Vicious Venues
Sinister Fountain
By Skip and Penny Williams

The Sinister Fountain includes encounters of EL 2-12, and it is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.

Many fountains are delights to behold. Elegant sculptures delight the eye and crystalline water fills the air with a soothing music all its own. This fountain, however, looks like something out of a nightmare. It resembles some emaciated fiend that weeps and drools foul-smelling liquid, and it sounds about as lovely as a leaky faucet.

Background for the DM

The sinister fountain actually is a conjuration device that was created to help guard an evil temple, tomb, or perhaps to serve an evil spellcaster. Although not portable, the fountain is a minor artifact.

The device consists of a twisting pillar that supports a hideous demon head and three basins. The head sits atop the pillar and the basins project from the sides of the pillar. The whole thing has been sculpted from marble and inlaid with mother of pearl and alabaster so as to resemble bone. The head is the size of a fire giant's head and has goatlike horns. The upper basin is about 2 feet across and the two lower ones are about three times that size. A fountain very like this one is pictured on page 210 of the Fiend Folio.

The fountain generates its own water, which flows from the head's mouth and eyes, dribbles into the upper basin, and then into the lower basin, where it overflows into the next one and so on, until it reaches the lowest basin, where it seems to drain away. A plume of miasmal gas rises from the water, cloaking the whole affair in a swampy stench.

For up to 3 rounds each day, the liquid flowing from the fountain's eyes is unholy water, and enough liquid flows to fill one standard vial from each eye during those 3 rounds.

Up to six times each day (but no more than once each hour), the fountain can summon fourth one to four creatures (see the Creatures section, below).

If uncommanded, the fountain produces creatures and unholy water at random intervals throughout the day. A character can control the fountain's functions by dumping a sacrifice into the upper basin and speaking the appropriate command word. The actual sacrifice required is left to the DM, but possibilities include the following:

  • Enough of the user's own blood to deal 1d4 points of Constitution damage, drained directly from the user's body into the upper basin.

  • A magic potion or oil worth at least 250 gp.

  • Rare wine or other spirits worth at least 250 gp.

  • The ashes from a magic scroll that held at least one spell of 3rd-level or higher.

Liquids or small objects dumped into the upper basin eventually fall into the lowest basin, where they are destroyed. A Diminutive or smaller creature or object that enters the lowest basin for any reason must make a DC 20 Will save each round, or cease to exist. Larger things dumped into the fountain get wet and smelly but aren't otherwise harmed.

The command words are long lost, but a DC 30 Bardic Knowledge or Knowledge (arcana) check will reveal them, as will a legend lore spell. A DC 25 Use Magic Device check allows a character to activate the fountain blindly (see the Use Magic Device skill), provided that the character also dumps the required sacrifice into the fountain.

Since the fountain is a minor artifact, an analyze dweomer spell won't reveal anything about the fountain.

The fountain has strong auras of conjuration magic and of evil. Magical effects from the fountain have a caster level of 20.

Smashing can destroy the fountain. It is a Huge object with the following statistics:

Fountain: 6 in. thick; hardness 8; hp 120; break DC 30.

If attacked, the fountain summons four creatures to defend it. It can do so even if it already has summoned creatures six times during the current day, and creatures it summons to defend itself don't count against its daily limit of six summonings. Once it has summoned creatures to defend itself, it cannot do so again for 1 hour.

The Setup

The PCs could stumble across the fountain during an adventure, or they might find it inside some foe's lair. Someone may also hire them to destroy the fountain.

This unwholesome fountain looks like something out of a nightmare, or at least out of a macabre vision. The whole thing stands about as tall as fire giant. It resembles a twisted tree made from bleached bones. A hideous fiend head, horned and skeletal, tops the bizarre sculpture. Three basins that look like great claws protrude from the main trunk. Brackish water that smells like it came from the foulest swamp on the planet dribbles from the head's eyes and mouth. The fetid liquid plops into the basin below, and then overflows that basin and falls into the next until it finally reaches the bottom basin, where it drains away with a throaty gurgle. The whole thing sounds and smells like a slow-running sewer. A nasty-looking vapor, like steam from a swamp on a cold day, rises from the fountain.

Creatures

As noted earlier, the fountain can summon creatures. This works much like a summon monster spell, except as follows:

A summoned creature always appears adjacent to the fountain (or as close to the fountain as possible if all the space adjacent to the fountain is occupied) and it cannot move more than 120 feet from the fountain. If a summoned creature moves more than 120 feet from the fountain, or if something drags a creature out of range, the creature winks out of existence, just as if the summoned creature had been slain.

As with any summoned creatures, various abjuration effects (including dispel magic) can send away creatures the fountain summons. As noted earlier, the fountain has a caster level of 20.

A summoned creature emerges from the fountain as some kind of object that rapidly expands into the full-sized creature. This effect is purely for show. A creature that the fountain summons can act during the round when it appears, just as with a summon monster spell.

Monsters that the fountain summons cannot use any summoning or teleportation abilities of their own.

Bat Swarm (EL 2-6)

The bats dribble from the statue's eyes as motes of black dust. The stream of water from the statue's mouth runs thick and dark, like water from an eroding hillside. The dust motes from the eyes turn into bats before they hit the upper basin. The stream of bats can last from 1 to 4 rounds, producing one swarm each round.

Bat Swarms (1-4): hp 13 each, see Monster Manual, page 237.

Tactics: The bats cluster around the nearest creature and continue attacking until the swarm is dispersed. If the fountain produces more than one swarm, newly arriving swarms seek out the nearest target that isn't already being swarmed.

Assassin Vine (EL 3-7)

A vine grows from one or both of the statue's eyes, then it detaches as it reaches full size. The flow of water from the statue's mouth turns a sickly green, like the scum on a stagnant pod. Long tendrils of weeds grow from the lowest basin and fill a 40-foot spread. The flow of assassin vines can last another round, producing one or two additional assassin vines on the following round.

Assassin Vine (1-4): hp 30 each, see Monster Manual, page 20.

Tactics: The assassin vines can use the weeds growing from the fountain for their entangle powers. If the PCs cut away the weed or do something else to eliminate it, more weed flows from the lower basin. The weed continues to replenish itself each round so long as at least one assassin vine is within 120 feet of the fountain.

The vines tend to grab whatever foes are closest and they favor smaller prey over larger creatures.

Gray Ooze (EL 4-8)

The flow of water from the statue's eyes and mouth turns pale gray as if the fountain has suddenly become choked with silt. The water in the upper basin foams and emits an acrid stench, and the gray water in the lowest basin seems to overflow, dumping one or more gray oozes onto the ground. The fountain produces up to four oozes, either all at once, two at a time, or one a round, as the DM sees fit.

Gray Oozes (1-4): hp 31 each, see Monster Manual, page 202.

Tactics: A character needs a DC 15 Spot check to notice the ooze in the flood of water from the lower basin; if the characters miss, the ooze automatically hits one character for slam and acid damage. Once a battle starts in earnest, the oozes tend to attack the nearest available target.

Bearded Devil (EL 5-9)

The flow of water from the statue's eyes turns to a scalding stream of polluted water. Anyone in a 40-foot cone extending from the fountain's front takes 1d4 points of fire damage. A DC 15 Reflex save reduces the damage by half. In addition, a creature that fails its Reflex save might become poisoned. The creature must make a DC 13 Fortitude save or suffer 1d4 points of Dexterity damage. This poison's secondary effect is 1d4 points of Constitution damage.

The devils appear as grotesque manikins that shoot from the statue's mouth, then splash into the upper basin, where upon they jump out and are full size before they hit the ground. The devils appear one at a time for 1 to 4 rounds. The scalding water continues for as long as devils pop out of the fountain.

Bearded Devils (1-4): hp 45 each, see Monster Manual, page 52.

Tactics: Remember that the devils are immune to fire and poison.

A single devil uses its battle frenzy ability, and then attacks the physically weakest-looking character it can reach. The devil begins by using its glaive, but switches to natural weaponry if its foes move into adjacent spaces (where the glaive cannot reach). If the devil discovers it can hit its chosen foes fairly easily, it might abandon its glaive attacks and use natural weapons so as to bring its beard attack into play.

If multiple devils come from the fountain, the new arrivals try to jockey for position before attacking. (Their teleportation abilities don't work because they're summoned creatures.) The devils shy away from combat with physically powerful characters and try to attack the weaker looking first. None of the devils can summon other devils (again because they are summoned creatures).

Salamander (EL 6-10)

The flow of water from the statue's eyes and mouth turns to a stream of molten lava. Anyone touching the lava takes 2d6 points of damage per round of exposure, except in the case of total immersion (such as when a character climbs into the lower basin), which deals 20d6 points of damage per round.

Damage from the lava continues for 1d3 rounds after exposure ceases, but this additional damage is only half of that dealt during actual contact (that is, 1d6 or 10d6 points per round).

The salamanders appear as white hot worms that shoot from the statue's mouth, then splash into the upper basin, whereupon they jump out and are full size before they hit the ground. The salamanders appear one at a time for 1 to 4 rounds. The lava flows for as long as salamanders pop out of the fountain.

Average Salamanders (1-4): hp 58 each, see Monster Manual, page 219.

Tactics: Upon emerging from the fountain, a salamander strikes with its spear at one target and lashes with its tail at another. If it grabs with its tail, it takes -20 on its grapple checks so it can go on attacking with its spear while it holds a victim in its coils. If it cannot hold onto a foe, it happily goes back to stabbing and tail slapping. If several salamanders appear, one or two of them might concentrate on victims in their coils (making normal grapple checks) while the rest try to keep the victim's allies from attacking the grappling salamander.

Hellcat (EL 7-11)

The hellcats emerge as lumps of glowing coal that fall from the statue's eyes and mouth. Meanwhile, the basins seem to fill with oil and burst into flame. These flames shed bright light in a 30-foot radius and shadowy light an additional 30 feet beyond that.

The "coals" transform into tiny hellcats that fall to the upper basin's rim, and then leap to the ground, where they achieve full size by the time they land. A maximum of three hellcats can emerge from the fountain in a single round. If four hellcats appear, one arrives a round after the others (or one hellcat can come initially, followed by three others, or two can arrive each round).

Hellcats (1-4): hp 60 each, see Monster Manual, page 54.

Tactics: Hellcats are invisible in light, and characters who cannot see invisible things see the glowing coals seemingly evaporate as they fall. Seen or unseen, once a hellcat arrives, it looks for a lightly armored character to attack.

The flame effects in the basins are similar to continual flame effects, except they're brighter and they last only so long as a hellcat is within 120 feet of the fountain. The flames can be dispelled as spell-like effects from a 20th-level caster.

Hellwasp Swarm (EL 8-12)

The wasps dribble from the statue's eyes as grains of golden sand. The stream of water from the statue's mouth turns golden, like a stream of honey or tawny wine. However, the fountain exudes a smell like rotten fruit baking in the summer sun. The grains of dust from the eyes turn into wasps before they hit the upper basin. The stream of wasps can last from 1 to 4 rounds, producing one swarm each round.

Hellwasp Swarm (1-4): hp 93 each, see Monster Manual, page 238.

Tactics: The wasps use the same tactics as the bats.

About the Authors

Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for 18 years. 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 (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.

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.


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