Chris Hanson’s Move and Why “Initiative” is Just a Word…

This begins a new series at Many-Sided Dice about traps and making interesting ones. We’ll dial in on a running format in the coming weeks.

Weddlestaer Fauteuil

They came in, one by one. Unused to the grandeur, no doubt. The brutish fellow looked for all the world like a cross-between a well beaten leather scarecrow and some Tomsuan engraving that should be entitled “The Noble Savage”. And he smelled.

The others were cleaner, having obviously taken opportunity of the hot baths down the hill in his town. Despite Inglestadt never having spent so much as an hour in any of those taverns nor ever having drawn a bath himself, he took a pride that at least some of the travellers had enjoyed what he thought of as “his” accommodations in the town at the base of his manse.

He was seated to dinner, waiting on the courses, and watched them all sit uncertainly and with great worry about offense. No doubt the sly pawn of the Fey thought he would use Inglestadt, use his wealth and privilege. The barbarian tucked in and looked about expectantly for the food. Only the smallish one, perhaps a grandparent had been gnomish or something, hung back. Paced about acting as though he admired the tapestries. Avoided the table.

Clever little man. Not so clever, the rest.

History: Before the Last War, the House of Ingelestadt was the source of many rumors and more folktales than any four noble lines put together. Consorts to demons. Slaves to otherworldly powers. Kings of dark planes. Queens of forgotten horrors. They ruled their lands, remote as they were, with order and pristine efficiency. The comfort, wealth, and joy of even the lowliest commoner in the town of Aviana was a stark contrast to the lurid and frightening tales of the Inglestadt line.

But, then, the war. And with it ruin. And migration. And much of the folklore falling to the wayside without an anchor. However, there was more truth in those tales than any might have guessed. The Inglestadts were (and are) a line a cultists, worshipping and working for the great and terrible Keeper of Lies. For thirty generations, they have nurtured a deep and almost genetically twined relationship with the ancient thing. For prosperity. For power. For order. And the sacrifices they had to make spurred their own arcane technology as support.

Amongst their old estate’s many snares and traps, the grand dining hall was filled with careful constructed fauteuil–elegant chairs perfect for a truly regal sitting. Those eight chairs are responsible for the deaths and dismemberment of hundreds.

System: Polished Shaubwood, with a fine and delicate grain, a rosy color like the last rays of the sun before twilight. Elegantly sloping arms and feet tapering to kitten points. Passive Perception 15 notices that these are exquisitely wrought chairs, each worth thousands of gold to a collector. However, while unmoving and untriggered, they are otherwise imperceptibly mundane. For anyone with the Noble background or any warlocks of Great Old Ones, a History check DC 19 to identify them as items once owned by the Inglestadt line, and the rumors of their otherworldly machinations (the DM should be encouraged to emphasize the Inglestadt history as dark, secretive, and possibly vampiric or otherwise monstrous). If both a noble and a warlock of a Great Old One, make the check with advantage.

The chairs only trigger when a sufficient weight is placed in the seat and releases. So sitting does absolutely nothing at all. But, the moment pressure is relieved (even a little), three things happen in quick succession.

First, the Shaubwood (normally, very delicate and light) swells, parts, shifts, and encompasses the legs of the sitting (or “beginning to rise”) PC. The PC is considered Restrained. The chair is immune to bludgeoning, resistant to piercing and slashing. It ignores the first 3 points of damage from any source, but has only 25 hp itself (Arcane check for anyone choosing to actively spend an action figuring out the magical properties of the chair on their own, if nobody elects to spend their turn this way, no check–DC 15; if they beat the check by 5 they also infer that Carpenter’s or Woodcarver’s Tools may be uses as improvised weapons with full proficiency afforded the wielder who is proficient in either, doing 4d6 slashing damage per successful attack).

The PC may use their next action to attempt to wriggle free of the chair’s grip with an Acrobatics check DC 20. If they have a Strength of 20, they may attempt an Athletics check DC 20 instead.

Second, at the end of their turn, the chair’s arms move up to latch and grab onto the PC’s arms. The PC may make a Dex Save DC 20 (disadvantaged, from being Restrained). On a success, only one of their arms is grabbed and pinned down; on a failure, both. For one-arm free PC’s consider disadvantages for various actions, attacks, ability checks, etc. where applicabl.e

The PC may use their next action to continue trying to free themselves, the DC’s are the same, but unless being very clever, these will be disadvantaged due to lacking one of their arms or outright not possible if they have neither.

Third, at the end of that turn, the chair attempts to 90 degree angle break whatever limbs it has grabbed. For each limb, the PC may make a Constitution Save DC 15. Should any be broken, take 2d6 bludgeoning damage (half on a successful save avoiding a break). A Healer’s Kit or successful Survival check (DC 14) is requires to reset the bones broken and shattered by the break before applying any magical healing in order to prevent a limp from forming (10% chance of losing remaining 10ft of one’s normal movement, after already having moved if moving on a badly healed leg–thus moved back by the DM after the fact if it happens; 10% chance of dropping items, weapons, shields, etc. if held by a badly healed arm).

After this, the chair becomes inert and unmoving. It no longer actively tries to grab or hold anyone. It is just a chair half-formed around a person, made of wood.

Making This Trap Easier/Harder:

  • Placement – Placement on this trap is everything. Setting the stage for it is going to make or break the use of the trap. First, placing these chairs (one or more) in a cavern will not trick anyone into sitting on them. They are more dangerous when used in an equally opulent room, with a reason for them to sit. An NPC, a dinner setting, a reason for them to not be suspicious. This is a trap that isn’t going to be dangerous at the end of a dungeon crawl, This is a trap that is most dangerous at the start of one, especially one that is under time constraints. They sit a dinner, some get a bit crippled, and there’s a race to move through the mansion.
  • Trigger – You can make this trap far easier by requiring a lot of weight to trigger it, maybe keeping it enough for just the Medium Sized party member to trip and the Small ones to be able to move about and assist (bring those disadvantaged checks to “normal”). You can also put a lot of elements between the sit and the rise to further complicate things. A lot of wine at the dinner and people may be a bit drunk (poisoned, mechanically) while trying to free themselves.
  • Combat – Given the Restraint condition, combat should be used very sparingly, as it will make this almost too dangerous. Recommended, though, having “commoner” servants at the most, with weak damage, trying to cut throats dramatically. Not enough of a threat to truly worry about and threats very easily dispatched by any party member upon being free. And if your BBEG is hosting the dinner, have him get a few shots in and flee–more time in the combat is more lethal, less time is safer.

Talajei Fenestella

There was dust. Years of it. And from the looks of the bones, these humble few had been dead for years long before the centuries of dust started to cover them. Seated around the table, like they were to have themselves a fine meal, even a big hulking frame of a man on the end… all of them… just dead. Dry and clattering.

Kurt eyed the room with care. He was only half-nervous—there weren’t signs of life (breathing or otherwise) anywhere in the old manse. It was all quiet. All forgotten. He’d been tapping his way through old valuables for three days now and not so much as a rat has crossed his path or scratched its way behind a wall.

So, when he saw a dark figure move around on the far side of an ornate stained glass depiction of a man studying the stars, he hesitated… he’d like to say it was cleverness, but in truth (years later, deep in the drink and penniless he’d admit it openly enough) it was only greed… it was a damn fine window. And the price it could have fetched was all that saved his life.

History: The castles, manses, and keeps of the Inglestadt line were rife with heretical symbols, runes of power or madness, lines of warding or seeking or burning or fate… hidden in the architecture, hidden in the very fabric of the fine rugs, all of it tainted by the Keeper of Lies and the cult it grew in the world under the generational control of the noble house of Inglestadt.

Theirs was a worship that demanded suffering, and rather than do it themselves, they used their wealth and power to nominate the unwary to do it for them (for the Keeper sups on the screams of the hopeless). When the Paj Talajei—glasssmith and artisan to a dozen greater nobles—created his fenestella for the Inglestadt (over the course of nearly eighty years and dozens of windows), they were to be his artistic masterpiece. A 36 volume pane-by-pane story stretched across the great architectures of the highborn family. Bards and scholars would write travelogues and great books to see them all within a lifetime.

His creations, though, were marred by the secret cult of the family, and to his sole credit he died before they perverted his magnum opus. Through their vile witchcrafts, they made his great fenestella a waiting death for the wayward. And since the Last War, they’ve been pilfered and stolen and spread across the whole of the world.

System: The fenestella are windows, nearly four feet high and framed in a gold alloy so delightfully fine that the small panes of irregular stained glass almost blend together without border. This alloy allows for truly breathtaking scenes of fine detail to be made. Passsive Perception DC 14 to notice the windows are exceptional, even by high artisan standards; Passive Perception DC 19 to notice that the light behind it is pouring through extraordinarily brightly (if daytime, very bright; if nighttime, still a bit brighter than it was outside). On an appraisal, they’d be worth several hundred gold each, ten times that to any collectors of Inglestadt artifacts and antiques.

Anyone who has a noble background or is a warlock of a Great Old One may get a History Check DC 18 to recognize the windows as being one (or more) of the fenestella of the Inglestadts (and the nefarious reputation of that line, though not the details about the windows except their value). If both a Noble and a warlock of a Great Old One, the PC has advantage.

If left alone, the windows are harmless. Unlike other fine items of the Inglestadt’s, the windows were truly meant as protection rather than ensnaring or torturing. If broken, the brilliant and master-crafted window explodes outward (so not into the room, but outward away from it) revealing a roiling, several miles deep darkness—a void, a portal into the heart of nothingness itself where the Keeper of Lies lives. It is a realm of nothing, a vacuum of annihilation. Virtually everything in the room is well and truly in danger of complete destruction.

When someone passes within 10ft of the window a shadowy form appears on the other side, making intricate arm motions and appearing as though they are about to cast a spell. Ask the players to roll for initiative immediately (this gives them the impression there is an assailant). Should they Investigate at all (as an action), or wait and hold for one turn, they will notice that the figure is pantomimic–nothing is happening. It isn’t entirely real. If, they attack, however, the glass breaks.

Immediately, everyone must make a Dex Save DC 17 at disadvantage unless they have some object already in hand that may be used to brace themselves against the eternal and forever empty maw of the hole in the world. Grabbing furniture will not work as all furniture swings and slides and moves and begins to fly towards the gap. On a success, the PC holds their footing and may drag themselves (as though fighting difficult terrain) away.

Anyone failing their save begins to slide Prone toward the window-portal. As objects fly in, it is too dark (even with darkvision) to see where they go. For anyone even partially exposed the room, the “pull” DC of the window is 17 (to break their grip, for them to have to hold Athletics against, etc. wherever it makes sense for the scene).

At the start of a PC’s turn they will be dragged 30ft toward the hole. Any movement they dedicate to moving away, in response (again, treat as difficult terrain with DM discretion on class features that ignore it, where applicable), reduces that amount (dedicating 10ft of movement, means they will be pulled 20ft toward it). If on the ground, note the limited speed of crawling. If standing, it is possible to negate the all of the pull (for individuals with a base movement of 30ft. and a dash of 30ft).

At the end of their turn (unless they specifically say they are not looking at the hole it will be assumed they at least glance at it), they must make a Wisdom Save DC 25-their Wisdom Score. The horror of the void, the compelling mystery of it, it beckons them and calls forth some deep and ancient resignment welling from within them in the presence of the endless. Those that fail their Wis Save may not take an action next turn.

Anyone investigating the void (with an action, on purpose and without prompt) may make an Arcane or Religion check DC 14 to understand where it is and what it is and know two things:

1. That glancing it at, even accidentally, causes the Wisdom Save and one must explicitly avoid this; and,
2. That anything pulled into it may be killed.

The fenestella does not last forever. It only lasts for 1d4+1 rounds. Each round, each player’s turn, the same sequence must be done:

First, they will be dragged 30ft towards the hole and may use movement (and Dash if they have it) treated as difficult terrain (half-movement, unless a very compelling reason they’d be able to shrug it off, DM discretion).

Their turn otherwise as they will.

Then, the Wisdom save to determine if they get an action the next turn or not.

Anyone who ends up pulled past the window ledge may get one last Str Save to hold on in defiance of the pull versus a DC of 17. On a success, they may hold on before being pulled into the void. On a failure, they are pulled in and begin to take 1d4 nectrotic damage every turn as they plunge into the endless void. Short of being magically transported out (planar travel of any kind, teleportations, judicious use of Misty Step, etc.), they will die alone in the dark forever.

Making this Trap Easier/Harder:

  • Placement – A crucial factor in how dangerous this trap is will be how large the room is and how far away everyone is. Without a doubt, people farther away (60+ feet) will not be as affected and have a good shot at surviving the duration. So designing it to be high up or far away reduces the number of players who might be affected.
  • Trigger – Increasing the range by which the shadow forms on the “other side” will save more party members. Making it closer will put a lot of stress on the Rogue to get away or die. Also, keep in mind that the more convincing one makes the “roll for initiative” pantomime the more likely they’ll attack “through the glass”; the more simplistic it sounds, the more hesitant they’ll be.
  • Combat – Combat can make this trap truly deadly. A cultist or desperate actor could just shatter the window themselves with everyone in it–an added danger to an otherwise mundane encounter. But, combatants will be subject to the trap’s effects. So, if one wants to make it truly more dangerous, things with a high movement rate will dominate the desperate playing field.

3 thoughts on “Chris Hanson’s Move and Why “Initiative” is Just a Word…

Add yours

  1. Reading Weddlestaer Fauteuil inspired in me a trap that I believe my group will talk about for a long time.. They were going through the defences of an abandoned gnome fortress. In one room they find a well decked table with food and drink. Before they know it they are all eating and drinking, time passing quickly. Sadly for them the food and drink are illusions, and so after a day of feasting they take a point of exhaustion from dehydration. They would be allowed to redo the save when they take damage or gain exhaustion. My group was saved from horrible rolls because the barbarian didn’t have the courage to enter the room, and in the end throwing javelins at his own party members to knock them out of it.


  2. These will be fantastic traps for when my group inevitably reaches the “Lovecraft town” in my campaign. It’s called (unimaginatively) Dunwich, but none of my players even know who H.P. Lovecraft is, so they’ll never see it coming. I can even use both in the same mansion: have them be invited by Lord Inglestadt for a diplomatic dinner, run the chair trap, and reveal that the mansion has been empty for centuries and populated with the echoes of the horrific Inglestadt legacy.

    Liked by 1 person

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