Wyrm Dawn

B/X D&D 40th-Anniversary Game

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of my favorite DUNGEONS & DRAGONS edition, I’m starting a new B/X campaign. Wyrmwyrd is a solo campaign, and I’m using Tony Dowler’s How to Host a Dungeon to create some back story. I think of it as a prequel campaign—working title: Wyrm Dawn. I just finished the primordial age. The mother of dragons spawned in the deepest caverns.

Wyrm Dawn
Wyrm Dawn Campaign Map with B/X D&D and Host to Host a Dungeon.

The original edition of D&D, created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, was published in 1974. The edition known as “B/X” was edited by Tom Moldvay and David Cook with Steve Marsh and published as DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Fantasy Adventure Game Basic and Expert Rulebooks by TSR Hobbies, Lake Geneva, WI, in 1981 (first printing in January). How to Host a Dungeon: the solo game of dungeon creation by Tony Dowler is in its second edition (2019). The cross-section map is my own.


A Tour of the Throrgrmir Citadel

As it is the dragon’s ingress to the subterranean domain he wishes to subjugate, the Throrgrmir Citadel is the focus of the Valormr Campaign. The campaign begins with the dragon’s raid on the citadel’s ramparts. The Chaos Armies invest its upper works throughout the war, which reaches a climax when the Forces of Law arrive to besiege the besiegers.

An autumn breeze at our backs, we climb a steady slope to the top of a rocky plateau. The noonday sun hovers above crenellations, like a crown before the moment of coronation. We approach the Throrgrmir Citadel from the south. Its forward parapets, 20 feet high, stretch between 25-foot corner towers, anchored into rock either side of the plateau. Bearing a stone marked by the rune of welcome, which serves as our invitation, we mount the entry stair, stepping east then north again before facing west at a massive gate carved from a granite block.

Approaching the Throrgrmir Citadel
Approaching the Throrgrmir Citadel.

Showing the invitation and speaking the name Fjoldi Funderburk, for he is to be our host, the gate opens to us. We pass between drystone walls, mosaics of stones. Each stone is defined by a thin seem without mortar. We are greeted by a dwarf with a broad smile of large teeth like ivory squares. Fjoldi is our old friend and adventuring companion. His beard has a few more gray whiskers than the last time we saw him, and in place of a battle axe, he now carries the amulet of an administrator. But his green eyes flash at us when he makes short jokes about dwarven stature and human life spans.

After warm embraces, Fjoldi offers a tour of the citadel, which we readily accept. From the entry yard, we turn north, descending a few steps into a garden courtyard. We walk on stone paths through lush grasses amid wildflowers and fruit trees, bosquets of hydrangea, pink and blue, and round alyssum shrubs, snowy white. Their honey fragrance fills our nostrils.

On our right, the central donjon rises into a clear cerulean sky. Reaching into a low branch, Fjoldi pulls fruit and puts apples into our hands. “Crunch on that,” he says, “to take the edge off your journey’s hunger. Soon, you will feast at Harbard’s table,1 but first you must gird your strength for climbing stairs.” Here he raises an arm toward the donjon’s height, “For the tour ends with a view of the valley.”

“The tower’s base is twenty-five feet square,” he continues, “and it’s fifty feet high. Men build no higher. They say it won’t stand. But I’ll show you different in the city below. In Throrgardr, you will stand atop a tower that is in height three times its base width.”2

At the far end of the Greensward, as Fjoldi names it, we ascend another stair to the Stonesward. There, in the donjon’s north wall is set a great door of granite, like the gate, and even more massive. Etched upon its face, runes welcome friends and warn enemies.

Our host halts at the stair top. Between us and the door, set among floor stones, is a thick plate of blue glass. It gleams in the sunlight. Made from a large chunk of crystal discovered in caverns far below our feet, Fjoldi explains, it is the Throrgrmir Stone. “Dwarves kneel to kiss it when returning from a long journey. The stone brings blessings upon us, and it bestows curses upon enemies who step beyond it.”

Farther along, we come to a fountain set in the northeast corner. Water spouts from the mouth of a boar’s head. The sculpted stone is painted the same blue as the gleaming glass. Sapphire eyes look through a silver mask. Unless we hail from the world’s distant ends, we know that Throrgrmir means “masked boar,” and only the incurious are ignorant of the dwarven civilization’s founding by a forefather of that name.

As we progress now south, ever the donjon towering above, we pass along a wide, flat stone pavement between turrets and parapets. Fjoldi informs us that the unused fountain water drains into a cistern below the citadel. We are then encouraged to examine the smooth floor upon which we stand. Our human eyes cannot discern the Stonesward’s gentle slope from south to north and from east to west. Rainwater, he tells us, drains from tower tops and parapets and from interior courtyards into the cistern.

We now approach the Stonesward’s south end. Turning west, we find ourselves on a balcony, overlooking the broad stair by which we arrived. Fjoldi leaps to the balustrade and, in a few words, paints a picture. Dwarf maidens and children gather here to welcome foreign dignitaries, he tells us. The maids wear white silk dresses and crowns of pink flowers. “They dance with long blue sashes,” he says, twirling around his raised arm. “The children toss alyssum flowers at the guests’ feet, and the air is filled with their sweet aroma.” Fjoldi stops dancing. “And enemies are welcomed by dwarf crossbows.”

Finally, we climb the interior stairs to the donjon’s battlements. The view extends for miles and miles in all directions. The sun warms our cheeks, the breeze blows into our faces as we gaze across the forested valley. The autumn woods are a blanket of orange and gold.

“Look to the sky, my friends,” says Fjoldi. “Twice this year, we’ve seen a dragon.”

Overhead View of the Throrgrmir Citadel
Overhead View of the Throrgrmir Citadel.

Width 21″, length 25″, height 10″.3 The structure is made entirely from beach stones. The “Throrgrmir Stone” is a piece of glass worn smooth by sand and waves. The plateau is a table, 22½″ × 35½″, upon which I spread a sheet—we say “magenta”—to protect it and a green T-shirt, seems cut out, to simulate ground cover.


Notes

1 Our host refers to Dwarf King Harbard V. Our visit to the citadel is a few weeks prior to events of the Valormr Campaign.

2 Fjoldi speaks no dwarven cockalorum. Exploring the ruins of that legendary city, adventurers in the time of Wyrmwyrd may discover a tower, 70 feet high on a 20-foot base. The “Impossible Tower,” as it is called, yet stands after thousands of years. As Throrgardr was the subject of my first beach stone tabletop construction, I have pictures.

3 The Throrgrmir Citadel’s size is comparable to that of the model Bodenburg Castle. Henry Bodenstedt’s rules for “Siege of Bodenburg” (1967) show the castle on a 20-by-20-inch plate. I don’t see reference in the rules, but by rough measurements made from photographs, I estimate the keep’s height at about 12 inches. Throrgrmir, though, is less portable.


Throrgrmir Citadel Under Construction

“As they mined the ore, the dwarves dug tunnels and built dormitories, treasure vaults, and workshops. Soon they caroused in a drinking hall, and a citadel enclosed the surface entrance to their underground domain.”

—from “Throrgrmir’s Golden Age

Having friends over for tea yesterday, I hoped to show them the dwarven citadel, finished and under siege, with a red dragon installed in its new-gained lair atop the central donjon. But, as construction does, it took longer than expected. So I set up some dwarves hard at work.

Before the few remaining Throrgrmir clans abandoned their once-great civilization. Before the wyrmlings decimated the dwarven population and stole all their treasure. Before the renaissance, before the disastrous civil war, before they built the Throrgardr Gate to prevent the Great Wyrm’s passing. Before the Battle of Throrgardr, before the wyrm invaded the city, before the dwarves dug too deep and woke the primordial wyrm. Before even they built the city, now in crumbled ruin far beneath the surface and the granite dust of uncounted millennia. The Throrgrmir dwarves built the citadel.

On the edge of steep hills, high atop a plateau, the granite structure seemed to grow from the rock upon which it was built. Towering above the valley, throughout Throrgrmir’s long reign over the region, the citadel served as a surface beacon. All who gazed upon its bright facade from the wide valley floor, all who mounted its magnificent stair and entered within its high stout walls were reminded of the dwarven mastery of stone craft, of dwarven strength and ingenuity.

Throrgrmir Citadel Under Construction From Above
Throrgrmir Citadel Under Construction From Above.
At five feet to the inch, the structure is 105 by 125 feet. The entry stair turns between parapets.
Throrgrmir Citadel Under Construction From the Front
Throrgrmir Citadel Under Construction From the Front.
The central donjon is 25 feet square. Its 30-foot height reflects more my own lack of skill—or just the right rock—than that of the dwarves. In the middle foreground is the scale model from which they work.

Valormr Heralds

From among local aristocracy, the Lords of Valormr appoint several heralds. They are charged with the duty to disseminate information throughout the domain. These tabarded riders can bring the news from the Free City to the domain’s farthest reaches within a day.1

Spring in the Eighth Year of Valormr2

Latest news from the dungeon, the following information is commonly known throughout the Throrgrmir Valley.

  • The Red Ogre, Emperor of the Undersun, has completed construction of a “great wall” within the dungeon. Imperial troops now man fortifications to block key passages in a wide perimeter, which encloses the subterranean empire.
  • The Red Ogre also built a library. Overlooking the Throrgrmir Bridge, the library is filled with ancient and modern texts from eastern lands.
  • The Red Ogre has come to an agreement with Pegasus Manes. The adventurers pay the Emperor’s “tax,” and his troops leave them alone in the dungeon—as long as the adventurers show no signs of aggression.
  • Griffon’s Claws continue to extort Valormr. With monies thus gained, they recently added a stronghold to Isolde’s Tower, which is now a formidable fortress.
  • Formidable though it is, the fortress does not hinder the blink dogs, who harass Griffon’s Claws within it.
  • Pegasus Manes has allied with the blink dogs and recruits a force to fight Griffon’s Claws.
  • While Faerunduine, Wyrm-Touched, sleeps and grows stronger, a previously unknown cult has erected a temple at the old Throrgardr Gate. The cultists built an altar from the petrified bones of the last wyrmling. The object of their adoration is the wyrm-touched dragon herself.
  • To house the tomb of their lost comrade, members of the Ghouling Gauntlet are constructing a shrine. Meanwhile, they look for signs of the vampire’s whereabouts since their first encounter.
  • The Red Ogre propositions Valormr to join the Undersun Empire. The Emperor and the city have made a temporary non-aggression pact. The Emperor now sends an ambassador with full honorary accompaniment—which is to say, an army…

This, I think, is the final installment of the Wyrm Dawn campaign. Play of How to Host a Dungeon created a complex underground environment, a robust history, and details this Dungeon Master would not have discovered without it. Tony Dowler created a truly unique game that deserves more attention and more exploitation. I look forward to using it to create more, bigger, more diverse dungeons as we further explore DONJON LANDS. Now on to Wyrmwyrd.

On to Wyrmwyrd

Notes

1 Departing in the morning, first to Fyrir and crossing the Abrandyr and a tributary at ferry points, a rider gains the village north of Ellriendi by nightfall.

2 While familiar with the calendar used in the Grand Duchy—as it is the primary trading partner, the fierce folk in the Throrgrmir Valley, favoring their independence, have long preferred to reckon years according to their own system. Thus, the local calendar begins from the Free City’s recent founding.


Valormr and Environs

In preliminary form, this pencil sketch serves as the local area map for initial adventures in the Wyrmwyrd campaign. At lower character levels, most of our adventures will be in the dungeons. I save feature names, color, and maybe ink for future work.

As the campaign progresses, I will further elaborate the following text. I expect to borrow from Viggo Eskilsson, who must be writing a geography to accompany his Histories.1 For now I note only key points necessary to get the campaign started.

Valormr and Environs
Valormr and Environs.
At 10 by 16 inches, the map may be printed on Tabloid size or A3 paper.

The scale being one mile to the hex, I use the large icons for map terrain (X62). The pencil’s lightness and my drawing skill render some icons difficult to differentiate. As a guide, the only city is Valormr, the only towns Troelsvollr and Odenwoad. Villages I mark with two dots in the hex. Smaller hamlets and thorps, only one. Castles and ruins are more heavily outlined.

The Valormr-Odenwoad road is shown, as is the road to the Citadel and Mine Head, which is in disrepair. Not shown are cart tracks between villages.

Dungeon Below

Right-angle markers (right and below center) frame a rectangle corresponding to the area above the Throrgrmir dungeon. See the Level 1: Surface map in “Dungeon Overhead by Strata”.

Valormr, Free City

  • Population 12,000.
  • Governed by a council of Lords, which elects each year one of their number to serve as Lord Mayor.
  • Principle holdings include Odenwoad (west) and Fyrir (north).
  • The domain of Valormr serves as a borderland between the Grand Duchy (off map) to the east and the fearsome lands of Darkmeer beyond the Western Mountains.
  • The city trades up and down the river and with the Grand Duchy.

Abrandyr River

  • Navigable south to Arvohne (city, off map).
  • Empties into the Great North Sea at Skullhaven (former pirate hold, off map).

River Travel

From Valormr, riverboats travel upstream to Arvohne in three days and downstream to Skullhaven at the river’s mouth in two days. From Skullhaven east along the coast and up another river to the capital and major trade port of the Grand Duchy, four more days are required. Aboard a mercantile vessel, the journey takes from two to three times longer, allowing for stops at trading ports.

Troelsvollr

  • Small town, population 1,500.
  • Mostly in ruins since Stardark’s End.
  • Hosts the Old City Bazaar.

Old City Bazaar

A frequent trading stop—often a destination—for law-abiding merchants and for those who can temporarily abide the law. Since the Red Ogre opened a tunnel from the dungeon below, monstrous races frequent the bazaar. A special detachment of the Valormr Guard patrols the stands, booths, and tents in force.

Odenwoad

  • Small town, population 4,000.
  • The High Castle of Odenwoad overlooks the town and river.
  • From the High Castle, the Lord of Odenwoad governs the town and surrounding villages.
  • Patrols range from the Shire Hollows to the Western Mountains,2 from Elding Wood to Upper Vale.2

Fyrir

  • This fortress guards the domain against pirates.
  • Also patrols north of the Shire Hollows and, across the river, north of Ellriendi.

Shire Hollows

  • Total population two thousand halflings.3
  • Numerous streams flow from rolling hills, through farms and woodlands.
  • Divided into three shires: Arbenshire (also called North Shire), Black Pine Shire (east), and Gold Hollow (or South Shire).

PC Origins

As the campaign begins in the remote area northwest of Odenwoad, player characters of human classes hail from villages in that region. Demihumans come from one of their respective communities: halflings from the Shire Hollows, dwarves from Nyr Golthur or Forn Fjallaheim, and elves from Ellriendi.

Ellriendi Groennendr

  • Elven population unknown.
  • The elves defend the forest at all costs.
  • Orcs from the mountains are a frequent threat.
  • Only elves and elf friends are allowed to enter their territory.
  • The forest today is a fraction of its size in ancient days.
  • Deep within the forest, the elves guard a secret.

Players, Characters, and the Secret of Ellriendi

While an elven character may know Ellriendi’s secret, the player does not. Bound to silence, the character will not talk about it or answer any questions concerning the secret. The player, though ignorant, may run the elf as evasive, aloof, and enigmatic as desired.

Forn Fjallaheim

  • During Throrgrmir’s decline, four dwarven clans migrated from the dungeon, each on separate occasions.
  • Two clans returned to Fjallaheim, their mountain home.
  • A third clan resettled elsewhere to an as-yet-undetermined location on the map.4
  • From the fourth clan, we have no word since their departure southward.

Nyr Golthur

  • At the fall of the Throrgrmir civilization, the five remaining clans emigrated to the mountains up the Abrandyr.
  • They mine silver and dispute the river valley with giants.
  • Refer to themselves still as Throrgrmir dwarves.

Pale Moor

  • Between the Western Mountains and the Great North Sea, these lowlands are shrouded in mist and legend.
  • Wise folk don’t go there. The foolhardy don’t return.

Notes

1 A geography in the style of Strabo’s Geographica but constrained to the local area.

2 The Western Mountains and Upper Vale are parenthetical names. That is, they are often referred to as such, but they also have proper names I haven’t learned yet.

3 I calculate 2 to 5 villages per shire (average 3.5) times three shires, which makes 10.5 villages. Per village, populations range from 30 to 300 (average 165). I round up from 1,732 (10.5 x 165) to 2,000.

4 We allow campaign events to determine the third dwarven clan’s present location.


Dungeon Overhead by Strata

“Though not more than a thousand feet deep, Throrgrmir is a vast underground realm. Its eight major levels split into numerous sub-levels and spread across an area of at least five hundred square miles.1 Civilizations have dawned and died within its depths; empires built and crumbled over the long ages of its existence.”

Viggo’s Histories

Throrgrmir by Level

Transitioning from How to Host a Dungeon to D&D, strata become dungeon levels and rooms become areas, which are collections of natural caves or dungeon chambers. I placed each area on separate overhead maps by level. The rectangles show the general location of each area, color coded as per the cross-section maps.

Overhead 1 Surface
Level 1:
Surface.
Overhead 2 Dead Caves
Level 2:
Dead Caves.
Overhead 3 Gold Vein
Level 3:
Gold Vein.
Overhead 4 Crystal Caverns
Level 4:
Crystal Caverns.
Overhead 5 Subterranean River
Level 5:
Subterranean River.
Overhead 6 Gem Deposits
Level 6:
Gem Deposits.
Overhead 7 Magma Chamber
Level 7:
Magma Chamber.
Overhead 8 Deepmost Cavern
Level 8:
Deepmost Cavern.

Connecting Corridors

At two miles per inch, each level map covers an area 15 by 23 miles. Even areas in close proximity to each other are separated by a third of a mile or nearly 600 yards. If we allow travel along connecting corridors at the wilderness rate (where movement is measured in yards), metal-armored adventurers traverse the distance in ten turns, which, with rests, is two hours.

Not rare, though, are areas separated by a mile or four. No mere jaunt, a delve into the Throrgrmir dungeon is an expedition.

I’ve never been much for dungeon adventures lasting more than a single day. That adventurers might hunker down in a cold, damp, dangerous place—no matter how empty the room—and get several hours’ sleep to regain spells strains plausibility. That they might “do nothing but rest” (B19) for 24 hours straight to restore hit points even more so.

On the other hand, “Throrgrmir is a vast underground realm,” as Eskilsson writes. Civilizations and empires have spent countless cozy nights within its confines. With a little thought, we ought to be able to accommodate explorers on long underground forays. Furthermore, the constraint may serve to further develop the setting. Following are a few considerations.

Wandering Monsters

The long corridors may be patrolled by local denizens or imperial troops. But, as a general rule, fewer monsters wander in the connecting corridors. We might check for wandering monsters once per hour.2

Movement

Mentioned above, a party may move along connecting corridors at the wilderness rate. Generally straight passages, with few turns and hardly an intersection, give little reason to tarry. Apart from lurkers and well-hidden predators, most encounters will be met from the rear, if some creature overtakes the party, or, more likely, from the front.

Again, infrequent wanderers is a general rule. Particular corridors may break it. A party may chose to move at dungeon or wilderness speed, switching between as deemed necessary.

Dungeon Marks

The dwarf builders carved distance3 and destination in corner stones at the entrances to connecting corridors. Some of these stone blocks have been defaced. Other builders, denizens, and explorers left similar information, sometimes carved in blocks, sometimes with less durable means. Faded chalk marks are not uncommon. Whatever the media, these signs are called “dungeon marks.” Sometimes the information is correct.

Burden of Treasure

If spells and hit points are husbanded, a party may well become loaded with treasure within a score of turns.

“If the DM permits it, mules may be taken into dungeons” (B39).

A pack animal permits the acquisition of 4000 additional coins.

Trading Outposts

Traders (B43) often set up outposts near first level entrances to the lower levels. Treat an outpost as a trader lair. Traders may be accompanied by mules in the dungeon as in the wilderness. In addition to goods needed by dungeon denizens, traders deal in weapons, armor, and adventuring equipment. Outposts are established on high-traffic routes in defensible positions and are appropriately guarded.

Overnight in the Dungeon

Way Stations

Dwarf-built stretches of the connecting corridors are often punctuated with bypasses, alcoves, or the odd room or two. In some of these, the Sadhakarani nomads established way stations. Since the nomads’ recent eradication by the Red Ogre, it remains to be seen whether the stations will be maintained.

“Wandering Monsters… should not be frequent if the party spends a long time in one out-of-the-way place (if they stop in a room for the night, for example)” (B53).

Let’s say, one check per night or three checks per day (one every eight hours) while so resting at a way station or other such place, including in a remote room of a dungeon area.

Throrgrmir Enclave

Dwarves maintain an enclave in an old dormitory on the second level. From this base, they explore the dungeon, searching for Throrgrmir relics. Law-abiding persons are welcome to stay, for a price, in a boarding house, provided they make no trouble and stay out of the dwarves’ way and their business. Here, a party may rest to regain spells and recover hit points with little chance for interruption.

Sixth Cairn Protectorate

The Red Ogre recently established a “protectorate” in the former drinking hall below Troelsvollr. Governed by a Lord Protector and guarded by imperial troops, it aspires to become a city.


Notes

1 Eskilsson overestimates. The dungeon’s footprint covers 345 square miles. On the other hand, if we multiply by eight levels and assume one-fifth of the area is explorable dungeon (as opposed to solid rock), we arrive at a figure not far from the historian’s mark.

2 Within dungeon areas, normal chances for wandering monsters apply.

3 Throrgrmir dwarves measure distance in the length of their standard stone block. A dwarven “standard” is roughly equal to five feet.


Throrgrmir Dungeon Cross-Section

The Wyrm Dawn campaign produced a base map in the Primordial Age plus six transparent overlays in subsequent Ages. I compiled these chronological maps into a composite. In order to clear the clutter, I divided the final cross-section into middle, fore-, and background maps.

Cross-section Middle Ground
Throrgrmir Middle Ground.
Cross-section Foreground
Throrgrmir Foreground.
Cross-section Background
Throrgrmir Background.

Color Code

Each room is colored to indicate its builder or initial occupant and any group which may have modified it as well as its current occupant. Following are the groups having significant impact on the dungeon’s history.

Blue WizardBlue Wizard

FaerunduineFaerunduine

GullhringrGullhringr

KoboldsKobolds

Legendary ThrorgardrLegendary Throrgardr

MagnateMagnate

MurtaxMurtax

Red OgreRed Ogre

StardarkStardark

Stone GiantsStone Giants

Throrgrmir DwarvesThrorgrmir Dwarves

The territory claimed by the Red Ogre is outlined in red. Imperial troops patrol these areas.

A Conundrum of Scale

When thinking of a dungeon—even a “mega-dungeon” in new school parlance—we generally consider a sheet or two of graph paper per level. At 10 or 20 feet per square, the widest dungeon level might be a couple thousand feet in width. Although the levels may be staggered—not stacked one atop another, the entire footprint fits under a surface ruin or a city.

In How to Host a Dungeon, though, you might have one or two cities among many other surface features stretched above the dungeon’s width. Looking at Wyrm Dawn’s middle ground cross-section, for example, we have two cities, Valormr and Troelsvollr, in addition to a tower and stronghold, mausoleum, shrine, the School of Mines, and the Cynosure, which was the Magnate’s capital, with a river running through it all. In my mind’s eye, the surface map spans at least a couple dozen miles. Such a scale makes the dungeon below likewise lengthy and its lowest level sixteen miles deep.

One might solve the conundrum in a number of ways. I choose to keep the horizontal scale and reduce the vertical. Keep in mind that the rooms shown on the cross-section maps serve as icons to mark a general location.

Horizontal Scale

At two miles to the inch, it’s four miles from Valormr to the ruins of Troelsvollr, in which the Old City Bazaar is set up. The nearest known entrance to the dungeon is also in Troelsvollr. Four miles is a fair morning’s travel for merchants by horse-drawn wagon as well as for adventurers on foot.

Vertical Scale

Scaling the East Tower to the cross-section of the Haunted Keep (B58), we find a scale of 100 feet to the inch in Moldvay’s dungeon example. The first dungeon level is 65 feet, the second 120, and the third 280 feet deep.

In the D&D campaign, Wyrm Dawn’s strata become dungeon levels, of which there are eight. This corresponds to the B/X Wandering Monster tables. Surface level ruins, cellars, and basements are considered as the first dungeon level.

Applying 100 feet per inch, our dungeon levels are separated by an average of 100 feet. Though longer flights often separate levels, there may be short flights of stairs up and stairs down within a given dungeon level. So, stairs down don’t always mean tougher monsters. Clever adventurers keep track of their depth to know what level they are on. When in doubt, they might also note, in natural caverns or wherever the geology is exposed, the type and color of the rock. Comparing this information to known strata indicates depth.

Cross-section Strata
Throrgrmir Strata.

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


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.