Wyrmwyrd

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.


Player Character Record Sheet Index Cards

Tabletop Playing BX D&D

 
Real estate is valuable at one’s place on the table. A solo player needs, within easy reach, maps, notebook, rulebook, setting guide, and adventure notes, in addition to dice and a place to set a drink. Small room remains for a character sheet, less for a whole party of them.

Years ago, I started with full-page character sheets but soon reduced to half size, before I realized the utility of the 3" × 5" card.

Thorsdottir BX Player Character Record Card Front Thorsdottir BX Player Character Record Card Back
B/X Player Character Record Card, Front and Back.

Compared to the official B/X accessory (reproduced B14),1 the index card lacks saving throw and “to hit” vs. AC tables, notes, character sketch, and player’s name.

The D&D Reference Tables (from Dungeon Module B2, “perforated for easy removal”) replace the save and “to hit” tables. I keep notes in the adventure log, player’s name is omitted for solo games, and my drawing skill does nothing to improve the record’s aspect.

The index card is adaptable to other early D&D editions. For Endys the Uncanny, created when graph paper was not available to me, I use a character card in a Holmes D&D Basic game. Images below show the card of Palantir, an OD&D character.

Palantir OD&D Player Character Record Card Front Palantir OD&D Player Character Record Card Back
OD&D Player Character Record Card, Front and Back.

The OD&D card includes space for the character’s class, “Elf Fighting Man,” rank, “Veteran,” and Fighting Capability, “HF/AF.” The reverse has room to note a Beneficiary, in this case, a nephew Fingolfain.

The field for damage can also be used to note the manner of the character’s passing. Palantir was killed by a ghoul in room 9 of some deep, dark place. Should Fingolfain seek the inheritance, he may find his uncle’s gnawed bones in an open tomb. We note, however, Palantir, in his short career, gained not a gold piece.

Palantir in Play Prior to His Demise in an OD&D Campaign
Palantir in Play Prior to His Demise in an OD&D Campaign.

Notes

1 These sheets for B/X were produced from 1980 through 1984.

Cover Player Character Record Sheets 1980 Cover AC 5 Player Character Record Sheets 1984
D&D Player Character Record Sheets.
Covers by Jim Roslof (TSR, 1980) and Clyde Caldwell (TSR, 1984).

Turn Undead in Movement Phase

It was a table perhaps some decades ago. Remaining now are crumbling bits of dry rot wood next to a single stool in similar condition. One plate, flatware, a goblet, and two candlesticks, all of tarnished silver, lay amid the friable refuse.

Bending, Hreidmar scooped up the goblet. “Now there’s a treas—”

The north door opened and a troop of skeletons filed in. The first held a covered plater high in one hand, a threadbare towel laid over the bones of the other arm.

Thorsdottir stepped forward and thrust the Ouroboros1 toward the advancing column—“Back!”

The silver platter dropped to the floor with a clang. The cover rolled aside. Heel bones scraped stone as the skeletons turned away, fleeing through the door…

Lower Levels of the Lonely Tower
Lower Levels of the Lonely Tower.
The scene takes place in the central room (unnumbered), lowest level.

I’ve always counted Turn Undead as some kind of magic for the purpose of when, in the combat sequence (B24), a cleric should take the action. The B/X Rulebooks give no guidance on the matter (nor on a number of other details about Turning).

In my experience, Turning in the magic phase makes for some awkward moments:

  • Maneuvering and preparation for combat against half a dozen or so undead takes up time that will be for naught if the cleric’s Turning is successful.
  • Players, thinking about tactics in the movement phase, make a certain emotional investment in the combat, of which they are then deprived.
  • Missiles fired on the undead before they are Turned in the following phase is often anticlimactic.

During a recent Wyrmwyrd session, it occurred to me that Turning is only a quick gesture and maybe a couple spoken words. A cleric could easily do that while moving. If successful, the field is cleared—or at least thinned. If the Turning fails, the players can get into the combat with confidence their actions will be meaningful.

Rules Clarification: Turn Undead

A cleric attempts to Turn Undead in the movement phase of the combat sequence (step B, phase 2).

In the scene depicted above, neither side was surprised, and the player party won the initiative roll. Thorsdottir turned seven of nine skeletons.


Notes

1 The Ouroboros is the holy symbol of the Pantheon.

A Cleric Presents a Holy Symbol

 


Secret Room Under Landing

After helping to find a secret door below the entry landing, Hreidmar and company fell into the order of march behind Thorsdottir, Gandrefr, and Ardur.

Entry Level and Secret Room Under Landing
Entry Level and Secret Room Under Landing.

Secret Room

A deep step down leads into this small room. The ceiling, below the landing above, is only six feet high. A door on the left (north) is closed.

Opposite the step (southeast) is a wide alcove, the back wall of which is tiled with lavender-tinted crystal. On a ledge stands a statuette, blackened by age. The figure is male, head turned toward an outstretched arm. The arm, as well as the statuette’s base, is truncated in a rounded mass, as if previously melted.

When Thorsdottir reached for the statuette, a bright flash of light from the crystal tiles left her blinded. Ardur and Hreidmar were also effected.

The other dwarves entered the room, letting the secret door close behind them. The four guarded the two entry points in pairs, while the party waited for their comrades’ sight to be restored.

Gandrefr examined the statuette, which she took from Thorsdottir’s hands. Scratching the black surface, she said, “The statue is of bronze. It’s damaged but should be worth something.” She stowed it in Thorsdottir’s pack.

Not having playing cards on hand to determine the effect’s duration, which was 1 to 8 turns, I used a deck of Chainmail spells I made last summer, Wizard Light as the ace. The party waited 40 minutes for sight to return.

At the table, the time passed quickly. I drew a card at the beginning of each turn and checked for wandering monsters at the end of every other. There was one: wolves.

I didn’t see how wolves could open either the secret or the normal door, which “usually open automatically for monsters” (B21). So…

The party waited, cramped in the small space, heads bent beneath the low ceiling. Then a scratching sound, as claws on wood, broke the silence. The dwarf guards braced their shields. The blind shrank back into the alcove.

Again the scratching, then “Awooo…” The canine howl came, not from an adjacent space, but from above.

Gandrefr let out a breath. “It isn’t here,” she whispered. “It’s at the entrance, just above.”

More scratching at the door before silence invested the space again.

“I can see,” said Thorsdottir, peering at shadows on the ceiling. She judged the distance from the secret door to the alcove. “This alcove must be directly below the arched door.”

Gandrefr recalled the archway’s inscription: “Lost alone together found…

Though the DM suspects that the damaged statuette and the archway inscription have some connection, he does not yet know what it is.


Hreidmar and Company of the Galti-Gler

Wandering Monsters
Wandering Monsters.
As a general rule in Wyrmwyrd, I use the Wandering Monsters tables (B53-54, X55-56) to generate random encounters.

Returning to the first floor, Ardur posted himself, spear in hand, on the entry landing with an ear to a door. Thorsdottir examined the central pillar and the stones underfoot, while Gandrefr searched the fresco wall. Both hoped to find a hidden entrance to the dungeon below mentioned in the parchment text. Neither found it before Ardur whispered a quick warning and readied the spear, facing the door.

When the doors burst open and a half dozen dwarves rushed through, Ardur held his ground. The dwarves formed a shield wall.*

One, peering over a shield, spoke: “If you be friend, say it true. If you be foe, prepare to cross the bridge!”1

Thorsdottir lowered her mace. “We are friends to civilized dwarfolk.”

“What do you here in Schlafender Drachenturm?”*

“We are on a quest.”

“And what is the object of your quest?”*

Thorsdottir hesitated. “Before I answer thrice, answer me once: What seek you here?”

“I like not to hint, for it cannot be shared.”

Gandrefr stepped forward, empty palms raised. “Yet, it is clear,” she moved her hands while she spoke, “the sleeping dragon’s door has not been breached these many years. No coincidence would bring us together.” Her hands now traced a slow pattern in the air. “We might fight for a thing lost, or we might join our forces to find it. What say you?”

Behind the shield wall, there was much discussion and not a little grumbling. A moment later, the dwarf raised his head above the shield. “A kind offer it is you make, my friend, just and wise. Let it so be. I am Hreidmar. These are my kin of the Galti-Gler.”2

Monster Reactions in Role-Playing Encounters

When a monster’s action is not obvious, I rely on the Monster Reactions table (B24) to determine the flow of a role-playing encounter. In the encounter with Hreidmar and company, I knew the dwarves, like the player characters, were after the sword, but their attitude toward competition could go either way.

Rolling for reaction on entry and after Thorsdottir’s first two responses, I got three “Uncertain, monster confused” results in a row [marked with asterisks (*)]. With the dialog now established, I ignored any single result of 5 or less (attack possible or immediate), assuming “Uncertain,” while allowing two such results to indicate a bad turn in the discourse—an automatic “Hostile, possible attack.”

I did not roll for reaction to Thorsdottir’s inquiry about the dwarves’ goal [dagger (†)]. The polite question could not invoke a negative response but I didn’t imagine, either, that Hreidmar would give up the information to someone he didn’t trust.

At this point, Gandrefr interceded and threw a charm person spell on Hreidmar to banish doubt, barring a successful save, about his attitude. The dwarf leader might be in love.


Notes

*† The marked sentence or phrase is Hreidmar’s reaction to the player characters. See the section Monster Reactions in Role-Playing Encounters.

1 The dwarf refers to the bridge, which crosses a chasm to connect the mortal world to the underworld, whence one goes after death.

2 The Galti-Gler [galti (boar) + gler (glass)] is a diaspora clan. As the Throrgrmir Civilization fell into decline with the gold vein and gem mines played out and wyrmlings prowling the dungeon realm, the Galti-Gler returned to Forn Fjallaheim, their ancestral home. Hreidmar’s company is an adventuring party, following rumors of a magic sword lost in Schlafender Drachenturm.


Schlafender Drachenturm, the Lonely Tower

Spurned by her lover, the wizard Agodt built the tower that now crouches below the crest of a high crag in the remote foothills of the Western Mountains. Other than the occasional apprentice, she lived alone.

Agodt named her home Schlafender Drachenturm—or Sleeping Dragon Tower—after the motif with which she adorned the structure. But even in the wizard’s day, folks called it “the Lonely Tower,” for Agodt pined after her lost love. Since her disappearance some decades ago, the tower has been undisturbed. Only time takes its toll on crumbling stones.

Before the summertime distraction that was the Valormr Campaign, I played the first session of Wyrmwyrd. Wyrm Dawn, the Battle of Throrgardr, and Valormr were invaluable in fleshing out the dungeon’s history and culture as well as the geography of surrounding lands. Though short campaigns, the three together took up the better part of the game-playing year.

The autumn passed in house-moving, “there and back again” to the beach-front apartment, where I’ll be through April at least. A nomad’s is a precarious lifestyle. I intend to get in at least one more session of Wyrmwyrd before the end of B/X’s 40th-anniversary year. In any case, the campaign continues.

The Lonely Tower
Schlafender Drachenturm, the Lonely Tower

Player Characters

Thorsdottir serves as an acolyte of the Allfather Church in the Elding Wood village. Her friend Gandrefr is apprenticed to a sorcerer, who lives in a nearby hamlet.

Now, an adventurer has come to the Elding Wood village. Ansgar the Bold speaks of a powerful magic sword once possessed by the wizard of the Lonely Tower. Proof of the claim is a parchment he found among the belongings of Arkadin Hoarcloak, Agodt’s last apprentice, long-dead. Ansgar shows this parchment to anyone who expresses interest in joining his adventuring party. The calf skin is yellow with age, its edges burnt.

“I saw it only once,” reads the crooked scrawl, “before she was aware of my presence. The sword lay on the worktable before her. It was magnificent: a serpent coiled around the hilt, from bejeweled pommel to crossguard, and runes ran the length of the bronze blade. When Agodt noticed me, she covered the sword and bid me away.

“Later, in the dungeon below the tower, she built a secret vault. Among many wondrous treasures she stored there was a yew-wood case, narrow and long, bound in brass, a serpent engraved on the lid.

“Agodt closed the vault behind a solid stone-block wall. I dared to ask: How do you get in? She answered: The key is on the lintel. I searched the entire tower from upper works to dungeons below. I found no kind of key nor anything else on any lintel.

“It was soon after this that I was dismissed. Agodt gave no reason, and she never took another apprentice.”

Arkadin Hoarcloak
Eversden Hamlet, Odenwoad

From the village and surrounding communities, a score of hopeful adventurers gathered at the Elf King’s Inn. The company discussed plans for the expedition. Ansgar hired a local guide to escort the party to the Lonely Tower. They would depart at dawn on the morrow.

Short festivities followed. The ambiance was jovial. Afterward, Ansgar retired to his room. When he didn’t come down in the morning, two of the company banged on the door before entering. They found Ansgar in a blood-soaked bed, his throat slit. The parchment was not found.

With the company now divided between those who would venture to the Lonely Tower as planned, those who doubted the parchment’s veracity, and those who would find the killer, the inn erupted in boisterous debate. Amid the cacophony, Gandrefr approached a quiet fellow who stood apart from the crowd, while Thorsdottir sought the guide. After brief negotiations, the four departed.

The guide escorted the party to the Lonely Tower then waited outside as agreed. Thorsdottir, Gandrefr, and the retainer Ardur explored the tower’s three upper levels. They discovered, above the entry door and on each floor, something of interest.

Entrance

Engraved in the arch over the entry door is the following inscription:

LOST ALONE TOGETHER FOUND

First Floor

A fresco covers the west wall, between the two stair bases, from floor to 20-foot ceiling. It depicts two robed figures, man and woman, he in blue, she in lavender. He carries a short blade. She holds a ball of light overhead. They walk through a wood. Ahead of them, a circle of stones. On the stones are carved eight-legged serpentine creatures. Above the circle’s center floats an object wreathed in a radiant aura.

Second Floor

A statue of a human female and a dragon coiled around. The paint is chipped and worn, showing alabaster beneath. The woman’s face is triangular, the nose thin. She wears a lavender robe, trimmed with white flowers. The dragon’s tail circles her waist, leaving arms free, and turns up at her knees. It’s head rests on a shoulder, peering up at her.

Third Floor

An iron statue, covered in a layer of rust, of a dragon standing, wings displayed, tail wrapped around the base. One eye is closed. The other is open, but the socket is empty. A claw held to its chest is clenched tight in a fist.


Valormr Concludes on Three Tables

A year ago, due to the current world situation, I had the opportunity to rent a small apartment on the beach at a monthly rate that fit a nomad’s budget. It’s equipped with all the necessities in two rooms with a view on the sea, a constant breeze, and three tables of various sizes. With an eye on the tables and knowing that human contact should be limited for the coming months, I rekindled the decade-old idea to play a solo wargames campaign.

Valormr, like Wyrm Dawn from which it spawned, informs the upcoming B/X campaign.

The strategic movement map is laid out on the first table. When opposing forces meet, battles are fought on the second. The third table is reserved for the Throrgrmir Citadel, where take place the opening and closing engagements: the dragon’s assault on the Citadel and its storming by the Forces of Law.

No table for dinning remains to me, but who needs to eat when you can play wargames?

Forces of Law Execute a Plan
Forces of Law Execute a Plan.

Moving overland, the Aeskrvald and Lanze armies are escorted by elves through the Ellriendi Forest to take up positions northeast of the Citadel, while Noerdenheim and Grallune move by sea to capture Port-of-Sands then the Keep on the Pale Moor, thereby cutting the Chaos Armies’ supply lines.

Battle of Throrgrmir
Battle of Throrgrmir.

The Chaos Armies routed from the field, Anax Archontas hops from his perch atop the Throrgrmir Citadel to deliver a tongue of fire into a formation of Grallune troops.

Meanwhile, an adventuring party gains the base of the Citadel, where they enter a secret tunnel. The adventurers must find their way through a dungeon, overcoming any obstacles, to enter the Citadel’s upperworks.

Ostanner ninjas move through woods to the base of the Citadel’s plateau. They are to scale the cliff and the ramparts to create a diversion as the adventuring party enters the Citadel to open the gates.

Zosimos Wields the Wyrmwyrd
Zosimos Wields the Wyrmwyrd.

A moment later, a strange wizard from south of the World Dragon Mountains confronts the dragon. With a device fashioned by the Throrgrmir dwarves, Zosimos banishes the would-be usurper from the Throrgrmir Valley. Anax Archontas’s bid to become the first emperor of the Age of Dragons ends with a few spoken words bolstered by the power of the Fates. The device ever after is called the Wyrmwyrd.

Hadewych Pretends to an Empire
Hadewych Pretends to an Empire.

The dragon is gone and with it the Chaos Armies’ raison d’être. But the dwarves below are starving, and the Forces of Law are diminished and weakened, while armies of kobolds, orcs, and gnolls arrive from the south, and the Wraithwright marches at the head of an undead legion from the north. Hadewych the Arbiter, with two regiments, a host of heroes, and the Citadel’s upperworks under her control, finds herself atop an empire ready for the taking.

Storming of the Citadel
Storming of the Citadel.

But the Forces of Law set up a catapult on the hill due south. It pelts the ramparts before Grallune forces march up the slope. As fighting erupts on the Stonesward, the adventuring party fights its way from the Greensward toward the gate, and, bursting through the door from below, dwarves cry vengeance and death to Throrgrmir’s enemies.

This is the Throrgrmir Empire, rich with gold and gems and treasures beyond imagining. If she wants it, Hadewych must fight for it.

Storming of the Citadel (Overhead)
Storming of the Citadel (Overhead).

 

The year on the beach draws to a close, as does the wargames campaign. I’ve kept a detailed record of events of Valormr, which, like Wyrm Dawn from which it spawned, informs the upcoming B/X campaign.


Beliefs and Religion

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

—Mark Twain1

Beliefs

These are fundamental beliefs widely held among all peoples throughout the known world.

Eternal Recurrence

The world ends; the world begins anew. Time is cyclical. The most recent end of the world was the Rending. Before that, there was Ragnarok, a battle between the giants and the gods. Before that, the Great Deluge, the Ever Winter, and the Time of Fire. The present world will be destroyed following a battle between Law and Chaos. Chaos wins.

Fates and Destiny

In the north, they are the Norns. In the south, the Moirai personify destiny. To the east, one’s destiny is determined by the stars. In all cases, the common term is “the Fates.” The gods obey the Fates. It is part of divine responsibility. Mortal creatures may choose to obey or to resist them. Diverse myths portray a hero’s struggle against the Fates and his or her success or failure.

Religion

Most folk, particularly those north of the World Dragon Mountains,2 are adherents to the Pantheon of gods. Followers revere all the gods, the Allfather chief among them.

The holy symbol is the Ouroboros, a serpent biting its tail. The symbol is presented with the “bite” at the circle’s top. The inverse presentation, considered heresy, signifies rebellion against the Pantheon.3

Rituals, ceremonies, and festivals follow the Ring Cycle, which comprises eight annual cycles of birth, death, and rebirth, and an overall cycle of worldly renewal. The faithful make rituals daily as well as monthly and seasonally.

As such, churches and cathedrals are dedicated to the Pantheon as a whole, yielding a central place to the Allfather. At the same time, temples, dedicated to a particular god, are not rare, while shrines may be either to a single god or to the Pantheon. In no case is devotion to the Allfather ignored.4

A religious edifice of a community is staffed by clerics, who attend to the religious, if not spiritual, needs of the faithful. These clerics may be of the adventuring class or minister clerics. Minister clerics may rise, though slowly, within the church hierarchy to hold upper offices.

Community Size Edifice Office
Village Church (rarely temple) Priest
Small Town Church Curate
Large Town (or City) Church Bishop
Major City Church or Cathedral Matriarch/Patriarch

Each office is appointed by the next higher, usually influenced by its own superiors. For examples, the bishop of Valormr is appointed by the patriarch in the Grand Duchy’s capital city.5 The bishop appoints the curate of Odenwoad as well as that of Fyrir, and each curate appoints priests to surrounding villages.

Development Guidelines

In developing the DONJON LANDS setting, I strive to create only what is necessary for game play. Though I indulge to some degree when an opportunity to explore the world presents itself. In so doing, I follow two guidelines. Here I describe how they relate to the setting’s religions.

Ancient Models

To save myself a tremendous amount of work, I use as models ancient religions of our own world. The religion followed north of the World Dragon Mountains draws from Germanic and Norse mythology. While, south of the range, the inspiration is from Greek mythology, and east of the (unnamed) central sea, Mesopotamian and Ancient Egyptian. Models not copies.

B/X Implied Setting

A goal of the Wyrmwyrd campaign is to develop a setting that corresponds to the rules as written. In B/X, clerics “have dedicated themselves to the service of a god or goddess” (B9). No gods are described. A DM, who so desires, might elaborate on the Pantheon to define a much more detailed and complex religion, while another might use only “the Allfather”6 as a generic god.

Notes

1 The quote is often attributed to Twain. The Quote Investigator debunks the myth.

2 The World Dragon Mountains are far south of the Throrgrmir Valley.

3 A sect or cult of Chaos might use the Ouroboros inverted among its membership—never openly in civilized communities. We may encounter the symbol more frequently in the dungeons.

4 One might imagine the predominant religion as pantheistic merging toward monotheism, as the Church of the Allfather consolidates its power.

5 As folk in Valormr prize their independence, there is some tension between the Lords of Valormr and the Church of the Allfather. The best they can arrange is for the Valormr bishop to be a local native, who then, so hope the Lords, keeps local interests in mind. That is not the situation at present.

6 Of course, one might want to replace the Allfather with the Allmother. I suspect a matriarchal religion—that is, one whose primary god is female—would look much different though, not just a change in gender. Further, it would be interesting to follow the evolution of a religion whose chief god is non-gender or non-binary or simultaneously male and female. I intend to experiment with these in future campaigns. Meanwhile, I would love to see your examples.


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.


Wilderness Map

Another preliminary map. At such an early stage—that is, before the first door is forced open—it is premature to consider the wilderness outside our immediate adventure area. My purpose, with regards to Wyrmwyrd, is to show the greater area, however generally, in which events play out. Furthermore, the base, modified, serves as the strategic-level map for the Valormr Campaign, which takes place a few thousand years prior to Wyrmwyrd.

Wilderness Map—The Grand Duchy and Western Borderlands
Wilderness Map—The Grand Duchy and Western Borderlands.
Valormr left of center, Darkmeer in the west, the Grand Duchy east. One hex equals six miles.

In my childhood experience with wilderness maps, I first loved to make mountains. Later, I loved to do forests, then hills. Now I love to make rivers!

The north-south river right of center is in fact a canal, built by the Greater Race, repaired several times since the Rending.


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.