Clean Slate

Remember Harold and his purple crayon?

Several skeletons and humanoid remains hang from wrist shackles high up on the east and west walls of the first room. One skeleton dressed in badly tattered chain mail lies slumped beneath an empty pair of shackles. Suspended by a thick chain in the center of the room is a small cage, containing the remains of a small humanoid; perhaps a halfling or even a child. There is a door at the east end of the north wall. However, what immediately commands the eye is a massive sheet of slate that takes up most of the room's northern wall; about 12 feet high and 25 feet wide. The slate is filled with a rough drawing of a pair of long, sinewy quadrupeds with talons and whip-like tails. The images appear to be sketched onto the wall in blue chalk.

The slate radiates magic, and close inspection reveals that it appears to have several enchantments on it of both illusory and conjuration nature. Attempting to erase the sketches results in failure; rubbing, washing, and even magical cleaning only succeed in slightly fading the images at best. Even if the images are removed through magical means, they reappear several minutes later.

The door opens to a 5 wide hallway that extends for a short distance before opening into another large room. The only other exit in this new room is a door in the opposite wall. However, two massive creatures, quite similar in appearance to the images depicted on the slate, inhabit this room. They block egress to the opposite exit and attack anyone who dares to enter.

More careful scrutiny would reveal that both creatures are conjurations of sorts. Neither will leave the room. If somehow forced out of the boundaries of the room, they will wink out to reappear in the center of the room a moment later. Both creatures are quite formidable; they should be quite difficult for the party to overcome in direct combat. Even if they are killed, the creatures will reappear in the center of the room several hours later, as good as new.

The key to safe passage through this latter room lies in the slate room; a physical manifestation of anything drawn on the slate will appear in the room containing the creatures. Although ink and paint will dribble off the slate, it can be drawn on with chalk. Anything drawn on the slate (other than the original creatures) will fade and disappear in eight hours, as will their manifestation in the adjoining room.

Any creature drawn on the slate will cooperate to attack anyone entering the second room. Hence, drawing creatures to fight the existing sketches will backfire. However, inanimate objects drawn on the slate will manifest as inanimate objects in the second room. Any item removed from the room instantly disintegrates into a white, powdery dust the moment it is carried or forced out one of the exits.

When the PCs attempt to draw on the slate, Id suggest presenting the players with an actual paper containing the image of these creatures (or whatever creature you care to substitute); have them draw on this. Ideally, you want to use an illustration that actually looks like a somewhat rough sketch rather than a well-detailed monster. I uploaded the image I used to http://www.strolen.com/art/displayimage.php?album=random&cat=1&pos=-89. You might want to have several copies of whatever sketch you decide to use.

Once enterprising PCs figure out the chalk, there are numerous ways they might neutralize the occupants of the room; far too many to list here. Some possibilities are that they might draw shackles on the creatures, draw large weights tying the creatures down, draw large boulders in the air above the creatures, or make some additions to the creatures; showing them disemboweled or with swords thrust through their necks.

You can play this as loosely as you want; if none of your players is much of an artist, you might want to allow lesser renditions of objects to work passably. Otherwise, you might want visual flaws in their artwork to appear in the actual manifestations as well. (The line you drew in the huge manacles turned out to be a large crack, allowing the creature to snap them easily.)

I doubt that any group worth their salt will have much trouble with this trick. However, in the event that you need to provide more clues, Id suggest the following. Careful scrutiny around the slate will reveal chalk dust on the floor beneath, and perhaps a couple smudges of chalk on the board itself. You might also describe the creatures themselves as having a chalky skin; when a PCs weapon strikes one of the creatures, a harmless cloud of blue dust rises from the monsters hide.

If you end up using this, I'd love to hear what your players come up with to get through this. PCs do the darndest things...

? Hall of Honour (2 voters / 2 votes)

Hall of Honour

axlerowes Cheka Man

? Responses (19)

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Updated: Minor punctuation fixes.

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Another orginal submission from you.

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Well slartibartfast, you've done it

Only your second submission and you've earned the highest award I can bestow upon a fellow GM

My patented, unique, and much coverted ...

(drum roll) Wish I'd thought of that award

Truely original and quite brilliant

... and of course, like all the really good ideas, so simple you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself (hence the above mentioned accolade)

There is an awful lot of magic involved of course, which can be problem in some gameworlds, but I would advise all you GMs out there to find some way of shoe-horning this in if at all possible (I almost certainly will) -- it has way too much potential to be ignored

And now for the all-important voting:

Well, I can find nothing to quibble about with this

In my humble opinion, this is that rarest of all submissions -- a well deserved 5/5

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A cool submission indeed - definately something to try someday.

Not quite a 5 for me though, but a worthy sub still!

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slart (may i call you that?), I'm quickly becoming a fan of your style! Will re-visit this tonight, when I have time to comment properly. In the meantime, 4.5/5

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A simple idea, beautifully executed. It's like a nasty holodeck program for the ancients. Aside from a dungeon trap, this would be fun for the party to play a trick on competing treasure hunters or enemies. A skilled artist might draw the whole party on the slate and distract opponents - imagine their surprise if the *real* party shows up behind them! Well done again, Slart.

Four-and-a-half blades; some nice background history would make it a five for me, though I suppose the lack of history makes it more suitable for drag-and-drop dungeoneering.

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Nice idea, I have seen versions of this before, but you have really done it well here. Whats more is that it is complete. This would be a nice addition to any crawl. Thanks

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Thanks for the feedback; I haven't tried this on my own players yet, so was concerned whether this is a common schtick. Sounds like people have seen something like this before, but not enough so that when my PCs initially bump up against it they'll say "Oh, one of THOSE. We know how to get around that."

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I like this. Simple, and with lots of possibility! The kind of thing that I would definitely use in a high magic world.

A variation of this would be to have a room like this in an academy, so that the students could be confronted with enemies appropriate to their level. Additionally, you could really push this. For example, imagine a room with a slate at the entrance. Draw a fire and a bed, you got yourself a bedroom. Draw a hot steaming bath, you've got yourself a bathroom. Draw a comely maiden...

It could be surprisingly dangerous if your players are imaginative, even if nothing can leave the room. Sharpening stones, armourer's hammers, fresh water, medical supplies, dangerous tomes, all would be a chalk sketch away...

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Do you mind if I shamelessly steal this idea for a sub?

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I dropped this into a game last night. The only major change I made from you set up, is I made the creatures beatable, but with much difficulty and instead of taking an hour to reappear to they reformed instantly. I also added a second slate, blank, across the room from the slate with monsters. The slate room was a central room between two identical but inverse hallways. When they drew on the blank slate the object they drew appeared in the empty room.

The first thought of the PCs was to smash the slate (actually they were divided), but the smashers won out. They put a great deal of effort into smashing the slate. (They didn't want to damage weapons or touch it directly so they devised a battering ram using material from other parts of the dungeon. When this didn't work they finally got around to experimenting with drawing. They started with the blank slate. First holy symbols, which didn't work, then they just put the monsters in large boxes.

They choose that solution, as opposed to road runner type traps or chalk allies, because I made defeating the monsters in combat ineffective. I knew the nature of my group and they needed to see those thing reappear to be certain of the magical nature. One reason they needed this "proof" was that my casters didn't prepare any divination spells.

I think it worked well, I used your picture which was well received, and I used your basic set up of the room. I found that my PCs were more willing to experiment with drawing on the blank slate I provided, but they may be just because it was there.

But again thanks for writing this up.


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Thanks for the feedback. MY PCs will be coming up against this soon.

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I want to access the image again, but I am having trouble. Is the address bad or am I making an error on my end?


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Neither could I; did they get rid of the artwork section? Anyone know where we can post images? I have images for another adventure to post.


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I stuck a copy of this image out on http://drop.io/CleanSlate.

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Nice one. It has that old school dungeon feel to it!

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A fun sub, and creative challenge. One could adapt this to a high tech setting as well with little difficulty. (any setting with holo-deck style technology or nano machine fabricators could replicate the magical effect easily enough.

On a side note the second image link isn't working either. Perhaps try http://photobucket.com

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Awesome Idea! Definitely going to implement this one.

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