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The Mad Mage’s Lock

Hello everyone, welcome.  Today I am going to talk a little bit about a recent Dungeons & Dragons game I ran where I tried my hand at puzzle making.  To be clear, I do put puzzles in my games, particularly in dungeons, but it is an area I consider myself weaker at than others.  However, I came up with one and I wanted to share for my own vanity, but you also could use.  Feel free to pinch it.  If you can solve it.

I run two groups, Saturday and Sunday on alternating weekends.  This was a Group 1 session and it was originally written as an encounter in what a player in group 2 would call “The Obligatory Shopping Episode”.  I understand that is an anime reference, and apologies if I have misquoted.  Basically they had completed their introduction and I was giving them a chance to tie up loose ends or explore their own projects.  However I know that isn’t for everyone so I was thinking of encounters on the road.  I came up with a fairly basic encounter, since it wasn’t the main thrust of the game, but when I refreshed myself on it later I felt it was lacking.  It was a standard bandit/bandit camp and I just felt I could do more.

That was when I had my idea.  It required a Tiefling Adversary, and I wanted him to be a Wizard.  Thus Malachi the Mad was born.  Malachi was based on the Mage Stat Block from the monster manual, however using D&D 5e Statblock Generator I customised it to be a unique Statblock.  On a separate note, in conjunction with the Dungeon Master’s Guide, he D&D 5e Statblock generator is a great tool for getting images of many of the Monster Manual Statblocks, as well as Tome of Foes, but more importantly it is great for custom stats.  This is Malachi.  My players, no peaking.  Or just assume the next time you meet him stuff will have changed…

Truthfully, Malachi is a bit underpowered though despite all that, according to number crunching from the DMG he is a CR6 encounter.  In this scenario, Malachi was experimenting with Flesh Golems, as the previous adventures had left the area with an abundance of spare parts.  His major success was animating an army of Crawling Claws, which annoyed the hell out of the players.

Anyway, long story less long, the players defeated the army of crawling claws, and forced Malachi to flee.  (Next time he gets more HP, and he will be insanely paranoid)  and the players are in a room with 2 halfling prisoners, the incomplete remains of 5 flesh golems and a really secure looking door.  The Halflings thank the players for rescue and flee because they say that the cave complex isn’t secure (there have been a few earth tremors lately).  The players let them go and set about looting the room.  Malachi dropped his wand, which the players nabbed and they turned their attention to the door.  Before leaving, one of the halflings told them there was a metal rod that Malachi used as a key on his workstation.  This workstation had a contraption with a red gem mounted in a metal housing connected by copper piping to the upright table of the largest (incomplete) flesh golem.  I mention all this as it is important  The players found the completely non descript rod and took it to the door, inserted into the keyhole and turned it.

Nothing happened.

The Rogue of the party, a Tiefling called Damakos, did his various thieving and sleight of hand checks to try and pick the lock.  He succeeded his check but the door didn’t budge.  His successful check revealed that there was a mechanism inside to catch the rod and that would unlock it, but the mechanism was out of place.  And nothing he did could reset it.  The Halfling Monk, Mungo, tried brute force.  He bounced off the door.  The Triton Cleric of War, Kah’Rinas, tried brute force too, rolled a 1 and is walking with a limp currently.

This led to a very healthy round the table discussion about what the answer could be, leading to some very interesting theories about magnets or electrical charges from the red gem.  They tried to pry loose the copper tubing and run a magical charge through the door.  That didn’t work either.

Kah’Rinas chased the halflings, albeit slowly, to ask them to describe exactly how Malachi had opened his secure room.  The halflings obligingly returned and showed them how Malachi had inserted the rod and pointed to the place on the door frame where he had steadied himself, right before turning the rod and the door opened.

The players thought, “Ah, of course, a hidden switch!”

So they inserted the rod, placed hand on the door frame, and turned the rod.  Nothing happened.

Now aside from one thing I haven’t told you, which was they arcana checked the rod got a Nat 20 and discovered it was a perfectly mundane rod, you now know everything the party did.  For completion’s sake, there was also a Blue Dragonborn Archfey Warlock present called Dova.  The players were level 2.  (Yes, I know a CR6 encounter was harsh, but these guys mop the floor with everything I throw at them so deadly encounters are all I’ve got).

They solved it about 5 minutes later.  Can you?  Post theories in the comments.  Any Group 1 players, no spoilers.


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