Deadliest Dungeon Designs - Urge to Dirge

Urge to Dirge Header Map

We all love a good instrument of torture, right? But how about a dungeon that’s a torturous instrument? Well that’s just what we’ve orchestrated with the Urge to Dirge. Behold…!

This four way intersection is actually a giant musical instrument, designed to torment any who try to pilfer its treasures. Specific floor tiles create the music, and of course can also trigger some delightfully dangerous effects. Let’s take a closer look!

1. Entry Vestibule - the center 10x10 section of this area is a pressure plate. It can be detected with a successful DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) or Wisdom (Perception) check. But even if it’s detected, it cannot be disarmed, which should put potential thieves on edge and really set the tone for this room. When stepped on, the floor will depress about an inch and trigger the distant sound of blowing wind. The gag here is that this pressure plate serves as a giant sustain pedal for any notes played by the floor tiles in the side Music Halls (area 3).

Treasure Pile

2. Spike Floor - there’s a very visible 10x10 patch of spikes in the center of the intersection. Any character with a Strength of 10 or higher can easily jump across them. The spikes can also be circumvented without great difficulty by anyone who carefully steps diagonally past them into the side halls.

Visible in the midst of the spikes is a large mound of treasure. It’s a mix of coins totaling 1000 gp. Spread among the coins are a few magic projectiles: a +1 throwing dagger, two +1 sling bullets, and a +1 crossbow bolt. Hidden underneath the coins is a big ruby worth 500 gp. However, all the metal treasure, including the magic weapons, is held firmly in place by a powerful magical magnet under the floor. The treasure can’t be removed until the magnet is disabled (which can only be accomplished in area 5).

Here’s where things get fun. This magic magnetic force is so strong that it will also attract anyone in metal armor that wanders too close. Any character wearing metal armor that gets within 5’ of the spikes must succeed on a DC 13 Strength save or get pulled in, suffering 2d4 (5) piercing damage. Characters wearing heavy armor have disadvantage on the save. A successful DC 15 Strength (athletics) check is required to break free of the magnetic force.

3. Music Halls - these two side halls are both dead ends, each terminating in a set of large steps. Each of the 5’ square flagstones of which the steps are comprised is a pressure plate (a total of 6 pressure plates in each hall). The pressure plates can be detected by a successful DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) or Wisdom (Perception) check.

When stepped on, each flagstone triggers an ominous peal from a giant bell - the tone is thunderous and unsettling. Each flagstone produces a different musical note, with higher notes higher up on the steps. Together the twelve steps contain the full chromatic scale: A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#. The exact notes are listed on the map. A bard, any character with the Entertainer background, or anyone proficient with a musical instrument can immediately identify each note as it plays; otherwise it takes a successful DC 15 Intelligence (History) or Wisdom (Perception) check to identify the notes.
Troubleshooting: If your party cannot decipher the dirge, you can have the door magically play the song when touched. The players can then make a DC 12 Charisma (Performance), Intelligence (Investigation), or Wisdom (Perception) check to remember the musical sequence.
Rune Door

4. The Dirge Door - this metal door bears a magic puzzle in the form of seven runes arranged between four horizontal bands. The door is magically sealed and can only be opened by solving the puzzle. The symbols on the door are an ancient dirge written in an arcane style. They can be deciphered with a successful DC 15 Intelligence (arcana) check. A bard, a character with the Entertainer background, or anyone proficient with an instrument gets advantage on the check. Once deciphered, the dirge written on the door must be played by hitting the correct notes in sequence on the flagstones in the two music halls as well as using the sustain plate in the entry vestibule.

Performing the Song: The correct sequence for the song is as follows:

1 - E
2 - C♯ & Sustain
3 - F
4 - B & G & Sustain
5 - D♯
6 - A & Sustain
7 - G♯

Players have to hop on the correct floor tiles, in the proper order, with only a brief pause between notes. Some of the notes require one character to stand on the sustain pedal while another character sounds the note. Due to the location of the various pressure plates, a minimum of three characters is required to solve the puzzle - one in each of the music halls and one in the entry vestibule.

Each time a correct note is played, the corresponding symbol on the door will illuminate with arcane light. Hitting an incorrect note while playing the song triggers a double trap on the characters. First an ear-shattering peal rings out. This dissonant note launches a wave of sonic energy from the ends of both music halls and the entry vestibule; any characters within those areas must make a DC 13 Constitution save. On a failure they suffer 2d4 (5) thunder damage and are pushed 10’ in a straight line towards the spike floor; on a success they take half as much damage and do not move. Any character wearing metal armor that gets pushed within 5’ of the spike floor is at risk of getting magnetically pulled in (see area 2 above). Characters beyond the spike pit, near the dirge door, are safe.

The puzzle then resets and the characters can attempt it once again. There is one beneficial effect to a failed attempt: the thunderwave unleashed by the trap dislodges 100gp worth of the treasure from the pile in the pit, scattering it around the edges. Clever players can exploit this to repeatedly fail the puzzle while standing close to the dirge door and slowly gather more treasure. After treasure has been dislodged three times, however, the remainder is held firmly enough that the trick won’t work any more.

The song, if correctly performed, is an ancient dwarven funeral dirge. It is somber but rousing. Any dwarf that hears it will be so moved by the ancestral melody that they will gain Inspiration. As the final note rings out, the dirge door unseals and swings open.


5. Treasure Chamber - beyond the dirge door is a 40’x40’ room which is totally empty. Inset in the wall opposite the entrance is a large decorative arch with an embedded plinth. Above the plinth is a large empty nook. The rest of the room is featureless. Make sure to have the players position their miniatures precisely within the room because their locations will become important when they start messing with the nook.

The nook: Upon inspection the nook reveals an inscription: “Now sing ye a tune most rowdy and bold, then magically behold this fill up with gold.” All the PCs need to do to solve this puzzle is to loudly sing a song to the nook. Characters attempting to sing should make a Charisma (Performance) check. The result of this check will be used to determine the DC of the trap that’s about to be sprung. At the conclusion of their song, two things happen: with a glorious peal of victory, the magnetic force holding the treasure in the spike floor in area 2 releases. Then, the sound of a heavenly choir emanates from the nook as it produces a magnetic force even stronger than that in the spike floor.

When the magnetic force in the nook activates, any character in the room wearing metal armor will get pulled towards the nook. Each affected PC must make a DC 17 Strength save, suffering disadvantage if wearing heavy armor. On a successful save a character is pulled 5’ towards the nook, and on a failure they fly completely across the room headlong into the nook. They don’t take any damage, but they are held fast long enough that they’ll automatically fail saves to resist the next part of the trap.

Flying Mini

Metal-clad heroes aren’t the only things attracted by the magnetic force. All the treasure in area 2 will fly into the room and crash into the nook, with the sharp magic projectiles leading the way. The flying treasure moves at such a high velocity that it will damage anyone standing in its path. Any PC in the squares between the spike floor and the nook will have to make a Dexterity save to avoid the airborne treasure. The DC of the save is 25 minus the result of the previous Performance check made for singing the song - thus the better the PCs performed the song, the easier it will be to dodge the treasure. Anyone failing the save gets pelted by the speeding coins and projectiles and suffers 3d4+3 (11) points of piercing damage.

Once the treasure all comes to rest in the nook, the magnetic field switches off and the PCs can finally claim it. If they are alive, that is.

And there you have it, a malicious, musical mantrap. It should provide a properly vexing challenge for any who face it, but if they survive it certainly ends on a high note. Until next time, stay evil!

Sets Required To Build This Encounter:

1 x Starter Dungeon
1 x Passages - Intersections
1 x Double Doors