30 January 2021

Temple of the Elements - Free adventure for parties of level 7-9

I've been wanting to make this adventure for months. It's taken a while to build this adventure for a few reasons; firstly, I tried making maps multiple time, and hated them all. Secondly, I kept changing my mind on how I wanted the puzzles to function, this is the final version only, though I may post a number of the other ideas I had in a future post. The final reason is that I didn't know how I wanted to end it; the final fight against the Elemental Guardian is a recent idea I had, and I am really happy with the whole flow of the adventure.

This is also the first adventure I have ever released that uses the Air Mote creatures, and is also the first one to include all four of the Elemental Motes. They really are one of my favourite creatures, and I really hope they add something to your adventures too!

Build Up

Does your party need to find a special magical item? Are you looking for something a little different to the normal adventure? Do your players simply like dungeon delving for treasure? Do you want an adventure you can run in nearly any campaign setting, as well as in a one shot scenario? If you answered “Yes!” to any of the above, then this adventure is for you!

Four unique elemental enemies, five incredible combat encounters, four new puzzles, complete with solutions, skill checks, and handouts, and a brand new boss fight against a powerful construct, wielding the power of the elements. 

If you want to fit this into an existing game, you can place it anywhere. The beauty of mad sorcerers building puzzle dungeons to protect their treasure, is that they’re mad! They can build that dungeon just about anywhere that takes their fancy. Underneath a city? Sure! In the middle of a haunted forest? Perfect. On the coast? Lovely view, why not? You get the picture. Easy to fit into any setting.

The only thing you will need to do to allude to this dungeon is let the players hear rumours of an abandoned temple somewhere nearby (or far away, if you want to make them travel), that contains incredible magic items, and equally incredible magic defences. All previous adventurers that have attempted to loot the place have either died trying, or limped away with their tails between their legs (sometimes literally, that poor tiefling).

The Dungeon

As they approach it, the party can begin to make out some details on the outside of the building. The structure, ancient, yet immaculate, stands towering above them. On the walls, there are images, each representing one of the four base elements; Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Despite the fact that it stands so proudly, and with its doors wide open, it does not look like many people come by here, not even in search of treasure any more.

From outside, they can’t make out much beyond the doors, but the interior seems well lit, and welcoming. The flickering light against the doors seems to suggest a fire inside, though surely that can’t be right? This place has been abandoned for years, right? 

The Map

T1 - Temple Entrance

As the party enter, they will find the room they enter into to be warm and well lit. Three large braziers line the walls to either side of the room, without any source of fuel, and giving off no smoke. Ahead of them, they see a set of steps leading to another door, this one leading further into the temple. Behind them is the exit, and ahead; the entrance to T2.

Any examination of the braziers will reveal them to be the homes of individual Fire Motes (statblock below), tiny fire elemental creatures, who do not appear to be hostile in any way. These Motes have been charged with keeping the fires lit, and nothing else.

T2 - The Central Room

The central room itself is a grand hall. In a palace, it would easily be the throne room, or a banquet hall for nobles. As it stands, it is nearly empty, save for 6 doors leading out of it, 5 of which are bordered by a pair of unlit braziers, the final one of which leads back to T1, and out of the temple.

To each side of the room, there are two pairs of open double doors. These lead to E1, W1, F1 and A1, and the braziers either side of each bears an image to represent an element (the element that the doorway leads into). The final door to the north is up another set of steps, and the braziers to either side bear no image at all. This door leads to T3, and only opens after all of the other braziers in the room are lit (which happens when the elemental foe in each path are defeated).

The Earth Path

E1 - Earth Puzzle Room

When the party first enters this chamber, they will find themselves faced with two things; firstly, they will see a large platform in the centre of the room, above a 20 ft. deep pit, made up of tiles adorned with symbols. Secondly, they will see, in large lettering, on the opposite wall, the phrase; “Walk with your feet firmly on earth, and you will proceed safely”.

The symbols on the tiled section of floor are each connected to an element; earth, fire, water or air/wind. To proceed through this room, the party must walk on each of the tiles bearing a symbol for “Earth”, which will open the door to the next room. Touching or standing on any tile other than “Earth” will cause the whole room to reset (the “Earth” tiles will light up after being stood on, and will stop if something else is stood on), and will cause an adverse effect to the creature touching it.

Touching a “Water” tile will cause the tile itself to turn into water, magically hovering in place. Any creature putting weight onto it must make a DC 15 dexterity saving throw, or fall through and into the pit underneath (20ft. drop, dealing 2d6 bludgeoning damage). Passing this save allows a creature to either hop back onto the tile they were currently on, or onto any other adjoining tile to the “water” tile.

If an “Air” tile is activated, a sudden, powerful, gust of air will blow from the eastern wall of the chamber, towards the west. Any creature in the room must make a strength saving throw, DC 15, or be pushed off of their feet to the western wall (taking 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet blown). On a success, the creature can remain in place and move either north, west or south, but cannot move east, towards the source of the wind. This wind continues until the tile is no longer being touched.

When “Fire” tiles are touched, they suddenly spout flames in a 5 food diameter cylinder centered on the centre point of the tile, that is 15ft. high. Any creature in the range of this flame takes 3d6 fire damage for every round (6 seconds) they spend standing on it. This flame disappears as soon as the pressure on the tile has been removed.

The Symbols

There are a number of different symbols to represent each element (4 for earth, fire and water, 3 for air). These are as follows;

Earth Symbols:

  • 🜃 = Alchemical symbol for Earth

  • ᛥ = Anglo-Saxon rune, Stan, which means stone

  • 土 = Japanese Kanji for Earth

  • ☷ = Taoist Trigram for Earth

Fire Symbols:

  • 🜂 = Alchemical symbol for Fire

  • ᚳ = Anglo-Saxon rune, cēn, which means torch

  • 火 = Japanese Kanji for Fire

  • ☲ = Taoist Trigram for (heart of) Fire

Water Symbols:

  • 🜄 = Alchemical symbol for Water

  • ᛚ = Anglo-Saxon rune, lagu, which means lake

  • 水 = Japanese Kanji for Water

  • ☵ = Taoist Trigram for Water

Air Symbols:

  • 🜁 = Alchemical symbol for Air

  • 風 = Japanese Kanji for Wind

  • ☴ = Taoist Trigram for Wind

Obviously, you can claim the Kanji, Taoist Trigrams and Runes to be belonging to any language/religion from within your fantasy world, rather than their real-world counterparts.

The party can attempt skill checks to dry and decipher elements of the puzzle. An Intelligence (Arcana) check, DC 16, will reveal the presence of Runes and Alchemic Symbols, as well as each of their meanings. An Intelligence (history) check can reveal the Kanji, with the same DC as the arcana check. Likewise, the Taoist symbols can be deciphered by an Intelligence (religion) check, DC 16. 

Characters without backgrounds in these areas can also aid, by studying the symbols themselves. A DC 14 Intelligence (investigation) or Wisdom (perception) check will be enough to reveal that there are four sets of symbols (each either 3 or 4 different symbols), and the number of each of them. If the party needs help in this, suggest that they find a small pile of rocks by the door that they can use to trigger a tile or two.

The correct tiles are:

The correct (safe) tiles in red

E2 - Earth Elemental Fight

Standing in the centre of the room, motionless, is the figure of an Earth Elemental (basic rules - p125). As soon as a character enters the room, it begins to move - as if waking up from a long slumber. It will be hostile to any creature within E2, and after it has fully awakened, the door to the room will completely shut, sealing and locking itself with an arcane lock spell. This spell is dispelled when either no creatures inside the room (except for the elementals) are living, or the elemental creatures inside are defeated.

As soon as the Earth Elemental wakes up, 4 Earth Motes (statblock below) will spring from the ground, hostile to the party. As each Elemental creature inside is defeated, their body will crumble to dust, which will fly through the air, and towards the braziers outside of the room. When all enemies are defeated, and the door unlocks, the braziers outside of the Earth Path will light with a deep red flame.

Fire Path

F1 - Fire Puzzle Room

When the party first enters F1, they will find two lit braziers, with bright yellow flames burning in them either side of the door, and they will see a wall of fire blocking the only other exit to the room. In large writing along one wall, they will see the words; “Fire consumes all, except for itself.”. The only way to pass through the wall of fire is to place their hand (or any body part) into one of the two braziers, allowing the flame to touch their skin, and spread to their whole body. Upon touching a flame, a creature's whole body will become covered in a veil of fire, dealing 2d6 fire damage to them a single time.

If the players want to search the room for any kind of clue/hint, a wisdom (perception) or intelligence (investigation) check, DC 14, will reveal that the fire in the braziers appear to be the exact same shade of orange as the wall of fire, and that they seem to pulse exactly in time with one another. A Detect Magic spell will reveal that the two braziers and the wall of fire are linked to one another, and that they all radiate an aura of transmutation, evocation and enchantment at once.

If a creature approaches the wall of fire blocking the way to F2 without having done this, the heat will render them unable to pass through. If a creature gets within 5ft. of the wall without having become covered in flames, they will take 5d8 fire damage per round spent there.

If a creature cloaked in fire approaches the fire barrier, the flames will begin to reach out to one another, allowing the creature to pass through safely, without dealing any more damage to them. They emerge on the other side of the wall of fire completely unharmed, and no longer covered in flames. On this side of the wall, they take no damage from being near it.

F2 - Fire Elemental Fight

As the door to F2 opens, the party will see a pair of lit braziers on a platform, surrounded on three sides by lava. There will be no enemies or creatures visible inside, but the lava will begin to bubble, and the flames will start to flicker higher. After a party member enters the room, the door will begin to shut (taking two rounds to do so), and the remaining members will have to decide which side they would like to remain on. The door cannot be stopped through any means, and becomes sealed by an arcane lock upon closure.

The door will not reopen until either no creatures inside the room (except for the elementals) are living, or the elemental creatures inside are defeated.

As soon as the door closes, a single fire elemental (basic rules - p126) will rise from the bubbling pool of lava, and four fire motes will appear from the flames in the braziers (two from each flame). They will be immediately hostile towards any non-elemental creature in the room, and will fight to the death. Upon death, the elemental creatures in this room turn to small embers which float out of the door, and towards the braziers outside of the room. When all enemies are defeated, and the door unlocks, the braziers outside of the Fire Path will light with a bright orange flame, and the wall of fire in F1 will disappear.

Water Path

W1 - Water Puzzle Room

The floor of W1 is completely flooded, and is accessed by descending a set of steps from C2. The water in this room is roughly 1 foot deep, and a comfortable temperature. The only door leading out of the room is on the south wall, and it is completely sealed shut, unable to be opened through any means. Above the door, there are words on the wall; “Speak these words, and take a deep breath.”. As soon as this phrase is said out loud, the door between W1 and C2 begins to shut, taking 2 rounds to do so, allowing any other party members to either stay in, or leave. Once this door is shut, it cannot be re-opened through any means.

As soon as the door is shut, the room begins to fill with water from the drain in the centre. Within 30 seconds, the room is completely full with water, and the players will be unable to find any air pockets. The original wording on the wall will have changed (and this can be noticed if the party either specifically states that they re-read it, or they succeed a DC 14 wisdom (perception) check to search the room, and it now states; “Take a deep breath, and speak open.”.

The party can actually breathe the water in this room, as it acts as a potion of water breathing (but will lose this effect if taken out of the room), but don’t tell them this. When a character reaches its limit of breath, treat it as suffocating as normal, as they will still be attempting to keep their mouths shut. Only after they become unconscious (or attempt to breathe the water) allow them to stabilize. To open the door to W2, a creature only needs to stand/float in front of it, and say “Open” in any language. The room will suddenly begin to drain, and the door to W2 will open, though the door to C2 will remain closed.

If the party cast the spell Detect Magic in here whilst the water is filling the room, it will pick up that the water itself gives off a faint aura of transmutation magic. A successful wisdom (nature) check, DC 15, will also reveal that something is strange about the water, and that it is not completely natural, and could have something else added to it.

W2 - Water Elemental Fight

As the door to W2 opens, the players will be able to see a platform inside, surrounded on 3 sides with a pool of water. Just after the door opens, the water will begin to rise in parts, and 4 Water Motes (statblock below) and 1 Water Elemental (basic rules - p158) will emerge, and begin to move towards the party. Upon death, the elemental creatures in this room turn to small clouds of mist, which float out of the door, and towards the braziers outside of the room. When all enemies are defeated, the door between W1 and C2 unlocks, and the braziers outside of the Water Path will light with a deep blue flame.

Air Path

A1 - Air Puzzle Room

Inside the room A1, the party will quickly find themselves standing on a ledge, above a 30ft. deep drop to the floor. This ledge is sturdy, and continues around to the south side of the room.  To the northern end of the room, there is another platform, upon with the door to A2 is located, but there is seemingly no way to get from one side to the other.

At the end of the ledge to the south, there is a small stone pillar, on which words are carved; “Step towards your goal, and look not down.”. To cross the gap between the two, a character simply has to step off the southern ledge, and walk to the northern one. As they step, platforms made from air/clouds will appear underneath their feet. If a character looks down (if a player says they do this, for whatever reason) the platforms will instantly dissipate, causing the character to fall. Once a creature reaches the halfway point, a power in the room will cause them to want to look down. A creature must succeed a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw, or be forced to look at the ground and plummet. On a success, they shake off the feeling, and continue to cross. A creature falling takes 3d6 bludgeoning damage on impact with the ground. 

If a player wants to examine the room, a DC 15 wisdom (perception) or intelligence (investigation) check will reveal that there are a number of small clouds floating around the room.  An intelligence (arcana) check, DC 15, will reveal these clouds to be of magical origin. If Detect Magic is cast, it will reveal the clouds to have some kind of enchantment spell cast on them.

A2 - Air Elemental Fight

The room A2 is almost completely empty, save for 4 vents on the ground, one in each corner. As soon as the first creature enters the room, wind will begin to blow out of these vents, creating quite a loud noise as it does so. As well as the wind beginning to blow, the door will begin to shut (taking two rounds to do so), and the remaining party members will have to decide which side they would like to remain on. The door cannot be stopped through any means, and becomes sealed by an arcane lock upon closure. The door will not reopen until either no creatures inside the room (except for the elementals) are living, or the elemental creatures inside are defeated.

After the door has sealed, the wind will begin to swirl, taking on 5 distinct shapes, four small ones, and one larger one to the centre of the room. One Air Elemental (basic rules - p116) and four Air Motes (statblock below) will form in the room, and will begin to attack the party. Upon death, the elemental creatures in this room turn to small clouds, which float out of the door, and towards the braziers outside of the room. When all enemies are defeated, and the door unlocks, the braziers outside of the Air Path will light with a bright green flame.

C3 - The Elemental Guardian

After all other paths have been cleared, and the braziers outside of them lit, the final two braziers outside the northern door will begin to burn. They will burn with a bright white flame, which reaches higher than any of the others in the room, and the doors to C3 will open.

Inside C3, there is a single stone figure. In the centre of the room, a large figure, just under 10ft. tall, stands. It appears to be made of some kind of stone, and each of its four arms bears symbols and runes relating to a different element; fire, earth, water and air.

The earth arm appears to be covered with rough hewn rocks, creating a kind of stone armour over the limb. The fire arm is outstretched, and the palm bears an arcane rune for flames. The water arm, similarly, is outstretched, and bearing an arcane rune for water. The air arm rests by the figures side, with its fist clenched around the handle of a scimitar, missing its blade. When the figure begins to move, the air arm will create a large blade made of air in the scimitar handle, which the party will be able to see.

As soon as any member of the party crosses the threshold of the room, the figure will begin to move. It will be instantly hostile to the party, and will do as its creator had intended years before; protect the treasure. It will attempt to stop any/all attempts at removing the treasure in the chest at the top of this room, and will block the party from attempting to leave should they manage to gain possession of it.

If you are running this adventure for slightly higher level parties, You may want to consider making this combat tougher though the inclusion of the following Lair Actions. 

Lair Actions

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), the Elemental Guardian takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects; the guardian can’t use the same effect two rounds in a row:

  • The guardian can summon 4 elemental motes, of any variety, in any space within 20 ft. of its body.

  • The guardian absorbs any elemental motes remaining in the room, converting any hit points they may have into temporary hit points for it.

  • The entire room begins to shave violently, each creature other than the guardian on the ground must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or be knocked prone.

Earth Mote Statblock

Fire Mote Statblock

Water Mote Statblock

Air Mote Statblock

Elemental Guardian Statblock

The Map - No Grid

The Map - With Grid (40x40)

Earth Puzzle Handout (in Blue)

Earth Puzzle Handout (in Black)