While the party is out walking, they see a fireball launch up into the sky (like a flare) overtop a nearby jungle. If the players choose to hack their way through the overgrowth toward the source of the fireball, they stumble upon an ancient temple covered in vines and caked with moss.
Standing guard outside the temple is a colossal and ancient stone head that animates and begins speaking as the players approach.
DM Note: If your players ignore the first flare…send up two more…then ten…make it incredibly excessive and desperate to gain their attention.
“WELL, WELL, WELL,” the giant stone head booms, its eyes glowing red, “It appears that treasure hunters have stumbled upon my secret temple. I commend you for getting this far on your own, without any guidance, and relying only on your tracking abilities.”
If a player mentions the flare, the stone head will laugh and play dumb. “What’s that? You say someone shot up a fireball into the sky to guide you here? Well, that’s ridiculous…I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m a protector after all. Why on earth would I want to attract treasure hunters?” He continues to laugh uncomfortably, each one sounding more forced that the last. An insight check (DC 5) reveals that the head is lying.
With a little pressure and prodding, the guardian will give up the charade. “Okay, fine. Yes, I sent up the flare and, yes, I want you to venture into this tomb and reclaim the sacred treasure.”
If the party asks why, the stone head continues. “Because I’m so bored. Do you know how long I’ve been diligently protecting this temple? Hundreds upon hundred of years! You know how many adventurers I’ve had to fend off? ZERO. NOT A SOUL. It’s been so, so long. I use to be a lot taller, you know, but like an obedient temple guard, I never moved from this spot. Over time, my body just sort of sank into this soggy earth beneath me. It won’t be long until I sink completely and, frankly, before I’m gone, I’d like to know exactly WHAT I’ve been guarding in this temple for all these years.”
The party can agree to venture into the temple and retrieve whatever treasure might be lying inside. If they do so, the stone head will giddily start muttering to itself, “Ooh, I wonder if it will be some powerful sword, designed to easily vanquish foes…OOH! Or maybe it’s some magical armor that grants invisibility and flight. OH, OH! Maybe it’s a key that opens up portals to long lost worlds!” He continues on like this, brainstorming exciting possibilities, as the players venture through the temple’s main doorway and descend the stairs.
Temple Run, Not Walk
As DM, you can choose how you want players to navigate through the following chambers (although it might be fun to present them with a couple of unmarked doors in each room that determine where they venture to next). For those familiar with the 90’s cult classic TV game show Legends of the Hidden Temple, some of these rooms should give a dose of nostalgia.
All the while, make it clear that this temple is not in good shape; like the giant stone head outside, the bricks are beginning to crumble and the walls look like they could cave in at any moment.
- The Spider’s Lair – This room is filled with dense spider webs, and the floor is littered with the picked-cleaned animal bones of jungle creatures that must have wandered down into the temple. Players must roll Acrobatics checks to try and work their way through the tangled webs without causing a disturbance. If any player fails a DC 12, then that player becomes stuck in a web, unable to move until another player uses an action to wrestle them free. Additionally, the shaking of the web awakens two giant spiders that come crawling out from the shadows and must be slain.
- The Gargoyle Chamber – This room is filled with terrifying stone gargoyles. The switch to open the next door is triggered by pulling on the tongue of the correct gargoyle. Provide the players with a few options to pick from. If they select an incorrect gargoyle, then it comes to life (along with one other false-switch gargoyle) and attacks the players. Finding the right switch allows the party to proceed (regardless of whether or not they stick around to defeat any angry awakened gargoyles).
- The Swamp of Despair – This long room is filled with a swampy bog. To trek to the opposite side, players must complete strength saving throws or else be restrained in the muddy waters. Players should be encouraged to think of creative ways to cross the difficult terrain. If a player does begin to sink, they will feel something slide up against their leg: a giant constrictor snake that keeps disappearing beneath the surface.
- The Warrior’s Room – This room features a beautiful painted mural on the far wall, depicting warriors brandishing weapons and posing. They are all facing off with what looks like a manticore. Strangely, the illustration of the manticore shows it wearing a key on a chain around its neck. If the players pose in front of the warrior drawings (recreating the poses), then the manticore painting will come alive and “fall out” of the wall into three dimensions. Players can slay the beast or attempt to pluck the key dangling around its neck.
The Shrine of the Silver Monkey
Once the players have entered the final room, they see their prize on a pedestal: a silver statue of a monkey, lying disassembled in three pieces.
Using “identify” on the monkey reveals the following effects:
- The Head of the Monkey – Grants +1 to Intelligence
- The Body of the Monkey – Grants +1 to Constitution
- The Legs of the Monkey – Grants +1 to Dexterity
The pieces of the monkey statue can be divided up among players, or a single player can hold onto (and be attuned to) the complete silver monkey statue; this would grant them a +1 to Intelligence, Constitution, and Dexterity.
At this point, the walls finally begin to crumble, and the players must race out the way they came as the temple comes crumbling down around them.
Once the party escapes back to the surface, the entire temple collapses, sealing its only entrance beneath a pile of rubble.
“Well!?” The stone guardian asks. “What amazing, one-of-a-kind treasure was I protecting all these years!?”
If the players show him the monkey statue, the giant head will pause and say, “That’s…that’s it?” Even though his stone face is locked in place and can’t contort much, the inflection in his voice reveals that he’s very disappointed and embarrassed that such a silly object was his precious treasure.
Depressed, he thanks the party anyway, accepting that it’s always better to know the truth, no matter how soul-crushing that truth might be. He encourages the party to take the statue of the silver monkey as their reward, suggesting that “it could make an interesting conversation piece to put on your mantel.”
However, when the party begins to leave the temple grounds, the stone statue’s tone entirely changes. Once again, his eyes glow red and, as if acting on some inner mechanism, his voice loses all warmth, shouting: “HALT! Return that treasure immediately, trespassers, or suffer my wrath.”
Players will not be able to reason with the stone head; it seems that whatever magic was used to make him the temple guardian in the first place is now in full control. Since the players can’t return the monkey (the entrance is entirely sealed with rubble), the battle begins.
The stone head operates largely like a stone golem, but being buried means that it has 0 movement speed. Players can try to snap him out of this strange brainwashing, but the DC for persuasion should be incredibly high. Additionally, the players can simply try to flee into the jungle (since the head is unable to pursue them), but this would cause the stone head to use “Slow” or attempt to knock players prone and keep them from escaping.
Regardless of whether they defeat the stone head or simply run away, they have the silver monkey statue as their reward.