Steal My Idea: The Phantom Tower

“Aeinor clutched his stomach as blood spilled between his fingers. He slammed the door behind him and heard the thunks as the daggers hit the wood behind him. Aeinor stumbled forward, a wave of exhaustion enveloping him. He turned around and sealed the door shut with a spell. The spell blinked out of his memory, and he knew he could run no longer. After a deep and drawn out breath, Aeinor began to channel the remnants of his power. The wards on the door faded, and the assassins broke through just as the wizard cast his greatest and final spell”.

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Hello and welcome to Only On Tuesdays. This week I am doing something different and giving you guys an idea that you can hopefully use in your games. This dungeon was something that I ran in the past to great success. Hopefully, it can inspire you to try something new in your games, and give your players an interesting encounter that they will remember for a long time. Feel free to come up with your own ideas for this in the comments below, I’d love to hear how you decided to experiment with it.

Setting the Scene

Your party is trekking through the mountains on their path to some other quest. They round a ridge and see a tower, far off in the distance surrounded by trees. As they get closer to it they start to hear voices. There are two groups, one at the base of the tower, and one wizard at the top of the tower. They are decked out in magical items, and neither one of them looks happy. As the party approaches, the group at the bottom breaks down the door and rushes inside the building. 
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If the party tries to follow them, they will discover that even though the door is broken down there is something still there but invisible. After investigating for a bit they will find the handle to another door, hidden under what appears to be a powerful illusion. As they explore more and more of the tower they will learn that the entire tower is covered by this powerful illusion. The illusion shows a pristine and untouched building, but underneath it is a broken and crumbling building that is dangerous to even traverse through. The illusion’s magic is so powerful that even knowing that the illusion exists isn’t enough to break it. If the party is smart, they may even realize that the groups they saw earlier are part of this illusion as well. 
But, that isn’t all there is to this tower. As they continue to travel through it they might hear the voices of the people they saw broke in earlier. But instead of them arguing with each other, the voices will be plotting about what to do with those who broke into the tower. It will seem that the voices are coming from the walls around them, and inside the illusory furniture even. These voices don’t belong to the people the party saw earlier but instead belong to the Kenku, a species that is capable of mimicking other voices. 
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As the party attempts to navigate rooms filled with holes that none of them can see, the Kenku may begin to try to thwart the trespassers. Rocks will fly out of the walls, and swords may flash out of what appears to be a solid oak bookcase. What may appear to be an open hallway is actually a collapsed stone wall, while other solid walls are actually secret passages carved out by the Kenku living here. 

The Idea

The idea behind this dungeon is actually pretty simple. Cover everything in an illusion, and make the illusion different from reality. This kernel can be used quite liberally and isn’t restricted to just a tower. Maybe the regional effects of a Lich are causing the terrain to have a different appearance. Perhaps you use this idea while the players are in a dream sequence, further blurring reality from the nightmare. It could be in a dungeon, a cavern, a city, whatever. 
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Adding onto this idea is what can make it interesting, however. In the tower example I gave above I added Kenkus to the equation in order to add variety and to add something that wasn’t part of the illusion. The unique property of mimicking voices allow the Kenkus to communicate with each other, and further throw off the party. Other ideas may include wizards or magic items that can turn illusions into reality briefly, putting the illusion on a timer so that it resets every 24 hours, or making the illusion turn on or off depending on what the players do. 

How would you guys use this idea? What would you do to make it more interesting and fun for your players? How do you take this simple idea and make it your own? Let me know in the comments below, I can’t wait to hear all of your ideas!

Thank you for reading! Have a great week, and an amazing Tuesday!