Kobold Press

Humpday Hazard: Echoing Curse

wall of sound“Shut your mouths.”

Nyx licked the blade of her punching dagger and slid against the wall. The cracks in the masonry felt icy.

“Do you hear something, Nyx?”

“I said hush, damnit!” Nyx peeled back her halfling braids, put a finger to the back of her ear, and held her breath.

The rest of the group exchanged confused glances in silence. Only the tapping of water and the scuttling of dust beetles broke the gloom of the ancient castle’s stairwell.

“I think the wench is mad,” Hitnor snorted. The rings in his nose jangled when he chuckled. The fighter shouldered his glaive and lit a pinch of pipe-weed. His exhale swirled down the catacomb snow blown from the roof of a cottage…

Nyx flexed her grip on the katar.

“Need I slit each of your misbegotten throats just to earn a moment of silence from you curs?”

The adventurers stood quiet. A deathly still weighted the air. It was only by the grace of Nyx’s darkvision that they were spared the crackling of torches or the dripping of a lantern.

It was then that she heard the sound. At first, it drifted at the edge of perception, like the shifting of a maiden in a distant bed. After a moment, it assumed a sinister vibrato, quivering between the fissures that danced like veins across the arched stone walls.

In a final, fleeting second, the noise took on the shape of three unintelligible syllables.

Nyx screeched and pierced her own eardrums with her thieves’ tools.

Architects, stonemasons, and others adroit in the building of castles speak of an unusual phenomenon. For reasons not yet understood, masonry stone—particularly in ancient manors and strongholds—traps and absorbs sound, not unlike reliefs pressed into a wax mold. While many of these sounds are imperceptible and reverberate only for a few hours, some noises remain imprinted in the walls for days, months, years, or even centuries, echoing forever at the edge of perception.

Most often, the walls will trap only mundane sounds—the flickering of torches, dripping water, the rush of falling rain, or clattering footsteps. Though completely natural, these echoes are often mistaken for ghosts.

In rare instances, however, in catacombs burdened by both age and depth, more sinister trappings can be detected. The wail of the undead, the clanging and hissing of lethal traps, the muted screams of dungeoneers—all have been known to emanate from cracked stone for epochs.

When primeval curses and words of power spoken by (hopefully) long-perished dungeon denizens become absorbed, they echo for an eternity, threatening to unleash their wrath on those unfortunate enough to hear. This hazardous phenomenon is known as an echoing curse.

Echoing Curse (Level Variable Elite Lurker)

Hazard (XP Variable)

The trapped whispers of an ancient curse reverberate through the corridor at the edge of silence.

Hazard The stone walls of an ancient corridor, stairwell, or chamber continually echo a faint curse that maddens those who hear it

Perception
DC 19 + 1/2 hazard level—You hear the echoing curse and are attacked (see below)

Additional Skill (Dungeoneering)
DC 12 + 1/2 hazard level—You discern that the mundane echoes in the chamber are sound “trapped” in the ancient stone walls

Additional Skill (Arcana or Religion)
DC 17 + 1/2 hazard level—If you hear the curse, you recognize the nature of the hazard

Trigger When a creature makes any successful Perception check (DC 19 + 1/2 hazard level) while within the hazard’s area of effect, it attacks; creatures with passive Perception scores greater than the DC are attacked at the start of each of their turns

Attack
Opportunity Action
Target
The triggering creature
Attack
Level + 5 vs. Will
Hit
Normal high psychic damage by level, and the target is dazed (save ends); if the triggering Perception check succeeds by 5 or more, the target instead takes limited low psychic damage by level and is immobilized (save ends)
First Failed Save—The target is stunned (save ends)
Second Failed Save—The target is deafened and takes a -1 penalty to Will defense per tier (no save)

Countermeasures
◊ You may choose to take a -5 penalty to Perception checks to earn a +5 bonus to Will defense against the hazard’s attack
◊ Non-living creatures or creatures that cannot hear are unaffected by the echoing curse
◊ A bard may play music or sing (Dexterity, Constitution, or Charisma check; hard difficulty) as a minor action to drown out the hazard until the start of his or her next turn

Sample Encounters

Level 6 Encounter (1,250 XP)

  • 14 decrepit skeletons (level 1 minion; Monster Manual)
  • echoing curse (level 6 elite lurker)
  • gelatinous cube (level 5 elite brute; Monster Manual)

Level 14 Encounter (5,000 XP)

  • echoing curse (level 14 elite lurker)
  • incunabulum cursebringer (level 16 artillery; Underdark)
  • incunabulum keeper (level 17 soldier leader; Underdark)

Level 22 Encounter (20,750 XP)

  • dark naga (level 21 elite controller; Monster Manual)
  • echoing curse (level 22 elite lurker)
  • haunting conscience (level 24 warder; Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons)

3 Replies to "Humpday Hazard: Echoing Curse"

Sersa V

April 28, 2010 at 2:08am

I swear this is based on a real phenomenon, but I cannot for the life of me remember where I’d heard it, and I cannot find a reference to it anywhere.

Wolfgang

April 28, 2010 at 4:44pm

Very cool that we got heroic, paragon, and epic sample encounters with this.

Justus

June 10, 2010 at 7:45am

…WANT.