703 The Archmage’s Vault – LV5 Shadowdark Adventure

Before you lies my wealth and achievements. My name is long forgotten but many shall die failing to imitate my true might. Begone all filthy thieves!

Eroded Inscription

There was once a powerful archmage who sought to learn the secrets of eternal life. His name has been scrubbed from history, and all references to him in records and tomes have been deleted or burned. The elusive figure is referred to only as the dark mage; little is known of him except his search to lengthen his lifespan through magic.

In life, the dark mage explored several roads to immor­tality, unearthing secrets from the vast multiverse. The only sure method he found consisted of stripping his soul from his body, placing it in a magical container, and then letting his body become an undead husk. Alas, the dark mage never had it in him to perform the gruesome ritual. He abandoned his lifelong dream and perished eventually of natural causes. His research, treasure, and remains were moved to a secure vault he devised. Ironi­cally, his spirit was overcome with regret and frustration and became a spirit that haunts the recondite dungeon.

The Scroll

Centuries after the dark mage’s interment. The teleportation scroll to access the vault was found in the crypt of a friend. Since then, brave adventurers have tele­ported there to extract the mage’s treasure. None have succeeded, and only one managed to return. The hol­low-eyed survivor spun tales of dead warriors, deadly trap devices, and the mage’s malevolent spirit.

  • Information. The man scribbled illegible notes on the scroll: a rough map that mentions areas 1, 4, and 6. If a character deciphers the scribbles (DC 13 INT check), they learn of the machinery panel hidden in area 4.

Adventure Hooks

  • Finding Wealth (0 XP). The characters learn of a strange wizard’s vault that remains uncharted. There is gossip of deadly traps and merciless guardians. Little is known of the place but secret circles share a strange magical scroll with the power to open a gateway to the compound. But only one person returned from the mer­cenaries that went. The party gains access to this scroll after earning a powerful ally’s trust in a past job.

Blood Ties

It may be revealed through this adventure that one of the characters is a distant relative of the archmage. A spellcaster would be the best option for this. When the mage’s wraith appears, it may ask his descendant to betray their friends and inherit his powers (see area 1).

Level 5 Adventure

  • Danger. Risky. Check for a Random Event every 2 crawling rounds and after loud noises (3-in-6 chance).
  • Light. Some areas have large braziers; the rest are in pitch darkness. The denizens are dark-adapted.
  • Traps. All devices are maintained by spells. All traps reset after 2 crawling rounds once triggered. Disabled or destroyed traps reset and reappear at dawn.
  • Arcane Mayhem. Spells cast have their DC increased by 1. On a fail by 5 or more, the spell is cast but its target is randomly changed. A dispel magic spell negates this effect for 1 day if cast at the central circle (area 1).
1 A wight leads a shambling patrol of 2d12 skeletons. The undead are branded with the mage’s sigil.
2 Necrotic energy turns a near-sized area dangerously cold. Creatures in the area may jump out of the way to avoid taking 2d6 damage as skin and blood freeze in contact with the cold area (DC 13 DEX check).
3 Ophid (ghost), the mage’s apprentice materializes (Reaction check). Ophid was interred alive when his master passed away. His spirit is trapped in the vault. If his remains are brought to the surface, his soul shall at last rest (see area 7).
4 An unnatural gust of air traverses the entire dungeon. All braziers are put down for 1 crawling round. All areas become dark.
5 A scarab swarm boils out of cracks in the floors and walls. This breed of insects seeks live prey and consumes it alive.
6 The party experiences a vision of a hooded mage about to drink a smoking concoction. He backs out and screams in anger.

1. Hall of Gemstones

A wizard that uses the teleportation scroll is transported to the magic circle in this area along with up to 10 other creatures. The dungeon braziers light up upon arrival.

Six gemstone-filled goblets on stone plinths shine from their alcoves. The gems glimmer in the warm light of the braziers, as if blinking in and out of reach.

  • The Goblets. The gems are dyed crystals with no val­ue. Touching any gem causes a firejet trap to erupt from the floor tile in front of it (DC 14 DEX or 2d6 damage).
  • The Documents. There is a magical journal that re­cords the names of all visitors. The characters’ names are already logged in. A blank spellbook lies open on one table. The other contains two random tier-2 wizard scrolls and a set of glossy paper and expensive inks.
  • Stepping on the circle transports the characters back to where they teleported from. However, 1 day must elapse since their arrival for it to work.
  • The Dark Mage. The mage (wraith) and two skele­tons materialize here but only after the characters steal the contents of area 8 or haul the remains of Ophid from area 7 (see Random Event 3). Such offense causes the mighty undead to rise from its slumber and quench its boredom with the pleasure of killing. While the wraith is present, the teleportation circle is inactive.
  • Blood Ties. If a character shares blood with the mage, the undead know this instinctively. The dark mage makes a tempting offer to him (see Development).

2. Alchemy Jugs

Five pedestals line the walls of this chamber. Each features a hollowed-out section 3 feet from the ground that contains a rune-marked, stone jug.

A detect magic spell reveals that each of the jugs is en­chanted. Each contains a thick concoction of different colors and translucence. Combining the five into one jug would brew the potion that a mage may use to become a lich. Alas, they have all degraded and have random ef­fects now. If a character drinks any, apply the following effects 1 crawling round after consumption:

  1. You grow a 3-foot-long beard, it lasts 1 week. If you already have a beard, it falls out instead.
  2. Your skin is turned transparent for 1d8 days.
  3. You grow a 3rd eye on your forehead. This muta­tion allows you to cast detect magic once per day.
  4. A doppelganger of yourself is instantly created 5 feet away from you. The being believes itself to be the original and may fight for material possessions.
  5. You are cursed and half undead. You appear nor­mal but moonlight reveals the gruesome truth.

3. Alchemy Library

The chamber contains alchemy tomes. If they are brought to town, a Downtime Learning check (DC 18 INT) reveals the recipes of two legendary items: the first is the philosopher’s stone. The second is a way to repair the stone jugs in area 5 to craft the lich’s concoction.

4. The Mage’s Library

The books, tomes, and scrolls in this chamber fly out of their shelves and to the desk. Pages fly and a pen scribbles on them as if someone were studying there.

  • The Shade. A detect magic spell reveals that an ephemeral presence sits at the desk. It looks like a hood­ed wizard studying spells and arcane runes. This is but a shard of the elusive mage’s soul. The self-absorbed entity cannot be interacted with, nor does it respond.
  • The Panel. Clockwork machinery connected to the flame engines in both areas 6 lies behind a hidden panel (DC 13 WIS). Fine tools can be used to rig it and partial­ly disable the flame engines (DC 14 DEX check).
  • Treasure (5 XP). There is an assortment of wizard spell scrolls in marble case. It contains one of each: an­imate dead, magic circle, speak with dead, polymorph, telekinesis, resilient sphere, and wall of force.

5. Walls of Force

A large stone coffer awaits behind a purple-tinted, ebbing, magical wall that impedes passage across.

Nothing can physically pass through the wall. An ornate plaque next to the arcane device bears Elvish runes that read: Embodiment, Research, and Achievement. They roughly symbolize the process of magical research (DC 9 INT). The floor marks next to the wall have the same meaning but in Diabolic. They are also pressure-sensi­tive switches. If the characters stand on them in order, the wall of force disappears for 1 hour. Each area 5’s cof­fer has half the key to the chests located in area 8.

6. The Flame Engines

Two arcane devices on the back wall spout fire like a dragon’s breath. The flames obstruct the way to a narrow passage and a stone switch on the floor.

Pressing the switch turns the engines off for 1 hour. The flames reach 15 feet from the engines. Coming in con­tact with it deals 3d6 damage. If the panel in area 4 was rigged, the engines’ reach is reduced to 5 feet. Still, it is necessary to turn them off to access the way to areas 5.

7. The False Vault

The chamber contains three illusory treasure chests. The remains of Ophid, the mage’s apprentice, are behind the illusion. Ophid (ghost) offers to help in exchange for bringing his remains out of the archmage’s vault.

8. The Secret Vault

The chests are locked. Only by collecting the two halves of the key in both areas 5 can they be opened.

  • Treasure (8 XP). The chests contain 600 gp, 2,800 sp, a set of chainmail armor, two potions of healing, an alabaster destrier, magic ink, and a robe of the sorcerer.


The characters reach the end of this quest and face the consequences of their valiant or cowardly deeds.

  • Defeat. If the nefarious dark mage wraith is defeated in combat, it disintegrates with a cackling cry of despair. The characters are then free to wait for the teleportation circle to reactivate to leave the archmage’s vault. Howev­er, the dark mage shall exact his revenge later on. The spirit cannot truly be put to rest, it shall always haunt them for the offense of stealing his sepulchral treasure. Ending this persecution requires special help from reli­gious authorities and is an adventure for another day…
  • Possession. If a character is related to the mage, the wraith offers to share the secret of immortality. Alas, it is a ploy. The blood link between both creatures allows the wraith to possess the willing character’s body. In this momentary possession, the evil mage has access to his regular magical abilities. A priest may use divine magic to free the victim (protection from evil).

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