Some locations—the wizard’s tower, the sunken temple, the haunted house—appear repeatedly in stories and adventures. In this series, we’ll explore the archetypal lost temple, playing with or defying tropes, and presenting rules and ideas to bring these locales to life and to set you up for success when putting them into your game.
There’s Good Stuff Down There!
Perhaps the biggest motivators for your intrepid adventurers to descend into a forgotten temple is simple greed. Temples to lost gods are sure to have something, whether (un)holy relics, magical tributes to forgotten gods, or technology and trinkets lost to time.
This installment details a few legendary items pertaining to some recurring themes we’ve seen in this series. Like any good relic, even if they answer a question, they also pose a few new ones to start stories all their own.
From the Serpent God’s Temple
The serpentine chain might have once suited this forgotten deity’s high priest. It’s not an intelligent item, but the way each head interacts with the wearer is curious. Was this once much more than it appears to be? And, were its faith rekindled, might it be more again?
Wondrous Item, Legendary (Requires Attunement)
This lengthy, thick golden chain has a snake head at each end. When you drape it around your neck, it comes to life, each end writhing over your shoulders to coil around each bicep. It remains firmly in place, and each snake head occasionally hisses independently, only audible to you.
While wearing the serpentine chain you may speak with serpents as with the speak with animals spell.
When you are hit by a melee attack, you can allow either snake heads to animate and bite your attacker as a reaction. The bite forces the target to make a DC 20 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, the target takes 3d8 poison damage and is poisoned. On a success, it takes only half the damage.
Speaking a command word to the right snake head allows you to summon an insect plague of biting snakes in a 20-foot-radius area on the ground.
When you speak a different command word to the left snake head, you transform into a giant constrictor snake for 1 minute. This functions otherwise as a druid’s Wild Shape feature.
Once used, a command word cannot be used again until after you finish a long rest.
From the Sunken Temple
The folgos cannon could be found in a submerged city, sunk by some catastrophe, but with some of its magical technology left behind. Can explorers determine if the civilization’s technology helped protect it—or ultimately doomed it?
This wand consists of a long crystalline shaft encased in green wood and copper cords. A bulky apparatus at one end resembles a glass retort covered in shells. Under it, an intricate wooden handle has a trigger lever.
The wand is inert until the retort is filled with seawater. Once filled, the wand hums with energy and electric light flickers in the crystalline shaft. A full retort grants the folgos cannon 3 charges.
When active, you can pull the trigger as an action and expend charges to fire the folgos cannon.
For 1 charge, you aim the arcing electricity around the crystals and copper into a lightning arrow, dealing 6d8 lightning damage to the target on a successful ranged attack (and half as much damage if you miss) and 4d8 lightning damage to creatures within 10 feet of the target, or half as much damage on a successful DC 20 Dexterity save.
The folgos cannon becomes unstable if not given 1 round to cool down between shots. If fired again in successive rounds, roll a 1d20 at the end of your turn. On a 1, the folgos cannon explodes, destroying it. Creatures and objects within a 15-foot-radius of you must make DC 20 Dexterity saves (objects automatically fail) or take 10d6 lightning damage, or half as much on a successful save.
The folgos cannon regains 1 charge for each round spent filling it with seawater, to a maximum of 3 charges.
From the Forgotten Temple to Unknowable Gods
The brain needle is a disturbing, potent tool in the right (or wrong) hands. While it appears to be a modestly advanced bit of medical apparatus, some eldritch process converts the blood and tissue extracted from an intelligent brain into something . . . else. Who were these forgotten cultists to devise and use such a thing?
Wondrous Item, Legendary
This syringe is made of a strange alloy that defies identification. Its glass encasement is etched with runes of unknown provenance and an anatomical rendering of a humanoid brain.
As an action, you may attempt a melee strike to plunge the brain needle into a creature’s skull. If the creature resists, you must successfully grapple (or otherwise incapacitate) it to use the syringe each round you continue using the syringe. The brain needle inflicts 1d8 piercing damage each round and removes some of the creature’s cranial viscera until the target is reduced to 0 hp, at which point it dies.
If the creature was a Humanoid with an Intelligence score of 3 or more, the extracted blood and tissue in the brain needle coalesces into a sickly glowing green fluid.
As an action, you can inject the brain fluid into yourself. For 24 hours, you gain abilities based on the Intelligence score of the creature you last drained, and the cumulative abilities from lower Intelligence tiers as well.
|Intelligence Score of Drained Creature||Benefit|
|2 or less, or non-Humanoid||None|
|3+||You gain the knowledge to read and speak an additional number of languages equal to your Intelligence modifier. Additionally, your Intelligence-based skills benefit from the Expertise bard feature.|
|9–12||Your senses sharpen. You gain 30 feet darkvision and the Alert feat.|
|13–15||You have advantage on saving throws against illusion and enchantment spells. Additionally, you may use detect magic and see invisibility at will.|
|16–17||You can use true seeing for up to 1 hour. After that, you cannot use it again until you complete a short or long rest.|
|18+||Your warped mind permits you to access remote, unknown, and potentially dangerous knowledge. You may obtain answers to questions as contact other plane, without contacting an outside entity. Otherwise, this functions identically to the spell, with the same chance of being driven mad by your mental alterations. You may use this ability once every 24 hours.|
At the end of the 24 hours, you lose all listed abilities and enter withdrawal. You are poisoned until you inject yourself with serum from the brain needle again. You can stave off the withdrawal effect with a successful DC 20 Constitution save every 24 hours. Without using the brain needle, only spells or effects that lift curses can end the withdrawal effect permanently.
Ready to make your own forgotten temple adventure? The Kobold Guide to Dungeons provides deep insight on the hows and whys of dungeon design. Expert game designers like David “Zeb” Cook, Dominique Dickey, and James Sutter help make your dungeons more interesting, more challenging, and more FUN.
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