Malicious Archeology

Sometimes a painting is just a painting.

This is not one of those times.

Incarnadine

I'd like to thank Manfred for helping me with this idea substantially. So thanks, Manfred!


Our flickering torches have already burned for several hours, and their spitting light does little but outline the deeper darkness. With Elric and Hans already snatched by the creeping shadows of this place, it seems prudent to find a more defensible position to rest.

Ah! A narrow chamber, spotted only by the sharp eyes of our native guide. The other perished many hours (or was it days?) ago, torn apart by-

No. Best not to think about it.

A few stalactites quest imploringly from the ceiling, but no stalagmites mar the floor. In fact, the entire chamber is oddly regular, the walls only marked by a single jagged flaw that runs the length of the cavern. Above this line- above this line... what we've been looking for all along. Unbelievable! Incredible!

Proof of our ancestors! Proof that we are, and were, the first race in the mountains. With this, we prove our dominance- and- what luck! The tools used to make the paintings are still here! This is incredible, amazi-
The rest of the entry is fragmented in nature, babbling words and piercing screams that go on for some length of time.

Taken from the Thought-Diary of an unknown Brystrian Archeologist.
Unremarkable at best and claustrophobic at worst, this narrowly-hewn wound in the mountain's flank seems as boring as any other subterranean passage, a common enough sight in the confusing, labyrinthine depths of a natural cave system. With no natural light and air older than centuries, it is more than slightly unnerving to those not use to deep-level spelunking.

The secret of the room is two-fold. When the players first past through the chamber, they will likely notice the ancient cave paintings on the walls- primitive in make, but curiously guttural and real. While the lines of white paint do not resemble anything in particular, it is clear that some ancient artist was attempting to paint a pack of wolves with nothing more than a few carefully placed flowing lines of varying thickness. About a quarter of the cavern wall is devoted to scenes involving the wolves- hunting, wrestling, and devouring the fresh corpse of an antelope. The latter is painted in shades of black and beige, and looks as though it was drawn by a much later hand- a stark contrast to the elegant, simplistic lines of the wolves. In

Further inspection shows nothing more than a long horizontal crack in the wall that is quite inaccessible to anyone who is more than a sixteenth of an inch tall. It is unremarkable, save for its portions where it abruptly stops and leaves the wall whole. These ‘breaks' in the crack are never more than an inch or two across, and the crack always starts again on the other side of the whole portion.

If the players look a bit more closely, they find a pair of ancient wooden sticks, one stained with white chalk and the other black with burned wood. It seems strange that they have not decayed, because it is clear that the paintings are incredibly old.

If any player picks up the sticks, nothing happens. If they press the sticks to the wall, however, every living creature in the room is immediately drawn into the wall itself, rendered as black and white paintings of themselves that resemble the players very little, but somehow convey a sense of identity through flowing lines. No matter what size they once were, they are reduced to roughly four inches tall, relative to human height. The players are reduced to being entirely two-dimensional, and stand on the horizontal crack that runs from wall to wall.

At this point, the wolves flow into life and attack the players. The two dimensionality of the fight makes it completely unlike anything the players have ever attempted before- missile weapons become incredibly easy to aim, but impossible to shoot if they are line of sight because there is no way of shooting around a person. Spells fizzle as soon as they are attempted in two dimensional form. No sidestepping is possible, and fleeing behind the cover of another player is only possible with a graceless scramble over their head or under their feet. The wolves, used to this form of combat, can be as easy or as supernaturally difficult as the GM decides. Cover is provided by the static pictures of the antelopes, both dead and alive- apparently they are not imbued with the same magic that empowers the wolves.

Escape from the two-dimensional world can be achieved by a player touching the tip of the three-dimensional sticks used to create the paintings, one of which landed quite conveniently touching the wall. This can only be achieved if a player jumps through a ‘gap' in the crack, in a section where the solid wall has remained whole. They take falling damage as normal. If the stick is touched before the wolves are killed, then they are also translated back into a three dimensional environment, and continue their attack. When the players are ejected out of the wall, a pair of well-mauled bones are thrown out with them as a final warning. If a player is slain by the wolves, his body is automatically thrown out of the wall, to be devoured by whatever passing cave creature is fortunate enough to find the corpse.

The second secret of the room is what lies on the other side of the crack, which is only accessible to players who are very short or very, very thin (Two dimensional, in fact).

The room of malignant paintings can be as plot-driven or as bland as the GM wants- it can be an unorthodox fight in a cavern system, the end to a quest to find the lost archeologists, or some magical test set by a bored god. Likewise, no explanation is offered as to how the room got there in the first place- perhaps some primitive shaman was exercising his power, or an insane artist created the lethal artwork with demonic assistance.

? Hall of Honour (3 voters / 4 votes)

Hall of Honour

Murometz Aramax Cheka Man

? Responses (18)

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Goto Author

These could be used as tomb defenses. 5/5

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Bizarre and intriguing.

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Ah, you have posted it. The challenges of 2D combat are what it makes unusual. The imagery is also interesting. A nice strange room that makes a dungeon unique. Good work.

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A real twist could be a Wes Craven The Serpent and the Rainbow/Twilight zone fit where the PCs engage in this 2D combat and awaken several hours later, having been under the influence of hypnotic incenses and manipulated by their own primitive emotions...

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Goto Author

Bizarre - I like it just because of having to make the PCs fight in 2D (which is something I've never considered), though the description around it is also interesting.

Regarding missile weapons, you could still shoot up in an arc to get it past someone in the way though I agree that aiming might be rather tricky.


Goto Author

Well, yes and no Iain. Given that the size of the room is never given, it is entirely possibly that arcing a ballistic shot from a bow would actually do some damage.

However, at the size that I was imagining (the passage is, say, thirty feet long) any attempted arc shots would either hit the wall above the wolves, or have to be drawn so weakly it'd do no damage.

Regardless, this is definitely up to the GM.

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Goto Author

Nicely described and a great inspiration. One should never laugh at primatives again.

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Goto Author

What a concept!! WOW do I love this!!

I will be setting up this scenario in my head for the rest of the week!! I cant wait to spring this room on my jaded bunch! I can safely say, that I have NEVER gone 2D before in 20+ years of gaming!! What a treat! Simple, yet bizarre! Salut!!

I like it.

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Goto Author

Updated and ready. Thanks for the questions, advice, and thoughts everyone!

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I like this quite a bit. Good, solid concept, yet very simple. Can't believe none of us thought of this before.

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BUMP! Its a beaut! 2D combat!

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Wow, shields would be a big pain to use in 2-D - you would have to attack either over or under the shield, and you could only swing up, down or thrust even without a shield.

Quite the difference!

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Goto Author

just so awesome 5/5

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Very unexpected, the 2D combat, and that's the beauty of this sub.

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Goto Author

Oldie but goody.

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Goto Author

One of my favourite submissions here.