Our expert judges have conferred, and we have our five finalists for the Enter the Dragon’s Lair contest! Each day this week, we’ll post one of the finalists, and then we’ll set up a voting process so that you, our readers, can vote for your favorite entry. Our next entry comes from Stephen Rowe—congratulations, Stephen, for joining our other three finalists with your entry!
Lair of the Toymaker
Background: In Bemmea, magical playthings and trinkets of questionable quality are all too common. Natives leave such dross for the tourists, and seek only the work of the Toymaker for their children.
All would be stunned to learn that the mysterious recluse is no man or mage. Sanadeen, the Toymaker, is a copper dragon claiming the ancient tunnels that survived the Isonade’s touch. After losing his mate, the depressed dragon spent many human lifetimes finding solace in creative arts originally meant to delight his wyrmlings. His lair filled with the fruits of his labor— from intricate dancing constructs, to ridiculously colored rubber balls that never ceased bouncing.
Everything changed when Tessa wandered too deep into the bowels of the city. The street urchin was simply seeking an unclaimed haven, but stumbled upon a treasure trove of fantastic toys. Drawn to the sounds of laughter, Sanadeen discovered a dirty little human girl rifling through his hoard. She ran to hug his great scaled leg, and his heart melted.
Tessa grew into a woman, but never left Sanadeen’s side. The dragon taught his adopted daughter everything he knew, and she convinced him to share his toys with the world above. They were happy, and made happier by the joy they gave to others.
Tessa aged, and Sanadeen watched as his only child died an inch at a time. When her mind began to fail, he swore to not stand idle as he lost his family again. Mortals are just such a flimsy design.
He could do better.
Bemmea has been shocked by a series of recent disappearances. A dozen elderly men and women simply vanished from their homes. Divinations fail to produce any meaningful results, and the guardian elementals appear unable to protect the populace. The city’s mages are at a loss, and their powerlessness steadily undermines their authority.
They need someone discrete to find out what is happening, and quickly.
Toymaker’s Lair (CR 18)
The great cavernous chamber arcs high overhead with a combination of ancient buried architecture, and unnaturally smooth stone walls. Flickering continual flames give the space an oddly comfortable feel. Scattered throughout the area are thousands of magical children’s toys of varying size, shape, and color— from singing stuffed bears, to wands shooting pretty lights, and tops that never stop spinning. Standing in various frozen positions are a dozen life-sized wooden dolls of old men and women with dead glass eyes. Haunting sounds echo out from a small music box next to a lavish bed, where an old woman sleeps.
Sanadeen sneaks into the city at night to kidnap elderly people for the creation of soulbound mannequins (B4). The copper dragon practices for the construction of a soulbound shell (B4) to house Tessa’s spirit. He learns a little more with each crafting, but is procrastinating for fear of failure. He has preserved his senile daughter in a state of permanent rest using an apple of eternal sleep (UE), until he is fully prepared.
The Toymaker is no fool. Sanadeen knows it is only a matter of time before he is discovered. He sets the mannequins to defend his lair, and repurposes toys into deadly obstacles. The PCs must battle through the dragon’s many clever traps and constructs within the surrounding tunnels to reach his inner sanctum.
Knowledge (arcana): A DC 17 check reveals the life-sized dolls to be soulbound mannequins.
Knowledge (local): A DC 15 check allows the PC to recognize one or more of the soulbound mannequins as having an eerie similarity to the kidnapped victims.
Traps: Sanadeen has created delightful children’s toys for centuries, but as Tessa’s health steadily worsens, his work takes a dark turn. His traps still carry a disconcertingly whimsical element to them, but are no less deadly for it. Six jacks in a box have been inset into the floor behind trap doors, while three greased slides with reverse gravity spells unceremoniously shoot adventurers out of Sanadeen’s lair to painfully slam into cavernous ceilings.
JACK IN THE BOX TRAP (6) CR 6
Type mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device DC 25
Trigger proximity (10-feet); Reset automatic
Effect Atk +20 melee (4d6+6); the colorful clown-headed jack in the box springs from a trap door to lock metal jaws around a creature and draw them back in. If the jack hits, it makes a grapple attempt using its attack bonus. If it succeeds, the creature is drawn into its box and held immobile. The creature may free themselves with a DC 25 Disable Device check, DC 27 Escape Artist check, or a DC 26 Strength check.
GREASED SLIDE TRAP (3) CR 7
Type mechanical; Perception DC 30; Disable Device DC 20
Trigger location; Reset automatic
Effect Greased chute that drops victims at a sharp incline, and deposits them at the bottom of a reverse gravity spell effect, shooting them up another greased slide, into a ceiling for 6d6 damage; DC 25 Reflex avoids.
Creatures: In addition to Sanadeen, there are 12 soulbound mannequins scattered throughout the chamber that animate and attack as the PCs enter. The mannequins are cunning enough to avoid the traps within the lair, and even use them to their advantage.
Clever or silver-tongued PCs may potentially reason with Sanadeen, but only after surrendering or otherwise making it clear they are no threat to Tessa. Sanadeen begins with an attitude of unfriendly.
SOULBOUND MANNEQUINS (12) CR 7
N Medium construct
hp 85 (10d10+30) (B4)
Melee 2 claws +15 (1d8+4 plus grab)
Before Combat The soulbound mannequins all keep various entrances to the lair warded with alarm spells, and use disguise self to take on a semblance of the appearance each had in life.
During Combat The mannequins chiefly work to harry the PCs, herding or luring them into traps, attacking when possible, and buying time for Sanadeen to prepare. The mannequins are armed with banshee ballerina fireworks (UE) and tanglefoot bags to entangle and deafen.
Morale The mannequins fight until destroyed.
SANADEEN CR 17
hp 310 (23d12+161) (B1)
Melee bite +32 (2d8+16/19-20), 2 claws +32 (2d6+11/19-20), 2 wings +27 (1d8+5), tail slap +27 (2d6+16)
Feats Craft Construct, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Wondrous Item, Improved Critical (bite, claw), Improved Initiative, Improved Vital Strike, Power Attack, Quicken Spell, Spell Focus (illusion), Vital Strike
Skills Bluff +32, Craft (alchemy +32), Craft (sculptures) +32, Craft (toys) +32, Craft (traps) +42, Diplomacy +32, Fly +18, Perception +32, Perform (comedy) +29, Sense Motive +32, Spellcraft +32, Stealth +18
Before Combat Sanadeen allows his mannequins and traps to delay the intruders long enough to cast stoneskin, shield, and invisibility. He stealthily crawls into his lair from his workshop by climbing on the ceiling high above.
During Combat Sanadeen prefers capturing the PCs for use in his experiments, or otherwise hopes that the traps and mannequins can dissuade invaders. He uses wall of stone to encourage them into the jack in the box traps, and creates programmed images over the traps to deceive with illusions of allies dying horrible bloody deaths when they are only ensnared. Sanadeen attacks more overtly if discovered or if Tessa is threatened, moving to defend her. He casts mind fog and suggestion to convince PCs to flee into traps, and reverse gravity to disorient and immobilize. He avoids using his acidic breath weapon for fear of destroying his toys, and prefers tearing invaders limb from limb over telling jokes.
Morale If Sanadeen is reduced to ½ HP or less, he teleports away with Tessa. If prevented from teleporting, he fights to the death to defend her.
Developments: Sanadeen wastes no time in finding a new location to continue his work when forced to flee, and many more die before he gains the confidence he needs. However, the kidnappings within Bemmea cease. Without Sanadeen to save her, Tessa eventually succumbs to her age. PCs who reason with the desperate dragon can potentially help him to save the dying woman, without needlessly sacrificing more lives.
Story Award: If the PCs manage to reason with Sanadeen and help him save Tessa, they receive an additional 50,000 XP.
Treasure: Sanadeen’s hoard is a treasure trove of fabulous toys and magical devices that parents or organizations would pay handsomely for. The hoard of magical toys can be appraised as having a 103,000 gp total price. Also scattered about the room are a bag of tricks (tan), a folding boat, a figurine of wondrous power (onyx dog), marvelous pigments, a scroll of break enchantment, and a trap-stealer’s rod (UE). Sanadeen offers his hoard as reward for saving Tessa.