Raid the ziggurat:
Another drag and drop dungeon, with reasonably tough combat but appropriate rewards. Belvere’s Crucible is a simple layered structure with varying levels of tribulation. I placed this on the way to Corvandatt’s lair, however it is an insular dungeon.
The sorcerer Belvere and his partner Celeste had lived blessed lives together; dissatisfied with the prospect of decrepitude in later years, they conceived a construct by which they might regain their youth. The building channels the unusually high ambient energy of the crater into a central chamber, where it is imparted to the beneficiaries. The hands of time should have been gradually turned back for the doting couple, but it was not to be.
Something went wrong during their magic-induced slumber, and all vestigial life was ripped out in an instant. The building still stands; attesting the folly one’s reach exceeding one’s grasp.
The pair planned on a lengthy sleep, so there are plenty of safeguards against intruders.
Exterior and entry:
The stepped stone structure stands twenty metres high, and approximately the same in width. Jutting out of a clearing in the jungle, plants and insects are conspicuous through their absence; nothing is growing on or directly around the building. Adventurers ascending the steps to the top will notice a slight tingling; those more attuned to nature or magic might deduce that the sensation is their life-force being very gradually siphoned.
A flat tiled surface sits at the very top, but no entrance is immediately obvious. Closer inspection reveals chip marks, where previous visitors have pried at the central tile. This is the intended entrance, although there is an opening low down (level six) on the far side; this should only be revealed if there is a through check of the perimeter.
Mere metres below the entrance, this small gloomy room is ostensibly bare; a simple set of stairs at the west are the only feature. A thick layer of dust covers the quarried floor.
Directly below the entrance is a trapdoor, dumping unsuspecting trespassers into a spiked pit on the next level. A pressure plate at the top of the stairs will release bolts from across the room. The sediment masks their presence well, so DC18 perception to spot the triggers. DC20 agility to avoid the repercussions of a failed check. 1d6+3 damage is suffered if both checks are failed.
This room would be equally barren, if not for eight suits of armour placed against the north wall and a wide pillar in the centre. The armour is a discordant mix; there doesn’t seem to be a complete set present. A second set of stairs descend at the west.
The armour will predictably animate as people cross the room, relentlessly attacking the intruders until destroyed.
Smooth, featureless, metallic sheets cover every surface of this room. The walls, floor and ceiling readily reflect any light brought into the room. Further steps to the west lead down to the next floor.
Silent shadowy figures appear out of thin air, one for each party member present. Their abilities and movement mirrors that of their counterparts. The proposed stats cover a variety of classes, and one can fluff the descriptions of the attacks.
A spacious living area greets you at the bottom of the steps, illuminated by a series of torches that ignite on entry. Colourful murals are painted across the walls, depicting a couple holding hands in various settings; the ceiling is as the night sky, and the stars glint against a dark backdrop. A freshly-made four-poster bed is in the south-west corner, and a grand wooden table to the south is set for two. A floor to ceiling bookcase spans the entire north wall, and a simple alchemy station is in the south-east corner. Steps to the east descend to a stone door.
The bookcase contains volumes on everything from cuisine to the arcane arts; almost all of it is in Elvish. This is a good opportunity for casters to find spells amongst the shelves, and possibly some scrolls.
One of the open tomes contains detailed plans of the ziggurat, along with notes on harvesting and utilising the jungle’s energy.
The Alchemy station contains two flasks of acid and three potions of healing. A large rune has been carved into the stone door at the base of the steps; three concentric circles with a line down the middle. There are no traps, and the door opens with relative ease.
A sumptuous feast will materialise out of thin air when the party approaches the table. Steaming meats, breads, and prepared fruits sit on silver platters, aside a brimming decanter. This is all quite safe to eat, and not a terrible spot for a short rest.
Two withered humanoids lie on stone pedestals in the centre of the room; the deceased are clothed in fine silk gowns, and a bone staff lays beside one of the bodies. Looking around, you notice that every tile on every surface has been chiselled with the same rune present on the entrance.
Manacled skeletons are chained in rows across the north and south wall; their metal anchors surrounded by scratches and chips.
Descending stairs meet another runed doorway to the west.
An array of defences have been constructed to ensure that Belvere and Celeste’s slumber remains uninterrupted. To protect this room, Belvere devised a curse to pin the essence of a being to this world. Ten slaves were restrained and left to die, while runes and wards halt the spirits’ escape.
Ten pissed-off spectres materialise and attack shortly after entry.
The husks of Belvere and Celeste are unimportant, but the stone daises are the delivery points for the structure’s harnessed energy. 1d6 damage or healing (flip a coin) if a dais or items upon it are touched.
The staff is a dragonbone staff of absorption, consuming up to 30 spell levels in total. The bearer may absorb a targeted spell as a reaction, storing it within the staff. The stored energy can be converted by a caster into spell slots, and it can be wielded as a bo staff (1d6/1d8).
A cone of light spills into this room through a large opening in the south wall, illuminating a carpet of lichen and moss. The corners of the room seem pitch black by contrast, but you can make out dilapidated wooden furniture and yet another set of stairs.
DC15 perception to notice claw marks around the hole in the wall, where a creature has torn out loose stonework. DC10 to hear chirping coming from the north-east corner.
Several young chicks occupy the nest, and they will squawk loudly upon approach. A colossal bird blots out the light as it lands at the opening. The creature wields a formidable set of talons, and a powerful break, but its eyes are disproportionately small.
The ingress of wildlife and weather has left the contents of this area in ruin, although the party might find some items of use. A chest containing expedition supplies is relatively intact.
This chamber’s ceilings are twice as high as the preceding levels. Impressive statues stand in each corner of the room – men standing proud with swords at their side or a bow in hand. Thin glowing channels in the floor lead from a shallow recess at the room’s centre towards each sculpture; red to the north-west, white to the north-east, green to the south-west, and blue to the south-east.
The sunken square in the centre is divided into four pieces, each suffused with the colour of the connecting channel.
Treasure vault! The statues animate if attacked, or an adventurer attempts to open the recessed space. Touching the red (fire), white (lightning), green (acid), or blue (cold) channels will cause 1d6 damage on a failed DC18 Fortitude/Constitution check.
The statue’s weapons are be imbued with their linked elemental damage. Sex up the fluff as much as you can; I had one loose lightning bolts from a bow, and another swing a flaming sword. The sunken floor tiles will slide aside, but only after the demise of the guardians – the cache contains 6k gold, 4k worth of ornate jewellery, and a rod of healing (16 charges of 4d4+4).