On the Thursday Trick, Collapsing Walls

This post was originally published in January of 2015. If you're interested in Tricks and Traps like these, be sure to check out Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas, collecting all of these along with beautiful illustrations. 

"In spite of the artificial setup of this room, collapsing walls don't show up often enough in published materials." -Brendan S.

I agree!

The room in question:
"At the top of the stairs are the remains of a door, beyond which is a room. The floor here is almost entirely gutted as is the floor below. 30' below is the gray stone of the cellar floor. There is an open door-way on the opposite side of the room on this level. Any exits from the first floor or the cellar have been completely filled with rubble. There are three possible ways to walk across the space—a charred and crumbling section of floor clings to the left wall, a narrow pathway of fallen beams stretches across the center like a bridge, and a sounder section of floor, only burned at the edge, runs along the right wall. All three paths are accessible from this end and lead to the doorway on the opposite side."
If the crumbling ledge is probed, large pieces of burned wood will crash to the floor. If any character steps on the ledge, it will collapse beneath them. The center path is narrow and will wobble slightly when stepped on. Plaster and ash will fall and the wood will creak and groan. As unsafe as it seems, the path is sturdy and may be crossed without falling. The ledge to the right is sound and solid. However, when the lead character reaches the halfway point, their weight will cause a loose beam underfoot to shift. The wall beside them will collapse inwards, knocking the figure off the ledge. If characters are roped together when this happens, each figure after the first must roll a successful bend bars/lift gates to stay on the ledge. Characters that fail will be pulled over the side. The fallen wall will block this ledge. A fall to the cellar will do 3-18 points of damage. (FOR TOURNAMENT USE: 12 points of damage). -A1:Slave Pits of the Undercity

Description: A wall is unstable or has been designed to collapse. A falling wall can expose the party to new hazards, such as basilisk, poisonous monsters or snakes, rushing water or lava, or anything better kept hidden. It can move party members or knock them over causing them to fall or separating them. The falling wall itself can do damage, or even release dangerous substances like asbestos, yellow mold, or acid. It can create new passageways and routes through an area for both the party and their allies.

Detection/Disarming: A collapsing wall is difficult to detect. As noted in the above boxed text, there is no special characteristic or description given to the wall, and indeed, it appears to be the most stable of the paths. The clue is given in the surrounding area. Collapsing walls may not be mortared or may even be described as walls of rubble. Walls designed to collapse may be plastered and smell or appear to be different. Depending on the type of collapsing wall, dwarves should automatically get their chance to detect this. Elves should also be able to use their sense of detecting secret doors to detect plastered or disguised walls.
Other indicators that the wall is unstable include:

  • Bulges or sagging walls, walls that are no longer completely vertical. ("The walls of this room bulge inward", "The convex walls of the chamber frame a. . . ")
  • A non-standard wall or a wall formed of a different substance. ("This chamber looks formed by rock collapse, the walls being piles of boulders stacked atop each other to the ceiling", or "The grey cemented bricks give way in this chamber to bricks surrounded by loose mortar")
  • Sounds or other descriptions could clue the players in ("The sound of rocks shifting as you enter this chamber gives way to dripping water. . ." or "There's a light static sound, as if sand were falling or settling")
  • There may be visible signs of wear on the walls. ("The stone walls in this room are cracked and worn with disrepair")

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