Ritualistically Speaking: Rope Trick

I have to admit, things have slowed down on the site for a little while now, and it’s my fault. I have been getting my ass handed to me at work since the beginning of last week. Half of my co-workers have been on summer vacation and I and the remaining staff have been covering for them and that means lots of extra work. I didn’t want things to sit for too long with out some new content so I asked Randall Walker, aka Deadorcs of “Initative or What” blog and the “DM’s Round Table” podcast fame, to write this weeks post. I think he did a great job. I had to ask him to turn down the awesome since I didn’t want him to make my previous posts look bad. With out any further ado here is his post.

Ritualistically Speaking:  Rope Trick

A Guest Post by R.M. Walker of Initiative or What?

Kath ran down the stone corridor, her boots smacking on the flagstones that lined the floor.  Behind her, she could hear the footfalls of her companions and could tell they were pushing hard to keep up with her.  Turning down first one hall and then another, Kath suddenly found herself in a storage room.  Skidding to a stop, she took a few deep breaths and waited for her companions to catch up.

“You just had to go and set off the alarm, didn’t you.”  Kath looked over her shoulder to address her companions just now running into the room.

Marja, still huffing from the exertion of the run, pulled off his helm. “I hit him dead on with the bolt, girl.  How was I to know he’d fall into the alarm bell?”

“Speaking of which…”  Cale, the last of her companions, tilted his head. In the distance, the three of them could still hear the deep tolling of the bell, as well as some distant shouting – shouting that was drawing nearer.

“We don’t have much time, Kath…”  Marja shifted the grip on his axe and looked at his companion expectantly.

“I know, I know.  Give me a sec…”

Reaching up to the back of her neck, Kath unclasped the silver necklace she had been wearing.  Holding the necklace in one hand, she inscribed an invisible symbol in the air with the other.  As her companions looked on, she ended the gesture by pointing at the necklace.

“Quick you two.  Find an out of the way spot in here.”  Cale and Marja hunted around the stacks of crates and barrels in the storeroom.  From the far corner, Cale called out,

“I think this might do!”

Holding the necklace carefully, Kath followed the sound of Cale’s voice, Marja falling in behind her.  In a moment they were in an obscured corner of the store room, partially hidden behind a stack of old crates.  Aiming at a clear spot on the floor, Kath grasped one end of the silver necklace, and let the other end dangle to the floor.  Immediately, the necklace shimmered with a brief flash of arcane light and transformed into a rope.

“Neat trick, Kath.”

“Just climb down, Marja.  They’ll be here any minute.”

Grasping the rope, Marja and Cale climbed down into the floor, hesitating only briefly when they realized the floor surrounding the rope was no longer there.  Kath, leaving her end of the rope suspended in mid-air, climbed down after them.  Looking around, the three found themselves in a barren room; the walls, floor, and ceiling comprised of some otherworldly material – a pocket dimension of their own devising.  Pulling the rope in after her, Kath looked at her companions.

“It’s not the Glowing Griffon, but it’ll do.  Make yourselves comfortable.  This little Rope Trick will last several hours.  The bandits won’t be able to hear us, and I doubt they’ll realize we’ve used a portal.  All we have to do is sit tight and get some rest.  In the meantime, we’ll need to devise a plan to escape this lair…”

Although I’m keeping a pretty busy RPG schedule of late, I couldn’t pass up the chance when my friend Thadeous asked me to provide a guest post on his most excellent blog.  Thadeous asked if I could do a segment of Ritualistically Speaking, and take on a 12th level ritual.  Grabbing up (okay, logging on), I checked the DDI Compendium and looked over the rituals listed there.  While there are several good ones, I couldn’t resist tackling one that’s been around for years:  Rope Trick.

Rope Trick is a vanishing act.  Once a spell, but now a ritual, Rope Trick provides a way for heroes to get out of a tight spot.  Before I break this ritual down in the customary way, let’s take a look at it shall we?

Rope Trick*

You drop a silver rope that passes through the floor and into a safe chamber where you can rest.
Level: 12   Category: Exploration Time: 10 minutes  Duration: 7 hours

Component Cost: 1,000 gp, plus a focus worth 2,000 gp  Market Price: 2,500 gp

Key Skill: Arcana

When you perform Rope Trick, the ritual’s focus (see below) passes through a portal and into a temporary demiplane. The portal entrance occupies 1 square. A creature can climb down the rope into a demiplane that is 2 squares high, 8 squares long, and 8 squares wide.

The entrance to the demiplane appears as a subtle shimmer and has solid transparency (see “Transparency,” page 17). A successful Perception check (DC 15 + half your level) allows a creature outside the portal to detect the entrance. The portal can be locked with the Arcane Lock ritual (see the “Arcane Lock, Knock, and Portals” sidebar, page 149), and unless you choose to lock the portal, the demiplane remains accessible from the outside.

Once the ritual ends, the demiplane disappears, and any creatures or objects in the demiplane appear in the nearest unoccupied space to the demiplane’s former entrance. The ritual’s focus appears where the demiplane’s entrance was. The ritual caster can choose to end the ritual at any time.

Focus: A silver rope worth at least 2,000 gp.

*Page 151, Manual of the Planes

For those of you that have played earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons, you’ll note some changes.  This description also throws what I think is an initially confusing term at the reader (the one I’ve bolded in the text):  “solid transparency”.  Fortunately, the ritual description is kind enough to refer the reader to the section of the book where the definition is found.  However, if you currently don’t own a copy of The Manual of the Planes, I’ll give it to you here:  Solid transparency is a classification of the portal that Rope Trick creates.  It simply means, “you can’t see through it”.

Making it Accessible: I was looking over the focus for this ritual, and a glaring thought struck me.  It wasn’t the cost of the ritual (which is perfectly acceptable for its level), but instead the actual focus item.  Now a rope does make sense, but a silver rope?  Even a 5’ long rope of silver would be extremely heavy.  To make this ritual more accessible, I’d allow the caster to prepare the focus as an item of jewelry or perhaps, a belt of some kind.  You still need to start out with a length of silver rope, but preparing the ritual transforms the focus into a silver braided necklace or belt of some kind.  This allows the caster to easily carry the focus while traveling.  Then, when the ritual is cast, the focus transforms into the rope as described above.

Another thing a DM can do to make this ritual more accessible, is to expand the ways in which the Rope Trick portal can be opened.  According to the ritual description, Rope Trick is activated by suspending the focus object over the floor.  When the portal is opened, anyone wishing to go through climbs down the rope into the demiplane.  As a DM, I would allow the heroes to send the rope in any direction.  The original versions of this spell had the rope going in the opposite direction (into the ceiling).  I would allow the rope to be cast at any angle, even sideways.  The demiplane always has the same orientation, so it really doesn’t matter how you enter it.  Imagine if the heroes cast the ritual on a door.  Wouldn’t that be confusing to potential searchers?  I think so.

DMs: Rope Trick can be a useful tool for the DM in several ways.  The ritual was designed to be an escape tool for a party of heroes.  However, what’s to say that the Rope Trick doesn’t exactly go off as planned?  Perhaps some arcane force or planar energy in the vicinity changes the result of the portal, and it leads to elsewhere?  Rope Trick could also be used as part of an escape or infiltration Skill Challenge.  Use Rope Trick or the nasty guards will find you during their rounds.  You get the idea.  Finally, a DM could use the Rope Trick ritual as a quest hook.  As the heroes are searching a room, a silver rope appears from seemingly nowhere, and an NPC comes down it, ready to provide the heroes with an important quest.  That last event might seem a oddly random, but if properly worked into the storyline, it could be a different and interesting hook.

Players: As a temporary escape route, Rope Trick is a pretty easy choice.  However, it’s also a very convenient and mostly safe method for taking an extended rest in a dangerous area.  While certain very powerful creatures might be able to detect the portal and break any Arcane Lock or similar ritual cast upon the portal, most ordinary creatures will ignore its presence.  Remember that you’ll probably need to make yourself comfortable within the demiplane provided by the Rope Trick, otherwise your DM might not allow you to take advantage of an Extended Rest.  So as you escape down the rope, remember your bedroll.

Combat: With a 10 minute casting time, Rope Trick probably won’t be a ritual you pull out in the middle of combat.  However, if you have a generous DM (say, like myself), that allows you to cast rituals as a standard action, you might be able to use this ritual in the heat of battle.  If you do, remember that anyone observing you casting the ritual is probably going to be able to detect the entrance, so make sure you’re able to lock the door behind you.  While disappearing into the floor might bewilder the run-of-the-mill Orc, it’s probably not going to confuse the Balor Demon you just pissed off.   A better technique might be to run first, find a nook obscured by debris or other sight-blocking material, and cast the ritual there.  Foes that are chasing you will more likely be looking for you, and not the portal created by the ritual.  While you’re there, take an Extended Rest if the DM allows it.  By the time the ritual expires, you’ll be able to pop out nice and refreshed the next day.

Well, that’s my take on that truly classic spell…err…ritual known as Rope Trick.  Many thanks to Thadeous for allowing me to contribute to what has been a great series of posts on all things ritualistic.  Keep up the great work, Thadeous, and I hope I’ll be able to come back again!

R.M. Walker – Initiative or What?


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.


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About Thadeousc

Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.
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