AvocaD&D and Tabletop Gaming Thread: Tomb of Horrors

Welcome back to the weekly D&D and Tabletop Gaming thread!  Here’s a place where we can talk about Dungeons & Dragons or any other tabletop games that you nerds might be into.  Tell us about the games you’re playing, speculate about future expansions, recruit your fellow Avocados into new groups, whatever you want.

Our discussion topic is the Circle of the Moon Druid. This Circle focuses on improving the Druid’s Wild Shape, allowing the druid to transform into more powerful beasts more often.

Starting at 2nd level, the Moon Druid’s Combat Wild Shape allows them to use their Wild Shape ability as a bonus action, rather than an action. This means the druid can become a beast and make their attacks as that beast in the same turn. This ability also makes the beast form a little more durable, by letting the transformed druid expend a spell slot to regain some hit points. The amount of healing 1d8 per level of spell slot used (1d8 for a 1st level slot, 2d8 for a 2nd level, etc).

Also at 2nd level, Circle Forms raises the maximum CR of available beast shapes to 1. Once you reach level 6, the maximum CR increases to one-third of your Druid level. Note that you are still limited to creatures without a flying or swimming speed at lower levels, and you can still only use your Wild Shape twice per short rest.

At level 6, you can make Primal Strikes while in beast form. The attacks of your beast form count as magical, allowing you to overcome enemies’ resistances to non-magical weapon attacks.

When you reach level 10, you get the ability to take on Elemental Wild Shapes. You need to expend two uses of the Wild Shape ability, but you can transform into an air, earth, fire, or water elemental instead of a beast.

At 14th level, you’ve mastered a Thousand Forms, allowing you to shift your physical body in more subtle ways, as opposed to fully transforming into a beast. You can cast the Alter Self spell at will, allowing to breath underwater and swim more easily, to attack with claws or fangs, or to simply change your humanoid appearance.

This week, Wasp ran a special Tomb of Horrors one-shot game, since two of our usual group couldn’t make it. The rest of made new characters at Level 12 to attempt to prevent the Vile Demilich Acererak from escaping his tomb. We have:

  • Promise, a Tiefling Monk of the Way of the Sun Soul, raised in a monastery of the sun god Amaunator. (CleverGuy)
  • Lucy Blunderbuss, a Human Light Cleric following the moon goddess Selune. (Otto)
  • Daffyth the Dense, a Human Paladin following the Oath of Devotion to Torm, whose propensity for fisticuffs and breaking things made having him around the temple inconvenient. (Josephus)
  • Gertie Brae, a Hill Dwarf Rune Knight Fighter, trained by cloud giants. (Spiny)
Tomb of Horrors

“Dear Promise,
The legends of your past exploits have indicated to me that you are one of the most qualified candidates for a job of the most urgency. On an archeological expedition through the Serpent Hills, a team of archeologists discovered a very disturbing location. According to the best Lore Bards, the area is approximately where the old legends state that the Vile Demilich Acererak retreated to in order to gather his strength. The records on Acererak are very thin and spotty but one thing is for sure, should he escape it would certainly spell doom for all of Faerun. We need you and the others we recruited to delve deep into this tomb avoid any perilous traps you may encounter and put a stop to Acererak before he can rise again!
-Professor Ardella Fawns”

Such was the letter I received at the monastery, which brought me to this cursed place. My friends and I arrived at the dig site in the Serpent Hills to find it mostly abandoned. It seemed the archeologists had been scared off as soon as they noticed the death’s head shape of the cavern they’d uncovered. Ardella Fawns did meet us there, but only stuck around long enough to to point out the three possible entrances to the Tomb, one to the east, one in the center, and one to the west. As we were just beginning a new adventure, it was only fitting that we started with the eastern entrance.

It took a few hours of digging, but we eventually uncovered a short hallway leading to a pair of closed doors. As our little group approached the doors, a large stone block slid out of the wall behind us, closing us in. Unfortunately none of us had any experience with opening doors which should remain shut. Lucy Blunderbuss did have a set of tools for such purposes, but my training at least gave me a steadier hand than my companions. I got the first door open, only to find a blank stone wall behind it. And unlocking the second door only made the doorknob fall off. Thankfully, Lucy was able to call upon Selune and make a tunnel through the wall with Stoneshape. We made our way back to the dig site, and this time tried the central entrance.

It look a few more hours of digging, but we eventually uncovered a long hallway, with a colorful tile floor. A winding path of red tiles trailed down the entire corridor. I cautioned everyone to stay on the path, suspecting a trap of some kind if we strayed off the red tiles. As we made our down the path, I noticed that there was writing in the red tiles. It read:

Acererak congratulates you on your powers of observation, so make of this whatever you wish,
for you will be mine in the end no matter what! 
Go back to the tormentor or through the arch, 
and the second great hall you'll discover. 
Shun green if you can, but night's good color 
is for those of great valor. 
If shades of red stand for blood, the wise 
will not need sacrifice aught but a loop of 
magical metal- you're well along your march. 
Two pits along the way will be found to lead 
to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall. 
These keys and those are most important of all, 
and beware of trembling hands and what will maul. 
If you find the false you find the true, 
and into the columned hall you'll come,
and there the throne that's key and keyed. 
The iron men of visage grim do more than meets 
the viewer's eye. 
You've left and left and found my tomb, 
and now your souls will die.

We tried to puzzle out some meaning to this drivel, and Gertie made a note of it in her book. As the red tile path curved close to one of the walls, I noticed a golden chest attached to the wall. There was a button on top of the chest, and I could see that pressing the button would cause the bottom to fall open. I could also see a rather large needle ready to spring if I tried to press the button. Lucy suggested using my staff to press the button to avoid the needle, which was undoubtedly poisoned. The box opened at bottom, but nothing fell out. Reaching inside I discovered a lever, and pulling the lever I discovered that the floor beneath me had opened into a 30-foot pit lined with spikes at the bottom. I pushed off the wall and landed on my feet between the spikes, then easily climbed out of the pit.

Further down the red tile path, Daffyth discovered a secret room behind one of the many paintings lining the walls; however the room itself appeared to be completely empty. The red tile path eventually split in two directions. One led to an archway carved to look like a green demon’s head, with the opening where the mouth would be. The other led to another archway, but the room beyond was shrouded in mist. This arch had three glowing stones around it, one yellow, one blue, and one orange. We decided to ignore the demon’s mouth, following the advice of the poem to “shun green,” and focused on the other path. Gertie discovered that glowing stones could be pressed, and after a few attempts finally hit on the correct order to clear the mists.

We stepped through and found ourselves transported to another part of the tomb–a small room with a four-armed gargoyle statue on one side. Actually, it was only a three-armed statue, as one of the arms had been broken off. The three remaining arms looked like they should have been holding something, perhaps gems of some kind. None of us had any gems to place into the statue, though I did try to give it some gold coins. Lucy tried to reattach the broken arm with a Mending spell, but even with the fourth arm attached, nothing seemed to happen. There was only one way to go, so we made our way past the statue and down a narrow hall until we emerged from a hidden door in another long hall with mosaic tile flooring.

This hall had no red tile path, but instead was lined with vaguely humanoid statues each holding a different colored orb. The secret tunnel we’d come out of was behind a golden orb, and we took our time examining all of the other statues and orbs. We found a couple of obviously false doors, as well as a hidden door none of us could open along the walls. Two of the orbs, one black and one red, also concealed hidden passages. Finally, at the far southern end of the hall stood another mist-shrouded archway with glowing stones, this time in olive, citron, and red. Again, referring to the poem, we decided to try “night’s good color” and follow the pathway hidden behind the black orb.

This led us to what appeared to be a temple or shrine dedicate to many good-aligned deities. I found images of Amaunator easily, and Lucy pointed out some Selune iconography. Daffyth found some carvings of Torm, and Gertie even pointed out a representation of the cloud giant god. However, all had been somewhat defaced or blasphemed with images of undead. It was very disturbing, but Daffyth said the place still felt like consecrated ground. At the far end of the chapel was a simple wooden throne upon a dais, and before that was a strangely glowing alter. There was also a charred corpse laying on the floor in ancient armor, it’s arm outstretched and pointing towards an archway filled with an opaque orange mist. We took our time examining the room, finding vast sums of coins hidden in some of the pews that lined the chapel. We also found a couple of poison gas traps inside two of the pews, but Daffyth was able to remove the poison from Lucy with a touch. Of course Daffyth was also the one to touch the strange alter, and got hit with a lightning bolt for his trouble.

In the meantime Gertie decided to brave the orange mists. She went in and came back through a few moments later, saying it was just empty room. As our investigations in the chapel weren’t turning up anything of interest, Gertie ultimately decided to go back into the mist to examine it more thoroughly. We didn’t even realize she was gone until she appeared back at the entrance to the chapel some time later, without any of her clothing or equipment. She was quite upset but told us she had been teleported all the way back to the entrance of the tomb, where she appeared completely nude. I checked the mist room myself, but Gertie’s rune-etched weapons and armor, as well as everything else she was carrying had vanished.

I gave her some of my spare vestments, and Daffyth and Lucy were able to provide her with some other spare gear, but Gertie was quite displeased at the loss of her things. Lucy said she could attempt to use Locate Object to find Gertie’s missing equipment, but needed a night to pray first, so we decided to camp in the chapel. In the meantime, Gertie was able to etch a few of her runes onto the weapons and armor that the others had provided. After we rested, Lucy’s spell revealed that Gertie’s equipment was somewhat close by, and in a south-easterly direction.

Looking carefully in the southeast corner of the chapel, I did find a secret exit from the room. This led down a long corridor broken up by multiple pit traps. I stumbled into the first one, landing on my feet again of course, and then we carefully avoided the next two. After a few more turns, the corridor ended at a heavily locked door way. Lucy said she could hear what sounded like singing from the other side. I again attempted to unlock a door without the proper key, and acquitted myself quite well. Amanautor’s blessings were with me. As we started down the next hallway, the floor began to tilt downwards, as if it were precariously balanced on a fulcrum. Daffyth slipped and fell, but Gertie was able to catch him and pull him back through the door before he slid all the way down. I activated my winged boots and flew down the corridor to find that it would have dumped us all into a lava-filled pit. My fiendish heritage protected me a bit from the heat, so I tried to spot another hidden exit. Alas, it was for naught–we seemed to have reached a dead end.

We headed back through the chapel and up to the hall of orbs. This time we tried the hidden passage behind the red orb. This one led down a short hall way to room containing three lage chests. One was gold-plated, another silver, and the third a sturdy oaken chest with iron bandings. Another puzzle. Inspecting the golden chest, Daffyth discerned a hissing sound from inside, and we reasoned it was probably filled with venomous snakes. We left that chest alone and instead opened the oaken chest. The box itself was empty, but seemingly out of nowhere a giant skeleton appeared next to me. Though the undead creature was quite resilient, the four of us were able to take it apart, with the blessings of Amanautor, Selune, and Torm on our side. Daffyth struck the final blow, shattering the creature’s spine with its own severed arm. His technique is unorthodox, but it does seem quite effective.

There was still the silver chest to open, and Daffyth was quick to fix that oversight. Inside was a smaller crystal box containing a ring. As Daffyth picked up the crystal box a handful of darts shot at him from inside the silver chest, pinging off his heavy plate armor. I’m not sure he even noticed them. Getting the ring out of the crystal box was no problem. We assumed the ring to have an enchantment of some kind, perhaps this was even the “loop of magical metal” mentioned in the poem (though personally I was beginning to doubt the accuracy of that particular doggerel), but none of had the means of learning what magical properties the ring might have. Gertie put it on anyway–maybe something will come of it later. In the meantime, with nowhere else to go, we headed back to the orb hall to see what we would find through the next passage…