Revisiting “The Tomb Of Horrors”

Tonight I got the chance to go back to a beginning, and in the process see new beginnings.

During my junior year of college, I found a steady group to play Dungeons and Dragons with.  I first played D&D near the end of high school and continued playing with the same initial group during my first few years of college.  We would get together over summer and Christmas breaks when the gang was all back in town and just binge sessions for entire weekends.  But in my third year I roomed next door to a few good friends of mine, and in our conversations we realized that all of us played D&D.  They had a regular group that they had played with for a few years at school, but some of those people had either graduated, transferred, or had become disinterested or too busy to play.  They had openings, and I inquired about joining them.  I also talked to Brighton about playing, and she reluctantly decided to tag along.  They said “yes, of course”, and thus my Second Era of D&D began.

We started with a little module called “The Tomb of Horrors”.  For those of you unfamiliar with the dungeon, “Tomb of Horrors” is a sadistic meat grinder made by none other than the godfather of D&D himself – Gary Gygax.  It was originally created for first-edition D&D, but there have been several updates and remakes to keep up with the different versions of D&D.  The whole point of “The Tomb of Horrors” was to destroy the spirit and soul of players that boasted of their amazing characters and gaming prowess.  Gygax made it just to show those people who the boss was.  It’s full of over-powered monsters and hideous traps, as well as puzzles, riddles, and riches (for those that find them and live to make it out).

This module was what we used to kick off a new group.  This was the ice breaker.  This was how I was going to transition from one group of players and friends to another.

And this was to be Brighton’s first game.  Ever.

Ladies and gentlemen… we saw some s**t.  It was ridiculous right out the gate – no – not even in the gate.  We had a player die before getting in the front doors of the tomb.  This is that kind of quest.  And Brighton was as green as a baby frog on St. Patrick’s Day.  Traps were triggered, pits were fallen into, people were poisoned and trampled, a soul was devoured – it was awesome, both in the level of fun and the amount of reverence and fear we felt.  (Also our DM scared the s**t out of us and almost got a table thrown at him.  Good times.)

Suffice it to say, Brighton made it out alive and actually showed us all up with her ability to solve some of the riddles.  She also kicked some ass in combat, so that’s cool, too.

And now, here we are five years later.  The same kid that lived in the dorm room next to me that ran the module (as well as the campaign that stemmed from it) – the same friend that I’ve been living with now for four years – has decided to crack open the book once more and run some newbies through “The Tomb of Horrors”.

Brighton and I are now veterans of the D&D world.  We are now the wise and aged masters that the young minds turn to when there is a question about grappling (yeah, we know how it works).

There are two other friends playing with us – one who has been playing with our current group for the past few months.  He’s new, but he’s gotten most of the stuff down pretty quickly.  In fact, the first thing he ever did in D&D was DM a pre-written module, so that’s pretty hard core.  Along with him is his girlfriend.  They have been dating for maaaybe three weeks, and she has never played D&D before.

And this is the ice breaker… once again.  But this time, on multiple levels.  “The Tomb of Horrors” is how we are getting to know another human being, and it’s how she’s getting to know her boyfriend’s wacky, nerdy friends.  How will this turn out for everyone?

Well… so far it’s pretty ballin’.

We gathered our ragtag band of misfits together to take on one of the most difficult challenges that the game can offer, and we’ve been able to delve into the depths of the tomb without too much trouble.  Our knowledge of the area has waned in the past five years, so don’t you purists fear about us metagaming.  Most of the familiarity comes back retrospectively.  Also, our DM hasn’t pulled any punches, either (save for his forgetting one crucial special attack on a monster that would have killed one of us, but forgetfulness isn’t pussyfooting) – if we bumblef**k our way into a pit of acid or a monster’s maw, he ain’t gonna’ save us.  He’s said that since character creation.  But like I said – so far so good.

It’s also reassuring that in our few hours together yelling at one another and bleeding out on the hewn stone floors of the crypt, we haven’t discouraged or driven away the newbie.  She’s genuinely having a ton of fun with the game, with the campaign, and with us.  It’s too bad that this is just a short side-adventure to do while one of our epic campaign regulars finishes up with exams, but who knows – maybe when we get back to our regularly scheduled program we’ll have a sixth member of what we affectionately call “The Eh? Team”.

Until then, we just gotta’ not die.

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