Terry stepped carefully on the narrow path. A few rocks skittered over the edge into the darkness below. They were lucky to find the path, he wasn’t sure if it was natural or if someone or something created it. Kate was sure it led to the lost city of Dzuvia. They had to be over a hundred yards underground now. The claustrophobic caverns they had squeezed through to get here had opened up considerably. Terry could feel a cool breeze and the faint sound of a waterfall somewhere far ahead of him.
“I think we’ve found it,” Kate said in a reverent whisper.
“How can you tell I can’t see anything past this lantern.”
“The sounds. This cavern’s huge, just like the one Dzuvia is supposed to be in.” Kate had taken off her pack and was rummaging around in it.
“We taking a break?” Terry asked massaging his aching calf as he watched her.
“Maybe,” Kate replied and produced a flare from her pack and proceeded to light it.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Terry asked. Kate seemed to always attract trouble.
“No, but only one way to find out.” Kate hurled the flare as far as she could over the cliff’s edge. Both Terry and Kate watched the streak or orange light intently as it seemed to float through the air and towards the cavern’s floor.
The light slowly revealed what Kate had dreamed about for so long Dzuvia.
Terry stared. The buildings and temples below were clearly Vertruvian in design. They must have dated back to the…
A few pieces of rock landed on Terry’s shoulder. It interrupted his thoughts as he looked at them and brushed them off. Slowly he raised lantern high and stared at the wall behind him. A wall that seemed to be moving…. And chittering.
Terry pushed Kate forward.
“Stop it,” She complained. He prodded her forward again.
“Stop it, I might fall.”
“run.” Terry all but whispered.
“What?” Kate asked as she tore her eyes from Dzuvia and looked at Terry. That is when the wall seemed to lurch forward.
Back when I was DMing D&D with larger groups and higher level players I discovered that the key to a great encounter isn’t usually the monsters but instead the location that can really make the encounter memorable. I have used the long stair encounter quite a few times, the most memorable being when the party was trying to escape an infernal city in a large subterranean cavern. Continue reading “Set Piece: The Long Stair”