What Happens When A Link To An Article About Medieval London Gets Thread-Drifted Into A Discussion About Gary Gygax?
OK, so, I need to credit David Emami for the suggestion of how to add “a map that wants to kill you” to the long list of other Gygaxian tropes like the floor that wants to kill you, the ceiling that wants to kill you, the wall that wants to kill you, the treasure chest that wants to kill you, and the jello that wants to kill you. I said I’d write it up, and here it is, only a few weeks after everyone’s forgotten about it.
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: 6
MOVE: 2″, plus see below
HIT DICE: 4
% IN LAIR: 100%
TREASURE TYPE: None, but see below
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Disease
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: None
PSlONlC ABILITY: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: None
Murder maps may be distantly related to mimics, or they may be a product of a mad wizard’s experiments. (If not for mad wizards, the worlds of D&D would be much less deadly and much more boring.) As the name implies, they resemble maps – usually rolled up and tied with twine or ribbon, with the texture of well-made parchment. Unrolling the scroll reveals what seems to be a map of the current dungeon level – the area within 1d4 * 100 feet is perfectly accurate and will include secret rooms, hidden doors, and similar locales. Beyond that, it becomes vague and distorted. This distortion creates an odd compulsion; the reader must save vs. spell or lean in/raise the map to their face in order to see it more clearly… and then it strikes.
Twisting and undulating, it rips itself from the luckless reader’s hands and fastens to their face, adhering like evil flypaper. The victim will be unable to breathe and will take 1d8 points of damage each round until they suffocate. (If the character is wearing full facial covering, generally found only in field plate, they will have been compelled to lift the visor to see the map better. Don’t let them buffalo you, DM!)
This renders the victim blind and mute, though they can hear well enough.
Furthermore, each round, they must save vs. poison or become infected with the map’s spawn. If this happens, only a cure disease spell cast within the next 24 hours can save them. Otherwise, after the time has elapsed, their skin begins to peel off in thin, leathery sheets, which ripple away with surprising speed (these larval maps have a speed of 10″) to seek cavern or dungeon complex within which to dwell (they can sense them within 100 miles) and repeat the cycle. This will produce 2d10 “larvae”, each one doing 1d10 damage to the victim. falling off at a rate of 1/round. If the victim survives, they can then heal normally.
A successful bend bars/lift gates check can peel the map off its prey (doing 1d8 damage to the unfortunate victim), or it can be attacked and killed with normal weapons. However, as it is plastered on the reader’s face, they will take 50% of all damage (the map takes the other half), even if it’s normally a “single target” spell. For all mechanical purposes, the map and its target are a “single creature”, so attempting to teleport one teleports them both, etc.(A wish spell and similarly potent magics may easily distinguish between the two, but if the players are using spells of such magnitude to deal with a 4HD nuisance, something has gone terribly wrong in your campaign. I offer consulting services at reasonable rates.)
A grease spell targeting the map allows anyone trying to pull it off to roll as if their Strength was 2 points higher, or 25 percentile points for those who already have 18 strength. This is not common knowledge and characters using it should supply a good in-character reason why they know this.
A murder map usually hides itself among other loot, but does not have treasure of its own. However, its initial map, formed by a sonar-like penetrating sense, remains on its corpse (the DM may decide how legible it is after it’s been stabbed, fireballed, etc.), and may well reveal valuable hidden regions within the dungeon complex. (“Clever” players may try to capture the map “alive” and bring it with them, thinking they have some plan to avoid it attempting to eat their faces. Perhaps they do have some scheme. It matters little. The mapping “sonar” of the murder map, inaudible to PC races, will act like a shrieker’s cries, drawing attackers. Since they (the PCs) can’t detect these signals, they may think you (the DM) are simple a sadistic bastard throwing random encounters at them for no reason. Well, you may be a sadistic bastard… it’s kind of a job requirement… but there is a reason. They just don’t need to know what it is. That’ll teach them to try to be “clever”!
NOTE: A victim killed by suffocation will still spawn offspring 24 hours later. The murder map will immediately detach itself from a dead victim and move off to find another treasure pile to lie in.