This post continues our series of Traps to Worry Your Players With–a new series at Many-Sided Dice about traps and making interesting ones. Our traps are intended to be fluffy (with lots of nice backstory you may choose to use or get inspired by) and mechanically interesting (with special disable requirements and side-ways solutions).
The bastard was fast, but Kallie was faster. With his fellows either dead or dying at the hands of the rest of the troupe, she raced ahead to stop Marcus from getting away. His hideout had been full of surprises and she wouldn’t put it past him to have a series of escape plans ready to go at a moment’s notice. They’d tracked him for weeks, he was not going to get away this time.
She finally caught sight of him, unlocking the west door. Her heart was racing before, and now it almost flew. In the tunnels and catacombs down here, he was dangerous, but in the open and outside? He couldn’t run fast enough to outpace her shortbow. Taking the fight outside was the best chance they had.
He unlocked the door as she closed the distance, slipped through, and shut it hard. If he thought she’d be slowed down by a door he was sadly mistaken. She put a hand on the latch, swung it open, saw him racing for the trees, and barely broke stride as she went out into the sun…
The world went sideways as she hit the sandy dirt face-first and saw Marcus, senior agent of The Creed of Greyghast and most dangerous spy in four kingdoms, turn effortlessly with a vicious knife in hand–watching his prey struggle on the ground.
History: The small city-state of Greyghast sits between the nations of Thrane and Breland, and has declared and defended its independence for decades from all who would try to absorb, conquer, or undermine it. What they lack in numbers, they make up for in zeal–from thousands of former refugees, heroes, war criminals, and those betrayed by the greater powers of the Last War all defiantly allied and forging their new path together. Their finest weapon against the politics and treachery of the world is The Creed–their clandestine ministry.
The great dragon-marked houses are bastions of arcane technology, power and prestige and Greyghast dedicates 50% of every last bit of taxes and treasure toward the purchase (and exclusive schema) of creations to empower their agents and protect themselves. Feeling betrayed by nations great and small, by the Houses, by the world–Greyghast forges its own path.
The Biltline was created by Magister Ajeet, a former torturer of Thrane defected to Greghast after the last war, it bears his ignature style of simplicity and brutal efficiency. Virtually every sernior Greyguard carries one as standard issue and are trained in its deployment. All agents of The Creed are expected to master their use.
System: The Biltline appears as three very loose balls of pale, grey string connected by strands that have wisps of silk fraying off of them. The strands are alchemically treated to be dry and leathery when balled together, but once stretched, the strands react with the open air and return to their original state–strong and somewhat tacky strands of Korespider silk. The strands may stretch up to 10 or 11 feet before risking damage.
In uniformly dark or low light, the strands are very difficult to see (Passive Perception 16). Anyone merely touching them will find their hand or whatever touched them to get lightly stuck–only an annoyance and does not impose a condition (though it will take some care and time to remove the stuff without further sticking to more of it).
Anyone walking through the strands (allow the player to define how far they move including any Dash after movement, as though nothing was there; if their total movement was less than 30 ft., they were “walking”), will get a Dex Save DC equal to half the distance they moved. On a success, they only have strands of Korespider silk sticking to them–no condition or other adverse effects beyond that annoyance. On a failure, they are Restrained but may still use half their normal movement. It is a weak restraint.
Anyone running through the strands (allow the player to define how far they move, including any Dash after movement, as though nothing was there; if their total movement was 30 ft. or more, they were “running”), will get a Dex Save DC equal to 5 + half their total movement (indeed, this will make sprinting through a mass of strands with Dash or greatly enhanced base movement a nearly impossible Dex save). On a success, they are weakly restrained as above–Restrained, but may use half their movement as normal. On a failure, they are fully restrained and if they miss the Dex Save by 10 or more, they also fall Prone as they are completely covered and stickily wrapped and nearly immobilized by the webbing.
Removing the webbing for any weakly restrained individual requires 2 actions (no check involved) with an Alchemists Kit for anyone proficient in that kit’s use. For anyone not-proficient, they may still attempt, but every action they must roll 1d6–on a 5 they do 1d4 acid damage to the subject and on a 6 they do 1d4 poison damage as they fumble with chemicals and reagents. Anyone with Leatherworker’s or Cobbler’s tool (who are proficient) have perfectly designed snips and shears and can cut efficiently and expertly through the necessary strands on a check DC 10, using 1 action.
Removing webbing from a properly Restrained individual is much harder. With an Alchemists Kit, DC 15 to quickly mix together some Hanselm’s Solution and a gallon of water (all using one action and appropriate draw and object interaction opportunities in a round); then, on the next turn or a later turn, completely drenching the subject in the solution; the webbing will dissolve in 1d4 turns. Or, with a Leatherworker’s or Cobbler’s tools, two uninterrupted rounds of snipping and shearing DC 15 (emphasis on uninterrupted, here; any round interrupted by successful attacks or interference has a 50% chance of adding another needed round of snipping due to the shuffling of the subject and jostling that further ensnares them in the strands).
The Biltline does not do damage. It cannot be used as a weapon. Agents place them across doorways to simply ensnare the unwary. Their primary use is to buy time and inconvenience the victim. Deploying a Biltline only takes 1 action, making them a perfect one-shot trap to cover one’s escape in desperate moments (attempting to “cut through” rather than dissolve or snip through runs a risk, at DM’s discretion, of causing a minor entanglement for objects used).
A favorite tactic of agents of The Creed is to place it across a door leading from a dark place into a bright place, disadvantaging the PP to notice it. On fleeing a space, they use some/all of their normal movement to race out a door, use their free object interaction to shut it, use their action to deploy the Biltline, and remaining movement and bonus Dash (as they tend to be Rogues) to race away. Any chasing PC will either see the Biltline or not, and if not, they will be unlikely to be able to continue pursuit for at least a few critical turns.
Making the Trap Easier/Harder:
- Placement – Leaving the Biltline in a safe place (no other traps or hazards) leaves it very harmless. Placing it in a room with a more conventional trap (like a pitfall or trapdoor over spikes) increases the danger considerably–due to the weakened movement and disadvantaged Dex Save of the victim. A truly dangerous use of the Biltline is to place it on the interior of a vault, ready for the unwitting PC to race into the “room” only to become entangled, and watch a heavy steel door slam shut behind them.
- Trigger – The first key to the effectiveness of the Biltline is missing the Passive Perception check. Placing it behind a door with a bright light source, while being in a darkened place will a +5 to the PP to see it for a turn or two (as eyes adjust to the brightness). Similarly, concealing it with mists or fog can disadvantage the PP. The second key is the speed of the PC. Fast is worse, as this trap punishes the unwary. Having something urgent on the other side of the Biltline increases the difficulty as it increases the likelihood of PC speed. A slowly sinking treasure behind a stone wall descending may entice a PC to rush in through the doorway; a fleeing villain; something valuable being destroyed by fire, etc.
- Combat – This trap is made for escapes by the villains, but also can be used well for combat; particularly combat that separates the party. A multichamber dungeon with many doors and hallways, where the more perceptive characters are separated from the more combat-oriented ones creates a higher likelihood of running after monsters or villains and a lower likelihood of perceiving the Biltline. From there, being Restrained is dangerous even with small monsters around. Murder is likely.
Luddin’s Memeogalvanic Reactor
Kurt stared at the room for a long time. Most of his colleagues, in his profession, would have started smashing and grabbing several minutes ago—but, Kurt had long decided that he preferred to keep his one good hand intact and his bad one at least as functional as it was. He’d tracked one of these sorts before, and the last time he tried to lift so much as a notebook, he’d barely managed to survive the explosion.
Crafy bastards, these Ghastians. And angry as hornets.
So, he picked his way around the room, careful to not step on anything looking remotely safe (when you went up against sneaks of this caliber, it was the pristine floor that was likely the danger). He hardly knew what to do first, and also knew waiting around was a recipe for as much disaster as rushing in. Notes? Books? Grab them all? Some? It all looked so plain, but that was their way.
Finally, Kurt breathed in deeply, and lifted a ledger off the rolltop on the east wall by the window. He examined its surface, smooth, well-worn… covered in a thin layer of dust. Without warning, the dust started smoking. The air smelled rancid. Kurt cursed himself, clenched his eyes, pulled his cloak tight over his pouches and packs and satchel, and leapt out the window hoping a shrub might break at least part of the long fall.
History: The Creed have, in their short time, managed to pull of stunning assassinations, jailbreaks in foreign countries, assist with political coups, and have kept the House of Shadows and other external forces far from their own home. One of the more maddening issues facing those who attempt to infiltrate, snoop on, obstruct, or oppose them is their unflagging paranoia and near universal hatred of everyone who isn’t of Greyghast.
Agents of The Creed often employ a device created, first, by the halfling agriculturalist Miles Luddin nearly half a century ago. The reactor has, in general, no real martial application and was used to kill weeds and small pests in glasshouse gardens and hothouses. It was impractical at even medium scaled operations, and was left as a convenience for the wealthy wanting blooming garden closets and rooms in the winter all over the continent. A trinket, really, but a well-made one.
Through their own secretive artificing, and in theme with their mistrust of even House Cannith or other artificing organizations, they turned the bauble into one of the most effective failsafes for any spy hoping to cover their tracks.
System: The reactor is actually only specially treated glass. It is designed to, with disturbances in the air and the introduction of moisture, begin magically emitting a combination pesticide and very mild caustic agent into the space the treated side of the glass is facing (usually into a room). Passive Perception to notice the pale yellow tint on the glass is DC 12; anyone noticing may make either an Arcane Check DC 16 to know of the agricultural nature of the glass (above; advantaged if background Noble) or a History Check DC 22 to recognize the more clandestine use that Creed Agents have made of it (system below; advantaged if background is Spy).
Creed Agents almost universally use specially treated leather and paper, made in Greyghast and not generally sold on the market anywhere else (many missions and assassinations have been issued under even the hint of these being used by anyone else). While most paper and parchment in the world, used by any civil society, is somewhat treated against rot and wear; and most leathers are cured and tanned to maintain some durability… Greyghast agents use papers and leathers for their notes and work that are treated to be especially vulnerable to such.
When combined with the caustic properties of the reactor’s emission, everything quickly disintegrates and dissolves into greyish and dry, crumbling particulates.
For every 10′ cube of space in the room, it takes 5 seconds for the reactor (any such glass in the space) to begin emitting. Larger spaces, of course, take more time. Once emitting fully, then, it takes only 2 rounds (or 12 seconds) for loose paper to dissolve–smoking lightly as the paper reacts with the misty aerial particles. In another 2 rounds, leathers will dissolve.
Arresting the process requires appropriate blotter and absorbent powders and chalks that can be readily found in Painter’s tools or Calligrapher’s tools and with an action and DC 12 to apply appropriately (up to a 5ft square space), the process is halted.
Preventing the emission entirely, to begin with, requires a full and reasonably tight seal over the reactor (the pane or panes of glass), this is most easily accomplished using Painter’s tools (which contain a 5 x 5 treated tarp that can be easily glued or tacked to the wall around the pane) on a DC 12 check. Any other semi-water tight covering might work as an improvised cover, disadvantaged Intelligence check DC 16. In practice, most agents simply cover the appropriate glass upon entering the room, and removing it as they leave–thus arming the trap and disabling as needed.
Breaking the glass is perfectly possible (DC 5 to hit, 2 hp; resistant to poison, acid, radiant, necrotic; vulnerable to thunder), but the pieces will still emit the substance. DM’s may allow players to scoop up pieces quickly into a container or throw them out of a window to mitigate as well.
In addition, unless cleaned and neutralized, the emission will eventually begin to breakdown paper and leather of any kind–just much slower. After 24 hours, any paper (including scrolls and spellbook pages) will suffer a 50% chance of completely falling apart; after 48 hours, any leather will begin cracking and rotting in worn places, rendering most objects useless.
Making the Trap Easier/Harder:
- Placement – As this trap is entirely about destroying information, harder and easier should be thought of as “more likely to destroy information” and “less likely to”. Placing the reactor high on the ceiling, a glass skylight for instance, will make it much harder to protect the room from (though that might require some special explanation as to how the agent covers it–perhaps mage hand). Placing the glass in an easy-to-get to space will increase the chance, if noticed, that the party can get rid of it.
- Trigger – To more quickly and certainly trigger the trap, the PC’s need to be distracted for a few seconds until things start dissolving. This can be accomplished with open books on a table with writing–intended to just lead them to stand around while someone reads; or, by making the room especially large, so time is wasted searching or investigating parts for minutes and minutes while the whole room eventually fills. A lighter trigger might be to have the appropriate neutralizing agents in the room, for them to use quickly to preserve things.
- Combat – Combat of any kind will make the destruction of paper and leather more likely. It will simply eat up attention and time. The agent might wait for the party, even, ready to pull the cover to the reactor and busy them with fighting or talking long enough for his notes to all vanish.
It was the third day and the ride was no better than it had been the day before. Squick’s back ached and he grew more and more sullen as the plodding and rocking back and forth numbed his mind and senses. The countryside was for fools and poets, it was a dumb place full of dumb things.
They’d tracked the trio of musicians into the forest, and after a day’s ride, into the hills, and today they were facing a whole day of riding through empty fields as flat as hard packed salt.
At the pace their magebred horses could manage, they should have overtaken the motley bunch of assholes yesterday—at least according to their ranger and basic maths. But, it was a constant stop and start, over and over. They kept losing the trail. And just this morning they’d gone nearly two miles before figuring out they were headed closer to North than East, the direction they ought have been moving.
No doubt those bards were gone. Whatever they’d been doing at the party was lost. Whatever they’d taken from Lord ir’Dacken was so much melted gold and picked off gems now. Failure tasted like crap to an old pro like Squick. His horse drifted left, and the day just grew longer.
History: No serious agent of The Creed is without several layers of protection. And an often forgotten part of that is the hard and long game of throwing off those in pursuit. The Ghastian spies employ a number of devices and contingencies, created within their Shrikespire and without so much as a hint of their true arsenal escaping the walls of that lone and defensive city-state.
The Muleburr Blanket, also called a Leadweave, is one of their lesser known and yet often used traps—meant to confound those tracking and chasing them overland. For the unwary, it’s as good as a well-turned lie drawing them in the opposite direction.
“Crass” Weyland Muleburr created the first one nearly six years ago, in Greyghast, and most coteries of the clandestine ministry take at least one or two with them “just in case”.
System: A Muleburr Blanket is a horse blanket or pad, as common as any other by sight, meant to protect a horse from the rubbing of a saddle. There is no way, visually, to discern a Muleburr from a conventional horse blanket. Its effects can only be understood in subtle observation over time. A Detect Magic, however, will reveal very light, very inconsistent enchantment and transmutation magic.
Most commonly, the agents place the pad or blanket with the normal tack and saddles of a target’s mount—either in the stable itself or in an appropriate place where those items are at a camp. A common tactic is to create a disturbance away from the conventional horse pad and switch them in the confusion, if out in the field. If mounts are left outside a place where The Creed are operating, a deft member of the coterie may re-tack and re-saddle the horse out in the open, while the party is inside the building.
Either way, the effect is the same, unless navigating by clear markers and posts (as on a clear, used road; clear tracks in mud unbroken by any other features) and unless explicitly compensated for (not just reliance on a passive ability, as the magic of the trap does counter that by small amounts, but active and frequent half-movement, slow pace and explicitly declared attention)… every 5 miles travelled with take the rider or riders within 80ft of the Muleburr blanket will veer, subtely, off course by 1 mile.
Anyone with the Outlander background, Land Druids, and Rangers in their favored terrain may have a free Survival check DC 13 after five miles that to glean that they are slightly off course to their destination. Anyone taking note of that fact (not just correcting for it, but actively voicing concern) may have a History Check DC 16 (advantaged if they have the Spy background) to know about direction altering, travel influencing tricks like the Muleburr.
The radius of the effect is enough to influence, usually, all horses in the area (and those pulling wagons, like oxen or donkeys). DM’s are encouraged to give only one or two “and after five miles” checks for Outlanders, land druids, and rangers in favored terrain. Once confronted once or twice with going off course slightly, if their only solutions are to head in the appropriate direction, then their overall speed should be reduced by at least 25% for the constant stopping and changing course. For those that don’t notice, take the total distance they want to travel that day, divide by 5, and put them twice as far as that off course. If they want to travel a healthy pace of 40 miles that day, then they are up to 16 miles too far off course. If they “push” and ride hard across the countryside, they may end up vastly off course.
Disabling the Muleburr can be done with a Dispel or by burning it. Removing it from contact with an animal negates its powers.
Making the Trap Easier/Harder:
- Placement – As the Muleburr blanket is a trap designed to inconvenience, “easier and harder” have to be thought of as “likely to take them less and more off course”. Placing the blanket on a horse already saddled up (by a sneaky spy) will cause them more confusion than them having to saddle up a fresh horse. Similarly, swapping out an existing blanket hanging in a tree when they camp for the night with a Muleburr may give the wary PC an opportunity to notice the blanket is different.
- Trigger – The only trigger is contact with an animal and being in motion. As such, an easier or harder trigger isn’t really relevant except to say “create a pronounced effect or not”. Putting the Muleburr in play in a scene requiring a big chase across the countryside and a game of cat and mouse is going to make the effect hugely problematic for the party. More distance is just more “off”ness. Having the villain racing across the hill country to burn some town or steal some artifact, and the players racing to beat them there or catch them, and giving the villains a half a day headstart will draw the players more and more off course for long distances and frustrate them completely. Which may be a good thing, pending your game.
- Combat – The effects of the blanket work in combat. If one has a combat on horseback (long distances, 100 to 200 feet between parties) or combatants on horseback with the blanket, then every 5 squares (25 ft), the DM may move the animal one space (5ft) to the side of whatever direction they were generally headed. This may cause Opportunity attacks, may put melee combatants on horseback out of reach of what they wanteed to hit. The confusion might make this trap a little dangerous.