The temple to the fire diety Kothus, in the mountains west of Matrale, was once a place of grandeur and reverence. It was visited by many clerics and worshippers, as well as those seeking connection to the elemental plane of fire. The temple doors were opened by a ceremony in which many acolytes simultaneously lit torches surrounding the entrance. But ever since the sundering, the cataclysm that rent the earth and sunk the temple into the mountain, it has lain forgotten.
Enough worldbuilding fluff, on to the puzzle! I set this as a temple in a volcano, but it could easily be adapted. And this is just to get in the front door – what happens after that is up to you. The basic idea is that their are a number of braziers/torches that all must be lit at the same time in order to open the door. The challenge is that A. some of the torches are hidden/broken/guarded, and B. there are more torches than players, so some characters will have to figure out how to light multiple at once. It is designed to be a bit of a mini sandbox, with the party splitting to investigate various sections of the entrance.
The following is the specifics of how I ran it – I made this depiction of the temple entrance (background art by Valinakova) and showed it to the players. While running it I made notes on the image showing where they had located new torches to light. The traps and monsters are scaled for level 5, generally aimed at being a 'setback' rather than 'dangerous' or 'deadly'. I gave my players as much time as they wanted, but if you wanted to be cruel you could put a time limit on it.
Number of Torches – there needs to be more than the number of characters, but exactly how much more is up to you. You should take into account any character that has the spell 'Scorching Ray' or one like it that could easily light multiple torches. I had 5 players (one with scorching ray) and had 9 torches.
The Front of the Temple – The door itself has no visible lock or latch. A close examination shows runes and evidence of a magic device. A plaque above reads "the single lit match cannot stand the rain, but the many flames joined will by no storm be restrained" in primordial or draconic or common, your choice. On the wall above a platform over the door there is a decorative carving of a flame which has a number of small red gems equal to the total number of torches you have picked out. A DC 18 arcana or investigation check on the door or flame carving reveals that the flame carving and gems make up a focusing device that directs magical energy to the door.
Lighting some torches but not all – This will cause magical energy to rebound, and anybody within 5 ft of a lit torch, the door, or the flame carving above it must make a DC 16 strength saving throw (advantage if the character is prepared for it) – they take 2d6 force damage on a failed save, half as much on a success. This also extinguishes the torch. When a number of torches are lit, the corresponding number of gems in the focusing device glow briefly – a character actively watching this device notices this, otherwise a DC 15 perception check reveals it (advantage if a character is standing on the platform near the device, or if this was the second time this has happened).
The locations of the Torches – each of these have a sort of 'solve' pre-planned, but feel free to reward other creative methods!
- There are 3 torches in the courtyard in front of the temple that are very easily visible and accessible (This number can be adjusted to account for larger or smaller groups).
- There are 2 torches on the platform above the door. The one on the right is easily accessible by a character on the platform. The one on the left has been buried underneath rubble – the bottom of the torch is visible through openings but not the top, so a spell can not be cast directly on it. A tiny creature could slip through, or a DC 20 athletics check will clear the rubble – on the second failure they risk slipping or dropping rubble on themselves, requiring a DC 17 acrobatics check or taking 2d6 bludgeoning damage.
- There is 1 torch to the right of the temple, but it is very close to dripping lava – characters can feel the heat as they approach, getting close requires a DC 17 dexterity saving throw to avoid taking 3d10 fire damage.
- There is the bottom half of one torch to the left of the temple, but the top half is missing. It requires a DC 12 investigation or survival to locate it in a pile of stones nearby. But the stones are the home of a grick (who stole the top half of the torch for its nest). It is in hiding using its Stone Camouflage ability and will ambush anybody that comes nearby. After the top half of the torch is acquired, it must be repaired, with either the Mend spell or a DC 15 arcana check – a failure causes a similar backlash as described above in "Lighting some torches but not all".
- There are two small chambers in the side of the temple that each contain a torch (the small awning on the side wall in the image). The right chamber has 1 torch, but is also home to an ochre jelly – it is in the ceiling near the entrance, and will let a player enter but drop down on top of them as they begin to exit.
- Similarly there is 1 torch in the left chamber. There is a musty smell to it, and the sound of dripping water can be heard from the entrance. A DC 16 perception check reveals a patch of fungus on the floor. If it is disturbed it creates a noxious cloud – anybody within 5 ft must make a DC 16 constitution saving throw or else take 3d6 poison damage. Once inside, they can see that a small stream of water is flowing from the ceiling onto the torch, making it impossible to light. They will have to stop or diver the flow somehow. (Strength or mold earth to plug the hole, ice spell to freeze the water, dexterity check to hold a shield over the torch while lighting it, etc.).
- Optionally (again depending on the number of players), there could be 1 torch on the roof of the temple. There are strong winds this high up, which threaten to blow a character off the roof (One failed DC 15 athletics and they are blown to the edge, a second failure and they fall) and make it very difficult to keep a regular torch lit.
Lighting the Torches in Unison – Once the party knows that all torches must be lit in unison and has located all the torches (confirmed by the number of gems in the focusing device), they must light them all. I ruled that a character with a source of fire lighting a single torch automatically succeeded, as well as any 'standard' character ability, even if it would normally require an attack role, as the torches are unmoving targets. However, ideally not all torches would be able to be lit this way and they will need to light one or two with creative alternate methods – shooting fire arrows, timing a fuse, etc., and those would require a skill check. When all of the torches are lit at once, the gems glow brightly and the door slides open with a low rumble, revealing a passage descending into the temple…
I hope you enjoy! Feel free to share any adaptations you would make or other challenges that could be incorporated into this sandbox puzzle!
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More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "Entrance to the Temple of Fire, a Skill-Based Sandbox Puzzle" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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