Mirrored Possibilities
published: Feb 28, 2018 | last modified: Feb 28, 2018
estimated reading time 28 minutes

This was a Role-Playing Game Association (RPGA) entry for the annual contest (1995), results presented at that years GenCon. This was the second year I had entered.

The first entry I submitted the previous year, a “For Faerie, Queen, and Country” (an Amazing Engine Universe Book) adventure, and won second place (Symbolic Apparatus). I figured I won partly because I used an off-brand system TSR was producing at the time. I also figured I wouldn’t have a chance of winning first place if I didn’t write an adventure for D&D proper.

This entry was to prove to myself that my entries had some kind of substance to them. I figured if I won anything with a D&D adventure, then I may have done a decent job. This entry, “Mirrored Possibilities,” won second place (original as PDF).

Dwayne Summerfield — RPGA# 152317
1995

What starts out as a simple dungeon crawl on the side, turns into a complicated game of “what is real” after the party finds a very special mirror.

The true focus of this adventure for the Dungeon Master (DM) is the mirror. The dungeon crawl is nothing more than a backdrop for interactions with the mirror. The important thing about the backdrop is that it is interesting and provides lots of possibilities for things to happen, good and bad, fantastic and mundane.

Throughout the following, all text in borders is presented to the player characters in the appropriate context. All other text is for the DM only and presented at DM discretion. This adventure is for 4-6 players with characters of level 2-4 inclusive. As always, role-playing is encouraged. Other than this the players may be of beginning to advanced ability.

The Mirror

This section describes the magic artifact that this adventure is written around.

The mirror looks like a standard wall mounted mirror. When first found it will be sitting on the floor on its side, leaning against the wall, with the mirror itself facing the wall.

The mirror appears to be about 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall. The frame is a nice dark walnut, but not unusually ornamental. There is some floral design carved into walnut frame. The usual hanging hardware is present and the back appears to be roughly finished walnut. As you turn the mirror around, raising a cloud from the dust that coats the frame and back, you notice that the surface of the mirror proper is dust, dirt, and blemish free. In short it looks perfect.

If anyone tries to dirty the mirror — oily hands, smeared mud, spitting, etc. — the mirror cleans itself completely in 1D6 rounds.

The mirror has a very unusual property. When an individual with (INT + WIZ) of 26 or better looks upon the mirror, the mirror will show an animated scene. As if the mirror was a window and not a mirror. This scene is of the individual viewing the mirror, and anyone that could be accompanying them. The significance of the scene is that it shows what may occur up to one full turn in the future. Only those that meet the viewing criteria, and within eyesight of the mirror, can view the scene. Otherwise it appears to be just a very fine mirror.

Now if the viewer changes their actions based upon the information shown in the mirror, then the next time the mirror is viewed, the mirror will show something different – that is, the future has changed.

Each individual that can view the mirror and attempts to do so continuously might be in for a nap. Each turn that s/he continuously views the mirror they must save vs charm to prevent falling asleep for 1D6 rounds. Each turn that the individual makes their save adds a -1 modifier to the next save. This modifier is cumulative, so five turns of making save results in a modifier of -5 on the sixth save.

The excitement comes when the adventurers attempt to use the information gained from the mirror to avoid the future. Because you see, the mirror only shows the most probable BAD future. The original intent of the mirror was to warn of possible happenings in the very near future, like assassination attempts on the viewer while giving a speech. The mirror shows the worst-case scenario. Another thing that makes things exciting is the fact that each individual viewer of the unfolding scene sees a DIFFERENT scene! Each viewer sees THEIR future up to one turn from now. This is also a large challenge on the DM. The DM needs to pay attention and keep notes on the small talk that goes on between the party members. Example:

So what we could have is conflicting views, the party arguing over what each viewer saw as well as which consequences that could result. Of course, if they are continuing to view the mirror as they argue, then the possibility of one or more of the characters taking a short nap becomes more and more likely.

The complexity of juggling all of these “possibilities”, especially if there are 3 or more characters that can view the mirror, is the reason that this adventure is designed for lower level characters. This somewhat limits the possible futures as the characters themselves are limited in the possible different actions they can take. Theoretically the characters have fewer magic and/or unusual items that could throw a wrench into the works.

Remember, always use the worst possible case. In the example above, if there was a talkative Orc in the room, character A would not have seen this possible friendlier side. Instead the character would have seen the party being grievously hurt by a single raging Orc. Yes, the Orc would have to get VERY lucky in his to-hit and damage rolls, but it’s possible.

The mirror itself may be broken if 20+ points of physical damage are done to it in one round. Otherwise it is immune to magic and the elements. The frame and back are mundane and can easily be removed. If the mirror is broken, it will explode with the force and effects of a fireball cast by a sixth level wizard

The Setting

This section will introduce the different settings of the adventure.

This adventure takes place in a small village, off the main roads. The village is nestled in a valley with great pines climbing up the sides of the valley and a small meandering river that runs down the middle. It is a sleepy place where life is simple and rewarding. The village is far enough off the beaten path that it sees only an occasional traveler. This traveler is usually looking for a quiet place to spend some time to rest and relax. Some families in the village have an extra room and offer a bed and breakfast deal for next to nothing. Other than this there are no facilities for travelers in the village.

The village should be presented as a standard medieval village with one small, very local, tavern. The only unusual feature is the old tower ruins about a half hour walk from the village. The normal road into the village enters on the opposite side from the tower ruins. The tower ruins once belonged to a powerful and kindly wizard that pretty much kept to himself. The townsfolk would, over time, spread rumors and worry over what might be going on in the tower on the hill. Whenever the rumors started to get out of hand the old wizard would pay a visit to the town and perform small beneficial magic for any and all townsfolk that needed it. Fertility boosts for the livestock; curing of minor ailments through local herbs; small technological improvements in irrigation methods; fantastic light shows for the children; rain during a drought; etc. In this way he would relieve the worries of the townsfolk. The wizard would then return to his tower and continue his research. How, and under what circumstance, the wizard met his demise is left for another adventure.

The tower has stood abandoned for about 20 years now, though asking around in the village will result in answers anywhere from 100 years to 4 years to “A wizard lived there? When?”. The place has been falling apart slowly over the years. About 5 years ago a small Orc raiding band moved in. The leader is relatively intelligent and ensures that his band does not raid the local village. Instead they raid anywhere from 5 to 10 days travel from the valley, and stay out of sight in the valley in an attempt to ensure their anonymity. They do however, throw some wild parties at night resulting in rumors in the village that the tower is haunted. This is in fact the band of Orcs the party is seeking, as is explained below.

Character Introduction

The goal of this adventure, as a DM, is to get the characters into the old wizard’s tower and introduce them to the mirror early. For this reason the village itself should not be presented as an exciting place. Standard, mundane, and normal are the words the characters should be using to describe the village to others. The party should get the impression that, if they ran into trouble, there will probably be no help coming from the village. The men here are farmers and family men, not adventurers. The Character Introduction section is intended to get the party into the tower.

After the players are given 10 minutes or so to review their character sheets, and in the process have their questions answered by the DM, the following introduction is presented to the players:

Some of you may be close to thinking that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to take that commission from the mayor to “get rid of them stinking Orcs”. The trail was fresh and hot when you left. Now, after 8 days of travel on relatively well-maintained roads, the cool trail of the raiding Orc band leads you off the beaten path. Though you are still on a road of sorts, you can tell it is almost never traveled.

 

After 2 days of following this road, and now cold trail, you come over a shallow rise in the land and see below you a small valley with an active village at the bottom. A great Pine forest surrounds the village, clinging to the very sides of the mountains that form the valley. There is what appears to be a shallow meandering river at the bottom of the valley, probably from a mountain spring. The river lazily wanders through the center of the village and away into the forest at the far side of the valley. The road you have been following, which is now no more than a path, leads down into the village. You see, off in the distance beyond the village, what looks to be an old run down tower or fortification.

In talking with the townsfolk the players should get the following impressions:

If the characters do not go directly to the tower, then they should be nudged to the tavern.

The tavern, which no one has referred to by any other name, is no more than the front room of someone’s dwelling. Unlabeled from the outside, there is very little else other than the smell of cheap whiskey and ale that would let you know that this was a tavern from the inside. Three tables, one with a single patron, and a 4-foot bar and the barkeep. The only other exit from the tavern is a closed door near the bar. There are no windows, and only a small hole in the roof, which accounts for the heavy pipe smoke smell lingering in the air.

 

The patron looks like a grizzled old man and reeks of old ale. Though rough looking around the edges, he has some of the stereotypical trappings of a wizard, a barely visible arcane symbol on his robe, a large pouch that appears to contain a book, etc. He immediately looks up upon your entrance and you note that he has a worn patch over his left eye with what looks like a rune embroidered on it.

 

The barkeep, who was referred to as Jonathan by the townsfolk, is a slight man with little hair left even around the edges. What is left is gray. He is standing behind the bar doing the normal barkeep pastime of polishing glasses. The bar is little more than a narrow table with a single shelf behind the barkeep. On the shelf are 5 glasses, no two the same size but actual glass. There is also two bottles of some dark liquid on the shelf. There is an old weeping keg on the floor next to the bar.

Discussions with the barkeep will reveal little more than discussions with the general townsfolk.

If the characters approach the old man with the intent of engaging in conversation, the old man will invite them to his table. Whether the party is invited to the old man’s table or they sit at another table, the old man will show little initial interest in any sort of animated conversation. If the players buy the old man an ale, or one of the party members mentions the tower the old man will then engage them in conversation. If one of the party members mention the tower, the old man will hint at knowledge of the tower, but confess to having a throat so parched as being barely able to speak. However the encounter turns out, the old man will not give any substantive information until the party buys him an ale.

If the players have bought an ale for the old man:

After noisily downing half of the ale, almost as if he was thirsting to death, the old man lets out a great sigh. The smell, you decide, would definitely wilt flowers. He turns and addresses the party, “You look like a quite capable group of young’ins. Tops in your fields from the looks of it! How would you like to earn a little extra treasure? But no, the task is minor and I am sure you have much better things to do.”

After some bantering back and forth, with the old man doing just a little more buttering up, present the following to the players:

“There’s that old tower on the hill just outside of town. S’posed to be haunted. It was once owned by an old kindly wizard, whose name I can’t seem to recollect. The old man met an untimely demise at the hands of powerful demons. It was said that the old man had collected a vast treasure and it was hidden somewhere in or around the tower. This was, of course, many years ago and the tower and surrounds have been scoured clean.”

The old drunk takes a big swig from the ale and glares at each of you from his one good eye.

“Or has it? I had heard from someone that the wizard had a device that kept the time of day and this device used water to run it. I think it was referred to as a water clock. Anyway, I got this wild hair and did some research’n and ask’n around and found out that the old wizard had to have a container of some kind, a big one, to hold a lot of water in order for this clock thing to work. Well, everyone that knows anyone that I talked to had never seen nor heard of any kind of container. Now if I was a smart wizard, like I am sure this one was, I would have hid things in this here container. So that’s my theory. The really good stuff is stashed in this here container. Now the only thing I want out of this is one particular ring that the old man was seen wearing, but didn’t have when they found what was left of ‘im. Anything else you find is yours. Do we have a deal?”

The old man’s name is Balder. He was once an apprentice of a wizard of no small reputation from the very town the party is from. When sent to the Wizards guild for a year of general tutelage, Balder failed out miserably. His master tore up the apprenticeship contract and sent Balder packing. This is where Balder ended up, some 10 years ago. The only knowledge he has been able to retain has been enough for a few (1D6) cantrips. The ring is not magical. The ring is a symbol of status. It presents the bearer as being a scholar of magic of the highest degree. This is given to those that have shown their worthiness in the Wizards college, located in the seat of government of this territory. Balder only wants bragging rights. Of course Balder will not be letting the party know this. Instead he will claim that the ring is mundane and he wants it only for its beauty and archeological significance. Why would Balder approach this party? Because he can see they are somewhat green and new to high adventure. From this he assumes that not one of them, wizard or otherwise, would know of the significance of the ring.

If asked:

The ring is a sort of mobius surface. It looks somewhat like a square platinum band or ring was split, given a quarter twist and then rejoined. No other ornamentation or anything.

If the party asks about a mobius surface then the DM should be prepared with a piece of paper. Balder should ask the party for a piece of parchment. Only if no one in the party has or will give up a piece of parchment:

Balder opens several small pouches that must be rutted out of his clothing. This is when you decide his breath is the least offensive smell on his person. Finally Balder pulls a piece of ragged parchment from one of the pouches.

In either case:

Balder will proceed to tear a one-inch wide strip along the length of the parchment. He bends the strip over to make a band or ring. Displaying this to you he explains “This is a normal band.” He then straightens the band back out and gives one end a half twist. Balder once again brings the two ends together and displays this to you. “This”, he explains, “is a mobius band. It has only one surface and one edge. There are many variations of this. One of these being the ring I would like you to retrieve for me. It also has only one surface and one edge.”

If questioned about any other treasures that may be there, Balder will give the party a lot of generalities. Comments like “fantastic wands” and “chests of gold” will be used in an attempt to entice the party into doing the job.

Balder starts hacking and going into a coughing fit of the likes you have never seen. Mumbling something incoherent, Balder gets up and staggers outside.

If the party follows immediately, they will just catch Balder rounding a corner. Balder will then have ditched the party. Balder cannot be found again until after the party gets back from the tower ruins.

The Tower Ruins

The tower is constructed of granite block. Some 36 feet by 30 feet and standing 3 plus stories above ground, the tower is the most advanced structure in the area. Or it used to be. The tower is in bad shape. At various places throughout all of the above-ground areas one can find holes to the outside where blocks have fallen out. The thick and solid wood floors inside are seeing their share of decay, and areas can be found that are weak enough that a person could break through, especially if jumping around. Lots of dust.

When the party is first traveling up to the tower, mention that the weather is overcast with high clouds. It does not look like its going to rain though.

Side view of tower:

Tower Ruins

Travel throughout the tower is as follows:

The granite pillar, or pipe, in the center of the structure leading from the waterclock mechanism in the basement to the water storage container in the roof, is the delivery system for the waterclock. On all levels except the basement the pillar will sound hollow when tapped. In the basement there is about 5 feet of standing water in the pillar. This is where the Orcs get their drinking water. If 100 points of damage are done to the pillar with a blunt instrument (war hammer, mace, etc.) in any one area, that area will break through. In the basement this would result in a wet floor. If this is done, the party should hear a sharp groan and some bit of creaking afterwards. The pillar doesn’t provide any kind of structural support, but it sure looks like it might. If the mirror is used before/during the breaking of the pillar anywhere but the basement, it will show the blunt instrument of destruction breaking, in the process cutting open the hand of the wielder. If the party attempts to break the pillar and have not yet encountered the Orcs, the Orcs will become aware of the party and RingTusk will prepare an ambush.

Tower roof:

Tower Roof

The roof of the tower has a 3 foot stone railing. The construction looks like at one time to be a complicated weaving of stones to give the impression of long strips of granite that were woven in and around one another in the way a basket is woven. Today however sees the railing crumbling at several places, and in fact quite dangerous right next to the door from the third floor. If the party has used the mirror with the intention of coming onto the roof:

You see yourself climbing up a stone ladder through a door in the ceiling. Light streams in through the opening, somewhat blinding after the excursion through the tower. As you emerge from the opening and reach out to steady yourself on the stone railing near at hand the railing gives way. Unable to maintain your balance, you plunge 3 stories to your death as your back is broken on the rubble below.

The railing next to the door is in fact very weak and will require a save vs ###### to not crumble away. If a party member has the misfortune of leaning on this area, and has no particular proficiency covering this situation, a roll vs dexterity must be made to prevent a fall. The DM should consider the situation and adjust the difficulty of the roll accordingly. If an individual falls on this section the roll should be adjusted to be nearly impossible.

The roof itself, in the gray area, is dotted with thousands of tiny holes. The holes are just large enough to get ones pinkie finger into. This area is 30 X 30 feet and is the rainwater collection area. All of the holes lead into the water storage container just below the roof. There are four large granite bowls, one at each corner of the tower. There is nothing in them except sand created from the elements beating on the granite. These were once used for fires to provide lighting and sometimes as a component in elemental spell casting. There is no residue of any kind in the bowls.

If by the time the party reaches the roof, they are having troubles making the connection of the mechanism in the basement with the hollow stone pillar, and subsequently connecting to some sort of container:

The clouds have thickened, grown dark, and are now pretty close. Looks like rain.

Correction. It is raining. A slow rain starts falling. Somewhat refreshing.

If the party has not ran back down into the tower to prevent from getting wet, they will notice that, after a few minutes, no water is accumulating on the roof. This is expected due to the holes. However, if someone puts there ear down to the holes in the roof, they will hear the dripping and splashing of water on stone. A very hollow kind of sound. The rain is accumulating in the container for the waterclock.

If the party starts looking around for clues to the container, they will notice that the roof appears a lot thicker than one might expect. Probably by a couple feet.

Using the mirror on the roof during the rain will show:

You see yourself slip, catch yourself, only to slip again even worse. In attempting to catch yourself the second time, you accidentally knock another member of your party over, which in turn starts two others slipping and sliding. The entire group of you, in an almost comical slapstick style, slide and collide with the stone railing. The railing gives way and you all go plunging to the ground. You were unfortunately on the bottom. Whether or not the others were injured you will never know, as you are crushed to death beneath their combined weight.

If the party has not ventured down into the basement as of yet, and has not aroused the Orcs that reside therein, one will notice a tiny trickle of smoke. Apparently from a cook fire, the smoke is exiting the tower at the ground level through a small breach in the stone wall.

The Second Floor:

Second Floor

About halfway up the stairs the dust goes away. Another staircase leading up another floor is on the east wall. Another granite pillar is also in the center of this floor.

The entire room, up to about a foot from the walls, appears to have been swept. There is no dust on this level except for about one foot next to the wall.

If the party has someone with tracking ability, and that individual is searching the room, they will note other than normal disturbances in the dust next to the area of the wall with the secret door. In this case the roll for secret doors is given a #######.

RingTusk insists that his band walk slowly through this room and when using the secret door, step over the dust band, also very slowly, as not to disturb it. Punishment for not being careful in this room results in that Orc sweeping this floor until RingTusk is satisfied. The Orcs are very careful when traveling through this room.

RingTusk is unaware of the secret door in the ceiling leading up to the third-floor secret area. RingTusk has stationed a single watch at the south end of the secret area under the secret door in the ceiling. If the party finds the secret door and opens it quietly:

You hear what appears to be humming, though out of key, coming from the far end of a long thin room. At the end there appears to be an Orc, sitting under a lantern, examining and chewing on its toenails, humming some unrecognizable tune.

This is ToeBiter. If surprised, ToeBiter will freeze, staring at the party with a toe in his mouth, for 1d6 rounds before getting his wits about him. If the party is fast they could have him bound and gagged, unconscious, or dead before he can bellow. If the party is not fast enough, or make a lot of noise getting the secret door open, ToeBiter will bellow an alarm. There is a 1 in 6 chance his bellows will be heard. Check every round on a 1d6 for a six or better, adding one for each round that passes in which he is allowed to continue bellowing.

If the mirror is consulted prior to accessing the secret area:

You see yourself trip as the door is opened

The First Floor:

First Floor

The front doors of the main or first floor are in pretty bad shape. As the party approaches the doors, one is obviously missing, and the other is hanging by a hinge. The wood of the door itself is solid oak and is relatively sound. The metal bands holding the door together though is almost rusted through. If the mirror is used with the parties intention of traveling through the front door openings:

You see yourself bump into what remains of the front door. Almost in slow motion, the iron bands holding the door together give way and the oak timbers fall toward you. There seems to be nowhere to run as the timbers spread out as if to corral you for slaughter. As the timbers strike you, you know you will live. However, you can almost feel your left arm and leg breaking. The leg is so bad, it will probably have to be removed.

 

The room is empty except for a staircase leading up to the right, a large stone pillar in the center of the room, and a lot of dust.

If the party thinks to look, they will notice many footsteps, enough almost to make a trail, leading to the stairs.

There is a weak spot and small break in the floor at the southernmost end of the secret area behind the wall [A]. There is also a small break in the wall to the outside here. This is where the trickle of smoke from the Orcs small cook fire escapes from the basement. RingTusk is aware of this and is unconcerned.

The floor directly below the image of yourself in the mirror creaks and suddenly gives way! Two of your friends next to you also fall in after you.

The Basement:

Basement

The Antagonists

 

RingTusk - Orc leader

RingTusk is a little short for an Orc, but very stocky. He relies on this to maintain control of his band. He is often challenged in his leadership and must remind the band who is leader by beating the snot out of the offender(s). RingTusk is very intelligent for an Orc, and quite strong. He likes to keep himself relatively clean and maintains his head hair in a long braid from the back of his head. Other than this he is Orc thru and thru. He gets his name from a ring he has lodged onto one of his lower tusks. This ring is in fact the one that Baldor is looking for. RingTusk is pretty attached to the ring, changing his name and all. It will have to be taken from him by force. Carries his sword on his back when traveling.

AC:     HP:     THAC0:      MV:

Possessions

Dagger, Long Sword, Chain shirt, Ring of the Initiate (on his tusk), Map of all major and minor trade routes for 10 miles around tower (accurate), Book of poems written by a bard, 10 gold pieces, 20 silver pieces, 22 copper pieces, a 100 gold piece diamond.

Flatus - Orc band 2nd in command

Flatus was given his rightful name by RingTusk. Flatus has a great ability to turn whatever he eats into some of the most nauseous gas known to any species. Apparently Flatus can flatulate at will, and some say, to the severity, he desires. He always has a peculiar smell about him. Even some of the other Orcs find him disgusting. In all other outward appearances Flatus is a standard Orc. He commonly uses his flatulence ability to reprimand and or keep control of the others in the band. Flatus is loyal to the point of dying to RingTusk and attempts to control his bowels around him. Carries his sword on his back when traveling.

AC:     HP:     THAC0:      MV:

Possessions

Dagger, Bastard Sword, Leather Jerkin, Large belt pouch with 5 smaller pouches inside it, small pouch 1 contains 2 gold pieces, 15 silver pieces, 12 copper pieces, and 2 - 20 gold piece emeralds, small pouch 2 contains belladonna, small pouch 3 contains cayenne peppers, small pouch 4 contains garlic bulbs, small pouch 5 contains wild mushrooms.

ToeBiter - Orc band member

ToeBiter barely likes water enough to drink it. It is believed that he has never taken a bath or been immersed in water in his entire life. He has an infatuation for nails, finger and toe. He can usually be found spending his idle time cleaning said nails with his teeth and tongue. If the band ever raids an area where he can get a hold of some pigment, he usually will take some and paint his nails. His nails are currently not painted. Always goes barefoot. Average height and build for an Orc.

AC:     HP:     THAC0:      MV:

Possessions

Small vial of red pigment/paint, Dagger, Short Sword, Small string of about 6 toes on a necklace - the toenails are brightly decorated, 3 Silver pieces and 7 copper pieces.


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