Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Temple of Oblivion – Part 3: The Temple Ruins

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<< Part 2

The campaign began in 2016 as an ad hoc test of Roll20 and an introduction to 5th edition D&D for one of my long-time gaming friends. I never intended it to be a full-on campaign, but more people joined the "playtest" and before I knew it, we were gaming online every week. The party ballooned at one point to 7 players plus 3 NPCs, but by the end, after a series of interpersonal conflicts/meltdowns between some of the players (and, in one instance, between myself and one of the players), the group had shrunk to 3 PCs plus 3 NPC followers. 

Most of the first half of the campaign was fairly free-wheeling, with several different, mostly unrelated adventures. By the second half, however, the party had discovered an evil idol with a curse, and became the quarry of a trio of mind flayers who were after the idol. The curse prevented the party from simply throwing the idol away (it reappeared among their belongings the next day), and also served as a psychic "homing beacon" for the mind flayers as they pursued the party.

The mind flayers already possessed one of the idols after the players missed an opportunity to retrieve it, and were actively using it to summon other aberrations from their alien realm. Working through their human proxies—the Cult of Khoss—the mind flayers harried the party across my campaign world, with the PCs barely staying one step ahead of their pursuers. 

The party discovered the hidden location of a third idol (of three needed to open a dimensional portal), but a moment of carelessness caused one player's NPC follower to fall into the clutches of the cultists, who sussed out the idol's location and secretly implanted the NPC with an intellect devourer (a fact the party never discovered until it was too late). The compromised NPC was allowed to be "rescued," and he rejoined the party as an unwitting and unaware mole.

The party raced the cultists to find the third idol, but failed. As part of that failure—to the players' utter horror—the intellect devourer burst from the NPC's skull, killing him instantly. (Regrettably, this was one of my finest DM moments as the NPC was popular with the players and his grisly death really caught everyone off guard). The loss was even more painful because one of the players had innocently put the NPC in a position to be captured in the first place.

Having gained sufficient levels to take on the enemy, imbued with a burning desire for revenge, and gifted with some inside knowledge from rebel cultists seeking release from their thralldom to the mind flayers, the party decided to end their constant harassment by attacking the source.

Thusly, they came to these ruins and made their way through the secret entrance to the temple complex. Originally, these ruins were intended to be the setting for several low-to-mid-level dungeons, including parts of the Caverns of Thracia, but the party didn't glom on to the site early in the campaign, so I repurposed it for the high-level conclusion instead. The climactic battle would take place within the Temple of Oblivion, where the party would confront the mind flayers who needed all three idols to open the dimensional portal and bring through their elder brain master.

By this point, we were all feeling a bit fatigued. We were more than 110 sessions in when the party made it through the secret entrance shrines, and I was definitely ready to wrap up the campaign and move on to something new. So, I presented the players with a choice of entrances into the pyramidal complex via one of the two smaller pyramids. I then roughed out two gantlet-style point-crawls, rather than developing full-on dungeon levels that might have taken the players another 15–20 sessions (or more) to get through. 

One pyramid was already opened by the mind flayers and full of their thralls. This was a route that was "cleared," but difficult to sneak through without getting noticed. The other pyramid was still sealed and could be opened with the idol the party possessed, but it would require them to overcome the monsters and perils present in the point-crawl dungeon.

They chose to navigate the unopened pyramid (the Temple of Death), so I designed a dozen or so encounters and a path with several detours so as to not make it a completely linear experience. Success in certain areas made it possible to avoid other encounters, whereas failure took them down side-paths that ate up valuable time and resources. The players were aware that the mind flayers' plans were underway, and that the longer the party took to resolve this situation, the more difficult the path forward would become.

I'm not going to post the full point-crawl write-up like I did with the secret entrance shrines, as I'm not terribly proud of using this method, but bits of it were good and I am fairly happy with the encounter design work. I will, however, post a summary of the point-crawl below the cut for those interested in what occurred.

The following is the map and general key for the temple ruins. I'm also including links to a full-sized "clean" version of the map, as well as a version with an isometric grid. I'm extremely proud of this map and regret that I was only able to use it for a short period at the end of the campaign. I hope to repurpose it for a future site, but hopefully it will inspire others to make something of it as well. 

I built it as an homage to one of my fave AD&D modules: I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, as well as the superlative Caverns of Thracia by Jaquays (which I renamed as The Caverns of Eternal Night). In the beginning, I wasn't certain what would go in the Halls of the Ancient Ones, but when I retooled the map for the high-level group, I determined that it would be the extended lair for a nasty beholder, another holdover aberrant god of the ancestors of the hillmen who once lived here. It also fit the eye motif well, which was kind of a happy accident.

The Temple Ruins

>> Full-size "clean" version (no grid)

>> Isometric grid version (scale = 20x20-ft. squares)

General Features
The interior of the temple mound is a squarish ravine, approximately 1,200 ft. across (E–W) by 1,400 ft. long (N–S). The ravine is quarried out into three distinct layers, the lowest of which is about 400 ft. below the ridge line.

  • The eastern and western sections of the ruined Temple City are on this level, as is the Moat surrounding the Pyramid Platform.
  • The tunnels which pass beneath the causeway and connect the two halves of the ruined city are also on this layer.

The second layer is the terrace level, which partially rings the walls of the ravine, approximately 80 ft. above the ravine floor.

  • The Temple Gates, the eastern and western Terrace Ruins, the Causeway, and the Pyramid Platform are all at this level.

The third layer is a steep, terraced slope rising to the ridgeline above.

  • The sheer cliffs are draped with thick vines and scrub.
  • Numerous caves and dark clefts dot the cliff wall, most leading into empty or abandoned chambers, though some may be occupied by various creatures.

Notable Locations

Temple Gates
The entrance to the ravine is bottlenecked by two 60-ft. high cliff escarpments with a narrow pass between them.

  • The mind flayers' hillman thralls have built a 40-ft. high timber palisade to close off the avenue, with two 20-ft. high doors providing ingress.
  • A dozen bowmen watch the entrance from atop the escarpments, which can be reached via stairs carved into the interior cliff.

Hillman Camp
Beyond the gates is a camp of four dozen hide tents and crude lean-tos occupied by up to 100 hillmen, all of whom are psychically-enthralled by the mind flayers and awaiting their ultimate fate as chattel to be devoured.

  • Many fires burn within the camp, covering the area in a pall of hazy smoke.
  • Groups of zombie-like hillmen can be seen standing near the fires, milling listlessly about, or half-heartedly fighting for sport.

Terrace Ruins (East and West)
A wide shelf of natural rock is carved into the south wall of the ravine and continues along the base of the eastern and western walls. Both terraces are built up with clusters of multi-level structures, with courtyards and narrow avenues between.

  • Vines shroud the cliffside ruins, forming a thick canopy above the avenues (which are dimly lit during the day, dark at night).
  • Various dark doorways and openings are cut into the cliff walls along both terraces. At the farthest point of each terrace is an enormous portal.

  • The portal to the west is carved like a demonic face with a gaping maw; before it is a sacrificial platform. This is the entrance to a mystical underworld known as The Caverns of Eternal Night.
  • The portal on the eastern terrace is carved with a temple-like façade, with tall stone doors and an open eye in the lintel above—the entrance to a tomb complex called The Halls of the Ancient Ones.

  • Carved into the terrace wall near each of the portals are stone stairs leading from the top of the terrace down to the ruined city below.

The ravine floor is bisected by a 120-ft. wide stone avenue stretching from the temple gates to the pyramid platform. Rows of tall obelisks line a central path from the Temple Gates to the Pyramid Platform.

  • The surface of the causeway is 80-ft. above the ravine floor.
  • Four wide stone stairways descend from each side of the causeway into the foliage-shrouded ruined city.

  • Five wide tunnels pass under the causeway, joining the east and west sections of the ruined city. The pyramid moat passes through the northernmost tunnel.
  • The causeway is crumbling, and the surface has collapsed into a large hole at the midpoint which spans nearly the entire causeway. Broken passages and chambers can be seen in the collapsed levels below—mostly storehouses and slave quarters, but quite extensive.

Ruined City
To either side of the causeway are the ruins of the greater temple complex—religious buildings, dormitories, and shrines once used by the ancient denizens. These structures are now crumbling and overgrown with thick foliage.

  • Remnants of the ruined city poke through the vegetation, but the true scope of the area remains mostly hidden by the heavy growth.
  • From the heights, the glimmer of water can be glimpsed in places, suggesting that areas of the ruins are partially-flooded.

  • A constant din of croaking frogs, squawking birds, and other unidentifiable bestial sounds is heard from within the ruins.
  • Down in the ruins, at street level, the ravine floor is paved with cracked and weed-choked flagstones. Tumbled pillars and broken statuary lie everywhere.

  • The interconnected buildings, platforms, and gangways form a labyrinth of interior and exterior locations. Vines cover the exterior walls, forming thick canopies overhead and choking the narrow avenues.

  • The northern sections of ruins on either side, near the moat, are flooded and marshy from periods of heavy rain when the moat occasionally overflows.
  • A tribe of predatory lizardmen claims the western side of the ruins as its territory.

  • A catoblepas roams the marshy areas of the eastern ruins.

Pyramid Platform
Three massive ziggurats—a large central pyramid flanked by two smaller pyramids—stand on a raised platform, 80 ft. above the ravine floor. The platform is surrounded by a wide moat of brackish, algae-covered water, 20 ft. deep.

  • Each pyramid has three tiers, with a steep stair that climbs the exterior to a pavilion-like shrine at the summit (see The Pyramids below for details).
  • The central pyramid is 300 ft. high, with a square base, 320 ft. to a side.

  • The smaller flanking pyramids are 190 ft. high, with square bases, 160 ft. to a side.
  • Wisps of smoke waft from the pavilion at the top of the western ziggurat, but nothing can be seen within.

  • At the base of the western pyramid, near the stair, a modest but well-set camp has been established. The enthralled cultists dwell here (see below).

Cultist Camp
This closely-arranged collection of fabric tents is sufficient to house 50 or so cultists. In the center is a larger, pavilion-style tent.

  • The camp is well-defended by zealots. Iron braziers burn at night to keep the main areas illuminated.

The Pyramids
These massive ziggurats were central to the ritual practices of the ancient people who inhabited this region. The pavilions at the top of the east and west pyramids conceal entrances into each ziggurat.

  • Each flanking pyramid contains many passages and chambers across multiple levels, leading down into the platform, where there are even more levels and chambers.

The western ziggurat is the Temple of Sleep; below it are the Halls of Slumber. The ziggurat can be entered via the pavilion at the top.

  • The mind flayers used one of the evil idols they possess to enter the Temple of Sleep, then moved into the Halls of Slumber. The dungeon was full of traps and guardian constructs, but the mind flayers sacrificed many hillmen and cultists to clear the way down.
  • The Halls of Slumber connect with the Halls of Entropy beneath the central pyramid, which leads to the summoning chamber inside the Temple of Oblivion.

The eastern ziggurat is called the Temple of Death; below it are the Halls of Silence. The ziggurat can be entered via the pavilion at the top, but it is currently sealed.

  • The pyramid's pavilion can be opened with one of the idols. Within the Temple of Death are many crypts and tomb complexes.
  • The Halls of Silence also connect to the Halls of Entropy below the Temple of Oblivion.

The ancients called the central ziggurat the Temple of Oblivion; the dungeons below it are the Halls of Entropy.

  • The pavilion at the top is sealed and there is no way inside the pyramid via that route. The pyramid's interior can only be accessed from below.
  • There is a temple deep in the heart of the pyramid which can be entered from below, via the Halls of Entropy. Within this enormous vault is a dimensional portal to an alien realm, which now stands partially open, allowing the mind flayers to bring forth various aberrant minions to aid their cause.

  • The three idols control the portal, and can be used to open or close it. Without all three idols present, however, the portal is unstable. The mind flayers are using their two idols to try to stabilize the portal, so that they may summon forth a great aberration (an elder brain) into this world. Their ceremony continues apace; the mind flayers' leader is also using the idols to amplify its power and transform itself into an ulitharid. The dimensional portal can only be fully opened (or closed) when all three idols are emplaced in the summoning chamber.
  • Worse, the mind flayers have captured a legendary magical creature (a gynosphinx) that dwelled within the temple pavilion, which they intend to infect with their larvae once they can completely subjugate her, and then sacrifice her to the elder brain.

The Dungeons
Below the cut is a summary of the point-crawl dungeon I designed to bring this campaign to a conclusion. 

The following map is a rough sketch of the progression into the Temple of Oblivion. The green areas are the "straight-line" path if the party succeeds in each encounter. The areas in blue are detours forced on the party by failing to properly navigate an encounter area. The orange areas are secret locations that provide some benefit to the party if discovered. The solid bluish-green areas represent the pyramid layer, the purple area is the platform layer, and the gray area is a subterranean layer.

The encounter area key code is: TD = Temple of Death (east ziggurat); HS = Halls of Silence; HE = Halls of Entropy; TO = Temple of Oblivion; S = Secret. Since the party decided beforehand to enter via the Temple of Death, I didn't bother mapping out a point crawl through the Temple of Sleep (west ziggurat).

Nothing about this map is to scale, and I handled the journey between each encounter area by describing the party passing through numerous empty passages and vaults, with suggestions that the dungeons were labyrinthine and many unexplained sounds were distant threats the party managed to avoid.

Without going into heavy detail about each encounter area, here is a summarized key for the point-crawl. As regrettable as it was for me to run the conclusion as a point-crawl, it did its job and after rereading the materials for this post, I have to say it was still pretty damn fun despite being a bit on rails.

TD1 – Shrine of Annihilation
The party avoided being detected by the cultists encamped on the pyramid platform and ascended the eastern ziggurat's exterior using the steep stairs on the pyramid's western face. At the top, they entered the pavilion through one of its arched portals into a chamber with a high vaulted ceiling. A square stone plinth in the center had a notch that perfectly fit the base of the party's idol. When they inserted it, walls of stone formed over the entrances, and (4) bodaks appeared, demanding a key phrase. They attacked when the PCs failed to provide it. When the party defeated the bodaks, a section of floor sank and formed a staircase down into the pyramid.

TD2 – Creepy Mausoleum
The stair descended an open shaft into a mausoleum chamber with 20-ft. high walls lined with more than 1,000 crypt vaults. A 12-ft. high obelisk of impossibly-black stone, polished to a mirror finish and carved with alien glyphs, stood on a raised dais in the center of the room. Four tall archways, carved with hundreds of leering skulls, exited the chamber (one of these was used to enter). Two portals were passages leading off into darkness, but they were blocked by portcullises (with stone levers nearby). The fourth portal ended in a pair of massive black stone doors with no handles or fittings, and also covered with alien glyphs.

The party's wizard touched the obelisk, causing the alien runes to light up. It began emitting black lightning from its apex, striking several crypts and blasting them open. The bones within each crypt stirred, forming a skeleton in moldering burial wrappings that emerged and clambered down the wall to attack the party. The lightning continued to blast open additional crypts as a horde of skeletons grew. 

The party opened one of the portcullises and fled down the passage, a detour to TD-4: Dusty Crypts (see below). They eventually returned to this chamber after a costly fight through the crypts, and then figured out they needed to destroy the obelisk to proceed. While the fighters fended off the skeletal horde, the wizard blasted the obelisk and eventually toppled it, causing the skeletons to crumble into dust. The black doors then swung open.

TD3 – Pendulum Bridge
The main passage opened into a 120-ft. long gallery where a narrow bridge ran the entire length of the room to an identical passage at the far end. To either side, the floor was divided into 20-ft. square, 20-ft. deep ossuary pits, littered with bones. The east and west walls were lined with 3-ft. wide niches.

As the party crossed the bridge, stone cylinders suspended from hidden chains emerged from the wall niches along their path and swung, pendulum-like, across the bridge, then disappeared into the niche on the opposite wall. The PCs had to get across the narrow bridge without being knocked into the ossuary pits. A few PCs failed, and when they landed in the pit, some of the bones animated to form skeletons that attacked them. They eventually made it to the other side (some climbed the walls between pits to the other side, triggering skeletal attacks the entire way) and descended into the Halls of Silence.

TD4 – Dusty Crypts
The party fled down one of the side passages from the Creepy Mausoleum and found themselves in a series of similar chambers with vaulted ceilings supported by thick pillars. The walls were lined with rows of burial niches filled with desiccated bones wrapped in tattered shrouds. Many of the skeletons wore armor scraps and clutched corroded bronze weapons.

The party disturbed some of the remains, causing numerous skeletons to arise and pursue the party through the crypts. Worse, a plate-armored skeleton with a flaming head, and mounted upon a nightmare, kept appearing to attack and then vanished again in a puff of smoke. This apparition—Iyfan the Terrible—was buried in a black marble tomb at the heart of the crypts, but the party never discovered this chamber and put an end to his unrest.

They managed to find an escape passage on the opposite side of the crypts from where they entered, but are dismayed to discover that it lead right back to the Creepy Mausoleum.

S1 – Treasure Vault
While traversing the passage from the Creepy Mausoleum to the Pendulum Bridge, the party discovered a secret trapdoor in the ceiling that leads to a series of hidden passages with even more secret trapdoors. Making their way through the ingeniously-concealed and trapped shafts, they ascended finally to a chamber filled with chests, coffers, and urns overflowing with treasure. A shaft in the ceiling turned out to lead to a well within the Dusty Crypts. The party filled up their portable hole with the loot and rested for the night.

HS-1 – Talking Head
Upon entering this section of the dungeon, the party came to a false door/pit trap, but managed to avoid it. They discovered a nearby secret door that entered a chamber with no exits. A giant sandstone bust of a noble or perhaps a priest, lay toppled over on the floor. When the PCs righted the head, its eyes fluttered open and the head spoke a cryptic verse about three doors and four walls. After figuring out the correct wall to rotate the head to face, three doors appeared. Missing clues within the poem suggesting a secret door on the wall with no visible door, the party picked a door seemingly at random to exit, which took them to the Ethereal Crypts (HS-4).

DM NOTE: I borrowed the riddle from somewhere, but can't remember the source. It was a clever puzzle, though. I still have no idea why the party chose to ignore the obvious clue and go through the bronze door, and then step into an archway filled with mist. They were puzzled by the blank wall, but didn't bother searching it for secret doors and then just picked a direction without any reasoning behind the decision. I attribute it to the aforementioned campaign fatigue.

HS-2 – Sinister Sepulcher
After another costly detour through the Ethereal Crypts (see below), the party entered this cavernous chamber with a 60-ft. high domed ceiling and four side crypt chambers at each corner. In the center of the main chamber stood a 30-ft. high pyramid, surmounted by a huge, glowing bronze eye that rotated slowly on a pivot, sweeping the room with its eternal gaze and bathing the entire chamber in a repulsive green hue.

The walls of each side crypt chamber were lined with rows of niches containing the shrouded remains of long-dead warriors. In the center of each room was a 15-ft. high square platform of solid stone with a sarcophagus atop it.

The party waited for the eye's gaze to pass by, then entered the main chamber, making a rush toward one of the side crypts. They made no effort to move cautiously or quietly, however, so the eye immediately perceived them and focused its gaze upon the party, striking random targets with eldritch energy. Meanwhile, the alarm raised, the sarcophagi in each of the four crypt chambers opened and a chanting mummy emerged. Each round, the chanting caused several skeletons in each chamber to rise from their rest.

The party was cornered in one crypt chamber to avoid the eye, but soon became surrounded by hordes of skeletal warriors and unable to mount the platform to silence the mummy. After a brutally long and punishing fight, the party was finally able to kill a mummy, then advance to the next chamber and repeat the strategy until, eventually, all four mummies were slain and the skeletons stopped rising.

They then returned to the central chamber, mounted the pyramid, and destroyed the eye, toppling it from its perch. They discovered that the top of the pyramid had a hatch, so they opened it and entered, coming into the tomb of Urdok the Irredeemable—a mummy lord. After defeating him and taking his treasure, the party was able to exit the sepulcher and move on to the next area: The Arena of the Damned (HS-3).

DM NOTE: This encounter inadvertently turned into a gigantic slog of a fight that took multiple 3-hour sessions to resolve. Part of the problem was short-sighted design on my part; part of it was a series of bad decisions by the players—but this fight nearly broke us. It was awesome and epic in hindsight, but just wore everyone down, including me who had to manage more than 100 enemy combatants at one point.

HS-3 – Arena of the Damned
The party came to an elevator shaft and activated it, causing the dais upon which they stood to ascend to the sandy floor of an empty arena—another cavernous chamber 100-ft. in diameter with an 80-ft. high domed ceiling. Hundreds of bones and bone fragments littered the powdery sand. Surrounding the floor was a 20-ft. high wall, and then tiers of stone benches above it that formed a gallery overlooking the arena.

A spectral audience appeared, and suddenly, the arena floor began to tremble, as though something massive approached. A gargantuan bone worm (basically an undead purple worm that could regenerate itself from the bones in the sand) emerged from the arena floor. It tried to swallow one or more PCs and then dive back below the surface. The PCs were able to attack parts of its segmented body, but this divided their damage across many pieces, and the creature was able to sustain itself even as parts of it were destroyed.

The party overcame the bone worm, however, and it retreated for good. The spectral audience acknowledged the party's victory with a blessing that sustained them through the rest of the adventure, and then vanished. The party exited the silent arena and continued on to the Halls of Entropy.

DM NOTE: Had anyone been swallowed and carried down to the Bone Worm's Lair (HE-5), they would have found themselves in a gigantic cavern deep below the earth. There was a treasure hoard here, as well, along with a cavernous tunnel that would have reconnected the party to to Halls of Entropy. The party avoided this fate, however, and never had to deal with the detour.

HS-5 – Ethereal Crypts
This area was a series of four concentric ringed passages surrounding a central chamber. No ring made a complete circumference, but was instead broken up into multiple "arcs," with short connecting passages permitting access between the rings. The 15-ft. high walls of each ring were lined with niches containing shrouded bones. The entire crypt was shrouded in a thick mist that smelled bitter and stale, and reduced all vision by half.

When each PC stepped through the misty portal in HS-1, they appeared randomly on one of six teleport pads located throughout the ringed maze. Many of the PCs became separated, although a lucky few landed on the same pad. As the separated PCs began navigating the maze, working their way inward, they soon encountered the maze's guardians: ogre-sized, incorporeal undead creatures called chain-geists. The creatures would appear from the ethereal plane and attempt to grapple a PC with its chain, and then banish them to the ethereal plane. Notable within each chain-geist's translucent form was a glowing, key-shaped object.

When banished, the PC appeared in a translucent version of the maze. They could see through the now-ghostly walls, though they could not pass through them. They could also see the other chain-geists (who glowed visibly) roaming the maze, and determine that there is one such creature for each ring (four total). They could also see their comrades on the material plane, as well as the teleport rings which also glowed brightly through the gloom. The inner chamber at the center of the maze was cloudy and indistinct.

The chain-geist that banished a PC turned ethereal the following round and attacked the character within the ethereal maze. Chain-geists in adjacent rings also moved toward the combat, and—while they couldn't seem to pass into another ring—they could attack through the walls with their ghostly chains. When the chain-geist that banished the PC was killed, a shimmering silver key appeared in its place, floating in mid-air. Grabbing the key returned the ethereal PC to the material plane with the key in hand. Killing a chain-geist on the material plane also left behind a silver key.

Reaching the center of the maze, the party discovered that the inner chamber was sealed with a silver gate with four keyholes. When the four keys were recovered from the chain-geists, the gate could be opened, allowing access into a circular chamber with a 25-ft. high domed ceiling. In the middle of the room was a staircase down to HS-2.

S2 – Secret Exit
The party failed to find this hidden location on the way to the Halls of Entropy, but it was an empty chamber in which they could find shelter, rest up, and even exit (and re-enter) the dungeon through a hidden staircase up to the Pyramid Platform in the ruins.

On to the Halls of Entropy...

The approach to the temple was structured as a series of four encounter areas within a single contiguous gallery, separated by four platforms. Each platform contained the encounter/challenge to overcome—a gantlet-style run as the party ascended the gallery. At the very top of this gallery was the Oblivion Gate, the entrance to the Temple of Oblivion.

Passing through this doorway began the final phase, which consisted of a final battle with the mind flayers and ulitharid, the emplacement of all three idols to close the dimensional portal, the freeing of the sphinx, and the party's escape from the pyramid.

The Halls of Entropy
Directly beneath the central pyramid, a long gallery sloped upward, divided into four distinct platforms separated by steep ledges surmounted by switchback ramps. The corbeled ceiling soared to a peak nearly 80 ft. above.

From the base of the gallery, where the PCs emerged from the Halls of Silence, the gallery was roughly 280 ft. long and ascended 120 ft. The complex was carved of mildly nauseating, greenish-hued stone veined with purple. The angles of the stonework were askew and created forced perspective views for a disorienting effect. The walls and stone surfaces had plenty of handholds, but were coated in a greasy sheen of slime, which made climbing them a difficult challenge.

Looking up, the party saw a series of high ledges, at the top of which was the Oblivion Gate. Green lightning crackled from behind the tall doors, which were backlit by a dire, pulsing glow. The air in the gallery was humid—sticky-moist and hazy. Indistinct shapes could be seen moving about in the slimy mist of the higher platforms (some appeared to be floating or flying). 

The atmosphere in the gallery was heavy with sound, including a deep rhythmic rumble that was both heard and felt; cascading waves of multiple chanting voices; an oppressive, mechanical, pulsing hum; and a din of alien shrieks, howls of agony, and bestial roars. The noise was so great that the sounds of combat (even from explosive spells) did not draw the immediate attention of creatures on other platforms.

HE-1: Processional Hall
The party emerged into the base of the gallery through a wide doorway carved in the shape of the frog god’s maw (lower right). The sunken floor of the chamber was covered in a 10-ft. deep pool of green slime, roughly 2 ft. below the platform surface. On the opposite wall was an identical platform and a  portal carved like the mind flayer’s maw—the entrance to the Halls of Slumber.

On platforms in the opposite corners stood 30-ft. high statues of ancient priests who held up their hands in a sign of warding. In the center of the chamber was a larger platform, from which a series of narrow walkways extended out to the corner platforms, forming an indirect route to the base of a ramp which wound up the steep ledge to the second level of the gallery.

An unholy procession of hillman thralls entered through the far portal and shuffled across the walkway to the center platform. The procession was watched over by four green slaad and two red slaad wielding whips of crackling energy. From the center platform, the thralls moved to the base of the ramp and then up to the next level. The humans seemed drugged and out of it, but the frog-demons kept the line moving at a slow, steady pace.

When the PCs entered the hall, the frog-demons spotted them and began hooting and howling. Two of the green slaad jumped into the slime, seemingly able to swim through it without harm. The party began crossing the walkways toward the central pile, but the green slaad leapt from the slime behind them, forcing a two-pronged battle. After defeating the slaad and realizing the human thralls posed no threat, the PCs got into the processional line and advanced up the ramp. Thought the party did not discover it, there was also a staircase to the next tier concealed in the mouth of the northernmost face on the northeast platform (next to the statue).

DM NOTE: As I did with the Secret Entrance to the temple complex, the images in this section were the actual battle maps I used on Roll20. We obviously had to fudge the grid a bit to account for the perspective shift, but it worked really well. For reference, the party members in the images above and below are: Khios, a 10th-level battlemaster (PC); Caram, an 11th-level evocation wizard (PC); Cas, a 9th-level paladin of Solis (NPC); Lucanis, a 9th-level cleric of Lahr (PC); Brother Yobul, a 9th-level cleric of Solis (NPC); and Titus, a 2nd-level fighter and Khios' squire (NPC).

HE-2: Hatchery
The switchback ramp ascended to the second level where a 10-ft. wide walkway surrounds two basins of green slime about 6-in. deep. Clusters of glass-like eggs glistening with slime and filled with translucent green fluid sat in the basins, which were connected by two troughs spanned by a pair of 10-ft. wide stone gangplanks that connected the walkways to a large central platform. At the head of each gangplank was a wide alcove in which stood 30-ft. tall statues of the mind flayer and the frog-god.

On the opposite side, a long ramp ascended 40 ft. from the base to a landing at the top, where the top of a wall of sinuous tentacles could be seen. Carved into the wall below the ramp was an alcove shaped like the mind flayer’s head; its mouth a conduit from which green slime plopped into the basin

The line of thrall sacrifices marched to the central platform, where they split into two lines. Two pairs of blue slaad administered tadpoles from an “open” egg, withdrawing them from the broken shell with a long metal wand. As each thrall approached, one slaad held the human down as the other jammed the probe up his nostril. The thrall convulsed for a moment before the frog-demons shoved them forward, where they reformed a single line and continued marching up the ramp to the next level. Assisting the frog demons were (4) infected thralls who handled the eggs and threw the empty shells back into the slime where they melted. A pair of grell also hovered over the slime basins, occasionally plucking an egg from the slime and setting it near the slaad.

The party stayed in the processional line and managed to cross to the central platform without being spotted. They engaged the slaad and grell, and destroyed them, though the grell bombed them with the tadpole-filled egg sacs. The PCs managed to avoid becoming infected, however. The thralls paid them no mind, and the party continued upward with the procession.

HE-3: Sacrificial Chamber
At the top of the ramp, a 20-ft. high barrier of slimy tentacles writhed and swayed like tall grass in a gentle breeze. The tentacle field was 20-ft. thick and stretched from wall-to-wall. A 10-ft. wide walkway ran between the ledge and the tentacles.

When the procession reached the top, the infected thralls spread out and silently entered the wall of tentacles as if undergoing some sort of cleansing ritual/ordeal. Beyond the wall, several grell could be seen emerging from circular shafts that honeycombed the ceiling, and then descending behind the tentacle wall out of the party's view. Moments later, the grell ascended again with an infected thrall in its clutches, before exiting into another ceiling shaft.

The party tried entering the tentacle field, which they found to be soft and yielding. The slimy tentacles caressed the PCs gently and pushed back slightly on their progress, but the party quickly discovered that the slime was acidic and burned them. Underfoot, they noticed that the floor was carpeted with dissolving bone and viscera—the remains of sacrifices who had succumbed to the acid—that melted into sluices carved into the floor. The PCs decided against proceeding and backed out of the tentacles, opting instead to try to climb the walls up and across the tentacle field.

The walls were coated with a thin film of slick slime, which made the climbing treacherous, but at the top they discovered a 1-ft. wide ledge hidden from ground view, which ran the length of the room to the far end. They also learned that the mouth openings in the faces along this ledge actually opened into side chambers—apparent viewing rooms—occupied by several green slaad. Entering the side chamber, the party engaged and defeated the slaad, then looked out over the chamber on the other side of the tentacle field.

There, two 30-ft. statues of human priests flanked a switchback ramp to the next level. Floating before each statue was an infected shaman who telepathically directed the activity. The thralls who survived passage through the tentacles emerged glistening and raw, completely stripped of hair and outer layers of skin. Despite what must have been sheer agony, they stoodd silent and unmoving, waiting for a grell to descend and snatch them up into one of the holes to an unknown end. Looming from the ledge above was the Oblivion Portal; above it, a baleful eye seemed to watch the PCs’ movements carefully.

As the party began to descend to the ledge on the opposite side of the tentacle wall, the grell and shamans became aware of their presence. Two descending grell immediately moved to attack the PCs on the ledge while the remaining grell continued their “harvest.” The shamans seemed to psychically control the tentacles, silently commanding them to grab a PC and try to pull them into the field.

The party tried to shoot the infected shamans with arrows, but they were surrounded by some sort of impenetrable forcefield. Once the PCs figured out that area-effect spells could be targeted within the forcefield, however, they quickly killed the shamans. With the forcefields collapsed, the juvenile mind flayers detached from the dead host and tried to attach themselves to a PC, but they, too, are quickly destroyed. Once the last of the grell were defeated, the party continued upward to the last platform.

HE-4: The Oblivion Gate
As the PCs mounted the final set of ramps, they emerged onto the top level of the gallery. At the opposite side, a crooked staircase rose to a pair of 25-ft. high doors made of black stone. The doors seemed to barely contain a storm of green lightning as waves of psychic energy radiated from the portal. To either side of the crooked staircase stood a 30-ft. high statue of the mind flayer and the frog-god. The stone eye above the doors glared at the party. The floor of the platform was pierced by four, 10-ft. diameter pits of green slime.

When the party approached the stair, a pair of spectators and a gauth appeared and attacked. To make matters worse, the slime pits began to move randomly, sliding across the stone floor like a bubble of oil through water. The PCs were forced to fight the beholder-kin while dodging the sliding pits as they darted across the chamber. The gauth also appeared to be psychically-linked to another entity, which made its presence known by periodically trying to dominate one of the PCs. 

Despite everything, the party overcame these challenges, defeating the beholders and climbing the staircase to the Oblivion Gate. The doors were featureless panels of utter blackness. To either side of the top step, the statues of the mind flayer and frog god regarded the PCs with stony silence as the stone eye above stared balefully down at them. The party presented the evil idol they possessed before the gate, which caused the black doors to vanish and the lightning storm to recede.

Behind them, the party could hear and see a host of aberrant creatures pouring into the lower levels of the gallery, chattering and screeching as they dashed up the ramps towards the Oblivion Gate. Above, more grell appeared from ceiling shafts, while other shafts sprouted long, sinuous tentacles that grasped at the air for prey. 

Beyond the portal, the PCs entered a circular antechamber containing an intense storm of crackling green energy near the top of a shaft that plunged into darkness. The stonework of the shaft was clean and austere, precisely cut and fitted, and polished to a reflective sheen. The shaft continued upward another 70 ft. before tapering into a conical point at the apex.

The center of the green lightning storm hovered approximately 40 ft. above the level of the portal, and at its center, an indistinguishable object spun and tumbled at incredible speed, glowing with a brilliant green light and filling the area with a painful, high-pitched hum.

Orbiting the center point of the shaft in an 80-ft. diam. circle were three 10-ft. diam., 1-ft. thick stone platforms, floating in mid-air. Upon two of the disc-shaped platforms stood 3-ft. tall pyramidal plinths made of sickly green stone (the third disc had no plinth). The PCs jumped or teleported across to the two platforms with plinths and found that each had a notch for an idol atop it. Placing their idol in one of the notches sent an arc of green lightning to the plinth, causing arcane runes on the plinth and around the outside edge of the platform to light up. Instantly, the characters were teleported into the Temple of Oblivion.

TO-1 – The Temple of Oblivion
The party members found themselves in a vast chamber, more than 120 ft. sq. and nearly 180 ft. high, at the heart of the central pyramid. Many openings and passageways lined the walls. The party appeared upon 10-ft. diameter daises, identical to the floating platforms that brought them here. On each dais stood a stone plinth with the three evil idols emplaced.

In the center of the floor—between the three platforms—was a wide stone basin filled with green slime. Slumped within it lay the form of a beautiful gynosphinx, in apparent agony from the incessant burning of the acidic slime. Floating around the basin, four juvenile mind flayers surrounded the sphinx and pelted her with psychic attacks to keep her subdued. Purple-tinged lightning erupted from the idols on the plinths.

Hanging in mid-air directly over the sphinx, 100 ft. above the floor, was a swirling dark portal that appeared to be a “window” ripped open into another dimension. The event horizon of the opening rippled with intense dark energy, and the purple lightning from all three idols seemed to energize it. Suspended within the opening floated a bizarre creature— similar to a mind flayer, but larger and more powerful-looking. The creature—an ulitharid—was holding the portal open with a force bubble. Dark tendrils from “beyond” connected to the ulitharid’s head, which was grotesquely swollen many times its “normal’ size. In the "beyond-space" behind the ulitharid loomed a massive dark shape, amorphous with a glaring purple eye. A pair of mind flayers—the villains who had hounded the party for months—levitated to either side of the portal.

Littering the floor around the slime basin were dozens of dead hillmen, their skulls cracked open and their brains removed. Nearly twenty other infected thralls stood around the chamber—incapacitated and seemingly oblivious not only to the party’s presence, but also to the chaotic energies flashing around them, or the hideous fate that awaited them.

As the party members took it all in, they witnessed one of the floating mind flayers levitate a sacrifice to itself and envelop the unfortunate human’s head in its tentacles. With a moist cracking sound, the mind flayer sucked out the hillman’s brain and released the body to fall to the floor in a bloody heap. Seemingly invigorated, the mind flayer turned to stare at the party—brains and viscera dripping from beneath its tentacled chin.

The other mind flayer, meanwhile, floated above the sphinx and pummeled her with its mental blasts. She was able to resist the effect, but the struggle to do so was evident on her face. As the mind flayers realized the party had arrived, they emitted high-pitched shrieks. Weakly, the sphinx raised her head and begged the party to help her. Time seemed to stand still as the party processed the events before them. This was it—the moment of final reckoning. The heroes’ lives and the very fate of the world would be decided with this battle!

An absolutely-epic battle took place in which the party first slew the mind flayers and then manipulated the idols to close the portal. This ejected the furious ulitharid from the force bubble holding the portal open, leaving it with no option but to deal with the party one on one. It took pretty much every power, resource, and spell the party had, but they ultimately vanquished the ulitharid and claimed victory.

As the chamber began to collapse around them, the sphinx took possession of the three evil idols and ferried the PCs from the pyramid. She carried them many miles from the temple ruins to her celestial abode. In gratitude to the party, she took possession of the evil idols, removed the party's curse, and facilitated a Wish as a reward, which the party used to restore the NPC slain by the intellect devourer back to life (though the sphinx was unable to remove the memories of everything that happened to him—and he was never the same thereafter).

Despite everyone's desire to bring this campaign to a close and start fresh, it felt like a satisfactory ending. The party retired as heroes, and they remain important players in my campaign world, even though the characters are no longer actively played.

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