No Prep Module: The Painted World (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 1 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.

Painted Ziggurat

If you like to spend some time creating extra connections for the players, 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.


You've all been hired by differing individuals to take out the same bothersome creature: a dangerous monstrosity known as the Shadowfang. You find yourselves at the precipice of the Veridwyn Forest, a sprawling patchwork of gnarled trees, where the air is thick with the perfume of moss. The tangled branches above cast dappled shadows, while the forest floor is blanketed in a carpet of emerald-hued ferns. You've all just encountered each other for the first time, or maybe have known each other from earlier and traveled together.

Puzzle. As the PCs wander the forest, a fey spirit will appear and offer a game of chance or a riddle. If they take the game of chance, roll a d4 with the PCs winning on a 4. If they choose the riddle: Until I am measured I am not known, Yet how you miss me when I have flown. A: Time.

If the puzzle is solved or game won, they're lead to a trove of valuables (worth 300 gp total): Cloth-of-gold vestments, Small gold bracelets, Small mirror set in a painted wooden frame, Pair of engraved bone dice, and Silver ewers[Customize]

Explore: leads to #2


As you draw closer to a foreboding lair, you spot a duergar, his diminutive frame illuminated by the flickering glow of malevolent energies. Like a twisted puppeteer, the duergar weaves an intricate dance of arcane gestures around a weathered stone altar. Upon the altar, the lifeless carcass of a creature matching the description of Shadowfang, lies sprawled upon it in offering. The air crackles with an otherworldly miasma as dark enchantments surge and coil like serpents, entwining the scene in an unholy embrace. Amidst this diabolic tableau, the duergar's rumbling voice resonates with a desperate plea. You can faintly hear appeals to dark gods for a boon or some sort of artifact, but it's too difficult to tell from here.

Let the players take some sort of action here, then read the following once they do:

There's a thunderous, ear-splitting kaboom as the arcane energies swirling about the altar backfire. The ferocious detonation sends you hurtling through the air like a hapless leaf in a tempest. The malevolent mana rends through the very fabric of existence, like a frenzied artist's brush strokes slashing across a canvas, unraveling the mundane and forging a gateway to the surreal.

Trap. Getting caught in the explosion has a chance of taking damage.

Effect: Targets any PCs that tried to approach or attack the duergar, DC 15 DEX save or take 6 (1d10) force damage

Countermeasures: A successful DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check allows a character to deduce the dangerous build-up of mana around the altar. [Customize]

Once they regain their composure, the duergar is gone, and reality is shifting all around them.

Continue: leads to #3


You find yourselves suddenly in a strange world, a colossal masterpiece unfurled upon the canvas of reality. A majestic ziggurat proudly adorns the shores of a vast painted expanse. Here, the very essence of the world has been transformed into pigment and hue, as if a fleeting moment in time has been ensnared by a painter's brush and shaped into a palpable existence. Reality bears the weight of a two-dimensional veil, disorienting your senses in its enigmatic dance. The colors that adorn this surreal tapestry burst forth with a vivid brilliance, painting the realm with a sense of otherworldly wonder. The shapes that unfurl are distorted and exaggerated, making you feel as if you've unwittingly stepped into a living art gallery. The boundaries between artist and subject blur, and every brushstroke pulsates with a captivating life all of its own.

Encounter. There's 1 Gnome Squidling (CR 1/2: RoF p303), 1 Dolgrim (CR 1/2: RLW) (Medium, 40 XP each) [Customize] here.

West: leads to #8

South: is an unlocked door leads to #4


Behind the weathered brushstrokes of the painted steel doors, a stone tableau unfurls. There, within the embrace of the ziggurat's interior, rest plush chairs and statues, their forms almost melting into the painted scenery. Time's touch has drained the vibrancy from the faded fabric, leaving faint whispers of patterns. Above, a chandelier of painted bronze hangs, entwined in the gossamer threads of a spider's artistry. A steel rod, painted to the northern wall, bears the weight of moist satin curtains, each measuring ten feet. The room teems with remnants of forgotten comfort, chairs and tables heaped together alongside aged chests and beds now cocooned in painted vines and moss. A tear across the canvas pours forth from a narrow fissure to the north, its serpentine course carving jagged lines that intersect the room before vanishing into a haze-shrouded passage. Opposite the sunlit shutters, a door stands in the south wall.

Event. Pay all your gold, otherwise fight a Hard encounter and get a hoard of treasure if you win. Offered by a fey spirit looking to play a game or prank. [Customize]

West: (pink) is a secret path (DC 15) leads to #7

North: is an unlocked door leads to #3

South: leads to #5


As you traverse the labyrinthine corridors of the ziggurat, your path crosses with a wiry gnome draped in a resplendent robe of violet. His shock of silvery hair cascades down his back, held in place by a weathered brush scrunchie. Adorning his skin is an array of intricate tattoos.
"Wait! Don't hurt me," the gnome implores, his voice quivering with a blend of fear and desperation. "I'm Pimlo, I'm but a humble painter entangled within the very strokes of my own creation. You... you don't look like the brush-bound monstrosities that roam these painted realms, have you been thrust into this vivid world as well?"

    Here's what Pimlo knows:
  • Pimlo is fascinated by the ziggurat and its paintings, and has been studying them for months after being pulled into his own canvas.
  • If the PCs are friendly, he'll tell them about the duergar they saw, whose name is Zalakar.
  • He knows where Zalakar is heading: to the top of the ziggurat, where there is an artifact called the Eye of Zalos.
  • He believes that Zalakar plans to use the Eye to reshape reality according to his twisted vision.
  • He knows of only one way to destroy the Eye: by painting over it with paint found in this dimension.
  • He can give them some of his paint and brushes, and general directions toward the portal.

Pimlo can also remove a negative ailment or curse.

Key. There's a pressure plate here. Add an element where there is a blockade. The pressure plate needs to be kept weighed down, which shines a bright beam of light that dissipates the darkness at the green path.

West: leads to #6

North: leads to #4

South: leads to #11


With a protesting creak, the door swings open, granting passage into a realm of painted stone. In one corner, a bed is lovingly rendered with deft brushstrokes. Against the opposing wall, a lengthy table stretches along a polished mirror. Ten-foot-square alcoves branch off on either side, their vibrant hues housing a decaying tableau of red stained cloth, knives, and the tools of a painter's trade, now trapped in the stillness of a painted world. Further in the distance, a solitary door awaits painted in the northern wall. Vast steel gates, their rusted bars kissed by clinging ash, adorn the stonework.

Small Green Slime (Drops from above. DC 10 Dex, 1d10 acid damage each round until removed. Nonmagical wood, metal weapon or tool used to remove is destroyed. Destroyed by sunlight, cure disease, cold, fire, or radiant).

Puzzle. A door asks a riddle: My life can be measured in hours, I serve by being devoured. Thin, I am quick. Fat, I am slow. Wind is my foe. A: A candle.

If the puzzle is solved, they find 15 gp [Customize]

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

East: leads to #5

North: leads to #7


A solitary, winding path beckons you, guiding you towards the heart of the painted labyrinth. Above, a suspended chain sways gently, casting eerie shadows upon the painted floor. Against opposing walls, beds with tattered canopies reside, their painted forms offering a semblance of comfort amidst the surreal. A worn tapestry rests upon the floor, bridging the space between the slumbering chambers. A narrow corridor leads to another small room, and in the southern expanse, a gate of rough-hewn timber halts progress.

Treasure. 40 gp, Spell scroll (2nd level), 10 gp valuables (50 gp total): Malachite (opaque striated light and dark green), Moss agate (translucent pink or yellow-white with mossy gray or green markings), Lapis lazuli (opaque light and dark blue with yellow flecks), Turquoise (opaque light blue-green), Eye agate (translucent circles of gray, white, brown, blue, and or green) [Customize]

East: (pink) is a secret path (DC 15) leads to #4

North: leads to #8

South: leads to #6


Within the confinements of the painted ziggurat, the walls soar upwards, their sickly blue hues stretching towards the 80-foot-high domed ceiling like a melancholic sky frozen in brushstrokes. The entire chamber is engulfed by paint, an expanse of flooding that stretches 14 feet deep. Against the eastern wall, an ancient crane perches, its weathered form juxtaposed with the gleaming bronze holy symbol that adorns it. Nestled within the chamber's corner, a massive jeweler workbench, fashioned from blackened metal, awaits its next creation, nestled between sturdy rocky pillars. Across the room is a closed gate, and to the south, a door of steel stands firmly shut.

Encounter. There's 1 Flying Rocking Horse (CR 1/8: The WBW p121), 1 Clapperclaw the Scarecrow (CR 1/2: The WBW p78), 1 Flying Sword (CR 1/4: MM p20) (Medium, 35 XP each) [Customize] here.

East: leads to #3

South: leads to #7


Bathed in the gentle glow of painted sunlight seeping through the courtyard, this great room reveals itself in all its mechanical splendor. The glass and bronze lattice of a short window adorning the eastern wall bears the marks of defacement, casting fragmented patterns of colored paint upon the floor. Along the walls are several tables, their surfaces strewn with the remnants of half-formed mechanical marvels and still depictions of automatons frozen in time. Squat steel doors, their surfaces skillfully masked with brushed weathering, offer passage to the north and east.

Treasure guarded by a feral beast (Animal Handling DC 10, any other solution DC 15). On success, they get 2600 cp [Customize]. On fail, a CR 1 beast attacks with surprise.

East: is a locked door (DC 15), with a key on a nearby creature or furniture, leads to #6

North: leads to #10


As you enter the room, the overpowering smell of disinfectant assaults your nose. The walls are painted with crude red stripes and the beds are made of brushed stone. On the ceiling, painted images of gods and goddesses are tending to the destitute and wretched. To your left and right are giant statues, seemingly watching your every move. Through an archway, you can see another room, bathed in a soft yellow light.

Event. A forced Medium encounter, followed by the option to escape or an immediate Deadly encounter. If the second encounter is won, it's a guaranteed hoard of treasure with magic items. Offered by a painting of an arena.

South: leads to #9


A room forgotten by time unravels before your eyes. Cobwebs, like ethereal brushstrokes, stretch across the decaying corners, their delicate strands interrupted by a vacant path that cuts the chamber in two. Towering shelves and tables full of glass containers litter the room. Each flask and bottle is decorated with colorful, intricate patterns, though many of them have faded with age. The passageway to the west leads to an icy chamber beyond, where the wind howls relentlessly. Through a glowing hallway to the north, you can hear the sound of something heavy pounding against steel doors.

Encounter. There's 1 Pseudodragon (CR 1/4: MM p254), 1 Grung Wildling (CR 1: VGM p157) (Hard, 50 XP each) [Customize] here.

West: (green) is a corridor filled with Maddening Darkness as if cast permanently. It cannot be seen through with light or darkvision and deals 1d10 per round psychic damage leads to #13

East: (pink) is a secret path (DC 15) leads to #12

North: leads to #5


As the doors swing open, revealing another set of painted double doors just ahead, your gaze is drawn to the expanse that unfolds before you. A corridor, forty feet in width, extends from west to north, flanked by majestic basalt columns that reach towards the heavens. Above, the stone ceiling is transformed into a canvas of brown ore, enveloping the space in an otherworldly hue.

Puzzle. A detailed painting is engraved with a riddle, the PCs need to find the answer depicted in the painting which hides a button: At night they come without being fetched. By day they are lost without being stolen. What are they? A: The stars.

If the puzzle is solved, they find 1200 sp [Customize]

West: (pink) is a secret path (DC 15) leads to #11


You stumble upon a stygian chamber, wherein the duergar looms, a silhouette against the eldritch radiance of an immense orb. Its luminescence ebbs and flows with an otherworldly cadence. The duergar pivots, his visage contorted in a sneer, and surveys your presence with contemptuous eyes. "Ah, the timorous moths lured to the incandescent flame," he hisses. "So, you bear the remnants of my erstwhile foe's artistry, do you? Folly, I've spent my life chasing the epitome of the craft, yet those tools are naught but toys. Now, with the Eye in my possession, I shall commence my magnum opus upon the grandest tapestry: all of creation!"

Encounter. There's 1 Anvilwrought Raptor (CR 1/2: MOT), 1 Duergar Soulblade (CR 1: MTF p190) (Hard, 60 XP each) [Customize] here.

During combat, the PCs will need to reach the Eye and paint over it with Pimlo's paint. Zalakar uses the Eye's power to create obstacles and traps for the PCs. The PCs can use Pimlo's paint to erase parts of the ziggurat, such as walls or floors or ceilings, creating openings or pitfalls for their enemies. They can also use the paint to erase parts of their enemies, such as weapons or armor or limbs, weakening or disabling them. They can also use the paint to create new things, such as weapons or shields or allies, by painting them on the ziggurat's surface. Once they defeat the duergar and reach the eye, the PCs can use the paint to cover the Eye completely, erasing it from existence.

Treasure. 1800 cp, 1000 sp, 40 gp,

10 gp valuables (50 gp total): Azurite (opaque mottled deep blue), Moss agate (translucent pink or yellow-white with mossy gray or green markings), 2 Obsidian (opaque black), and Turquoise (opaque light blue-green) [Customize]


As soon as the Eye is erased, the ziggurat begins to collapse. The PCs can grab Pimlo before running for their lives.

If the PCs save Pimlo he gives them a memento: a small painting, which depicts them as heroes in a stylized way. The painting is magical, and it changes according to their mood and situation.

Defeating Zalakar has made enemies of the duergar clan that Zalakar belonged to, who will seek revenge for his death and the loss of the Eye. The PCs have also attracted the attention of other factions who are interested in the Eye's power and secrets, such as wizards, scholars, cultists, or collectors. They may also encounter other remnants of Zalakar's magic or influence in their future adventures.

Ultimately, the PCs can return to their respective employers and collect their rewards for killing Shadowfang. From here, they could stick together and go on new adventures, leading into a whole new campaign.

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