The Mad Mage’s Grave – An Adventure

u/PantherophisNiger ’s project of a group of us creating different dungeons or adventures from the same prompt continues. The prompt:

“A ruined and abandoned magical college that is now inhabited by bandits that have to be careful about the weird magical crap laying around.” Thanks to u/CaonGladius for the awesome prompt!

PCs find themselves hired by a wealthy and curious mage who something from an “abandoned” mage college. Since the bandits keep a low profile, I recommend their presence in the old college being a surprise to the PCs if they haven’t properly scouted it.

Side note: u/PantherophisNiger also made an adventure of her own based on the prompt: Anherst University of Magic: https://www.reddit.com/r/DnDBehindTheScreen/comments/d9jxuq/anherst_university_of_magic_an_adventure_in_an/

Enjoy!

Backstory

The locals of Dundvol know the truth: an other-worldly infection among the magically inclined drove the people in the mage college mad. Every professor and student caught it, and those who survived eventually stumbled into the surrounding wilderness, shouting words with no meaning to anyone but the mad. Even the magically inclined within Dundvol caught it, and that’s why they have no mages in town.

Now, the college is a deathtrap, a chaotic gathering of seemingly nonsensical enchantments and improbable events. This makes it a perfect place for bandits to hide out, now that they’ve learned the patterns and nuances that guide the magic. The people of Dundvol call the old college The Mad Mage’s Grave, unaware bandits have taken over the facility.

Somewhere in the old college, the source of the enchantments resides. A magnificent purple stone the size of a warhorse and twice as heavy keeps the constant magic empowering the area active. No one is sure how to utilize its strange power, but a particular wizard is willing to pay good gold to have it delivered so they can find out.

The Outer Grounds

The college is about a mile from the town of Dundvol. Dense woods around the college make a stealthy approach easy until reaching the large, well-kept clearing around the college.

The college is a triangular, two-story tall building with a sheltered courtyard in the center. A large dilapidated barn starts 100 ft. to the west of the college.

The grounds surrounding the old college are as dangerous as the interior. The enchanted scythes, clippers, and other equipment that regularly kept the grounds clean devolved an obsessive habit of constantly roaming the grounds, keeping the grass short, the bushes round, and the flowers watered. They also turn anything that disrupts the grounds into fertilizer.

Perception thresholds:

  • Low: Enchanted scythes swing frantically, keeping the grass short. Hedge clippers snip at bushes, keeping them trimmed. Massive, barrel-sized watering cans keep the grounds perfectly moist. All of them frantically move around the college, with no pattern to their quick movements.

  • Med: Above, and they notice that even small disturbances- such as a squirrel removing a fallen nut from the lawn- causes nearby enchanted tools to fix the disturbance and possibly attack the disturber.

  • High: Above, and there is a pattern to the seemingly chaotic paths the lawn equipment follows. In addition, bandits have an array of curious items that are readily available on their belts, such as glowing mushrooms, a thick, solid black cloth, and jars containing different sources of light. Those who appear to be in higher positions of power among the bandits have more items on their belt.

Inside the College

The windows of the college are blacked out, making it difficult to know where in the college they are entering. However, the bandits tend to stay away from the windows for fear of the aggressive lawn care equipment, even though it will not follow people into the college.

Whether coming through a window, door, making a hole in the wall, or teleporting inside, people entering the college always arrive in the hallway. Windows facing the inside show the center courtyard. All doorways in the hall open to reveal stairs leading down to the basement, regardless of their placement.

The bandits work in night and day shifts, so there’s always a chance to run into one or a gathering of bandits. Since the college is difficult to navigate, security is minimal. How difficult the traversing the college is or how often bandits roam is fluid and up to the DM to best fill the needs of the group.

The floor of the college is black and dark green marble. The swirling colors of the marble appear random; however, close inspection may reveal that specific portions create teleport runes. The DM decides where in an area these runes are. These runes transport anyone or anything touching them to another location. However, specific runes do not lead to specific locations. The light source on the rune determines where it teleports the person or object touching it:

  • Firelight (magical or non-magical) | Basement

  • Sunlight (magical or non-magical) | Barn

  • Organic light (fireflies, bioluminescent plants/animals (non-magical)) | Courtyard

  • Fae light (starlight, lightning (magical or non-magical)) | Barracks

  • Moonlight (magical or non-magical) | Treasure room

  • Darkness or dim light (no light, magical darkness, very dim light) | Dining hall/kitchen

The basement, barn, and courtyard are accessible through teleportation runes or through physical means. The Barracks, treasure room, and kitchen exist out of phase and are only accessible through teleportation runes.

The floors of all of these areas are the same black and dark green marble, allowing for multiple hidden teleporting runes.

Firelight:

When illuminated by firelight (magical or non-magical), the teleporter takes the person or object standing on it to the basement.

Originally, the basement was the college’s laboratory. Many unlabeled vats of potions and other mysterious mixes are still present, for the bandits fear what the mixtures can do. Currently, the basement functions as the bandit’s armory and storage facility. There’s usually a group of people retrieving or organizing equipment and items in there. Thus, this room has many mundane items players may be able to utilize, including using armor and clothing as a disguise.

In addition, this room has several unlabeled vats of potions. The available liquids Red, green, purple, blue, black, and clear. Players can bottle them and use them as potions, the effects triggering when consumed.

Roll 1d6 to determine what that color of potion does. Multiple colors could end up having the same effect. If so, change the strength of its power. For example: if 2 potions heal, 1 heals HP and the other offers temporary hit points. If 2 potions enhance strength, 1 can boost physical strength while the other boots fortitude.

  1. Magic resisting

  2. Strength enhancing

  3. Healing

  4. Sense enhancing

  5. Toxic (poison damage)

  6. Exhilarating (intense drug trip)

Roll 1d4 to determine the effects of the drug trip:

  1. Hallucinations (penalty to perception)

  2. Numb and euphoric (penalty to physical actions)

  3. Truthful and spacy (penalty to social actions)

  4. Existential dread (penalty to mental actions)

PCs are mostly likely to run into bandits here during the morning and least likely during the afternoon. Bandits are likely to be unarmed and unarmored.

Sunlight:

When illuminated by sunlight (magical or non-magical), the teleporter takes the person or object standing on it to the barn.

The college built the barn to house magical and dangerous creatures, such as griffons and hydras. This means the barn is far bigger than a normal livestock barn, with pens comparable to the size of a small grazing field. The bandits use it to house their livestock, giving them plenty of space to roam in the barn. Keeping their livestock inside means no one can see the livestock from outside, making the college look abandoned.

The most common animals are chickens, cows, and goats. Two dire goats herd all of the livestock into their respective sections. The dire goats are territorial and will be hostile toward intruders. The territorial dire goats are passive toward the bandits but can be aggressive if provoked or goaded in some way.

Several pens do not have animals and are used to grow crops. Mirrors reflect the sunlight into the barn for the plants and animals, but watering is done by hand.

PCs are mostly likely to run into bandits here during the morning and least likely during the afternoon. Bandits are lightly armed with a 50% chance of being well-armored (bandits who wear armor do so because they fear the dire goats).

Organic light:

When illuminated by organic light (fireflies, bioluminescent plants/animals (non-magical)), the teleporter takes the person or object standing on it to the courtyard in the center of the college.

This enclosed triangular shaped courtyard has no ceiling. Once, this was the college’s field for everyone’s favorite wizardly sport. Now it’s used as a training ground for the bandits. As such, it is usually full of bandits laden with equipment and items strewn around the courtyard, depending on what they’re working on that day.

There will be a minimum of least five bandits in the courtyard, regardless of the time.

If a PC is using a disguise, they get a small bonus to not looking suspicious while in the courtyard.

PCs are mostly likely to run into bandits here during the afternoon and least likely during the evening. Bandits are likely to be fully armed and armored.

Fae light:

When illuminated by fae light (starlight, lightning (magical or non-magical)), the teleporter takes the person or object standing on it to the hallway for the living quarters.

The rooms off the hallway were once classrooms. Now they operate as living quarters. New and less important bandits have 4 to a room, entitled bandits share a room with one other bandit, and the leaders have rooms to themselves. The larger former classrooms are used for common areas.

The straight hallway exists slightly out of phase. The end of one hall leads to the other side, making it an infinite loop (even though the hall is straight).

PCs are mostly likely to run into bandits here during the night and least likely during the morning. Bandits are likely armed but have no armor.

Darkness/dim light:

When the teleporter is in darkness or dim light (magical or non-magical), it takes the person or object standing on it to the dining hall and kitchen.

Tables line the dining hall, creating 4 rows of long tables that stretch across the large room. Since it exists out of phase, the windows do not show daylight. Instead, a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, lights, patterns, and textures swirl beyond the windows. PCs with chaotic personalities feel fine here, those with more orderly ones feel uneasy, making anything involving concentration difficult.

The kitchen is a chaotic explosion of flames and enchanted equipment. While it cannot produce food, placing food near the kitchen allows the enchanted equipment to use it to make food. No one is ever sure what the kitchen will prepare, but it’s always making something. The bandits learned the hard way that when it runs out of ingredients, it uses whatever is near. They’ve kept the kitchen well stocked ever since.

While enchanted knives, pots, and other cooking utensils make the food, enchanted trays, carts, bowls, teakettles, pitchers, serving cutlery, and other objects roam the dining hall, serving food to anyone who enters. They act as servants, offering fresh food and beverages to everyone in the dining hall.

The biggest danger is not the bandits. The serving items believe in manners above all else, and they will become hostile to anyone who does not act polite within the dining hall and kitchen. This includes things as small as not saying “please and thank you” or as large as engaging in a physical altercation, regardless of who started the fight. The bandits will not engage the PCs in any way beyond having a conversation. The bandits know that even if the PCs attack them, they must not fight back, because they know what the enchanted equipment does to rude people (kill them and turn them into part of the next meal). Thus, even if discovered, the bandits will play nice with the PCs so long as they’re in the dining hall or kitchen.

If engaged, the enchanted objects should be a difficult fight. While specific items can be beaten, the vast amount of objects means the PCs cannot win the fight by force. The enchanted objects will accept sincere apologies.

PCs are mostly likely to run into bandits here during the evening and least likely during the night. Bandits are likely to be lightly armed and not armored. Most fear looking threatening to the kitchen “staff.”

Moonlight

When illuminated by moonlight, the teleporter takes the person or object standing on it to the treasure room.

The teleporter to this room always places people before the door. The door is secured by a challenge that best suits the DM’s intentions. This can be a puzzle lock, enchanted guard statues, or bandit guards.

After they open the door, an alarm will trip unless a PC makes a high perception-based check or another check specifically looking for traps.

The treasure room is full of random items that were once mundane but now have a strange magical effect from the chaotic magic of the college. You can make your own appropriate items, or have fun with the WTF Is My Ridiculous Magic Item Generator at rexiconjesse.github.io.

Unless they are guards or gathering goods, bandits rarely congregate in the treasure room. They will be fully armed and armored. They never know what the magic items might do or conjure.

The Purple Stone

The purple stone resides in one of the 3 areas that exist out of phase (DM’s choice). Whether retrieving it requires fighting off hordes of bandits or outsmarting them is up to the DM.

Retrieving the purple stone is a test of might, skill, and resourcefulness.

First, the stone is incredibly heavy and cumbersome. It acts and feels as if it is full of liquid, and even a slight shift causes the liquid to shift as though it is moving violently. Even if a character, animal, or device can lift or carry it, it makes movement slow and difficult. This should make the initial moving of it and the entire escape difficult, especially if bandits pursue them.

Second, when anything removes the purple stone from its place, all of the magic within and around the college ceases. Since the purple stone is in an area that is out of phase, the teleporter no longer works, trapping them. They can reactivate all of the magic by placing the purple stone back in its place.

Players must figure out a way to get out of the room with the purple stone. PCs can possibly use one of these options regardless of their abilities:

  • AVERAGE MAGIC ITEM: A bandit who was planning to steal a few items from the treasure room has a spell scroll. It creates a hole in two places that instantly connect to each other. PCs can find the scroll either on the bandit’s person or in their living quarters.

  • POWERFUL MAGIC ITEM: The Wand of Abrodinuon creates a temporary duplicate of an item for 1 hour. If used on the purple stone, power will remain for 1 hour, giving PCs a chance to escape with the real purple stone via the teleporter and keep the magic active for a while. The wand can be found where the DM chooses, though it should be a reward. It has one charge on it.

  • SECRET PASSAGE: The leader of the bandits is paranoid (possibly understandable). They installed a secret dimensional tunnel in the area with the purple stone that leads to the courtyard. The tunnel is well hidden.

Regardless of what method you choose or if the PCs think of a different solution, moving the stone should be an extremely challenging and difficult task. How the PCs approached the situation, such as if they were undetected or slaughtered all of the bandits, will determine the difficulty and challenges they face as they escape.


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