Dungeon Accessories: Iron Vault

This article is part of a series on Dungeon Accessories for your game. For the rest of the series, click the link on the menu bar above. As always, we’ve posted a list of hooks and ideas for this accessory at the end of the article that you can use even if you don’t make the piece.

A few months ago, I did a how-to article on making the phantom staircase from the Fourthcore adventure “Revenge of the Iron Lich.”  If you’ve been paying close attention, you may have noticed that I actually did that project as part of the Gencon Fourthcore Deathmatch arena I made.  Today, I’m going to cover another unique piece I did from the same adventure – a huge iron cube.  While the one in RotIL is twenty feet to a side, you can make yours any size.  An iron box with no hinges or lock is sure to pique any player’s curiosity.

 You will need three things to make this piece:

  • Cardboard – An old cereal box or something similar is perfect for this project.
  • Rhinestones – You’ll probably find these in the jewelry aisle of your craft store. Get the glue on variety.  Color doesn’t matter, as you’ll be painting over them; size does matter, however, and will depend upon the size of the finished box.
  • Metallic Spray Paint – I used Testors silver paint, although I know they make a chrome color and several other metallics.  Don’t be afraid to use a non-traditional metallic color like blue or red.  You can usually find these spray paints with the car models or Pinewood Derby kits.

 First, you’ll need to cut your cardboard. Use a cube template, like this one – if you want to leave the bottom open (so you can hide something underneath it), then omit the bottom piece of the template, leaving a “+” shape.

 While the cardboard is still flat (i.e., before you glue it into a cube shape), glue the rhinestones on. They are supposed to look like rivets on the finished product, so you’ll want to glue them along the edges of the cube. Three or four to an edge should look fine, depending upon the size of the finished cube.  Don’t glue rhinestones on one of the cube faces so that it will lay flat when you place it on the map. (In the picture below, astute readers will notice that the cube is made of wood. More on that shortcut in a minute)

Glue it together. Be sure to score along your folds for a cleaner look, and glue the tabs on the inside of the cube. “Scoring” is cutting lightly along a fold line without cutting clear through the cardboard. You score on the outside of a fold (i.e., you fold away from the cut).

Paint the cube with your metallic paint to finish it up. (Astute readers will notice that the cube has once again magically changed in appearance. My first effort at making the cube used cardboard, but I made the rivets out of little dabs of glue. I was unhappy with the finished product because the glue dots didn’t all dry round or uniform in size.)

But wait! There’s a shortcut!  Check out the wood crafts section of your craft store to find all different sizes of wooden cubes.  From one inch to four inches (or more), you should find what you’re looking for.  The smaller cubes will tend to have sharper edges, which I like, but even the rounded edges on larger cubes look fine.  You can get multi packs of smaller cubes for a couple of dollars.

Total make time: 45 minutes. Less if you use the wood block shortcut or are handy with an Exacto knife.

Need ideas or plot hooks for the Iron Vault? Look no further!

  • Use them for the riddle The Angry DM recently posted (solution).
  • When touched by a person who meets a certain criteria, an inscription and keyhole appears. That person could be a PC or an NPC the party needs to locate.
  • In order to open the vault, the PCs need to slide the vault into a square niche in a dungeon wall. The single exposed face will then pop open.  The hole could be nearby or not, and could be all by itself, or one of hundreds of similar holes.
  • Unable to open it, the PCs leave it behind. Later, and NPC is looking for it. The PCs return to the dungeon only to find it’s a completely different dungeon (or not there at all)
  • The PCs need to find the three words of power that open the vault. These three words are inscribed on three different obelisks that can be found in three different temples.
  • When touched, the vault transforms into an iron golem

What plot hooks can you think of for the Iron Vault?

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