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New DM, requesting opinions on an engaging encounter with a maddened professor, former traitorous student in abandoned necromancy tower

Content of the article: "New DM, requesting opinions on an engaging encounter with a maddened professor, former traitorous student in abandoned necromancy tower"

I am a new DM trying to figure out an engaging encounter(s) for my group as they conclude my first mini-arc in the game that has been 12 sessions in the making. The group was tasked with journeying to an "abandoned" necromancy tower in the desert to retrieve a pair of magical glasses for which the BBEG is offering a 10,000 gold reward. (If you are one of my players, stop reading!) After journeying for some time, they have finally arrived at the tower.

Background: One of the PC's (V) used to study at the tower but two years ago she went to do field research and when she returned, the tower was abandoned and the door was magically sealed. She never heard from any of her friends/professors ever again. No useful rumors either, just one day it was like that and no one knows what happened. One of the reasons she agreed to join the party in this adventure was to try to figure out the mystery of what happened.

What actually happened was a rival student, J, became corrupted by a BBEG inner circle member and together they hatched a plot for J to help the militia come in and kidnap the most talented people at the tower (like the head mage) for the BBEG's use. In exchange, J was given a permanent version of the eye bite spell where his eyes are always inky black and when he looks at people he can cause people to fall asleep, panicked or sick just by looking at them. The real dnd spell only lasts a minute but I'm saying his version lasts indefinitely until the spell is broken (i.e., he dies or voluntarily ends the spell). He wears sunglasses when he is not trying to use the power.

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So together, J and the militia two years ago attacked the tower… The militia was killing "unimportant" people and kidnapping the others, J was putting people to sleep/causing panic etc. They finished up, used an air ship to take the prisoners, and sealed the tower which is how the PC (V) found it when she returned from fieldwork.

In the meanwhile, what the players also don't know, is V's least favorite professor (she described him as gilderoy lockhart in harry potter… So he's not malicious/evil but he is conceited/annoying) hid in a closet during the raid and got trapped in the tower when they sealed it. So he's just trapped in there with all these bodies (some sleeping like sleeping beauty, some dead from the fight) and he goes a bit mad. He decides he wants to protect the tower/get revenge on the kidnappers so he begins using the dead/skeletons to start a small undead army inside the tower.

Fast forward two years, J returns to the tower and arrives one day before our players because he is also seeking the magical glasses on behalf of the BBEG. (The group has encountered other npc adventuring parties along the way, all trying to get the glasses and the reward and they know at least one party is ahead of them). J unseals the door and begins his search. The players know something like this happened because there was a flash of green light across the desert valley when the seal was removed. The players arrive the next day, V sees the door is now unsealed and they enter into the foyer where they see various of the sleeping but technically still alive people as well as some skeletons of people killed by the militia (they see weapons/armor of some dead militia men so they are starting to piece together the BBEG was involved). They investigate the sleeping people a little bit but didn't figure out much.

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My issue: So at this moment, both J and the crazed professor are in the tower and are relatively hostile to all people, including each other. The professor's skeletons are patrolling the tower that the party will run into and need to fight small battles with and they'll find signs that someone else is in the tower fighting some as well (because the players don't know it's J yet).

I am trying to think through the most interesting scenario for the players to stumble across to finally see J and the professor. For example, maybe they overhear J and the professor arguing in the professor offices and are about to get into a fight and the players can join the conversation/pick a side. Another option is they come across the professor first… I'm picturing he will be relatively happy/surprised to see V but also he will seem maddened and a little scary. They could possibly subdue him to help him later or maybe kill him, or maybe enlist to help fight J. Then later they come across J (probably closer to recovering the glasses).

I am not leaning towards them coming across J first because I am going to design that encounter as deadly and I think it would be less satisfying to come across the professor after.

There will be other rooms in the tower with various journals, clues to help build up the mystery… It's really just the unveiling of the NPCs that I'm struggling with. The glasses themselves will be in the head mage's chambers behind a set of puzzle doors I've designed and I picture them handling that after the encounter(s) since it will be the last room they come to.

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Any thoughts on what would be the most interesting way to tell the story?

Source: reddit.com

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