Photo by lisaleo

The Hands of Time

Mira cursed as a gobbet of molten iron landed on her shoulder. A partner would have made the riddle of the clock easy to bypass. As it was, her only course had been to spike the pendulum. She thought the sweat on her brow beaded from concentration as she picked the lock, but looking up, she realized it was from the heat of the iron spike that was now red hot and flexing under the pressure of the axe-shaped pendulum. Breaking the glass to escape did not help much. The blast of the clock chimes stunned her, small trickles of blood oozing from her ears…

All manner of clocks line the walls of this 10-ft.-by-40-ft. corridor. A massive grandfather clock dominates the far wall, an axe-bladed pendulum swinging back and forth in a glass-faced cabinet. The crowned peak of the timepiece kisses the 15-ft.-high vaulted ceiling; the time reads ten past six. Just enough room exists under the swing of the pendulum for one medium or small creature to access a hinged panel at the back. The space inside is the perfect hiding spot for a valuable treasure.

The etched glass panel of the cabinet illustrates a great battle and bears the following inscription.

Quarter? No! For quarter past
The time for foemen at the last.
Began numberéd but four plus six,
Thrice multiplied by heinous tricks.
Divide the host by heroes five,
Then take away the two that died.
Thus the key to time be faced,
Forget not to give the first its place.

The ticking of the many clocks overwhelms the senses, hampering the introduction of magical silence and distracting creatures in the corridor. Creatures in the clock cabinet with an intact and shut door are unaffected (and immune to the clock chime trap)—no sound escapes or penetrates the cabinet.

Tampering with the back panel causes the pendulum axe to drop into the safe space, striking up to four times before losing momentum. On the reverse side of the back panel, a clue to avoid triggering the clock chime trap reads:

To safely see me face to face, you must first recall my kingly face.

The clock chimes thunder and stuns those in the passage if the axe strikes, if the glass cabinet door is opened when the clock is not set to 6:10, or if the glass is broken.

The clock hands cannot be reset without inserting the key in the winding mechanism in the clock face. The cabinet key matches the winding mechanism and is virtually impossible to remove without locking the door, possibly leaving a creature trapped inside. Bypassing the pendulum trap requires setting the time to match the answer of the riddle: 4:15. The key must remain in the winding mechanism while the back panel is opened. The time must be reset to 6:10 to provide safe egress from the cabinet. Opening either door with the wrong time set triggers the clock chimes.

Stopping the swing of the pendulum triggers both traps, delaying the axe strike but not the clock chimes. The adamantine shaft of the pendulum heats iron spikes and chains to a molten temperature in three rounds and burns through rope in a single round. Getting a spike in place requires perfect timing.

Pathfinder Statistics

Trap Features: All mechanisms and locks require 2d4 rounds to disable.

Distraction: Increase Perception checks by +5 and prevent taking 10 in the corridor (or in the cabinet with the door open).

Chill metal counters the heating element in the pendulum (hardness 20, hp 40). A DC 20 Reflex save allows safe insertion of an iron spike to arrest its swing; failure grants an attack at half damage (full damage if failed by 5 or more); the pendulum continues to swing until successfully spiked (which triggers the traps as indicated above).

Removing the bypass key while leaving the cabinet door unlocked requires disabling the superior lock (DC 40) augmented by an arcane lock (+10 to disable DC). The back panel lock is of good quality (DC 30).

Silence spells have their area reduced to a single 5-ft. square. A DC 26 Spellcraft check allows a caster to pinpoint the square; otherwise, target a random square in the corridor. A DC 30 Spellcraft check or a DC 30 Perception check from a creature able to detect magical traps identifies this feature prior to casting.

Pendulum Trap CR 11

Type mechanical; Duration 4 Rounds Perception DC 15; Disable Device DC 40 Bypass Setting the clock to 4:15 with key inserted


Trigger touch (back panel) Reset Automatic, 1 minute
Effect Atk +15 melee (3d6+10/×3).

Clock Chime Trap CR 12

Type magic; Duration 6 rounds; Perception DC 30; Disable Device DC 30 Bypass Resetting the time on the grandfather clock to 6:10 with key inserted.


Trigger timed (one round following the activation of the pendulum trap, before any other actions), or as indicated above; Reset none
Effect spell effect (widened sound burst), 1d8 sonic damage plus stunned for 1 round, DC 22 Fortitude negates stun); multiple targets (all targets in the 10-ft. by 40 ft. corridor); breaking the cabinet glass grants the sound burst the persistent spell quality.

5E Statistics

The Pendulum Trap, spotted automatically, is DC 30 to disarm with a +9 attack bonus, deals Setback damage, and attacks once per round for four rounds. The Clock Chime trap (DC 25 Investigation/Disarm) sounds for 6 rounds, dealing 1d8 thunder damage each round and requires a DC 14 Constitution Saving Throw to avoid being stunned for one round (broken glass grants disadvantage). The ticking of the other clocks grants disadvantage on all activities unless enclosed in an intact cabinet prior to the triggering of the traps, and a caster must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution check to maintain or cast Silence at any time. Removing the bypass key from an unlocked cabinet requires a DC 35 Dexterity Check, which include the bonus from the arcane lock.

13th Age Statistics

The Pendulum Trap is spotted automatically, Ridiculously Hard to disable, and deals Hard single-target damage with a Hard attack once per round for four rounds. The Clock Chime Trap is Hard to spot and disable, and deals Normal thunder damage once per round for six rounds with a Normal save to avoid being stunned. All checks increase by one difficulty level unless in the enclosed glass cabinet. Silence effects require a Hard check to defeat the ticking clocks. Removing the bypass key from an unlocked cabinet door is Ridiculously Hard.

S&W Statistics

The Pendulum Trap strikes up to 4 times, once per round, dealing 3d6 points of slashing damage (save halves) each round. The Clock Chime Trap deals 1d6 points of damage each round for six rounds and requires a save versus magic to avoid being stunned for one round. If the glass is broken, this save is made at -2. A save versus magic is required to cast silence. Knock defeats both the arcane lock and the lock itself on the cabinet key, otherwise two delicate tasks check must succeed to remove it while leaving the cabinet door unlocked.


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