John Wick has written an article describing the Tomb of Horrors as the Worst Adventure of All Times. Personally, I disagree. Although back in 1999 I wrote a review of the Tomb which was critical of its many flaws and shortcomings (particularly by modern standards), even then I wrote that the module tantalized me “because it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do”. My interest in the module eventually culminated in 2005 when I wrote a 3.5 adaptation which sought to make the module more usable by presenting it in a format easier for DMs to use (while also clearing up some of the design flaws). The result has been a really great one-shot scenario that has provided nearly a dozen different groups with some incredibly memorable experiences.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, and if John Wick considers it to be the “Worst Adventure of All Times”, that’s certainly a thing he’s allowed to think. I can’t object to that.
But you know what you’re NOT entitled to? Your own facts.
So what I do object to is the fact that Wick’s article is filled with the most ridiculous lies about the Tomb of Horrors.
SPOILERS FOR THE TOMB OF HORRORS
My players picked the entrance with the long corridor rather than the two other entrances which are instant kills.
No they’re not. Lots of things in the Tomb that will instantly kill you, these two things explicitly are not that.
The devil’s face has an open mouth just big enough for someone to fit inside. The booklet told me to say that.
It does not tell you to say that.
Told me to encourage players to climb in.
Bullshit. In fact, the module tells you to do exactly the opposite. It tells the DM specifically NOT to give helpful hints or mislead players into taking certain courses of action.
The actual text from the adventure:
The mouth of the green devil’s face is the equivalent of a fixed sphere of annihilation. Anyone who passes through the devil’s mouth appears to simply vanish into the darkness but they are completely destroyed with no chance to resist.
That is not actual text from the adventure. I actually made a point of going through every version of the Tomb of Horrors that I own (and I’m pretty sure I own all of them) to make sure that Wick hadn’t just accidentally grabbed a quote from the wrong version of the adventure. This text doesn’t appear in any of them. As far as I (or Google) can tell, Wick just made this up out of whole cloth.
(This is also where I went from scratching my head about Wick getting his facts wrong to deciding that I was going to write this exposé. Because there’s no way that you just accidentally make up an imaginary quote. That signals that you’re deliberately lying.)
If we walk down that corridor and try to open one of the two doors, a stone wall drops down, trapping us in. The walls then collapse on us, crushing us.
The fact that the stone wall doesn’t drop down but instead comes in from the side of the passage is a largely inconsequential inaccuracy. But the entire second sentence is a lie.
I didn’t tell them about the secret passage at the bottom of the pit at the very beginning that allows you to skip a third of the dungeon because it isn’t a trap, but it’s there anyway, and you should find it and save yourself the trouble of trudging through a third of this worthless, piece of shit adventure.
Taking that secret passage doesn’t “skip a third of the dungeon”. It actually leads you into a dangerous combat and then a series of painful traps before dumping you out in the exact same location that you’ll end up if you puzzle out the correct exit from that room.
If you do finish the adventure, to prove the whole thing is nothing more than a way for a sadistic prick to get his jollies off, as a final “FU” from Gary, the treasure in the lich’s tomb is cursed.
Sort of true, but not really. While the final treasure does include three cursed weapons, the vast majority of the treasure is not cursed.
After repeatedly telling bafflingly unnecessary lies about what the text of the module actually says, Wick then tells us a couple of stories about his experiences with the module: The first is about how he ran the module for friends in grade school, one of them beat him up for killing them, and then they ostracized him for an entire year. The second is about how he joined a convention game of the scenario many decades later, watched the other players kill themselves, and then had his character take their stuff, leave the dungeon, and retire on the proceeds from selling it.
Those stories could be true. Unlike all the bizarre lies he chooses to tell about easily verifiable facts, I have no way of fact-checking his personal anecdotes.
But you know what?
I don’t believe him.