|Screw this, I'm out - most players by now|
Tomb of Horrors: Tomb of Acererak Level
25. Throne Room
This entire article will actually just cover the traps in this single area. Areas 26-29 are rooms adjacent to the Throne Room, so it makes sense to look at all of them as a whole.
These combined rooms form the largest single "area" in the dungeon. As we'll see, this is essentially another test of all of the lessons the dungeon has taught the players. However, at this point there's no holding back. With plenty of instant death traps, unfair combats, and traps with little to no setup, here is where Gary really flexes his player-killing prowess. But it isn't just random death traps, as we shall see.
|Keeping it spooky in 1975|
First, we have the pillars and devil faces. As I said about a month ago, these devil faces are not spheres of annihilation, but rather teleporters. If the players were told (perhaps, by more modern modules) that these faces contain spheres of annihilation, they will definitely do everything in their power to stop their companions from entering the mouths.
Of course, knowing that they are teleporters is also good for frightening the players. Either way, this trap is easily prevented by two spells the PCs should have ingrained into their fingers by now: detect magic and dispel magic. But the important thing to notice here is that the levitation effect and the breeze have no save. This gives the idea that anyone touching the pillars will be helpless unless they happen to have those spells readied.
Next we have the gem, which is another test of your player's experience in the dungeon. Wish-granting magic in a lich's tomb that regularly resets itself? This is a hard one to defend as a good trap, even if it very much lines up with the tone and theming of the dungeon.
The gem is a cool idea and all, but for this area it feels very on-the-nose. But, it was placed here for a reason, as you will see in just a moment.
We already saw something like this in the Hall of Spheres. This is a little more devious, however. There's no way forward here unless the players mess around with the throne and scepter, and unlike the previous area, the poem found at the start of the dungeon gives no hints on how to solve the puzzle.
This brings me back to the gem. This area is one of desperation, and I imagine after a while at least one player would be willing to risk the obvious wish-granting magic the gem offers. This could cause some heated debate at the table.
Overall, everything in this area has been leading toward desperation and hopelessness. And this theme only continues.
26. Electric Blue
|Guess who's back...|
27. Swords and Shields
This room is another unique challenge that fits in with the theming of the area. As we will see in the next section, the swords and shields are here to prevent someone from exiting the Chamber of Hopelessness. However, they are powerful foes in their own right.
|Possibly the only dragon in this dungeon|
This, combined with the fact that PCs wouldn't know that this area and area 28 are connected, will probably lead to them ignoring this room. At least, until they have exhausted the possibilities in the throne room.
28. Chamber of Hopelessness
Here is the ultimate example of the theme of this area. This chamber is meant to be the final resting place of any PC who ends up in the blue devil's mouth. The epithet is telling:
You who dared to violate my tomb now pay the price. Stay here and die slowly of starvation, or open and enter the door to the south, where certain quick death awaits. Whichever you choose, know that I, Acererak the Eternal, watch and scoff at your puny effort and enjoy your death throes.
|Nothing but us bones here!|
On top of that, Gary is kind enough to throw a potion of diminution in there, which according to AD&D rules won't get you small enough to escape through the snake holes.
I think this is the best example of theming in the whole dungeon, because at this point Acererak has created this entire area to focus on desperation and hopelessness. So, why bother simply killing PCs when you can trap them in a room to starve to death? Or for that matter, when you can pervert their wishes, or turn them into foul-smelling powder. The point is this: every part of your dungeon's traps and encounters can fit with your theme.
29. Mummy Chamber
This door appears similar to the Electric Blue door before, but contains a mummy. This creature is a strong foe, but not unbeatable. The worst part about it is its fire resistance (when mummies are normally vulnerable to fire) and the haste spell cast upon it.
This is a weaker expression of the theme of this area, but it is essentially another dead end. The players get no hints about how to escape this area.
|Go cry to your mummy!|
Better themes fit with adventuring tropes and are esoteric enough to be applied in many ways. This area's theme was hopelessness. The players were forced to consider bad options to try to escape. And many of those options ended up leading to even worse problems.
But what about a dungeon with the theme of "Bravery"? What about "Deception", "Sacrifice", or "Glory"?
|Here's a relevant picture to make up for that last caption. I'm sorry.|
And in the end, theming also helps set the tone of your game. There's a reason the "deadliest dungeon" in D&D chose hopelessness for a theme.
Thanks for reading!