Cheap and Nasty 1
“Low-cost, effective tricks to keep your lair hero-free!”
Baffle Adventurers with this One Weird Trick Discovered by a Mum(my)
Have you a lair that is plagued with bothersome heroes? Can't take a nap without a howling barbarian trying to bisect your torso? Treasury depleted by the depredations of ravening rogues, money-grubbing mages, and tediously commercial Lawful Evil clerics capable of casting Resurrection for you? This irregular column aims to help you find affordable solutions to your PC Problems.
The Value of Velocity
Some spells are priced with the assumption that adversaries will, generally speaking, have time to regroup and change tactics after the effects first kick in. But what if we could compress those spells' effects into a few devastating seconds? More bang for your buck! Well, let us introduce you to our little friend, velocity.
Ensure that your impregnable fortress of doom features a large chimney, from which faint smoke occasionally rises at predictable intervals. Consider also providing a sizeable aqueduct and/or well with a strong current within. Each of these should be 10x10 feet squares and coated inside with slick oils, mossy weeds or other low-maintenance lubricants (permanent Grease is nice, as are a layer of bricks actually made of very sedentary oozes, or illusory bricks that stop existing once the climber realises they're illusory).
Have your untiring deathless spies watch constantly for intruders, pretending at all times not to notice them. For safety's sake invest in a few high-DC, low-profile detection spells as well.
As soon as heroic adventurers venture towards your fortress, send your psychic minions to the aforementioned chimney, aqueduct and well. Have them each cast Etheric Shards along the length of these convenient tubes. A 9th-level caster (minimum) will produce 90 feet of shards, or 18 x 5-foot cubes, lasting 9 hours.
Shortly after an adventurer has begun their journey along the enshardened tube, they should discover it is no longer possible to stop it due to the aforementioned lubricants. In addition, they should begin taking 1d8 damage per square of movement and making Reflex saves to avoid 1 stacking bleed damage (with a -4 penalty on those saves for forced movement, like... falling).
Even assuming a slowish fall or moderate current, the poor fool should pass through at least half the tube in the round when they begin taking damage, suffering 9d8 slashing damage and hopefully substantial bleed damage in a matter of seconds. The resulting sensation is, test subjects tell us, rather like sudenly finding oneself attacked by unseen piranhas.
Moreover, our hapless intruder should find they are now separated from the party healer by a considerable distance filled with invisible knives, and that the chorus of agonised shrieks they unleashed has somewhat deterred the healer from following. Should the healer nobly rush after, of course, we can admire their selfless devotion to duty, their disregard for personal danger, and the undoubtedly excellent Reflex saves for which divine casters are so widely renowned.
Of course, a mere 40 (average) slashing damage isn't enough to fell most mid-level adventurers - a full 80 may not do the trick - and it's always possible they will find a way to heal during their frantically-propelled journey of evisceration. This demonstrates the importance of a good follow-up; a simple trap is not enough. When our ragged, blood-soaked adversaries tumble from the mouth of the bladegullet and sprawl out into apparent safety, they must be allowed no repose.
Well, speaking of unseen piranhas, what lair is complete without a water-feature for visitors to admire, employees to contemplate, and passing adventurers to find themselves falling into out of chutes? With their keen sense of smell, our fishy friends will waste no time in hurrying to greet the new, delicious arrivals.
Now, it would not be sporting* to simply dump invaders into a deep pool of deadly carnivorous fish and watch them die. Quite unreasonable! One must give them a chance; and what better chance than a large, steel hatch set into the side of the pool and marked with the words "Emergency Exit"? Our hypothetical heroes need only keep their wits about them, spot the exit, evade the fish long enough to reach the door, and drag themselves into the all-steel chamber beyond.
*Efficient? Yes. Thigh-slappingly hilarious? Also yes. Aesthetically delightful? Certainly. But sporting? Not unless you have subscribed as a member of the Piranha Feast-Racing League, and an authorised referee is present to provide a detailed match report of your piscine proteges' prowess to the League for inclusion in the season's rankings. Further details below for interested readers. The PFRL is a member of the League In Favour of Cruel Sports.
As a reward for their impressive display of skill, they will find there a rack marked "Emergency: In case of injury" and filled with a number of bottles of coloured liquid. The labels are written rather small, and so any heroes wishing to peruse them will need to pick one up and peer in order to make out the words "Didn't your mother teach you not to take explosive runes from strangers?".
While there is admittedly a small setup cost in the construction of the steel detonation chamber, we feel this is an affordable addition to any up-and-coming lair. Factor in the stress-reduction benefits for your henchmen of a soothing fishtank to watch, and it will pay for itself many times over in the coming centuries.