For my Beyond the Wall game, I may have gone a little overboard in designing an encounter location. Because I produced well over 10k words, I figured I might as well serialize it here so others might find use of my over-writing. I’m including conversion suggestions for people running standard D&D or Pathfinder (as well as how to hack the story to better fit as a standalone).

Context

This started out because I grabbed and E/W flipped the map for Fallcrest because I needed a city on a river that the players would investigate for what I thought would be a session or two and I didn’t want to put much work into the map. Turned out there was a lot gameable there, and it became 5+ sessions of content (as well as a lengthy play-by-email in the upper tower). One of the things on the map that didn’t make a lot of sense was the Septarch’s Tower. The city was standing in for a town in my campaign’s northern empire, which isn’t too fond of any magic beyond their own pseudo-clerical type. However, the location could easily be built on the ruins of the former empire that fell over 1,000 years ago, and they definitely had mages. So it made sense to set up the place as an ancient holdover that the locals didn’t like but couldn’t get rid of.

Meanwhile, I had previously repurposed Baltron’s Beacon for an adventure in a swamp. Since that adventure features a teleportation artifact, and I was looking for a way to give my player characters an equivalent of a hearthstone ability (so they could swap out PCs between sessions without going home), I’d elaborated on the backstory. The mage that previously held the tower (renamed to Balduin to fit my campaign’s naming practices) had invented a teleportation device that worked off of large, enspelled keys. He then sent these keys to his closest wizard-type mage friends in the Order, before blowing himself up trying to finish the teleporter. At the time, this was a way to give the PCs quests to find some additional bind points: they started with two keys, which allowed them to leave one at their home base and take one with them on adventures. Having more keys would allow them to set up additional bases they could teleport to.

I decided the Septarch’s Tower would be an old, Hogwarts-style mage academy for training elemental war mages for the ancient empire (it was located near their border with their rival empire). It was heavily warded, so nobody had been able to make it in for 1,000 years, including the old enemies that sacked the town. Since Balduin had been studying the magic of that empire to get his teleporter working, the keys would also work to bypass the wards on the building. And, over a decade past, a couple of his wizard friends had taken advantage of that to slip in and try to loot this ancient stronghold of knowledge.

The two NPCs that made it into the tower are:

  • Salome was an evoker-style mage with a specialty in subterfuge and guile. She’d happened upon the tower as part of infiltrating the northern empire, and took advantage of her key letting her in. She was a bit too headstrong, and… well… her body is still in the tower from when she didn’t acknowledge she needed backup.
  • Hieronymus was a transmuter-style mage who happened upon the location after getting Salome’s letters and checking on her some time after her correspondence stopped. He started piecing together more of what happened in the tower, hid some of the better spells lower in the dungeon, and left to go get some help clearing it out (not making Salome’s mistake). Unfortunately, his apprentice, Leberecht, was a big jerk, who murdered Hieronymus before he could make it back. (The apprentice wound up as the evil mage who’s the main antagonist in the first part of Baltron’s Beacon: he was way more into the idea of a teleporter, and had taken the key there to try to get it working.)

I initially ran this as a between-sessions play-by-email game for the upper parts of the tower, so I kept most of the challenges fairly simple (even simple puzzles can take forever in PbEM) and didn’t have any combat to try to get as much as possible accomplished in the month before the next live session. The lower levels were then run live, so could have more involved rolling and combat. Also note that this means that most of the text below is in a more descriptive style, as it’s only lightly edited from what I sent to my players as they entered various areas.

Conversion Suggestions

If you’re running this live, I would add more creatures to the upper rooms (which are currently entirely safe except for some puzzles that deliver shocks for getting the wrong answers). Particularly as a standalone, it would be very easy to have Leberecht (Hieronymus’ apprentice) and his running crew here instead, spread out researching various parts of the tower and eager to attack anyone else after their prize. In that case, most obvious treasure has probably been consolidated in wherever they’ve set up shop (likely an upper level), and some of the dorm rooms have probably been slightly repaired to serve as camps for various research teams. Obviously, replace the verbiage and history to something that makes sense for an ancient sealed elementalist’s tower in your campaign.

Beyond the Wall uses a silver piece standard, rather than a gold piece. You may want to update the treasure to match (and, honestly, to fit whatever the recommended treasure is for your game and party level).

Outside

The entire tower is in the same meticulous stonework as other ruins of the old Northern Empire. This has held up much better than many of the other Northern ruins the party is likely to have encountered, and particularly well for the town. Those with the ability to detect magic sense that this is because of protective magics worked into the stone that are still holding strong. It’s around 100 feet tall, and the walls are a regular septagon with perhaps only a slight taper going up.

Around 25 feet up, each wall face has a set of four evenly-spaced arrow loops. At about 50 feet up, each face has a large, ornate arch (the titular seven arches) that seem to lead into a small room and shimmer as if glassed in. Near the top of the tower, one level has irregularly-placed glass windows, and the level above that seems to be completely open to the air, the roof of the tower supported on pillars in the corners (though, again, a shimmer indicates that perhaps it is covered with windows larger than seems possible).

Floor U1 (Entry Level)

First Floor

Entry

Once you enter, mage lights begin to appear from crystals embedded in the walls, casting the area into a faint blue glow (dim lighting). It’s likely that whatever powers them is beginning to weaken.

The crystals are embedded in carvings along the walls, which seem to have once been colored with paint that has long-since decayed into the occasional spot of color and strange, brown rivulets down the walls. Even without the paint, you can make out a common wolf motif, similar to that of the eastern side of the ravine dungeon. (The ancient summoners used a wolf theme in other dungeons.)

Though the stones appear to have been protected by magics, little else has. The air is damp, and that moisture seems to have ruined most organic and ferrous things within the tower. Even from the entryway, it looks like there might have been shelves and cloakracks that are now little more than piles of detritus where they once stood.

The ceiling is high (and will continue to be high on other floors, unless otherwise noted): perhaps as tall as 20 feet. Which makes the narrow spiral stairway to your left upon entry an imposing climb. It curves up clockwise and down counterclockwise. It, fortunately, seems to be part of the stonework and still in good repair.

The hallway ahead of you seems to dead end, but it does not take long to realize that several of the vertical reliefs within the murals are poor concealment for arrow (magic?) loops that widen on the other side (perhaps, when painted, they were better hidden). The rooms beyond are not lit, but anyone with low-light vision or who lights a torch or lamp can get close and scan through, seeing two small guardrooms where defenders could likely hold out against invaders. Each has a door to the north.

From the hallway, other than the stairs there is a door north and a door south. These doors (and, indeed, most doors in the complex) appear to be steel-banded thick wood, that no doubt is spelled along with the tower (or it would have long rotted away). They have no handles, but do feature brass touch plates where a handle would otherwise be.

Stairs Note

A parchment letter sits upon the stairs up, weighted down by a rock. It appears old, and has suffered extensive water damage. There are two sets of handwriting, the the lower set appears slightly less damaged.

Balduin, I don’t know if your key will ever work to teleport, but you indeed managed to attune it correctly to the old imperial magics. Which I suppose you know if you’re reading this. I’m investigating the tower, and have left notes as I go in case I’m out when you arrive. Be careful in town: the new empire is only getting more bold, and the city is already unsafe for mages of the Order.

Salome

I believe Balduin is dead, and I fear Salome might be as well. I’ve heard from neither in years. Anyone else that follows, be careful. I’m investigating the tower as well.

Hieronymus

Rooms

The doors in the level don’t appear to be mystically sealed. They’re on a vertical pivot opposite the push plate, and seem to be designed to swing in either direction. This is a style that isn’t much used, possibly because of the difficulty of preventing a draft, which may explain why there’s so much moisture damage in the tower. Perhaps long ago some magic actually sealed the airflow through doors. The doors are only slightly swollen, so it takes a little work to shove the doors open. It’s likely Salome and/or Hieronymus did some work to unseal them whenever they were here, and they’ve swollen less in decades than in centuries.

To the north, the door has triple brackets to bar the door from within, which gives credence to perhaps these never being mystically sealed, or at least the mystical seals weren’t strong enough to rely upon. The room appears to have been, indeed, a guardroom. Corroded ruins of weapon racks slump against the walls, and the lights in here cluster around the door, perhaps to give defenders some advantage of being in shadow. A couple of what might have once been spears seem to have had silvered heads (might be able to salvage 20 sp worth of value from the tarnished material).

East of the guardroom appears to have been the guards’ office. There are stains on the floor that indicate chairs, desks, or perhaps even cots were once in the room for guards on duty, but there’s only a few bits of organic goo left. Likely, Salome or Hieronymus cleaned it up out of disgust. The doors in here lead to the chambers with the arrow loops. Within those rooms, which are extremely dark, the party can eventually find 10 sp worth of silver arrowheads that have outlived their steel and cold iron brethren. On a more careful search, they also find two arrowheads of a strange, dark steel (Adamantine) that have held up very well, even still holding an edge. They were placed somewhere that was likely easy to reach in the easternmost room.

The room to the south was likely once a conference room, and the thick oaken table and bookshelves were sufficiently treated and varnished that they’re very rotted but still obvious in their use. The table has pitched over to the east and the side touching the floor is decaying into a wet, soft earth while the western end stays relatively free of the damp. Strangely, the “bookshelves” appear to have been designed more like honeycombs, with fist-sized tubes alternating up the length. In a few, a metal post* lies amidst decayed pulp, but if the rest of them held scrolls, their organic components have long since deteriorated beyond recognition. If there was anything else of value in this room, the previous visitors have claimed it.

* The posts are just brass dowels, likely someone making a fancy scroll core instead of using a wooden dowel.

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