Passages into Darkness: Doors and Gates
Doors serve an important, though often overlooked, purpose in a dungeon. They are the links between regions and encounters that can provide easy passage or form an impenetrable wall. Just as a castle may have a heavily fortified gate, a dungeons inhabitant could use strange magic and weird monsters to seal off their lairs. This article presents ten strange doorways that you can use to give a dungeon more flavor or present the characters with an unexpected obstacle.
These doors work sort of like templates. You can take a trapped door and apply these features to it to add an additional barrier to opening it. Where appropriate, the doors list their hit points, hardness, and the Strength check DC needed to open them. If a door lacks these traits, it cannot be physically attacked. For example, a barbarian could not hack apart a magical field with his axe.
Ø Energy Barrier: This gleaming, translucent door holds within it some sort of searing energy such as fire, burning cold, acid, or electricity. An observer can see the flames or swirling energy within the door’s spectral frame. This door does not open. Rather, the PCs must walk through its energy field to continue on. Choose any single energy descriptor. Anyone who passes through this door frame suffers 246 damage of the chosen type (Reflex DC 15 for half). Elemental creatures, outsiders immune to several energy types, and similar creatures use these doors to keep mortals out of their inner sanctums.
A successful dispel magic against caster level 9 cancels out the door for 1d4 minutes.
Ø Invisible: An invisible door can provide an unexpected barrier to a charging barbarian or an overly enthusiastic scout. It is also more difficult to pick an invisible lock or find an invisible trap. Anyone attempting to use Disable Device, Open Lock, or Search on the door suffers a -4-competence penalty on their checks. Any effect that allows a PC to see invisible objects cancels this penalty.
You can use this as a sort of template to modify other doors or trapped portals that you create. A successful dispel magic against caster level 9 causes the door to become visible for 1d4 minutes.
Ø Isolation Door: This door consists of two stone doorways that are connected by a tiny room barely large enough to hold a single person. The connecting chamber is small enough, and the doors positioned just right, that it is impossible to send more than one character at a time through them without battering the doors to pieces. The doors swing inward toward the tiny room that connects them and are hinged on opposite sides.
Thus, if both doors are opened they block the way through. Leaving one door ajar also makes it difficult to open the second door more than a few inches, as the open door occupies the space where a character would have to stand while opening the second one. The characters must open one door, enter the small room, close the door behind them, then open the next door. This arrangement forces the PCs to enter the area beyond the door one person at a time.
Hardness: 8; hit points: 30; Break DC 26.
Ø Maze Door: This stone slab has four buttons spaced across its top edge, and four more along its right edge. A series of intricate grooves carved into it gives the appearance of a strange, elaborate pattern. These grooves cut across each other, save for one. This groove retains its edges when it intersects with another groove, rather than form a plus-shaped cross. In other words, the channel that crosses it stops when it hits its raised edge then continues on the other side.
To open the door, the characters must trace this unblemished channel from one button at the top of the door to another button on the right side. You can create the maze as a handout for the players to solve, or simply ask for a successful Intelligence check (DC 15).
Each attempt takes one minute. Pushing these two buttons simultaneously opens the door.
Hardness: 8; hit points: 45; Break DC 28.
Ø Mind Sentinel: Crafted from flesh harvested from a mimic and treated with a variety of magical spells, this door has a repulsive, fleshy appearance. Veins within it throb and pulse, and without regular meals from its keepers it eventually withers and dies. This door’s veins all lead to a single, bulging eye mounted in its center. This eye peers into the minds of all who approach, posing a psychic query that requires a Knowledge check (DC 20) to correctly answer. The mind sentinel rummages through the PCs’ minds, though it can do nothing aside from pose its question. A correct answer opens the door. Choose a Knowledge field of study that is appropriate for the dungeon.
Hardness: 2; hit points: 30; Break DC 18.
Ø Necroportal: This doorway is constructed from arms, legs, and skulls taken from skeletons animated via necromantic magic. If touched by anyone other than an evil undead creature, the skulls cackle and shriek to attract any guards in the area. However, these undead hate their duty. A Diplomacy check (DC 20) can convince them to remain quiet in return for something they desired in life, such as meat, ale, a gold coin, or something else placed in one of the door’s skulls.
Hardness: 1; hit points: 25; Break DC 16.
Ø Troll Flesh Door: This door looks like it was made from petrified wood, but a closer inspection reveals that it consists of a gray, warty material with a damp, waxy feel. Built from troll flesh preserved using necromantic magic, this door repairs 5 points of damage per round, though it is unable to heal fire or acid damage. Any trap found within it may be disabled as normal, but it repairs the “damage” in 2d4 minutes and resets the trap.
Hardness: 2; hit points: 40; Break DC 20,
Ø Vine Barrier: This doorway consists of an assassin vine cultivated to form a thick barrier of leafy vines. The druids or shamans who tend to the plants magically enhance them to allow certain creatures, such as orcs or those bearing a particular holy symbol, to pass. When others attempt to move through, the vines grab at them and attempt to hold them still.
Anyone moving through the door must succeed at a DC 15 Strength check to penetrate it. On a failed check, a character is trapped in the vines and must use a standard action for another Strength check to break free. A trapped PC is not considered helpless, but he loses his Dexterity bonus to AC
Hardness: 5; hit points: 35; Break DC special.
Ø Void Barrier: This inky, black gate is a slab of darkness from the Negative Energy Plane shaped into a rectangular form. This door does not open on hinges. Rather, one must simply walk through it. However, the negative energy within it has a strange effect on the senses. Anyone reaching through the door is unable to sense anything beyond it, even the floor on the other side. Instead, he feels nothing but empty space. Neither sound nor light can pass through it, making it difficult for the characters to determine what lies on the other side without blundering through it or using magic.
Ø Water Lock: This circular, bronze barrier is inscribed with Aquan runes. It has a latch set in its middle, and it is cool and damp to the touch. This door serves as an airlock that holds back water. The area beyond could be flooded, or it might be dry. In the event that the characters unleash a torrent of water, they must all make Strength checks (DC 20) or be swept back 4d20 feet and suffer 3d6 damage. On a successful check, a character holds his ground. Opening this door could flood an entire dungeon level,
Hardness: 10; hit points: 120; Break DC45.
BY MIKE MEARLS
ILLUSTRATION BY ATTILA ADORJANY