Sunday, February 13, 2022

Adventure from a Picture- Strange Beautiful Light

I've done magic spells based on albums and their artworks before. In those cases, if the artwork looks cool, I'll be inspired to listen to the songs of the album, using their names as spell names, and going where the music takes me. Terrible cliche and pretentious I know, but no album art has inspried a real sense of fantasy adventure in me; until this one. Take it from me, I did not expect it to be from a band named Weed Smoke Rising.

Art & Inspiration from this album

Strange Beautiful Light
In the valley of our lady, stands a great statue to her honor. The lady was a fantastic hero, perhaps a goddess, who once carried a lantern. Maybe she ferried slaves to safety along an underground railroad. Maybe she was the first cleric of the light, or is some kind of lanternkeeper/firekeeper Dark Souls knockoff. Regardless of the reason, she is honored here.

However, a great treasure from the lady's tomb has been taken. Her death mask, golden and unchanged by time, was taken from her corpse that lays within the consecrated church on the hill. Her body, once pristine and impervious to rot and decay, has now lost its supernatural protection. You must return the death mask to her corpse before necrosis begins to destroy the last remains of a great hero.

The most likely suspect to the robbery is a powerful mage- once a friend of the lady, now jealous and depraved. The lady's light-bearing lantern, her greatest symbol, was actually forged by this mage to be immune to wind and rain, to cast supernatural light that blasted apart the undead, and protected from dark sorcery all who lay within the lantern's rays. Of course, where he is and, more importantly, where the mask is now is a mystery you must solve.

The Statue
The statue of the lady is a huge stone construction, well detailed, and true to life beyond its epic scale. The large lantern she holds glows with an unnatural light at all times, though it only becomes truly visible at night or on an overcast day. This lantern is the same one she carried in days of yore, though it has been magically transformed into a huge stone and class chamber suspended from the statue. Travel and camp in this valley is extremely safe, because of the light- it automatically turns the undead, stops evil spells, and makes creatures of chaos vulnerable to attack. The lady's light can be used as a holy symbol for cleric meditation or spell preparation for any clerics of light. 

The first time anyone sees the Strange Beautiful Light, they are fascinated for about an exploration turn, staring at the light's beauty before snapping out of it.

The statue itself is apparently a great stone construction, and has no doors or openings to enter. The statue could be climbed by a very skilled thief or a powerful magician.

The Church Tomb
In the basement of the small church is a tomb. Surrounded on all sides by stone walls with only one stairway down, guarded by heavy oak doors, it is clear magic was used to steal the death mask.

The church tomb is a small five room dungeon inhabited by 2d6 skeleton warriors. They have colorful painted bones and were once the protectors and lovers of The Lady. Normally, these skeletons stay still and silent, happily guarding the tomb forever, but have become animated and attack anyone who enters the tomb. Successful rolls of Turn Undead cause them to go back to sleep for 1d6 turns, and if the result is Destroyed, these skeletons instead go back to sleep until something else is stolen from the tomb; these are holy guardians, not the creations of foul necromancy, so holy magic does not burn them.

There is also a silver line "trap" on the floor that, if crossed, causes a bell in the church to chime softly. This also was not triggered on the night of the theft; hence why the wizard is such a prime suspect.

Searching The Lady's casket, one can see how perfectly preserved her body is, and the faint outline of a mask that was once pressed down on her face. If you examine the area for clues, you can find a feather and a small amount of arcane dust. You can also loot a few other pieces of jewelry and treasure here, but they belong to the lady or are the heirlooms of the wealthiest families from the nearby village and the priest would be very cross with you.

The Lake
In the center of the valley is a small watering hole built up by the rains. The water here is clean and this place can be used as a resting spot. It is about equidistant from everything else.

There is nothing special about this lake but if you sleep on the side of the bank not shrouded by the statue's light; your party has a 1 in 6 chance to be attacked by a gang of fish people (or Kuo-Toa). They are led by a 3 HD sorcerer whose favorite spell is Acid Fog. He'll cast it on the shore so you're forced to fight waist deep in water or run away.

The Roaring Recess
Framed by a great roaring stone mouth, the fearsome gateway is said to scare away evil spirits and protects the foundations of the great statue of the lady. This is the main dungeon. I don't have a map for it, so you'll have to supply one yourself. Just insert a funhouse dungeon you like, or go use donjon and generate a new one. Should be full of generic monsters, traps, magic, and a bit of loot.

Just add the following feature to empty rooms- metallic bird statuettes. Each statuette is located on a stone plinth and is protected by a magical trap. Roll on your favorite spell failure table or random spell list to generate a fitting trap. There are four birds and each is made of a different metal; lead, copper, silver, and gold.

The dungeon also has a secret entrance or exit to properly jaquay the dungeon. Roll a 1d6 to find out where it comes out.

  1. Secret door at the base of the Lady's Statue
  2. Tunnel connected to underwater cave in the lake 
  3. Behind some random rock on the hillside of the dungeon mound
  4. Very long escape tunnel built into the tomb of the church
  5. Secret door along wall of the tower's basement (requires Lead Bird to access)
  6. One-way exit from the dungeon; teleport tile makes you appear in the middle of the valley

The Tower
This crumbled wizard's tower stands in the dark part of the valley; its view to the Strange Beautiful Light cut off by the body of the statue. It appears as only the ruined base of the tower, with steps that extend and curve into nothing around a central support pillar. If you begin to climb the steps, you can sense strong magic in the air and can see a scrawled drawing of a bird on a pillar. If you continue climbing and follow the steps around the curve, you disappear and end up in an alternate pocket dimension.

The "Tower" dimension is a very dark place shrouded in shadows. The way you came is also gone; you are stuck on an endlessly repeating stairwell. If you go up or down the stairwell, every exploration turn of climbing or descending makes you end up on a large stone landing. This space is wide enough to sleep or rest, and has windows that show the black smoke, but no doors or side rooms. Once you are within the tower dimension, you are trapped and cannot escape. No matter how many flights of stairs you climb in either direction, it repeats endlessly. If the party spends more then 4-5 turns climbing or descending, they become exhausted and get -1 on all combat checks and saves. Jumping out the window is also no escape- you will fall forever through the shadow realm!

However, it's not so inescapable. If you fall from the window or are on any landing, you can look out of a window and see the Strange Beautiful Light from any distance. Characters who stare at the light feel like its guiding them to safety- and if they stare at it for a turn, they are whisked away from the shadowy tower dimension and find themselves back in the realm world, at the base of the statue of The Lady. The only way to access the rooms of the tower are to posses the bird statues, kept away for safe keeping within the Roaring Recess.

Bird Rooms
Each room can only be accessed by its matching bird statuette. However, it may also be possible to bypass these with enough luck or circumstance. If your fighter belongs to a foppish order of knights that adorns their helmets with hummingbirds made of iron, then perhaps you can find the lead door without needing the statuette. Maybe if your party carries around a little yellow canary in a cage to detect poisonous gas; you can find the golden door and the wizard's lair on your first visit. Why not?

Lead Room- Requires the lead bird, and is the only room found if you travel down the staircase from the "entrance". The lead door will appear on the first landing you reach traveling down. As the door is made of lead, it's incredibly heavy and requires someone of 18 Strength to pull open, or a team of people and a lot of patience.

The lead room is a storage room, especially for failed experiments. Because of how annoying it is to get to this room, it is rarely used by the Wizard and the whole thing is covered in a layer of dust. The room is filled with small displays, boxes, disorganized piles of books, and oversized taxidermist monsters looming in the darkness. If you mess with anything roll 1 in 6 for a random monster encounter- the monsters coming out of whatever thing you bumped or animating from the stuffed corpses.

If the party fights two encounters or searches this room thoroughly for a while; they'll eventually find a little locked lead box with an Amulet of Protection within. This amulet makes it so you always succeed your saves vs spells, wands, and magic devices. The amulet almost certainly belonged to The Lady and the Wizard was unable to find a way to destroy it, so locked it away.

Copper Room- Requires the copper bird, and will be the first door you come to after one turn of walking up the tower's steps. The copper door leads to a set of three hallways with more copper doors leading to small rooms. The floor of this level is made of stone, but a long single piece of copper flooring connects every room and crosses under every doorway; stopping only at the main door to enter this room. The end of each hall spits out into a large common room with a huge table for meals and adjoining kitchen and pantry.

This was once a servant's quarters, or perhaps barracks for The Wizard's apprentices. Around this floor are several traps in the form of electrical devices, or electric eels in water urns in the kitchen. If any of this hits the copper floor, it will shock anyone in the hallway or touching a door for 1d6 lightning damage. If you are in a room when this happens, you can't open the door without getting shocked. One room has an almost complete demonic summoning circle underneath the bed; if the players complete it with the red chalk in that apprentice's room, the circle spits out 50 1 HD imps, two at a time, until the floor is totally overrun. Yes, you are supposed to zap all of them if you want a chance. One room also contains a 4 HD minotaur barbarian, napping peacefully under the effects of a permanent sleeping spell. The wizard intends to make him solve mazes- if he ever gets around to building one. If you wake him up he'll assume you're working for the wizard and attack with his battleaxe.

Silver Room- Requires the silver bird. The wizard's private quarters. The doorway is magical and makes the sound of a chime when opened. Since it's made of silver, it also bares passage to lycanthropes and magical creatures like faeries, who cannot pass through even if held open by something else. The doorway opens into a circular chamber with two curved doors and four windows. Each window looks out onto a beautiful vista of a random far away place in a different season- one summer field, one autumn forest, one winter lake, etc. Each one of these places is actually another pocket dimension, and getting shunted out of a window traps you in a strange wilderness; but you can return to the valley of the lady by looking up into the sky and seeing that Strange Beautiful Light once again.

The central room is a sitting room and living space, with a desk and writing table. Crammed in the fireplace is a cauldron too big for it. There is a tiny switch that turns on the fire; it is a magical golden flame that warms and heats, but does not hurt living flesh. It deals double damage a fire of that size would deal to undead creatures. The candles and lanterns of this tower are lit with its golden radiance.

The two doors lead into a bathroom and a bedroom. The bathroom has a waterfall "cut out" from another place, with rocks and lichen growing on the stones roughly inserted into this room. Occasionally, a fish or random animal will fall down the waterfall and exit out the bottom- a grate covers an exit portal. There is also a small toilet in this room with a portal to dispose of waste.

There is a 1 in 6 chance that the Wizard is in his chambers when you visit. Because the door alerts the occupant that somebody is coming, you won't find him sleeping or on the toilet or anything UNLESS you dispel the door first, or have some kind of magical super-thief that can slip under doorways or something. In which case you could probably just stab him in his sleep. Scattered around this place are several expensive pieces of jewelry and a small hoard of silver coins. On the desk is a small glass prism with a blue tint- it glows a deeper shade of blue whenever a Wizard touches it. This is a major magic item called a Spell Prism that can split magical effects into multiple smaller copies- such as a fireball being turned into a bunch of 1d6 mini fireballs if the spell is cast directly on the prism itself. The prism is invulnerable.

Golden Room- Requires the golden bird and is the last door you will find while going up the magic tower. The door is enchanted and will cast a save or die curse on anyone who touches it without the wizard's permission. It is possible to "trick" this door if you are dressed up as the wizard, or are carrying one of his special artifacts.

This door leads to a magical workshop. It is a rectangular room with several tables and large, esoteric arcane machines. The wizard is here almost all of the time. Several half-finished magic items litter the tables, and many gemstones and magical reagents are scattered among the shelves on the sides. On the close end of the room is a huge glass orb, similar to a bubblegum machine, filled to the prim with lightly glowing marbles of a million different colors. On the far end of the room is a large window which shows a view to the actual valley from the vantage of where the tower and this floor would exist in the real world- and the back of the statue of The Lady and the ominous Strange Beautiful Light. just behind her arm.

If you get into a fight in this room, the wizard will engage you. If you tip over or break the marble jar, all hell breaks loose as a random magical effect goes off every round.

At the base of the window is the golden Death Mask of the Lady. Whenever the Wizard leaves this room, he conjures a magical glass case over it to protect it. If you touch the glass case, it shrieks like a banshee and explodes, dealing 1d8 damage and instantly alerting the Wizard wherever he is.

The Wizard
The Wizard was once a companion to the Lady. He made the magical lantern of light that made her so famous, but it became her symbol, not his. It was so much thought to be hers that once she died, it was magically bound to her statue and soul, meaning he could not take it back. In jealousy, he began to hate the Lady and the people of this town, and hid his tower away with his magic. He's not evil yet- his alignment would probably be neutral at this point. If he starts killing people to keep hold of the mask, he will certainly become more depraved. The Wizard could probably be reasoned with; but he's likely to lash out at anyone trying to steal the mask with spell and fury.

After finishing his lastest great work of artifice, the Wizard realized he could steal the Death Mask and use it in a magical ritual to return the light to him. If you don't stop him, he will perform a ritual at the foot of the state of The Lady and absorb the light; gaining +1 HD and the power of a Limited Wish spell as a daily power.

Give the Wizard stats equal to a level 20 or name level Wizard. He's an archmage and pretty scary. However, he casts spells as though he was a few levels weaker. That's because he both drained some of his power to create the light AND his specialty was always the creation of magic items, not spellcasting. The wizard once had to use the four metal birds to access his own tower, but once he completed his great work, he no longer needed them and put them in the Roaring Recess for safekeeping. The Wizard always carries three of his great works;

The Coring Tool
Looks like a metallic wand with a button on the side. Can be stuck in something to take out a portion of its magic or enchantments on it. Things like water, stone, or the earth can just be stuck, where as creatures would need to be hit with an attack roll. This tool crystalizes a portion of the magical essence into a tiny marble. These marbles are used by the Wizard and his machines to transfer or craft magical essences.

The Tileothfric
Small finely crafted wooden box with dozens of ivory tiles within. Each tile is double sided and has a character of Angelic script on one side and another character of Infernal on the other. If these tiles are laid out before a magical item, the will scramble up and reveal the enchantment or magical effect of the item- good effects will flip the tiles to the Angelic side to be named, and cursed or destructive magic effects flip to the Infernal side to reveal themselves. Essentially it allows you to identify magic items as long as you know Angelic for positive effects and/or Infernal.

Ring of Transportation
This magic ring is the Wizard's greatest creation. It looks like a golden band, with the engraving of a bird in flight along its length. As long as you wear this ring, you can teleport to any location you can think of. You have to either have visited that place before, or be able to envision it; some sort of knowledge of the place, however tertiary, is required. Every time you use this ring, it leaves behind a feather. It also grants the power of the Flight spell on the wearer at all times at will, even after all the charges of the ring have been used up.

The ring has about four charges remaining.

Storylines & Conclusion

If the party kills the Wizard and returns the Death Mask, they will be paid a pittance by the church, but are local heroes. (And can still steal everything in the Wizard's tower) The one who places the death mask on the corpse of The Lady will be rewarded by being able to conjure the Strange Beautiful Light once per day. This light grants a roll of Turn Undead equal to a Cleric one level higher then the character, cancels ongoing magic effects cast by evil beings, counts as a light spell for one exploration turn, and can also Charm Person if shown to someone who has never seen it before. Additionally, the Strange Beautiful Light stays where it is, keeping this valley as a safe place.

If the party kills the Wizard but do not return the Death Mask, they can instead choose to try and steal the Strange Beautiful Light for themselves. Stealing the light requires a bit of research and a ritual to be cast at the foot of the statue of the lady. Whoever steals the light gets +1 HD and the ability to cast a Limited Wish once per day. If the "power" of the light is shared among the whole group using the Spell Prism, each party member can reroll their HD and take the new result if higher, gets +1 to their highest ability score, AND gets the ability to cast one 1st level spell once per day for free, regardless of their class. The spell they can cast is determined randomly.

If the party tries to ransom the mask back to the church for a bigger payout, or stick around in the valley a few months after the light is gone, they will be hunted by a squad of Paladins.

If the party helps the Wizard he will reward them with a fitting magic item, one per party member. The fighter will be given a +1 magic sword, the thief a cloak of shadows, etc. He'll probably give them something out of storage then commission something new- but he has plenty. Under no circumstances will he give anyone the Amulet of Protection.

If the party convinces or threatens the Wizard into giving up, he'll begrudgingly return the mask in exchange for all four of his statuettes back before kicking them out of his tower. However, it is not easy to threaten a Wizard, and anything you have to offer in exchange will have to be either very valuable or very magically important- he'll gladly give up the mask in exchange for a genie, for example.

If the party interrupts the Wizard's ritual to steal the light he will summon monsters to try and stall them. He'll also probably fly up to finish the ritual in the air out of reach. If he is struck with an arrow or other ranged attack, he'll fail the ritual and be burned alive by the light- taking 4d10 damage. If he survives, he'll teleport away and leave a single feather behind- but not in his tower. He will retreat to a far away elvish land to nurse his wounds and scheme.

If the party does nothing or fails to stop the Wizard in time, he'll probably just ignore them and lord over this valley. His magic tower will be returned from its pocket dimension and he'll recruit a small army of chaotic creatures to do his bidding. By the end of the first year; he'll have torn down the statue of The Lady, have shifted fully to an evil alignment, and be well on his way to researching spells to make him into a God.

If the light goes out for any of the reasons above; the statue's protective powers will fade away. After a few weeks, the fish people will begin attacking people who pass by, goblins will begin to hunt the mountainsides, and eventually more powerful evil creatures will come as well bringing darkness and fear to the people. This also means the dimension of the tower will be permanently separated from the prime material plane; meaning anyone who enters will be trapped there unless if they have the Ring of Transportation or some other highly powerful magic ability to escape the tower.

1 comment:

  1. That hideous stone face on the image is based on a real world sculpture/place called the Orcus Mouth (seriously!)