Snow day! Woot! School is closed and so is my employer! I took my daughter out for some sledding and snow-shoveling, and now that we’ve had some hot cocoa and she is taking a nap, I’m following up on the barrels & jars!
Barrels and large clay pots are distributed through some areas of the dungeon Telengard. They might be ancient storage vessels, or still in use by the dungeon’s inhabitants. They might be traps. When some undead creatures are turned by clerics, they often try to return to their graves, but if their graves have been disturbed or desecrated they have to seek other accommodations, and barrels (and even pots) will do in a pinch. Certain fiendish monsters also hide in vessels. Searching a barrel or pot carefully takes time (a full turn for sealed vessel that is also being checked for traps). But a smash & grab takes just a round, although the smasher is exposed to more danger. Opening a vessel carefully only springs a trap on a 1-2 on d6; smashed vessels that are trapped are sprung on a 1-4. Some of these ideas are stolen from suggestions here and here, and others are stolen from computer games like Diablo.
Opening a vessel (d30):
- 2d6 silver pieces
- Bones of a warrior, which will animate as a skeleton when exposed to air
- Trap: Explosive gas ignites, save vs. Breath Weapon or take 2d6 damage
- d6 pounds of grave dirt (possibly useful to a necromancer)
- d4 chickens (they were asleep, but opening or smashing the vessel wakes them
- another pot (& another & another). Roll again for the third vessel
- a Beer ooze
- a Schrodinger key (stealing an idea from another blog) — will open a single locked door on a roll of 1 on a d12.
- the artwork on the pot itself is a map to the current dungeon level (or, a map is glued under the lid of the barrel)
- the vessel is inscribed (roll on the scroll treasure table) — smashing it ruins the scroll, of course
- it is filled with honey (rations for d10 days!) but the honey is also being used to preserve a corpse, and this is not apparent until about 1/2 of the honey is consumed*
- a random monster(s), miniaturized. Smashing the vessel releases in (roll on the wandering monster table)
- a random potion
- d6 gold pieces
- trapped! the vessel holds a spring-loaded arrow (roll to hit as a 4HD monster, and does d6 damage)
- trapped! the vessel is filled with poisonous gas, save or die
- trapped! the vessel is filled with sleeping gas, save or sleep
- trapped! if opened, the vessel shrinks the opener and seals him inside, in stasis (which explains 13 above)
- a random mundane item
- a random mundane item, with a Nystul’s Aura-type enchantment
- a random magic item
- a wraith or specter, sealed inside (released when the vessel is broken or opened)
- filled with flies, which will swarm and blind all in the room for d10 rounds
- filled with a dormant beehive
- lined with ceramic, lead, or wax, and filled with green slime, ochre jelly, black pudding, etc.
Obviously some of this is a nuisance and some is dangerous but there are a lot of beneficial results too so the table should tempt players, at least until a wraith shows up. I’ll probably need to change the table every few levels, and add contents appropriate to the theme for the themed levels of Telengard.
*Honey will crystallize but remains edible indefinitely, as the sugar content is too high to allow bacteria to grow in it, unless water is added. There is an apocryphal story about a desert explorer who found an ancient, huge pot of honey, and lived on the contents for days until he noticed hair in the honey and, investigating further, an ancient mummified corpse inside. Alexander the Great and Democritus were both alleged to have been mummified in honey, at least temporarily, and it seems possible that honey could, by osmosis, desiccate a body (probably it would need to be thoroughly pierced, and disemboweled, to allow the honey to get inside the body, though). I wish I could remember where I read that story. It was either in Aleister Crowley’s mostly fantastic autobiography, or else in an archeological book I read about the search for Dilmun…