An eroded statue rises from a seething pool of superheated water. Is the statue and its basin merely an ancient steambath? Or does the place harbor some powerful force -- and is that force living or dead?
Background for the DM
A clan of azers built the dragonsbreath basin many centuries ago over the site of a natural geyser. The heat-loving azers had established a mining colony on the Material Plane, and they lost no time in converting the geyser into a vast, communal steambath where they could take their ease in conditions that at least partially resembled the conditions on their home plane. Over time, however, the geyser's waters became more and more acid, forcing the azers to abandon the bath. A raid by a group of efreet finally convinced the azers to abandon the colony as well. Since that time, the basin chamber has seen some use by various fire-loving creatures over the years. Most recently the occupants include an efreeti and her jann allies.
The dragonsbreath basin gets its name from the peculiar sculpture that looms over the roiling waters in the basin. The azers originally sculpted it to resemble a mass of twisting, leaping flames, but the acidic waters of the geyser have eroded away most of the stone, leaving behind a vaguely serpent-shaped mass with a gaping hole at one end that resembles a dragon's jaws. The geyser periodically sends gouts of scalding steam out through this vent.
The chamber containing the basin can be located just about anywhere, but placing it underground or in a secluded desert locale is best. If located underground, the chamber can simply be part of a dungeon or cavern complex. Outdoors, the basin might be housed in a decaying stone building with a massive central dome or vault. In any case, the basin chamber's interior should be dark, dank, hot, and filled with acidic fumes. If located in a dungeon, the area containing the chamber should be at least a little foggy, and droplets of warm water should fall from the ceiling and run down the walls. Outdoors, the building might stand amid a lush grove of trees bathed in cloud of vapor that perpetually surrounds the area.
The PCs might learn about the basin by discovering a cache of goods left behind by the azers long ago. The goods might include a journal or map that shows the former colony's location. If the PCs should encounter a local brass dragon, they'll certainly hear a few tales of the place (see below). The current (and self-styled) overlord of the place, the efreeti Dischubba, likes to spread tales of the basin's "miraculous" powers. In fact, the geyser is a real danger to most residents of the Material Plane, but Dischubba loves to tempt gullible folk into the chamber, where she can overpower and enslave them. The PCs might hear any of the following rumors regarding the place:
- Dragonsbreath basin is in reality the grave of a great gold wyrm that literally melded itself into the landscape at the moment of death. The stony corpse of the dragon can still be seen, and from time to time, the dragon still breathes, much to the peril of anyone nearby.
- Bits of the dragon's vast hoard still lie in a steaming pool that surrounds the corpse, but families of gold dragons still lay their eggs in the area and jealously protect the grave. Still, the dragons also leave offerings to the departed dragon in the pool, and a clever thief could not only stash up some valuables, but also come away with a dragon egg or two.
- Dragonsbreath basin is a place of eldritch power that is guarded by vengeful spirits. Some say, however, that a meek person can pass by the spirits and can gain a wish simply by casting three pieces of sun-warmed gold into the basin -- the size of the golden objects need only match one's desire for the wish.
- Dragonsbreath basin marked the center of an ancient dwarven kingdom that grew too rich for its own good. Greed and splendor have long since brought about the kingdom's downfall, but wonderful treasures await those hardy souls that can brave the spirits, both of fire and of long-dead dwarves, that haunt the place.
Dischubba planted these rumors, though all three have their basis in folktales about the place. Dischubba simply embellished them a little by adding the promise of treasure. She is most proud of the second rumor. Periodically, she lends verisimilitude to this one by actually granting a wish to some poor, desperate soul who comes to the place with an offering of gold. This ruse has netted her many offerings of gold and a steady supply of people to enslave.
Entering the Basin Chamber
The chamber containing the basin and its geyser-turned-fountain once had a stone door, but that was destroyed years ago. All that remains now is an open doorway, and even that has seen better days:
Tendrils of pale mist flow from a gaping hole framed with rock. The barest hint of an archway remains visible over the opening, but most of the stones have fallen away, leaving an irregular outline of pitted rock that resembles rotten wood more than solid stone. Chunks of fallen masonry lie scattered about, their edges curiously rounded, as though worn away by wind or water. The air here has an acrid stench with just a hint of sulfur -- or perhaps of rotting flesh.
The stonework in the archway is not altogether safe. The noise of battle or an energy spell such as a lighting bolt or fireball striking the doorway can shake loose some stones, making the doorway a hazardous place to stand in a battle.
If a melee develops near the door, there is a 1-in-6 chance each round that loose stones fall from the doorway, dealing 2d8 points of damage to anyone within 10 feet of the door. A Reflex save (DC 18) reduces damage by half. A blow with a weapon or an energy spell striking the top of the door automatically shakes loose the stones. Once the stone falls, there is no further danger from the stonework (at least for the moment).
A character with the stonecunning ability can make a Search or Spot check (DC 15) to notice the loose stones, as can a rogue or character with the ability to find traps.
Creatures (EL 8, 9, or 10): At least one janni, or sometimes two or three always lurk near the doorway ready to "welcome" visitors to the chamber,
Jann (1-3): hp 33 each; see Monster Manual.
Tactics: One janni remains visible just inside the door while its comrades (if any) stay in the chamber, both invisible and out of the line of sight for anyone outside. The visible janni poses as a human commoner, Vizen bin Arneb, who has journeyed to the chamber to cast a few golden rings into the basin and gain a wish. He is loathe to explain the nature of his wish, as that might jinx his quest. Vizen is happy to explain the tale of the wishes if the PCs have not heard it. Vizen also confesses to the PCs that he is loathe to give up his three golden rings (one is his wedding band), for he now doubts that he could gain a wish at all. (This is one true element of his tale. The janni cannot get a wish, because it is Dischubba who grants the wishes here and the efreeti cannot grant wishes to other genies.)
If the PCs believe Vizen's tale, the janni confesses that he fears to fully enter the chamber because he has heard other tales of powerful and malignant spirits within, and yet he begs the PCs not to enter the chamber just yet, since that may interfere with the granting of his wish. It is Vizen's plan to hem and haw a long as he can until he drives the PCs mad with waiting and they eventually push their way into the chamber without being properly prepared for a fight.
Should the PCs attack Vizen, the janni uses his flying ability to get out of reach, then enlarges himself and tries to harry the party from the air with his longbow. If Vizen has jann allies to help out, the other jann also use their enlarge powers, then use their flying ability or ethereal jaunt powers to surround and flank the PCs during the ensuing fight. If he gets the chance, Vizen (or one of his allies) sends an arrow into the doorway to dump stones on characters standing nearby.
Any battle here that lasts more than 2 rounds brings Dischubba from the next chamber.
Inside the Chamber
The chamber where the basin lies is hot, steamy, and thoroughly uncomfortable:
Within the chamber beyond the opening, the stench is even stronger. The air is hot and humid, but it isn't just heat that burns the nose and throat; the air in here seems caustic.
The chamber is perhaps an easy bowshot across, with a vaulted ceiling dripping with moisture and a slick stone floor. All the stone in here looks heavily pitted.
The heat and moisture seem to come from a vast, irregular pool of simmering water that lies in the center of the chamber, filling perhaps a third of the floor space. Here and there, the remains of a low stone wall stand at the pool's edges. Elsewhere, chunks of broken stone lie half submerged in the water, forming a rough circle within the much larger pool.
A massive stone statue rises in serpentine curves from the center of the pool. The sculpture seems mostly featureless, but it seems to have a massive, toothy maw where steam emerges with a steady hiss. The water just below the statue seems calmer and clearer than the rest of the pool, and many bright flecks of gold seem to lie around the statue's base.
The basin was once a round pool lined with a low stone wall, but the acidic waters of the pool have eaten way most of the wall, letting the waters spread over the chamber. The water is not boiling; the "simmering" is actually gas escaping from the bottom of the pool, and it is this gas that makes the water acid.
The water is scalding hot, though, and also highly corrosive. Just touching the water results in 1 point of fire damage and 1 point of acid damage. Immersion in the pool results of 1d6 points or fire and 1d6 points of acid damage each round.
In addition, the geyser erupts without fail every 7 minutes. The geyser files the whole chamber with boiling, acidic vapor, which deals 3d6 points of fire damage and 1d6 points of acid damage to everyone in the chamber. A Reflex saves (DC 20) reduces damage by half.
The gold at the base of the statue is genuine. Dischubba dropped a few coins and trinkets here to lend credence to the stories about casting gold in the pool to gain a wish.
Creatures (EL 8, 9, or 10): Dischubba makes her lair in a side chamber not far from the basin with one janni attendant.
Janni: hp 33; see Monster Manual.
Efreeti: hp 65; see Monster Manual.
Tactics: When Dischubba hears Vizen speaking to visitors at the door, she becomes invisible and moves into the main chamber, where she observes the action. If anyone enters the chamber without fighting the jann at the door, Dischubba uses her permanent image ability to form the ghostly image of a golden dragon around the statue in the pool. Upon seeing this, Vizen immediately throws himself to the ground, groveling and begging for his life. The "dragon" scolds the PCs for entering its tomb bearing weapons and demands that all weapons be immediately cast into the pool. If the PCs comply, Dischubba attacks with an evil chuckle using the tactics described below. Anything cast into the pool takes fire and acid damage reach round (the acid, however, does not harm gold).
Should a fight break out at the doorway. Dischubba takes to the air, using her wall of fire ability to separate the party, then uses produce flame to attack an armored character. If necessary, she enters melee herself.
All the genies, and particularly Dischubba, are well aware of the geyser's schedule, and they flee the chamber the round before it erupts, only to return to resume the fight afterwards.
About the Authors
Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and has been the Sage of Dragon Magazine since 1986. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (his borscht get rave reviews).
Penny Williams joined the roleplaying game industry as Game Questions Expert for TSR, Inc. in the 1980s. Since then, she has served as RPGA Network Coordinator, PolyhedronNewszine editor, and Senior Editor and Coordinating Editor for the RPG R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Now a busy freelancer, Penny edits for several game companies and runs the online playtesting program for Wizards products. When not enhancing the cruelty of the deaths PCs will suffer at the hands of designers, Penny puts up jam, works jigsaw puzzles, and tutors students in math and science.