Let’s start with a DM’s note. If you are running this adventure as a one-shot, you can establish Alura as an important figure in the region and a friend to one or more of the player characters. When she asks for help, the heroes would have no reason to refuse. If you want to make this part of a longer campaign, Alura should be a potential ally you need to win over to your side, and she will ask the party to prove themselves by taking this job.
Alura is a powerful and enigmatic figure, a wizard who looks like a mix between a hag and a lovely grandmother. She lives in a magical tower in a secluded grove that is an hour’s walk away from the closest town or city. Her tower looks ramshackle from the outside and one wonders what force keeps it from falling down, but from the inside it is full of living magic and creatures. When the heroes enter the bottom floor, it is very quiet, as if the whole house was sleeping. A fire crackles under a massive cauldron, and fresh eucalyptus fumes slowly drift up and away from it, entering a wide pipe opening above.
“I’m going to town to run errands. The Warlock from Greedletooth is setting up a pop-up shop at Hag’s End and he has the best cuckoo’s eggs. I will be away for 3 hours and I need you to help keep up the fire for me, mm-kay?” She points at the cauldron and a stack of firewood next to it. “If you are unsure what to do, pat Todd on the head and he’ll remind you.” She holds a wet and slimy toad on her palm and pats it very gently on the head. Todd says, “You have one job. Feed Fyre.” Alura places Todd on the desk and takes her leave. If asked, Alura confirms that the fire is actually a creature called Fyre, even though it looks like regular fire.
The bottom floor has a low ceiling, a couple of working desks with cluttered papers (if investigated it seems like spell research in progress), ink bottles and quills on them. The rest of the room is filled with bookshelves, other shelves with jars and bottles and all manner of materials, making the chamber a mix of a study and storage room. A large but simple candelabrum hangs from the ceiling, so low that you can easily hit your head walking under it. The candelabrum has no candles, and the only light sources in the room are the firelight and a single small window at the opposite end of the room, behind all the shelves. In addition to the main door, there is one more exit: a ladder leading to a trapdoor in the ceiling. Some of the items on the shelves look alive and are walking back and forth. On top of one of the shelves is what seems to be a fishing trophy: a massive, 10-feet-long stuffed eel. It seems inanimate.
If the heroes touch or take something, Todd says, “I can see you touching Madame Alura’s stuff. I wouldn’t do that.” If Todd is threatened, he says: “All pain inflicted upon me, is also felt by Madame Alura. I would think twice before doing anything bad to me. Can I remind you that you have to keep up the fire and do nothing else. Just wait for Madame’s return.” If the players do anything else than feed the fire, or if they plan to leave the room, interrupt the narrative and describe them suddenly waking up. If they settle down, describe how the fumes and the crackling of the fire feel soothing and they start feeling drowsy…
Abruptly, the player characters wake up. They find themselves lying in chairs and some of them on the floor. Even elf characters, who normally don’t sleep, find themselves in the same condition. This is unusual. And the fire’s gone out.
Fyre is Out
The room is cold and darker without the fire, and the fumes have stopped rising from the cauldron. A distant thunderstorm can be heard, as if it were raining outside, but if the heroes look out from the window or open the main door, the weather is sunny outside. Water is trickling from the cracks of the trapdoor above. If the players decide to tap Todd, he will say, ”Fyre got hungry and went up. Alura will not be happy when she returns in one hour’s time.” The players realize their characters have been asleep for two hours. (DM’s note: this also prevents rests during the adventure, so players need to be careful with their resources.)
Interacting with Todd
The toad does not answer if spoken to. If patted on the head it will repeat the same line (different in each floor) twice and if you keep tapping it starts answering repeatedly ”You had one job.”
Second Floor: Unexpected Weather Patterns
When the adventurers open the trapdoor, they are greeted with a splash of water, soaking them completely. They arrive at the second floor which is the Dryad Kevin’s grove. It looks like a patch of forest inside a tall room, but the ceiling is covered in clouds and it’s raining cats and dogs (not literally!) and occasional bolts of lightning strike across the room with a massive boom. One of the trees has wooden spiral stairs leading to another trapdoor above, but it looks very dangerous due to the slippery wetness and lightning going about.
Todd’s line in this floor: ”Oh man. Kevin is the only one who can keep Storm at bay, and he is fond of the cauldron fumes. He’s gone upstairs as well.”
The dryad has a seat, almost like a throne, naturally formed to the side of a beautiful walnut tree and a chimney pipe is poking through the floor covered in dirt and moss, connecting to a glass chamber in a huge water pipe. You can imagine Kevin sitting there, puffing away the fumes from the water pipe. But the seat is empty.
Climbing the stairs (the non-creative way)
Climbing in the pouring rain is hard and the stairs are covered in slime and moss and they are very slippery. Getting up requires 3 consecutive successes in a Dex (Acrobatics) check DC 10. Ask everyone who is climbing to roll at the same time. Those that make it, manage to climb one third of the way. Those that fail, slide back to the beginning. For every such attempt, ask for someone to roll one die of their choosing. (Players can have tactical discussions here if a d4 is better or should they roll d100.) If it lands on an even number, a lightning strikes and everyone needs to roll a Dex Save DC13. Those that fail will take 2d6 lightning damage and slide back to the base of the stairs. Those that succeed are unharmed and remain where they are. Repeat this as long as it takes for everyone to climb up, always rolling for progress (failure leading to a slide all the way to the beginning) and rolling for lightning.
Now if the players get creative, it’s awesome and you should let them! Flying or levitating creatures, or any wild shape or polymorphed form with climbing speed can pass in one go, but roll once for lightning. If someone goes first and ties a rope on the top, the rest can roll all checks with advantage and will not slide down anymore, but stay put on a failed roll.
Eventually, they will get up, and find a door that leads to the next floor.
Third Floor: The Nursery
DM’s note: if you are running a tight schedule and need a bit shorter adventure, skip this floor. But if you do, you will miss some cute creatures and a touch of sympathy towards Alura for taking care of orphan dragon babies. Also, if you skip this floor, remember to remove Nanny the harpy from the fifth floor as well.
When the adventurers approach the door, they start hearing sounds, and when the door is opened, it becomes very loud. They can hear 12 babies crying their lungs out. The babies are in cradles and they are actually Faerie Dragon Wyrmlings with colourful butterfly wings, and they are sooo cute!
Todd’s line in this floor: ”My ears! The wyrmlings should sleep for the first 12 years of their life, otherwise they will not stop crying. Alura hired Nanny to sing to them, but the sound of lightning keeps them awake and I guess Nanny has given up and gone upstairs with Fyre and Kevin.”
Add a schematic of how the door and stairs are located in the Nursery, next stairs on top of the previous, leading to the fourth floor.
Every time the players decide to do something in this room, a random baby dragon will cause a wild magic surge. Use your favorite wild magic table to roll a random effect. The babies are unable to leave the cradles and all they do is cry very loudly and cause magical mishaps around them. If the players decide to leave, roll one more effect and then they can climb up to the next floor.
Fourth Floor: The Angry Pet
The fourth floor is the home of Alura’s pet. Usually it’s quite tame and friendly, but it simply cannot stand the sound of the babies crying and it is in a mad rage, attacking anyone on sight.
Todd’s line in this floor: ”Oh my. Those babies crying sure make Myrrhlox irate. But Alura loves her. Do not kill Alura’s pet even in self-defense.”
Getting past Myrrhlox will be a combat encounter. The creature is guarding a lever on the wall that operates a paternoster lift to the top floor.
Add Schematic pic: paternoster lift
Pulling the lever down activates the lift and it starts moving in a rotating pattern. But if someone does so, Myrrhlox will use its interaction (free action) to stop the lift. The players will need to find a way to capture, contain, or knock out the monster without killing it.
Levels 1-3: Myrrhlox is an Owlbear
Levels 4-7: Myrrhlox is a Gorgon
Levels 8 and above: Myrrhlox is a Hydra
Fifth Floor: The Fun Floor
The top floor of the tower is a luxurious lounge with a crackling fire, sofas and divans. Invisible servants are cooking and serving foods at a round gaming table where three creatures are playing a drinking card game with some Wizards’ Wine. Music is playing in the background with no visible source for it. The creatures are Fyre, a small fire elemental that is wearing oven mitts to touch things without setting them on fire, Kevin the Dryad (a humanoid that is made of branches and leaves, yet still manages to look graceful) and the Nanny, who is a harpy (a friendly looking woman with wings for hands and lower torso of a bird).
When the adventurers enter the lounge, Fyre greets them by saying: “Well, well, well. If it isn’t the hired help that failed to feed me! Sorry if I used a bit of magic on you, I just wanted a break here in the Fun Floor. Come join us for a round of games. If you win, I promise to go back downstairs.”
Todd’s line in this floor: ”Typical. They always come up here and start drinking if they have a chance.”
A drinking game
All the player characters need to join, otherwise Fyre will refuse to play. (DM’s note: you can play with the NPCs, but that will make the game longer. Especially if there are more than 3 players, an OK variant is to have the players play the three rounds, and the NPCs are only watching and trying to catch lies. The NPCs are immune to the effects of Wizards’ Wine.)
There are three decks of cards on the table for round 1, 2 and 3 correspondingly. Here’s how you play:
- Roll initiative! Everyone must act in initiative order for 3 rounds.
- On each round you need to pick a card from the deck (roll d6 and see table, below), and read aloud the question on the card.
- You can then choose to answer or drink a glass of Wizards’ Wine. It is also allowed to both answer and drink.
- If you answer and try to lie, you need to beat a contested Deception check against allthree creatures’ Insight checks (they roll with +3 Insight, except Kevin who has +7). If they find out you lied, you need to drink the glass of wine anyway.
- If you refuse to drink or answer, you are out of the game.
Effects of Wizards’ Wine: (duration 1 hour)
- Roleplay: You feel happy and brave. You feel the urge to compliment other people and give praise to their best qualities. The wine is so good, you will want to both answer the questions and drink more wine on every consecutive round of the game.
- Mechanical: You are immune to the frightened condition.
- Roleplay: In addition, you feel rowdy and feel like moving around (and as a way to conceal the somewhat awkward urge you can start dancing). Also you feel a need to open up and spill your secrets.
- Mechanical (in addition to the previous): You have to move at least half your movement every turn, but can do so back and forth, so you don’t wander off. You are unable to tell a lie.
- Roleplay: In addition, you start giggling and losing control.
- Mechanical (in addition to the previous): You cannot control the direction you are moving to. Half of the movement goes in the intended direction, the other half, roll d4 for a random direction.
If anyone tries drinking more, they will throw up and the effects remain the same.
Questions, roll a d6 to pick a question (duplicates are OK). Answers should, of course, be in character:
- What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve done in public?
- What is a talent or skill you have that nobody in the group knows about?
- What is your most treasured possession?
- What was your childhood nickname?
- What’s the silliest thing you’re afraid of?
- What job would you never want to do?
- Have you ever stolen something, and if so, what was it?
- Describe a lie you told that had bigger consequences than you anticipated.
- What is something you’ve done that you wish you could undo?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, not physically, what would it be?
- What’s a secret you kept from your parents?
- What’s the most unethical thing you’ve done for money?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What is a secret you’ve never shared with anyone in this group?
- What is your biggest regret?
- Who is a person you resent and why?
- What’s a dark thought you’ve had but never told anyone?
- What is a truth you’ve been too afraid to speak?
After the game, the creatures agree to join the party and head downstairs. However, one final challenge awaits: the bottom floor has flooded due to the continuous rain.
Finale: The Flood
On the way down, Kevin will calm the storm and Nanny will sing the wyrmlings to sleep. But descending to the bottom floor is not easy: it is completely submerged in water.
Todd says, “There is a plug under the desk. Pull it to drain the floor.”
When someone dives in, they will bump into a nasty surprise. The fishing trophy, the massive eel in the first floor (remember?) has woken up when in contact with water. It will try to surprise and attack whoever is diving in. As a finale, the eel has to be defeated in underwater combat. (Author’s note: Did you know there’s a whole section about underwater combat in D&D 5th edition rules? I’ve never used them before!)
When Alura returns, she looks around and starts casting prestidigitation and mending (or some other similar cantrip) to dry up and fix all papers and materials. “I see you have been busy. Keeping up the fire wasn’t so easy after all, was it?” She says, giving them a wink.
As a reward for their efforts, Alura will offer her friendship and assistance in future quests. She also gifts the heroes the following magical items:
Coin of Heads and Heads: A magical coin that always lands heads up, useful for convincing NPCs in negotiations.
Bag of Holding Breath: A small bag that provides an hour of breathable air when placed over the mouth and nose, for one person.
The Backscratcher of Reaching: Extends up to 10 feet and can be used to manipulate objects at a distance.
Pocket Sundial: Tells the exact time, but only when exposed to natural sunlight.
Also, Alura gives the party a bottle of Wizards’ Wine, enough for six glasses.