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.


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

Dagrun Stardark

The following text describes events in Wyrm Dawn’s First Age of Monsters. In this age, “A Wizard” (How to Host a Dungeon, Dowler, 2019) rose so quickly to “villainy” that I have determined to run a second Age of Monsters following the empire’s demise.

Throrgrmir Legacy

A long, dark silence followed the dwarves’ departure. No more was heard the din of the miner’s pick nor the clank of the smith’s hammer. In workshops, tools were carefully arranged, ready to be taken up again to finish abandoned work. Furnaces and smelteries were dead cold. Drinking halls were still. Walls of fine-hewn granite blocks no longer held the memory of the last echoes of raucous folk ballads nor of solemn dirges. The slow drip of water from cavern ceilings kept time on quiet dwarf-carved stones.

The subterranean river continued its winding way through smooth-worn channels. It flowed by the now dry aqueduct, under the crumbling bridge, through empty dormitories and treasure vaults, past life-like statues of rock, iron, and crystal—indeed living yet unmoving, and rippled between the feet of the Throrgardr Colossus, which still stood, keeping watch over the forsaken realm. The river’s dark water twisted around former graffhellar into the great cavern that once housed a thriving city of proud dwarves.

Now there slept the primordial wyrm atop a pile of treasures collected by her offspring. Between crystal urns and bronze chests, spilling coins and jewels, wyrmlings nestled. In turns, the serpent sisters yawned and tasted the air with darting tongues between long bouts of fitful slumber.

And so, the Throrgrmir Civilization passed into legend, its history and culture preserved on engraved friezes and monuments hidden in gloomy depths and in fables and epic tales. The tales told of fabulous treasures: hoards of gold, precious gems, and objects of dwarven craft, and of the Great Wyrm Ormr and her treasure-seeking spawn.

Ixmundyr

When dragons heard these tales, they were reminded of the Wyrm Prophecy, according to which at such place an Age of Dragons would dawn. Thus did Ixmundyr follow the tales to the broad river valley below the western mountains, to the crumbling citadel of the masked boar, and down into the old dwarven mine tunnels. In the magma chamber at the dungeon’s bottom, the red dragon made its lair.

Legendary Throrgardr

Subterranean denizens from neighboring realms came after treasures. In the old Throne Room, they found the Throrgrmir Scepter. Thinking to have discovered the legendary city, they settled there and in old graffhellar across the bridge. They called the settlement Legendary Throrgardr and, for a time, prospered.

In a treasure vault, Throrgardr denizens built a wizard’s quarter. Not having the dwarves’ skill in construction, their arches and doorways were not hexagonal but triangular. They also built a stepwell, used to capture river water, and when a shadow hulk hunted them from a nearby lair, they built tombs in abandoned gem mines. Exploring deeper, they discovered an incomprehensible thing. It was the dwarves’ Doom Weapon, and they found the Inordinate, its fetish.

Dagrun, a Wizard

Also in those days, an ambitious wizard named Dagrun installed herself in the former drinking hall. From dwarven inscriptions, she learned the place was called Sixth Cairn. Above it, she built a loft, where she set up a laboratory, and so, attracted apprentices. In the neighboring tomb, she learned of Lyngheid’s Prize and the monument called Sigrenormr, which recounted the Battle of Throrgardr between the dwarves and the Great Wyrm Ormr.

Wyrmlings Wake

Even as Dagrun learned of its existence, the golden monument was being defaced. For with activity renewed in the dungeon, the serpent sisters, waking, tasted treasure on the air and began to stir. The wyrmlings could not remove Sigrenormr intact, so they broke what parts of golden limbs as they could carry.

Ixmundyr Touched

Exploring the dungeon, the wyrmlings brought treasure back to their mother’s lair. Among which was the Throrgrmir Scepter, stolen from Legendary Throrgardr. They found also the lair of Ixmundyr, who was not spared their touch.1

The Star of Darkness

Meanwhile, the wizard Dagrun explored the Dead Caverns and the dwarven barracks and treasure rooms. She opened tunnels to the old gold vein and exploited its ore. With the spoils, she made a cyst, with which she captured malign energy. Then she made a diadem.2 It shone by its own bright light. The wizard called it Stjornumyrkur, the Star of Darkness, and with it, she crowned herself Dagrun Stardark, Empress of All Old Throrgrmir.3

Upon a stele commemorating the coronation are inscribed the words of Empress Dagrun Stardark: “We shall rebuild the Throrgrmir Empire for the good of all law-abiding citizens.”


Notes

1 Ixmundyr, touched by Wyrmling Gamma, adds 1 to all dice rolls.

2 The diadem serves the same purpose as the wizard’s phylactery (How to Host a Dungeon).

3 Texts of the era preserve the domain’s name as “Ganz Elt Throrgrim.” In the heroic age in which the Wyrmwyrd campaign takes place, scholars refer to Dagrun’s reign and domain as “Throrgrmir Eld.”


Monsters are Coming

In preparation for the next age in the Wyrm Dawn campaign, I made monster group cards for the primordial wyrm, each wyrmling, and living statues. I also made a cosmetic change to the Kobolds card and added new actions, used by the new monsters.

Wyrm Dawn

Wyrm Dawn uses Tony Dowler’s How to Host a Dungeon to create back story for an upcoming B/X campaign. How to Host a Dungeon is a solo procedural dungeon building game, available on DriveThruRPG. See Dowler’s latest projects and support the creator on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/tonydowler/.

New Actions

Guard A guarded treasure or epic treasure cannot be stolen or otherwise removed from its place.

Wake Roll 1d6. On a 6, the active group explores. Otherwise, it stays asleep and prepares.

Touch Handle touch as steal. In addition, no matter the results of the conflict, the target group (in our case, the Dragon) adds the following instructions to the bottom of its card.

Wyrm-touched: The Dragon has the same bonus to dice rolls as the Wyrmling who touched it. A wyrm-touched Dragon cannot be so touched again.1

New and Modified Monster Groups

Symbols:

Population:
Treasure: ❍
Epic treasure: ⛭
Special bonus: ★

Kobolds (modification)

Remove the draconic tag from the Kobolds card.2

Living Statue

In addition to the three initial monster group cards, the Living Statue card begins the Age of Monsters in play. By default, its type is Magma, but you may decide otherwise or roll for it. Place its counters with 1 ⛭ in the Hall of Living Statues.

The Living Statue guards an enormous stone tablet. This epic treasure is called “The Stone of Living Statues.” Made by the Throrgrmir dwarves in their renaissance, the tablet describes how to create a living statue. It is immovable and, so, cannot be stolen or otherwise removed from the Hall.

If the Wizard or the Blue Wizard finds the tablet unguarded, add the following action to the wizard’s card:

❏ Build Living Statue (req cyrstal, iron, or magma).3

On its turn, the builder—and only the builder—may deactivate a Living Statue. Deactivation is not a separate action. When deactivated, the Living Statue card is removed from play. Given the required materials, a wizard may build multiple Living Statues, but only one at a time may be in play.

Living Statue Denizen Wyrmdawn

Crystal ●●●
Iron ●●●●
Magma ●●●●●
Treasure varies

Construct, Mindless, Magical

Constructed by the Throrgrmir dwarves or a powerful wizard, a living statue is a formidable guard.

LIFECYCLE

Always Guard.
IF it has not interacted with any monster group in the last turn, the Living Statue prepares and takes no additional actions.

A Living Statue’s type is determined by the resource of which it is made. It takes its turn immediately after the wizard who created it.

Primordial Wyrm

The Primordial Wyrm begins the Age of Monsters in her lair, which is the ancient city of Throrgardr, now in ruins. Place 6 , 6 ❍, and 2 ⛭ in Throrgardr.4

The epic treasures in the hoard are Lyngheid’s Prize and the Seventh. When yielding treasure, whether through theft or otherwise, the Primordial Wyrm gives up normal treasures first. Only when she has no treasures remaining does she sacrifice Lyngheid’s Prize. The Seventh, being her last unhatched egg, cannot be removed from the hoard while the Primordial Wyrm is in play.5

Primordial Wyrm Alphapredator Wyrmdawn ●●●●●●❍❍❍❍❍❍⛭⛭

Unique, Primordial, Aquatic, Draconic, Hoarder

The primordial wyrm sleeps in her lair unless disturbed…

LIFECYCLE

Always Fight any group that has made me the target of any action.
IF I have not interacted with any group in the last turn, prepare and take no additional actions.

Healing: If the Primordial Wyrm has fewer than 6 , roll 1d6 when she prepares. On a 1, add 1 to the Primordial Wyrm. 

Apathetic: No matter how many or ❍ she gains, the Primordial Wyrm never rises to villainy.

Die for the Seventh: The Seventh, being her last unhatched egg, cannot be removed from the hoard while the Primordial Wyrm is in play.

Wyrmlings

There are six unique Wyrmling cards. Wyrmlings are named by order of birth. Fighting over treasure during the Age of Civilization, they now abide by an established hierarchy. Stronger Wyrmling cards, higher in the order, have a bonus to all dice rolls.

Wyrmling, Name Denizen Wyrmdawn ●●

Unique, Aquatic, Draconic, Wandering

A wyrmling seeks treasure. She does not know nor care that her touch effects dragons. She just wants the treasure.

LIFECYCLE

IF I am asleep, wake.
IF I am near a Dragon and it has treasure, touch it.
Otherwise, always explore.

Steal.

Hoard bound: When she acquires a treasure, a Wrymling returns immediately to the lair, adds the treasure to the primordial wyrm’s hoard, and sleeps.

Wounded: A sleeping Wyrmling with fewer than 2 cannot wake. Instead she prepares, adding 1 instead of a ★.

Protected: In the lair, a Wyrmling cannot be the target of any action while the Primordial Wyrm is in play.

Wyrmling Hierarchy:

Wyrmling Name Bonus to Dice Rolls
Delta +2
Epsilon +2
Zeta +1
Alpha +1
Gamma +1
Beta +0

 


Notes

1 The touch action and the Touched instructions might also be used in a demon-centered campaign—renamed as taint and Tainted.

2 Wyrmwyrd, the follow-on campaign, uses the B/X “rules as written.” Though compelling, the kobold association with dragons was introduced in a later edition.

3 Crystal may be exploited from the Crystal Caverns, iron from the dwarven Smelter, Foundry, or Power Plant (considered as biomes), and magma (also a biome) from the magma chamber.

4 During the Age of Civilization, the primordial wyrm acquired (through her treasure-seeking offspring) nine dwarven treasures. Using the average treasure type values, I converted nine dwarven treasures to four dragon treasures. These are in addition to the two treasures the primordial wyrm previously possessed.

5 I don’t see in the rules that the (optional) epic treasures can be stolen at all. I’m making up the “yield normal treasures first” rule.


Epic Treasures Named

The story of “Lyngheid’s Prize” gives me the idea to name epic treasures as they appear. Thus far, with the intelligent sword, we have five epic treasures.

Epic Treasure Location Description
Lyngheid’s Prize Throrgardr Intelligent sword
Throrgrmir Scepter Throne Room Emperor’s symbol of state
Sigregnormr Trophy Hall Gold statue depicting the victory of the dwarven lords over the primordial wyrm
The Inordinate Doom Weapon A trigger device akin to the red telephone of our twentieth century doom weapon
The Seventh Throrgardr Last of the primordial wyrm’s eggs, unhatched
Epic Treasures
Epic Treasures.

The Wyrm Prophecy

“Where the Great Wyrm’s spawn prowl the tenebrous depths, the Age of Dragons begins.”

When dragons learn of the primordial wyrm and her offspring, they come to the dungeon, seeking to fulfill the Wyrm Prophecy.

In the Age of Monsters, the Dragon card is among the initial monster groups in play.

If the Dragon does not survive, its card is not reshuffled into the deck. Instead, it is placed on top, to be drawn next.

The Dragon card represents the most powerful dragon in the dungeon at the time. Each time the Dragon card enters the game, name the dragon.

The Dragon Card
The Dragon Card.

The Throrgrmir Renaissance

In time the Throrgrmir dwarves recovered from the civil war. They built a power plant, which drove production higher, and they made a highway, which reached subterranean neighbors to the east and west. Increased communication fostered the exchange of goods, services, and skills and, so, ushered in a rebirth of the Throrgrmir civilization.

Meanwhile, in the Deepmost Caverns, trouble—in the form of wyrmlings1—hatched from eggs. The first attacks on Throrgardr’s gate were repulsed, but the wyrmlings persisted and they grew in number.

Eventually, the wyrmlings sneaked around the gate, swimming up the river, and defeated the dwarven defenders in frontal assaults. They prowled corridors, seeking treasure and decimating dwarven populations.

Despite this constant threat, the dwarves continued their mining operations and construction projects. Beside the highway, they built an assembly line. Progressing along the road, visitors entering the realm followed products as they were assembled on this magnificent testament to dwarven ingenuity.

The dwarves also continued Eitri’s work from the previous age, building the aqueduct that carried water from the screw as well as a drain. A valve directed water into an unused cavern or back into the river to recycle water in time of upstream drought.

They also added a sewer beneath the city’s graffhellar.2 The system extended beyond the city, servicing inhabited areas throughout the realm.

As their crowning achievement, the Throrgrmir dwarves constructed an impossible machine. It was an engine that produced more energy than it consumed. By feeding its output back into the machine, it ran by itself at the pull of a lever.

With this energy source, they built an entire hall adorned with statues of granite, crystal, gems, and iron (which they invented on a day off). Not simple carved figures, these statues were animated with a life force.

But the dwarves suffered from the wyrmling attacks. The crystal and gem mines were played out. Facing a bleak future, clans began to emigrate, and their numbers dwindled.

Finally, three wyrmlings attacked the gate and traversed Throrgardr. On the city’s outskirts, they ravaged a graffhellir. The dwarves successfully fought off the attackers, driving the wyrmlings back to their lair. But it was to be their last victory. The wyrmlings returned in a relentless onslaught, destroying clans and stealing treasure.

So, in a mass exodus the remaining clans departed, taking all the wealth they could carry.3 The primordial wyrm crept into the abandoned city, gathering wyrmlings to her, and the Throrgrmir civilization came to an end.

Throrgrmir Civilization at its Final Peak
Throrgrmir Dwarves Defend a Graffhellir Against Three Wyrmlings at the Civilization’s Final Peak.

Notes

1 By now, the dwarves named the wyrm “Ormr” (serpent), and its offspring they called frekormr, (greedy snake) or frekr for short, and more derogatory, thjofrormr (thief snake).

2 Graffhellar (canal + caverns): Throrgardr’s administrative areas akin to city quarters. Also used for areas outside the city. Singular graffhellir.

3 Had the wyrmlings not so depleted the population, the civilization would have ended in an industrial accident. The impossible engine, producing evermore energy, would eventually explode. The departing dwarves, with a pull of the lever, switched off the machine. Should the lever ever be pulled again…

Throrgrmir Renaissance Overlay Throrgrmir Renaissance Composite
Throrgrmir Renaissance Overlay and Composite.

Wyrmlings

Throrgrmir’s golden age ended when the dwarves woke the primordial wyrm. After the wyrm’s incursion, they rebuilt their civilization in a decadent age, which ended in civil war.

Meanwhile, the wyrm laid eggs. During Throrgrmir’s final era, the eggs hatch. While the dwarves struggle in the war’s aftermath, they must defend themselves against treasure-seeking wyrmlings.

Tinker & Tack

What’s fun about tinkering with rules in your own instance of a game is that they don’t have to work in every case. They only have to fulfill your present purpose. I tacked these additions on to the Age of Civilization. I present them here as an example of what you might do with your own game of How to Host a Dungeon.

Dwarves

When expanding and exploiting, dwarves prefer to move into dormitories and store treasures in vaults as far as possible from any active wyrmlings. They build, however, where they find space.

Wyrmlings

I name wyrmlings after the order in which they hatch, using the greek alphabet. From seven eggs, the wyrmlings are called Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, and Eta.

Following the dwarves’ building phase, the wyrmlings—all together—take their turn in phases as follows.

Incubation

Roll a d6 for each unhatched egg. For each 1 or 2, one egg hatches. Emerging wyrmlings immediately search for treasure.

Once hatched, a wyrmling may wake or search. Each of these actions may lead to subsequent actions, which are handled in the appropriate phase.

Wake

Roll a d6 for each sleeping wyrmling. The wyrmling wakes on a result of 1 to 4. Upon waking, it immediately searches for treasure.

Search

Wyrmlings seek gold and gems. As the offspring of primordial and cosmic parents, they have no affinity for epic treasures.

The wyrmling moves one finger toward the nearest dwarven treasure, excluding epic treasures. A wyrmling may move along waterways as well as tunnels.

If the wyrmling encounters a dwarven population, the conflict is resolved in the CONFLICT phase.

If the wyrmling encounters treasure, it returns immediately to the lair with the treasure, and its turn ends.

Conflict

When a wyrmling encounters a dwarven population, the conflict is resolved according to the rules for CONFLICTS AND ATTACKS in the Age of Monsters section, How to Host a Dungeon.

If multiple wyrmlings are in conflict with a population, they join forces and get a +1 bonus per additional wyrmling on the conflict roll.

The wyrmlings are young and, when outmatched, retreat back to the lair. Therefore, dwarves win all ties.

If the wyrmling wins the conflict, remove the dwarven population. The wyrmling’s turn ends.

If the dwarves win, the wyrmling retreats immediately back to the lair and sleeps.

The Wyrmling “She”

I don’t know yet if the offspring of the primordial wyrm and the World Dragon have a gender. Until we discover otherwise, I use feminine pronouns for the wyrmlings.

At the Gate

The dwarf gate blocks the tunnel from the Deepmost Caverns to the city of Throrgardr. Although no dwarven population is present, the dwarf gate is considered to be defended, unless occupied by wyrmlings. Defenders get the appropriate fortification bonus against attacks. From the gate, the dwarves also observe the waterway entrance.

A wyrmling at the gate may either attack the gate or sneak by it, swimming up the waterway. If more than one wyrmlings are present, they split into two even groups: some attack, others sneak. An odd wyrmling joins the attackers.

Multiple wyrmlings at the gate gain a +1 bonus for each additional wyrmling to the conflict roll if attacking, or if sneaking, gain a -1 bonus for each additional wyrmling at the gate. The bonuses apply to all wyrmlings, no matter in which activity they are engaged. One roll is made for each activity (attacking or sneaking) no matter how many wyrmlings are present. An example follows.

While a victorious wyrmling is at the gate, it is not defended. Dwarven defenders reinvest the gate at the beginning of their turn in which a wyrmling does not occupy the gate.

Attack

Attacking the gate is handled as a conflict, see CONFLICT above.

Sneak

Wyrmlings may attempt to get past the gate by swimming up the river. A 1 or 2 on a d6 indicates the dwarves do not detect the wyrmling. She immediately continues movement up the river. If the dwarves detect the wyrmling, she is repulsed and returns to the lair.

Example

Three wyrmlings are at the gate. Two attack, while the third attempts to sneak by. The two attackers get a roll with a +2 bonus, while the sneaker gets a roll with a -2 bonus.

The dwarves roll a 3. A +1 for fortification gives them 4 against the wyrmling attackers roll of 2, +2 for numbers, which is a 4. Dwarves win the tie. The defeated wyrmlings return to the lair and sleep.

The sneaker rolled a 3, which, with a -2 for numbers, is a 1—a success. The wyrmling continues her movement, following the river.

Sibling Conflict

When more than one wyrmlings find a treasure, they fight over it. Roll a d6 for each wyrmling. If the optional Wyrmling Hierarchy rule (below) is used, add a bonus according to the wrymling’s rank, if any. The elder (or ranking) wyrmling wins ties. Winner takes the treasure back to the lair. Loosers remain; their turn ends.

Wyrmling Hierarchy (optional)

I have the idea that it will be important to know the wyrmlings’ hierarchy in later ages of the How to Host a Dungeon campaign. I found it not too onerous to keep track of wins and loses between the wyrmlings in the manner described below.

It does, however, prove difficult to detail how it works. Feel free to fill in holes or come up with your own system. If you don’t use the wyrmling hierarchy, assume the wyrmlings are ranked in order from eldest to youngest, i.e., as they hatch.

When any number of wyrmlings fight, the winner, if she doesn’t have one already, earns a ranking. If she is lower ranked than an opponent, she may move up in the ranking.

In all cases, a loss is recorded for each looser.

No rank: If the winner has no rank and she has an equal or fewer number of loses than her highest ranking opponent, she assumes the rank of that opponent.

Higher rank: If the winner is ranked higher than her opponents, she maintains her current rank.

Lower rank: If the winner is ranked lower than her highest ranking opponent and she has fewer loses than that opponent, she assumes that rank. Otherwise, she climbs in rank until she has fewer loses than the wyrmling whose rank she assumes.

Slipping rank: When a wyrmling’s rank is assumed by another, she slips down in the ranking. Compare the loses with the next lower ranked wyrmling. The wyrmling with fewer loses gets the higher ranking.

Empty Nest

If all the eggs hatch during this age, the primordial wyrm sleeps. Beginning on the next turn, she might wake up. In the WAKE phase, roll a d6. She wakes on a 1, and attacks the dwarf gate (with any wyrmlings present) in the CONFLICT phase, adding 1 to the conflict roll for each of her populations. She begins with 3 populations.

If the attack is unsuccessful, any wyrmlings return to the lair, and the primordial wyrm loses 1 population (return 1 token to the Deepmost Caverns). The primordial wyrm remains to press the attack in the next turn.

She continues the attack until she is successful or all her population tokens are returned to the Deepmost Caverns, at which time, she returns to the lair and sleeps. Check each turn for waking.

If the attack is successful, she occupies the gate, and her turn ends. The next turn, she moves into the city and makes a new lair there. While the primordial wyrm lairs in the city, dwarves may not reinvest the gate.

The wyrm sleeps and does not wake unless disturbed. Returning wyrmlings deposit their treasures and sleep in this new lair.

Unhatched Eggs

At the end of the Throrgrmir civilization, any unhatched eggs become epic treasures. In a later age, or in the later campaign, a wyrmling might be coaxed from an egg through an arcane ritual.

Civilization Ends

If civilization ends by industrial accident or other catastrophe, roll a d6 for any wyrmling above the dwarf gate and not in the lair—the primordial wyrm is impervious to the damage, and she protects her young. On a 1 the wyrmling does not survive the catastrophe.

If the dwarven population is reduced to five or fewer populations, the remaining dwarves depart, taking treasure (but not epic treasure) with them, and the Throrgrmir civilization ends. If she isn’t there already, the primordial wyrm moves, with her hoard and any unhatched eggs, into the city.

Active wyrmlings return to the current lair and sleep. Otherwise, follow the rules for the dwarven End of Civilization, How to Host a Dungeon.

Wyrmlings at the Gate
Wyrmlings at the Gate.
At the gate (center), Alpha attacks, while Gamma attempts to sneak up the river. Having previously penetrated the gate, Beta (background) engages a dwarven population. Four eggs remain in incubation (right).

How to Host a Dungeon is a tinker-friendly solo game of dungeon creation by Tony Dowler. In Wyrm Dawn, I’m using it to create back story for an upcoming B/X campaign. The game is available on DriveThruRPG, and you can support Tony Dowler’s work on his Patreon.