Darkness and Lightness

Presence of the Lightbearer

Kurt squatted down on his haunches, watching his young partner fidget. The tunnel went deep, his shoulders ached from repelling down it for the last half hour. The halfling, by contrast, only seemed to grow more excited and spry with every new drop.

The hole continued down, not perfectly vertical of course–more of a steep decline–but farther wasn’t wise. Pellingrasstonwireson (Pell, for short, as he liked to be called in the hume fashion) wanted to continue. Kurt, valuing his own safety above most things, refused to budge.  And it’d been fifteen minutes of whining and pleading from the young buck ever since.

“Even if there is some danger, Mister Krowder” the tiny man appealed in his nasaly scurve, “I reckon we are more that it’s match, eh? Bit of darkness and rock is no great beast, say wot?” Kurt just stared into the still and opaque black below them and shrugged. These new sneaks, all swords and ropes, they are. Not a one bothering to read up on the least bit of the history they wanted to steal.

Kurt just rolled his eyes and nodded, extending a hand down and inviting the small master thief to continue down.  With a brief hop and a grin, the halfling leapt down into the darkness and the screams that followed shook the cavern.

History:  When the aiun of the Lightbearer–devas and elemental spirits of light in the god’s service–toppled the kingdoms of the Profane in the fourth age, burying all his cities and fortresses deep in the earth, they warded and guarded the way to those ruins beneath powerful divine magics.

The Presence, wherever found, bars the way to dark, ancient treasures and demonic creatures from the epic past.

The Presence of the Lightbearer is fabled to have been one of the most common. Brutally simple, powerfully effective. It was a lesson taught to the greedy and evil, A punishment both ironic and unsettling. Few clerics know it as more than a metaphor for divine judgment, some ancient frescos of the Church of the Radiant in the far South depict the Presence in more concrete terms.

To look upon the Presence is to look upon the pure fiery power of a million suns(Religion Check DC 20 to know of the Presence and its history; advantaged for any “Light” or “Sun” clerics or anyone from the College of Lore).

System:  As though the space is drinking in light perfectly, the Presence of the Lightbearer is a passage of darkness usually at least 20 ft. long (though longer is possible).  It is clearly unnatural, as absolutely no light pierces it.  Like an intangible dark illusion.

Passing a hand or stick physically through it does nothing. If one covers up (not entirely necessary, but safest) and runs through it, nothing happens. If one walks through it, nothing happens.

The only trigger is if someone’s eyes are open while walking through it.

With a successful History check (DC 20 for any character, DC 15 for anyone with Thieves Contacts), rumor and story has it that those who come into contact with this very pecular sort of darkness in a place or temple like the one they’re in have come back with their eyes burned out of their head.

The darkness (Arcane check DC 20, advantage for Evokers) is not actually darkness. This space is frozen in time and space, the light is there, but not bouncing back into eyes and so the space seems perfectly (abnormally) dark. Enchanted as it is, however, walking through it with one’s eyes open will force a Constitution Save DC the number of feet they moved in that turn. On a failure, their eyes are burned from their head–they are now blind. On a success, just a temporary Blindness condition until a long rest or magical healing is applied.

The pain and shock being so great, anyone who passed through and had their eyes effected are considered in shock and are Stunned for a number of rounds equal to 5 minus their Constitution modifier.

The eyes may be regrown with a Regenerate spell or similar magic and intercession on the part of a divine of the Lightbearer or temples friendly to that church. This is not just damage, but a divine curse of sorts.

Making the Trap Easier/Harder:

  • Placement – Having used this trap in the past, the most singularly dangerous place I have ever put it is in the middle of an already dark room or cavern and very near the beginning of the dungeon. Players are least expecting something crippling at the outset. Seeing the darkness can trigger the appropriate Religion check. Interacting wtih it can trigger the History. Past that, characters will find it very dangerous–though in no way lethal. Obscuring it being seen makes it more likely to be tripped. Preventing interaction (it’s on the far side of a chasm) also ups the likelihood of tripping.
  • Trigger – As it is placed where it is placed, the trigger is just moving through the space. The only disupit that might happen is “does someone walk with their eyes open. The assumption should be that people walk with their eyes open unless explicit otherwise. The way to avoid the trap is to have a character pool in the party of people that can figure things out, not just hit or pick locks.
  • Combat – Combat definitely makes this trap more dangerous. Having a chase scene with the players rushing into this is almost guaranteed to allow a mild encounter to destroy the party. On the otherhand, wiley players shoving bad guys into the darkness may be rewarded with blind opponents.

Right Hand of the Lord

Chance kicked the ancient remains of what looked like a halfling out of the way. It looked like several more bodies had all but turned to dust in the however many thousands of years since this lost temple had any company.

Kallie frowned. Just like the priest to be careless. His type always were. That body could have been placed there to explode in some nefarious mechanism. Or conceal a pit.  Or anything else. No chance of convincing him of that, though. He’d just wave his hand and brush off her caution, issuing dismissive advice about having faith and how this was a temple of glory.

The far chamber, as opposed to the last few passages and rooms, was lit up in bright golden light. A heavenly display of white and yellow invitation. It looked like one of those paintings in the Grand Round of the Council of Celestials bargaining in the heavens to make the particulars of the world.  It was beautiful.  She mistrusted it instantly.

Chance began nodding and pointing out engravings around the ceilings and pillars, boasting of craftsmanship, lauding the faithful of the old ages.  Before Kallie could stop the blowhard, he’d entered the room, bathing in the golden light. First came the surprie on his face, then the choking, then the burning, and eventually even his heavy hammer, dutifully strapped to his back, melted into a pool of evaporating nothing.

History: The modern churches and temples to the Radiant One are pale thousand-sunsand cheap inheritors to the grandeur and power the faith had in the ancient past. Before the reign of the Exiles–emperors in the grand capitol for a thousand years–and well before the Schism that gave the world the Arcolich, Krin–there was a time when the Gods all but walked the surface of the world.

The temples of the Radiant were private affairs. Monestaries devoted to sacrifice to the Sun. Their temples were places of great danger to the uninitiated and when the faith conquered the wayward and sinful, they became charnal houses of terror and absolution. The world saw its last grand temple to the Radiant several thousand years ago, when the faith was broken and a more temperate church rose in its place.

Light was the great worship of the faithful. It was their fetish.  It was their great weapon. None were safe to walk in the light of god who weren’t well versed in the most secretive inner mysteries. (Religion check DC 18, advantage for any “sun” or “light” cleric or drow–who had their own tales of the abuses of the church for generations).

System: The Right Hand is actually carefully treated and blessed glass, most often set into either a large window facing the rising sun in a small room or covering the walls and ceiling of the grand dome in the temples of old.  (Religion check DC 15 for clerics of “light” or “sun, College of Lore bards may attempt; any other clerics may attempt disadvantaged)

The glass itself is delicate enough, doing 4 damage to any pane (at once) will break it easily and with it the enchantment.  For places where one pane is casting light into a room, this is simple. For large halls with dozens and dozens of panes, this is more challenging.

The pane of glass changes the normal light shining through it into a softer, golden color. For anyone who is whispering or speaking the Rite of Passage–an archaic prayer to the Radiant barely known to its modern clerics–it is merely warm and a welcoming experience.  For anyone passing through the light without having done so, they will (in order, by rounds) feel:

  • 1st round – Hot, sweating
  • 2nd round – Burning, deep sunburn (1d2 fire and 1d2 radiant), metal heating up to too-hot-to-touch temperatures (Con save 10 to touch for a round)
  • 3rd round – On Fire, skin charring (1d4 fire for every fire damage taken last round; 1d4 radiant for every radiant damage taken last round), leather catching fire, metal smoldering and glowing hot (destroying armor, items, weapons, etc. if not magic).
  • 4th round – Blasting, bones and muscle charring (1d6 fire damage for every fire damage taken last round, 1d6 radiant for every radiant damage taken last round), metal melting
  • 5th round – (1d8 fire damage for every fire damage taken last round, 1d8 radiant for every radiant damage taken last round), all items destroyed and dust, only magic items remain; repeat every round

Most often the prayer is engraved near the entrances to the room–it was not a true trap so much as a divine mechanism for sacrifices and the ancient priests had faith in their private mysteries such that they had no reason to fear outsiders learning their secret signs.  Any character studying the many engravings and symbols (all over the rooms and halls, but specifically here) can find sequences that appear to be language and are unique to this entranceway on an Investigation check DC 15. A suitable comprehend language or fluency in Supernal languages can decipher the Prayer necessary to allow passage.

Reciting the prayer does take a Performance check DC 10, using one’s Reaction each round.  (Arcane check DC 15) Shielding one’s self from the light (whole covering only) will grant immunity from the fire damage.

Making the Trap Easier/Harder:

  • Placement – Easier is a smaller pane of glass or simple one or two windows placed in a hallway. Harder is to have an entire dome or passage made of glass so it is harder to escape the effect. Similarly, placing the trap down through a vertical dungeon passage (or having it in a room the characters drop down into) will increase the chance for dire determinations.
  • Triggers – To make the trap easier to notice and manage, the secret is verbal confirmations. If you mention “it feels warm”, it’s easily ignored. If you mention “standing in the light, the air around you starts warming up” is a little more obvious. Descriptions of the engravings around the doorway or passageway will also more or less telegraph the experience.
  • Combat – Its the perfect combat for divine creatures of light, as they’re likely to be immune to the trap or at least highly resistant to it. And on the other hand, the characters will have to make use of rushing through spaces and avoiding light beams to be safe (potentially invoking opportunity attacks).


This continues a new series at Many-Sided Dice about traps and making interesting ones.

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