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Lava Cavern of Intense Burning

mac1504

Explorer
Just recently our group finished P1 Trollhaunt Warrens, and we began a few sessions ago the lead in to P2 DemonQueen's Enclave. This meant the group was heading into the Underdark. I really wanted to impress upon the group the enormity and hazards of the Underdark; which the module touches upon a bit, but did not have the impact I wanted to make.

So, I decided to build a set piece for a battle in the Underdark.

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The idea was to make a cavern with a lake of lava at the bottom. The encounter was going to be Salamanders allied with an Eye of Flame Beholder (catching on to a theme yet? ;) ) I wanted to create several routes for the group to debate upon, and perhaps even split up the party to tackle. They could see to the other side a tunnel that led out of the cavern (sorry, I don't have any pictures from that angle).

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The largest obstacle I encountered in building the piece was laying a grid over it for 4e combat. I built another piece for the heroic tier of the campaign we're playing (started with H1 Keep on the Shadowfell), and with that piece I was able to build in dungeon stones to accommodate movement, spell and weapon ranges. For this one, I just couldn't come up with anything that wouldn't ruin the aesthetics of the piece. Luckily our group had been working toward making a mobile projector map solution, and our intrepid engineer of the group managed to make a jib that worked perfectly. With the projector overhead, I was able to project a 1" grid onto the piece. It worked even better than I had expected.

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mac1504

Explorer
I started out with 2 8'x4' insulation foam boards (2" thick) and cut them down to 4'x3' (roughly) sections and then stacked them on top of each other. I then glued them together, and penciled out an outline on the top layer. After that, I simply used a utility knife and carved out each layer until I was down to the base (which was a 1" foam board cut down to the size of the piece).

For the lava at the bottom I used acrylic bathroom caulk. Laying down beads of the caulk, and then spreading it out with a wet brush (to keep it from sticking too much) in swirling patterns.

The rock spires in the middle were simply just spare pieces of foam that I carved out and then stuck into the drying caulk.

After that, it was a long and messy process of painting with watered down paint (a black ink to get into all of the cracks). Then, I went back and gradually drybushed the rocks with dark shades of grey and then lighter shades. For the lava I started out with a base coat of yellow, and then drybushed on orange, then red, and then a light coat of brown and red to give the look of cooling lava.
 

firesnakearies

Explorer
Incredibly cool. Sounds like a lot of work, but the final product is gorgeous, and I'll bet that encounter was super fun and exciting to play. You have very lucky players to have such a creative and dedicated DM!
 




mac1504

Explorer
Incredibly cool. Sounds like a lot of work, but the final product is gorgeous, and I'll bet that encounter was super fun and exciting to play. You have very lucky players to have such a creative and dedicated DM!

Thanks, although I feel I am pretty lucky to have a good group of players to play with for the last 9 years.

The encounter was a blast. The party did end up splitting up, even though they knew it was a risky maneuver. I think many of them just didn't want even the smallest space to go unexplored. One group even used the wizard to get a rope across one of the chasms, and they just happened to have a rubber band that they used to represent the rope. Even the projector's overlaid grid helped to count the movement across the rope!
Crossing_Lava_Chasm.jpg
 

mac1504

Explorer
Holy crap. I consider myself well prepared when I have over a page of notes. That's just amazing!

I hope you used Fire and Brimstone, though: Fire and Brimstone! Lava Rules For Your Game

Thanks.

I did look at the Fire and Brimstone rules when writing up the encounter, and I struggled deeply with it. My campaigns are already pretty deadly. I ended up using the damage from the Draconomicon book (red dragon's lair, IIRC) that said lava does 20d6 damage. Only two PC's fell into lava, and they were both at the edge of a cliff (with a bit of their square falling on to rock). One PC did die from the lava damage though.
 

Alwayscivilmike

First Post
I am one of the lucky few who got to try and find their way around this pit of death. I can honestly say that the pictures do NOT do the display justice. From the cracks in the rocks to the jagged walls where we had to go hand over hand across while being peppered by Salamander rangers (We all went "It had to be rangers"), the whole encounter was just amazing. Why, there were even mithril veins in the rock. Of course he put a large battle axe on one outcropping that just screamed "Come get me!" When you have a long encounter it can sometimes drag on. This one kept everyone on the edge of their seats. You were always one failed roll away from becoming 'magma man'. Some risked all to jump from one towering rock outcropping to another. Some made it.....*gulp* and some did not. Ah, but what is life without a little danger right?

The only thing I was shocked about was the fact that only ONE of us died. Those salamanders were NOT weak and the beholder was...well...a beholder. The good news about the whole encounter was that the character who bit the dust was the one my guy found most annoying. Still though..the loss of his magic items was a hard hit to take. :devil:
 

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