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The gates are open! Kickstart Dungeon Delver’s Guide now!

Tue, 08/30/2022 - 15:04

It’s happening!

Dungeon Delver’s Guide is now available to Kickstart! If you back it today, you’ll have the PDF in your hands in a month.

I’ve been working and testing Dungeon Delver’s Guide for years and I think it advances the state of the art of D&D dungeons. It lets you prepare a dungeon fast, or even run it on the fly, and still have it feel like you worked on it all week. Plus it’s stuffed with DM/GM goodies like traps, magic items, and monsters, and player goodies like new equipment and stats to play as my beloved ratlings.

Go forth and delve!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

grappling in 6e

Fri, 08/19/2022 - 13:08

D&D 6th edition (or One D&D) (or 5.5?) is a go! You can get the first playtest packet here.

Although the packet ranges over races and feats and more, while reading the packet, I laser focused on one thing: the new grappling rules. Partly because I’m not that interested in dnd races and partly because, as a frequent DM and monster designer, grappling is one of the rulesets that I’ll actually need to know. Plus grappling is one of the areas in the playtest packet with lots of sneaky changes from 5e.

For old-school players, grappling is a bit of a joke, synonymous with “needless complexity.” If a 1st edition or 3rd edition fighter player announces he is grappling a monster, everyone at the table groans. Every D&D edition reinvents grappling, trying to fix the broken or inadequate design of the last. 6e continues that trend.

Designing grapple rules is tough! For one thing, most people have a good visceral idea of how unarmed combat works, so you need to stay somewhat true to reality. For another thing, grappling is something you can do any time you want – in 4e parlance, it’s an at-will power. You can’t declare that people can grapple only x times per long rest. That means it needs to be perfectly balanced with melee attacks. You can’t make it weak or it will never get used (or only get used as part of an annoying specialized character build using special feats). You can’t make it too strong or all the melee classes will use it every turn, which changes D&D combat in a bonkers way.

In my opinion, grapple is a bit on the weak side in 5e, without the addition of special character abilities to back it up. In 6e, have they hit the mark? I’m not sure without more playtesting, but I’m leaning towards “this looks pretty fun.”

The 5e Rules

In 5e, you initiate a grapple by making a Str (Athlethics) check contested by the target’s Str (Athletics) or Dex (Acrobatics) check. Then, to escape, a creature must use its action to repeat this contest. That means that, especially at high levels where proficiency bonuses get high, a grappler who is trained in Athletics is at a huge advantage against someone who is untrained. Most monster are never going to escape from a creature with proficiency (or god forbid expertise) in athletics. They’d be dumb to even try, since it uses up their action to do so. HOWEVER, being grappled doesn’t really do much on its own, except stop a creature from moving away from their grappler.

The 6e Rules

In 6e, everything about grappling has changed! It’s now an attack roll just like any other: an unarmed melee attack, with proficiency bonus, against a monster’s AC. On a hit, the monster is grappled.

The effect of grappling has changed too. It used to just restrict movement. Now a grappled creature makes all attacks with disadvantage, EXCEPT those against their grappler. Grappling now has a huge effect compared to 5e, where being grappled was really not a big deal. It’s very reminiscent of the 4th Edition fighter’s Mark ability, which incentivized monsters to attack the fighter.

At first blush, this seems too powerful. A fighter or monk with a super high Armor Class can grapple a creature and then tank very effectively, putting a serious debuff on the enemy while using their high AC to avoid the monster’s attacks. Imagine locking down a legendary monster or other boss this way! Since you can grapple a creature one size larger, a Medium fighter can grapple some pretty big adversaries.

However, this big boost to grapple comes with a big nerf. Whereas in 5e you had to use up your action to try to escape, in 6e it’s now something that you can do automatically at the end of your turn, after taking your normal actions. And it’s a Str or Dex saving throw instead of an opposed check. That’s a big advantage to the grappled creature. They don’t need to waste their turn to escape a grapple, AND more creatures (and characters?) have a Str or Dex saving throw proficiency than are trained in Athletics or Acrobatics. AND, since it’s a saving throw, legendary creatures can succeed automatically using legendary resistance (assuming legendary resistance is unchanged in 6e.)

Taken all in all, it’s an interesting change. Grapple is faster and easier to use (just an attack roll instead of a fairly complicated opposed roll that’s unlike the rest of D&D’s combat rules). Its bite is worse: at the least, it probably means a turn of attacks with disadvantage. And it’s harder to lock someone into a permanent grapple, so it seems less abusable.

Of course, the devil is in the details. Will other abilities built on top of it – like monk abilities – make it too powerful? We’ll see.

Of interest to fans of grappling: the playtest packet also includes the Tavern Brawler feat, which we should check for grappling synergy. Nope, nothing there that breaks grappling wide open. Tavern Brawler has two features about punching, one about shoving, and one about using furniture as weapons. We’ll have to wait to see if there’s an updated Grappler feat.

When should I grapple?

Assuming I’m a tanky character with high HP and/or AC, when should I grapple? Always? Sometimes? Never?

It seems to depend on your level and number of opponents. At level one, you’re giving up your only attack, so the reward (shutting down one enemy’s movement and nerfing their attacks for at least one turn) better be worth it. You only want to do this if you’re fighting a single opponent, or a boss monster that makes up most of the combat’s threat. You’re not going to want to give up your turn to grapple one of three identical goblins.

At high level, grappling looks more and more attractive. If you’re a fighter or monk with three or more per turn, you’re only giving up 1/3 or less of your damage output in exchange for shutting down an enemy. (And grappling is specifically written as part of the Unarmed Strike rules, making me think you’ll be able to do it as part of a Flurry of Blows.) As long as you can find a boss foe that’s small enough to grapple, it becomes a better and better deal. It might even be worth doing against a non-boss foe: it’s probably worth a single one of your attacks to basically remove an enemy from the fight, especially if you have driven your AC to astronomical heights (pretty easy at high level). Added to that, your grapple might become more and more effective as you gain levels. Your proficiency bonus keeps climbing as you gain levels, and monsters that aren’t proficient in Dex or Str saves are going to have a difficult time escaping you.

So that’s a worry. Grapple looks fun and fairly balanced at low level, but will it become a no-brainer at high level?

One more question: Can multiple creatures grapple you at once? I have this question in 5e too actually, but it becomes more important in 6e where grappling has more of a mechanical effect.

A fighter faces a horde of goblins. They try to pin him down with weight of numbers, using multiple grapples. Once a goblin has grappled the fighter, can a second goblin do so? If so, against whom does the fighter have disadvantage: everyone? Everyone but the two grappling goblins?

Not sure of the answers to these questions, but I’m excited for a playtest.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeon Delver’s Guide kickstarter imminent!

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 15:02

I’ve been talking a bit about my book Dungeon Delver’s Guide which is being published by EN Publishing. Well, it’s done and the kickstarter is launching later this month!

Get notified on launch!


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeon Delver’s Guide: The NODES System

Fri, 07/22/2022 - 20:14

(I’m crossposting this post about my Dungeon Delver’s Guide from enworld, because why not have all my D&D theorycrafting writing together on my D&D blog? The original article is here.)

You’ve baited your story hooks. You’ve got your dungeon map. Now what do you put in all those rooms?

Creating an adventure’s worth of interesting features at once can be challenging. You may encounter writer’s block, or find yourself filling each area with repetitive challenges. (A dungeon where every room contains hostile monsters is one of the most common ruts to get stuck in!) In these cases, it can be helpful to have a checklist to make sure you have varied adventure elements: something for the puzzle solver, something for the story lover, something for the combat fan, and so on.

In Dungeon Delver’s Guide, we introduce a new tool for adventure design: the NODES system. Although we apply it to dungeons in this book, it’s applicable for any type of adventure design. Your scenario comes alive when it’s filled with Novelties, Obstacles, Discoveries, Escalations, and Set-pieces.

Quick-Start Dungeons

You can create a short dungeon delve with a classic structure by using the NODES elements in the order they appear in the mnemonic. Start with your mind-blowing Novelty in room one; show the characters an Obstacle; let them look around and find a Discovery that lets them bypass the obstacle; Escalate the action; and finish it up with a Set Piece. This will give you a complete dungeon that takes about one session to play through. This same pattern can be used to structure adventures outside the dungeon as well!

Novelties

Novelty is the driving force of tabletop RPGs. Every dungeon should offer something that the players haven’t seen before in the campaign, or a twist on a familiar idea. (Don’t worry: your dungeon idea doesn’t have to be totally original—just new to your game table.)

One of the best ways to introduce novelty into your game is with a fantastic vista.

  • Grand scale. Dungeons are usually cramped, and it’s nice to give breathing room to an important area by placing it against a huge backdrop. Give your players a view of vast caverns, endless corridors, subterranean oceans, and towering spires.
  • Dizzying depths. Chasms are great, especially when spanned by narrow bridges. What’s at the bottom? Blackness? Twinkling lights of unknown origin? Glowing lava?
  • Light. Darkness is the default state underground, which makes light an even more effective tool. Bright, colored lights are a great aid to the imagination. Fill rooms with phosphorescent moss, glowing crystals, blazing braziers, dancing motes of fairy light, or stranger light sources like strobing lightning flashes from an underground storm, or the distant, burning skeleton of an immense giant. Large, bright spaces are especially welcome after long journeys through dark, constricted tunnels.
  • Violation of natural laws. Examples include Escher-like altered gravity, with furniture, stairs, and doors on the walls and ceiling; objects slowed or frozen in time, like unmoving torch flames; underground wilderness, such as forests; weather, such as snow or mist; and spell effects, like fly and detect thoughts, applied to all who enter.
  • Art. Memorable, large-scale artwork, such as tapestries, carvings, and statues, are a dungeon classic for a reason (particularly statues, which can also be monsters in their own right or signs of nearby medusas). Magical artwork, like illusions, can be even more spectacular. The most memorable dungeon art is the most unsettling! Why is there a mosaic of a hero being devoured by stirges, or a statue of a creepy clown whose juggling balls are suspended motionless in the air?
  • Strange materials. Dungeons or dungeon sections made of bones, stained glass, flesh, or walls of force.

    We’ve stuffed Dungeon Delver’s Guide with enough novelties and inspirations to keep your players’ minds blown throughout many campaigns.

    Obstacles

    Obstacles are non-combat challenges that block the way forward. They may require characters to think critically, pay a cost, or even retrace their steps and come back later.

    There are several good reasons to include obstacles in your dungeon design:

  • Obstacles help you direct the flow of the adventure. For instance, if the evil lieutenant holds the key to the boss’s room, you can prompt (although not control) the order in which the two enemies are encountered.
  • Obstacles whet the appetite. Players are like cats. They want to go anywhere they’re not supposed to go. By placing an obstacle, you provide direction and a short-term goal.
  • Overcoming obstacles is fun! When players outsmart a puzzle, dodge a trap, or find the elusive key to that mysterious stone door, they feel good. And “it’s fun” is the best reason for including anything in an adventure.

    As a general rule, every obstacle should allow multiple solutions. Consider what happens to the adventure if the players don’t think of a puzzle’s clever solution. They should be able to bypass it or use brute force to solve it, usually at a cost. Perhaps ignoring the puzzle deprives characters of bonus treasure, or forces them to walk through a trap and risk damage. But they shouldn’t run up against a wall that prevents them from proceeding with the adventure.

    The most common types of obstacles are locks, puzzles, and traps. In a previous post, we’ve shared our traps with you. We also cover puzzles in great detail in the book, and you’ll find plenty of example puzzles in Dungeon Delver’s Guide, as well as discussion about what makes a good puzzle—and what types of puzzles don’t work as well as you’d expect. But today I want to focus on the use of the most mundane form of obstacle: the locked door.

    A locked door is a perfect example of an obstacle with many solutions. While there may be only one key to a lock, there are countless ways to get past a door! Characters can pick the lock if they are willing to risk traps, bash it down if they don’t mind attracting attention, and use spells like knock and dimension door if they’re willing to spend spell slots. That said, it’s good form to include at least one key for nearly every lock in the adventure.

    Whenever you place a locked door in the dungeon, add an item to your mental to-do list: “I need to place the key.” The next time you add a patrol or treasure, or the next time you’re adding a Discovery from the NODES checklist, think, “Maybe this is where I should put that key.” For instance, in the Traps section of Dungeon Delver’s Guide, many trap descriptions say that they guard a minor treasure. If you know the players are looking for a key, you can put it on the body of the thief at the bottom of the pit trap.

    When possible, a key should visually refer to its lock. Even if players encountered the lock a long time ago, the key should remind them of it—and vice versa. Here are some possibilities:

  • Lock: A bronze door engraved with a stag’s head. Key: A key carved of horn.
  • Lock: A mithral door enameled with green vines. Key: A mithral key with a head shaped like a leaf.
  • Lock: A black door set in the mouth of a giant skull. Key: A bone key set with literal teeth.
  • Lock: A door shaped like a shield. Key: A key that resembles a sword.
  • Lock: A keyhole shaped like an hourglass. Key: A sandstone key with the same peculiar shape.

    In the Random Dungeon Delves section of DDG, we include many dozens of unique locks and keys, each specific to the type of dungeon it appears in.

    Discoveries

    In the NODES dungeon framework, “obstacles” and “discoveries”—-problems and solutions—-often go hand in hand. A discovery is something that makes traversing the dungeon easier or is a reward for its own sake, like treasure. The most common types of discoveries are keys, treasure, social interaction, and secrets. While we cover each of these in more detail in DDG, let’s focus today on one of my favorites: social interaction.

    Many dungeons are lonely places without many opportunities to develop relationships or chat with locals. In my opinion, that’s often a missed opportunity. Of all the potential discoveries found within a dungeon, creatures willing to talk are perhaps the most compelling. For many players, navigating a web of social interactions and relationships is the essence of an RPG experience. Even players that prefer fighting and puzzle-solving might find non-combat encounters breathe life into a dungeon. An adventure’s stakes are always heightened if it includes NPCs that the party cares about. Furthermore, social interactions often have material benefits: creatures in the dungeon can provide information about enemies and treasure, places to hide, and new goals and quests.

    Social interactions are rewarding in and of themselves, and they turn what can be an empty-feeling dungeon environment into a living place. A potential ally, an enemy willing to talk, or an untrustworthy entity proposing a deal can provide narrative juice, motivation, and meaning that enhances the rest of the dungeon.

    Each of our dungeon generators provides specific prompts for social interactions. For instance, in a temple, you might run into a splinter group with beliefs considered heretical by the temple’s other inhabitants. Depending on the nature of those beliefs, the heretics might be potential allies or even more dangerous adversaries.

    Escalation

    Escalation demonstrates and heightens the danger of the dungeon. In an escalation scene, players discover that defeat is closer than they realized.

    Dungeons, even more than most adventures, benefit from a steady increase in tension and perceived danger over the course of the delve. The first room or two of the dungeon whets the party’s appetite and entices them in: as they travel further from the entrance—and possibly descend to deeper dungeon levels—they should face increasing dangers that demonstrate new and shocking ways that the dungeon can kill or endanger them. These threats often culminate in an epic action set piece (which we’ll discuss more later).

    Escalation scenes are the advancing clock that drives this tension.

    The most common type of escalation is an encounter with hostile creatures. A combat encounter drains hit points, spell slots, and other resources; can signal entry into a more dangerous area; and, if enemies escape or sound the alarm, can lead to a raised alert level throughout the dungeon. Furthermore, each combat has its own self-contained time limit: you must kill or defeat your enemies before they do the same to you!

    Using noncombat events to escalate tension enriches an adventure. Noncombat escalations can include failing a Stealth roll and setting off an alarm (for instance, coming within sight of sentries, or accidentally knocking over a pile of pots and pans), becoming aware of a time limit (for instance, overhearing that prisoners are to be executed at nightfall), entering a more dangerous area (such as the well-patrolled inner sanctum of the dungeon’s main adversary), or spending resources (having to use up a high-level spell slot to bypass an obstacle). It might also involve a social encounter (for instance, sweet-talking your way past guards, but arousing their suspicions).

    You can manage the pacing of a dungeon adventure by feel, having things generally get harder as the adventure goes on. If you place greater challenges and harder combats further from the dungeon entrance, the characters naturally encounter heightened dangers as they move forward.

    Alternatively, you can have the dungeon respond directly to the character’s explorations—growing more dangerous as the characters set off traps and alarms. Dungeon Delver’s Guide uses an escalation clock mechanic (based on the countdown dice pool from Level Up’s Adventurers’ Guide) to measure a bastion’s alert level or the time left until the evil cultists’ ritual is complete. As the countdown advances, each combat encounter includes extra monsters, or a monster is replaced with a tougher one. When the countdown reaches zero, the dungeon’s toughest monsters come looking for the adventurers!

    Here’s what an escalation table might look like:

    Example Escalation Table

    4 All’s Well. Guards make Perception checks with disadvantage (they’re sleeping, playing poker, etc). No checks for random encounters.

    3 Suspicions Aroused. Guards make Perception checks normally. Adventurers make disguise and Deception checks with disadvantage. Check for sentry patrols when the players spend more than 10 minutes in an area.

    2 This is Not a Drill. Guards peer into the shadows with weapons drawn. Doors are locked. Check for sentry patrols when players enter an empty room or corridor.

    1 Red Alert. Caltrops and other booby traps have been deployed. Guards make Perception checks with advantage. Sentry patrols contain double the number of creatures.

    0 All-Out War. Large sentry groups, headed by the dungeon leader’s strongest lieutenants, roam the halls. Doors are locked and barricaded. Sentries yell or bang gongs to summon reinforcements.

    Set Pieces

    While an escalation scene offers a glimpse of danger, a set piece is a battle, chase, or other action scene with a real chance of failure. It’s often the climactic scene in a dungeon or dungeon level, and success often means the characters have reached their goal. For instance, triumphing in a set piece battle might allow characters to descend to the next level of the dungeon (or escape it), defeat the evil creatures menacing the area, or free the prisoners they are searching for.

    If you’re rushing to prepare a dungeon for an upcoming game session, the most valuable way you can spend your time is to plan the set pieces. They are likely to be the most interesting and memorable scenes in the dungeon. In fact, a good low-preparation dungeon creation strategy is to plan out one or two set piece battles and improvise or randomly generate the rest using Dungeon Delver’s Guide random dungeon delve system.

    Set piece design is a big topic, one that we spend a lot of time on! Besides advice, we have about fifty set piece frameworks, each with varied levels of difficulty based on the dungeon level.

    In many dungeons, the most elaborate scenes are big combat set-pieces featuring the dungeon’s boss or miniboss. And in fact, most of our set pieces are combat-based. But Dungeon Delver’s Guide also includes templates and examples for a number of types of non-combat set pieces: chases, tense social scenes, and puzzles or skill-based challenges that offer unique mechanics. The one I’ll highlight here is the elite trap.

    An elite trap is an active threat that attacks over several rounds: it functions more like a combat than a puzzle. When players get locked in a room that slowly fills with water, or are forced to flee from a pursuing sphere of annihilation, they discover that the dungeon is more dangerous than they had realized.

    An elite trap can be a satisfying climax to an adventure. The garbage disposal scene was the climax of the Death Star dungeon delve in Star Wars: A New Hope, and most of the dungeons in the Indiana Jones movies conclude with an elite trap set piece. In Dungeon Delver’s Guide, the Collapsing Dungeon trap is designed to be a dramatic set piece trap that contains a chase element. We’ll share several of our elite traps in another preview.

    Hopefully we’ve given you a taste of what the Dungeon Delver’s Guide’s NODES system has to offer. There’s lots more in the book, including lots of dungeon-building advice; fifty pages or so of story-driven, NODES-based dungeon generation tables; and eight mini-adventures built around the same principles.

    Thanks for coming along with us on a look through this book. Let us know what you’d like to see next!

  • Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Dungeon Delver’s Guide: It’s a Trap!

    Fri, 06/17/2022 - 13:24

    I want to share a post I wrote for enworld: “It’s a Trap”, an adapted excerpt from Dungeon Delver’s Guide, which I’m writing for EN Publishing. It’s a continuation of my thoughts I’ve posted on my blog here.

    Check out “It’s a Trap” here, or, if you don’t feel like clicking, just read it below.

    It’s a Trap!

    In EN Publishing’s upcoming Dungeon Delver’s Guide, we’re giving you every tool you need to build story-driven, atmospheric dungeons. And that means we have got to get traps right. Today I want to share the book’s trap-building philosophy, along with a few of the more than a hundred traps you’ll get when you Kickstart the book later this year.

    Traps are a defining characteristic of dungeons. But too often, they feel like an arbitrary tax on the characters’ hit points. Done poorly, traps cause play to bog down as paranoid players poke and prod every door and passageway for unseen dangers. For these reasons, GMs and Narrators are often advised to use traps sparingly, or even steer clear of them entirely.

    Throw that advice out the window!

    Making choices and exploring the unknown are what make a dungeon fun. Telling players that their passive Perception has caused them to trigger, or avoid, a trap offers them neither choice nor the opportunity to explore. Traps are most fun after they’re discovered but before they’ve been neutralized. Should the rogue disarm the device? Should the wizard cast a spell? What does that inviting-looking lever do? With uncertain but probably dire outcomes on the line, every success and failure feels earned.

    Just as combat tests both a character’s abilities and their player’s tactical skill, good traps allow for multiple solutions. A character invested in high Perception and Investigation, trap-specific abilities, and a set of thieves’ tools should be able to disarm any trap they encounter. At the same time, a clever player should be able to bypass the same trap simply by paying attention to their surroundings and playing a hunch.

    Making a Dungeon Delver’s Guide-style trap is pretty simple to do. You can make traps fair and fun if you remember to telegraph every trap.

    Telegraphing Traps

    Players can’t see through their characters’ eyes or hear through their ears. As the Narrator, it falls on you to supply them with the information they need to make choices for their characters.

    Besides the sensory information your descriptions provide, the level of detail you offer gives your players valuable information. The more details you lavish on a given location, the more important that location seems. This can work against you, such as when the players read too much into an offhand detail and as a result waste time investigating a random piece of furniture. But you can make it work to your advantage, as well. An area containing a trap or other hidden feature should be described with specificity, so that your players know it’s intended as a location they should explore, and not just an empty space that needs to be traversed on their way from A to B.

    If possible, a location’s details should relate to the trap that it conceals. You don’t need to give so much information that you completely reveal the trap, but you should offer enough that the players can make the connection after the fact. If a trap has claimed the lives of previous explorers, there may be bones or other remains nearby—possibly charred if the trap creates a fiery explosion. If the dungeon’s denizens know how to avoid a trap, or need to visit it frequently to reset it, they may leave footprints. A trail of footprints that ends abruptly tells another story entirely! A good clue instills caution and increases tension, but doesn’t necessarily tell the players how to proceed. Instead, it asks a question: what do you do next?

    What happens if you don’t telegraph danger in any way? Players learn that every location, no matter how seemingly insignificant, might harbor another such trap. Thus, their only sensible course of action is to examine every door, room feature, and length of hallway. The game can become a slow-paced grind.

    Solving a Trap

    Once a trap has been discovered, the real fun begins. How can the adventurers bypass the trap without triggering it?

    Nearly every trap can be disabled with an appropriate ability check or two: characters with thieves’ tools proficiency, high Perception scores, and trap-sensing class features will get their chances to shine. Many traps can also be bypassed or disabled without a check. For example, pressing a hidden button might automatically disable a deadly device. Similarly, a character might use mage hand or a 10-foot pole to trigger a trap from a distance, staying clear of the trap’s range.

    Our traps’ descriptions specify actions and spells that let a creature automatically avoid a trap’s dangers. Players might also think of other ways to bypass a trap. Based on how appropriate the solution is, you can decide that it doesn’t work, requires a check, or automatically succeeds. For instance, the description for a hidden pit trap lists avoiding or bridging the pit among its possible solutions. Casting fly and floating over the trap isn’t mentioned, but such a solution should automatically succeed. Walking over the pit on a tightrope, on the other hand, might require an Acrobatics check.

    Want to try out some Dungeon Delver’s Guide traps? Here are some examples. These use Level Up’s Exploration Challenge format. To run them, you need to know the following:

    Every ability check made while investigating or disarming a trap uses the DCs listed at the top of the trap description. The number before the slash is for solo checks, while the number after the slash is for group checks.

    Attempting to disarm a trap can result in a critical success or a critical failure. A roll of 1, or a group check in which everyone fails, is a critical failure, while a roll of 20, or a group check in which everyone succeeds, is a critical success.

    The italicized text, the description of the room, is the “telegraph”—the hint that something might not be quite right. You can read this text aloud or paraphrase it.

    Reverse Gravity Trap

    1st tier (constructed trap)

    Challenge 4 (1,100 XP); DC 15/14

    The walls are covered with floor-to-ceiling bookcases. On the ceiling, metal spikes hang down like icicles.

    Gravity is reversed in this room. An unsecured creature or object that enters the room triggers a Failure. (Note: If this room contains creatures, they stand on the ceiling.)

    Exploration. A Perception check or an examination of the bookshelves reveals that the books are shelved upside down against the tops of their shelves. The ceiling is 30 feet high. The bookshelves look easy to climb.

    Books. As an action, a creature can make an Arcana or Investigation check to scan the bookshelves. On a success, the creature notices a spellbook (containing levitate or another 2nd-level spell) on a shelf across the room.

    Spell Effect. This is a transmutation effect created by a 7th-level spell. A successful dispel magic disables the trap.

    Possible Solutions

    A creature can make an Athletics or Acrobatics check to climb along the bookcases. The check is made with advantage if the creature is upside down (i.e. right side up relative to the room’s gravity).

    Critical Failure or Failure.
    The creature or object falls to the ceiling. Creatures that can levitate or fly don’t fall. The room’s ceiling is 30 feet high, so a creature that falls from the floor takes 10 (3d6) bludgeoning damage from the fall. A creature that takes falling damage also takes 10 (3d6) piercing damage from the spikes on the ceiling.

    Once on the ceiling, a creature can move around the spikes safely but treats the area as difficult terrain.

    Success or Critical Success. The creature moves through the room safely until the end of its turn.

    Reverse Gravity Trap Variant: Random Gravity Trap

    This room is identical in appearance to the Reverse Gravity Trap except that it has an upside-down door on the wall adjoining the ceiling.

    Roll initiative. Each round on initiative count 20, gravity reverses direction. Each unsecured creature and object in the room when gravity changes falls up or down, as appropriate. Creatures take falling damage and spike damage when falling up, and falling damage only when falling down. A creature holding onto the bookshelves when gravity reverses must make a Dexterity saving throw or lose its grip.

    Once a creature has noticed the location of the spellbook, the next two successful Arcana or Investigation checks reveal the locations of other valuable books, each containing a spell, information, or a Boon or Discovery.

    Sword Guardian Trap

    2nd tier (constructed trap)

    Challenge 6 (2,300 XP); DC 16/14

    A black metal statue stands in the middle of a hallway. The statue depicts a woman with four arms and the lower body of a snake. The statue holds swords in three of her hands; the fourth holds out a basket in your direction.

    Pressure plates cover the floor within 5 feet of the side and rear of the statue. Stepping on a pressure plate or jostling the statue triggers a Failure. The pressure plates are disabled while the basket holds at least 10 pounds of weight.

    Floor. An Engineering or Investigation check, or an examination of the floor, reveals that the floor next to and behind the statue is composed of pressure plates. The statue can be approached safely from the front.

    Statue. Any investigation of the statue reveals that the words “Pay Your Respects” are engraved at the bottom of the basket. A character that makes an Arcana or Religion check recognizes the statue as a marilith, a type of demon. An Investigation check, or an examination of the statue, reveals that the marilith has articulated arms.

    The statue is an object with AC 19, 75 hit points, and immunity to cold, lightning, fire, piercing, poison, and psychic damage. Damaging the statue without destroying it outright triggers a Critical Failure.

    Possible Solutions

    A creature can make a thieves’ tools check to disable one pressure plate or one of the statue’s arms.

    A creature can make a Strength check to break one pressure plate or one of the statue’s arms.

    Critical Failure. The statue makes three melee attacks, each with a different arm. Each arm attacks with a +7 bonus, has a reach of 10 feet, and deals 9 (2d8) slashing damage on a hit.

    Failure. As a Critical Failure, but only one arm attacks.

    Success. One pressure plate or one arm is disabled. Disabling three pressure plates or arms triggers a Critical Success.

    Critical Success. The trap is disabled.

    Sword Guardian Variant: Sword Guardian Riddler

    The message at the bottom of the sword guardian’s bowl is a riddle. An appropriate item placed in the bowl disables the trap; other items do not.

    “Golden head bearing a crown, golden tail up or down.” The trap is disabled if one or more gold coins is placed in the bowl.

    “Born in fire, formed in water, polished silver, end in slaughter.” The trap is disabled if a weapon made of iron or steel is placed in the bowl.

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