If You Don’t Use the Traps Your Enemies Will

Posted on January 05, 2018

I’m DMing a campaign for my sister and several of our friends. The party consists of two female Barbarians, a Dwarf Wizard, a Gnome Bard, a Gnome Druid, and a Human Cleric. Since this tale took place during the start of the campaign, they were all either level one or two.

The group had descended into the ruins of a prison/asylum that once housed the worst-of-the-worst criminals before it burned down (with most of the criminals still inside). They’d swatted aside a few skeletons and were getting a bit cocky by the time they reached one of the main cell blocks. From the safety of a dark hallway they scoped out the scene and noted two levels of barred prison cells lining either side of the room. The ceiling was held up by four main pillars that looked shaky, either due to the old fire or neglect. They succeeded on a perception check telling them that a significant bash to any of the pillars would likely bring down a portion of the ceiling.

I’d put this "trap" there to help them survive the encounter they were about to face. You see, the inmates who burned to death in the fire suddenly animated in their cells in the form of burning skeletons and began furiously bashing at the old iron bars in an attempt to get to the party. In total, there were ten of them in the cells, and the racket they made trying to bash their way out drew two wandering ghouls to the scene. A bit behind the incoming ghouls there was a skeletal sorcerer named Flavius the Incinerator (he was a pyromania). Oh, and the "Bound Butcher" was also in one of the cells… basically he was a horrible mass murderer in life, and in death he was a souped-up, super-strong version of a ghoul.

In total, the low-level party of six was surrounded by fourteen monsters, ten of which would explode for fire damage upon death. I figured the party had to either create a bottleneck in the hallway, have exceptionally good rolls, run like hell, or use the collapsible ceiling to survive.

I was wrong. The Cleric strode into the middle of the room and used his Energy Channel ability that I’d forgotten he had.

BOOM. All ten of the burning skeletons failed their saving throws and exploded before they even bashed their way out of the cells. The rest of the party poured in, and after a little hack-and-slash managed to take down the Bound Butcher and the two ghouls.

By the time Flavius the Incinerator arrived on the scene all of his undead buddies had been defeated. He was understandably upset by this, and so he used his ranged fire attack to hit the rickety pillars holding up the ceiling. Most of the PC's had completely forgotten about the ceiling "trap" so all they could do was groan and roll their reflex saves when the stones started falling.

The party managed to survive the collapsing ceiling, but they did sustain enough damage that they were forced to retreat out of the dungeon and come back another day.

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