The Situation At The Pit

by mshrm

I thought it might be worthwhile to review the PCs’ current situation. When we last left them, the party was mostly gathered around the top of the so-called “Pit of Darkness”, aside from FuBar, who had already entered the pit on his own. He’s well on his way to earning the quirk, “I work alone”.


Side-view of the Pit of Darkness


This is a simplified side-view of the pit. The white central portion is a vertical shaft, which opens at the top into a large room. The grey areas are balconies carved out around the shaft, as if it were a courtyard for them to overlook. From previous visits, the party knows that the balconies have doors around their outside edges. The entire structure resembles a high-rise apartment complex’s inward-looking parts, and from the descriptions they got from the goblins, the party has concluded that this area used to be living quarters for dwarven families, before their empire fell.

The shaft entrance is about ten yards above the first balcony. The distance from one floor to the next is just about seven yards. Each level is a bit over eight feet high, floor to ceiling. There’s about four yards or so of solid (one assumes…) rock between each level. The central shaft is about ten yards across, side to side. The balconies extend another five yards beyond the central shaft on all sides.

Long ago, there was apparently some sort of system of stairs or ladders to allow easy access between levels of the complex. The party has observed recesses in the walls that might have been used to attach such a system. Whatever its nature, it must have been made of some material less sturdy than stone, because there’s nothing left of it. Currently, the easiest way to enter the pit is to clamber down a big chain and leap to a balcony.

At the bottom, the shaft continues another ten feet or so. Perhaps the dwarves were expanding, or perhaps they meant it as some kind of central feature: a fountain, perhaps, or some kind of underground garden. For all the party knows, it could have been anything from beachfront property to the catch-all “item of ritual significance”. Now, after years of neglect, it’s become a swamp of stagnant water, rotting wood, and foul fungus. The party has observed shriekers in this cavity, once before.

All told, the shaft is just about 50 yards, top to bottom. Looking down it is a lot like leaning over the rail of a tall stairwell and looking down:


View from the top of the pit


You can see a bit of the next floor down, a bit less of the one below it, and after that…. who knows?  The angle’s just too steep to be able to see. Posy, the cat-folk scout, had placed herself atop a crane overlooking the pit, so she’s looking straight down into it. She might be able to take a shot with her bow at someone standing right on the edge of the first couple of levels, but that’s about it.

The others, arrayed around the edge of the pit, had best just give up the whole idea of ranged weapons. Their angle is bad, the range penalties are bad, their skills with ranged weapons are bad… it’s just all bad. They would be far better off hurling insults than missiles, if a target were to present itself.

When we left off, Jed had used a scroll of Continual Sunlight to light up the entire pit. In review, I think we might have glossed over a couple of important details.

(Mental note:  Need to start taking the time to review all the details of all spells. Seriously. Every time I don’t, I end up handing out the equivalent of +10 or more to the roll, as we’ll see here.)

The big thing is the range. Continual Sunlight is an Area spell, which means there’s a range modifier that kicks in whenever the caster cannot touch any part of the affected area. The spell description muddies the waters, somewhat, since it says the light extends from the affected area to the sky, or the ceiling, whichever comes first. I think Jed’s player might have assumed that meant that he could aim the spell at the bottom of the shaft and fill the whole thing, with no range penalties, because Jed could touch the created sunbeam, up near its ceiling portion. My reading is that the spell affects an area, just like any other Area spell, which has a radius and a four yard height. The effect then extends from that affected area up to the local sky. It’s as if the spell affects an area, which becomes a doorway for the light to enter.

So, either Jed rolled for that scroll at about -43, or the light doesn’t make it all the way to the bottom.  Unless there’s something I’m forgetting (always likely), the roll was at no particular penalty. That would put the spell area just about halfway between the top of the pit and the first balcony. This would mean that the very lowest levels of the complex are still shrouded in darkness. Most of the balconies are going to be at a -3 darkness penalty. Inside one of the rooms beyond the balcony doors, like the one where FuBar is, the light level would drop to -9, and that only thanks to the light from the open door. Any deeper, and the ambient level returns to absolute darkness.

The good news is, yeah, that scroll was far and away their best bet for lighting up most of the place, and it’ll last for some days, which gives them a good window for exploiting the situation. The bad news is, no, it wasn’t the silver bullet the party might have wanted.

In further bad news, thanks to that bad angle, nobody in the rest of the party is going to have any idea what’s going on with FuBar.

Aside from the screams.

As usual.