The Tales from the Yawning Portal features 7 adventures that were "upgraded" from older editions. One of them is the famous Tomb of Horrors.

Now all other adventures in the book have a specific guidance on levels, only this one just says:

Only high-level characters will stand a chance to come back alive.

The old cover ("Dungeon Module S1") read

An adventure for characters level 10-14

So to keep the deadly experience, what is a good, "high-level" level? And how many characters are expected? The module certainly has a lot of level-dependent challenges. It has monsters, DCs, hit point damage. Is 10-14 in D&D 5 appropriate to keep the original, deadly experience?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If you are not familiar with the 5e ToH conversion, consider whether your answer is based on anything other than rank speculation please. If not, probably best not to answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 1, 2017 at 3:11

5 Answers 5


Best Estimate: levels 10–14

In Dungeon Magazine #213, April 2013 Chris Perkins published a conversion of the Tomb of Horrors for D&D Next.

From that magazine:


Tomb of Horrors

A D&D Next adventure for characters of levels 10–14 (with 4th Edition conversion notes for characters of levels 14–16)

By Gary Gygax

Adapted by Christopher Perkins

I went through the adaptation in Tales from the Yawning Portal and did a rough compare, and for the most part, it is a direct conversion. In some cases the original module has higher DC checks, or the traps do more damage; as befitting the D&D Next rules in play around that time. But the monsters are effectively the same.

I feel pretty safe saying you can use those levels as your guideline. Go a smidge lower if you want it to be harder.


The module itself does not state explicitly (that I have found) what level ToH was meant for, however, we can estimate based on a few factors to come up with a reasonable guess.

The original White Plume Mountain was 5-8 and it is now recommended to start it at 8th. Against the Giants was 8-12 and it is now recommended to start it at 11th.

P5 of the book also indicates that it is possible to run these as a "super campaign" even though they were never written to do so and would require some leg work on the part of the DM to connect them in some logical way.

What this all means is that with the starting of 10th recommended by the original and "IF" you combine them to a super campaign you would start ToH right after AtG, which would estimate about 14th or 15th. This would be an estimate on my experience with how converting some of the older modules and the XP earned in them has worked for me in the past and by what they have done to the modules from previous editions. I own all the originals so I can see where things have changed and have played every edition so the estimate should be pretty close.

You could get away with 10th if your players are very logical and detail oriented, but I personally would not submit characters of less than 12th level to this meat grinder unless I had reason to believe my players could think their way though it. You might also caveat before you begin play that there is a very real chance of dying and/or losing everything they have with little to no chance of getting resurrected or recouping their losses in some cases.

(I actually had a DM start us there in the original ToH at level 3, citing that since it was a "thinking person's dungeon" if we were smart we could get through it).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know much about tomb of horrors, but I would be more impressed by an answer that based it's level estimate on the CR of the encounters in the module. Does this module just not contain encounters? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Apr 29, 2017 at 21:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanB A number of Tomb of Horrors encounters are "Oh, you touch the wall? You die without a saving throw, leaving no body." It's not that there aren't traditional combat encounters as well, but the large amount of fatal content skews things harder than what normal 5e challenge rating estimation is designed to handle. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Apr 29, 2017 at 22:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, if we disregard the fatal content, what is the average CR of the traditional combat encounters? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Apr 29, 2017 at 23:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanB there are only a half dozen traditional combat encounters, the rest is puzzles and deadly traps and averaging the CR is sort of difficult given that certain circumstances modify the encounters themselves but strictly by tallying the CRs the average is about 7.5. The lowest is a trio of 1/4 CRs that can increase drastically if the players screw up and the highest is CR18. This is just for the monsters themselves and you will definitely not be at full resources when facing the CR18. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:52
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Acererak-style demiliches in their lair are CR23, not CR18. Still, that encounter is more of a trap, and savvy players can avoid it. \$\endgroup\$
    – r256
    May 1, 2017 at 17:06

5e characters, due to a number of factors, including bounded accuracy, limited magic items, and many spell buffs requiring concentration, are considerably less powerful than 1e characters of the same level. A challenge that was made for 10th-14th level 1e characters, I would estimate as being for at least 15th to 20th level characters from 5e. So the converted Tomb of Horrors might well be a good next adventure for, say, the survivors who completed Out of the Abyss.

  • \$\begingroup\$ maybe this is true at higher levels, it for sure is not at the lower levels of the game. A 5e 1st level wizard has A LOT more resources than a 1e wizard with his measly single spell per day, no cantrips, no super-powerful familiar etc. pp. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2022 at 19:23

Here's how I see it.

The 6th dungeon in Yawning Portal is Against the Giants, which recommends characters start at level 11 and gain a level after each of its three chapters, meaning characters in your campaign would be level 14 when they reach Tomb of Horrors.

However, if you look at the challenge ratings and XP offered by monsters in ToH, you see it's all a bit strange. For one thing, Tomb of Horrors is not a hack 'n slash, it's more of an experience dungeon, so there aren't that many creatures to fight. But the ones that are vary wildly in difficulty.

You have Greater Zombie and Siren, for example, meant for parties of levels 5 and 3 respectively

... they take some thought to beat, but they don't even compare to

the Mummy Lord that sits in the middle of the dungeon, let alone the frickin' Demilich at the end (which also has Trap Soul). The Demilich alone would wipe your entire party in three rounds if they went in at level 14.

The other weird thing about this dungeon is that even if your party does kill every creature, they'll each come away with about 15,000 XP gains, about 10,000 points short of leveling up to 15. There just aren't enough creatures in the dungeon to level up.

So what I intend to do when I run this dungeon is to beef up the encounters with more creatures of higher difficulty so that my level 14s do get that XP and hit lvl 15 by the end of the dungeon.

I will leave the demilich at the end of the dungeon though. He will almost certainly wipe the entire party unless they have the prescience to cast Deafness on themselves before the encounter (and how would they know to do that?) When he wipes them, he will of course trap their souls and they will go into his gems to die within 24 hours. However, I have a narrative save planned. After getting trapped in the gems, it seems to them they are floating around in infinity for a very long time, vaguely aware of themselves but losing grasp of the idea of their own existence. Suddenly, the soul delirium ends as without warning, they pop back into the Material Plane (and their old bodies) in an explosion of light and color. They are outside, laying on their backs in the broad daylight. They blink up into the sun to see Durnan standing over them with a warmaul. It turns out that Durnan has been following their adventures all along through a spying object that he gave the characters at the beginning. When they entered the Tomb of Horrors, he recognized the place from lore and knew the legend of Acererak. He set out to find them and rescue them and did so just in the nick of time, an hour before their time was up and they would have been lost forever. Defeating the demilich, he teleported up to the surface with the gems and smashed them, setting the players free. If the characters ask him how he defeated the demilich all by himself, he is vague about it. The truth is, Durnan is an Adult Gold Dragon who needs the help of some epic-level adventurers for a later epic-level quest I've planned, and it's in his interests to keep these adventurers alive until they gain enough knowledge and experience to help him.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. Please take the tour and visit the help center to see how our Q&A site works. Your answer is loaded with spoilers, so I dropped the spoily stuff into a spoiler box. At this site, we call for answer to answer the question as asked. The question wasn't asking how to modify the adventure, it was asking about Character Level. (Your point about the lead in from ATG's was a good one). \$\endgroup\$ May 23, 2017 at 19:24

One thing I found running it in 2e (as part of Return to the ToH, which needs levels 14-18 instead of 10-14) is that the dungeon is much less immediately deadly if characters have access to spells like time stop or contingency (linked to featherfall, say), or easy access to powerful divinations. So gauge your levels accordingly. Careful players may survive even at low levels; Hack and Slashers will die regardless of power.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site. Please take the tour as it's a useful introduction to how we work around here. Most notably is that we're a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. Answers here are required to answer the question asked. This really seems like it's trying to discus the topic rather than provide an actual answer so I've flagged it for possible deletion as such. But don't worry, you can always edit your post so that it does provide an answer if you like. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2017 at 1:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's not clear that this post answers the question posed, which is about the 5e conversion of ToH, found in Tales from the Yawning Portal. But it's completely possible that your last line is borne of 5e experience, which would make this a perfectly good answer. Please either make clear how this is an answer applicable to the 5e question, or consider deleting it. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Jul 1, 2017 at 3:12

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