The earth shook. Limestone walls trembled. Yellow plumes of dust fell in straight lines from the great cavern’s ceiling onto rooftops and pavements of the dwarven city. While the ground rumbled, adults grabbed children and scurried under lintels, miners dove beneath timber shorings, crafters ducked under worktables.
Throrgardr’s inhabitants were accustomed to earthquakes. This one was stronger than usual, but the dwarves were confident that their buildings would stand it, and that the tremor would soon subside.
It did. But while crafters recovered their work and homemakers swept the dust, news came from the shaft below the city. The mining team there had broken into an enormous cavern. The miners were presumed dead, and something lurks in the open darkness of the Deepmost Caverns.
Astonished faces turned panic stricken when shouts came from the under-city quarters. A great serpentine beast emerged from the shaft. It breathed fire and lightning. Families fled the city as the colossal creature crept along the streets. Its scaly skin squeezed between homes and workshops. It scooped up stragglers in great claws. Ripping with gnashing teeth, it ate in a ravenous frenzy.
Now the heroes have assembled. Ten dwarven lords must enter the abandoned city to hunt down and destroy the wyrm.
Ten Dwarven Lords
The party consists of ten 12th-level dwarven lords, a representative from each clan.
I rolled 3d6 mostly in order. That is, I rolled Strength then Constitution. If either result was below 9, I started again.
Five of the six abilities play into the encounter. Apart from the obvious, the bonus to saves vs. Spells (Wisdom) might be needed as the wyrm is a spell-user. I doubt the dwarves will have occasion to parlay with the creature, but I used Charisma to determine the chain of command within the party.
While I adjusted Intelligence and Wisdom down to raise Strength, I didn’t allow to lose any Wisdom bonus (see above). Though I guessed a dwarven lord wouldn’t care so much about knowing more languages, so I mined the ore out of Intelligence.
Each dwarf is equipped with plate mail & shield and a sword, unless another magic weapon is at hand. All carry a backpack from which they may pull any standard equipment required.
Using the rules for NPC Magic Items (X53), each 12th-level dwarven lord has a 60% chance to have an item from each magic item subtable. Items not usable by dwarves are forfeit.
I rolled for each dwarf on the Wand/Staff/Rod table and was eventually rewarded with the only item they can use. I wasn’t sure what one would do with a rod of cancellation until I got a cursed armor result. The dwarf with AC 9 will discover his predicament when first struck.
Even the scroll results that are not spells are fairly useless to the dwarven party. I did get a treasure map showing the location of a magic item. I traded it immediately for a roll on the General Magic table (X44), which gave me a sword +1, +3 vs. dragons. Perhaps fate itself machinates against the wyrm.
On the subject of swords, I rolled the usual chance for intelligent swords and got two, one of which had a special purpose. Though, instead of dealing with another character, let alone two of them, I’m going to let the encounter with a primordial wyrm determine whether any swords gain intelligence.
I rerolled duplicates. I thought three potions of speed, however useful, were unimaginative. But I kept items that seemed to me to be useless in the scenario. Protection from undead scroll, dimunition potion, ring of animal control: should these items survive the wyrm’s breath, they may be useful to adventurers who discover the dwarven tombs.
Without rules to differentiate, B/X implies a setting in which equal numbers of male and female heroes set out on adventures and contend with ferocious monsters. Unless some reason dictates a character’s gender, I let a die decide: odd male, even female. Of the ten, four are dwarven ladies.
Assault and Support Teams
I imagine the dwarves might conduct a raid on the wyrm’s position, if she’s stationary, or an ambush, if on the prowl. Either way, the party is divided into assault and support teams. The support team uses missile fire to weaken the enemy and keep it occupied, while the assault team closes for melee. I assigned dwarves to teams by weapon type—melee or missile.
Chain of Command
The dwarves are shown on the character sheet in command order, leader on the left. The assault team leader is the mission commander. If a team leader is out of combat for any reason, the next in command (to the right) takes charge to continue the mission.
Because the encounter is intended to simulate events, the dwarves’ morale is important. Like the wyrm, the dwarves might retreat, if combat goes badly, to regroup and return later. The morale of both teams is 10 as long as the mission commander is alive and fighting. Otherwise, it drops to 8. If the support team leader is out of combat, the team’s morale becomes 9 unless it joins the assault team.
m. warrior, hero
f. day finder
m. the one in rage
m. mud field, gravely plain
m. dark, blackish
m. yew bow wielder
m. the faring one
These few brave go to defend the dwarven home. Remember their names for the drinking halls will resound with songs to glorify their victory or dirges to mourn their deaths.
The primordial wyrm, a 16th-level monster, is 80’ long. Her serpentine body has eight legs and nascent wings. Though she cannot fly, she swims, and she climbs walls and ceilings as well as she crawls on the ground. She breathes fire and lightning. Being of dragon kind, she is vulnerable to attacks and magic vs. dragons.
The wyrm has a preternatural intelligence and the ability to speak, though not yet having been exposed, she knows no languages save that of magic.
After being awakened by the dwarves from a millenia-long slumber, she is hungry. For every dwarven lord (population) she eats, she can lay one egg.