Well-made puzzles are great because you can just sit back and let your players have their fun. When your players have to work together to solve a problem, that means no one person can hog the spotlight. If a puzzle only requires a single person to solve it then you should take it upon yourself as DM to let someone who hasn’t had a chance for glory take the lead. By remembering to spread the love to all your players, everyone will feel appreciated and like they are contributing to an epic journey.
(Jon) Zorel, inhabited by Obo’laka — Aasimar Paladin
(Terry) Harden, inhabited by Nangnang— Dwarf Barbarian
(Matt) Hexton — Gnome Wizard
(Stacy) Torven, inhabited by Wongo — Lizardfolk Monk/Druid
Tomb of the Nine Gods — Vault of Reflection
“For he that does good, having the unlimited power to do evil, deserves praise not only for the good which he performs, but for the evil which he forbears.”
Sir Walter Scott — Ivanhoe
The party was as separated as they’d ever been. Whether they were helpless or on the brink of danger, they each could have used some help from each other. But that wasn’t an option at this point.
Torven and Hexton had tracked down a skeleton key to around their area, but had lost it in the chaos. There were two fancy statues on plinths, a chest protected by a wall of force, and a golem with a key around its neck. Hexton recalled from Acererak’s warning to “Right the gods.” Perhaps it referred to the statues, Torven wondered.
Hexton used an Intelligence (Religion) check to determine that these statues were Azuth, the god of wizardy, and Torm, the god of courage. Hexton was a wizard himself, and figured he was safe with that choice. He moved the statue of Azuth. It turned to the right, and up teleported the gigantic clay golem onto the third empty plinth.
Immediately, as if awakened, it began attacking Torven and Hexton. Torven tried to use the psychic abilities bestowed on him from Wongo, but they were no use. The golem was resistance to many types of damage, and that was one of them. Hexton similarly found an issue, as it seemed to be immune to his Phantasmal Killer spell.
It also packed a walloping punch, and soon the tide was turned in the golem’s favour. Hexton had to Misty Step out of the golem’s sight and heal, while Torven opened the door to the north and ran to safety.
Harden was not only losing his mind in his cramped tunnel, but he was starting to get insanely angry. He wished he could escape somehow. Then he remembered — he had a genie in his pocket. Or a dao, to be more precise. He opened the bottle and out popped Keshma al-Wazir, the frightening dao. She was thrilled to be free, and Harden was grateful to have an option to get out of his predicament. Harden asked her if she could get him out of here, and she replied that in exchange for her freedom she would do so — in fact, she would help Harden precisely three times. This sounded great to Harden, and they had an agreement. She cracked her knuckles and cast Passwall. Suddenly, there was a passageway out of this trap that the two of them could climb. On the way out, they even found a dead dragonborn paladin with a +1 yklwa, and a red crystal eyeball, which Harden hastily pocketed.
Zorel had wandered into a hallway off the grand staircase that the party hadn’t explored yet. Two hulking figures stood in alcoves along this long hall, facing each other. Armour was bolted to their flesh, and they wore bucket helms and spiked gauntlets. Iron collars around their necks were connected by a spiked chain that stretched across the corridor.
Zorel was wary of crossing the spiked chain. The two tomb guardians seemed as still as statues, but he didn’t trust that they weren’t alive. Instead of ducking past the chain, he cast Misty Step to appear at the other side of it. The figures didn’t move, so Zorel breathed a sigh of relief.
Now there were double doors in front of him, and a hall to the north. The purple alien growth was still everywhere. Zorel brushed it aside as he searched for traps. Instead, he found a secret door. Opening it revealed stone steps leading to a golden skull resting on a pedestal in the middle of a small, dusty room. Zorel and Obo’laka went back and forth on whether to touch the skull, but he closed the secret door without going near it.
Torven had stepped into some torturous trap room. It revolved and spun him like a top. Poisonous gases, incendiary flames, and stone spikes each took their turns trying to kill him. He had to turn into some hearty beasts to soak up the damage before he finally got out. He stepped back into the room with the golem to find Hexton standing over it with the silver key in his hand. He had spent a lot of his good spells taking it down, and was almost killed himself.
But they now had the silver key, and after moving the other statue, Hexton was teleported to the chest. He opened it to reveal one pink and one pale green crystal eyeball.
Zorel went north to Kubazan’s tomb. He studied the frescoes painted on the walls and performed a ritual involving lighting a candle and eating a bug. Soon, he was able to open Kubazan’s tomb and recover a pair of bracers of archery. He grasped them, and the bracers glowed as watery light rippled across the walls.
A monstrous, tentacled shadow rose from the sarcophagus, and the air filled with the stench of a swamp. A rumbling voice echoed through the tomb: “You are brave to summon me. Together, we will crush the undying one!” Kubazan the froghemoth kicked Obo’laka out of Zorel’s head. Zorel now had the flaw “I am fearless and not afraid to take great risks,” as well as a Strength score of 23. He already liked this new trickster spirit.
The group all had their successes and fortunately reconvened at the grand staircase. They shared what they’d all been through. Harden was especially angry at being left behind by Zorel. But Zorel was no pushover anymore. He showed off all of the crystal eyes he’d picked up, and everyone else banded theirs together. It seemed like they needed a few more.
They still hadn’t visited the room where they saw the image of that dwarf dying, so they headed back in that direction together. Before they could get in, they had to bypass a tricky room where Hexton managed to get his illusory double to procure him another crystal eye. Finally they made their way to what turned out to be I’jin the almiraj’s tomb. They could see sphinxes, a sarcophagus, a dead dwarf, and a hieroglyphic floor.
They worked as a team and discovered a hidden stone block outside the tomb that had a medallion with all the same symbols as the floor. Wongo told Torven to loot the corpse of the dwarf, and he began searching its pockets. The party yelled at him to be careful, but were quieted as he pulled out two crystal eyes — one dark blue, the other vibrant purple.
Slowly he moved onto the appropriate tiles as Zorel shouted out the proper order. As Torven stepped on the last tile, the sarcophagus opened, and the group crowded around it. They could see the fragile bones of an almiraj, as well as its spiral horn. The horn looked as though it could function as a magic wand. Everyone looked to Hexton to grab it, and he obliged. Streamers of light emanated from the tip of the horn. As they swirled around him, they formed into a spectral rabbit with a single horn on its brow. A female voice whispered, “Quick, quick, let me in! We must stop Acererak!”
Now Hexton had the flaw “I never stick to a plan,” but he also gained a Dexterity score of 23. The fickle almiraj was quick to give her opinion to Hexton, and they chatted as the party realized they now had 10 crystal eyes. Hexton recalled that a door he’d seen when he hid from the golem had 10 small indentations. They hustled to back to the other side of this floor of the tomb and found the door.
On the other side would surely be the skeleton key. They’d searched this floor high and low, and this was the final area that they hadn’t explored. What else was on the other side however, they hadn’t the faintest idea.