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May 2021

Viggo’s Histories

“Viggo Eskilsson, sage of Valormr, does here record the many histories of the underground realm known as Throrgrmir from its primordial origin to its age of dragons so prophesied.”

Viggo’s Histories

Eskilsson came from the wild northern peninsula, tracking down legends of Throrgrmir’s wyrms and the Wyrm Prophecy. His previous works include Merfolk of the Cimbrian Sea, The Origin of Prophecy, and the four-volume Treatise On The Fabrication and Use of Metallic Alloys Natural and Artificial.

Now supported by the Lords of Valormr, Eskilsson resides in comfortable quarters within the city walls, where he researches his latest work. He gives the title as Histories of Throrgrmir From Great Wyrm to Age of Dragons. Locals call it “Viggo’s Histories.”

The historian divides Throrgrmir’s history to the present into nine ages, I to IX. He speculates that the next will be the prophesied Age of Dragons.


Prelude to Wyrmwyrd

“If you’re going to use your dungeon for role-playing, I recommend you play right up until the start of the Age of Villainy, or possibly 1-2 turns into the Age of Villainy.”

—Tony Dowler, How to Host a Dungeon (2008).

A standard game of How to Host a Dungeon consists of one age each Primordial, Civilization, Monsters, and Villainy. After Wyrm Dawn’s Primordial Age, I drew out the dwarven Civilization across three Ages, played through two full cycles of the Ages of Monsters and Villainy, and when the Second Age of Villainy ended abruptly, a third villain rose to power.

Now, a few turns into the Third Age of Villainy, I pause the game. Events in Wyrm Dawn are prelude to the B/X D&D campaign Wyrmwyrd.

Reading Map


The Scroll of the Dead

Continued from “A Neutral Human Fighter.”

“What’s a tavern?” I said.

“It’s like a bar in medieval times,” said Garth.

I only knew what a bar looked like from cowboy movies with Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. The image jarred with the knights and castles in my imagination.

“What am I doing there?”

“You’re looking for adventure. An old man comes through the door…”

I imagined saloon doors swinging back and forth and the hollow thud of boots on a wood-plank floor.

In a lurching gait, the old man approached the table where I sat. He warned me that the local volcano would soon erupt and the town would be destroyed. He pulled a scroll from his cloak.

“This is the Scroll of the Dead. To appease the gods, you must read it over the lava pit in the center of the volcano and throw it in.”

Then the old man fell forward across the table, a dagger in his back.


Empire of the Undersun

Mob Disbanded

The mob wrecked the Cynosure and the School of Mines and defaced the statue of the former despot. Then they fought over the Magnate’s treasure and eventually disbanded. A few stalwarts formed an adventuring party.

The Free City of Valormr

Gullhofn, now liberated from the Magnate’s dominion, declared itself a free city and changed its name to Valormr, after a battle which took place in the wide, level river valley some long years ago.1

The Red Ogre

With the Magnate’s fall, the ogre mage, whose name was Onaka Kanabo, rose to villainy. Known to surface dwellers as the Red Ogre, Kanabo placed a horned crown upon his head and proclaimed himself Emperor of the Undersun. He built a capital from the ruins of the stone giants’ castle below the Throrgrmir Throne Room, refashioning the structures in the style of his homeland.

Kanabo made overtures to the Sadhakarani nomads to bring them under the Empire’s sway. When they refused, he hunted them down and killed them and took their treasure. Then he built a great wall around his domain.

Claws Versus Manes

Griffon’s Claws built a tower on a butte across the river from Valormr. It’s name was Isolde’s Tower after their wizard leader.

The adventurers took the name Pegasus Manes and fought the Claws. The fight went badly for the Manes.

Blue Wizard’s Omphalos

The Blue Wizard achieved its purpose: it built the Omphalos, the World Naval. It is unknown whether the Blue Wizard went through the wormhole—that was the Omphalos—and disappeared into the void beyond, or whether the Blue Wizard became the Omphalos. In either case, only the Omphalos remains, guarded by statues of living crystal.

A cult grew up around the Omphalos. The Blue Wizard Cult, unable to get by the living statues to worship the Omphalos directly, built a representation of the World Naval. They made sacrifice to the idol, which they claimed whispered to them in the voice of the Blue Wizard. Then they were hunted to extinction by blink dogs.

The Ghoul of Tower Mill

More recently, unusual events began to occur. More frequent rat infestations went unremarked at first. Then hunters and travelers reported wolves prowling the countryside in daylight hours. At night, they howled from hilltops near villages. Then came reports of folk in towns, villages, and in the city itself suffering from weakness after waking in the night with strange marks on their necks.

Suspecting a vampire, the Lords of Valormr requested the aid of the Ghouling Gauntlet. The ancient order of undead slayers responded to the call. Tracking the predator, they followed it to the tower mill. They confronted the “ghoul”—all undead to these slayers were ghouls—but they failed to rout it.

In his report, Ghouling Gauntlet leader Bishop Acacius Mar confirmed: “A vampire, no doubt. It sleeps on a bed of dirt in an old mining cart at the top of Tower Mill. It’s figure is pale and emaciated, but the ghoul is strong. It is male, middle-aged at death with a receding hairline, large forehead, small eyes, and a hawk-billed nose…”


Notes

1 Valormr: val (war or slain) + ormr (wyrm), pronounced Val-ORM-r. During the Throrgrmir Renaissance, when the new-hatched wyrmlings prowled the dungeon, already dragons came to hasten the prophesied Age of Dragons. The dwarves called to their neighbors, who responded in force. Dragons recruited forces of Chaos to oppose them.

Empire of the Undersun
The Undersun Emperor’s Initial Territory (marked in orange), the Red Ogre’s Wall (red), and Present Territory (purple).

The Masked Boar Mining Magnate

Now we enter into what—for adventurers in the Wyrmwyrd campaign—will be recent history.

The mining mogul was a middle-aged man of wide girth and overbearing stature. He carried extra weight like a cudgel. Thinning dark hair receded from a large forehead. Beady eyes sat too close either side of a hawk-billed nose.

If his name was ever known, it was not recorded. The miners called him “the Magnate.”1 They did their jobs and steered clear of his presence. With meager wages they purchased necessities from the Magnate’s store and saved any extra. There was never any extra. Such was a miner’s existence.

Monuments to the Magnate

The Magnate built the Cynosure,2 his office and home, across the valley facing the old dwarven citadel. In the valley, he established the School of Mines. Between the Cynosure and the School’s campus, he erected a statue of himself for posterity. On the other side of the hill, out of sight, he set up a mining camp, and after miners were hunted by underworld predators, he built a mausoleum at the foot of the limestone hills.

Gullhofn

The influx of gold into the region necessitated a port on the surface river. A city sprang up there, called Gullhofn.3 The citizens built walls to keep predators at bay. They also built a temple complex. Gullhofn was always a good trading partner with its mining neighbor, and after extended negotiations, the city finally joined the Magnate.

Sadhakarani

Often called Runefolk, Sadhakarani4 were nomads and renowned traders, and they manifested an innate ability for magic. They set up a bazaar in the ruins of Troelsvollr. From the “Old City Bazaar,” they traded with Gullhofn and the Magnate, as well as others, including Faerunduine.

Blink Dogs

A pack of blink dogs moved into the region and began to hunt the miners. The Magnate built a kennel and lured the blink dogs into a pact. After which, the dogs turned to hunting nomads.

Stone Giants

Learning of their cousins’ earlier demise, more stone giants moved into the dungeon. From the Doom Weapon chamber, they fought with fungaliths and hunted them until the fungaliths died out. The stone giants continued to exploit the old gem mines, hunted gnolls, and built an extensive castle below the Throne Room.

Blue Wizard

An enigmatic figure known as the Blue Wizard explored the crumbling remains of Stardark University. In dusty tomes, it found reference to the Stone of Living Statues. It sought the Hall and, after some searching, found the artifact. Then it traded for wealth and knowledge, harvested crystal from the nearby Crystal Caverns, and built living statues. All this it accomplished with perfect economy and single-minded determination. To what purpose, no one knew.

Griffon’s Claws

Then adventurers arrived. These were veterans of many adventures in distant lands beyond the western mountains. They called themselves Griffon’s Claws, and they sought not glory nor fame nor the doing of good deeds. It was wealth they wanted, and they got it through trade, extortion, theft, and force.

Ogre From the East

An ogre mage came down the Old Highway from the east. He would have passed through but tarried at the western exit long enough to encounter miners, whom he hunted for a time.

When he was finally routed by the Magnate, the ogre mage relocated to the Throrgrmir Bridge. There, he hunted gnolls and stone giants until both populations were decimated. He took over the stone giants’ castle as well as their considerable fortune. The ogre mage then began trading, first with the Blue Wizard, and expanded his territory to the old dwarven gate above the Deepmost Cavern, wherein lay Faerunduine, undisturbed.

An Ignominious End

Disgruntlement grew in the mining camp until one day the miners had enough. An angry mob stormed the Cynosure and threw the Magnate down the shaft of the tower mill.


Notes

1 The area and period of his dominance are also called “the Magnate.”

2 The Magnate, being an unusual empire, uses different names for common constructions: the Cynosure is the capital, the School of Mines a university, and the mining camp a slum.

3 Gullhofn: gull (gold) + hofn (harbor).

4 Sadhakarani: The origin of the people and their name for themselves is obscure. Their own myths indicate an otherworldly provenance, an idea fostered by the unfamiliar iconography of their accoutrements and the unusual runes they draw on their skin.

Situation at the End of the Masked Boar Mining Magnate Cards Situation at the End of the Masked Boar Mining Magnate Tokens
Situation at the End of the Masked Boar Mining Magnate.

Faerunduine, Wyrm-Touched

The green dragon Faerunduine made her lair in the Deepmost Cavern. On a ledge above the underground lake, she slept and dreamt of the coming Age of Dragons.

The Last Wyrm Spawn

Wyrmling Alpha woke from her slumber in what once was the Great Wyrm’s lair in Throrgardr. The wyrmling crept into the Deepmost Cavern by well-worn ways and stole treasure from the sleeping dragon, who was thereby touched.1 The last of the wyrm spawn returned to the lair, deposited the treasure as was her long habit, and curled up in the cold, damp nest.

Miners

A mining concern came up the valley from distant lands. Having heard the legends of the Throrgrmir Civilization and of the rich vein of gold ore, the prospectors found the old dwarven mine. They set up a base of operations on the ground floor of the Throrgrmir Citadel and set about their work, harassed only by an ogre, who demanded gold in exchange for protection from unseen dangers.

Ogre

When the miners chased the ogre from the mines, it retreated deeper into the dungeon and hunted Wyrmling Alpha. Faerunduine also hunted the wyrmling, so together, the ogre and the dragon killed the last wyrm spawn. Her bones turned to stone in the ogre’s pot.

The Magnate

Meanwhile, the miners continued to exploit the gold vein. They built a tower mill to extract the precious metal from the ore, and became rich. Thus was established the Masked Boar Mining Magnate.


Notes

1 The last wyrmling bequeathed to Faerunduine a +1 bonus on all dice rolls.


Stardark’s End

No one knows how long was the reign of Dagrun Stardark or how her empire ended. Few clues remain, and while these are much debated in scholarly circles, no consensus has been reached.

Sages refer to the period as “Stardark’s End.” Among them, it is generally accepted that the dungeon was abandoned until its reinvestment by Faerunduine, and that, as of the beginning of the Wyrmwyrd campaign, no treasures from the age have yet been recovered.

For the mysterious end to the Stardark Empire, I am inspired by the Bronze Age Collapse of our own world’s ancient history. Around 1200 BC, we find in the archaeological record, eastern Mediterranean cities deserted and destroyed, most by fire or other violent means. Trade was disrupted and few written works were produced for a couple hundred years. During this period, called the Greek Dark Age, Mediterranean civilization seems to have taken a break.

Historians and archaeologists have proposed many theories for the cause of the disruption, among them earthquake, famine, war, or invasion by the otherwise unknown “Sea Peoples.” Some are more likely than others. None proved.

So for the moment, we let Stardark’s End remain a mystery. Clues may offer themselves as we play out the wider history of DONJON LANDS.


The Stardark Empire

Stardark University

While she was strong in magic, Dagrun Stardark knew she was outnumbered in the dungeon, and her treasury was spare. The Empress, therefore, cultivated the former glory of the dwarven empire to instill a sense of unity and pride in the citizens.

To that end, she founded a university and expanded it with numerous colleges and faculties over the years. It came to be renowned for its elite professors and fine collections of magical texts and knowledge of the Throrgrmir empire.

Wyrmwyrd

The Empress explored much of her domain, seeking knowledge of the dwarves’ culture and objects of their making. It is known, for example, that she learned the art of creating living statues from the Stone of Living Statues and that she wielded a dwarven artifact called the Wyrmwyrd, with which she subdued Ormr and made the Great Wyrm to pay homage.

Ixmundyr Slain

Kobolds made a lair in the dwarves’ old power plant above the magma chamber. They riddled the areas west of the Deepmost Cavern with tunnels and harassed Ixmundyr. They stole from him, he extorted them, and the wyrm-touched dragon was killed in a fight with the kobolds.

Shadow Hulk

The shadow hulk hunted the denizens of Legendary Throrgardr to extinction. The hulk then made its lair in the city’s wizard’s quarter, and, tunneling into the Hall of Living Statues, hunted its guardians.

Stone Giants

Stone giants moved into an old gem mine. They routed the shadow hulk and began to exploit the gem deposits on the stratum. They built a castle in the gem caves, opened a tunnel behind the Hall of Statues to the gem deposit, amassed great wealth, and fell under the Empire’s sway.

Adventurers

A party of adventurers went looking for the dwarven city of Throrgardr. They discovered the wizard’s quarter of Legendary Throrgardr and the stone giant. They inhabited the tower, slew the stone giant, and took his rich treasure.

The adventurers had a number of encounters with wyrmlings, who stole their treasure, and on one occasion they ventured into the Great Wyrm’s lair to steal their treasure back. The adventurers eventually swore fealty to the Empress.

Troelsvollr

Following rumors spread by adventurers of rich treasure and a law-keeping empire in the dungeon below, humans moved in. Farmers tilled the fertile soil on the flood plain, and built a keep to protect themselves and a silo to store grain. Good harvests brought wealth. The farmers swore fealty to the Empress and established a city called Troelsvollr.1

Gullhringr

The next dragon who came to the dungeon hoping to fulfill the Wyrm Prophecy was named Gullhringr. The gold dragon made her lair in an eastern branch of the gold vein. There, she slept and hoarded her treasure.

Dagrun Stardark learned that Wyrmling Beta, the weakest wyrm spawn, made her way toward the dragon’s lair. Understanding the consequences of the weak wyrm’s touch,2 the Empress built walls to trap the creature. Henceforth, the enclosed section of the gold mine was called Wyrmgardr.

Later, Wyrmlings Gamma and Epsilon approached the dragon’s lair. Preferring to be touched by the more powerful of the two, Gullhringr hunted Epsilon and so was touched.3

Although Gullhringr and Dagrun Stardark were often allied, the former never paid homage to the latter.

Decline of Wyrms

While collecting treasure from various inhabitants, the wyrmlings were wounded in failed thieving attempts and hunted by predators until only one survived. When one of her clutch died, the Great Wyrm was wounded and so lost much life force.

Murtax

The fiend Murtax, vassal to the Empress, was a frequent target of the wyrmlings thievery. He killed them when he could and expanded his territory to surround the Wyrm’s Lair. He made plans to slay the Great Wyrm and, thereby, recover his own treasure and lots more.4


Notes

1 Troelsvollr: Troels (Thor’s arrow) + vollr (field). Troels is a given name, but that did not prevent in later periods the bastardization of the now-ruined city’s name to Trollsfeld.

2 The wyrmling’s touch grants her bonus, if any, to a dragon. Lowest in the wyrmling hierarchy, Beta had no bonus. Since a dragon cannot be touched twice, Beta’s touch would be a curse to any dragon hoping to reign during the Age of Dragons.

3 Epsilon, high in the hierarchy, was one of the most powerful of the sister serpents. Gullhringr adds 2 to all dice rolls.

4 Murtax kept copious notes of his activities and purposes and recorded much of his infernal magic. He wrote in a demonic script on sheets of wyrmling hide, which he sewed together into large volumes, using long tendons from wyrmling wings.

Stardark Empire Overlay Stardark Empire Composite
Stardark Empire Overlay and Composite
Stardark Empire Tokens Stardark Empire Cards
Stardark Empire Tokens and Cards