Kassoon

No Prep Module: Curse of the Dream Realm (for D&D or RPGs)

This adventure can be can be easily customized to a party of any size or level, or run as a level 3 adventure for 5 players. It can work as a small side adventure in an existing campaign, as a standalone one-shot, or the start of a new adventure. Use the [Customize] links to the tools in their relevant section to customize the adventure to your party.

Dream Hotel

Start with a week of downtime and choose something from each PC's backstory to advance and connect to the adventure. A relative, contact, or rival could be involved, or something pertaining to one of their character's goals can be progressed by something in the adventure. If a PC has no hooks in their backstory, use the downtime to establish what one of these might be instead: have someone ask about a relative, introduce a rival, or ask about their character's goals. If this is the first (or only) session with these characters, you can skip this.

Adventure Background

Zalazar was once a renowned scholar of the arcane, who taught at the prestigious Arcanum Academy in the city of Luminar. He specialized in illusion magic, and was admired by his peers and students alike for his weaving of trickery with unparalleled finesse. He was fascinated by the secrets of dreams, and devoted much of his time and resources to studying them. He believed that dreams were more than mere medleys of whimsical visions and fleeting sensations, but rather a reflection of the true nature of reality. He theorized that by manipulating dreams, he could alter the perceptions of reality, and ultimately control people's thoughts and actions within the web of their nocturnal reveries.

Zalazar's relentless fixation on dreams swelled into a tempest of madness. He plunged headlong into the forbidden depths of incantations and relics, unleashing cruel torments upon the innocent that he snatched and ensnared within his sinister designs. He drew power from their dreams and left them trapped in a nightmarish purgatory. From this twisted wellspring, he sculpted creatures of nightmare, horrific entities born from the darkest fears and emotions of his victims. He used these nightmares as his loyal servants, and planned to unleash them upon the world. Within the veil of an abandoned inn, concealed from the gaze of both watchful authority and curious onlookers, Zalazar now resides, an architect of arcane research and clandestine machinations, where he weaves his schemes and dwells within the embrace of secrecy.

Adventure Hooks

  • The PCs encounter a distraught family seeking help. Their child has been plagued by terrible nightmares that have left them weak and bedridden. They've heard rumors of a mysterious figure known as the Dreamweaver, who might hold the key to curing their child.

  • The Arcanum Academy approaches the PCs, requesting their assistance in tracking down a rogue wizard who has been tampering with dreams. The guild believes that this rogue wizard, who matches the description of Zalazar, is responsible for strange occurrences and disturbances in nearby towns.

  • The PCs are plagued by terrible nightmares, that seem to follow them wherever they go. They see visions of Zalazar, who taunts them and threatens them with his power. They also encounter nightmares in the waking world, who attack them and try to drag them into the realm of dreams. The PCs realize that someone has somehow targeted them, and that they need to find and stop him before he destroys their minds.

The Dreamer's Inn

You find yourselves in a forgotten haven nestled within the embrace of jagged obsidian cliffs, glowing red from the heat of a lava waterfall. The once elegant grandeur of this forsaken inn now crumbles beneath the weight of neglect and time. Windows, shattered like fragile dreams, reveal a haunting spectacle of tangled vegetation reclaiming its stolen territory. Massive, gaping maws of ravenous flora leer at you from every corner, their feral hunger eager to feast upon unwary souls.

Encounter. There's 1 Violet Fungus (CR 1/4: MM p138), 1 Swarm of Insects (CR 1/2: MM p338), 1 Shadow (CR 1/2: MM p269) (Easy, 50 XP each) [Customize] here.

East: leads to #4

North: is an unlocked door leads to #10

4

You enter a sweltering room with a cracked ceiling that barely holds up the weight of the obsidian cliffs above. A crumbling wall of black stone divides the room in half. A huge fireplace looms on the east wall, spewing sparks and smoke through the broken windows, casting flickering shadows that dance with spectral grace. You hear the roar of the lava waterfall outside. There are doors to the north, west, and east, but they are covered with vines and thorns. You see giant flowers with razor-sharp teeth growing in the corners of the room, waiting for prey.

Event. Remove a negative ailment or curse but take 2d10 (17) damage, or DC 10 skill check to gain random treasure. Offered by the feral plant guarding treasure. [Customize]

North: is an unlocked door leads to #9

West: leads to Entrance

East: leads to #5

5

You see several charred helmets hanging on the walls, their once proud crests faded with time, now remnants of the hotel's guards or guests. A long table with carved tigers for legs stands in the center of the hall, its once majestic form now weathered and overgrown with the vines of neglect. A door in the north wall is marked with a sign that says "Manager’s Office." A simple door is set into the west wall, and you hear a faint hissing sound coming from behind it. You smell smoke and ash in the air.

Puzzle. An NPC asks a riddle and helps the PCs if they get it right: What starts with a T, ends with a T, and has T in it? A: A teapot.

If the puzzle is solved, they find 1800 cp, 1700 sp, 80 gp, Spell Scroll (cantrip), Spell scroll (1st level), 10 gp valuables (120 gp total): 2 Azurite (opaque mottled deep blue), Blue quartz (transparent pale blue), 4 Rhodochrosite (opaque light pink), Turquoise (opaque light blue-green), Hematite (opaque gray-black), Tiger eye (translucent brown with golden center), Banded agate (translucent striped brown, blue, white, or red), Eye agate (translucent circles of gray, white, brown, blue, and or green) in loot [Customize]

West: leads to #4

North: is a boarded up door which leads to #6

6

This spacious, stifling hall is covered with cobwebs and dust. Barred windows punctuate the walls, allowing errant beams of searing daylight to pierce the gloom. Between the windows stands an old desk, above which hangs a cracked painting of a smiling couple. Above a door in the western wall is a broken chandelier. The doors to the north and south are boarded up with planks.

Encounter. There's 1 Ghoul (CR 1: MM p148), 1 Thorny (CR 1: VGM p197), 1 Gazer (CR 1/2: VGM p126) (Medium, 100 XP each) [Customize] here.

Treasure on a depressed pressure plate, which will trigger a trap if the weight is wrong (Sleight of Hand DC 10, any other solution DC 15). On success, they recover 3 pp in loot [Customize]. On fail, they take 2 acid damage.

North: is a boarded up door which leads to #7

West: is an unlocked door leads to #9

South: is a boarded up door which leads to #5

7

As you cautiously make your way through the decrepit hotel, you stumble upon a room shrouded in darkness. Scanning the dimly lit chamber, you spot a lone pedestal, upon which rests a book. Bound in black leather and adorned with silver runes that glimmer like the stars, the book seems to emit a faint whispering. Etched on its cover, you can discern the title: "Book of Dreams."

The book is an artifact that empowers the owner's attacks but drains their ability scores at random, and causes the owner to be vulnerable to all damage. If the book is read, they can learn the passphrase for the kitchen that opens the (green) exits: "Luminarae somnium"

  • When the owner casts a spell or makes an attack with the book, they can roll an extra die of damage.
  • After each attack or spell cast with the book, the owner must roll 1d6 and subtract 1 from the random ability score. This effect lasts until the owner takes a long rest.
  • While in possession of the book, the owner has vulnerability to all types of damage.

Trap. The book is precariously perched on a pressure-sensitive pedestal. Strong enough vibrations can cause the book to fall, triggering the trap that activates a rune of power, paralyzing the target.

Effect: Targets all creatures within 10 ft., DC 10 CON save or become paralyzed for 3 (1d4) rounds

Trigger: removal, activates when a precariously balanced book is removed.

Countermeasures: A successful DC 15 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check will carefully remove the book without triggering it. Disruptive effects like combat or running will vibrate the book and cause it to fall.

Casting dispel magic (DC 15) will dispel the runes. [Customize]

With the book in hand, the PCs might choose to leave the hotel instead of continue searching. If that happens, Zalazar will still attack them in their dreams, and you can run the encounter at #14 as normal.

West: leads to #8

East: leads to #11

South: leads to #6

8

You enter a dimly lit room, its once opulent furnishings now mere remnants. A broken canopy bed lies next to a sofa, and tattered drapes cover the windows that overlook the fiery falls. A lizard skitters away as you disturb its hiding place. A sconce is mounted above a door in the eastern wall, while a boarded up archway lies in the south. Two gaping holes in the floor mark impact craters where obsidian rocks from the cliff collapsed the roof. The air is humid and smells of rotting vegetation.

Encounter. There's 1 Swarm of Campestris (CR 1: WBW p232), 1 Needle Blight (CR 1/4: MM p32), 1 Death's Head (CR 1/2: GtR p232), 1 Thorn Slinger (CR 1/2: TYP p246) (Medium, 90 XP each) [Customize] here.

Treasure guarded by an imposing but non-hostile monster that demands the PCs leave (Persuasion DC 10, any other solution DC 15). On success, the monster leaves and they get 2200 cp, 700 sp, 20 gp, 10 gp valuables (90 gp total): Lapis lazuli (opaque light and dark blue with yellow flecks), 2 Moss agate (translucent pink or yellow-white with mossy gray or green markings), 2 Malachite (opaque striated light and dark green), Banded agate (translucent striped brown, blue, white, or red), Eye agate (translucent circles of gray, white, brown, blue, or green), and 2 Azurite (opaque mottled deep blue) in loot [Customize]. On fail, a CR 3 monster attacks with surprise.

East: leads to #7

South: leads to #9

9

You enter a small, dusty room, cluttered with piles of junk. Thick vines hang from an opening to the north. A wooden door is set into the west wall, and a faint moan echoes from behind it. The doors to the east and south are covered in thorns.

Trap. A rope is attached to a mechanism in the ceiling. The rope is knotted and situated below a trapdoor, making it look like the rope needs to be pulled to continue. In reality the trap is triggered when the rope is pulled, which causes the wall along a narrow ledge to push out, forcing intruders off the ledge and into the pit below.

Effect: Targets all creatures within a 10 ft. square area, the wall pushes out along a narrow ledge, pushing targets into the pit below which deals 11 (2d10) damage.

Trigger: pull rope, a knotted rope leading to a ledge above activates the trap when pulled.

Countermeasures: A successful DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check at the top of the rope will find the mechanism that activates when the rope is pulled. A successful DC 10 Dexterity check using thieves' tools disarms the trap, rendering the pull rope harmless. Since it may be difficult for characters to reach the top of the rope without pulling it, the ledge it leads to should be optional or have an alternate safe route to reach.

[Customize]

East: is an unlocked door leads to #6

West: is a locked door (DC 15), with a key on a nearby creature or furniture, leads to #10

North: leads to #8

South: is an unlocked door leads to #4

10

You see a broken fountain in the corner of the lobby, cracked and dry. To the east, a pair of glass doors leads to a balcony overlooking the lava falls. The broken windows, shrouded by overgrown tendrils of vegetation, offer fleeting glimpses of the obsidian cliffs that encircle the hotel. A door in the south wall is covered with vines and thorns. You hear a rustling sound from behind it.

An object Suppresses magic items for a time.

East: is a locked door (DC 15), with a key on a nearby creature or furniture, leads to #9

South: is an unlocked door leads to Entrance

11

You enter a narrow, curved corridor that leads to the hotel kitchen. A stove and a sink are the only remnants of the once-busy place. The air is thick with the smell of rotting fruit and vegetables, and at the west end of the corridor, a sink drips next to a door. To the north, a pair of metal doors leads to the dining hall. You see a sign that says "Closed for renovation".

Trap. A stuck door must be broken down to pass but breaking down the door causes the PC to stumble into the trap, which makes the doors slam shut and the area gradually fill with the caustic liquid.

Effect: Initiative +1, doors seal shut and room fills up with 2 ft. of liquid per turn, dealing 14 (2d10) damage. After 1+(CON bonus) minutes (min 1) of holding breath your HP drops to 0.

Trigger: stuck door, a stuck door that must be broken down to pass.

Countermeasures: Destroying or circumventing the door in some way other than smashing it down avoids the trap.

The doors can be opened with a DC 10 Dexterity check using thieves' tools. [Customize]

West: leads to #7

North: leads to #12

South: (green) is a secret wall that requires the passphrase to open, which leads to #14

12

Along the north wall stand two empty vases, and this hall is dimly lit by red stone lanterns that hang from the ceiling, casting an eerie glow upon the faded mural of a volcano that adorns the north wall. To the south, a pair of wooden doors leads out. You see a sign that says, "Relax and Rejuvenate."

An object creates an illusion. Looking at the mural causes the volcano to animate and rumble.

West: (pink) is a helpful NPC [Customize] hidden here (DC 15). If the PCs are friendly or intimidating, the NPC opens a secret path that leads to #13

South: leads to #11

13

Within the confines of this 25-foot square chamber, are dusty bookcases set upon the northern wall. A simple door, weathered and marked by time, resides in the eastern wall, faint rays of light peeking through its worn cracks.

Encounter. There's 1 Will-o'-Wisp (CR 2: MM p301), 1 Wight (CR 3: MM p300) (Hard, 230 XP each) [Customize] here.

Treasure. 2200 cp, 1000 sp, 80 gp, Potion of healing [Customize]

East: leads to #12

14

You're not sure when you fell asleep, but you're deep into vivid and unsettling dreams that seem all too real before realizing. These dreams reveal snippets of a scholar's past, a celebrated teaching career at Arcanum Academy and the obsession with dreams that consumed him. A disconcerting sense of deja vu clings to your thoughts, as if you have unknowingly danced through the veils of this life before. In these dreams, you feel a profound connection, both with this scholar and with each other, and you can see each other within this twisted landscape of a fragmented past.

The players can communicate with each other as they come to the realization that they're all within a shared dream. They may try to explore this place, or try to understand its nature, at which point Zalazar will reveal himself to them:

"Ah, you remember my attempts to communicate with you, do you not?" A figure emerges, cloaked in shadows, his countenance veiled within a ragged mantle. His eyes gleam with a sinister intensity, while his pallid visage and disheveled silvery hair remains enshrouded beneath the inky drapery. "You are dreamers, beings blessed with an extraordinary kinship to the realm of slumber, capable of shaping and controlling your own fantasies."

Encounter. There's 1 Vine Blight (CR 1/2: MM p32), 1 Needle Blight (CR 1/4: MM p32), 1 Zombie (CR 1/4: MM p316), 1 Needle Spawn (CR 1/2: MFF), 1 Returned Drifter (CR 1/4: MOT), 1 Windharrow (CR 3: PoA p192) (Deadly, 210 XP each) [Customize] here.

The realm of dreams is a surreal and chaotic place, where anything can happen. The PCs have to use their imagination and creativity to fight Zalazar and his nightmares, while also avoiding the dangers of the dream world. Any creature can use a bonus action to dream something into existence, as if using the Creation spell.

The floor is slowly overtaken by rising lava, hindering the party's movement more and more with each turn. Designate 6 areas around the map, mirrored so half are closer to the PCs and half are closer to the enemies. On initiative count 0, the two areas closest to the edge of the map are filled with lava.

Treasure. 2400 cp, 900 sp, 40 gp, a Dreamcatcher, Ammunition, +2, Spell scroll (5th level), Potion of diminution, Potion of invulnerability,

50 gp valuables (150 gp total): Zircon (transparent pale blue-green), Moonstone (translucent white with pale blue glow), and Chrysoprase (translucent green) in loot [Customize]

Conclusion

With Zalazar defeated, the PCs are able to awaken and return to the waking world. In Zalazar's place is a dreamcatcher.

If the PCs keep the book, they have a powerful but dangerous tool that could help them while exposing them to dangerous influence and jealous foes. If they destroy it, they have prevented anyone else from using it for evil. If they return the book to the mage guild, they have earned their gratitude, which may unveil more quests or complications in later sessions.

The PCs maintain their dream bond, a connection that links them to each other through their dreams. The dream bond allows them to communicate and share their dreams with each other, but also exposes them to each other's fears and secrets.

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