An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet
Type: Dungeon Crawl
System: D&D 5th Edition (Forgotten Realms)
Ideal Party Size: 4-6
Recommended Levels: 3
During a routine wilderness trek, the player characters are drawn towards a dark tower that houses a viciously-kept drow secret! Beyond the undead sentries lies a dungeon that weaves a tragic tale of magic and forbidden love! Survive the terrors within and reap glorious treasure!
This elven mini-dungeon takes place within the wilderness, so it can easily be added to any nature setting.
Read the following flavor text to the PCs at the beginning of the quest:
“As you recuperate from the trials of extended travel, you are suddenly set upon by a terrible chill. A biting zephyr howls through the treeline, extinguishing your campfire and filling you with dread. This abrupt cold has a hint of necrotic aura lingering within it, and its source lies deeper in the woods.”
[IF THE PLAYERS WISH TO PROCEED, KEEP READING]
“You force a slow but deliberate path, your movement hampered by the thickness of the brush and the gradually upward sloping terrain. Eventually you arrive at a cliff overseeing a thirty foot drop. The cliff edge is overrun with plants and descends counterclockwise towards a dilapidated tower at the bottom.”
Part I: The Dark Tower
Read the following flavor text as they PCs approach the tower.
“As you cautiously descend towards the crumbling tower, you notice that the plant matter is decaying the closer you approach the foreboding structure. The moment you arrive at the entrance you hear foreboding words. ‘NO…WITNESSES…’ And a pair of glowing and hateful purple eyes greet you from beyond the archway.”
Combat Encounter: Zin-carla Sentry
The party is immediately attacked by an undead drow (Wight x1, MM pg. 300) and its sired undead (Zombie x6, MM pg. 316). If any of the party members are slain, they are later raised as members of the undead.
A successful Religion (Intelligence) DC 16 will reveal that the sentinel is a Zin-carla, meaning “spirit-wraith”; it is a special undead created through a ritual performed by Lolth’s clerics and his eyes are a direct line to a matron mother. His drow sensitivity to light is greatly amplified by his undead form, which can be exploited through clever positioning.
The wraith is intelligent and can be communicated with, but will not show any mercy. If directly addressed, he will announce himself as Dewein’agal, a loyal sword to House Kovarra.
Features of the Terrain
The tower is shaped like a lighthouse of grey-blue stone. A single internal staircase leads upwards to the top, but there are also plenty of breach-points through the glass windows.
The surrounding trees form a canopy that shrouds the pit in low light, with some patches of direct sunlight.
The top of the tower contains a model of the planets of realmspace orbiting the central star Sol. The orb that represents Sol dimly glows with radiant energy, bathing the room with amber light. There is a riddle written on a raised platform at the center of the room.
“What had two faces, but now only shows one?” → Abeir-Toril (i.e. Earth)
“What shines brightest, and is second to none?” → Sol (i.e. the Sun)
“What’s caught between two, a torn-in half soul?” → Selune (i.e the Moon)
“Aligned but apart. Separate, but whole.” → alignment of the celestial bodies
“To touch would be an impossible feat.”
“Under a hole in the sky is where we will meet.” → eclipse makes a “hole” in the sky
Solution: Manually rotating the model to bring Selune (moon) between Toril (Earth) and Sol (Sun) to simulate a solar eclipse reveals a secret stairway that leads deeper underground.
Part II: The Secret Tunnel
Read the following flavor text as they PCs uncover the secret tunnel.
“The stone slab parts and allows you passage to a stone corridor ten feet wide, twenty feet high, and extends forty feet towards another door. Upon the distant portal there is the carved visage of an elven warrior cupping their hands over the center of their chest. On opposing sides of the starting region there are two similar elven stone statues, each clasping a vibrant and iridescent jewel in the shape of a heart.
The door leading back to the surface suddenly rolls shut, and you hear a rythmic clicking noise, like as if unseen gears have begun turning. Upon the left side of the wall a mural begins to shift in sync with the ticking. It looks like a vibrant yellow orb being eclipsed by dark grey circle. On the opposite end of the corridor, the elf statue uncrosses one of their arms and presents it palm up.”
The following section is a simple timed puzzle. The aim is to send both jeweled hearts from one side to the other with the correct timings and sequence. The circular glyph on the leftmost wall begins to move in sync with the clicking, slowly showing the phases of a solar eclipse.
There are two elven statues bearing jewels on the starting side of the room. The one on the left is bearing the insignia of the sun, and the one on the right is bearing the insignia of the moon. Since the sun first has to be visible for an eclipse to occur (from the perception of someone viewing it on the planet), the sun jewel must be placed into the open palm first, followed by the moon jewel. They have two rounds (approximately twelve seconds of in-game time) to place the jewels into the palms of the receiving elf at the exit.
If they fail the puzzle, the floor literally rolls forward on a pivot at the center of the room, throwing them downwards into a deeper part of the dungeon. The characters drop 20 feet and take 2d6 damage from the fall.
If the players succeed, the door opens and they are taken into the final chamber.
[OPTIONAL] The Alternative Path
The players failed the bridge puzzle and landed inside a crypt-like structure that houses a Black Pudding (MM pg. 241). Its purpose is to dispose of those who shouldn’t have access to the final chamber. The party can attempt to defeat the creature or flee. There is a hidden exit behind the walls, and characters that succeed a Perception (Wisdom) DC 15 can feel a draft.
Beyond the hidden exit there is a narrow tunnel that leads upwards and back to the surface. However, the way out is guarded by a Phase Spider (MM pg. 334). They have essentially “failed” the dungeon at this point, but they can try again if they successfully backtrack and return to the entrance.
Part III: The Path to the Underdark
The Sun and Moon
The final room of the dungeon is a cube of forty feet length. There is an artificial river of water rushing across the room on the far side, and the ceiling terminates at a glass ceiling that looks up to the sky.
The chamber is scarred with several blackened marks outlined with shattered stone, indicating the usage of powerful fire magics. There is also the silhouette of a humanoid figure permanently etched against a wall beside a steel door that is held shut with a glowing and shifting floral pattern. Directly underneath the ghastly shadow there is a pile of fine grey ash surrounded with miscellaneous charred body parts.
This secret room is held shut with an Arcane Lock (PHB pg. 215) spell which requires a Dexterity DC 25 to lockpick. Alternatively, the PCs can attempt to destroy the door with whatever they have on-hand.
Searching the pile of ashes yields a Necklace of Fireballs (DMG pg. 182) with only two beads left.
Below the top platform there is a large chasm that leads into the Underdark.
Read the following flavor text as they PCs enter the final room.
“The instant the door swings open, a layer of dust fills the air, and your nostrils are greeted with the scent of death and decay. Inside the secret room you find a large mattress covered with fine silks and laid atop an elegantly carved wooden frame.
At the base of the bed you spot an elf corpse adorned in desiccated leather scales laying facedown upon a bloodstained wolfskin rug. There is a curved sword with an green and golden handle still grasped in its right hand. The other hand is lighting grasping a skeletal hand attached to a slain drider. The monstrosity has the upper torso of a once-beautiful drow and the lower half of the body belongs to a massive tarantula.”
This deceased moon elf is still holding a Silvered Scimitar +1 (DMG pg. 213) and the dead drider is wearing a Ring of Protection (DMG pg. 191).
Three Carrion Crawlers (MM pg. 37) are drawn from the Underdark by the commotion of the PCs searching he final area. The party must defeat them or be devoured. Successfully slaying them yields an opportunity to harvest Carrion Crawler Mucus (DMG pg. 258), which is a powerful paralytic poison.
After looting the final room and surviving the crawler attack, the party can exit the dungeon in three ways. They can continue traveling deeper into the Underdark, but at their current levels that is borderline suicidal. They can backtrack, but that will require them to re-solve the bridge puzzle in reverse. Alternatively, they can simply shatter the glass ceiling and climb upwards to freedom.