August 5, 2011

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch – E1M3: Secret

By the time this post goes live, I’ll be at GenCon in Indianapolis preparing to get ready for the showdown of champions known as the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch. It’s a little humbling to think of how long this has all been developing and brewing. The Secret Map, especially, as it was the first map I drafted and had the fewest changes from inception to implementation. Also, it’s the one I’m most proud of, the one I expect to wow the crowds the most. I’m really looking forward to springing this out and seeing the astonished faces of all the Fourthcore Fanatics.

Revenge of the Iron Lich

I started the design of this map knowing that I wanted a tribute and homage to the adventure that inspired so many of us and ushered in Fourthcore’s reign of undeath.

The map is like a condensed version of RotIL. It features almost many of the unique elements of the original adventure, but squeezed into a high-octane, splatter-fest of death. The spaces have all been streamlined, shortened, and abbreviated to facilitate the kind of fast action that I want to occur. We didn’t sign up for a deathmatch to spend the entire turn double-move’ing!

Room A: Hypostyle (West Hallway)

To start with, every “branch” hallway is filled with a deadly neurotoxin, first introduced in the starting premise of the original RotIL.

Neurotoxin-filled Halls: Any creature ending their turn in a branch hallway takes 10 poison and necrotic damage.

The neurotoxin ensures that dungeoneers; lured by the tantalizing magic items in the north, south, east, and west hallways, cannot simply “camp” in the relative safety of these hallways, away from the deadly Iron Golem in the central starting chamber (see below). Teleportation squares have been provided at the ends of each hallway to promote fast run-throughs of the hallways, and to promote a greater number of telefrags. Not only are telefrags an immensely satisfying means of killing a dungeoneer, they were first pioneered in 4E D&D through teleportation in RotIL’s Room D. It’s almost poetic, in a grisly, knee-deep-in-the-dead kind of way.
The hypostyle itself contains another cherished signature of RotIL, the blindfolded skeleton. Again, old bones is handing out cards from the Deck of Mortals, although the number of cards and various effects has been tweaked to provide a faster play experience. Also, I’ve upped the ante by making the Deck of Mortals effects permanent for the match. Otherwise, a dungeoneer might have a hard time actually using their newfound boon or bane due to a quick death.

In general, things that provided a defensive bonus, or that summoned a creature, were taken out in favor of effect to enhance the dungeoneers’ killing power. The Armory of Last Resort from E1M2: The Citadel was called on to create a fast and furious way of gaining a magic item through the deck of mortals.

Deck of Mortals                     Terrain Power
Minor Action
Draw a card from the Deck of Mortals and immediately gain its effects. This effect lasts until the end of the match.

Of all the “branch” hallways, this way is by far the least directly damaging. The logic being that the Deck of Mortals is risky in and of itself. There was no need to give a dungeoneer another reason to avoid this hallway. The utterly devastating effects of the Deck are enough. During playtest, the players felt the same kind of trepidation, elation, and crushing despair when they debated going after a card, gained a boon, or gained a bane, respectively.

The Jailer – You are slowed.
The Hangman – If you fail a saving throw at any time, you immediately die.
The Curate – Your maximum and current hit points increase by 10.
The Charioteer – You do not provoke opportunity attacks from moving.
The Magician – Gain 2 action points. You may spend more than one action point in an encounter.
The Princess – You are immune to all harmful status effects except ongoing damage.
The Lover – While you are adjacent to an ally, gain Resist 5 all and you may use your second wind as a free action.
The Medusa – You gain Vulnerable 10 poison and take a -5 penalty to saving throws against poison.
The Hierophant – Gain a magic item of your choice from the Armory of Last Resort.
The Traitor – You are not considered an ally for the purposes of powers and abilities the other dungeoneers have. You may not count the other dungeoneers as allies to yourself.
The Witch – While you take ongoing damage, you are polymorphed into a harmless small animal. While in this form, you can take no actions other than moving. You revert back to normal when you save against the ongoing damage.
The Jester – You must roll twice on all attack rolls ad saving throws and take the lower result.

Room B: Cobblestone Path (South Hallway)

At first glance, this hallway seems relatively benign. A 10 ft. drop down to exposed and known pit traps? Easily avoided! However, it is subtly more dangerous than that. A dungeoneer falling into a pit will now spend an extra round in the hallway, sucking down additional poison gas from the neurotoxin terrain hazard.

Symbol of the Heresiarch     Terrain Power
Trigger: You enter or start your turn in a square with the Heresiarch’s rune.
Effect (No Action):
You gain a Quad Damage Whetstone.

The reward for braving this hallway is a tribute both to the upcoming SND02: Fane of the Heresiarch and to Quake: a Quad Damage Whetstone. By adding 4 dice to the damage rolls of attacks, this whetstone effectively makes every attack a kill, and written in such a way as to benefit any type of character possible. The sheer brutality of this object brings a tear to my eye.

Minor Action
Effect: Until you die, any creature hit with an attack from you takes 4[W] extra damage if this is used on a weapon, or 4d10 extra damage is this is used on an implement.

Room D: Hall of the Iron Golem (Central Starting Chamber)

Here is where the majority of the action will be going down. In the center of the room, like a monument, stand s the iron cube housing the deadly iron golem.

Iron Cube: The iron cube stands floor to ceiling and is blocking terrain. The Four-Armed Iron Golem Souldriver starts the match in the center of the iron cube and can move through it as if it had phasing.

Keeping the iron cube standing up as a solid element for the duration of the map effectively creates a tight killing field with lots of interesting nooks and crannies. The iron golem itself functions as a midnless killing machine, attacking via a presecribed set of actions similar to a villain in Castle Ravenloft or Wrath of Ashardalon.

Four-Armed Iron Golem Souldriver
R Noxious Fumes (poison) + Aura 2
Any living creature starting their turn within 2 squares of the Golem must roll a saving throw. On a failure, the creature dies.
+ If the Golem starts its turn outside of the central starting chamber, it teleports into the center four squares of the room.
+ If there are at least 3 creatures in a close blast 5 area from the Golem, it attacks with Ghoul Vomit Spray and ends its turn.
Attack: Close blast 5 (creatures in blast); +10 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d6 + 8 acid damage, and the target takes a -4 penalty to Fortitude and ongoing 5 acid damage (save ends both).
+ If there is at least one creature within 2 squares of the Golem, it attacks each creature within 2 squares with a Whirling Censer Flail and ends its turn.
Attack: Melee 2 (one creature per attack); +12 vs. AC;
Hit: 2d8 + 10 damage and the target is knocked prone.
+ If there is at least one creature in the central starting chamber, the Golem moves to the nearest adjacent square to an enemy and attack it with a Whirling Censer Flail (see above) and ends its turn.
+ If there are no enemies in the central room, the Golem ends its turn.

The iron golem’s relative level was based on the idea of creating a hazard so deadly that most Controllers (AC 14) would be hit even on an attack roll of 2. That got me to a 7th Level hazard, which then informed the level of damage this beast was going to be dishing out.

That level of damage, of course, being obscene.

Just as in the original adventure, there are dark balconies from which artillery-type creatures can hold out in relative safety:

Dark Balconies: Creatures on the balcony are immune to tumblemines and the aura and attacks of the Four-Armed Iron Golem Souldriver. The balconies are 10 ft. above the central starting chamber floor.

But also like the original, the safety of those balconies can be short-lived:

c Destroy the Balcony          Terrain Power
The balcony is hit by a melee attack (AC 13; Fortitude 13, Reflex 9)
Effect: Any creatures standing on the balcony are killed, and the balcony is removed from play. The balcony then makes an attack.
Attack: Close blast 3 (creatures in blast); +8 vs. AC
Hit: 1d10 + 7 damage, and the target is knocked prone and buried in rubble until escape (escape DC 21). While under this condition, the target is cannot stand up, is restrained, and takes ongoing 20 damage.

All this is naturally compounded by the deadly tumblemines provided by the audience (see below)

Room E: Crypts of Iron/ Room K: Spectral Stairs (East Hallway)

If a dungeoneer dares make a difficult jump over the instan death of a lake of boiling mithril, they are rewarded with eternal life … until they are summarily gibbed into little bits by their enemies. To make the deal sweeter, the effects transcends the constant dying, allowing a wizard (or whatever) to be constantly cursed with this dark burden or awesome power. This room was specifically made to entice and reward the implement users.

Lake of Boiling Mithril          Terrain Hazard
Creatures entering or starting their turn in the lake of boiling mithril die.

Lich Sarcophagus                   Terrain Power
Minor Action
You become a lich until the end of the match.

You are considered an undead creature, and are immune to the aura of the Golem.
Property: You lose all healing surges.
Property: You deal an extra 2d8 necrotic damage on your implement attacks.

Room L: Silver Maw of Battle (North Hallway)

This short room uses the razorjacks of the iron lich necrolith to create a deadly obstacle course of decapitation. The reward for those brave enough to venture in is the green, grinning demon-face, which sharpens a blade into the sharpest edge possible. This room is designed specifically as a boon for the weapon-users. To give the effects more staying power and to make it more enticing, a killed dungeoneer drops their vorpal weapon on the ground, letting anyone else pick it up as a minor action.

r Razorjack Statues              Terrain Hazard
A creature enters into a square in between two razorjack statues.
Ranged 5 (one creature); +0 vs. Armor Class
Hit: The target is decapitated and instantly killed.
Miss: 5 damage.

Grinning Demon-Mouth       Terrain Power
Minor Action
One axe, spear, heavy blade, or light blade becomes a Vorpal Weapon.

Any axe, spear, heavy blade or light blade
Enhancement: +2 to attack & damage rolls; +2d12 critical hit
Property: When you roll maximum on any damage die for this weapon, roll that die again and add the additional result to the damage.
Power + Encounter
Trigger: You hit with the vorpal weapon.
Effect (Free Action): Deal an extra 1d12 damage.

Room M: The Crypt of the Iron Lich (Central Starting Chamber)

The finale set-piece of RotIL managed to squeeze its presence into the deathmatch map, despite having a strong incentive to not have such a “stop and fight” kind of room. The presence is felt in the way of the map’s audience participation element:

Audience Participation: The audience members are asked to participate in the battle by placing tumblemines on the map, having dropped from hidden openings in the ceiling. At the end of every combat round, four audience members will take a tumblemine and place it anywhere in the central starting chamber.

c Tumblemine (fire)                                         .
Trigger: A creature enters or starts its turn in the same square as a tumblemine or the tumblemine takes damage (AC 9; Fortitude 9, Reflex 9)
Effect (No Action): The tumblemine explodes, making the following attack:
Attack: Close burst 2 (creatures in burst); +6 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d8 + 5 fire damage, and the target is knocked prone.
Miss: 5 fire damage.

These tumblemines will be represented by candies of various sorts. Perhaps jelly beans or Skittles.
The tumblemines are a devastating and memorable feature of the iron lich necrolith, having placed fear into the hearts of countless dungeoneers already, they now continue that function by providing a means of total battlefield devastation. With their blast radius and damage on a miss, a group of tumblemines can be easily set off by one attack and cause a chain reaction of fiery death throughout the map. My hope here is to have defeated dungeoneers truly relish a taste of vengeance as they plant these deadly hazards into the absolutely worst places for the FTDM finalists.

The second ranged attack of the iron lich necrolith is also present in the form of mithril razojack blades. I’ve moved them to the statues in Room L (see above), aka the north hallway.


  1. It's been quite a ride just listening to you talk about the Fourthcore Deathmatch--I wish that I was at GenCon to play it! Congrats on running a great event, I've heard nothing but good about it!

  2. Hope everything ran smoothly!