This adventure module features an unexplored crypt in the mountains that spans for several levels. This dungeon location is not a linear adventure. There are two points of entry and different ways to reach the underground levels early on. It is a mysterious place known by the locals but no one has plundered it yet. This adventure is great for treasure-thirsty adventurers looking for a hoard of wealth ready to be taken. The Crypt of the Dragon Effigy is a dangerous place that won’t give up its treasure easily, however.
The Crypt of the Dragon Effigy owes its name to a large draconic statue in its lower lever, next to the stone coffin of the great abbot. A few of the locals gave it this name after a somewhat popular adventurer returned hurt and maimed from the dungeon and told the story of a large crypt where undead monsters crawled out of their stone coffins to attack him and his companions. He was the only survivor.
The adventurer described a strange tomb at the bottom of the crypt where the dragon statue awaited stoically. The tomb was decorated with lavish gold inlaid granite floor tiles and walls. Then, the statue exhaled fire and pain. The adventurer and his companions tried to flee but only he managed to do it. The poor man had to retire because of his wounds and died a few years later in poverty, but the evocative name of the underground location became engraved in the generational memory of the settlers close to the location of the crypt.
The crypt was built more than four hundred years ago. It belongs to Great Abbot Sarkish and his entourage of acolytes and servants. The great abbot was a figure of importance in its religion’s hierarchy in life. Great Abbot Sarkish managed to unify the beliefs of several sects and currents of belief in the kingdom and joined all the followers under a single goal. In that time, it was a grand cause and achievement that granted the great abbot the privilege of resting eternally in the now-forgotten crypt.
But the wheel of time keeps on turning. That religion and the kingdom it served no longer exist. All of their achievements were important for a time but they are now only a part of the written record of the history of men. Few scholars, if any, know of their names and their deeds. The futility of human existence and the short lifespan of men are guilty of this regrettable misfortune. It is not the first time that it happens, nor will it be the last. But the bitter taste of ultimate failure after a lifetime of work is a harsh mistress. After centuries of understanding how their deeds have become an accident of existence, the spirit of the great abbot and his entourage returned to a state of hateful undead.
As it was customary for their time, the crypt is magically protected to keep any rebellious undead trapped inside. Abjuration charms and incantations bind them to the confines of the structure and this enrages them even more so. Their hatred and anger make them terrible foes.
The Crypt’s Location
The Crypt of the Dragon Effigy is located in a mountain range. Reaching the main entrance of the crypt takes 2d6 days from the base of the mountain. The way there is not particularly dangerous but creatures and monsters indigenous to the area may be a threat to unprepared adventurers.
From the main entrance of the dungeon (area 1), there is a tower visible above that erupts from the mountainside (area 10) if the weather is clear. This is an alternate entrance to the crypt but reaching it takes an extra 1d2 days of climbing because no path leads to it; the mountain offers a treacherous environment for climbing. This section of the climb is more dangerous as there is no mountain path to follow.
Local Rumors and Tales
Small and large settlements within 50 miles of the crypt are a good place to hear about the crypt and its promises of instant wealth for brave adventurers. When asking about possible work opportunities or local information, the adventurers may hear any of the following rumors about the Crypt of the Dragon Effigy. Some of these tales contain false information or exaggerations:
|1||An old lady often walks the mountain path that leads to the crypt. Be careful as she often collects a toll that can only be paid with a human finger.|
|2||An adventurer visited the crypt ten years ago and told a story of a dragon statue that breathes fire. He lost a leg.|
|3||No one has plundered the crypt yet. But the few adventurers that managed to escape say that there is a large hoard of treasure inside.|
|4||The crypt is the home of a large dragon that decorated the place with a dozen effigies of itself to enlarge its ego.|
|5||During storms, thunders tend to strike the tower top more often than not. Despite the constant onslaught, the erupting tower still stands on the mountainside.|
|6||An adventurer visited the crypt ten years ago and died from his wounds a short time after. All of his companions died inside the crypt.|
|7||A scholar says that the crypt is the resting place of a high-ranking clerical figure from an old civilization that no one remembers.|
|8||It is the resting place of an ancient priest of sorts. The place is so old that it was built by an earlier civilization of men.|
Exploring the Crypt
The following descriptions of areas 1 through 15 correspond to the Crypt of the Dragon Effigy map. A narrow and perilous trail in the mountainside reaches a grand entrance that leads into the mountain. A trail of runes was inscribed over the entrance arc but the erosion and the passage of time have rendered them all illegible. A set of granite stairs descends into the heart of the mountain for one-hundred feet (to area 1).
Terrain. The crypt features granite stone tile flooring. It shows marks of water erosion and cracks from lack of maintenance. The floor is still in serviceable condition. Squares partially covered by objects or furniture are considered difficult terrain.
Doors. There are several stone doors and iron bar gates within the crypt. They are all closed and locked. A character using thieves’ tools can pick any of the locks with a successful DC 14 Dexterity check (20 for the iron bar mechanisms). The iron bar gates can be lifted with a successful DC 19 Strength (Athletics) check. Otherwise, each of the two iron bar gates opens when activating its corresponding lever.
Light. There are several sconces and braziers in the crypt with permanent continual flame spells on them that provide bright light. Removing any of the light fixtures from their locations causes the permanent spell to fizzle out after 1d4 hours.
Smells and Sounds. The crypt smells of old, rotting paper, sulfur, and putrefaction. There is a sepulchral silence throughout the dungeon.
1. Entrance Hall
The large chamber appears to be a place of worship like a church or a chapel but the altar is half crumbled and difficult to identify. Two rows of stone pillars and one row of stone benches lead to a lifted dais at the east end of the room. Scores of human bones are scattered across the chamber. The alcoves north and south contain eroded frescoes that depict scenes of classic religious imagery. A successful DC 15 Wisdom (Religion) check reveals that the place is dedicated to a known god but it is given a different name and the religious practices depicted in the frescoes are different from those of modern religions.
When any intruders reach the mid-section of the room, the bones on the floor float and reform as 8 skeletons. These undead are the reanimated remains of unlucky adventurers that tried to plunder this location in the past.
Pitfall Traps. A passive Perception score of 14 or higher reveals the presence of hinges in three of the stone tiles in the middle section of the room. A character using thieves’ tools can disable each of the traps with a successful DC 16 Dexterity check. A creature that steps on the tile triggers the trap; the tile collapses on its hinges and reveals a 5-foot-wide, 30-foot-long shaft down to area 15. The creature must make a successful DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to avoid falling and taking 10 (3d6) bludgeoning damage.
2. Vault Hallway
This hallway is empty and contains nothing of value but its north wall hides the secret entrance to the crypt’s vault. The abbot’s hoard is located inside the secret room to the north.
Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 18 or higher reveals the presence of a section of the wall that is made of a lighter material but the outside appears to be the same as the rest of the walls. A character using thieves’ tools can force this door open with a successful DC 22 Dexterity check. The vault opens automatically when the abbot’s pendant from area 15 comes within 10 feet of the door.
3. Secret Vault
The small chamber contains a rotten wooden desk and four stone chests. The chests are engraved with old sigils and remain in good condition. Each of the chests is worth 100 gp but they weigh 200 pounds each.
Treasure. The chests contain 700 cp, 9000 sp, 1900 gp, 2 bloodstones (50 gp), 1 chalcedony (50 gp), 1 jasper (50 gp), 2 star rose quartz (50 gp), 2 zircons (50 gp), a potion of animal friendship, and 2 potions of greater healing.
4. Priest’s Study
The room contains several wooden tables and a wooden desk. The wood of each of these items appears to be coated with a substance that has protected the wood from the passage of time. The items on the tables have succumbed to moisture and time. They are ruined and illegible. The locked stone door to the south features a bas-relief of a man drawing water from a pond. The man is dressed in clerical attire.
Treasure. There are two magic scrolls in one of the desk’s drawers. One spell scroll of bless, and one spell scroll of protection from energy (fire).
5. Priest’s Coffin
This is the resting place of the great abbot’s second in command. An important priest whose name is lost to time. After centuries of undead existence, the mind of the unfortunate priest parted in two pieces and gave birth to two specters that emerge from the stone coffin and attack anyone that comes within 5 feet of the enclosure.
Salt Acid Trap. A passive Perception score of 15 or higher reveals the presence of small holes just below the lid of the stone coffin; their purpose unknown. A character using thieves’ tools can determine the purpose of the trap and disable its triggering mechanism on the lid with a successful DC 16 Dexterity check. A creature that opens the lid triggers the trap; bursts of liquid salt acid emerge from the holes and affect all creatures within 5 feet of the stone coffin. Each creature must make a successful DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 14 (4d6) acid damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
6. Basement Access
This hallway is a central location that communicates with area 7 through a secret door (see below) and with the stairs to the basement level. There is nothing of value or interest in the hallway or its walls.
Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 18 or higher reveals the presence of a section of the wall in the north alcove that is made of a lighter material but the outside appears to be the same as the rest of the walls. A thorough search reveals a brick button that opens the secret passage when pushed.
7. Acolytes’ Coffins
The bodily remains of four important acolytes lie inside the four stone coffins. They still retain their physical form. They are ghouls in eternal despair. The ghouls emerge from their coffins and attack intruders. Except for the one on the southeast coffin. It is imprisoned inside by the trap’s mechanism.
Pitfall Trap. A passive Perception score of 14 or higher reveals the presence of large hinges on two stone tiles. A character using thieves’ tools can disable the pitfall trap with a successful DC 16 Dexterity check. A creature that steps on the tile and opens the stone coffin lid triggers the trap; the two tiles collapse on their hinges and reveal a 30-foot-long shaft down to area 12. The creature must make a successful DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to avoid falling and taking 10 (3d6) bludgeoning damage. In addition, the ghoul inside the coffin escapes and attacks.
8. Summoning Tower Base
This round chamber is the base of the tower that erupts from the mountainside. A circling stairway hugs the wall and ascends into the darkness. The floor is decorated with gold inlays that form geometrical shapes around a recessed stone circle. Ancient runes and clerical spells are imbued into the stone to facilitate complex magic. A creature capable of casting divine magic can analyze the magic circle with a successful DC 14 Wisdom (Religion) check to know how it functions.
Magic Circle. A detect magic spell reveals an aura of conjuration coming from the circle. The circle is powered by the obelisks in area 10. Its ancient spells help the performance of complex magic. Once per day, the circle can be used to maximize the effect of a clerical spell. Any spell cast on the circle performs in the best way possible. Healing spells cure the max amount of hit points, for example. The circle does not affect arcane magic.
9. Tower Middle Section
The mid-section of the circling stairs leads to an alcove with a small stone pedestal. Whatever was placed on the pedestal is missing. Perhaps an adventurer managed to come from the tower top and steal this.
10. Tower Top Obelisks
The top of the tower is an alternate entrance to the Crypt of the Dragon Effigy. There are three iron obelisks on the tower top. They appear to be connected to a mesh of copper cables under the granite floor. A successful DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check reveals that the obelisks are designed to attract thunder and channel their energy down into the tower.
11. Cell Access
This hallway connects to the main section of the crypt and the cells in area 12. There are bones scattered across the floor of the hallway but they do not animate until the adventurers move forward. Then, two skeletons coalesce in front and behind of the party and attack (a total of four).
12. Cell Trap
The remains of at least eight unlucky individuals are scattered across the cell. These poor fellows fell into the cell and died from their wounds or starvation. 1d3 skeletons animate and attack when a creature falls into the cell from area 7.
Iron Bars Lever. A section of the iron bars is hooked to a mechanism that lifts them into the ceiling when the lever outside the cell is in the “up” position. A character using thieves’ tools can manipulate the device from inside the cell to open with a successful DC 18 Dexterity check. A character can bend the iron bars to open them with a successful DC 18 Strength (Athletics) check.
13. Great Acolytes’ Coffins
The four great acolytes lie in eternal slumber in their stone coffins. They were not affected by the curse of the undead because the chamber is hallowed ground. Their desiccated bodies rest motionless inside their coffins, surrounded by some of their material belongings in life.
The walls of this chamber feature fresco paintings in remarkably good condition. They depict a man in ceremonial clerical robes surrounded by four loyal assistants that aided in religious rites and also personal affairs. They appear to tend to the needs of the great abbot with great selflessness.
Treasure. Collectively, the stone coffins contain 600 cp, 700 sp, 60 gp, an iron engraved brooch (25 gp), 1 pewter miniature of a tower (25 gp), and a feathered belt (25 gp).
14. Grand Crypt Secret Access
The chamber is empty and contains nothing of interest except for the secret alternate entrance to area 15 (see below).
Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 18 or higher reveals the presence of a section of the west wall that is made of a lighter material but the outside appears to be the same as the rest of the walls. A thorough search reveals a brick button that opens the secret passage when pushed.
15. Great Abbot’s Resting Place
The adventurers may reach this area in three different ways: falling from the trap in area 1, bypassing the iron bar gate by the east wall, or using the secret entrance in area 14. A large iron statue of a horned dragon dominates the west side of the room. It appears to protect a stone coffin of notorious craftsmanship on an alcove on the west wall. The granite tiles in front of the dragon effigy are scorched and there are burnt remains of objects and bones at least 30 feet away from the statue.
If a creature triggers the dragon breath trap (see below) or attempts to open the stone coffin, the spirit of the great abbot emerges from the stone enclosure in the form of a wraith. At the same time, 1d3 skeletons form in front of the dragon statue from the scorched remains on the floor.
Iron Bars Lever. The iron bars in the entrance of the chamber lift into the ceiling when the lever on the south wall is in the “up” position. A character using thieves’ tools can manipulate the device from the location of the iron bars to open them with a successful DC 18 Dexterity check.
Dragon Breath Trap. A passive Perception score of 14 or higher reveals the key to the abbot’s coffin inside the dragon’s mouth and several camouflaged stone pipes that end on the dragon’s mouth too. A character using thieves’ tools can disable the fire-breathing mechanism with a successful DC 16 Dexterity check. A creature that attempts to remove the key or open the stone coffin triggers the trap. The statue breaths liquid fire on a 30-foot straight line. Each creature in the line must make a successful DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
Treasure. The stone coffin contains the desiccated remains of the great abbot. It wears a golden pendant (50 gp) on its neck. The pendant triggers the door in the secret vault in area 2 to open.
Defeating the wraith in area 15 causes any remaining undead in the crypt to collapse and turn to dust. Doing this breaks the curse and grants eternal rest to the poor souls reanimated in undead forms.
The heroes’ surprising return to the small settlements close to the crypt is an amusing development for the locals. The amount of gold recovered from the crypt is enough to inflate and destabilize the local economies if it is spent in the area.
The legends and tales of the Crypt of the Dragon Effigy soon evolve to include the valiant deeds of a group of adventurers who cleansed the place from the curse of the undead, against all odds.