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D&D 5E Rope Tricked!

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
THE COLD OPEN

The adventurers rush up the steep stairs, dashing heedlessly through rubble choking the landing. Behind them, the roper's strength-sapping tendrils flail in the darkness, reaching around the corner. The Underdark hunter, drawn from its slumber in the depths below, creeps nearer with each passing second.

Down a corridor whose crumbling walls are covered with stylized serpents a number of pits block their path. A musky smell and the odd hiss herald the presence of snakes in large number. The way the adventurers came is death, and the way forward is by no means safe.

But perhaps there is a light at the end of the increasingly chilly tunnel: A bluish glow emanates from what appears to be a hole in the ceiling beyond the snake pits from which a knotted rope dangles. A disembodied voice echoes from this space. "It is I, Phineas Lanyard! Join me if you wish to escape the madness of this place! This is no trick - hurry!"

What do you do?

ropetrick.JPG

BOLD ADVENTURERS

Lack-Toes the Intolerant
Rosemary Thyme
Chuck Dagger
Sacred Cow

Or whichever foolhardy 2nd-level adventurers you can scare up.



THE SITUATION

The roper Tendricles, starving after a long hibernation below, relentlessly pursues the fleeing PCs in hopes of catching and reeling in a tasty meal. Having used up much of its reserves in the pursuit, it does not give up easily and will risk its life to kill and eat at least one PC. However, Tendricles suffers from crippling ophidiophobia and will not move past the snake pits.

Phineas Lanyard is the ghost of a scholarly human conjurer who was known locally for delving this dungeon in search of lost magical relics about 50 years ago. He never did return to town though and speculation abounds as to his fate. In truth, he was murdered here by a group of rampaging quaggoths who captured him and hung him with his own rope of climbing.

In order to pass on from this world, Phineas Lanyard must do in someone else as he himself was done in - by hanging them. His goal therefore is to lure the PCs into the upper chamber, hide in the Ethereal until it can possess one of them, climb up to the crossbeam, tie a noose around his neck, and leap off. Phineas cannot leave the upper chamber, so if the PCs are able to flee from this area, he will not pursue. The ghost pursues this goal to the exclusion of any other unless it can't physically achieve it in which case it attacks with its horrifying visage and withering touch as appropriate.

upperchamber.JPG

FEATURES OF THE AREA

The adventurers start in inside the green box marked "PCs." Tendricles starts inside the green box marked "Roper." Phineas Lanyard is in the upper chamber, but prefers to remain in the Ethereal until he springs his trap. All should be in initiative.

Crumbling Walls. Earthquakes in the distant path have damaged this section of the dungeon. Plentiful cracks run the lengths of the walls in the corridor and the upper chamber. Because the stone of the wall is prone to crumbling under any significant force, climbing them is more difficult than usual, requiring a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check. Failing this check means that each foot of movement costs 2 extra feet instead of 1 extra foot.

Fallen Beam. Part of the ceiling collapsed in this corridor especially at the western end where a sturdy oaken beam lay beneath a pile of rubble. The rubble is difficult terrain. The beam is 12 feet long, 6 inches wide, and 6 inches thick. It weighs 100 pounds. A creature could use this to successfully cross the pits if it is put in place.

Mysterious Remains. The corpse of a Medium-sized humanoid rest upon a dark stain on the ground. What were once this poor soul's fine robes are now just discolored, tattered rags clinging to bone. A backpack and its contents are scattered about - a weighty tome stained with putrescence, a shattered bottle of dried ink, an ink pen, a few sheets of parchment stuck together with dried gore, a bag of sand, and a small knife. While the items are mostly mundane, the tome is Phineas Lanyard's spellbook. All the pages are ruined save for two which contains the instructions for casting a rope trick spell. A spell component pouch and a belt pouch containing 15 gp, a 100-gp pearl, and some useful notes regarding a nasty trap found deeper in the dungeon can also be found among the remains.

Nope Rope Pits. Each 10-foot deep pit contains a large nest of snakes which softens any fall. However, falling into the pit causes a swarm of poisonous snakes to lash out at anyone within reach. Two areas of floor on either side of the center pit are choked with difficult terrain, broken stone that fell from the ceiling. A creature leaping into the difficult terrain must make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to maintain its footing. On a failed check, the creature slides into a pit in the direction of its movement. The snakes are sustained by the foul magic of Dendar the Night Serpent which lingers in this part of the dungeon long after it was abandoned by the yuan-ti. They do not pursue any creature leaving the pit.

The Rope Upward. The rope leading into the chamber above the corridor is a rope of climbing. It is firmly tied to a beam 30 feet above the floor of the upper chamber. It has AC 20 and 20 hit points. If the rope is fastened around the neck of a humanoid and it falls, it ends that fall restrained a few feet above the floor of the corridor below, taking 6d6 bludgeoning damage and 3d6 bludgeoning damage at the start of each of its turns thereafter until freed from the rope.

The Upper Chamber. Accessible by a 5-foot-wide aperture in the floor, the ceiling of the 20-foot-square chamber is 40 feet above. Halfway up is a sturdy crossbeam which is all that remains of a wooden floor that long since rotted away. Phineas' rope of climbing is firmly attached to its center and dangles downward through the opening in the floor and into the corridor below. There is a locked door on the north and south walls at the level of the crossbeam. Both doors are locked (DC 15 Dexterity check after 1 minute of effort), but could be broken down with brute force (DC 20 Strength check or AC 15, 18 hp); however, there is only a few inches of space between the door and a 20-foot drop to the floor, so gaining leverage enough to break it down may prove difficult. Quaggoths still hunt in this area, and significant noise may draw them.



I bet you thought this was about the rope trick spell, huh? Well, APRIL FOOLS!

How would your 2nd-level PCs deal with this problem? What's the most optimal approach? What is the likeliest outcome in your view?

Thanks for reading. If you end up using this short-form scenario in your game, please tell us how it played out!
 
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Iry

Hero
This is absolutely delightful. Very well done.

Hilariously, I can see a party killing the roper, Killing the snakes (just to be sure), and someone still getting hung when they explore the upper area. :D
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
It’s like a micro-scenario. I could drop this in almost any dungeon with light edits.

I might’ve used suffocation rules after the drop.

But as to how I’d solve it? I think I’d go for the wood beam and try to relay it across the pits. For the ghost, plan A is obviously to have Sacred Cow attempt to turn undead. Failing that, and Phineas’ intentions made manifest to the party, We’d have to go for the rope. If anyone were caught I wonder if we might get under them and either catch/soften the blow, or see if we could keep the rope from going taut.

Though, as a rope of climbing under Phineas’ control, I wonder if it could be commanded by him to strangle. [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] - how would you rule that? Could we hold up a hanging adventurer from underneath or would the commanded rope prevent that?
 

Arvok

Explorer
Once the ghost manages to possess a PC and have him hang himself, is there any reason he wouldn't then leave that body and attack the rest of the party to make it more difficult for them to help? If--after dropping to the rope's full length--the PC's body is still alive, the ghost could draw and then drop any edged weapons the PC has. This would render him pretty much helpless and the other 3 party members would have their hands full with the ghost.

It seems the best way to tackle this is to try to make it to the upper chamber, away from the roper. A group of 2nd level characters will still probably lose 1 character but the others should survive.

This seems like a really nasty scenario. I like it.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It’s like a micro-scenario. I could drop this in almost any dungeon with light edits.

I might’ve used suffocation rules after the drop.

I considered it, but it just takes too long for there to be any real tension. The way I designed it, the tension is in the build-up to the hanging and what the PCs try to do to stop that from occurring. The scenario is supposed to effectively "end" once a PC hangs.

But as to how I’d solve it? I think I’d go for the wood beam and try to relay it across the pits. For the ghost, plan A is obviously to have Sacred Cow attempt to turn undead. Failing that, and Phineas’ intentions made manifest to the party, We’d have to go for the rope. If anyone were caught I wonder if we might get under them and either catch/soften the blow, or see if we could keep the rope from going taut.

Though, as a rope of climbing under Phineas’ control, I wonder if it could be commanded by him to strangle. [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] - how would you rule that? Could we hold up a hanging adventurer from underneath or would the commanded rope prevent that?

The beam is a good option for getting across, but risky - the PC opens him or herself up to an OA from the roper and then might trail behind the party as the roper closes in. Turn Undead is clutch; however, two results may occur if Phineas is turned - he flees through a wall and comes back in a minute (best case, if there are adjoining chambers in the direction he flees) OR he flees through a wall, takes damage at the end of his turn due to remaining within an object... and comes right back. Cutting the rope is good to lessen the threat and oddly enough it has the same AC as the roper but of course only about 20% of the hit points. At 2nd level, there's a good chance of a lot of whiffing. If they do manage to cut the rope, they also destroy their loot!

As for strangling with the rope, its command words only give it limited options and it can only fasten itself to objects. Commanding it to strangle someone just wouldn't work.
 

Very cool - I hope Sacred Cow or Rosemary can successfully suss out Phineas Lanyard's true intentions before one of the party is in a bind...

Ha! Well played with the thread title. I would have read it all anyway, but I was especially determined to find the part where they mistimed the end of the Rope Trick spell and the whole party plummeted out of the extra-dimensional space down into a particularly nasty snake pit!
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Once the ghost manages to possess a PC and have him hang himself, is there any reason he wouldn't then leave that body and attack the rest of the party to make it more difficult for them to help? If--after dropping to the rope's full length--the PC's body is still alive, the ghost could draw and then drop any edged weapons the PC has. This would render him pretty much helpless and the other 3 party members would have their hands full with the ghost.

My intent was to have the ghost stay in the PC until he or she dies. At 2nd-level, many characters will drop to 0 with an average damage roll and then fail three death saves in short order due to ongoing damage and any failed rolls. When the PC dies, Phineas can then pass onto the afterlife. The scene is effectively over at this point on a significant down note.

There may be an additional complication though - the roper (if it lives). With a PC hanging down into the corridor, he or she is within the reach of the roper's weakening tendrils! If the roper finishes off the PC, the DM might say that Phineas' goal (PC death by hanging) is not achieved at which point it leaves the body to try again. Meanwhile, the roper snatches the corpse and eats it!

Certainly if the DM expects the players will have an easy time of things in its current form, changing it so that Phineas will leave the body to attack others is a good choice.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Very cool - I hope Sacred Cow or Rosemary can successfully suss out Phineas Lanyard's true intentions before one of the party is in a bind...

Picked up on that, did you? :)

I often include elements in these scenarios that reference topics under discussion. That was one, but I also included some Acrobatics situations (jumping into difficult terrain, plus the wooden beam and the doorways 20 feet above the floor) since there was a thread on that recently. I dreamed up this scenario a couple months back when there were several rope trick threads going on, but decided to hold off till April Fool's to post it.

Here, Phineas is lying to the PCs and with a 17 Charisma, that's a decent enough chance at thwarting any attempts to suss out his true intentions. (Arguably, not being able to see the person lying could mean the ability check is at disadvantage, too, if there is a check at all.) But even if they are able to tell that Phineas is lying, the interesting part of that interaction isn't that Phineas is lying, but what're you going to do about it. The roper just... keeps... coming.

Ha! Well played with the thread title. I would have read it all anyway, but I was especially determined to find the part where they mistimed the end of the Rope Trick spell and the whole party plummeted out of the extra-dimensional space down into a particularly nasty snake pit!

One of the rope trick threads from a couple months back had some poster saying that rope trick was dumb because it takes a long time to climb 60 feet of rope and that it would mean 6d6 falling damage at the spell's end, not realizing that that was the upper limit, not the required length of the rope. So of course in this scenario I had to use a rope of climbing for the rope (which is 60 feet long) and the initial hanging damage is... 6d6.
 

Picked up on that, did you? :)

I often include elements in these scenarios that reference topics under discussion. That was one, but I also included some Acrobatics situations (jumping into difficult terrain, plus the wooden beam and the doorways 20 feet above the floor) since there was a thread on that recently. I dreamed up this scenario a couple months back when there were several rope trick threads going on, but decided to hold off till April Fool's to post it.

Many thanks for doing so. It's really very helpful to see discussion topics put under well-hashed gaming conditions rather than the often present white rooms or partially described scenarios that are fodder for misinterpretations. Misinterpretations that are most often unintentional, mind you, and can be clarified with some back and forth (but almost certainly intentional misinterpretations from a few outlier posters who are more interested in internetting than being helpful). Anyway, point being, it's nice to see how many variables work together to create a sweet, sweet, horrifying, challenging encounter.

Here, Phineas is lying to the PCs and with a 17 Charisma, that's a decent enough chance at thwarting any attempts to suss out his true intentions. (Arguably, not being able to see the person lying could mean the ability check is at disadvantage, too, if there is a check at all.) But even if they are able to tell that Phineas is lying, the interesting part of that interaction isn't that Phineas is lying, but what're you going to do about it. The roper just... keeps... coming.

One of the rope trick threads from a couple months back had some poster saying that rope trick was dumb because it takes a long time to climb 60 feet of rope and that it would mean 6d6 falling damage at the spell's end, not realizing that that was the upper limit, not the required length of the rope. So of course in this scenario I had to use a rope of climbing for the rope (which is 60 feet long) and the initial hanging damage is... 6d6.

Tight!

One slight quibble, if I may. The party should easily be able to see that Phineas is lying. No roll necessary, I think you would agree. I mean, that's his body... right there... lying... on the ground....
Sorry, that's all I got. Stole that material from another post from someone a few weeks ago... :p
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Tight!

One slight quibble, if I may. The party should easily be able to see that Phineas is lying. No roll necessary, I think you would agree. I mean, that's his body... right there... lying... on the ground....
Sorry, that's all I got. Stole that material from another post from someone a few weeks ago... :p

One of my fellow DMs who reviewed my draft version was like "Man, you telegraphed the heck out of this being a wizard's corpse - it's even got a scholar's pack!"
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Nice work!

Would really be a bummer to spoil the whole thing with one little Insight check, huh?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Nice work!

Would really be a bummer to spoil the whole thing with one little Insight check, huh?

Thanks - the interesting question is, even if you know Phineas is lying, what are you going to do about it? A successful Insight check won't get you out of this jam!
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Thanks - the interesting question is, even if you know Phineas is lying, what are you going to do about it? A successful Insight check won't get you out of this jam!

Yeah, I was thinking more about something I wrote in the other thread, about lie detection being bad for the story, and realized there are many exceptions. Sometimes you want the characters to know they are being lied to, especially when it doesn't change the situation. It only really needs to be kept secret when knowing whether something is the truth or a lie will determine which course of action will be chosen.

And a great narrative device is to let the characters/players know the truth, but make it extremely hard to convince anybody else of it.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yeah, I was thinking more about something I wrote in the other thread, about lie detection being bad for the story, and realized there are many exceptions. Sometimes you want the characters to know they are being lied to, especially when it doesn't change the situation. It only really needs to be kept secret when knowing whether something is the truth or a lie will determine which course of action will be chosen.

I think it's risky for the DM to need any particular outcome. I would consider any such scenario to be a flaw in the adventure design.
 



G

Guest 6801328

Guest
I think it's risky for the DM to need any particular outcome. I would consider any such scenario to be a flaw in the adventure design.

I may be choosing my words hastily, but there's a difference between "needing" an outcome and an adventure "needing"...or at least "preferring"...to keep some information unknown.

How much less interesting would your scenario be if the players knew that the rope was a trap? Sure, they still have to navigate Roper vs. Snake Pits, but the mystery is gone. Again, maybe "need" isn't exactly the right word, but knowing the secret would somewhat spoil the fun.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I may be choosing my words hastily, but there's a difference between "needing" an outcome and an adventure "needing"...or at least "preferring"...to keep some information unknown.

How much less interesting would your scenario be if the players knew that the rope was a trap? Sure, they still have to navigate Roper vs. Snake Pits, but the mystery is gone. Again, maybe "need" isn't exactly the right word, but knowing the secret would somewhat spoil the fun.

I see what you're saying. I think mystery is a byproduct and not so much a goal. Sometimes you set the stage for it and it happens and other times it doesn't. Sometimes you don't plan for a mystery and the things fall into place to make it so. I don't think it's worth worrying about, and when DMs do worry about it, they run the risk of becoming inconsistent in their adjudication as they push for particular outcomes.
 

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