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Ason
2010-10-16, 03:52 PM
My players, stay out! If you recognize the scenario I'm about to describe, don't read my question- I want to keep the surprises intact.

The Situation: I recently found the 3.5 Tomb of Horrors module and will be DM-ing it this winter. Iím designing a fun and easy opening combat against a random necromancer before my players enter the dungeon as a way of helping them break in their characters and build confidence. The party will be composed of six level 9 characters (32 point buy, 40,000gp each): I don't know their builds yet, sadly. I'd expect some decent optimization, as even the guy who hasn't played 3.5 before knows D&D pretty well and should be getting optimization support from the rest of our gaming circle. However, I've never DM-ed 3.5 before and want to make sure I don't slaughter the PCs accidentally- hence, I turn to you all.

The Plotline: The exiles of Cyre have gathered to assault an aspiring necromancer who has made his base camp above the tomb. After years of investigation, Prince Oargev, the exiled monarch of Cyre, has concluded that the demilich Acererak is the key to discovering what truly occurred on the Day of Mourning, and his sources say that the monstrosity was last seen entering what locals call the Tomb of Horrors, a crypt near the border of the Mournlands. Mustering his forces, Prince Oargev is assaulting the necromancer aboveground to obtain more information, but the lord has offered further rewards and titles to any adventurers who can brave the awful dungeon to execute the undead wizard belowground. The party has accepted the deal and will meet for the first time in the pre-battle briefing tent. Since the Cyran army will be camped outside the tomb, the party will be able to retreat there at night to rest (i.e. between gaming sessions), but the army will offer no help to while they're inside.

The Question: (my players, leave now) Anyone have any advice for the necromancer battle? I envision the fight along some form of: the army contains the undead horde while the party enters the base camp, kills the necromancer's lieutenant who will be on patrol with some other undead, and then surprises the necromancer in his pavilion. I'm considering maybe Cleric 6/Bone Knight 3 for the necromancer (should I toss in some mooks?), and I'm thinking of a Skull Lord (MM5- CR7) with 6 Human Skeletons (CR 1/3) as the lieutenant. Can anyone tell me if this setup is too weak or strong? I am inexperienced with 3.5 CRs, so if any advice you can give would be much appreciated. I just want something that won't kill anyone (at least before they enter the tomb) but will still be fun for the party. Thank you!

Gavinfoxx
2010-10-16, 03:56 PM
Wait... you want them to survive the tomb of horrors?

The Tomb of Horrors makes nooo sense, in general. It's meant to be something not easy to survive, and full of obscure traps that break a sense of suspension of disbelief.

The 3.5e version just has the benefit of not arbitrarily killing characters, as all effects allow saving throws, and as such it is beatable by a decent amount of character builds....

Why exactly do you want to run Tomb of Horrors in a long term campaign? Creating it is totally NOT what an intelligent necromancer type character would be doing...

BeholderSlayer
2010-10-16, 04:20 PM
Make sure they load up on 10 foot poles and pool gold for a big herd of donkeys. Tomb of Horrors isn't that bad when you herd donkeys ahead of you.

sonofzeal
2010-10-16, 04:30 PM
Make sure they load up on 10 foot poles and pool gold for a big herd of donkeys. Tomb of Horrors isn't that bad when you herd donkeys ahead of you.
Real adventurers use eleven foot polls.

AslanCross
2010-10-16, 05:56 PM
You're running the Tomb of Horrors in the Mournland and expect them to survive? o_O Remember that they have no natural healing and that all Conjuration (healing) spells fail in the Mournland. Unless you mean it's actually outside the Mournland, I don't see how they're going to get that far.

Challenge Rating means a monster of that number will challenge (consume roughly 25% of the party's resources) a party of that level. As such, a 9th level party should actually be able to fight four CR 9 monsters (separately) in one day. Boss encounters should be higher than that (about as much as 5 over the party level).

Remember, however, that CR is not an exact science (even the Monster Manual says this), and it can have pretty ridiculous discrepancies. Compare a CR 10 Commoner (Commoner 20 due to nonassociated class levels) with a CR 10 Red Dragon, a CR 10 Wizard, a CR 10 Fighter, and a CR 10 Warblade. They're going to each play very differently and challenge a 10th level party in different ways (or not at all).

It's likely, however, that the dungeon will kill the PCs before they even fight your undead.

Ason
2010-10-16, 06:19 PM
Haha, I guess I should have clarified some. :smallbiggrin:

This isn't part of a campaign, and my players and I fully expect people to die. It's gonna be a one-shot adventure that we'll treat like a contest: when a PC dies, they get resurrected by the army and sent back in to catch up- player with the fewest deaths wins a prize. I just want a little mini-quest with some shambles of a plot that will get the group used to gaming with each other (it's been awhile since we've been together). Once they're in the tomb, they've been warned that it's gonna be awful and deadly- the infamy of this module is the main reason we've decided to run it. My goal is to not kill anyone OUTSIDE the tomb, but once they're INSIDE, I'll DM it in all its horribleness.

Also, it's will NOT be in the Mournland, just close to it (so I can say the army isn't helping because it's fending off threats from there). I'm not as sadistic as to put them through ToH without healing. :smalltongue:

Basically, the plan is: beat my silly little intro -> good feelings and solidarity all around -> begin the actual module by entering the tomb -> books start getting thrown at the DM as they discover why this tomb is so notorious.

Thanks for the advice everyone- it looks like I can splurge a few more goodies for the boss and maybe toss another encounter in there without killing them. Then, they enter Acererak's lair, and then PCs will start to fall like it's an Apple convention.

AslanCross
2010-10-17, 12:12 AM
That sounds like a pretty fun contest, then.

Remember that while humanoids with class levels can get pretty powerful, if they're alone they're pretty easy to take down if they get the short end of the initiative stick. Having lots of minions is going to help screen for them.

Eldariel
2010-10-17, 12:35 AM
I strongly suggest a straight Dread Necromancer 9-10. The class is in Heroes of Horror. That's the only true Necromancer-class in the game. There's also the option of one-level dipping Necromancer (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/classes/specialistWizardVariants.htm#necromancerVariants) Wizard for Enhanced Undead (for 2 extra HP per HD; the stat bonuses overlap). All the Undead (he's a Necromancer, of course he has Skeletal Underlings) under his command should preferably be made by him since Dread Necro-created Undead get some bonuses.

CR 1/3 Skeletons aren't gonna do much; give them few levels. Skeletons of lvl 3 Human Fighters could be much more interesting already. Besides, if the Dread Necro has used his Animate Dead to create them, it doesn't even count against the CR of the encounter since they're part of "him" far as encounter goes. The control limit is 2xhis level in HD. Remember that Undead HD are rather uninspiring so even lots of them wouldn't really be a problem in any sense except making them durable; which is good if they are to make the Dread Necro inaccessible by just being there.


So...yeah, straight Dread Necromancer 10 with a nice fat bunch of undead servants to kick butt and serve as a meatwall. Though if they're supposed to be a party of six (!!) level 9 characters, that means you could easily ramp it up and make him level 12. That adds lots of interest to the fight in form of the Enervating Touch-ability, and opens up Create Undead (and Waves of Exhaustion which is an excellent multitarget combat spell). Also note that Dread Necromancers gain a free improved familiar, e.g. Imp; those can make good use of Use Magic Device-skill, among other things, and could e.g. wield a Wand of Enervation and some negative energy stuff to work with the undead. Planar Binding in class with Cha as the casting ability also enables you to vindicate the presence of any outsiders you'd feel appropriate. Nabassu from Fiendish Codex I would be quite appropriate, for example.

JaronK
2010-10-17, 12:47 AM
Basic appropriate villain for this encounter: Dread Necromancer 12 with a decent swarm of undead (how about a few skeletal giants, plus some fliers and Necrosis Carnexes?). Perhaps he has learned to cast Black Sand with one of his Advanced Learnings, and has placed some of the sand (killing anyone with Black Sand permanently turns their body into the stuff, so he's got it permanently) in the boots of the various undead monsters. As such, they all heal 1d6 damage a round. Remember they all have +2HP/HD and +4 Str and Dex due to the Necromancer's power. They're all tough as nails to kill, but offensively aren't that nasty. The trick for the party will be to isolate and kill the DN and the supporting Carnexes, as after that the undead aren't controlled and thus aren't going to operate tactically, plus they won't heal as fast.

Anyway, it's a thought.

JaronK

Eldariel
2010-10-17, 01:10 AM
Also, you could give him Rapid Spell and a Rod of Twin Spell and have him cast Rapid Summon Undead V from his 6th level slot Twinned and getting 4 Allips; those things are awesome and nasty, especially when attacking from the walls in a Desecrated room while the PCs have plenty of other stuff to worry about :smallbiggrin:

Of course, Rod of Quicken Spell could work too.

EDIT: Obviously this means cramming Rapid Metamagic there somewhere.