Warning: The following material introduces a new section of the Tomb of Horrors, and is meant for the eyes of the Dungeon Master. If you are planning to play through this adventure in the role of a hero, you are strongly advised to stop reading now!
Few villains throughout the history of the Dungeons & Dragons
game have a legacy as daunting as that of Acererak the demilich. From the earliest days of the game, tales of his lair have spread throughout populations of bold characters and fascinated players alike. It was a short adventure that first introduced Acererak and his penchant for fiendish traps, but that adventure’s name has lived on throughout every incarnation of the game. You know it, of course, as Gary Gygax’s original Tomb of Horrors
It’s time to bring Acererak’s legacy to today’s gamers.
The 4th Edition Tomb of Horrors is not a simple conversion of the original adventure. Why not? In addition to the fact that many players are familiar with the original adventure in one way or another, the game play and design aesthetics of the game have evolved over the various editions; it would be doing both the 4th Edition game and the original adventure a disservice for us to simply convert the latter to the former and call it a day.
Instead, this adventure involves the characters in Acererak’s ongoing schemes, exploring not one but three other “tombs of horror,” created by the demilich for his own inscrutable purposes. Like the 2nd Edition game’s boxed set Return to the Tomb of Horrors by Bruce R. Cordell, this adventure builds on Acererak’s legacy and finds inspiration in the original.
We hope we’ve done a good enough job that you, your players, and their characters—those who survive—will agree that we’ve created something worthy of the "Tomb of Horrors" title.
Over the coming weeks, we'll showcase an encounter from each of the adventure's chapters. This week, Chapter 3: Skull City.
Skeletal faces in the crumbling black wall seem to watch you as you approach. A great gate of bone, long collapsed, reveals a sprawling ruin of shattered buildings. Sinkholes have torn the city apart, belching smoke and lightning to the sky. Near the city’s center, a great hill rises like a barrow mound; at its base, an enormous shattered skull sits wreathed in black flame.
Founded by an order of necromancers and raised around the site of the legendary Tomb of Horrors, Skull City was never a part of Acererak’s overall plan for power. The demilich made good use of the enclave and its inhabitants as long as it suited him—only to disown them and the tomb as his new plans for godhood took shape. The city, the Abandoned Tomb, and the secrets it holds are instrumental in the characters’ fight against the demilich.
If you want to play "Skull City" as a stand-alone adventure, you might use the following option to integrate it into your own campaign:
The Tomb of Horrors is an abandoned and cleaned-out ruin in your campaign, but the characters hear rumors regarding a legendary magic blade called Ruinblade still hidden there. A mission to Skull City and the tomb reveals that the sword exists, but that it is in the hands of the archwraith Moghadam.