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Click image to download this free TTRPG battlemap of this Ancient Jungle Temple Machine, then keep scrolling for the detailed adventure prompt written for it. 🙂
A villager has had his heirloom stolen by two heavily armed bandits—a large fellow who wasn’t too quick in the head, and his scrawnier looking friend. The villager wants you to help him get the heirloom back, and invites you back to his house for tea and biscuits while he explains what happened.
If you agree, he’ll lead you to his home. It’s quaint, with a little cottage garden out the front. You can see the door was recently repaired, and inside are a few different weaving looms, while baskets of yarn and knitting needles sit next to a chair. A few more balls of yarn are strewn around the room, and playful cats are rolling around the carpet chasing them. More cats are lounging on the mantlepiece, the chairs, the bed and the table.
Once the villager, Yama, has served a pot of tea with some biscuits at the table, he explains what happened. The bandits looked in his windows first, and must have thought he wasn’t home because he was doing some knitting in the corner. So, the bandits broke down the door to get inside, and when they saw him they drew their weapons.
A fat, black cat with green eyes interrupts Yama by jumping onto his lap, purring loudly, and Yama absentmindedly pets her as he continues his story. The bandits told him to stay where he was, before grabbing the heirloom from the mantlepiece and leaving. The heirloom means a lot to him, and it’s been in his family for generations. It’s a small, metal cylinder plated with gold and engraved with cats and gems. Yama explains that he always thought it was some kind of religious artifact, which is why he kept it on the mantle.
He wants you to get it back for him. He knows where they took, it, too—the two men weren’t too smart, you see, and talked to each other outside his house about bringing it back to the boss in the ruins, just after they stole it from him! And Yama knows exactly where the ruins are. He can draw you a map, if you like.
The only problem is, he saw a blinding flash of blue light coming from the ruins not two days ago. It reeks of foul magic, and because of it no-one else has been willing to take the job.
If you’re willing to go get his family’s heirloom back, he will pay you with the knitted goods he makes from the prised fur of the woolly mountain yak (while saying this the man’s eyes will gleam happily). You’ll have more scarves, socks, thick jumpers and woollen leggings than you can poke a stick at! All of them with cute designs, of course. Namely cats. He really loves cats, he says shyly.
Should you agree, Yama will hold up the purring black cat towards you, saying ‘you must take Pema with you. She sure gave those bandits a run for their money, tell you what! They’ll have scratches on them for days. She’ll bring you luck and help keep you safe. Also well fed, though I’m not sure how much you appreciates frogs, or mice…’
Yama will insist you take the cat with you, saying he can’t in good conscience let you brave the wilds without support. She has a little backpack she can slip into, and she’ll just watch everything from your shoulders.
Should you agree, he will hand you Pema’s backpack to put on, and slip the plump cat in (she’s still purring loudly), as well as give you a map and detailed directions to reach the ruins. It’s about half a day’s ride from town, up in the surrounding mountains. You’ll find the ruins deep within the jungle, he explains.
If you refuse to take Pema, she will find a way to sneak along with your party on foot; appearing first at the ruins, or on your chest at night (see GM’s notes) if your party sleeps along the way.
When you arrive at the ruins, you can see the floor is beautifully engraved, while the walls are lined with colourful, peeling murals involving cats. Vines and creeping flowers sprawl along surfaces, and rubble crunches about underfoot. Pema, if in the backpack, will struggle until she’s on the ground, then trot around the temple sniffing and inspecting things while hanging around.
It’s clear the bandits have been here for a while. They’ve built rickety timber walkways to make up for where paths have crumbled away, strung sleeping hammocks, and stocked the place with food and provisions. Only, no-one’s there.
As you walk further in, you find tables set with food several days old—just left there, like someone intended to eat it and never came back. Coins are stacked in arrogant piles, while maps are left open alongside books and half-written letters.
The notes and letters describe some kind of machine in the ruins, which the bandit leader was planning to activate. The bandit leader was looking for a device that would turn it on, and has letters between him and his lackeys who were out and about in the countryside looking for it.
The letters say the machine was said to contain some great power, but the bandit wasn’t sure what. Something about opening a gateway, which the bandit leader was willing to risk if it gained him greater control of the region…
Pema the cat will be looking around intently at all of this, jumping on tables, scattering coins, and twitching her tail as she generally scampers about making a muck of things. If your party stops for too long, she’ll begin to slide objects off tables with her paw.
Deeper in, you’ll begin to come across the bodies of the bandits. Half eaten, by some kind of animal. At the heart of the ruins, you’ll find a machine alongside one of the walls, as well as many more bodies of the bandits. Consuming them is a couple of jaguars, and they growl when they see you.
Pema growls back at them. If you deal with the big cats and fight them, Pema will certainly help; with little bites on their rumps, legs, or ears.
Once the area is safe, if you have a look at the machine you’ll see the cylinder heirloom Yama sent you to find lodged in the center, like some kind of key.
If you activate the machine, you’ll suddenly be transported to another plane. You will find the spirits of the dead bandits there, happily petting a small hoard of purring cats who are demanding snuggles. They have sheepish grins on their faces, and some are simply snoozing beneath warm piles of the purring felines.
The Queen cat, with a little gold crown on her head, white fur and blue eyes, will approach you. She will look at Pema, who will nod at her, then look back to you. ‘You’re lucky the little earth-dweller vouches for you, mortals. Otherwise the machine in our temple would have killed you, just as it did the bandits. It took their souls here, but left their bodies behind. Such is its failsafe, so trespassers who use the machine can never return to the mortal plane with forbidden knowledge of our kind.’
The Queen then explains that cats who go to the mortal realm all take unbreakable vows to never talk again, until they are ready to return here and never again leave, which is why Pema still doesn’t talk.
If you ask about the heirloom, the Queen will explain that Yama’s bloodline is blessed by the cats, and that his family has been their ally for generations. They were gifted the key to the machine when the temple dissolved, hundreds of years ago, so they could return if they ever wished. Though it would seem they have since forgotten that gift, you are welcome to take it, return it to him, and re-extend the invitation.
Should you talk to the bandits, they’ll explain that they’re incredibly happy here. Who knew this was better than raiding! Though it’s taking their leader, Xeodernus, time to come around (he is sitting on his own, sulking and shoeing away any cats who come near).
If you fall asleep with Pema in your party, you will wake up at various parts of the night with her on your chest, and some kind of offering. Depending on how long you sleep, you might not just find a frog or a rat, but rather, a large collection of animals like gifts under a Christmas tree.
She will try to place them on your chest one hunting trip at a time, but will settle with leaving them nearby. If you somehow manage to sleep through all this, you will be covered / surrounded with “food” in the morning.
She will also attempt to lick and bite your nose if she thinks you are sleeping in too long, while purring loudly.
Should your party not want to activate the machine, Pema, purring loudly, will try wander up and to activate it with her paw.
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LUKE: The founder of Seafoot Games, Luke's been making maps and RPG games since he was a child, and spent over a decade creating his own game systems from scratch to play with his brothers. That was before he discovered other TTRPGs existed. Now, he paints the realistic grimdark fantasy battlemaps we're known for, helps write adventures as needed, and spends his free time printing and painting 3D minis, as well as working on his forever in-development TTRPG system.
BEB: Luke's wife, Beb's been writing, painting, and graphically designing things her whole life. She published her first book when she was 20, alongside a handful of sci-fi short stories, and was responsible for writing almost all of our adventures until mid 2022 when Steve joined the team. Now she mostly creates the outlines for the adventurer's guides with Luke, graphically designs documents, handles the bookkeeping (or as she likes to call it, bureaucrat wrangling), and manages the website—but she is slowly delegating these responsibilities, so she can focus on raising her and Luke's beautiful son.