Friday, March 4, 2016

Terrain Hazards: Tombs

This rich guy died a long time ago,
and has a big tomb.
Tombs are places where we bury dead people. Especially important dead people get especially elaborate tombs, and owing to particularly involved beliefs in the afterlife, a few tropes and set-pieces have naturally formed around the concept of tombs. Let's investigate how these elements might affect combat.

Booby Traps

This is a fairly universal thing for fantasy and dungeon fantasy settings, but is at its most thematically appropriate in tombs where robbers are a big potential threat. The classic one in video games is a pressure plate that activates some kind of misfortune for whoever triggered the device. Others that wouldn't seem out of place might be trick doors or trap doors over pits. This being as vanilla a fixture as they come, the tricky part is applying it with any novelty.
First noticing a trap in the middle of a fight might be tricky unless someone is concentrating. How do you let players know that they should look for traps? Fill the room with dumb fodder, and let at least two hit a trap. One tells them that there's one trap, but two tells them there is more than one trap. To mix it up, you can have exactly two traps in the room and let psychology take over from here in the form of combat turns wasted carefully looking for more booby traps. Ways to deal with traps are mentioned starting on p. 19 of Dungeon Fantasy 2.
What tactical value can a spotted trap have? Typical enemies in a tomb - carrion scavengers, and the undead - are pretty dumb. Tactics for luring enemies in a trap can be found under Taunt and Bluster on p.12 of Dungeon Fantasy 2. As long as you can mimic Grub Noises, those festering larvae will be no match for your wits.
Want to really mess with people? Have them discover traps too late, save for the sound of a click, and act like you are rolling on a table... then declare the trap was broken. I don't think this is the best thing to overdo because it can be really frustrating to players to pull the ol, "ok, now that he let down his guard, this time it's a real trap," over and over. Season to taste, not until you taste the salt, right?

Consecrated Spaces

A lot of religious ceremonies can be associated with a tomb. This can mean problems for priest of incompatible deities; it can mean bigger problems for priest of compatible deities if tomb raiding is considered sacrilegious. Consider the implications first off before sending a cleric into the pyramid of his ancestors for a few bucks and a stronger staff. It might be right-out in character, and a bum deal mechanically. Maybe if their is a proper reason to enter the tomb, and the priest is given treasure as an award for dutiful service, it might be ok?
In any case, in terms of combat, this can be a way to hamper religious affiliated characters.Curses 101 in Dungeon Fantasy 2 (Ok, assume everything is in Dungeon Fantasy 2, unless I say otherwise) on p.9 has some advice for performing exorcisms. Tombs of opposed religions might count as low or no sanctity unless the land is consecrated in the name of one's own deity. On the other hand, a priest that is behaving entirely in line with the laws of his religion might be able to benefit from higher levels of sanctity than normal.


Going for a more supernatural feel, these things might be more obvious versions of Booby Traps, where disturbing them, intentionally, or otherwise, might invoke the wrath of a deity. Make pillars displaying the Earthly treasures of deceased kings, and have them cause afflictions if anyone is knocked into them (or dumb enough to actually want to steal it... without doing a very complicated cleansing ritual. Some afflictions that some especially appropriate from just a look at the list in the basic set:
  • Pain (any level) for a generic "curse"
  • Euphoria or Ecstasy through vicariously reliving the pleasure brought on by the object
  • Hallucinations brought on by memories of the object.
  • It could be taken as Terror instead inflicting a fright check.
Perhaps a penalty can be derived from the amount of disturbance. Brushing it on accident might be a bonus on the roll. Accidentally breaking a display by flying into it full force could be a big penalty, and voluntarily handling it might be somewhere around the middle. Maybe the living dead, the entombed royal family might be immune to these effects, turning their prized possessions into a horrifying array of improvised weaponry to use against invaders... or maybe it has the positive effects like Euphoria or Ecstasy as they remember the happy pre-mortem days.

Other Thoughts and Conclusions

There are a lot of ways to remix the tomb concept. A tomb for an evil king might be like a supernatural prison. A tomb in a grand structure might have the man made elements of a labyrinth, and a more natural one those of a cave. In hindsight, an interesting kind of 180 could be pulled on a tomb setting where one is the protector of the tomb against grave robbers. Whether as alive priests loyal to the family of the deceased king, or as the deceased royal family itself, it might be fun to maintain traps, and continue to support the kingdom while warding off heathens. One more post to go.

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