D&D 5e

Monthly Encounter #10: The Androsphinx’s Puzzle (lvls 17-20)

Thumbnail art from D&D Monster Manual

Here at Tribality, we’ve decided to provide our readers with Encounters ready to be added to your table. I’ll be creating new ones monthly for you to have a big collection to look through when you run out of ideas for your game. If people end up liking them we may start releasing them in easy to print PDF format.

Don’t forget to comment feedback or possible variations for others to see and/or possibly implement when running this encounter. Without further ado, hope you enjoy it:


Setting: Agnostic
Location: Entrance to a temple or dungeon
Lvls: 17-20

Encounter background

The players need to enter a temple or dungeon belonging to a god. This god left Ashaari the Androsphynx to guard its entrance. The entrance is hidden and can’t be accessed without its guardian’s permission, who can make it appear and disappear at will. If you are in need of a guardian for an evil temple you can always change the creature’s description. For example, you can make its eyes dark red, let it have enormous fangs, and a gray and purplish body, with bat-like wings.

The Androsphinx’s Riddle

In front of your destination, a great lion-like creature stands. Upon seeing you, it accomodates its body in order to confortly talk with you. Its front legs are stretched touching the ground towards you making its body stay flat against the ground. Its golden eyes open. The creature shakes its head a little to move its big mane out of the way.

“Greetings, travelers. How may I aid you?” resonates like a thundering, but oddly calm voice. Its mere presence and stance shows an image of power.

A player character trying to discern something about this creature can make a Wisdom (History) ability check. Surpassing DC16 lets the character know that these kinds of creatures are summoned to be guardians of temples and/or important places. If the character passes a DC18, it can also recall this very creature being an Androsphynx, one of the god’s ultimate guardians, in charge of showing the way to their temples and proving those wanting to enter. Moreover, a DC14 Wisdom (Perception) ability check makes the player see the big wings hiding on the creature’s back.

“Passing through is what you are looking to, isn’t it, my son? If so, I’ve got a challenge for you. Do you wish to accept it, even though by doing so there may not be a return? My master only seeks those cunning and open-minded enough to enter.”

If the player characters accept the challenge, the androsphynx will use its lair action to transport them all to another plane of existence. In it, marble slabs cover the floor, while everything but the section everyone is standing on is covered in some kind of deep fog. Feel free to detail the place as much as you like depending on who the god is.

Next to the creature, 3 marble slabs have been removed, and drawings have been made between them. To the side, 9 marble slabs about as big as the ones missing lay on the ground.

The puzzle

Next to the creature that brought you here lies a section of the room that looks different. Some of the marble slabs are wider than the rest, making them look like pressure plates. Of the three rows, only the middle one lacks the slabs. 9 of them are on the side, each with runic symbols drawn on them.

“To complete my challenge you must think carefully, for I lack patience. It is only 3 tries you all may have. Once you place 4 of the slabs in the middle row, I will state if you are or not right. In order to solve this, all written conditions must be fulfilled. If you either lack the inteligence, the patience, or proceed to attack me I will make sure to destroy you all one by one. Don’t conjure the ire of the gods.

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All images were saved in PNG for easy editing and in black and white to be printer-friendly. Feel free to edit them using the PSDs.

Clues

This puzzle may be too difficult for your players, or they may try to use their characters’ intellect or skills to understand how to solve it. I can’t know in advance all the imaginative reasons for which a player may try to have its character understand it. Alas, I will state some clues you can give your players for every reason or good roll they make to get a hint. Give as much as you want, after all you are the DM and can decide how difficult you want this puzzle to be. Here are the clues:

  • The whole thing seems to be an equation. Placing the runes in the correct order should be able to solve it.
  • The marble slabs with runes that stand apart seem to share some sort of pattern.
  • The lines in between the rows are actually rotated = signs.
  • Placing a runic slab in the middle would add the runic symbol to both the slabs over it and below it.
  • The runic symbols are in fact numbers. It’s the same number rotated four times over it to make it look like a rune.
  • Once we know the slabs have numbers, we can discard some possibilities. The remaining numbers should complete the puzzle.

Solution

There is more than one solution to the equations. One of the possible ones is the following:

The numbers are 2 3 1 5. This makes all equations have 6 as an answer.

Not solving the puzzle

If the player characters attack the androsphynx, it will use its lair action to teleport both the one who attacked and itself to the material plane again (which is its original lair). This way, the androsphynx will fight the attacker until left unconscious and return to the puzzle plane. It will then grab a random PC and repeat the process. As the androsphynx will be fighting all PCs one by one, this battle should be extremely deadly for the player characters. They can try readying actions until the androsphynx returns to the puzzle plane and attack it there, but by the time the monster turn arrives again, it will take another of the party members. The androsphynx will repeat the process until leaving a single character alive, who is returned to the material plane to tell the tale.

Players should be encouraged to keep trying to solve the puzzle as the battle goes on. While not normally suggested to have the players solve puzzles under pressure, they shall be forced and feel the pressure of time over their shoulders for attacking the guardian. Is this harsh for the players? Maybe a little, but it was them that fought a guardian sent by a god. Furthermore, Androsphynxes are clever creatures, and I find this tactic to be right up their alley. You can have the androsphynx roar as well before leaving the puzzle plane each of the times if you want to be even harsher.

Solving the puzzle during the fight stops the androsphynx frenzy, who finds the remaining characters as worthy. However, if the PCs fail the puzzle 3 times the same process is repeated and the androsphynx starts teleporting them one by one, starting with a random one.

Resolution

If the Player Characters manage to kill the Androsphynx, the temple/dungeon’s entrance remains forever hidden, forcing the player characters to look for another entrance or some individual who may know of some alternative entry path. If left on the puzzle plane they will need to use some plane-shifting spell or remain there forever. There are some problems that can’t be solved murderhoboing.

On the other hand, if the PCs solve the puzzle the androsphynx will teleport them back to the tomb’s entrance and with a hand movement make a door appear in it to enter. If the PCs solved the puzzle on their first try, the androsphynx will reward them with some trap location inside the tomb and a Collar of protection (which grants the wearer advantage against resisting curses that may be found in the dungeon).

Want more encounters?

If you liked this encounter and would like to see more consider reading one of the others I wrote!: