I was creeping through the labyrinth – every room appeared to be trapped. A test if you will of my cunning and ability. Having made it through the burning room I found myself in a room that seemed completely empty of any troubles. All it had was a trapdoor in the western most portion of the room and a chain that came out of the stone roof on the eastern side of the room that disappeared into the floor. The chain had obvious tension to it and was flaking with rust. At least that is what I thought it was.
I tried to lift the trapdoor to no avail. I pushed, pulled and tried to slide it but the door would not shift. It was made of some form of metal and so my daggers were useless against it. It had to have something to do with the chain and so I moved to examine it.
The first thing I realised about the chain was that it was not true chain that interlocked links. It seemed that it was more a solid piece of metal made to look like some kind of chain. It moved like a chain where the links would move against one another but there was no hole in each link that I could see. When I pulled on the chain the trapdoor began to open. I kept pulling until it was fully open and then turned to exit the chamber. I could see shat appeared to be sunlight and knew that this was my exit but as I turned and let go the chain reeled back and in half a second the trapdoor shut again. Without two people, this was going to be difficult…
Pathfinder Encounters: The Trapdoor CR 1
This weeks encounter is a simple puzzle trapdoor that should be fairly easily overcome by low level characters. It is designed to be most effective when used for a single character so good if you split the party. It can be modified though to make it more difficult for a party of adventurers.
The trapdoor is a mechanical device that separates the opening mechanism from the door. It is designed to be for a guarded area where one person opens the door while another uses it. The chain has no “holes” for pitons to be threaded through and thus stopping the player from stopping the mechanism from fully closing. The only true way to get this to operatte is to block the trapdoor from closing while up.
This is complicated by the fact that the trapdoor has a ladder attached to it (that goes to the next level or exits the level) and at the end of that ladder is the counterweight. The counterweight is a one ton block of granite stone that when closed sits flush with the ground/floor below. The ladder is attached to the trapdoor by silk rope so one possible solution is cutting the rope away from the trapdoor and that will stop the counterweight from closing the trapdoor (but will remove the ladder, the height to the next area is up to you to determine).
The only other likely way to stop the trapdoor from fully closing is by sliding a large object between it and the opening. Once released the object will stop it from fully closing. The object would need to be large though or the gap will be too small for anyone to squeeze through. You should populate the room with such an item if it is for a solo game, or intended to be used for one person. In the image you can see that I have placed a chest for the same purpose.
Modifying the Room for Multiple PC’s
If you intend to use this for multiple PC’s then there are a few ways you can make this a challenge. First is put a guard of some form that is meant to operate the device. The chain can be coated with acid and the guard would be a creature immune to acid.
Another way is to make the edges of the trapdoor razor sharp so it makes it too difficult for someone to hold open the trapdoor when the chain is released. This does make it more of a trap than a trapdoor though and I would suggest that you increase the CR in line with the damage that you are going to apply via the device.
A Final Word
I only really put in the two ways that are obvious to me for removing the problem of the trap. Be open to your players finding other ways. If they smash the paving and gain access to the pulleys they can jam them. Perhaps even the hidden mechanism in the floor plate next to the trapdoor can be smashed and jammed.
Spells like levitate could be used to hold the chain in place so the door stays open and the like. Be open to inventive ways of the players solving this mini puzzle. That is all this is meant to be, a little mini-puzzle for the players. There is no real danger here to their lives but it may make them think! Until next time, keep rolling.