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View Full Version : What Kind of Puzzles & Traps Would a Bardic Lich Villain Design?



flabbergast
2017-10-12, 10:13 PM
The BBEG character I'm designing is a manipulative, neutral evil, bardic lich named Vaude, who's been luring adventurers to go treasure hunting in his underground realm so that he can A) turn the strongest adventurers into undead servants and B) harvest the souls of the weakest for the demon that he serves. This sort of "adventurer screening" arrangement also allows him to entertain himself by screwing with adventuring parties for fun instead of straight-up killing them. The question is, what kinds of trickery do you think this undead bard would pull as a campaign antagonist? I'm already drawing some inspiration from the Shivering Isles DLC of Oblivion, with that one dungeon that had traps about driving adventurers mad. Like a massive pile of treasure in a locked cage that can only be accessed by one key in an equally massive pile of keys. I was also thinking that Vaude specializes in illusion magic, so maybe he could disguise himself as different NPCs that the players trust. What I'm looking for is cruel mindf***ery of this nature.

Honest Tiefling
2017-10-12, 10:18 PM
I feel like this campaign needs to become a horror game! I mean, he's a bard. His art is only as good as the emotions it inspires, and terror and madness are great emotions! Is there any way for him to harvest some hapless victims? I feel like setting up some moral dilemmas with actual people is a bit cliche, but can be good if done right. In fact, is there anyway for him to get the loved ones of the PCs?

And there's something that'd probably give him warm fuzzy feelings in what used to be his heart when the paladin goes berserk and mows down the rest of the party. Tee hee!

flabbergast
2017-10-12, 11:20 PM
I feel like this campaign needs to become a horror game! I mean, he's a bard. His art is only as good as the emotions it inspires, and terror and madness are great emotions! Is there any way for him to harvest some hapless victims? I feel like setting up some moral dilemmas with actual people is a bit cliche, but can be good if done right. In fact, is there anyway for him to get the loved ones of the PCs?

And there's something that'd probably give him warm fuzzy feelings in what used to be his heart when the paladin goes berserk and mows down the rest of the party. Tee hee!

Yeah this is pretty Jigsaw-esque come to think of it lol. I'm probably gonna focus more on the madness part since I've tried describing some things in a creepy way but I've never tried making my sessions flat-out "scary" before. As for getting to the loved ones of PCs, the party would have to grow attached to some NPCs, because the campaign hasn't started yet and I don't think their backstories include any other characters that would really qualify or make sense.

Hellpyre
2017-10-12, 11:25 PM
I like the idea of music-keyed traps. Say have a scale punched into the wall and they have to press the correct notes to correspond to the nearby wailing of the damned

Honest Tiefling
2017-10-12, 11:26 PM
Then have some helpful NPCs who wind up in the dungeon. To be fair to the players, give hints that the NPCs are being watched, or even outright manipulated to working for the lich. I mean, he's a bard, he's going to have contacts in the outside world to make sure people show up. And if they get too friendly with the product, they get shoved into the dungeon.

Illusions would be a good choice for lower level characters who can't see through it, but I would make sure to be prepared if they get lucky. If they are the only one who can see the undead in the room while everyone else is acting normal (and upset that they dare accuse the beloved countess of being an undead! How dare they insult a woman of such standing and genorsity!) That way, success tells them important information, instead of wrecking your plans.

DuctTapeKatar
2017-10-12, 11:36 PM
Step one: Polymorph one of the party members into a dog.

Step two: Have a long hallway filled with doors that open to another random door in the hallway.

Step three: Disguise a low-level minion as an absurdly high-level monster to chase them around the place.

Step four: rant about meddling kids once confronted.

Honest Tiefling
2017-10-12, 11:38 PM
I like the idea of music-keyed traps. Say have a scale punched into the wall and they have to press the correct notes to correspond to the nearby wailing of the damned

If you don't intend for the puzzle to be solved, why would you make the answer obvious? Or hint at what your abilities might be?

I think a better approach would be to have many puzzles have solutions, but doing so poses a great risk. Such as a key in some acid. You want the key, but can you get past the acid? This magic circle will heal everyone in it, but only if you spill a bunch of blood first.

flabbergast
2017-10-12, 11:38 PM
The party is going to be starting at level 3 and I plan to have a kind of rapid leveling path if that changes things. The campaign will probably end around level 10-12.

flabbergast
2017-10-12, 11:39 PM
Step one: Polymorph one of the party members into a dog.

Step two: Have a long hallway filled with doors that open to another random door in the hallway.

Step three: Disguise a low-level minion as an absurdly high-level monster to chase them around the place.

Step four: rant about meddling kids once confronted.

This... is... amazing...

Honest Tiefling
2017-10-12, 11:50 PM
Weren't there rules published for a DnD-like game that was basically a mashup of Scooby Doo and Josie and the Pussycats? Or am I hallucinating?

JAL_1138
2017-10-13, 09:06 AM
A bard lich is going to be well-versed in the stories, legends, myths and lore about infamous dungeons throughout history—"Bardic Knowledge" and whatnot. So you could pilfer a lot of traps wholesale from classic literature, myths, AD&D modules like the Tomb of Horrors or Undermountain, and even movies (Indiana Jones springs to mind).

dojango
2017-10-13, 11:42 PM
The Stairway to Heaven: After going through an easily discoverable secret door, the party finds a spiral staircase. Going up (or down) takes a while, but leads to a door. Going through the door, they find... another spiral staircase. Which ends in a door leading too... another spiral staircase. Naturally it is all the same staircase with a dimension door between the top and bottom doors. To get out, they must find that original secret door... which is much harder to find this time.

Smells like Teen Spirit: The room is locked and full of the wandering ghosts of teenagers. To escape, the party must resolve all of the teenager's various teenage dramas... love triangles, missing math homework, who's dating whom, and of course, where can they find a fake id to get some ghostly booze.

Free Falling: The floor opens up and the party begins to fall into a bottomless pit. Actually, it's an illusion and they have all had levitate cast on them, but it might scare them for a bit.

Just Another Brick in the wall: Endless tide of monsters through a narrow corridor, loads of bricks lying around. Wasn't that the way we came through, though?

These Boots are Made for Walking: River of lava. One pair of fire-proof boots. How to get everyone across?

And of course, the dance fight finale. Characters singing and dancing while fighting receive substantial bonuses to attack and defense.

Slipperychicken
2017-10-17, 03:47 PM
A mandolin without strings attached sits next to a stand with some sheet music. They pass the test by stringing the instrument, tuning it correctly, and performing the piece. If they break a string, damage the instrument, play out-of-tune, or mess up the music, they fail.

Tinkerer
2017-10-17, 04:40 PM
Give them a mystic PA system. In some cases bardic music functions as long as people can hear the music so a mystic PA system which allows everyone within miles to hear it could offer some interesting possibilities. Have the lich develop a song of insanity and combined with that you could turn any population centre into a trap. Also puts the PCs in a spot because do they really want to use lethal force against an innocent group of people? Think The Warriors or Escape from New York or any zombie movie except you don't want them to engage. If the characters don't have a problem killing innocent townsfolk throw some kids in there. Or maybe the lich just keeps everyone in a trance, slowly wasting away. Anyway however you do it you should definitely have some good background music going.

icefractal
2017-10-17, 06:10 PM
For the first several traps, have background music that provides a clue if the PCs can recognize it.

Then after they get used to that, have a trap where the clue is fake and actually puts them in a worse situation if they follow it.

Also, seconding the "magical PA system" idea. Have the lich giving commentary, singing, trying to mess with their heads the whole time.

Seclora
2017-10-22, 11:21 AM
Only way to unlock a door is to step on specific tiles in a specific order at specific intervals, music is played to provide tempo. Characters who fail to do so experience electric shock. Dance Dance Electrocution!
Twister is also a good plan, doubly so if you want to weed out Dwarves and anyone with heavy armor.

There's a boss in World of Warcraft's Naxaramas raid, Heigen the unclean I think, who moves around the battlefield while the floor damages anyone who doesn't move with him. It got the nickname 'The Safety Dance'. Might be a good idea for a boss fight arena, forcing all of the ranged players to stay a certain distance from the boss or take damage.

Also, Dancing Zombies, a la Thriller. A special template for zombies that gives them more movement and lets them fight more effectively in groups or while under the effects of Bard Song. You mentioned that he was making other adventurers his servants, maybe throw a few of them out as mini-bosses and mook support. Stat up a basic enthralled or undead Bard to support his minions.

If you want to drive them mad, make a hallway with a bunch of illusion traps that show zombies, and then add a few real zombies. Add one new zombie to the room every 2 rounds, and have the illusions create new zombies to replace the lost illusions at the same time. They'll have to guess the right zombies, but only 1 in 10 zombies actually gives XP or can hurt them. They'll feel like they're being overwhelmed, but are actually relatively safe and won't be rewarded very much for their efforts. Make the exit be on the other side of the zombies so they have to fight. If you can make the illusions feel real unless disbelieved, the lethality sky rockets. Add a Detect Thoughts component to the traps and make the illusions their loved ones, or people they've met, and it will either drive them mad or cause them to dissociate, which is also useful.

denthor
2017-10-22, 01:58 PM
Hello darkness my old friend..you sing in the dark

You have to play piano in the dark?

He will feel the earth move under your feet if you play a sour note?


His protector is a one horned one eyed flying purple people eater.

You have to dance .... They did the mash they did the monster mash. Transylvanian twist.

Hope you have fun with the old songs up top.

Avigor
2017-10-25, 01:34 PM
I do remember enjoying that giant piano puzzle from StarTropics...

Mark Hall
2017-10-25, 01:53 PM
For the first several traps, have background music that provides a clue if the PCs can recognize it.

Then after they get used to that, have a trap where the clue is fake and actually puts them in a worse situation if they follow it.

Also, seconding the "magical PA system" idea. Have the lich giving commentary, singing, trying to mess with their heads the whole time.

The song in the room where it switches from "do this" to "don't do this" should be Ice Ice Baby. The correct answer should involve pressure (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a01QQZyl-_I). The wrong answer should involve ice (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rog8ou-ZepE).

The Glyphstone
2017-10-25, 02:18 PM
What about a tile trap like the one in Indiana Jones, except you have to trace out the correct musical notes to a piece of music instead of spelling a name?

Mark Hall
2017-10-25, 02:20 PM
What about a tile trap like the one in Indiana Jones, except you have to trace out the correct musical notes to a piece of music instead of spelling a name?

You mean Goonies? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5_3XaaeRXI)

Personification
2017-10-29, 10:02 AM
Also, remember to use the spell "Summon Plot Exposition" at random intervals, because everyone knows that the thing tabletop RPG's need is unskipable cut screens:smalltongue:

The Glyphstone
2017-10-29, 10:28 AM
You mean Goonies? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5_3XaaeRXI)

Nah, that was just playing the right song on a piano, more like a musical lock than a trap. I want something like IJ where you have to walk across the room and only step on the proper tiles with the correct notes, or else traps blast you on the 'bad' tiles.



EDIT: And now I can't stop thinking of a D&D session composed entirely of musical theater majors, improvising songs at appropriate moments in the game and singing them.

Mogoblin
2017-10-29, 10:49 AM
Since he's a bard, you could have a puzzle where music's being blasted in one room via a statue/illusion/fantasy boombox and the players have to make it so the music can be heard in a few of the surrounding rooms but not in others by changing the volume or soundproofing certain rooms. If you want to make it more undead-themed you could make the music a chorus of garbled banshee wails that kill smaller animals and plants within earshot.

Avonar
2017-10-29, 12:00 PM
Yeah, the big thing here would be screwing with the players. Have them go through a lot for a really awesome looking weapon, only for it to be entirely ordinary and covered in Nystul's Magical Aura.

Have the lights go out, then come back up with doppelgangers and everyone in different places.

Have the lich speaking to them magically the whole way through, giving inspiration to his own monsters.

Mark Hall
2017-10-30, 10:17 AM
Nah, that was just playing the right song on a piano, more like a musical lock than a trap. I want something like IJ where you have to walk across the room and only step on the proper tiles with the correct notes, or else traps blast you on the 'bad' tiles.



EDIT: And now I can't stop thinking of a D&D session composed entirely of musical theater majors, improvising songs at appropriate moments in the game and singing them.

My old group would break out into spontaneous medley. We were weird.

JeenLeen
2017-10-30, 01:37 PM
Do bards get Use Magic Device & thus could use a Scroll of Prismatic Wall with Permancy applied?

In a webcomic I read a while ago (Another Gaming Comic), now defunct, a mastermind villain had some traps set up something like this
1) initial set-up is just an illusionary wall. PCs figure out they can walk through it
2) after a few fake walls, so that they are used to testing for them, have a prismatic wall right behind the fake wall. They walk into a prismatic wall. Ouch.
3) far later in the dungeon, in a higher floor, they fall through a trap door in the floor. It ends by dumping them into the prismatic wall. (That scroll was too costly to use just once.)

Seems like an evil bard would appreciate that humor.

Trey Bright
2018-01-12, 10:50 PM
I've had an idea for an antagonist like this and I thought it'd be good to have him use spells that require music as the verbal component since it'd go with the whole bard thing. He'd be able to mind control pcs who fail a wisdom/will save while listening to the music. Then when all the pcs are either covering their ears or under his control, have undead rouges sneak up on them and back-stab them.

FabulousFizban
2018-01-15, 05:15 PM
a battle of the bands. winner gets a prize, losers get executed. particpation compulsary. >:]

Sinewmire
2018-01-17, 07:04 AM
In Soul Reaver, one of the levels was The Silenced Cathedral. It had been built as a holy weapon against vampires, with a massive steam-powered organ built into it that would have blasted out holy music at incredible volume, powerful enough to kill the vampires infesting the world.

Instead, the vampires overran it, and a swarm of Spider-Vampires lived inside, keeping it safe and silent.

Isn't that cool? An epic-level Disrupt Undead spell with the Somatic component as music, using a massive massive organ.

Puzzles inside included operating the massive organ stops to produce different chords, stuff like that.

Also, if I was a bard lich, I would provided my favourite instrument and expect anyone trying to enter my sanctum to play my favourite song. There wouldn't need to be any clues, I'm not going to forget that.