Tag Archives: Deadly Dungeons

Deadly Dungeons 29: The Weathered Door

Weathered DoorOf late, I’ve been trying to work on creative tricks and traps which don’t rely quite so much on magic. Which isn’t to say I don’t like magic. A look back through previous deadly dungeons posts will show just how much I love the idea of insane wizards making fucked up nonsense because they don’t have anything better to do with their immense power. But I feel as though I’ve relied too heavily on magic as a crutch in my game design, so I’m trying to push myself to create interesting challenges which could be crafted by thieves, or primitive peoples.

This door will probably make the most sense if it is in a windswept, possibly sandy location. Somewhere that wood would be stripped without being damaged to the point of being structurally unsound.

This is a wooden double door. It is clearly dilapidated, the wood has deep grooves in it and splinters easily, but is still quite sturdy. Each of the two doors has horizontal metal handles. On each door, above the handles, are two vertical strips which are clearly discolored from the rest of the door. It’s obvious something was once there but is not any longer.

A cursory examination of the handles will reveal that there is blue paint on the parts of it which are protected from the weather. Closely examining the discolored vertical lines on the door will also reveal small flecks of blue paint there. They are small enough that a person would need good light to see them, and cannot be rushed.

If pulled, the handles do not open the door. In fact, they are not even connected to the door. They are instead fitted to small panels in the wood. These panels are well crafted enough that only a successful search roll will find them. Once removed, the panels release small gas canisters which instantly blast anyone standing within 5ft of the door, requiring them to make a save versus poison. Fortunately, this gas is very old and should have been replaced long ago. On a failed poison save, roll 1d6 to determine the effect:

  1. Death.
  2. A permanent 1d6 reduction of a random stat (roll 1d6).
  3. A permanent reduction of 1 to a random stat (roll 1d6).
  4. The character becomes violently ill, and becomes completely incapacitated for 2 weeks. After this time, no ill effects are suffered.
  5. The character spends 10 minutes being violently ill. The noise, and the smell, attract a nearby monster.
  6. The victim’s body actually reacts well to the aged poison, and they heal 1d6 damage.

If the characters instead turn the handles before pulling them–so that the horizontal handle is instead vertical, the panels will lock in place. This will allow characters to open the doors safely. The fact that the handles can turn is not immediately obvious, as the pivoting point has become jammed with debris. But once the characters decide to make an effort to turn the handle, it can be done with only minor difficulty.

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?

Deadly Dungeons 27: Undead Disposal Chamber

Undead Disposal ChamberThere are two entrances to this room, but the players are extremely unlikely to find the alternate entrance. It is usually obscured from view and out-of-the-way, intended to be found only by those it ensnares. It is much more likely that players will find the entrance to the termination chamber–a place this room’s designers enjoyed frequenting themselves to drink beer and laugh at the undead who fell into their trap.

In the center of the main room is a large pillar of green gelatin, with several dead bodies deteriorating within it. The stench of it fills the room with an acrid smell, like burning plastic. This pillar is completely and infallibly fatal to all undead creatures. Even a creature who can normally escape mundane destruction cannot escape the doom of the pillar. For example, if a lich were destroyed here, their phylactery (wherever it might be) would burst into flames.

Spaced around the pillar are four magically animated ropes, ending in lassos. They are attracted to movement, and will pounce like coiled snakes on anything which moves within the room. Those who are targeted must make a save v. palatalization, or be tangled by the lasso. Once tangled, the character must make a strength check each round to avoid being drawn 10′ closer to the pillar. The ropes have 15hp, are magically hardened, and self-repairing. They can only be damaged by slashing or cutting weapons (piercing or bludgeoning weapons are ineffective). The ropes ignore 2 points of damage from any attack, and heal 1d4 hp each round–even if completely severed. It is unlikely to come up, but the ropes are also partially ethereal, allowing them to tangle incorporeal creatures.

To the side of the room, a ramp leads down to a small secondary chamber with railings along the walls perpendicular to the ramp. (On my map, these are the north and south walls). Embedded in one wall is a skull carved from a massive ruby, with a strange black liquid flowing over its surface in defiance of gravity. Living creatures who stand in the presence of this object immediately become ill, and must make a saving throw versus poison or vomit on the spot. It is a powerful talisman of negative energy, and provides an irresistible draw to any undead creature which passes within 100 miles. Opposite this talisman is an iron door, standing open, leading out into a cave.

The floor of this room is a very sensitive pressure plate. Whenever it detects any weight, the iron door will close automatically, and seal itself until the room no longer detects weight. Once closed, the wall opposite the ramp will begin to move, forcing whatever is in the room to move out onto the ramp, and within range of the lassos.

The various devices and traps in these rooms are likely to give players a clear impression that the pillar of gelatin is deadly. However, this is only true if you’re an undead creature! For the living, the pillar produces mostly positive (if unpredictable) effects. Roll 2d6 for any living player who ends up inside the pillar:

2. The next time your character would die, they are instead returned to full health, with any of their ailments removed.

3. You, and every ally within 100ft of you, gain a +2 bonus to saving throws.

4.  The next time you would be level drained by an undead creature, you instead gain one level. This only works once.

5. Undead of 5 HD or less will always cower before you.

6. Your maximum hit points is permanently increased by 10 + your current level.

7. Any undead creature you touch (with your flesh, not your weapons) takes 1d8 damage. This damage is applied if undead deal damage to you with their hands / mouths / other body parts.

8. You become entirely immune to disease.

9. 8 hours of sleep will always be enough to completely restore your HP. It will not heal other ailments.

10. By giving an undead creature a hard stare, you force it to make a save versus magic at a -4 penalty, or cower before you.

11. You begin to age in reverse. You will regress back to 15 years of age (one year at a time), then switch back to normal aging again. There are no negative physical or mental effects of the age regression.

12. Undead creatures who touch you must make a save versus magic or be destroyed. You still take damage as normal, but suffer no ill effects from the creature’s powers or abilities. Note that there is no effect if you touch the undead. They must touch you of their own volition.

An unfortunate side effect of the gelatin is that it produces cancerous tumors in living subjects. Fortunately, these tumors grow very slowly, and will take 100 years to kill someone. Each subsequent use of the pillar after the first, however, divides the number of years by 4. (25 on second use, 6.25 years on third use, 1.5 years for the third use, and so on). It is left to the GM’s imagination what toll the cancer should take on the player.

Deadly Dungeons 26: Bugaboos

BugaboosAside from the single door through which the players entered, this circular room is completely featureless. Its only occupant is a swarm of plum-sized, multicolored insects buzzing about in a massive swarm. These insects produce a lot of noise, but don’t do much of anything else. It’s rather strange, actually. The swarm doesn’t react to the entrance of players, nor to the open door. Even if a player were to leap into the midst of them and waves her arms around, the bugs would just flit around her as though she were not there.

There are blue, yellow, green, red, violet, orange, teal, and lime colored insects in the swarm. These colors have no meaning. They are an obfuscation. Also, dungeons are not colorful enough.

The colors of the insects will be noticed at first glance, but it requires a moment of examination to notice that many of the insects bear aberrant features. Some have unusually large eyes, others have massive teeth, a few have tails, lots of them have stingers–though they will not sting, even if pestered by aforementioned arm-waving adventurer.

Attacking the tiny, fast moving creatures with a conventional weapon is a nigh impossible task. They have an effective armor of 24*. Catching them is actually much easier. Attempting to grab one with your hand requires an attack roll against armor 18*. If either of these attempts misses by 5 or less, it is a simple miss. If they fail by 6 or more, then the player hit/caught one, it just wasn’t the one they intended. Roll on the chart below to determine which. If the players use a jar or bag and sweep it through the swarm, they will catch 1d2 of the creatures without fail, but what they catch will be random. If they use a proper net, they’ll capture 3d6 creatures, but again it shall be random.

The aberrant features of each creature correlate to an effect. The moment they are damaged or captured, they will pop into a cloud of dust, and that dust will reform into whatever the bug’s type calls for.

1-2. Normal: No effect.
3. Bulging Eyes: A door appears on the wall. If there is nowhere for the door to go, then either a corridor is created leading to another part of the dungeon, or the door becomes a permanent, two-way portal to a random dungeon location. (50/50 chance that it is a location already explored, or a new location the players haven’t found yet). The GM may choose whichever option fucks up their map the least. Note that this is not a secret door. It does not exist before the bulging eyed bug is caught, and thus cannot be discovered before then.
4-6. Large Mouth & Teeth: The dust reforms into a monster from the random encounter table for this area.
7-9. Stinger: A trap appears, and is immediately sprung on the players. It could be a pit trap, or an arrow trap, or a collapsing ceiling, or whatever the GM fancies.
10. Tail: A chest appears, with treasure inside of it!

Note that this is only a very basic sampling of what might be present in the room. If the GM so chooses, there could be drooling bugs which create fountains with a random magical effect; bat-winged bugs which reverse the room’s gravity; bird-winged bugs which cause all of the adventurer’s gear to become animated and attack them; bugs with legs which grant the players a blessing; or bugs with a contented smile on their faces which grant enlightenment. As with everything in the game, the possibilities are quite endless.

*This is based off LotFP rules, of course. Pathfinder players would want to bump those numbers up significantly, while players of games with descending AC would want to drop them quite a bit. The idea is that this is a puzzle which a fighter is best suited to solve. There are many rooms which are best suited to a magic user, or cleric, or specialist/thief. I thought it would be nice if there was a puzzle which required a character to have really good to-hit rolls.

Deadly Dungeons 25: Mind and Body Passage

Deadly Dungeons, Mind and Body Passage by LSA medium sized room with a flagstone floor. It could potentially contain any variety of set dressings. It could be an audience chamber, or a library, or whatever else is appropriate for the dungeon. However, the task may confuse players if the path between the two secret doors is blocked by anything large.

Two of the flagstones in this room are pressure plates. Each player walking through the room has a 1-in-20 chance of stepping on one of them. Any players who perform a task in the room which would require more movement than simply passing through, have a 1-in-6 chance to activate one of the flagstones. If a flagstone is stepped on, a secret door opens in the wall roughly 15ft away. This door remains open only so long as the flagstone is held down, and will close if the person standing on it steps off.

Inside of each secret room is a monster. The type of monster is not terribly important, though a construct or undead may be the most thematically appropriate. As I imagine it, the same type of monster exists in both rooms. However, if you wished to play to the room’s theme, you might put a brute of a monster in the “body” room, and a cunning or spellcasting monster in the “mind” room.

Regardless of what monster is used, a new one appears in the secret room each time the door is closed. So if a player steps on the pressure plate, releases the monster, and steps off the pressure plate to fight it; then when the player returns to the pressure plate to open the door again, another monster identical to the first will be released. The pressure plate can be held down by any small object weighing at least 50lb (it must have a base small enough that its weight isn’t distributed to other flagstones). An iron spike would also suffice.

Both secret rooms are small, only 10x10ft, and aside from their monsters, they have only one distinguishing feature. On the back wall of the rightmost room is a strawberry-sized, ceramic human brain, painted pink and grey. On the back wall of the leftmost room is a ceramic human man with a muscular frame, and a large cavity in the back of his head. Players who have already discovered and examined the “brain room” will notice that the cavity on the back of the figure’s head is just about the same size as the brain. (Though, of course, both rooms must be discovered interdependently of one another. So players who find this little man may not know a properly sized brain is nearby).

If either ceramic piece is pulled upon by anyone, it easily comes free of the wall, and the puller will discover that it is attached to a strong, steel cord. If the object is released, the ceramic cord will reel back into the wall, pulling the object back into its place.

The cord unreels easily enough, until the object reaches the doorway of the secret room. Once here, players will find themselves completely unable to pull the cord another inch unless they meet the appropriate ability score prerequisite. Only players with a Constitution of 12 or greater can pull the figure of the man’s body beyond the doorway. Likewise, the brain can only be removed from its room by players with an Intelligence score of 12 or greater. If need be, a player who does not meet these ability score prerequisites can hold one of the objects to prevent it from reeling back into its room, but it will require all of their strength to do so.

If the party manages to pull the two pieces together, and place the brain inside of the body, then the cords will disappear, and the tiny man will drop to the floor and come alive. From seemingly nowhere, he will pull out a grappling hook, and throw it up through a hole in the ceiling (which before that moment was solid stone). He will then scramble up the rope, and out of sight, leaving the party alone with the rope leading up into a secret passage.

OPTIONAL: The tiny man steals something of value from whoever was nearest to it at the moment it came alive, and flees with that object through the passage. When the party encounters him again, they will discover that despite his tiny size he is incredibly strong, and brilliantly intelligent.

Not every party will be able to solve this room. Regard that as a feature, or as a bug, as you will.

Note that one of this room’s benefits is that it (eventually) produces an positive result from the normally deadly blunder of stepping on a pressure plate. In future, players will be forced to wonder whether the pressure plates they encounter ought to be avoided entirely, or experimented with.

Deadly Dungeons 24: Pools of Dimensionally Attuning Paint

ColorpoolRoomSo your players have fallen down a pit. Maybe they spun the stone disk in The Flippy Turny Fally Room. Maybe they came upon their fate some other way. What matters is that you don’t want the pit to be terribly deadly, but you would like the pit to present the players with new challenges.

The fall from the room above has the players skidding out of control down a twisting, greased chute. Suddenly, it branches into three paths, and the players become separated from one another. Have each player roll 1d6 for their characters, with hirelings and animal companions rolled separately. The results of their rolls determine which of the three chutes they careen into, and consequently, which pool of colored paint they land in a moment later.

1-2, Blue
3-4, Pink
5-6, Yellow

The paint is thick, goopy, and very difficult to get off. Otherwise, the players appear to be unharmed. As they regroup and make to examine their surrounding, note that the only exit from the room is a “brightly colored door.” This phrasing is important, because each player will see a door which matches the color of the paint they fell into. If the players are clever, they will ask specifically what color the door is, and the GM should reveal this tidbit of information. If the players don’t think to ask for details, though, they’ll be taken by surprise by what happens next.

The door opens normally, and regardless of what color paint the players fell into, the room beyond looks the same to all of them. It is empty and nonthreatening, with a single exit. However, once a player walks through the door, they are sorted into one of three parallel pocket dimensions, associated with their color. Each pocket dimension consists of only a handful of rooms (perhaps 3-5, not including the first room which is identical across all three dimensions). A Wall of Force prevents anyone who has walked through the door from walking back into the paint pool room.

The party has been forced to split, and whatever oddball groups of players have ended up together must face the next few challenges alone. As GM, be sure to note any hirelings or animal companions who are separated from their employers / masters, as the fighter’s squire will probably be much less willing to help the creepy old wizard.

Note that if the players discover the trick before entering the room, they will likely try to keep the party together either by having everyone dunk themselves in the same color, or by having everyone clean themselves. The latter should be difficult and take quite a long time, but both should work. If the players do succeed in cleaning themselves, roll randomly to determine which of the three paths they’ll go through.

REMINDER: The second annual Papers & Pencils reader survey is currently open! Please take a moment to fill it out.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...