If you happen to have a friendly zombie in the party, then foreboding portals and trapdoors into darkness are no problem. The disposable minion goes first, draws out the inevitable enemy fire, and the PCs pile in after. If you happen to share Necromancer’s protective instincts, however, then you’re in for some serious marching order arguments.

Way back when my gang of neophyte delvers were first dipping their toes into the local megadungeon, they came face-to-face with just such a conundrum. They’d learned to listen at doors before barging through, so they knew there were horrible fluttering things on the far side of the secret passage. Unfortunately, those things also knew that the PCs were preparing to burst through the door. Here’s what I was facing on my side of the GM screen:

Tactics: If the PCs come from area 25, the time it takes to open the door alerts the darklings and allows them to crowd around the door (including above it) to strike at anyone coming through.

What resulted was a bizarre dungeoneering Mexican standoff. As new Pathfinder players, we had to figure out the differences between surprise rounds and readied actions, the precise nature of opportunity attacks, and what exactly this total defense business meant.  Rules lookups and learning curves dispatched, all that remained was for someone to dive through the door. The darklings must have been confused by the sounds that came echoing out of the passage.

Rock–paper–scissors-shoot! Rock–paper–scissors-shoot! 

“I hate you guys,” said the luckless paladin. I still don’t understand how he survived that first level.

What about the rest of you guys? Have you ever found yourselves faced with an ominous portal, knowing that an ambush lay on the other side? How did you handle it? Did you push the dude with the highest AC through and hope for the best? Let’s hear all about your best breach and entry tactics down in the comments!


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