Tomb of the Twice-Crowned King
Lvl 8 – 10
The die has been cast. The victors have been anointed. And by cruel misfortune of the digital gods, a contestant slipped through, and he never made it onto the final field. Witness now the prowess of great Hawk, author of fabled Gunderholfen and the Forbidden Pits of Zorth, and consider your fate had you faced him in the listings.
6 pages and 31 encounters for a tomb adventure that plows through you like an oil tanker and is going to put those high level gaming skills to the test. Written for levels 8-10 and it damn well acts like it too.
When death finally drew near and the forces of law were at the gates, Heimfell the Twice Crowned King
built a great tomb in the hills. He ordered his sorcerers to place a curse upon his family and servants, forcing them into a state of unlife to guard his tomb for eternity. Many treasure seekers have died within his halls and to this day the two-headed king is still lord of his final domain
And it has that sense. Like you are plundering the tomb of a being that is beyond man. The adventure never quite qualifies what he was. Perfect. 1 hook. 1 rumor. That’s all you’ll get, that’s all you’ll need.
If that doesn’t get your PCs to salivate in anticipation while also shitting themselves, you need a different hobby.
Keying is short, punchy, and essential. Very useful.
A tomb-complex with all the trappings, features and hazards that normally entails, yet kindled to a type of intensity you don’t see often. Hawk knows how to do his fucking tombs right. Let’s count the ways: Good entrance set piece. We talked about it before. A stone bridge over a canyon with a rapidly running river below (damage and depth noted, very good) flanked by two giant bronze statues with mauls, beyond a pair of giant obsidean flecked stone doors, wizardlocked and protected by a glyph of warding. Second secret entrance, only found if attention is paid, hard to reach, very good. It’s level 8-10, you are allowed to assume the party will have a knock spell or two lying about. Good use of secret doors that open if you fuck with statues or interact with certain objects, chutes, pits spanned by narrow bridges while hill giant statues throw pots of fire at you, rolling ball traps, a pit of ominous black slime that will turn you into a ghast or wight, with stepping stones bridging it, a statue with gemstone eyes that begins glowing for one round and then fires a destintegration ray every round. The traps are of the grand, archetypal sort.
The problem with most tombs is that they are inherently static and reactive and it is easy for them to grow monotonous. You open the room, you see the scary sarcophagus, you open it, a monster pops out or a trap goes off if you havent checked it before, if its empty you check for double panels or whatever, you find the treasure, you move on. This is enjoyable but static. Hawk builds on this by throwing some wrenches in the mix.
First, those giant stone doors? They reseal in one turn. Second, the giant hallway (excellent ominous foreshadowing here btw) lit by glowing green witchlight and the skeleton of the two-crowned king is something you can reach quite easily. Dare you snatch that crown that is clearly within sight? You get the mother of all set piece combats with animating goblin skeletons and royal fucking guards (all of them mummies, this adventure LOVES cohorts of halbeard wearing mummies in ornate armor), the king starts whailing about him and throwing eye beams and the two statues at the bridge (remember) animate and start smashing the bridge. YEAH. How many did THAT just get?
There’s other interesting features too. The king’s fiance, locked in stasis, who can be freed if an obscene black rock is destroyed (which coincidentally makes everything in the tomb easier to turn, as the tomb exerts a penalty on TU attempts). There’s twin vampires. The roster is all standard undead but the way they are employed is just a bit meaner. What about pit traps filled with continual darkness with ghasts in them? YEAH. Hordes of mummy tomb guard animating if you try to destroy or plunder certain profane relics. The vampires are roaming and will actually stalk you in gaseous form and attack at inopportune moments like total assholes.
There’s a steady dripfeed of treasure with a giant stonking vault at the end. I was going to say something about how little of the treasure is hidden but this is actually false. The adventure will pull little tricks on you like opening a crypt and then there is a maggot ridden corpse inside, but below it will be some treasure. Or you will find a hidden compartment in one area if you press the right mural, stuff like that. Amounts are appropriately gigantic for an adventure of this calibre, but good fucking luck getting in and more importantly, out. Given the high level of the adventure, there are probably some cheese-attempts with Passwall, Teleport, Clairvoyance that sort of thing, and more power to you if this is true, because this thing does not pull any punches.
There’s little things that are easy to fuck up that Hawk did very well, like paying attention to the TU tables. By OSRIC rules, at levels 8-10, a cleric is going to be able to reliably turn MOST of the enemies in the tomb, but Spectres, Mummies and Vampires still have a chance to resist, and the -2 penalty imposed by the Black Rock actually makes them quite formidable. Little notes on the Hill Giant Skeletons and Heimfell the Twice Crowned on how they are turned. Its something that comes naturally if you play often and think about your adventure in terms of how it should be played. And great job on the atmosphere too. The content is good, but its easy to forget the little touches that make the adventure that much sharper.
Skull sitting on bed of platinum pieces (800), animates and begins laughing, intoning ‘Ha, ha
ha, haaaa! Your doom is at hand, your doom is at hand’. Repeats line louder and louder, check
for wandering monster each round. Skull is AC 7, 3 HP. Destroying it causes it to explode:
2D8 damage, 5′ radius
If this would have been included in the original batch it would have made Top 4. As is, I will be honored to include it as an extra bonus entry, brininging the total number of adventures in NAP II up to 11, a fitting number for the quality and bravery of its constituency. Great job.
This marks the true ending of NoArtpunkmas. Unless there are further objections?
29 thoughts on “[No-Artpunk] #0 Tomb of the Twice-Crowned King”
Penalties on Turning Undead in places of extreme evil seem fair to me, but better still if there is something you can destroy that removes (or lessens) that penalty. And Vampires actually stalking their prey? Sounds like an excellent offering.
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PRINCIANS WE NEED MORE OBJECTIONS
HOLY HAND DRAWN MAP BATMAN
This looks delightful and, agreed, definitely looks like a top entry. Delightful map. Strong adherence to premise/theme. Creative use of undead. Proper writing for level (I can only assume treasure is on the nose). What’s not to like?
Good entry from Hawk. Was the timestamp on the original email within specs? Will we get this as an 11th entry into the book?
Oh, wait…you already said this will go up to 11. Missed that part.
Good work, Hawk. Congrats!
Original email was all above board.
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I’ll never say no to a tomb.
Good to see you got it this time, the fickle digital gods gave it their blessing. Thanks for the review Prince, looking forward to seeing the final compendium.
I’m going to say that having re-read the top ten this afternoon, that this is in fact my favourite of all of the entries. That map is exceptional. Looking at it closely makes me want to know more.
Wow. This sounds amazing, the kind of tomb legends are made of. I like how this seems to allow for some of the cheesier tricks with Passwall, teleport, and what not, as it seems like a reward for smart play and proper planning rather than the cop out “you can’t do it because of X”
Nice work, Hawk, as usual!
This looks great Hawk! Can’t wait to read it!
The map aesthetic is excellent, all those trembling lines. It reminds me of the corgi 6-book Dragon Warriors RPG, which is the best introduction to gaming before trying to master AD&D, IMO.
I would like to see how this map designer evolved having studied Jaquays’ injection of the 3rd dimension into the two dimensional page. Could be verrrry nice.
wrt hooks: I wonder if there is a laziness to the notion of the AD&D tavern or pub, which has the air of the 20th century shopping mall for convenience. Let’s be clear, vast areas with sparse populations cannot support public houses. Travelling noblemen will lean on each other or religious houses, and varying cultures may or may not have cast iron hospitality laws for mundane strange travellers (for one or a few nights). Coaching Inns depended on roads and bridges which were maintained at great expense and controversy by local Noblemen (or not), and are very late in civilisation compared to AD&D. Ordinary travellers may die from exposure, thirst and starvation. This is why so many people *did not* travel more than a day’s journey from where they were born in olden times.
Bree’s Prancing Pony is another blatant example of what Gygax ‘didn’t’ purloin from Tolkien. It is a 17th century reality backdated, as it was for Tolkien, as was hobbiton. Rumour Festering Public-houses are a stalwart a DM would spend more time explaining to his players do not exist than the effort would be worth. And the advantages are tremendous emotionally.
It might be interesting to ask players, “to where do you debouch after your vile deleterious struggling underearth, given there is no such thing as ‘pub’ or ‘tavern’ or ‘inn’ and you are not noble born”
Maybe this is argument for the introduction of the Noble class in AD&D: Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, Thief, Noble.
Per Ye Old Internets, the oldest inn in England is certified as dating from 947 AD…hardly a 17th century invention (Wikipedia suggests “inns” might have originated in Roman times but, regardless, D&D seems set somewhere in the 10th-15th century).
Although I suppose Tolkien’s Third Age is supposed to be thousands o years before recorded history.
The Inn, ironically like the lack of a firmly implemented caste system, is a convenience. I’ve experimented with having players stay in a barn in settlements that are too small or remote have an inn but in the end you are still going to have PCs negotiating with someone or other for a place to sleep. Can’t get rumors at the tavern or boarding house? Then you get it from chatting up the locals at the marketplace. Or the public square after church.
I will agree a network of inns would require a sophisticated civilization to maintain. How did they handle matters in frontier towns in the Old West? This might be a useful analogy.
Kent’s last couple posts about nobility and inns are just further reminders that D&D was always a Western in medieval/Tolkien drag. There have been many attempts over the decades to do a more historically accurate fantasy rpg, from Chivalry & Sorcery in the 70s to Fantasy Wargaming in the 80s up to Tarnowski’s stuff (I assume based on what he says about it – I’ve never actually looked inside any of them) and none of them have ever caught on outside of a very narrow niche. An authentically historical fantasy game is something people think and claim that they want but in practice only a very few actually want it (what they really seem to want is just low-magic fantasy).
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I have admitted the convenience and cosiness of the The Prancing Ponies but in D&D they are more mechanically useful for plot hooks than atmospheric retreats. And it is one thing to strive for the authentic medieval misery and humdrum of The Cloister and the Hearth , and another to point out that many accepted medievalisms are cartoonish and that it is not wise to build your fantasy world on top of exhausted gaming tropes however convenient.
In my youth I did love the Inn but please, the Inn has been exhausted. I suggest if players are travelling blind then they don’t deserve even the comfort of a barn let them sleep in the ditch with Aragorn. On the other hand, what if they had to ingratiate themselves with the local privileged through roleplay (or deeds) and then lean on these to provide letters of accommodation for farther fields. That is how it was done, but you have to get at the wealthy in some way if you have no wealth. Alternatively approach the military with a proposition and exploit their resources. That is how it was done, ‘you scratch my back’. Not a damnable hotel one days ride from the stinking pits of the mother of all cliches.
Social class facilitates travel, and a party only needs one gentleman with some charisma. If you are a ragbag of ruffians then perhaps ethnicity might feature in the game when looking for hospitality, again requiring charisma. The life of the Outlaw, in Iceland in the 10th century or the US in the 19th, was utterly grim, forlorn, you were unlikely to be fed and always ended up dead. Without Inn-crutch, parties won’t explore wildernesses without due preparation. That is a good thing for gaming.
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And I have just had a new thought which is that a regular Joe with 18 Cha, a typical fighter who happens to have Cary Grant Charisma, could bypass the need for a noble character to acquire the special travel dispensations and luxuries. The ruling class everywhere is susceptible to raw charisma (and antagonistic!). The player would have to roleplay through the stages of his ascent.
I would love to prove my contention by conducting an average AD&D party to their deaths in a marshland which contained no Inn.
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Kent: I think you raise some excellent points here.
There are a lot of differences between a roadside establishment, a village “inn,” a town inn, and similar establishments in a large city. For that matter, there’s a world of difference between what folks in a different century (and/or culture!) might consider a “village.”
These things matter! Context matters! And part of EFFECTIVE world building considers this context. And, often, we (DMs, designers, writers) aren’t considering these things. One’s world shouldn’t be organized in cookie cutter fashion.
RE: Killing adventuring parties in the wilderness (sans Inn)
This is how I run my campaigns: roadside “inns” are extremely rare in wilderness areas…or even small villages. And my players have learned to provision where and when they can BEFORE setting off into the wilderness. A promising tomb/dungeon 3-4 days from town can be a WORLD away if it’s in the middle of a desert or marsh area…taking enough provisions for the roundtrip journey (including feed for horses, pack animals, etc.) cuts down on what can be carried IN (in terms of equipment) and OUT (in terms of treasure). Simply removing any friendly McDonalds-like establishments makes adventures far more adventurous (more challenging, more dangerous)…so long as the DM is willing to pay attention to real world logistics.
It’s quite entertaining.
I’ve often enjoyed daydreams of running such an adventure for a group of 5E players at a convention or some such, just to watch their poorly equipped and ill-prepared precious snowflakes starve to death on the journey (you can’t eat backstory, kids!). However, I *do* have some modicum of compassion for individuals whose main fault is having been taught the wrong way to play D&D.
== Jonathan Becker == Simply removing any friendly McDonalds-like establishments makes adventures far more adventurous (more challenging, more dangerous)…so long as the DM is willing to pay attention to real world logistics.
That’s the spirit. The DM has a responsibility to maintain AD&D as an enjoyable *game* after he does away with *overused* cut-n-paste crutches, which intrude from the modules on his design for an explorable environment.
If he does away with cosy Prancing Ponies, he is entirely responsibility for convincing players of his fresh approach, eg: that the sense of aristocratic patronage, appealing to the monied inheritors, might be exploited instead, and the DM must then provide sympathetic noble characters to be approached.
IMO, an AD&D DM who wants to sell off-script ideas has to go a little out of his way to make them appealing to players. This is easier when the DM is much more experienced (deeply read in Gygax) than the players because they are his friends, not other gamers. I always explain to players this is how 1970s AD&D, the best, is usually played but this is what interests me, do you see? In my case I don’t ask, do you agree? because they lack experience.
There is much about AD&D that seems stale after 40 years, this is usually easily brushed off dust but much has been spoiled by ugly mimicry and sheer repetition. AD&D was for a time fresh, and unlike magnificent antique furniture gaming material must remain fresh. By analogy, actors shouldn’t be constrained to act like Bogart in film noir 40 years later. Toughness changes, sexiness changes across four decades. I believe AD&D is the primal origin of the good in gaming, but the propaganda for literal AD&D from the1970s, now in 2022, as the spirit of Gygax is unconvincing. Gygax would have moved far from AD&D. As rock bands move away into mediocrity from their exalted primary records. But this movement from Gygax, as with rock bands, would have given those who love 1970s AD&D freedom to judge more harshly the original material.
It’s not that AD&D has grown “stale” after 40 years. It is as vibrant and full of rich possibility today as it was in the 1970s.
But WE…the folks who’ve been playing it for decades…have evolved. WE have changed: grown in experience, in knowledge, in maturity. The same game that satisfied us in our youth no longer suffices…unless it is imbued with a measure of the experience, knowledge, and maturity we have acquired over the years.
The authors whose works are cited in the vaunted Appendix N were writing fantastical stories drawn from their own (adult) interests, research, and experience. Together, they created a melange of “fantasy adventure” that inspired the initial authors/contributors/creators of D&D. Adventures and campaigns designed to ape these stories are little more than pastiche: whether your world is Tolkien-esque, Howard-ian, or some strange combo of the two A La Greyhawk/Krynn, etc. When you are a kid (by which I mean “under the age of 30”) such pastiche is fine…but there comes a point when it no longer satisfies. At which time you have multiple choices:
– find a new hobby (like writing your own fiction)
– cultivate a different type of “gameplay” (performance art like Critical Role, poseur posturing like ArtPunk, gamebreaking antagonism at the table, etc.)
– evolve your game to match your own level of development
For a dude like me that means looking more at what underlies those Appendix N stories (history, geography, culture, logistics, mythology) and building my own world using those foundational blocks.
The AD&D game…as written, as designed…still functions. The combat rules work, the magic rules work, the monsters and treasure are plentiful, etc. The game still WORKS to deliver a fantastic EXPERIENCE…which (in my final analysis) is the reason we play the game. But the CONTEXT of that experience (i.e. the imaginary campaign world in which our adventures take place) cannot be the same shallow relics of our youth: a village, an inn, a dungeon, a handful of quirky NPCs.
We realized this truth 10 years after we started playing (compare the situations in Gygax’s Gord novels…or even the Dragonlance books…with the situations found in Hommlet or the Keep on the Borderlands). But what MOST didn’t realize was that after 20 or 30 or 40 years you’d need ANOTHER shift. It’s not just about adding whores and profanity to your game world. It’s not slapping an “R” rating on your “PG” game. It’s about investing a deeper degree of care and thoughtfulness into the thing. Yes, you can still kill orcs. But in an AD&D game, these orcs need to come from somewhere…they are not just randomly spawned sprites like some video game.
If all someone wants is a video game, there are LOTS of video games.
I disagree with your assessment that AD&D, as a product of its time, is no longer “fresh.” The only thing stagnant about AD&D is our approach and perception of the thing. I don’t play it for novelty or nostalgia. Neither does my kid (who’s 11 years old). I play it because, done right, it is the absolute king of games.
Where do you get these nonsensical ideas, Kent?
“Inns developed in the ancient world wherever there was traveling for trading purposes. Ancient Persia’s extensive highway system featured inns. Along caravan routes, caravansaries appeared. These were placed approximately eight miles apart and were often constructed as forts with watchtowers. A smaller-scale structure, the khan, developed in towns.
Roman inns apparently were laid out in the same manner as ancient villas. Stables and accommodations for sleeping and eating were placed around one or more centralized courtyards. During the early Middle Ages, accommodations for travelers were usually to be found only in monasteries; but under the combined influence of the revival of commerce in the late medieval period, the Crusades, and an increase in the popularity of pilgrimages, lodging houses were built by monasteries, guilds, and private entrepreneurs.
In Great Britain inns numbered about 6,000 by the late 16th century.”
Kent— Surprisingly Good Film News For Everyone To Enjoy
a. Top Gun: Maverick – 2022 – KENT WATCH IT
I could have dismissed this for a thousand reasons, and I won’t slide them in, but as an old school 1980s film this is fun for all the family. Tom Cruise behaves more like a grown up than 99% of hollywood actors have his age in the last 4 decades and the youngsters are all fine actors IMO. The action is exhilarating which it should be. I won’t mention what I don’t like about this film because it is purely political and is irrelevant to the enjoyment of the film, in this case place politics below aesthetics.
b. The Black Hole – 1979 – Disney
Who has heard of this? 1979? This is beautiful. There is the 1956 Forbidden Planet, Kubricks 1969 2001, 1970s TV Blake’s 7. This is a beautiful film on the big screen, with extraordinary care taken to make future science plausible and exhilarating. IMO an avoided film.
The Black Hole is, indeed, an under appreciated film. Maximilian was immensely frightening as a child.
(Forbidden Planet is fun but I’ve never seen it on the big screen)
Top Gun Maverick probably had some of the worst interpersonal dynamics between Cruise and the lady I’ve seen as of yet but all the parts that it needed to do right, the tension, the buildup towards the mission, the vivid and pulse-pounding action scenes, were all incredibly well done.
Top Gun Maverick is on old-fashioned crowd pleaser, Tom Cruise seems to be one of those actors whose skills are improving with age. There is some elegy along with the exhilarating action. Who didn’t enjoy Maverick showing the mission could be done?
The Black Hole is nearly a very good film, with interesting themes. Contrary to what some critics say, the meaning of the ending is obvious. The trouble is that you end up caring more about VINCENT than any of the human characters; it has a good cast, so perhaps the directing was a bit off. The last half hour or so is somewhat uneven.
Forbidden Planet is an excellent adaptation of the Tempest.
The thing to remember with Tom Cruise is that he’s essentially considered a bodhisattva or living saint in his religion and for the last ~20 years has been living in a bubble surrounded and having his every whim and desire catered to by an army of disciples (or, less charitably, slaves) and I doubt he’s had much/any normal human contact outside of that context during that time, so yeah, he’s going to be a little weird when it comes to regular human interaction. The crazy over-the-top stunt stuff is part of that myth (it’s a tenet of his faith that his enlightened state literally gives him superhuman physical and mental capabilities), and the charismatic braggadocio is the public role he’s been playing and practicing at for decades (since Risky Business in 1983) and has honed to perfection (but from what I understand it is a role and his natural off-screen demeanor is actually introverted), but yeah, when it comes to acting like a low-key “regular” person, that’s something that he’s really had no direct experience with in a very long time, so it makes sense it would come off as forced and awkward. Still a good movie, though.
Trent said —- NYT edit style #1 – The Single Cut —–
The thing to remember with Tom Cruise is that his enlightened state literally gives him superhuman physical and mental capabilities