Friday, May 24, 2024

ToH MM Riddles

In my design for the Tomb of Horors mini-mod, I want there to be a significant interplay between character problem solving (a classic approach) and the use of character abilities (a more modern approach). I think that giving the characters a riddle that was left by the demilich to others is a good place to build in the 'player thinking' part of the process. Here's the riddle I've written:

To those who’d dare to delve my tomb,

I'll deliver unending doom.

And any who its traps would foil,

I'm trading you incessant toil.

And if you may still my great wealth pursue,

This missive marks your only clue.

Spoilers Ahead (so, like, stop reading if you think you might end up playing in this one day and want to be surprised)...


The doors at the opening would each have a clue in the six lines. I am thinking the number of words (8, 4, 7, 5, 9, 6) are labeling the doors (so the order would be 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). Since last line of the poem has 6 words, that would be the correct door. All others are trapped. The players would enter through the first line (8), since that is the first line of the poem. Five other halls lead out from the center chamber. I guess they could try the 'why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9' approach, but that will lead to remarkable pain and suffering. But whatever.

The next clue is that the first letter of every line spells TIAMAT. You will have to spell that name out to bypass one of the puzzles. I am thinking that the four statues each have the Old Gallan letters A, I, M, and T. Six keys are requied to open the door at the far end. Statues have keys in their gaping, toothy maws. The A and T statues have two keys each, the I and M have one. You have to gather keys in order. Only physical touch can remove a key. Taking a key out of order results in the hand being bitten off. The players will have recovered a bag of severed hands of undead - getting a hand severed will allow you (if you survive the shock check) to affix an undead severed hand with strange powers in place of the lost appendage, Vecna-style. So that's nice. There is no door out of this room - but there are three pit traps. Two of the traps have terrors at the bottom, but a third has a secret door, with only a keyhole revealed (successful sense mind check to see it).

Thirdly, the alliteration of the lines (D, T, M) would be the clue to defeating the gargoyles. You must destroy them in that order or they are immediately reborn. When the M gargoyle is destroyed (after destroying D and T, in that order), then its corpse would spit out the key to the next door. I might combine the alliteration with the end rhymes, so the statues would be marked 'D-M', 'T-L' and 'M-E'. Maybe even combine clues - lore checks on the letters reveal these are in two different ancient languages, so you'd be able to use either or both clues in tandem to make the same conclusion.

The final room would have two pathways - life and death. You must choose one and travel forward. Life will lead out of the dungeon - and the dungeon finally falls into a distant pocket realm for all time. Death leads into his tomb (because that is what he seeks above all things). I could be really mean and have 'life' instantly disintegrate you, because that is an immediate entry into eternal life. Maybe then I'll mark these 'eternal life' and 'eternal death'. I guess that it depends on how I'm feeling (or what the GM decides to do - maybe include both as options, so players never know which one it is - but either way, 'death' leads into the tomb and the demilich, which is the path they'd want to follow regardless).

By the way, I just googled how much a 10'x10'x10' slab of stone weighs, and it's like 80 tons. So if that falls on someone (which is likely to happen), they are not surviving. I am thinking of mechanics like this: any character in the square when the door is opening must check reflex. Failing means they are crushed by the stone. Making it without a 12 means that they get partway out; either an arm or leg is crushed entirely, and has effectively been decapitated. The character must make a system shock roll (might check) or die. That's fun. A natural 11 means that they leaped inside (and are stuck on one side), and a 12 means that they actually jumped to the correct side and avoided it entirely. Good on them.

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