As part of the Ptolus campaign I’ve been running, my players have recently been running through Mini-Adventure 1: The Complex of Zombies. Basically the entire complex has become part of Ghul’s Labyrinth (specifically, it’s where the tunnels leading from the “Trouble With Goblins” adventure from the Ptolus sourcebook end up). As part of this I replaced the large iron door in area 10 of the complex with a door of blue steel and then put the password for opening the door safely on the other side (essentially creating a dead-end for the adventure).
But, because I like to be prepared, I did make a decision regarding what the password would be. In my notes for the dungeon I wrote:
PASSWORD: Athvor Krassek (the name of the head researcher, although there’s no way to know that)
LOCATION OF THE PASSWORD: The password is located in the relief work on the other side of the door. The goblins know it (which is how they accessed the compound).
I figured there was an outside chance that the goblins might get captured and, therefore, be available for interrogation. Since the goblins must know the password (since they came from the other side of the door), there was a chance (however slim) that the PCs might get the password out of them.
I didn’t think that particularly likely, though.
What I didn’t anticipate, however, was the unlikely synergy that would develop between area 11C and a particularly clever player. In the adventure, this area is described like this:
Stasis Box (C): There is a chest in this room with a false botoom (Search check, DC 16, to find). Inside the false bottom there are two items:
First, a packet of badly baded love letters written by a woman named Athaya and addressed to a man named Oliss.
Second, a small and perfectly preserved box of cherry wood with a mosaic design of inlaid jade. This is, in fact, a stasis box (see sidebar). Inside the stasis box there is a manuscript entitled Observations of Alchemical Reductions and the Deductions Thereof by Master Alchemist Tirnet Kal. A Craft (alchemy) or Knowledge (arcana) (DC 22) reveals that this was once a well-known alchemical text, but that the last copy of it was thought lost several centuries ago. The book would be worth 3,000 gp to the proper collector.
So the PCs encounter the blue steel door and they make a few Knowledge (local) checks to determine the properties of the door — including the need for a password in order for the door to open. They shout out a couple of likely possibilities, and then one of the players says:
“I start reading the love letters out loud in front of the door.”
… son of a bitch.
I didn’t really want them to get past that door. So I figured that: (a) These letters might not even have been written when Athvor Krassek was the administrator here. (b) Even if they were, it’s quite possible that neither member of the couple would have mentioned their boss by name in their love letters.
I didn’t want to ignore the fact that this was a pretty nifty idea. But I did assign it a ridiculously low chance of happening, picked up the percentile dice, and rolled…
So after 4d20 minutes of reading (which turned out to be about 22 minutes), the door of blue steel swung open.
I would never intentionally design an adventure with the expectation that the PCs would take a bundle of love letters from location A and use them to open a locked door at location B. But watching that kind of unexpected success materialize out of seemingly thin air is the reason I love roleplaying games: There is a magical creativity which only happens when people get together.