I headed into Dharkiss’ shop the next day exhausted and excited. We had an impromptu pizza party the night before, and between that and the excitement for the upcoming dungeon I didn’t get much sleep.
“Mornin’ Angus. You look like you were rode hard and put away wet. Was it worth it?” Dharkiss chuckled.
“Huh? Wha? Oh, no. Nothing that fun sadly. Just couldn’t wind down and get to sleep.”
“Well you need to find yourself a nice mate then. She’ll wind ya up, then help ya wind back down if ya know what I mean.” I swear he actually leaned on the counter and winked at me as he said this.
“No doubt.” I agreed. “Alas, I’m stuck here needin’ supplies before we head out. Got my order ready?”
“Aye, here ya go.” He said, dropping four quivers on the counter. “Put ‘em to good use.”
“Oh I will, don’t worry about that. Though I am keeping two of them in reserve.”
“Holding back? Whatever for?”
“Well I need a few nasty surprises for one of the guys who challenged me. I plan on making their dungeon dive pretty awful.”
“And you’re afraid of someone spoiling the surprise? Not a bad plan.” He said while nodding his head. “Well, let’s get goin’ then. I’m sure Khaliss wants to get there early and stake things out.”
“You’re going with?” I asked, not quite proud of how high my voice got at the end of that question.
“Hahaha, yep. Y’all will be needin’ a blacksmith, and it’ll give the apprentice some practice for when he has his own shop. Besides, he is far enough along that this shouldn’t be too hard on him. If he can’t handle this, then he needs to think about what he’s gonna do with his life.”
“Sink or swim time?” Khaliss asked, having snuck into the shop. “While I feel bad for the people who are staying here with an apprentice smith, I’ll be more than happy to have you along with us Dharkiss.”
“Well, I am the only one qualified to repair your new armor. Here to try it on?”
“Yep. That and make sure Angus here doesn’t get left behind.” While Khaliss walked up and slapped me on the back, Dharkiss was behind the counter pulling out cloth covered bits of armor. True to his more mobile fighting style, it was mostly leather, but reinforced in specific areas with shadow infused steel, the dark grey color wouldn’t glint in the light. It was purely functional, with very little embellishments. The only additions were spikes on the elbows as well as sharpened blades extending to the sides of the tail.
“No helm?” I asked, slightly confused as to why Khaliss wouldn’t protect his head.
“Too limiting for peripheral vision.” Was his simple reply. “We ready to go?”
“Yep.” We both agreed. Khaliss gathered his gear while Dharkiss got a bag of what I assumed was his tools. We headed down to the barracks, where a double row of soldiers waited for us. In front of them were two priests, who nodded to Khaliss then used their staves to form an arch. Similar to the first time this happened, a large portal formed between them.
“Let’s head on out!” Khaliss called, then led the soldiers through the portal. Dharkiss and I followed, entering into a strange room. The back wall we entered from was curved, and the ends angled down before forming a square end around a set of stairs leading up. Looking at the ceiling, the shape of the room resembled a Chinese hand fan, only the hand part was squared and had the stairs. There were two columns near our end of the room, and a single desk between them. Before I could examine the room further, a system wide announcement popped up.
New Challenges have appeared!
In order to ensure the best quality of gameplay, Arctic Storm is working to always bring new and exciting challenges for the players. Today we announce the arrival of the first Tier 2 monster dungeons with enemy players! Both sides have 24 hours to prepare for these new challenges!
In the essence of fair play, we have instituted the following rules:
Resurrections will be limited in player dungeons. Parties of 3 or less will have two resurrections per player on the team, to be kept in a pool to be used for the entire team.
Parties of 4-5 will have one resurrection per player, subject to the same restrictions as above.
Parties of 6 or more will have but one life to give.
Drops will be better for smaller groups.
Drops from dungeons that have a player in them will increase in both rarity and rate.
The first to clear these challenges will receive a boost to rewards. The first to slay a player in the dungeon will also receive a special item. Depending on the kill streak of the monster player, a special title may be earned as well.
Rise of the Shadow Outpost!
The Shadow drakelings have rediscovered one of their outposts from before their expulsion from our plane! They have a small force stationed there while they search for lost secrets. Stop them, before it’s too late!
As a special bonus, Rycran and Angus_MacG have agreed to a challenge. Players may head to the nearest inn and place bets on the outcome of the fight, as Angus strives to prevent Rycran’s team from completing the dungeon. There are several things to bet on, from the number of deaths to how many traps are triggered. Watch the view from both sides in three days!
“Seems we came out on the lowest floor. This will be my location, as the king has designated me the boss of the dungeon. From the plans I received, we will do the following. Dharkiss, you will set up shop in the hidden smithy behind the portal. Don’t worry, it is an inaccessible area, so no players will ever enter.” He laid a hand on the smith’s shoulder to calm his shaking. Turning him around, he showed him to the hidden smithy. When he came back, he resumed his orders. “The stairs lead to a rectangular room above us, followed by a hall that opens to a barracks. The rest of you will be stationed there, to prevent any from gaining access to this room. There is another hallway leading to the stairs up from there. Codo and Podo will set up their post at the top of these as a team miniboss. The rest of the dungeon is yours Angus.” He said, finally turning to me. “I convinced the king to leave the first two floors almost completely empty, giving you free reign to set up traps and ambushes as you see fit.”
“Wow. Uh, thanks Khaliss. I’ll try not to let you down.”
“I’m sure you won’t. We won’t get through this undefeated, as the players are strong enough to have resurrections, but we won’t make it easy on them, WILL WE?!” He shouted the last at the group of soldiers.
“NEVER!” A chorus shouted back at him as they slammed the butts of their spears into the ground. On closer look, some of them had arbalests like I did. They turned and split off into three groups, each containing one arbalest along with three spearmen.
“Well, while they do that I’m going to head up and start on my traps. That work for you?” I asked Khaliss.
“Sounds good.” He said, dismissing me with a wave.
I headed up the stairs, wanting to go through at least a walkthrough of the dungeon from the player’s perspective before I started laying my traps. I wasn’t paying much attention on the way up, so that I wouldn’t spoil the surprise.
Once I came to the golden wall of light that denoted the area I couldn’t cross, I turned and surveyed the dungeon. I was in a tunnel with smoothed stone hallways. It went straight for nearly the length of a football field, before expanding into a circular room with three exits. I took the left door to start, and almost immediately the path turned to the right before continuing straight to a set of stairs that I was sure I hadn’t climbed up before. Huh, time to head down to floor two and see what was up with these stairs.
I came out of the stairs facing north, while in the middle of another circular room. This one only had exits to the north, east and west. I started by heading west, but it was a fairly short hallway that ended in a circular room with nothing to note. Heading back, I moved to the north and found a similar hallway with a circular room, only there was a treasure chest on a pedestal on the back wall. The eastern hallway curved into a large u shape before returning to a dead end wall.
“That can’t be all to this, can it?” I mumbled to myself, before placing a hand on the wall and trying to see how deep the earth went behind it. Shockingly, it was only a foot thick! Making a hole, I stuck my head through to find myself in another empty hallway. Oh, this was going to be a prankster’s wet dream! A maze type dungeon! Finding a new spring in my step, I headed back to the first set of stairs and back to the central room on the first floor.
From there, I headed into the north hallway. It was a straight shot down a much wider hallway to yet another stairwell. Descending, I came to a circular room with the exit to the southwest. I followed the hallway, and where it took a turn to go due south I found the initial hole in the wall from the stair one. The new hallway went on for about fifteen feet before coming to an angled dead end. Making a hole in this wall on a hunch, I found it opened up into the room where Codo and Podo were waiting.
“Ahoy there fellas!” I shouted at them, enjoying watching them jump.
“Angus! What are you doing with your head in the wall?” Codo asked.
“Just checking things out. Seems we only have four floors for the dungeon, but there are plenty of dead ends to exploit. I think it’ll be fun!”
“Well, you sure seem optimistic enough.” Podo joked. “Can you help us set up some traps in these columns? When you get a chance, of course.”
“Why, that would be a fantastically devious plan.” I chuckled. “I’ll be back in a bit, I’m still mapping this place out.” Pulling my head back, I closed the hole up. Heading back to the central room in floor one, I headed east through the only hallway that was left. This headed down to floor two, opening up into an oblong room with an opening to the southwest. There was no hallway, as this room immediately opened into a droplet shaped room with the twins, several columns, and the stairs leading down. Nodding to them on my way past, I went back to check out how the players would see the third floor.
The third floor was much more finished than the upper two, as the rooms were square here. Heading north from the stairs, there was a long hallway with several circular alcoves for statues. This opened into a rectangular barracks room, long edge heading north. This was where Khaliss had stationed his men, close enough that an unlucky group could draw aggro from multiple batches if they weren’t careful. The spearmen had shadow enhanced plate armor to boost their defenses. The archers had those brutal flesh ravager bolts that I had Dharkiss make, and I was glad of that. That was the bolt I was planning on using for most of these battles anyway, the other two were going to be very unpleasant surprises for Rycran and his team.
Continuing on, was another hallway with a final room containing the stairs to Khaliss’ area. Finally having the options mapped out, I started back to begin setting up my traps. The first thing I did was craft some hidden paths so that I could get around adventurers. In the first level, I made an arching path from the entrance to the eastern path, as well as a path connecting the other two rooms with stairs in that level. Heading down to the second level, the only hidden path I needed was connecting the two arms of the U shaped hallway. I then went down to the hidden smithy to enlist some professional help.
“YO! DHARKISS!” I yelled over the sound of him working on a spearhead.
“Angus? What’cha needin’?” He asked, seeming surprised to see me so soon.
“Well, I need your help setting up some traps. Grab some spears and some wires if you would?”
“Aye, gimme a second to bank the fire here.” He said, quickly working to save materials. Once he was done, we made our way to the top. “So, what are we gonna be settin’ up?”
“I have an idea for some pitfalls, tripwires, and that pick weapon you helped make.”
“Ok, well I have a bit of experience with stuff like that. Let’s see what we can do.”
We started in the northern hallway, directly across from the room you would initially enter in the dungeon. Off to the left side, I made a large closet type of space. Keeping the top half of that wall intact, I attached the pick so that it would swing down and pierce through any head foolish enough to stick through a random hole in the wall.
“So, you want their head to push the wire, which will trigger the trap?”
“Yeah, that’s about the best way I can do it. Hopefully they forgot torches and won’t see the wire, but in all honesty I’m not expecting a lot out of this trap other than some humor.”
“Yeah, the last time I had a hole like this, I actually got someone to stick their head in while I was on the other side. Smashed ‘em with a hammer.”
“HAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, that’s good. So ya think he’ll be coming around to visit again?”
“I hope so.” I said. Once Dharkiss backed away from the wall, I finished up my work. Returning the wall to its original shape, I left a head sized hole in an awkward position. Off to the side, I decided to write a little note.
The Unrustable’s Hole of Glory
(Totally not a guillotine!)
Smiling, I headed back to the central room of level one. Hmmm, this was an incredibly open space, but knowing that it was a player dungeon they would be on guard. In the center of the room, I used stone manipulation to sculpt a life sized drakeling aiming an arbalest towards the entrance.
“So what’s special about that statue?”
“Nothing. No traps, no hidden switches. Just something to catch them off guard, mess with their heads a little bit. Make them think twice about every possible statue they come across.”
“Nice. I like it.” He commented with a smile, as we headed to the eastern walkway. I stopped midway down, and crafted a little plaque sticking out with some raised bumps on it.
“Just what in the Hell is that?” Dharkiss asked.
“More psychological games. Where we come from, these bumps form letters that can be read by people who can’t see. Of course, not many people know how to read this that aren’t blind, so they will assume it is some form of warning. Especially when I put it in several different places on the way down to Khaliss.”
“Ah. I assume it is nothing important? Maybe something like ‘Welcome to the dungeon’?”
“Yep. I’ll fill you in later tonight.”
“Alright, I suppose Khaliss will want in on the joke as well.” We headed down to the second level, to the room with the twins.
“Dharkiss? And Angus too! Codo, I think they’re here to set up our traps!”
“That we are Podo, that we are.” Dharkiss chuckled at the enthusiasm. “Know what you are wanting?”
“Somethin’ with fire!” Their eyes got wide, and seemed to light with an inner fire.
“I ain’t got nothing that’ll burn, I’m a blacksmith ya dolts!”
“Sorry fellas, I’m out of pyrophoria potions.” I said sadly.
“Can’t you make some more? Pleeeeeease?”
“I would love to, but I don’t have the ingredients. But how about this. Dharkiss, let’s get a few spears over here by the torch.” I said, walking over to the torch that was by the entryway. “Can we rig a few spears to shoot downward to anyone wanting to pull on the torch here?”
“Aye, that’ll be something I can do.” He said, getting to work.
“Now, for you two. How about we take a few of these tiles up, and place some spear heads underneath. When the adventurers walk on them, you can use stone manipulation to spear them through the foot.”
“Yeah! That’ll be great!” The agreed, happy to have something they could activate at will in the fight. “It’s just too bad we can’t jump out at them like you will get to.”
“Why not?” They looked at each other, eyes getting big.
“Have one hide in a pillar.”
“While the other distracts the group!”
“The unsuspecting squishies!”
“Bah, you brats give me a headache every time you start finishing each other’s sentences.” Dharkiss grumped, and I was inclined to agree. For some reason, I bounced back and forth as they bantered. Surprisingly I didn’t pull a neck muscle.
“Ok guys, you have fun working on that pillar. Just don’t bring the ceiling down on us, ya?”
Dharkiss and I simply made a hole in the wall and headed toward the rest of level two, covering it back up behind us. “That makes a nifty shortcut.” He remarked.
“Doesn’t it though? I am really going to enjoy exploiting that. Now, here’s another place I wanted to make a trap.” I said, stopping at the bend in the hallway. “Can we place a pressure plate here, hopefully to catch a rogue not paying attention?”
“Sure, but what do you want it to trigger?”
“Back here.” I said, having moved to just inside the hallway from the room with a stairwell. “The rest of his party will be hanging back, let’s see if they enjoy some spears to the head.”
Dharkiss stood for a second, finger on his chin in thought. “Yep. I think we can do it. Have to thread a long bit of wire to hold up those spears, but we can have them all connected via a thin stone plate. That’ll drop ‘em all at once.” We got to work, and I must admit that threading wire through walls was a lot easier when you could manipulate the stone the walls were made of. The intricacy of the trap still made it take us the better part of an hour and a half, but we got it done.
“Alright, step back. I’m triggering the trap now.” He said, stepping on the plate when he saw that I had gotten out of the way. Smooth as butter, the spears dropped down and would have pierced me to the middle of my chest.
“Perfect. That’ll kill any elves and humans, though the dwarves might just get a scratch on the head.”
“Aye, but I don’t have enough springs to launch spears upward with enough force to impale them.”
“Ah, don’t worry about it. The point of all this is to make them use up their resurrections before they get to take out a lot of us. Khaliss’ training on the groups will do the rest.” With that, we headed into the last section of level two. Rather than waste time going up and around, we went through the wall again. “Ok, this one’s going to be a bit tricky.” I said, stopping just out of view of the stairs up to the first level. “I’m going to use a shadow tripwire at waist height here to trigger spears from above again. Think we can get that rigged?”
“Hmm. You’ll lose the ability to summon chains when you do this won’t ya?”
“Yes, but I don’t plan on using those for most groups anyway.”
“Another surprise fer that one fella?”
“Yep.” I said with a grin. “Can never have too many surprises.”
We went to work, setting up enough spears to kill anyone within a span of ten feet. Once everything was set, Dharkiss held on to the tripwire and stepped aside for a second. “Ok, go ahead and connect your shadow chain to the end here, and send it across the hallway to that loop in the stone. Once you do that and we test it, I’ll reform the stone to hide this wire and we can head back.”
“Sounds good.” I replied, doing as he asked. Once we were both out of the danger zone, I asked him, “So, just how are we going to remotely trigger this without getting a few holes punched in us?”
“Cancel your skill.”
“Oh, yeah, that’d do it.” I said, slightly ashamed I didn’t think of such a simple solution. Once I cancelled it, the spears dropped down silently. “They’ll never see that one coming, will they?” I muttered.
“Well, they sure as heck won’t be hearing it coming. C’mon, we don’t have a lot of time left. Let’s get this reset and move on.”
Once all the spears were reset, we headed towards the last bit of the area we hadn’t trapped yet. Looking at the two rooms, I got a crazy idea. “Hey Dharkiss, we aren’t allowed to trap that chest, are we?”
“No. Khaliss explicitly stated that any treasure chests that need to be trapped will be done so by the system. We can’t even open the chests and make offerings.”
“Perfect. So, here’s what I want to do.” I said. “Let’s make a pitfall into several boar spears wrapping around the pedestal that the chest is sitting on. Can you bend the tines on the boar spears so that they are angled toward the ground?”
“I can, but that’ll defeat the purpose of stopping the bodies.”
“That’s exactly what I want. Let the bodies slide down past the crossbar, and now the crossbar acts like barbs on an arrow.”
“Okay, I can do that. What are we going to do as a trap?”
“Let me get to that in a bit, while you modify the boar spears can I have a bunch of small planks of metal?”
“Sure.” He said, handing me over a small sack. Opening it up, it was stuffed with bits of metal the size and shape of a popsicle stick. Perfect! I didn’t notice Dharkiss staring at me, as I slowly bent the metal into a flattened bracket, then took a bit right in the middle and bowed it downward.
“Just what have you created there?”
“A clicker.” I replied, showing him what I meant. Placing my thumb on the bowed part, I bent it upward quickly and heard a solid *click* sound.
“Just what is that going to do?”
“Annoy people. Scare a bunch of ‘em. Make them paranoid. It’s another thing to where adventurers come from. People who don’t realize how traps would work thought that the click would be a warning. The first click armed an explosive trap, and the second click that came when you moved would cause it to explode.”
“That’s.” He started, hesitating a second in his speech. “That’s idiotic. Why would they give someone a warning that they just armed a trap? Just have the first click arm and set it off.”
“Oh, in reality they did do that, but in plays they needed a way to make it more suspenseful for the audience. So they came up with this idea. Now most people blindly believe it.” I explained.
“So what are you going to do with those?”
“I’m going to head into the other hallway and place them in random spots all throughout that dead end. Any trap detection skills won’t trigger, because there is no danger. Rogues will doubt their skills, making other traps more effective.” Leaving Dharkiss to his work, I spent the next hour and a half painstakingly crafting and installing the clickers. It was backbreaking work, having to bend over and install that bit of metal on the bottom of each pressure plate, positioning them so that stepping on them would cause everything to sink just enough that the bulge in the stone underneath would press up just enough on the metal’s bulge to cause it to click.
“Angus, ya done yet?” Dharkiss hollered at me.
“Yeah, be right there.” I shouted, placing the last of the plates that I was going to use. Just to ensure that someone would travel all the way to the back of this dead end chamber I crafted a small alcove with a sliding stone door. On the back wall, I drew a smiling mushroom with the phrase, “Thank you adventurer, but your treasure is in another niche.” Chuckling darkly at the swearing that little bit would bring about, I headed back to see Dharkiss.
“’Bout time.” He said, and I was excited to see the work he had done. There were enough spears in the pit that it would take an incredibly lucky adventurer to miss them all, and the pit extended in an arch five feet away from the treasure chest. “So, how are we going to trap this?”
“In the most obvious way possible. What I want to do is have a tension wire crossing back and forth, holding the stone up for the pit below. The last bit of this wire will come up along the side of the treasure chest here, and attach to a clamp hidden in the stone. If you leave the wire alone, nothing will happen. If you ‘disarm’ the trap by removing the wire, then you release the tension on all the stone and it comes crashing down into the pit.”
“They won’t be able to trust anyone again.” Dharkiss chuckled, finally getting into the spirit of things.
“Yep. That’s the idea of all this. Make them distrust their skills. Get them to lose trust in each other, destroy their teamwork.” We took Dharkiss’ longest piece of wire, and started treading it back and forth. It took a lot of trial and error, but we eventually got to the point where we could slowly grow the stone atop the wires until it was thick enough to hold weight, but still thin enough to collapse with the removal of the wire. Standing up and cracking my back, I slapped my hands together a few times to knock the nonexistent dust off of them and said, “Weeeell, I think that’ll do it for traps. Thanks so much for all your help Dharkiss.”
“Anytime Angus. Are you good to reset them by yourself?”
“Yep. That won’t be any problem.” We headed back down to the barracks area to rest for the night, but before turning in I went to the hallway that would lead to Khaliss’ room if I were diving as an adventurer, and put that same raised series of bumps on both sides of the wall, repeating it with a gap of two feet in between. I explained the meaning of the bumps to Khaliss and Dharkiss, and they both got a good chuckle out of it.
Bio: I'm a chemist that gave writing a try, and loved the results. Everything is mostly for fun right now, though I might try and get some things published eventually. Certain traits of my daughter have made it into bits of my stories, and she sometimes keeps me company when we both have trouble sleeping.