Equinox - Episode 1: Appearance
by Daneen McDermott
There are fleeting places in this world, places that are no more lasting than a shadow. Legend holds that the most fleeting among those eldritch places is a building that exists for only 12 hours on two days of the year: the spring and fall equinoxes. Reports about what the building contains vary greatly: Some say it?s a monastery; others, a library; still others are convinced it?s a temple. But all these different reports agree on one item: On the equinox, the building appears on a high hill when the first rays of dawn strike the tip of a tall white tower (twin to a black tower opposite it), and it disappears the same day at sunset when the last light leaves the twin black tower.
Hooking the Characters
If the characters are traveling on the spring or fall equinox, the building may appear on a nearby hill at dawn. If they are staying in a town, they could start to hear reports of a mysterious building that appeared this morning (equinox morning) outside of town. The locals should appear superstitious of the obviously magical place, and authorities could even commission the adventurers to check it out, to make sure it?s not a threat to the town.
Even from a distance, the white and black towers command your attention on the otherwise gray building. The stone building is square, 60 feet on a side. The main section is two stories high. On each of the north corners, 20-foot-diameter towers rise another 40 feet above the main building.
As the characters approach the building, they find that the "gray" walls are actually made of black (obsidian) and white (alabaster) square stones set in a seemingly random pattern. The northwest tower is made of the same stones -- all in black -- and the northeast tower all in white stones.
For the DM: Climbing the walls is an EL 3 encounter. The stones are magically electrified: Each stone is trapped to electrify characters depending on their alignment. White stones are trapped to electrify good characters, black stones electrify evil characters. The trapped stones do not affect neutral characters. A Climb check (DC 25) is needed to climb the walls.
Electrified Stone Trap: CR 3; no attack roll necessary, electrical damage 4d8; Reflex save (DC 14) for half; Search (DC 25); Disable Device (DC 25 for each stone);
The Doors (EL3)
On the exterior of the building, in the center of the south wall, are two huge wooden doors (10 foot high by 5 foot wide, each). The left door is black (magical carved ebony) and the right door is white (magical carved pale beech). Good characters will see their own likeness in the black door; Evil characters will see their likeness in the white door. (Neutral characters will see their likeness in both doors.)
Straddling both doors is a single, mithral, yellow-gold circle (1-foot diameter) overlaid on the left edge with a silvery crescent acting as a seal for the doors.
Trap: electrified doors. Any evil character touching the black door receives an electric shock (4d8 points of electrical damage); Reflex save (DC 14) for half; Search (DC 30); Disable Device (DC 30). Any good character touching the white door suffers the same effect. Neutral characters are unaffected by the trap.
Above the doors is an inscription:
For every light there is a shadow
For every night there is a day.
Seek balance in all you do
And wisdom in all you say.
Inset above the inscription is another much larger yellow-gold and silvery circle crescent (magical and mithral). This one is 10 feet in diameter and brightly reflects any light that falls upon it.
The Grand Hall behind the black and white doors is fifty feet deep. A pathway 10 feet wide immediately ahead is lit with a golden beam of light from a source above the door (the backside of the mithral sun/moon). The light reveals a large checkerboard pattern of black and white on the floor. The rest of the room is dark, but characters can make out that it?s 40 feet wide. Those with low light or darkvision can see the outline of some large figures standing just inside the dark part of the room?.
About the Author
Daneen McDermott is a freelance puzzle and game designer who lives south of Seattle with her husband, an overgrown dog, and three little minions of her own. She has played D&D for almost 20 years and has a fanatical fascination with games and toys. She was until very recently the continuity manager for Magic: the Gathering.