This is yet another dungeon-based encounter. It uses spells instead of monsters for it’s basis, and provides a minor puzzle. Depending on how this goes, the players could receive a boon, a trap, or even a future adventure. To be fair, since everything in this encounter is completely based upon player choice, they are truly in control of how good or bad this goes. This will be player agency in action.
An encounter like this might give a DM who might be running a lot of combat-based encounters a chance to switch things up a bit. Mind you, if they set off the trap in this encounter, they might get the sort of combat they might be looking for.
Suggested level: Any
As the characters enter this chamber, they will be struck by it’s ancient and ritualistic feel. Ancient carved reliefs decorate all of the walls, and depict several scenes. (I see them in an ancient Mayan or Aztec style, but feel free to use whatever fits your campaign). When you enter this chamber, you enter a long and rectangular room. Your entrance is in the center of a 20’ wall, and the room extends out from this entrance to a distance of 40’. A raised stepped platform occupies the furthest 10’ of the room. Upon this platform is a stone plinth with what looks like three heads upon it.
Should the players choose to examine the carved reliefs on the walls, allow them a relatively easy Investigation (DC: 10) to discover the following:
The left wall depicts scenes of ancient figures in tribal garments. They are kneeling with hands raised upward. Rays of light or energy beam down from above upon them.
The right wall shows figures in tribal garb cowering before an oversized figure wearing an elaborate feather head dress and wielding a massive saw-toothed blade. A halo of blades hovers above the head of the oversized figure.
The far wall behind the plinth shows a depiction where tribal figures worship some sort of small sphere.
If the players look behind the plinth, they will find a small cavity. In this little storage area, there will be three jars. Each clay jar is 8” tall and are stoppered with clay plugs sealed with wax. If they open the jars they will find the following:
One jar contains a small 1” diameter sphere carved from wood and painted white. It has a single black dot painted on it as well. The sphere is packed in sand which fills the rest of the jar.
One jar contains a small 1” diameter sphere carved from grey stone. It has a single red dot painted on it as well. The sphere is packed in sand which fills the rest of the jar.
One jar contains a petrified chunk of flesh. A character may make a Medicine check (DC: 12) to determine that this is actually a tongue. If the total of the roll equals 20 or more, then the character will also know it’s Human. The tongue is packed in sand which fills the rest of the jar.
The three heads on the plinth are as follows:
The left head is a severed mummified head. It has empty eye sockets and it’s mouth is wide open. (Medicine DC: 12 – it’s a human head). A further successful Medicine (DC: 12) check will determine that the head has no tongue.
The center head is elaborately carved from stone and resembles the stylized carvings on each of the walls. It’s whole construction seems very square and has pronounced features. It has 1” diameter hemispherical indents where the eyes would be, an open mouth carved into it, and a 1” wide, 3” long groove carved onto the top inside of the lower jaw.
The right head is carved of wood and possesses a smoother and more rounded quality. Its features are far more smooth and seem as is they were carved by a different artisan than the stone head. The features are almost cherub-like. It, too, has 1” diameter notches where the eyes would be, and a mouth that has been carved open like it’s laughing. A similar 1” wide, 3” long groove exists inside the mouth on the top surface of the inside bottom jaw.
Here’s the catch. A head will activate if both spheres are paced in the eye sockets of a single head, and the tongue is also placed into either the carved slot of a carved head or the open mouth of the mummified head. A single head must have all three items to function. It is not important if the eyes are placed in the left or right eyes. So long as they go into the same head at the same time, you’re good to go.
If a single head receives all three pieces, they will lock into place and the head will glow with a greenish light for a moment, then float upward 5’ into the air. The following effects depend on which head receives he “eyes and tongue”.
Mummified Head – The head will rise and say “Wisdom shown is wisdom given.” It will then cast the Augury spell (page 215,216, Player’s Handbook). This will allow the players to ask a question about the dungeon in which they are exploring. Once the head answers the question, the eyes and tongue will disappear and the head will slowly descend to it’s previous resting place. The “eyes and tongue” will not reappear for another year, and will reappear where the jars were behind the plinth.
Stone Head – The head will rise and say “From stone. To stone.” A small panel will open in the back wall where the sphere being worshiped was carved. It will reveal a small cavity where a grey and specked stone-like egg is being hidden. A successful Nature (DC: 17) check will reveal this to be a Basilisk egg. It is unknown how long it has been here. The egg has been in stasis for a number of years. Now that it has been removed from it’s magical stasis, a Basilisk (as per page 24, Monster Manual) will now begin to hunt the party. It is up to the DM when and where the Basilisk will attack. It will be seeking the egg, and will attempt to kill or petrify any who possess it. Note that the egg will not petrify. If this head is activated, the eyes and tongue will disappear forever.
Wooden Head – If the “eyes and tongue” find their way into this head, the head will rise up and begin to babble incoherently. It will cast “Crown of Madness” (Wisdom save, DC: 15). Determine the target randomly. The spell will last for it’s full duration unless the player makes a successful save or the spell has been ended with Dispel Magic (p. 234 PHB), Dispel Evil and Good (p. 233, 234 PHB), Protection From Evil and Good (p. 270 PHB), or any other effect that can end a Charm-like effect. Once the spell is cast and the save is failed, you’ll want to roll initiative and conduct combat as per normal.
Monsters: Possible Basilisk (p. 24, Monster Manual)
Treasure: Possible free Augury spell, possible Basilisk Egg (DM to determine value)
There are a few possibilities here. A Crown of Madness cast on the right player character might have deadly consequences. The normal duration is 1 minute (10 rounds). Feel free to reduce that duration if you feel it’s necessary.
Possibly being hunted by a Basilisk will have it’s own issues. Drop hints to the players about tales of people being turned to stone wherever they have been. It’s up to you when and where the beast strikes. Make it memorable.
“Council of Three”- Out of The Box D&D Encounters # 28
I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn't always work. One thing that I didn't really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn't really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were.
What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement.
But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language.
Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn...the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there.
Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight.
Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter.
Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn't play D&D again for a very long time, though.
Then 5E came out.
I discovered the Adventurer's League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again.
And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in "gamer speak" a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother...who still doesn't "get it"). It's my hope that one day she'll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.
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