Morbus 3 – The Dizzying Tower

The third episode of my D&D 4th Edition game is done. In this adventure, the party is waylaid by illusions emanating from a mysterious tower occupied by a deceitful gnomish wizard.

This adventure is designed for four 3rd-level characters, and should provide them with half of a level’s experience, or take them to fourth level if you double experience as I do. Note that because I double experience, this adventure contains a full level’s worth of treasure. GMs using this adventure will want to adjust accordingly. The full adventure is after the break.

The party is in the middle of a journey when, in the distance, they see a square tower sitting in a fork of the river. It has four stories, with narrow windows on each story above ground level. Each corner of the tower has a stone eye on it that is constantly looking around. This is a variation of the eye of alarm ritual, and is designed to warn the owner of the tower if anyone approaches.

If the party continue past the tower, they will find themselves somehow heading back toward it again along the river. This is a complex ritual designed by the tower’s owner, Spindlethrift, a gnomish necromancer, to lure people into his tower to use for his arcane experiments. It entangles their minds and makes them turn around without realizing it, crossing a river without knowing it if necessary to maintain the illusion.

If the party decides to wait out the effect, they are free to do so. It is renewed each evening by Spindlethrift, and he is perfectly willing to let passersby starve to death and collect their bodies afterward for use in his experiments.

When the party approaches the tower, they can hear ponderously slow ticking, like there’s clockwork inside. It seems to be coming from the top of the tower. When the eyes of alarm spot the party, there is the noise of a low, dull chime. Theoretically, this is meant to alert Spindlethrift, but he is too scatterbrained to pay attention.

The entrance to the tower is a pair of unlocked heavy wooden double doors. Inside, the ceilings are a bit low, and the floor is polished stone. Every surface is perfectly clean, thanks to Spindlethrift’s pet ochre jelly. The rooms are lit by magical light, and the ceilings are low, but not so low that characters graze their heads.

The entryway contains a spiral staircase leading upward and a locked door that glows faintly golden. The door has an arcane lock effect on it. Spindlethrift cast this with the assistance of his imp assistant, and the DC to open it can be assumed to be 32. There are also four statues on pedestals in the room, really homunculi, and a hidden pair of magic crossbow turret.

Spindlethrift's tower, level 1

Encounter A – The Trapped Entryway

Level 3 combat encounter; 600xp total


  • T: Magic Crossbow Turret Trap (Level 3 Blaster)
  • S: 2 Clay Scouts (Level 2 Lurker)
  • D: 2 Iron Defenders (Level 3 Soldier)

The homunculi sit inert, apparently statues, until their guarded thing is attacked. At that point, they animate and attack the creature which is attacking their assigned thing. They will also fight to defend themselves. Each of the scouts is assigned to guard the turret closest to itself. Each of the defenders is assigned to guard the scout closest to itself.

Presumably, the party will not be able to open the warded door. If they do, skip to the description of Spindlethrift’s workshop after Encounter B. Upstairs from the entryway is a parlor with three couches in it and another set of double doors. The spiral staircase continues upward. The doors are locked (DC 20) and barred from the other side with an iron bar; Strength DC 30 to break them open. On the other side is the trapped room described in Encounter C.

Sitting on each couch is an exquisitely crafted mannequin that initially appears to be alive. The human figures are made of wood, are wearing real clothes, and have finely-painted porcelain faces. They are motionless, poised as if in the middle of a conversation. The mannequins are non-magical. They are toys for the slightly deranged Spindlethrift to play with.

Upstairs from the parlor, where the spiral staircase ends, is Spindlethrift’s study. When the party gets to the top of the stairs, they see a room lined with bookshelves, with a roaring fireplace and small-scaled furniture. The tick-tocking of large clockwork is louder here, and there is also a quiet rustling, like pigeons in cages (this sound is from Spindlethrift’s pet stirges).

Spindlethrift is sitting here with his back to the spiral staircase. He is a Gnome Arcanist with the Death Master template. When he becomes aware of the party, he indignantly demands to know how they got in and what they are doing in his house. He’s scatterbrained but gleeful, and will happily introduce himself as “Spindlethrift, the mighty wizard!” He initially claims ignorance of the origin of the disorienting effect, but if pressed, admits that it may be a side effect of a ritual he is working on. This is a lie, of course, as the disorientation is designed to lure warm bodies into the tower to be killed.

When the conversation doesn’t go Spindlethrift’s way, as it surely won’t, he simply snaps his fingers, activating a prepared teleportation ritual that sends the party to the basement of the tower.

The basement is a dim, slightly damp, but quite clean room with large metal drains in the walls and a locked door (DC 20). Sitting against a wall reading is the imp Jezzartithar, who helps Spindlethrift with his magic. He strikes up polite conversation with the party to delay as Spindlethrift’s pet ochre jelly oozes into the room through a drain behind the group. Once the ooze arrives, or if he is attacked, the imp vanishes and moves to activate the trap in the room.

Spindlethrift's tower, basement

Encounter B – The Cellar

Level 3 combat encounter; 600xp total


  • OJ: 1 Ochre Jelly (Ooze) (Level 3 Elite Brute)
  • I: 1 Imp (Devil) (Level 3 Lurker)
  • T: 1 Blade Top (Level 3 Obstacle)

Blade Top – Level 3 Obstacle

Trap – XP 150

With a sudden whirr, a whirling cone of razor-sharp blades shoots out of the wall and begins ricocheting around the room.

Trap: A spinning top with blades on the edges appears from a hidden hatch and moves its speed each round. If it hits a wall or a creature, it bounces off with angle of incidence equal to angle of reflection and continues moving. If the direction of bounce is unclear, the GM decides the appropriate angle.

DC 20: The character notices the origin hatch for the top, and any trigger squares if they exist.
DC 25: The character notices the hidden control panel

Initiative +5 – Speed 4

Trigger: This trap can be triggered by four pressure plates in trigger squares around the room, or by the control panel. When it is triggered, it rolls initiative and begins moving.

Spinning Attack (Standard Action, Melee)
Targets: Each creature the top bounces off of during its move.
Attack: +6 vs. AC
Hit: 3d6 + 3 damage

A character can attack the top (AC 16; other defenses 13; HP 50). If hit, the top is pushed 1 square and continues in that direction on its next round.
A character can engage in a skill challenge to deactivate the control panel. DC 20 Thievery. Complexity 2 (6 successes before 3 failures). Success disables the trap, failure makes the panel explode (close blast 3, 2d6+3 damage) and the trap remains active.

In the hallway outside the dungeon is the body of a human man. With a DC 15 Heal check, a character can determine that he has been dead for about a week. If the GM wishes to plant a plot seed for a future adventure, the body can be clutching a note or have some other clue on him. Otherwise, he is simply another, less lucky adventurer.

The man is wearing Wavestrider Boots (parcel 4) and carrying two potions of healing, two 100gp gems (amethyst and jade), and 80gp (parcel 5).

At the end of the hallway is a small metal room as wide as the hallway. On the ceiling is an eerily glowing blue light. On the floor of the room is a long metal lever. This “room” is an elevator, and can travel between the basement and the first and second floors my manipulating the lever. It was last used by the imp.

On the first floor is a room that smells strongly of alcohol and herbs. These are the embalming agents for use on bodies. Several tables in the room have preserved corpses laid out on them (of an elf, a lizardman, and a kobold) along with dissection tools and arcane implements like iron candlesticks and rune-etched brass bells. On a shelf is 110 gp of mystic salves usable as Healing ritual components (parcel 9).

There is a pile of haphazardly scattered stuff in one corner of the room. Among clothing, boots, and bone spears are a Magic Short Sword +2 (parcel 2), a 250 gp silver-plated longsword, and
90gp in a pouch (parcel 6).

The only other way out of this room is the arcane locked door from the entryway. It is equally hard to open from this side.

On the second floor, the elevator opens onto a room that is set with an Elite Spear Gauntlet trap. Three cages by the elevator open as soon as the elevator stops on that floor, releasing three large scorpions with blue claws, more of Spindlethrift’s pets.

Spindlethrift's tower, level 2

Encounter C: Claws, Spears, and Lightning

Level 2 combat encounter; 500 XP total


  • T: 1 Elite Spear Gauntlet Trap (Level 2 Elite Obstacle)
  • S: 3 Stormclaw Scorpions (Level 1 Soldier)

In a metal box on the wall marked with a cadaceus is a potion of healing and 25 gp of rare herbs usable as Nature ritual components (parcel 10).

This room can be exited via the barred door from the sitting room. The bar can be easily lifted from this side.

Upon the party’s return to the third floor office, Spindlethrift is startled and flees to the stairs up to the first floor, shouting about how unfair it is that the party survived. He gestures as he runs up the stairs, magically opening the curtains over the stirge cages and releasing them into the room to cover his escape upstairs.

Spindlethrift's tower, level 3

Encounter D: A Flurry of Stirges

Level 3 combat encounter; 600 XP total


  • S: 6 Stirges (Level 1 Lurker)

In a glass cabinet in a bookshelf are 225 gp of alchemical reagents usable as Arcana ritual components (parcel 8), two 100gp pearls, and 25 gp in a pouch (parcel 7). Hanging on a coatrack at the bottom of the stairs is a golden-green robe. This is Sunleaf Cloth Armor +2 (parcel 1).

The stairs from Spindlethrift’s office lead up to a large chamber that is revealed to be the source of the ticking noise. Large gears rotate here, hooked up to a magical apparatus that is creating the illusion effect that brought the party here. Assuming the party didn’t stop Spindlethrift, he is waiting here with his pet psuedodragon and several undead servants. Spindlethrift is standing on the raised part of the room, above the largest gear. On the floor around him is a magic circle that is part of the device’s ritual.

Spindlethrift's tower, level 4

Encounter E: Death Among the Gears

Level 4 combat encounter; 700 XP total


  • S: Spindlethrift, a Gnome Arcanist/Death Master (Level 3 Elite Controller (Leader))
  • P: 1 Pseudodragon (Level 3 Lurker)
  • C: 1 Corruption Corpse (Level 4 Artillery)
  • D: 3 Decrepit Skeletons (Level 1 Minion)

The two small and one large gears are thin enough that the party can step onto them like normal terrain. At initiative counts 20, 10, and 0, the gears rotate one space. The large gear rotates clockwise and the small ones rotate counter-clockwise. Anyone standing on the gears when they rotate is slid along with them one square. If a character is standing on the easternmost space of the largest gear, it makes an attack: +4 vs. Reflex. Hit: The target’s feet are caught in the machinery. 2d10 + 3 damage and the target is knocked prone.

There are two holes in the floor near the south end of the room, showing exposed gears. Anyone entering these holes takes 2d10 + 3 damage from getting crunched in the gears. A character who is forced to move into the hole may make a saving throw as if she was being forced to move off of a cliff.

Spindlethrift is a Gnome Arcanist with the Death Master template. This gives him total HP 84, Bloodied 42, and defenses: AC 16; Fortitude 15, Reflex 15, Will 15. He will attempt to use his Startling Glamour power to push characters onto the gears. He can also summon Zombie Rotters once during the encounter thanks to the template.

Spindlethrift will fight to the death, the whole time ranting about how unfair it is that the party broke into his house and attacked him without provocation. On the south wall of the room is a large lever that, when pulled, shuts down the machine and deactivates the illusionary effects of it, freeing the party from the tower’s hold.

3 thoughts on “Morbus 3 – The Dizzying Tower

  1. Epic stuff man! Did you come up with these completely on your own, or did you piece them together using other campaigns and such? I used to play D&D 3.5E, I tried to start using 4e, but it was too different. I was so used to all the rules and such with 3.5, it was like learning a whole new game. I usually try to DM, but my issue is keeping it interesting at low-level, while not being Overly epic early on. Your “episodes” so far, seem to fit the level:epic ratio perfectly. I’ll be waiting on the next installment eagerly.

    1. They’re written mostly from scratch, although I used the guidelines from the Dungeon Master’s Guide to plan encounter layouts and so on.

      Unfortunately, this campaign is pretty much defunct, but I may publish adventures from my current D&D4e campaign if I find the time.

  2. That’d be cool. Hell, you could just narrirate(spelling fail?) what happened to your specific party. Either way is good, i just remeber this one podcast i listened to for a while, and it just recorded a group of people as they played through the campaign. The humor most d&d players have is great. At one point when the sorcerer of the group cast a fireball with a 1 roll, he set the dwarf berserker on fire, and it ended up being useful. In later episodes they used it as a regular tactic.

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