Thought I'd share a fun encounter we played out Sunday. It was of course inspired by the 'Riddles in the Dark' encounter from 'The Hobbit'.. But of course I added a twist to it. The set up can be seen in the first Pic below.. the 'U' Hallway section. This encounter also demonstrates one of my signatures as a DM... I like to SHOW the PCs the means by which their demise will be occurring before it happens and use a combination of terrain obstacles, role play, and monsters to make things interesting. In this case, its the innocuous drainage grate in the hallway section is the 'peek' at what's to come. The players can HEAR the waterfalls, and running water in caverns below, especially when they take the time to stop and listen.
What they don't know is that a gelatinous cube lies in the caverns below, and will be attracted to the dungeon halls by the vibrations of the character's passing, entering the hallway by oozing through the bars of the grate.
The next part of the set up is the 'Riddle Column'. Set up by the Priests of Nerul to guard access to the 3rd level, and further protect the secret passage, this column is quite insidious. The souls of those who have failed the challenge can be seen, as countless heads 'floating' in the red substance that makes up the column. There is also one evil, large head, and this is the 'Riddler'.
Anyway... As the characters make their way down the hall, they will first hear the chatter of whispers. Once they can SEE the column, the large head will 'float' to the side of their approach, and pose a riddle. The first riddle the column asked was:
“ I have rivers without water, Forests without trees, Mountains without rocks Towns without houses.”
Of course rather than trying to answer the riddle, they all decided to turn back and try a different way. Problem... because, as you can see in the pic, by this time the Gelatinous Cube was making its way towards them. Kind of an, “Oh Shit” moment when they turned back down the way they came, and their perception allowed them to see the thing.
Okay.. plan B.... lets try this riddle thing... They didn't know for sure, but they know me as DM and knew there would be consequences for just trying to 'walk on' without answering the riddle. The problem was... this one stumped them. I think they tried, “A desert' when the answer was, 'a map'. So, DC 12 con saves all around, and 4d6 necrotic damage. OUCH! The good part is that the column then posed another riddle, the bad part is, the Gelatinous Cube is getting closer. The barrage of missile weapons and spells really had had only minor effects to this point, and the thing was baring down on them.
“Ten Men's Strength, Ten Men's Length, Ten Men can't break it, Yet a young boy walks off with it” The most experienced player got it almost right away, “A rope!”
The column replied, “Good. Now, give one and you may pass.” Which meant, give a riddle back.... they had to think about it for a second... the gelatinous cube double moved and almost engulfed the wizard (which would have been certain death with his measly 12 hit points) but he managed a nat 20 on his dex save.
Thinking quickly the Bard replied with the riddle of the sphinx, to which the column replied, “Good, you may pass.”
So, moving quickly they managed to get ahead of the thing, and finally took it down with combined missile fire and spells.
Afterwards, everyone changed their shorts.