While researching something else entirely in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, I glanced at the passage on the “Mirror of Life Trapping” purely by mistake (pages 181, 182, DMG). Because of the fluid nature of this mirror’s possible past, it may contain up to twelve random creatures already. How they got there and why they ended up in the vicinity of the Mirror could be any number of reasons.
That means this encounter, if you set it up right, could be infinitely adjustable to your group’s level and abilities. It could be a campaign starter. It could be a campaign ender – even if only by accident. Since the contents set the challenge level, take care in making sure you stock the mirror wisely.
For the purposes of this encounter, only one of the twelve cells is free, so as to not trap the entire party, and to deliver enough random oddities to truly challenge your group. This encounter should only trap one character, leaving the rest to solve the problem. It may well set up one of those moments where the entire party say “What have we done?”
The characters will enter a room or cavern roughly 50’x50’, with a ceiling 30’ high. The room is covered in patches of bio-luminescent fungi, giving the entire room an ambient glow.
The most unusual feature in this room appears to be a very thin rectangular object floating flat and horizontal over the floor at a height of 15’. It has an elaborately carved 1” thick wooden frame around it’s outer rim. It shows no obvious signs of suspension and hovers silently in the air. It is roughly 4’x2’.
A steel ball is suspended 5’ above this object by a rope. That rope continues straight up to the ceiling, where a pulley redirects the remainder on an angle downward to a metal ring attached to the far wall. The rope is attached by a thick knot to this ring.
No occupants are in the room that the party can see, and no other exits are visible. The only way in and out appears to be the entrance the characters came through when they entered this chamber. Aside from this odd display, only the dank smell of he glowing fungi greets them.
The object is a “Mirror of Life Trapping”, and it’s suspended by ancient magic. The reflective mirror surface faces downward directly at the floor below. Should anyone under it look up at it, the magic of the mirror will kick in. The first person to look up will require a Charisma saving throw (DC:15). Optionally, if more than one character looks up, have them all roll a saving throw, then determine who suffers the effect among the lost saves randomly. Should someone fail, they will, along with everything they are wearing and carrying, will be sucked into one of the fog-like cells of the mirror and be trapped there.
The command words are written on the back of the mirror if anyone can make their way above it without breaking the mirror. The words will have to be read aloud. Feel free to make up your own command words or even a riddle. This itself might be a great hook for a later adventure. Additionally, the mirror can be attacked with ranged weapons. It has an AC of 11 and 10 hp. It is vulnerable to Bludgeoning Weapons. Breaking the mirror will release all the creatures trapped inside. Should anyone do this while standing directly under the mirror, they will then be subject to having all of the creatures fall on top of them. If the mirror breaks in this manner, have whomever is standing directly below make a Dexterity saving throw (DC:15) or take 6d10 Bludgeoning damage when the monsters fall on them. The falling creatures will also suffer 2d6 Bludgeoning damage from the fall.
Furthermore, the players might elect to untie the rope holding the ball, or cut the rope to do the same. The ball will fall and shatter the mirror, also releasing all the creatures trapped within. This simple mechanism should be pretty self evident, but if your players are struggling with it, allow them a simple DC:10 Intelligence test.
If the mirror is broke, the following creatures will fall from it to the floor below:
1. The player character
2. A grown Owlbear – who was chasing Goblins.
3. A Rust Monster – who ate a Gnoll Pack Lord’s chainmail
4. Six Goblins – who were running from an Owlbear
5. Two Gnolls – following their lord after a Rust Monster
6. Gnoll Pack Lord – who chased a Rust Monster that ate his chainmail
If the Goblins survive the fall, they’ll be panicked and running from an Owlbear.
The Owlbear will be pursuing the Goblins. If none survive the fall, determine his next target randomly from all the targets present in the room.
The Rust Monster will immediately seek out the largest source of metal in the room. This will likely be a player character.
The Gnoll pack will be in hot pursuit of the Rust Monster. If the Rust Monster dies, the Gnolls will do what they do and attack something else. Determine this target randomly, as Gnolls live for carnage, not logic.
If anyone attacks a monster that has it’s sights set on another that fell from the mirror, that monster will then turn it’s attention to whomever attacked it.
Monsters: Goblins (6) – As per Monster Manual, p.166.
Gnolls (2) – As per Monster Manual, p.163.
Gnoll Pack Lord – As per Monster Manual, p.163, but reduce the AC to 14 due to the loss of
Rust Monster – As per Monster Manual, p. 262.
Treasure: Possible “Mirror of Life Trapping” if the players do not break it and
cast Dispel Magic on the
spell that’s holding it in place. This will require an Intelligence test, DC: 19 to break if the
spell is cast.
Getting permanently stuck in the mirror is the single greatest complication here, followed closely by being crushed by falling monsters. Depending on who attacks what and when, this could go well or it could go poorly. There may be characters running around with rusted or destroyed armor and weapons. There will certainly be a lot of chaos, so this encounter requires that the DM stay focused and organized.
In the end, I hope that you will have an encounter that is both memorable and possibly hilarious….or you’ll have naked and dead characters…which might still be memorable and hilarious. Who said adventuring was easy?
You’ll find that this encounter is easily scaled. The mirror has no size limit on what it can contain. It only requires that the creatures look at the mirror and fail a Charisma saving throw. So long as you do not stock it with blind creatures, anything else is legal. Anything from a tiny Stirge to a grown Dragon can be stuffed in the mirror. Heck, the Tarrasque can fit in the mirror…if you could get that close, make it look, and survive for four rounds for it’s legendary resistance to wear off. (Good luck)
As said in the introduction, this encounter could serve as a campaign starter. The release of vile villains, a dragon, a demon, or any number of horrors upon the world could be the start of an epic adventure to capture or kill these escapees. Conversely, a lost queen or heir to the throne might be trapped in this mirror, along with the monsters also trapped within as a safeguard to make sure they never see a true escape.
How you use and scale this encounter is up to you. Have fun, and make it something the players will talk about for a long time.
I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn't always work. One thing that I didn't really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn't really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were.
What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement.
But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language.
Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn...the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there.
Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight.
Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter.
Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn't play D&D again for a very long time, though.
Then 5E came out.
I discovered the Adventurer's League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again.
And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in "gamer speak" a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother...who still doesn't "get it"). It's my hope that one day she'll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.
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