Deadly Dungeons 28: Ladder Conundrum

LadderCrankIf it isn’t clear, this is a vertical map. Also it is not to scale.

The first thing the players are liable to notice in this room is the crank. It’s large, with a bit of rope wrapped around it. The end of the rope disappears into a hole in the floor. If the players choose to look around, they’ll discover a fairly obvious trap door. It’s much too small for a human, or even a halfling, to fit through, and there is no easy means of opening it. (Though a bit of prying will yield results).

If the players are able to screw up their courage to fiddle with the mysterious crank, and turn it, it will pull more rope out of the ground. Simultaneously, a ladder will begin to rise from beneath the trap door. The ladder is made of wood, and wobbles a little, but will not break unless put through undue stress.

The crank can be turned until the top rung of the ladder reaches a height of 200 ft–just high enough for it to be equal with a small alcove high on the wall which leads to other areas of the dungeon.

Unfortunately, while this alcove is normally open, turning the crank below causes a heavy sliding door to descend from the ceiling. This door has no handholds, and is flush with the walls around it. Players on the top rung of the ladder will find no purchase for a grappling hook. And lifting the 300lb door while standing on the top rung of the ladder would be a feat of exceptional difficulty.

The door and the ladder move relative to one another, so that the door is not completely open until the ladder is all of the way down, and it is not all the way closed until the ladder is extended to it’s maximum height. The door, however, is only 6ft tall. So when the ladder is at half-height (100ft), the door will only be open 3ft; when the ladder is at three-quarters height (150ft), the door will only be open 1.5ft; etc.

I’m curious to experiment with this room. It clearly works best as a low level challenge, since high level characters will have access to spells and ability which will make overcoming this room child’s play. However, I honestly can’t think of a good way for 1st or 2nd level characters to overcome this challenge.

Anybody have any ideas?

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6 thoughts on “Deadly Dungeons 28: Ladder Conundrum”

  1. Assuming the bottom of the door isn’t sharpened, and the party has a good deal of rope, I’d toss a grappling hook up to the open doorway, then raise the ladder to clamp down on the rope.

    Then, I’d have the party’s climby person climb up the ladder and get purchase with the trapped grappling hook before slowly lowering the ladder. Assuming the hook is fairly wide, by the time the door is high enough to release the hook, said climby person should be able to shimmy underneath. If not, they should at least be able to hang from the ledge until there is room.

  2. Crank up ladder, saw off ladder, place to the side. Crank down ladder mechanism so that door above opens. Secure ladder against ground somehow, climb up.

    This assumes that the mechanism is not sophisticated enough to be able to distinguish between the lower part of the machine having a ladder and not having a ladder (a simple pulley-based system probably wouldn’t be that sophisticated, if you are thinking about this as a mechanical device).

    The challenge could be made a bit more difficult if the ladder was made of iron.

    Non destructive solution: use the ladder to drive in pitons at regular intervals on the wall, and attach ropes (as this could be done while the upper door is closed). This will depend on what the walls are made of, but should be possible with stone I think (making some noise in the process.

    Being strict about light radii would make this more mysterious, too, so that the ladder just extends up into the darkness 30′ above the PCs (at least, the first time they mess with it).

  3. Fingers for a small creature are going to be about 3/16 of an inch high, so sending up one of these to the top of the ladder and have them put their fingers in as the ladder descends. Remember you stated the ladder goes all the way to the alcove and so to open the door one inch will require the ladder to drop less than 3 feet, about the height of a small creature. This means the ladder can be dropped about half the height of the small creature so they can have their fingers inside the door way. The biggest issue will be hanging on until the ladder drops far enough to allow them to pull them-self up and crawl inside.

  4. Depending on who/what was in the group there’s also the option of supernatural aid, of a sort.

    A Druid with an animal companion who could provide for the occasion, such as a spider for a silken line to climb or some such, could help with that room.

    With the room being 200′ up to the alcove (with anything beyond 30′ shrouded in dim light then darkness), it becomes quite the dangerous task as any fall from ten feet on incurs damage. Hrm.. If the party is able to leave this room and come back to it later, they could bring in their own equipment to scale the distance (as the above poster mentioned).

    The sliding door; what’s it made of? Would it be possible to punch a small hole through it with a drill or drilling tool (even a dagger spun with a bit of twine), in order to hook something into it or loop a bit of rope through to hang down? Does it slide into the socket with enough force to destroy anything that wouldn’t fit in? Just spitballing, here.. I’d like to think it’s a simple enough solution, but my players were stymied by a territorial beetle yesterday and didn’t think of anything besides killing it. :\

  5. If they can tell it’s a door (and not just a part of the wall), then extend the ladder, hammer a couple of pitons into the wall below the alcove, hang on to it, have someone below bring the ladder back down, climb up, and lower a rope for the others. Or, make a Disable Device check (depending on what game you’re playing, I guess) to decouple the door from the ladder mechanism. It’s a good challenge but not impossible, which makes it a fine idea.

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