As the characters approach the door to the room, read this text:
The sounds continue indefinitely. When the PCs open a door to the room (or look in by some other means), read the following text:
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:
At this point, ask the PCs to make an Intelligence check. If a PC gets a 14 or more, read the following text:
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
Need more information? Check the Return to Undermountain: An Introduction for more details.
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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