Return to Undermountain07/13/2005


Room 9: The Lanceboard (EL 11)



Room Summary

Creatures: (30) Twenty Medium animated objects, ten Large animated objects.
Traps: None.
Terrain: Normal.
Lighting Conditions: Darkness. The descriptions assume the party carries a sunrod or a continual lightspell. Modify the description if their vision would have a shorter range.
Magic: Faint transmutation (queen's crown). Faint divination (king's crown).
Detectable Alignments: None.
Secrets: (1)The statues animate and attack creatures entering the board.
Treasure: (9,700 gp) Circlet of persuasion and a crown of comprehend languages and read magic (see helm of comprehend languages and read magic).

Relevant Skill Checks

Spot DC 10: Both the king and queen wear golden crowns.

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.

Room Location on the Poster Map: This room is on pieces 1, 2, 4, and 5 of the poster map. You can see the pieces in thumbnail size in the introduction to this series. For a better idea of where this room is, please view the Article Reference Map.

If the PCs enter the room from the north, read this text:

You open the door to this low-ceilinged room and are confronted by a host of statues. Immediately in front of you is a large stone carving of the back of a large chair or throne. To either side of the chair ride wand-bearing robed men on horseback, their stony mounts also rearing toward the opposite side of the room. Beyond the mounted wizards stand squat representations of magnificent castles, each almost 8 feet wide and 10 feet tall. Before all five of these figures stands a rank of stone soldiers, also facing the far side of the room. All of the statues are made of glistening black marble.

Looking toward what they face, you see a host of similar statues carved of white marble, though you can see that a king sits on the throne, and rather than wizards, knights ride the horses.

The floor in the entire room is divided up into 10-foot squares of black and white. Obviously, this room is set up as some kind of lanceboard or chess game, but everything is mixed up. If it's chess, the board is too narrow, there are too many pawns, and the ships are missing. If it's lanceboard, there should be just four knights, one champion, and a queen per side, and the black pieces and squares should be red.

Two exits lead from the room. One lies beyond the king. The other is a door to the right of one of the white rooks.

The throne whose back faces the PCs contains a queen.

If the PCs enter the room from the south, read this text:

You open the door to this low-ceilinged room and are confronted by a host of statues. Immediately in front of you is a large stone carving of the back of a large chair or throne. To either side of the throne ride armored men on horseback, their stony mounts also rearing toward the opposite side of the room. Beyond the knights stand squat representations of magnificent castles, each almost 8 feet wide and 10 feet tall. Before all five of these figures stands a rank of stone soldiers, also facing the far side of the room. All of the statues are made of glistening white marble.

Looking toward what they face, you see a host of similar statues carved of black marble, though you can see that a queen sits on the throne, and rather than knights, robed wizards ride the horses.

The floor in the entire room is divided up into 10-foot squares of black and white. Obviously, this room is set up as some kind of lanceboard or chess game, but everything is mixed up. If it's chess, the board is too narrow, there are too many pawns, and the ships are missing. If it's lanceboard, there should be just four knights, one champion, and a queen per side, and the black pieces and squares should be red.

There appear to be two exits from the room. One lies beyond the queen. The other is a door to the left behind one of the white rooks.

Show the players the map so they can better understand the layout of the room and the pieces and ask them to make a Spot check to notice the golden crowns as described in the Relevant Checks sidebar. Describe the chess pieces in as much detail as you wish.

This room was set up by Halaster as an amusement. The whole room is a deadly trap that's difficult to circumvent. All the statues are animated objects that follow specific instructions, and all are enchanted with true seeing. The Lanceboard follows some basic rules, and the pieces follow rules particular to their type.

The ceiling in the room is just 10 feet high, allowing any animated object to attack a flying or climbing foe.

  • When a creature enters the room, a random animated object on the far side moves to attack, following its rules for movement and attacking as described below. Each round thereafter, another animated object on the opposite side moves to attack. Unlike chess, the animated objects will move through one another's squares (following the normal rules for moving through an allied square), and they can move in any direction so long as they follow the rules for their movement as described below. If an additional creature enters the room, another animated object moves to attack, but this does not cause an additional animated object to activate each round. Animated objects attack the nearest intruder they can reach, regardless of who caused one to be animated.

  • Animated objects cannot charge or double move.

  • The statues on the PC's side of the board do not animate so long as a PC or allied creature avoids moving back toward that side. Whenever an intruding creature does move back toward the side it came from, a random animated object from that side moves to attack.

  • If a nonactivated animated object is damaged, it animates and moves to attack -- unless no intruder is in the room, in which case it remains still and benefits from fast healing (see below).

  • An animated object on its starting square has fast healing 10.

  • Once all intruders leave the room, the animated objects return to their starting squares.

  • Animated objects do not leave the room.

  • All the animated objects are magically restored (even if destroyed or carried off) after 1 hour without intrusion. The only way to stop this is to take the crown from the king or queen. Taking the queen's crown prevents the black pieces from being restored. Taking the king's crown prevents the white pieces from being restored.

What's Lanceboard?

Lanceboard is a variant of chess popular on the Sword Coast. It uses a board 7 squares long and 5 squares wide made of red and white squares. The goal of lanceboard is to get your queen to the other side of the board. Play progresses fast and furious and, as with chess, many variants of lanceboard exist.

Set Up: Each player has one queen that starts in the middle square of the nearest rank on the narrow side. Each player also has four knights and one champion. These are arranged as the player sees fit in the second rank from that player's starting side. The player of the white pieces places his knights and champion first.

Play: Once the player of the red pieces places all of his knights and champions, the player of the white pieces begins play with the first move, and play progresses with each player taking a turn by moving one piece.

Knights: Knights move like knights in chess (essentially a knight moves along an L-shaped path and it can jump over other pieces in its path). When a knight ends its move in an enemy knight or champion's square, the enemy is turned backward to indicate it has taken a hit, and the enemy knight or champion slides back toward its starting side by one square. If a piece occupies that space, the enemy knight or champion is eliminated. Knights and champions can take two hits before being eliminated.

Knights that end their move in the enemy queen's square take the queen captive. The queen remains with the capturing knight, moving with him until that knight is eliminated. Once the knight is eliminated, the queen is placed in any free square adjacent to the knight or champion that freed her.

Champions: Champions follow the same rules as knights, but they immediately eliminate any knight or champion they land on.

Queens: Queens move like bishops in chess (in other words, they move any number of squares along a diagonal path) except they cannot enter an enemy's square. The most popular variant of lanceboard allows the queen to move like the queen does in chess (which is a straight, horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line).

King/Queen (K or Q, respectively): As Large animated object (Monster Manual, page 13) but it has a speed of 60 feet, 10-foot reach, and hardness 8. The king and queen carry the treasure (the crowns). Their crowns are built in and cannot be removed without first destroying the animated objects.

Knight/Wizard (W): As Large animated object (Monster Manual, page 13) but it has a speed of 40 feet, 5-foot reach, and hardness 8. It cannot attack diagonally adjacent foes. Move it largely like a knight in chess, but deviate when necessary.

Rook (R): As Large animated object (Monster Manual, page 13) but it has a speed of 60 feet, 10-foot reach, trample (Large or smaller creatures), and hardness 10. It cannot attack diagonally. It cannot move diagonally.

Pawn (P): As Medium animated object (Monster Manual, page 13) but it has a speed of 10 feet and hardness 8. It can attack only foes that stand in an adjacent square that is diagonal from it. It can move diagonally only if the body of an intruder lies in the square.

Treasure: The king wears a crown of comprehend languages and read magic (same as a helm of comprehend languages and read magic), and the queen wears the circlet of persuasion.

Adventure Hooks and Tie-Ins

  • The lanceboard is a famous room in Undermountain. The PCs might have heard tales of it that give them some hint about how it works, or all the stories may differ enough that the PCs have very little idea what to expect when they find it. In the past, the lanceboard was trapped with spells and summoned monsters so maybe the PCs know only of those legends.

  • Perhaps one of the animated objects is the animated statue of a petrified friend of the PCs. Perhaps if they are looking for someone in the dungeons, the king or queen is actually the person they seek.

  • You can make this encounter more like chess by increasing the squares in the room and including more pieces. If you make it more like chess, consider making each board square 5 feet wide. Then you could use Small animated objects for the pawns and Medium animated objects for everything else. With more figures to move around and smaller squares, you should also consider moving the animated objects just as their pieces would move on a chessboard.

  • You can make the room more like lanceboard (see the What's Lanceboard sidebar) by eliminating the pawns and rooks, and setting up the board as it notes in the sidebar. The champion pieces could be represented by advancing the HD of the knight animated objects.

  • You can use chess pieces to represent the animated statues, but you could also use miniatures. Maybe the white knights are Mounted Paladins 6/60 from the Angelfire miniatures set. The black rooks could be Efreeti 39/60 and the white ones could be Djinn 17/60, both from the Angelfire miniatures set.

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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