The heroes will be agents in the never-ending striving for the advancement of knowledge. It might be their own personal interest, seeking favour of the powerful wizard that sponsors their expedition, or it’s just the money.
In the ages past, a great magical catastrophe has despoiled the world, and very few liked the wielders of said magic afterwards. In fact, they were actively hunted down by a magic-hostile cult, that grew into a massive movement for a time. Those days are gone, but so are most reminders of a greater age, and much of its wisdom. But perhaps a little remains.
Room One: Entrance and Guardian
The wizard employing the PCs will relay the story of three masters of the magical arts, that lived quite near to this town. Each of them had a tower, but they built it on one property, to coordinate their research. Their towers were destroyed in those turbulent times, and no one was able to find the remains. But then he found a vital clue in the city’s chronicles: the destruction was not caused by a random mob, as was often the case, but it was organized by the Cult itself. And the Cult liked to record its conquests in detail, so they might have the crucial information all other resources failed to preserve!
The Cult is an enlightened order, that protects society from the abuses of magic, so speaks its gospel. To the public, they are a harmless group of grumblers; the users of supernatural but know, that they are always eager to burn a few witches, so it’s better to not provoke them. One of them has the records of that period. The ideal way would be to get the book, and return it without anyone noticing - no matter how the PCs get it, there must not be a connection to the wizard hiring them; or to any wizard for that matter. Simply beating them all up and looting the place without witnesses could prove hard in this city, and murdering is out of question. Skilled thievery, or impersonating other cultists could do the trick.
The book describes in vivid detail, where the towers were located, how they were destroyed and razed to the ground. Whoever wrote the bombastic sentences wasn’t the smartest tool in the shed, but noted several siege engines were ‘borrowed’ from a nearby fort, and fully employed against the towers.
Room Two: Puzzle or Roleplaying Challenge
The location is thickly overgrown, and the ruins are nigh to invisible under the shrubs; there are three of them, in a triangle, in the middle the remains of a fountain, all as it should be. It will take some work to clear the place, and sifting through the mess will produce little evidence of a wizard ever living here, even the amount of rubble does not hint at a large tower. Maybe this was just a peasant settlement.
What happened here? The wizards have chosen a place with numerous caves for convenience, and thought their designs were sturdy enough to withstand anything. True, their towers held during the siege, the other buildings around didn’t. As the supporting structures crushed, all the weight of a tall tower concentrated on a small space… until it spectacularly fell right into the earth, seemingly collapsing. The elated mob destroyed the other buildings, and at last could celebrate victory, hanging and burning one of the wizards that managed to get out.
The heroes will have to dig deep, until they uncover the roof of a tower. Breaking through it, they can access the interior, and make their way in somewhat reversed order, from the top to the bottom. The inside is damaged by the fall and the years, but there are mechanical creations (so-called "-Jacks"), active even today. After hundreds of years, even those, that are not aggressive, may have misaligned processing units (a technical term for insane constructs).
Room Three: Trick or Setback
Each of the three towers will be different, individually suited for the wizard that inhabited it. Examples:
- this wizard was particularly good with levitation spells. With the occasional niche is the tower completely open, and there are no stairs or ladders. To slip here, and fall, hitting furniture on the way down can be lethal. Any mountaineers among you?
- this wizard specialized in enchanted mechanical life-forms, so his tower is full of various constructs, some never finished, some quite unusual.
- this wizard was a master of defensive spells, and his tower contains the most locks and traps. Have fun.
Among all the digging, climbing, and fighting or negotiating with weird constructs, there will be found items of some value, and even the treasure they came here for: books and scrolls, anything even remotely arcane they shall take and deliver. But that is not everything.
A large library is hidden deep beneath the fountain, and subterranean corridors, that were once accessible, lead to it. It is not accessible from above, in fact, the the rock is here hardest, the library well protected. Perhaps they find out themselves, or talk it out of a friendly construct. Without it, their journey will be of little value.
Room Four: Climax, Big Battle, or Conflict
It was a beautiful library with many tomes of great value, built to withstand any danger. It did not withstand centuries of neglect, however. The stream leading into the fountain, once so carefully directed, has found its way inside, and now is the place completely wet, and most books destroyed.
But the last guardian remains. A large human-like construct, some might say golem, created with the utmost precision and the full mobility of a human body, a master warrior was its example of movement. Once, it might have easily killed such a party, now it is feeling the effects of moisture, and even the best impregnation can’t seem to halt its slow degeneration. It will attack.
It will be obvious, that it can’t fight at its full potential, it will be slow, and sometimes clumsy. But it is strong, and each hit will be dangerous, with a weapon, or without it. During the fight, it can easily destroy the few still preserved tomes, and many of the tables and shelves will overturned or broken.
It’s not easy to kill, smart parties may just keep it occupied, until they pick the more valuable tomes, and run away.
Room Five: Reward, Revelation, Plot Twist
The true gain of this place is knowledge - what exactly it will be, how accessible, and how useful, depends on the Game Master. New schools of magic or spells can be introduced, and new problems along them.
The wizard will claim all the materials for himself, but will require help with the research. A PC may be employed, but also other colleagues, and dangerous knowledge may slip into the world, generating more plots.
The Cult won’t be friendly with this old magic in the world again, and quite angry with the PCs, if they learn of their involvement.
If the aforementioned catastrophe happened somewhere nearby, there may be an unfinished research outpost built close to the location. Another source of information, another adventure.
Additional resources and options:
- For the various constructs, I suggest to use X-Jacks, but they may replaced with other suitable critters.
- Loster is the cultist, that keeps the books on the history of his order.
(Additional details, examples)
Master of Levitation
- the floor is really missing
- Amulet of Rubber can be found on the bottom, protects to a large degree against damage from falling and the like. (It’s activated by ‘breaking’ in half, it repairs itself in a day.) It is on a body beneath many broken furniture… it appears the poor sap had a slow death.
- there is a large spider-like leatherjack with long legs, it is still (mostly) sane, but very lonely
- behind the windows can be seen the view on the surrounding country from the last day when the towers were still standing
Master of Golemic Technologies
- many small experimental -jacks: frogs, spiders, puppets, birds (non-flying, though)
- a very big, but not activated -jack… or is it?
- a half-mad strawjack, the former personal assistant - his master was killed in the beginning of the attack, outside of his tower; may have some magical widgets and know how to use them
The Master of Hypermagical Architecture
- apparently a fan of M.C.Escher
- this place looks bigger than it is, and is bigger than it looks
- stairs and hallways and doors… and there’s many of them.
- the owner died after a fall from the stairs. It was a fast death.