceiling decorated with points of light, the walls covered in appallingly detailed paintings of all manner of horrible creatures. Most of these are just drawn from Acererak’s horrible imagination, but four of them on the northern wall are more than that. There are four secret doors back there, each one located behind a painting of a tanar’ri rendered with “shocking realism.” Any attempt to access the door frees the tanar’ri that has been grafted there, much like in Room 2, and it is pissed.
Room 13 is guarded by a nalfeshnee, an obese winged ape/boar. I’m not going to break down the stat blocks for these, since a lot of you are familiar with standard D&D demons and it’ll take a long time. Suffice it to say that the nalfeshnee is roughly equivalent to the glabrezu in terms of toughness. It can shoot lasers that hurt you and wrack you with visions of your greatest fear, attack with spells or claws, gate in lesser demons etc.
Defeating it gives you access to its secret door, which leads to a short corridor (about 20 feet long) ending in an iron door with a pull ring that shimmers with faint blue light. Anyone who touches the door or ring gets zapped for 4d6 electrical damage. The door has an obvious keyhole, but it’s fake; no key exists. Picking it is at -45% and will of course conduct a shock to anyone who tries. Opening the door reveals a blank stone wall on the far side.
Room 14 is guarded by a vrock, a horrible vulture-demon. It can eject spores to damage you, screech to stun you, mass charm, etc. It can also use gate (in fact, all demons can, so I’ll stop mentioning it).
The vrock’s door leads to another 20 foot corridor with another door with a pull ring. This one glows red. It’s red-hot and you take 4d6 damage for touching it. Inanimate objects touching it save or melt (screaming all the while if intelligent, the book helpfully notes). Same deal with the lock. This door glows so brightly in infravision it can give characters with such vision headaches and disorient them. This door also opens up on a blank stone wall, which appears to conceal a secret door. Trying to open this door triggers one of Acererak’s classic spear traps from the original TOMB OF HORRORS. This will happen over and over again until they leave it alone.
Room 15 is guarded by a marilith, one of those six-armed snake-woman demons. She is an unholy terror in melee combat with seven attacks (tail, then six magic weapons) plus her spell-like abilities. Standard demon stuff; mariliths are the second-toughest form of tanar’ri after the mighty balor, so this is a real fight if the PCs try to pick it. Well, this is the third door, and the first two didn’t have any treasure, so this one’s got to have something good, right?
dress for the job you want, not the job you have
Inside, the corridor runs 20 feet to a swollen and warped wooden door jammed into its frame. Studying the chamber reveals faint horizontal lines on the wall, as if the chamber has been filled with liquid before. Searching for traps wisely determines that the wooden door is indeed rigged with a metal cable. A second successful Find Traps tells PCs that the trap is, itself, trapped; leaving the cable intact does nothing, but removing it or cutting it triggers the real trap. Trap. Doing so triggers a counterweight beyond the door that releases a huge vat of jellied acid into the room. It dissolves the door, inundates the room to 6 feet deep, then spills into Room 12. This deals 3d6 damage plus 1d6 every round for 1d0+5 rounds as the acid clings; exposed clothing and equipment must save or dissolve, and it takes three gallons of water to get the acid off one person. The acid remains on the floor of room 12 for 30 days until a work gang of tanar’ri clean it up, replace the door and reset the trap. Walking on the acid-y floor can destroy your footwear and damage you if you’re dumb enough to do it without protection.
Also, there’s nothing beyond the door.
Finally, room 16’s door is guarded by a molydeus, a two-headed demon (wolf and snake) with a giant axe. The snake-head’s venom turns you into a manes, a shitty least tanar’ri, in 1d6 turns and the axe is a vorpal and dancing weapon. Another brutal fight.
Room 16 itself is a big nothing, and it kind of makes me wonder why it has its own designation. It has a wall carved with meaningless abstract designs, but no traps and nothing to steal; it’s just a vestibule to Room 17.
Room 17 is an interesting one. It’s lit by 14 torches placed at intervals, which don’t flicker but remain steady. There’s an altar of obsidian in the center of the room with four more candles (again, steady, motionless flames) and three sealed scrolls.
This room is the result of Acererak’s experimentation with the time stop spell, a particular source of fascination for him. He used research in this field to preserve Moil, and another result was the weight of the wait spell, which he inscribed on all three scrolls more than 1000 years ago. Since then, each one has been storing up time in its vicinity.
The result of this is that within 20’ of the scrolls, time passes at a very slow rate. Careful observation and an Int check will tell you that the flames are burning, but veeeeeeery slooooooowly. Once you enter the chamber and the slow-time bubble, they appear to burn normally—but to your companions on the outside, you are now moving in slow motion. Only one minute of time passes in the bubble for each four minutes of real time outside of it. The DM is encouraged to keep track of how long the PCs spend here, in case it becomes relevant (how?).
There’s no furniture in here but the scrolls, but they’re enough. This isn’t exactly a trap, but they should NOT be disturbed. Breaking any of the seals or moving any of the scrolls more than 10 feet ends the spell and unleashes all of the stored time at once—755 years of it per scroll, which immediately wallops the PCs, their items, and anything else in the way. Save vs. spell or age 755 years at once, with predictable results. Dwarves and elves will leave behind less ancient remains, but they’ll die all the same. Saving ages you 37.5 years, and even if you survive this you must take a system shock check or die. Aging to death this way also puts you out of range of most resurrection magic.
The block contains a secret compartment with some experimental materials Acererak has forgotten about : a potion of vitality, four elixir of youth, two potion of longetivity and a scroll of time stop.
So, proceeding north from the vapourdrome really is a dead end. There is some interesting stuff here, but nothing you can use to proceed. Traveling through the secret tunnel takes you to a north-south corridor at the west end of the Fortress, and here we’re making some progress.
Going south takes you to area 18, a wooden door with a pull ring. Of course it’s a fake door opening on a stone wall, but it lures you in. Pulling on the ring triggers circular scything blades to project out from the walls for the last 20 feet of the corridor at ankle height. They’re enchanted +3 blades, so you’re in for a world of hurt. You can roll d20 and add your Dex modifier; on a 12 or higher you jump out of the way, otherwise there’s trouble afoot. It’s 4d6 damage per PC, with a result of 12 or more indicating a severed foot and 18 or more indicating two severed feet. If you lose an appendage this way you bleed for 1d4+4 each turn until you’re tourniqueted and receive 10 points of magical healing. Losing a foot reduces Dex by 2 and Con by 1. You can, of course, magically grow a new foot (and on the bright side you are now a candidate for the foot of Vecna!). Find traps tells you the door is trapped but now how; true seeing reveals the grooves in the wall, but they’re very hard to remove (-35%) and any failed attempt triggers them. They also push out anything you stick in to block up the grooves.
Area 19 is the Temple of Elemental Oblivion. Woooo! It's more of a chapel, really, with rows of columns leading to an alcove containing a statue: a robed man with one arm thrown up in front of his face. This is, as you might have suspected, a formerly living person: a wizard named Deverus, who was one of the foremost experts on the Negative Energy Plane. His research helped in the creation of the winter-wights and the planning of the Apotheosis. He was obsessed with the idea of the Void as an element of its own, and helped create bone weirds; he also conjured up a pure creation of the stuff, which he thought of as a negative energy elemental. He created a ring of negative elemental mastery to help control these creatures, but in a fatal mistake hid it from Acererak as an insurance policy. Acererak found out and had Isafel, the medusa the PCs may have encountered in Moil, turn him to stone. The statue was placed here as a warning and a trap.
it ties the room together
The air in the chamber is murky and palpably dim, because the elemental is still present. Any investigation of the statue provokes it to coalesce and attack. It's tough, but not nearly as tough as the demons from earlier, though its attacks drain two levels of experience. It's very vulnerable to elemental attacks like fireballs and lightning bolts, though. Once it's gone you can see that the statue is missing a finger (where Acererak claimed the ring, which he likes) and the chest cavity is hollow (Isafel took out the organs, which she used to make magic items she had in Moil). You can't resurrect Deverus, even with stone to flesh first, because Acererak took his soul and stored it in his phylactery, so no use trying to interrogate him for information.
Area 20 contains another four-armed gargoyle statue, much like the one in the original TOMB OF HORRORS. It wears a leather collar studded with dark stones. It's stuck in temporal stasis and will not come out unless the collar is removed. It's a bit stronger than the original gargoyle, but again, nowhere near as powerful as the demons we saw earlier... or the Nightwalker... or the Horrible Thing from Area 8. If you do steal its collar, you will find that it contains a hidden compartment, with a slip of paper inside that reads:
"Ahead the lines of access squarely meet
The path to glory is at your feet.
This is kind of an awkward poem, but it refers to the trap door at the end of the passage, which leads to a crawlspace to Area 21.
Area 21 contains a magical archway of the kind that is probably depressingly familiar to those who traversed the original TOMB OF HORRORS. Like before, the area beyond is obscured by fog; like before, three stones on the archway glow three different colors.
If you just walk in, you're teleported to Area 2, while all of your clothes and belongings are sent to Area 31. Acererak has not gotten tired of this gag and, frankly, neither have I. If you are sent to Area 2 this way, it activates the curse of the painting, so save vs. spell or become 2D. But why the hell would any PC just walk through the arch at this point? If you press one of the stones, its light fails; pressing all three in any order renders the archway "safe." The fog dissipates at this point, giving you a view of Area 22, and a step through deposits you in Acererak's inner sanctum. Well, the outermost part of his inner sanctum.
Hope you're ready.
Next time: Lich-slapped!
Life's a LichOriginal SA post
Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 19: Life's a Lich
Here we are. This is it. The heroes have made it to Acererak's innermost sanctum. Only a few obstacles stand between them and the architect of all this misery and sorrow... but only a few souls stand between Acererak and ultimate cosmic power.
The Fortress map:
The arch in Area 21, assuming its buttons have been pushed correctly, takes them to Area 22. This is a room of blue tiles with nothing particularly special in it... except a horrific stink. It's home to a hezrou tanar'ri, the source of the odor, and has only one exit (not counting the teleportation arch that brought the heroes here in the first place). The arch follows the same rules as the other one: you must push the buttons to make it "safe," then you can just stroll through. The hezrou is not as tough as the previous monsters, but it knows how the archway works, and that makes it a dangerous opponent. It is impossible to surprise and, if it wins initiative, it will attempt to scoop up PCs and toss them through the portal without making it safe. Naturally this is a terrible fate (lose items and equipment to area 31, teleport self to area 2 and save or merge with the painting) and must be avoided at all costs. The hezrou smells so bad you must save vs. paralyzation or fall over with nausea. Even a passed save gives you a -2 on all attack and initiative rolls. In melee it'll attempt to grapple and toss PCs through the door.
Area 23 is the Hall of Bygone Minions. Back when Acererak had living servants, he detailed this area to be their quarters. The book informs us that "things being what they are, Acererak only had limited patience for the foibles of those that breathe." The unlabeled rooms are just full of debris and maybe some minor magical items. Number 24, though, was Isafel's room (remember her?) It is totally trashed, tapestries shredded, wooden furniture splintered, bed smashed, etc. It was filled with statues (normal for a medusa's lair) but these have been powdered... except for one in the corner.
Isafel was interested in the "death in life" aspects of her petrified victims, and experimented in that field. She planned on channeling negative energy into a statue to animate it, and while this plan had a number of misfires, she did succeed once. Using the Dim Forge in Area 29 (of which more later) she was able to create an "undead statue." She couldn't replicate the process, but this one remains. She posted it as a guard, for fear of the tanar'ri, and ordered it to slay anyone who came into her room. This it will attempt to do. It's basically a stone golem with level drain instead of a slow spell. She has left some items and money behind including a +5 quarterstaff (handy for hitting demons and such) and a cursed nine lives stealer that steals the soul of the wielder, not the target.
Area 25 holds one of the keys to Acererak's power. PCs entering the room will see walls lined with shelves containing all manner of strange and mystic items. What's likely to catch their eye, however, is the tube at the center of the chamber. It's 5 feet wide, as tall as the chamber, and crammed full of something nightmarish, all wings and claws and red skin smushed up against the glass.
a fine vintage
This is Tarnhem, a balor and Acererak's father. As part of Acererak's ascension to lichdom he needed to know his father's true name, and so with years of research and arcane study he was able to divine it. After becoming a lich he imprisoned Tarnhem in gleeful revenge for Acererak's tormented childhood and the death of his mother. By keeping Tarnhem this way, he was also able to command the balor's many tanar'ric servants, who built, maintain and guard the TOMB, Moil and the Fortress.
Tarnhem is aware of you as soon as you enter, and will call out.
"Primes! I beseech your help! Quickly, before my son becomes aware of your penetration! Release me, and I will help you defeat him. I give one of you temporary leave to safely take up my sword, there upon the shelf, and shatter this most accursed of containment vessels!"
This is no false promise; though normally touching a balor's lightning-bolt sword is instant death (or 10d6 damage on a successful save vs. death magic), with Tarnhem's permission anyone can wield it. It is a vorpal sword and, as promised, one swing shatters the vessel. This is a real quandary for the PCs: a balor is a terrible force of destructive evil, is setting him free really worth it? Also, he's a tanar'ri. Can he be trusted? If they decide to free him, a storm of shards deals 1d10 damage to everyone in the room, and Tarnhem stands free. If they don't want to touch his sword, another vorpal sword will do it, or a wish. Other than that, though, nothing can break the vessel.
Once Tarnhem is free, Acererak is immediately aware of it. He will teleport in within two rounds in a winter-wight body, telling the PCs "Your ingenuity surprises me; your reward awaits you at the Hub."
Turning to Tarnhem, he continues: "As for you, Father, your usefulness is at an end!"
He will attack Tarnhem physically, trying to set him on blackfire. Truthfully he could subdue the balor any time by using his true name, but he wants to burn the life out of him in a physical struggle and doesn't really lose anything if he loses this particular fight. He won't use his spells due to Tarnhem's 70% magic resistance, and will just batter him with fists.
If Acererak wins, he will turn on the PCs with his spells. If his winter-wight form is defeated, Tarnhem grins "Free at last!" before vanishing in a burst of brimstone. Acererak got bored and used the true name to bind him again. Any PC holding the sword when this happens is subject to its full effect.
Once that unpleasantness is dealt with they can search the room. It's full of weird spell components, arcane tomes, and random crap Acererak has been hoarding. This includes a violin of tanar'ri taunting (sounds made by it grate on and enrage any tanar'ri nearby), a manual of bodily health, a tome of amorality which can drive you insane if you're lawful or good and read it, and a jar of hotberries (berry grenades. don't chew them!).
Room 26 is the Theater of the Dead, a hall full of castoffs, rejects, mutilated undead, animated body parts, and other necromantic horrors, all still animated and shambling pitifully. It's a pool of body parts and a dumping ground for rejects. They won't attack PCs intentionally, but their sheer mass can be dangerous, crushing you and draining life. Strength checks to force your way through the mass! It's not all harmless fun: at the area marked W on the map is one of Acererak's more whimsical creations. He applied the winter-wight creation procedure to the skeleton of a giant toad, creating a winter-Pepe.
Acererak was unable to graft intelligence into nonhumanoid wights, but it still catches you on blackfire and attacks the living relentlessly. PCs only have a 10% chance of spotting it amidst all the debris before it attacks.
Area 27 is Acererak's library. It is one of the most complete collections of arcane lore anywhere in the multiverse. Some of the knowledge here exists almost nowhere else. It's a treasure trove for wizards: spell research done here takes 50% as long, and adds 1d20+5% to the chance of success at formulating a new spell. You need the whole intact collection to benefit, though. PC wizards looking around for tomes that have to do with a specific form of research or specific effect have a 35% chance of success; in this case, success means 1d4 tomes that together add 1d4+2% to your success chance for the research in question. That's about all you can do if you can't figure out how to cart all of it off. It weighs 550 tons and occupies 10,000 cubic feet of space, so good luck. Scattered among these reference books are spellbooks, which together have every spell from the PHB. Each turn spent searching gives you a 35% chance to find a tome that contains 1d10+5 random spells. Every spellbook, however, is guarded with a 20th level explosive runes and a symbol of either death or discord, which triggers if handled by anyone but Acererak and affects everyone within 60 feet. Any failed search has a 50% chance of turning up a normal book that nevertheless has the same symbol and runes treatment. So that's fun.
Each search has a cumulative 5% chance of turning up Acererak's Libram, a unique work bound in black adamantite with mithril pages. This book contains a ton of cool spells, including two new ones: create winter-wight and Acererak's blackstone. This is a real treasure. However, Acererak does not appreciate you rooting around in his library. If anyone dies to the traps in here and reanimates, Acererak will possess the body and attack.
Room 28 is full of parts and useful materials for experiments. Mostly it's full of glass bottles containing all manner of shit. Searching reveals some gemstones scattered among the rest, but more importantly, any of the material components required for any spell in the PHB. However, for each turn spent searching, there is a 3% chance of opening a bottle with a baneful effect:
The xeg-yi that might be released is a bizarre creature native to the Negative Energy Plane. Its touch is entropic and killing it causes an explosion of corrosive negative energy. DMs are encouraged to think of new random happenings if PCs keep searching after all of the above occur.
Area 29 is the Dim Forge, which is Acererak's true laboratory. This is where he studied the Negative Energy Plane and produced his Apotheosis plan. This is also where he animates winter-wights. In the center of the room is a black metal sarcophagus directly under a crystal that projects out of the ceiling. This is the Forge itself, a device Acererak constructed to help channel negative energy. The crystal is the base of a series of antennae that project out more than a mile into the Negative Energy plane, magically treated to resist and channel its energies. The walls are covered in diagrams depicting the interaction of body, spirit, and negative energy. The Forge is a powerful tool for creating undead, but it's prone to failure, hence the Theater of the Dead. The sarcophagus itself latches closed and its lid can flip down to contain one human-sized being. Simply putting someone in there and closing it turns it on. If this happens, the antennae begin to channel the Void, and the PCs hear a deep, gonglike thrum. This builds in strength for three rounds before the crystal releases a bolt of pure concentrated negative energy into the sarcophagus. It burns with residual blackfire for a moment that then dissipates.
If there's a living thing in the canister when this happens... well...
Yup, you can become a winter-wight... though you're more likely to become charcoal. If the canister is closed but contains nothing living when the bolt strikes, it always generates a negative energy elemental; if it is open, the bolt fragments and everyone present must save vs. spell or suffer whatever effect was rolled. If you make a new undead here Acererak immediately comes and controls them, forcing a PC's consciousness down if necessary, and attacks.
I'm going to skip to Area 31 here before tackling Area 30. Area 31 is Acererarak's retreat. He leaves a winter-wight stationed here that he can port to and use to escape if need be. If the PCs come here before Area 30 is resolved, he ports into the winter-wight and tries to force them into area 30. Otherwise, the room is pretty barren. It has some treasure, including anything that was teleported here by the archway, and the maelstrom gate set in one wall. This rainbow-hued portal sends you to a completely random world or demiplane, but only transports unliving matter (and renders living matter unliving in order to transport it) so it's not much use to the PCs. The other items here are of mixed utility, the best being a whistle in the shape of the Phantom Flyer which can call it out to bring them home. Besides that there's also Deverus's ring of negative elemental mastery, (if Acererak has to flee he will bring it with him, as it has some sentimental value), an illuck stone, a crystal ball with ESP, and a brooch of access. The wall has the mask of the devourer, a nasty item that the PCs should (but probably won't) leave alone. There's an iron chest on the floor that is, shockingly, neither trapped nor useless. It is, in fact, Acererak's hoard. It contains tons of gems, some carved statues, tons of gold coins, and a shitload of useful magic items I won't bother to list including two dragonslayer long swords that may possess intelligence and more powers at the DM's discretion.
So. Area 31's pretty much your reward chamber. What about the boss room?
Acererak waits here, with his phylactery. The room is lit by a red glow, projecting from the ruby eyes of the demilich skull Acererak now inhabits. By arriving here, the PCs have proven beyond all doubt that their souls are pure and strong, just what the lich needs to complete his Apotheosis. The phylactery sits on an iron tripod stand above a hole in the floor through which the raw negative energy plane can be seen.
If Tarnhem the balor is still alive, Acererak has called him here, armed him with his sword and whip, and set him to guard the phylactery. Acererak will target players and, based on his experience, pick the most powerful one and instantly draw out his soul just as the original lich skull did. It takes him two rounds to digest a soul, so he will only do it once every three rounds. After sucking three souls, he ignores the remaining PCs ("the unworthy who must witness!") and begins the Apotheosis itself. This takes 10 rounds and consumes all of the collected souls forever, and once it's begun, destroying the skull does nothing. The PCs must contend with the raging balor, the terrible demilich skull, and Acererak's spells and powers. How do they have a chance?
As part of his apotheosis, Acererak has placed his phylactery in this room. It is a truly massive emerald the size of a haystack, its surface rippling with images of Acererak's victims: the 2,692 souls trapped within it. This presence has created a disturbance in the Negative Energy Plane, resulting in the Dark Intrusion. Touching the phylactery is instant death, no ifs, ands or buts about it. Your soul is subsumed and your body falls away into the negative energy plane below. However, the phylactery is vulnerable. It can be destroyed with difficulty: this requires weapons of +4 or better enchantment and takes 100 damage against an AC of 8. This is pretty challenging to do midcombat; easier would be to destroy the iron legs that hold it up and drop it into the Void. Each leg has 66 HP and AC 0. Destroying two of them drops the phylactery into the darkness. You can bend bars/lift gates at -25% to destroy a leg, or use a disintegrate spell. Otherwise it's blunt weapons, magical electricity or acid, or attacks that specifically destroy metal. Destroying the crystal destroys Acererak, but it also damns the 2,692 souls within it to eternal oblivion in the Negative Energy Plane. Any attempt to attack the tripod or the orb will fill the PCs with certainty that this is destroying Acererak, but will also cause the trapped souls to beg them to stop, saying they will perish as well.
The voices will cry out for release, and the PCs will become aware that freeing the souls will disperse Acererak's essence... but it will not destroy him utterly. It may take millennia, but he will return. PCs who cannot figure out how to free the souls may cry out in extremity "How?" If they do, the soul of a young girl addresses them directly: "Only the light of the sun will open a way for us; it is our guide to peace."
That's the secret. Any spell or effect that replicates the effects of natural sunlight, when applied to the phylactery, will have an instant and profound effect. This includes the sunwand from Moil. A beam of golden light shines out of the phylactery and pierces the roof of the chamber. In the beam, PCs will see the souls streaming out to their final reward. Acererak's voice will speak in a whisper: "I am undone... for now..." as his spirit is dispersed.
The PCs know he will be back, but it's worth it, as nearly three thousand innocent souls are spared from oblivion. Acererak's TOMB OF HORRORS and his other constructions lose their deadly efficacy, his servants are freed and his works fall into disrepair. The Dark Intrusion ends and, with it, Skull City disperses. The PCs earn 100,000 experience in this case for saving the multiverse from Acererak's plan.
If the PCs fail, Acererak is impossible to extract from the Negative Energy Plane. He starts off small, testing his powers, but in time he can possess any undead anywhere. What will he do? Will he attempt to conquer the multiverse? Will he simply observe and learn all he can? Beyond the scope of this adventure, but it's not pretty.
If the PCs destroy only his demilich skull, he will flee using the winter-wight in room 31, and start over on some distant Prime world. This is not a great outcome, but at least the multiverse is temporarily safe: 25,000 experience is awarded.
If they destroy the phylactery, Acererak screams "NOOOOOOooooooo!" as his phylactery disintegrates and, with it, his spirit. As above, Moil and his Fortress fade into nonexistence, the Intrusion ends, etc. He is gone for good. However, those souls are obliterated in the Negative Energy Plane. PCs affiliated with a good deity may lose their powers until they atone. The DM is encouraged to confront the party with undead animated by the tortured souls they failed to save. This ending still stops Acererak, but it is a bittersweet victory, and is worth only 75,000 experience points.
It is, in fact, possible to do everything. If every single undead in the Fortress is destroyed, including the castoffs, Acererak will be forced into the phylactery with no body to inhabit. This is incredibly difficult, as he will try very hard to flee if the battle turns against him. Nevertheless, if they manage to trap him, then free the spirits of the phylactery with sunlight, they can then destroy the phylactery and end Acererak's threat forever without harming anyone else. This is worth 250,000 experience points but just isn't gonna happen.
And... that's it! Hopefully they managed to save the souls. Acererak is a dangerous foe, but if they succeeded, it was through luck, daring and his own arrogance. In the end his hubris brought him down-- his certainty that he could outsmart any foe. That's fitting, I think.
I hope you all enjoyed that! It was long, but I love love LOVE this adventure. Next in line is The Great Modron March, which is pretty darn cool as well. It's got Modrons in the name, so it's bound to be awesome.