Another blast of fire erupted from the shimmering elemental gate, hitting Zerbitt as he desperately fought to climb up the slanting corridor using the rope that Jack had thrown down from the doorway. The attack (+12 vs. Fortitude; for every 2 squares closer the target is to the elemental vent, the trap gains a +1 to the attack roll) hit the bloodied thief and knocked him down to 1 hit point (2d10 + 5 fire damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 fire damage and is dazed— save ends both). Realizing that he was gravely wounded and in danger of losing consciousness, Zerbitt used the last of his quickly ebbing strength to wrap the rope around his forearm. Just a moment later, when he took the ongoing 5 fire damage at the beginning of his turn, Zerbitt fell unconscious and was dying. Only his foresight in wrapping the rope around his arm kept the thief’s body from tumbling down the steeply sloping corridor and into the vast pit of flames and molten lava. But would Zerbitt’s companions, already safe beyond the doorway to the south, somehow be able to rescue him before the deadly planar vent claimed the Tomb of Horrors’ next victim?
Geez, Who’s the Clumsy Newb?
Our sixth session of Tomb of Horrors at our FLGS, Total Escape Games in Broomfield, Colorado, started with Jack (revenant human assassin), Marrak (dwarf warpriest), and Zerbitt (human thief) in the Ruined Laboratory where they had battled the vat oozes and found a golden skeleton key. At the end of the last session, they had just discovered a secret door behind the bookcase that stood against the chamber’s western wall. At the beginning of this session, they discovered they had a new companion! Laramie, an eladrin druid, suddenly popped into existence there in the Ruined Laboratory and joined the adventuring party. Welcome to the Tomb of Horrors, Laramie. (Insert evil chuckle here.)
Exploring the corridor beyond the secret doorway, our heroes came across a 10-foot deep pit that completely filled 30 feet of passageway. The pit’s floor was a mass of wide-set rusted iron spikes. Climbing down into the pit didn’t look all that hard (a DC 17 Athletics check) and walking through the wide-set spikes appeared as if it would be easy enough, but Zerbitt decided to bypass all of that and use Spider Climb to get to the other side. No one else in the party could do anything half as nifty so they’d actually have to negotiate the pit. Jack climbed down into the pit with no problem, carefully moved through the spikes, but then triggered the Pit Spike Barrage (the two easternmost squares of the pit were a magic trap) before she could exit the pit. The rusted iron spikes set across the floor suddenly launched upward in a deadly barrage (+13 vs. Reflex), hitting Jack (3d6 damage, and the target is stunned until the end of its next turn) but missing Zerbitt. Marrak made it across without incident, but Laramie proved to be a bit of a klutz. The druid tumbled down onto the spikes as he was trying to climb down into the pit and then he fell again on the other side while he was attempting to jump over the trapped squares and grab the lip of the floor above. The other three PCs kind of glanced at each other with a look that clearly said, “Geez, who exactly is this clumsy newb?!”
Past the pit, the hallway continued on for quite a long stretch before it dead ended at a blank stone wall. Everyone checked the dead end in every way possible, but they couldn’t detect that it was anything except a blank stone wall. They backtracked to the pit, checking the corridor as they went, but they failed to find the secret door that was hidden along the north wall of the hallway. Stymied by their failure to find anything of interest beyond the pit, they decided to head back over to the other side of the passageway. They all made it over the pit safely, but then Jack decided she wanted to check the walls down along the bottom of the pit. So she started to scramble back down but lost her balance and fell onto the spikes (2d10 damage and the target falls prone). Geez.
Anyway, once they were all back up and on their way, they decided to go all the way back to the Great Hall of Spheres and belatedly check out the statue of the four-armed gargoyle. But a funny thing happened when our heroes returned to the spot where the wall (the ring portal) in the Chapel of Evil had dropped down and let them access the corridor beyond— they now discovered that the huge block of stone had risen up again and blocked their way back into the chapel! Faster than you can say, “Oh no, we’re trapped in the Tomb of Horrors!” the players had d20s in their hands wanting to roll checks to see if there was any way to get the stone to drop down again, but I nipped that in the bud right quick by saying, “I’ll save you guys a lot of time and just tell you that you can roll checks ’til the cows come home and you won’t find any way past this block of stone.”
“Is it hot in here or is it just me?”
Pretty much the only unexplored area still available to the party at that point was whatever might be beyond the door at the end of the long corridor past the three pit traps (where they’d found the secret door at the bottom of the third pit trap which took them south into the Corridor of Fear). They had went up to that door before, but after hearing the sound of music and singing from the other side, they grew suspicious and decided not to check it out at that time. This time, though, with nowhere else left to go, they figured they’d have to bite the bullet and see what was on the other side of that mysterious door.
The door didn’t appear to be locked or trapped, but it still took Marrak a few minutes to strong-arm it open. As the dwarf shouldered the stubborn door open, the sounds of music and singing from the other side were replaced by cries of dismay. When the door finally popped wide open, our heroes could see another long passageway lay beyond, its floor a highly polished smoke-gray marble. Shouts of alarm and the sound of running feet accompanied the faint glow of torchlight receding down the passageway. Without a moment’s hesitation, Zerbitt and Laramie took off down the corridor at a sprint. Jack followed a second later, but wise and cautious Marrak held back.
When Zerbitt and Laramie reached a point thirty feet from the doorway (with Jack pelting along 10 feet behind them), the magically counterweighted passageway suddenly lurched to slope steeply downward from the door. At the far end of the hallway, a planar vent opened up to the Elemental Chaos. The vent manifested itself as a vast pit of flames and molten lava, ready to consume anything that fell into it. Needless to say, dear reader, it’s that type of moment that every Tomb of Horrors DM lives for.
The scene at the top of the post played out after Jack and Laramie had reached the safety of the doorway. The unconscious and dying Zerbitt was indeed saved when Marrak threw (literally) some healing his way (it’s always nice to have a cleric in the party). So in the end, the party managed to escape the Perilous Hallway without suffering a fatality… although I did feel a little better when I found out that both Jack and Zerbitt emerged from the encounter with zero healing surges remaining.
“We’re looking, we're looking, we're looking, we're looking…”
After that, the characters embarked upon a long and tedious and ultimately successful search for the secret door they’d missed their first time around down in the corridor past the Pit Spike Barrage trap. In the midst of searching literally every square they came across, they went back through the Ruined Laboratory and gave it another thorough going over. Overlooked before, some of Acererak’s old high school yearbooks were discovered tucked away on the bottom shelf of a bookcase. While paging through them, the adventurers saw that Acererak had been voted “Most Likely to Become a Lich.”
As their meticulous search took them back down into the corridor with the big ass pit trap, Laramie cemented his reputation as the klutzy newb by once again tumbling into the pit and impaling himself on the rusty spikes. After that, though, Jack finally (FINALLY!) discovered the secret door on the north wall of the passageway. The secret doorway led them into…
The Churning Chamber
There was actually some discussion among the players about whether to continue past the secret doorway since the PCs were in a pretty sorry state by that point (not having any healing surges left is a problem) and they knew they wouldn’t survive any kind of intense encounter. They wanted to know how much time had elapsed since their last extended rest and how much time would still have to pass before they could take another one. I told them they still had about twelve hours to go before they could take their second extended rest. I told them that if they didn’t think they’d survive whatever was on the other side of the door, they could always just sit around twiddling their thumbs or playing charades or something for twelve hours. The only thing they’d lose by doing that would be more time from their 48-hour time limit. After thinking it over, they decided they’d crack the door open just a teeny bit and peek in the room, and then assess the situation.
Well, just peeking in the room quickly turned into a full blown tussle with a couple of Green Slime Horrors. The slime horrors started off as unassuming tapestries hanging on the chamber’s east and west walls. When Jack decided to handle the tapestry on the western wall, she failed the resulting Dexterity check (DC 19), and it transformed into a monster. Jack somehow escaped the slime’s Engulf attack (+10 vs. Reflex), but Laramie’s wolf companion wasn’t so lucky (1d10 +4 acid damage, and the target is engulfed— save ends. While engulfed, the target takes ongoing 5 acid damage and is restrained.).
About that same time, a violent magical churning began to shake the entire chamber, sliding everyone around as if they were on some crazy carnival ride. Jack found herself slid across the chamber and over toward the tapestry on the eastern wall. Operating on the logic that both tapestries surely couldn’t be traps, she went right over to it to get a closer look at it. Whereupon the room churned crazily again and she was slid right into the tapestry. The slime hit her and engulfed her. The attack knocked her down to 4 hit points, so the ongoing 5 acid damage would’ve killed her at the beginning of her turn… but before that could happen, Marrak once again saved the day when he used Soothing Light and gave Jack an immediate saving throw with a +2 power bonus. And of course Jack saved, thereby managing to cheat death. (Insert sad DM sigh here.)
That was the closest call during our heroes’ encounter with the green slime horrors in the Churning Chamber, so they all survived to discover a secret door that had been hidden behind the tapestry on the room’s west wall. They sent Mr. Wolf Companion through the 5-foot diameter crawlspace beyond the door and it found that, after a short distance, the crawlspace opened up into a long corridor that ran eastward. The weary and battered adventurers had just started to cautiously explore the corridor, finding that it led to a four-way intersection where another long passageway ran north and south, when I said, “And I think that’s where we’ll end tonight.”