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OutofCharacter / ThePerfectTrap

Dragonslayer Thoughts - January 18 2009

The Perfect Trap

If you have been following the game lately you know that the group has been traveling through the Underdark. For some it feels like it has been forever but it has only been a couple of game days; although it has been eight game sessions so far (with at least one/two more to come) just to get to the place they are going. Then they have to walk back out the same way. So this will be a record for my campaign just around 18-20 game sessions to play out 13 or 14 days of game time.

Along the way I have tried very hard to create a different atmosphere for the game. I created all the cavern maps to be black and white, with a dark overlay with the exception of a couple of key encounter areas that I wanted the players to notice and treat differently. These were the key physical encounters that they would have to overcome. There was a scree slope that went down and over a huge pool of green slime that was memorable. Then there were the bridges.

I had two bridges the group would have to cross. One I called the Sauna Bridge and the other the Single Bridge. The Sauna Bridge was designed to be a simple challenge. The bridge is over a river of lava and the heat and gases are will force the people crossing the bridge to sweat and have to deal with those effects. Being slippery, and hallucinating from the toxic fumes. Of course that is not how it worked out. The players used magic (Telekinesis) to quickly move everyone over the chasm and avoid everything. Good move on their part thwarting the trap and overall not as exciting of an encounter but successful never-the-less.

Then the Single Bridge. Sigh.

This is the note I posted for the players to read about this bridge:

The Single Bridge is so named because it requires people to be single when they cross.
The cavern is 200 feet wide and 200 feet tall with the bridge spanning the center of it both vertically and horizontally.
From the two support arches on either side of the bridge only one person can be on the bridge at a time. If more than one person enters the area of the bridge area then the bridge magically disolves and anything or anyone who was on the bridge falls into a pit of acid that fills the bottom of the cavern.
Ropes tied to a person seem to connect them to the arches and cause the bridge to fail. Flying creatures such as bats or other unintelligent creatures do not seem to trigger the bridge to fall.
Most sages agree that who ever created this artifact must have had a deep aversion to couples.

So I thought I had an interesting puzzle for them to solve. I even took into account the use of magic like Telekinesis and the like by putting a particular monster on the roof of the cavern. Cave Fishers use a long spider like silk to trap their prey and reel it up to their lair. This line is 90% invisible if you are looking for it and essentially invisible if not looking for it. It is tough enough that it take magic to cut it and the Cave Fishers are strong enough that it would take a very strong character to break free. The party is escorting a prisoner also, so that would cause concern about crossing alone.

Plus the players did actually think the first time they saw the bridge. "Watch out for someone to walk out on the other end of the bridge just before we get there" was said. And of course this was designed to break one of the key tenants of any adventuring group "don't split the party". Before too much planning and preparation could take place one of the players took it upon herself to walk out onto the bridge and try to cross over.

So she was caught in the webs and then to un-stick her they used the Telekinesis trick again to pull her out of the webs. But rather than bring her back to their side, the person decided to force her through and onto the other side of the bridge alone. Not totally a bad decision, except she was the weakest party member, one of the only ones who had no defenses against magic, etc.

And then I revealed the other half of the trap. A doppelganger surprises her, knocks her out and pulls her away. The rest of the party on the far side of the bridge only see that she disappears they have no idea why.

I like this trap for several reasons. It requires the party to think for a moment about how to cross. Then with the doppelganger at the far end it can be used to imitate one of the party members that makes it across or just be any creature that steps out to have the bridge drop on the party. Then add in the Cave Fishers and it is what I think is the perfect trap. The players know what the scope of the problem is and they can be creative in solving it.

I had originally thought that either they would: A- fly one or two across (if not all) to secure both ends or B- use the example that the Cave Fishers present and have a thief Climb Walls to cross without needing the bridge at all. Unfortunately the players this time did not do either, although the second across did fly to try and find the other character.

It turned into boring encounter, with the first attack being the only real action, then the tracking and finding the doppelganger's lair. They tortured it quickly, leading me to another how else do you expect them to act? issue but that is a topic for another post.

I was disappointed that my perfect trap turned into such an ordinary moment in the campaign. But they do have to return this way on the journey back to the surface so lets ponder on who can move into that doppelganger's quarters in the meantime.