Looking Over Book of Challenges: Safe and Sound
A room contains a series of escalating traps with asynchronous effects to bait the party into the most dangerous ones.
The water having reduced height and faster draining if someone is trapped under the crushing ceiling is a nice touch.
Using traps with Constitution-draining effects followed by traps that can cause drowning/suffocation (which are resisted with Constitution-based rolls) is good sequencing.
The gem of brightness is an interesting magic item and a welcome change from the usual treasures in this book.
The boxed text describes the room as “featureless except for” the features it then details. On top of the inelegance, this seems like an unnecessary limitation. I’d have no qualms about adding dressing to tie the room in with its greater context and adding hints for the traps (gaps for mechanical movements, residual effects from past uses, etc.).
The way that the poisoned arrow and acid arrow traps are set up makes any given character’s exact location in the affected area meaningless as far as those traps are concerned. I’d either simplify each to a single mass of arrows affecting the whole area or put them on an alternating pattern (e.g. poisoned arrows from the left for the first 5’, acid arrows from the right for the next 5’, repeating) so that the characters’ positions matter.
I’d have the blade barrier in the entrance corridor appear a round before the arrows/scythe traps take effect. Not only does that fit better with the pattern of things becoming more complicated each round until the final effects, but it also provides choices to move closer to investigate it (and thus entering the areas targeted by the other traps) or to back away to search for an alternate exit (and thus feeling smart for avoiding the next set of effects).
Characters near the bottom part of the crushing walls ought to have a chance of avoiding damage completely on a high save roll.
The poisoned arrow, scythe, crushing ceiling, and crushing walls are seeming nonmagical traps, so they need physical parts that move. That conflicts with the boxed text describing the room as “featureless except for a […] dais” with a box on it.
Suffering only 2d6 damage per round trapped under the crushing ceiling is a joke. In contrast, the crushing walls in Avaard’s Dilemma did their full 6d6 per round of sustained crushing, and they didn’t have the benefit of working with gravity.
It’s entirely ambiguous whether the water is filling from actual openings or just magical effects. I’d assume the latter, given that the room is “featureless”, which calls into question how that interacts with the air in that volume.
If characters trapped in the forcecage for 26 hours risk suffocating, surely that would also be a concern for characters trapped in the same-sized space between the forcecage and the crushing ceiling for that length of time (plus an additional 22 hours in an area of twice the volume after the forcecage dissipates), especially considering it fills with water.
As with All of the Treasure, None of the Traps, I disagree with the viewpoint that increasing the danger posed by traps doesn’t increase their risk.
While the advice for scaling down the challenge by removing traps is fine, the lack of clarity on how removing the crushing ceiling affects the operation of the water-filling trap is not. Taken as written, it seems to make the water-filling trap entirely pointless since the water will just drain out into the corridor before reaching any threatening depth.
The basic idea here of having a series of traps where opting for the most obvious path to immediate safety puts the characters in worse position down the road is great. Complex traps with multiple interactive elements are more fun to play with than something that just calls for a single roll to avoid/mitigate the effects and can be ignored thereafter for players who want that Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider/Uncharted-type of feeling . I also like the inclusions of Constitution drain, drowning, and suffocation as hazards that both present unusual threats and fit together thematically (and potentially mechanically, depending on how a given system handles drowning/suffocating).
That all said, I’m not high on most of the actual specific implementations here. The room being featureless encourages tedious play, both for this encounter and for any future play. The first set of effects has too much happening all at once, throwing off the sense of escalation. The scythe trap feels like something tacked on primarily for CR calculation purposes, and likewise for the hamatula. The omission of an obvious means to increase the danger (replacing the water with a more hazardous material like acid, tar, or sand) from the scaling advice is conspicuous.
On the other hand, adding in some features and massaging the effect sequencing addresses my main concerns without taking much effort, and this can serve as a good basis for an important treasure room in a trap-filled dungeon. Make some rumors about the priceless treasure hidden within that nobody has recovered (if necessary, changing the gem of brightness to something else shouldn’t cause further issues), and run with it.
All in all, the encounter needs some additional work, but it’s got enough good stuff in it to justify doing that. It’s a worthwhile entry in its own right, and it also serves as a decent example for putting together bespoke complex trap rooms.