Return to Undermountain05/18/2005

Room 6: Undeath Trap (EL 7)

Room Summary

Creatures: (1) One 5th-level aristocrat human ghost.
Traps: (Many) See below.
Terrain: Normal, but random trap activation in each square.
Lighting Conditions: Bright (due to the fire and lightning traps).
Magic: None except treasure (faint transmutation).
Detectable Alignments: None or moderate evil. The ghost is on the Ethereal Plane until she manifests.
Secrets: (2)The chest and its contents appear to be the treasure, but the chain that binds them is more valuable. Also, the corpse in the room hides the secret to permanently defeating the ghost.
Treasure: (5,535 gp) A jeweled chest worth worth 10 gp. Twenty gems worth 10 gp. A +1 adamantine spiked chain worth 5,325 gp.

Relevant Skill Checks

Appraise DC 12: This result allows a PC to appraise the gems or treasure chest correctly. Note that a PC cannot appraise the chest until within 5 feet due to distance and the traps going off in the room.

Disable Device DC 25: This result disables one of the traps in one of the squares of the room.

Intelligence DC 14: A PC who gets this result after studying the room can learn more about it as described in the fourth shaded box.

Intelligence DC 15: If a PC took note of the graffiti by a gnome in Room #1, she can recognize the ring found on the burnt bones as belonging to Sorci.

Knowledge (nobility and royalty) DC 15: A PC who gets this result recalls that the heart-shaped ring is symbol of the Laughmantles, a noble family that lived in Waterdeep briefly about 20 years ago. They left the city after a series of tragedies, including the disappearance of Sorci Laughmantle into Undermountain.

Open Locks DC 20: This result opens the lock on the treasure chest.

Search DC 10: Searching Sorci's remains and getting this result enables a PC to find her scorched brass ring shaped like a heart (worthless).

Strength DC 26: A Strength check this high allows a PC to break the spiked chain free of its mooring on the pillar.

Use Rope DC 14: A PC who attempts to untie the spiked chain on the treasure chest must succeed to this degree on a Use Rope check.

The Map

The map for this room is available in two different sizes: One serves as a reference for the DM, and the other is a map with a grid that works nicely with your miniatures.

Each map is presented as a compressed (zipped) Adobe Portable Document Format file (pdf). You need to have Adobe Reader installed to use it. Adobe Reader can be downloaded for free from the Adobe website.

As the characters approach the door to the room, read this text:

A cacophony comes from the closed stone door before you, and its sound grows louder as you approach. Grinding shrieks of metal contrast with staccato booms and crackling noises. It sounds as if a tremendous battle is taking place in the room beyond. In fact, a particularly close explosion shakes the door on its hinges, causing a cascade of dust to puff from its seams.

The sounds continue indefinitely. When the PCs open a door to the room (or look in by some other means), read the following text:

You peer into the room before you, and it resembles what an artist might depict when illustrating a layer of the Abyss. Jets of flame explode from the floor at random intervals and electricity crackles down from the ceiling to strike iron plates in the ground. Metal also whirls throughout the room as scythe blades and spikes project from the ceiling and floor and then whip away to hiding again. Amid all this chaos, a squat pillar stands in the rear of the room, and atop the pillar lies a jeweled chest. Great spiked chains bind the chest shut and tie it to the column. Below that, the roasted bones of some humanoid lie nearby, serving as a testament to the deadliness of the chamber.

The players will likely look for some pattern or trick to getting by the traps. If their PCs study the room for a while, read this:

Four different traps activate in each square of the room: spikes, scythes, fire, and lightning. Over the course of about 6 seconds, all four trap types activate once in a square, but their order or interval during that period is impossible to predict. You're certain no pattern exists to the traps' activation, but their random activation provides a measure of safety. Standing in place for too long would mean certain death, but if a person just keeps moving, it seems possible to avoid much of the danger. Also, there appears to be a safety zone immediately around the pillar. No traps affect a 5-foot radius area around it.

At this point, ask the PCs to make an Intelligence check. If a PC gets a 14 or more, read the following text:

After a quick mental calculation, you realize that someone moving through a square risks only one chance in three that a trap goes off. Multiple traps could go off at once, but such occurrences are very rare.

Halaster (see Return to Undermountain: An Introduction) designed this room as a vast trap to guard the treasure on the pillar. The fire, electricity, spikes, and scythe blades project at random intervals into each square. The bones by the pillar are all that remains of Sorci Laughmantle, now a ghost and one of the creatures in the room. Sorci isn't apparent at first glance (she is on the Ethereal Plane); she attacks once someone reaches for the treasure chest or the spiked chain (read Treasure below for a description of the chain).

This encounter is a puzzle encounter that can turn into an interesting fight. The players may devise a number of ways to get the chest from the room without entering it, and that's okay. The point is to get them to fight in the trapped room, not make them take tremendous damage getting to it.

Trying to lasso the chest won't work; the traps destroy the rope. Spells such as knock, open/close, and telekinesis might prove very useful in moving the chest. However, the spiked chain is the real treasure, and it is firmly bound by a ring set in the pillar that the PCs can't see from the door. PCs might also try to get rid of the traps in the room. They could attack the spikes and scythes or dispel each fire and electricity trap. This should swiftly prove too dangerous and time consuming to be a good solution. Disabling each of them is an even poorer option since a PC may get hit by one of the traps, thus disrupting his concentration on the task. Buffing up one PC with spells and sending her in or sending in a summoned monster is probably the best option.

Regardless of how the PCs proceed, the real encounter starts when someone stands near the pillar to either get at the chest or spiked chain.

Traps: Each time a character enters or flies above a 5-foot square in the room, roll 1d10 for each type of trap. Consider rolling four d10s, each of a different color and each representing a single type of trap. On a roll of a 1, the trap activates. If a character remains in a square or above one for an entire round, all four traps automatically activate. If more than one character is in a square or above it when a trap activates, the trap affects all the characters in the square. You must be in a trap's square to disable it. The effects of the traps are detailed below.

A trap that has activated once in a round should not activate again that round. Thus, if one PC passes through a square and gets attacked by the fire trap, that fire trap should not affect another PC that passes through the same square in the same round. You can keep track of this by remembering which trap activated and removing its d10 the next time you roll in that round. Although that might sound complicated, the rarity of trap activation and the attention surrounding it should make it easy.

Fire Trap: CR 2; mechanical and magical; location trigger; automatic reset; 4d6 fire, Reflex DC 11 for half damage; Search DC 0 (obvious); Disable Device DC 25.

The mechanism of this trap is magical, but the fire it produces is not. The trap is treated as a magic item with a caster level of 5th for the purpose of dispelling magic, and it must be the target of a targeted dispel for the spell to have an effect.

Electricity Trap: CR 2; mechanical and magical; location trigger; automatic reset; 4d6 electricity, Reflex DC 11 for half damage; Search DC 0 (obvious); Disable Device DC 25.

The mechanism of this trap is magical, but the electricity it produces is not. The trap is treated as a magic item with a caster level of 5th for the purpose of dispelling magic, and it must be the target of a targeted dispel for the spell to have an effect.

Scythe Trap: CR 1; mechanical; location trigger; automatic reset; Atk +8 melee (2d4/x4 slashing); Search DC 0 (obvious); Disable Device DC 25.

Spikes Trap: CR 1; mechanical; location trigger; automatic reset; Atk +10 melee (1d4 attacks per square for 1d4 piercing each); Search DC 0 (obvious); Disable Device DC 25.

Sorci Laughmantle: Sorci is the ghost of a 5th-level aristocrat. Use the statistics for the Ghostly Consort (41/60) from the Angelfire miniatures set. If you don't have that miniature, you could use the sample ghost from the Monster Manual (CR 7 instead of CR 6) or the Spectre (42/60) from the Deathknell miniatures set (CR 7 instead of CR 6).

Sorci manifests as soon as someone enters the safe zone around the pillar and reaches for the chest, or as soon as someone moves the chest or chain from the pillar. Her goal is to prevent the chest and spiked chain from leaving the room. So she attacks a PC near the pillar or any PC with the chest or spiked chain. Her best tactic might be to use malevolence to take control of a PC and use him to fight his allies. Sorci is heedless of the traps whether she is attacking incorporeally or using the body of a PC.

Sorci was a young noblewoman who ventured into Undermountain with friends on a lark. She died trying to get at the chest, and her friends wouldn't risk retrieving her body. Now she haunts the chest and spiked chain, attacking those who try to get at the treasure she desired in life.

Someone who searches her bones (DC 10 Search check) can find a scorched brass ring in the shape of a heart still around one of her fingers. A very clever player (or a PC who makes a DC 15 Intelligence check) might remember reading something about that in Room 1: The Bottom of the Well. Her gnome companion's writing on the wall in that room holds the secret to Sorci's permanent defeat: If someone simply says a prayer for Sorci while standing over her bones, she immediately disperses with a happy sigh and grateful look. If already defeated, this prevents Sorci from rejuvenating and seeking revenge on the PCs.

Treasure: The jeweled chest is a pretty fake. Its gems are merely cut glass, and it's worth 10 gp. Inside the chest is a leather bag filled with twenty gems of various colors. Each gem is flawed and worth only 10 gp.

The true treasure is a +1 adamantine spiked chain. The chain is wrapped around the chest and pillar several times, and an iron ring set in the pillar's back holds it in place. (A DC 14 Use Rope check unties the spiked chain.) Each spiky link of the chain bears a different word in Infernal that is a synonym for wound. When touched by a creature, the chain glows red and sheds light like a light spell. Halaster took this spiked chain from a chain devil named Hexatron, imprisoning the fiend elsewhere in the dungeon and using his weapon to bait the trapped room.

Adventure Hooks and Tie-Ins

  • The spiked chain once belonged to a chain devil named Hexatron. The PCs might meet him elsewhere in Undermountain, or he might come looking for his weapon.

  • You can increase the difficulty of the encounter by increasing the frequency of the trap activations. If you use d8s instead of d10s, a trap activates roughly 40% of the time, and multiple traps activate more often. Similarly, d6s cause at least one trap to activate 50% of the time a creature enters a square, and using d4s causes it to happen 70% of the time, with multiple traps activating being even more likely.

  • You can increase the difficulty of this encounter by putting the PCs' goal farther across a room.

  • You could use this trap room with a different encounter. You could use other incorporeal undead, such as shadows, or you could have the traps not be immediately visible and have a villain pull a lever that activates them as he flees the room.

  • The PCs might be asked by the Laughmantles to retrieve Sorci's remains. Alternatively, the remains might belong to someone the PCs know.

Need more information? Check the Return to Undermountain: An Introduction for more details.

Article Reference Map

About the Author

Once editor-in-chief of Dragon Magazine and now a game designer at Wizards of the Coast, Matthew Sernett wrote in a Dragon editorial that there's nothing in D&D he likes better than when the adventurers flee through the dungeon, running pell-mell through traps and past monsters because what chases them is worse. When he wrote that, Matthew was thinking about Undermountain.

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