My D&D game last night was an epic one. I called it the season finale because it wrapped up a story-line that started on their very first encounter. They have also reached level 11 which is a major milestone and so I wanted the game to be especially dramatic.
The main villain they've been chasing since level 1 was their foe the entire night. He kept changing forms from spell caster to Dragon to Volcanic Dragon. They fought him through his underworld lair which (like any good villain) happened to be built over a massive burning chasm that stretched down into the center of the world. As the fight neared it's climactic end the Dragon tore the room apart sending all of them tumbling down into the abyss. This was my final set piece and also the trickiest thing I've ever tried to do in D&D.
Here's what I did:
I started by designing the play field. I went to the hardware store and picked up 4 sheets of clear plastic (11x14) as well as some wooden dowels. I used a black marker and a ruler do draw out my 1"x1" grid on each of the plastic sheets.
Next I cut the dowels down into 8" sections. I did 8" because I wanted enough room for large miniatures as well as players to get their hands in between the levels.
I used an epoxy to secure the wooden dowels to the corners of the plastic sheets. This worked okay and was very simple. However the structure is a bit rickety and if I were to do this again I'd probably screw the supports directly into the plastic.
I created a "fire" map to place under the bottom piece of plastic so that the players could see what it was they were falling into. Finally I created a set of "Free Fall Combat" rules that I passed out to each player. I used a combination of underwater combat, flying combat and my own ideas to generate these rules. I also let the players know at the table that it was a test and I wanted to hear their ideas. If they could make me a good case about why what they wanted to do should work I was happy to allow it.
I used flying monsters that could navigate between the levels with ease. I also placed bits of falling rubble (the dungeon tiles you see in the pictures) at various points. These were very important as the players discovered when the first Cinder Storm hit. The idea was that the party was falling straight down into the center of the earth. They would occasionally fall through these clouds of hot gas and cinders. This was big damage that could be avoided by getting yourself up onto one of these bits of rubble and using it as a shield.
Over all the fight was a huge success and everyone said they had a great time. My only problem now is figuring out how in the hell I'm going to top it.