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The Dwarves of Thunderdelve

by Demos Sachlas from Threshold Magazine issue 2

The solo adventure XS2 Thunderdelve Mountain by William Carlson (1985) introduced the lost dwarvenHalls of Paradiseto the D&D game world. The clan structure of this dwarven community was based upon information contained within the Companion Set rules, which state that each demi-human clan possesses a sacred Relic tended by a hereditary Keeper.

In the adventure, one plays a lone dwarf tasked by the former Clanmaster of Thunderdelve to rescue the sole remaining descendant of the Keeper of the clans Forge of Power from bandits and goblins presently occupying the fallen stronghold. If successful, there are opportunities to return to the dungeon to retrieve a powerful dwarven artifact, the Hammer of Vitroin, and ultimately to destroy the dragon-like creature that led to the original downfall of this dwarven kingdom.

There are suggestions for converting the module for group play (for 5-8 characters of levels 4-6, or 2-3 characters of levels 7-9), some interesting NPCs (a local bandit leader named Redface and his colorful henchmen, in alliance with a nearby goblin tribe), further adventure scenarios, and descriptions of new monsters. A runic alphabet is also provided, as well as several inscriptions for the player to decipher.

A loose sequel to this adventure, “Dragon's Delve,” was published in Dungeon magazine #62 by Christopher Perkins (1996) using the AD&D 2e framework, although for character levels 3-6. It contains a complete map of the Halls of Paradise, so one does not have to reconstruct the map from the various entries scattered throughout the original module.

An exact location for Thunderdelve Mountain within the D&D Known World was never provided, although a careful perusal of the original map of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos and surrounding lands from the earlier Cook/Marsh Expert rulebook reveals a dwarven settlement on the far side of the Cruth Mountains:

Could this represent the location of Thunderdelve? The Halls of Paradise were not located within the actual mountains, but rather within a small valley, “nestled between two of the mountain's spurs”. When the map of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos was revised for Frank Mentzer's Expert Set rulebook, this dwarven settlement vanished, potentially reflecting the fall of Thunderdelve. The name of the ruins was gradually corrupted toRumble Belland the clan was regarded as extinct.

Taking a page from Thorfinn's most recently updated map of the Republic of Darokin, the ruins nestle quite neatly into unclaimed territory just south of the Helleck River, in the foothills of the Cruth Mountains. Given Thunderdelve's location within a small valley, it's reasonable that the Helleck would exit the mountains through just such a valley.

As a result, the legend ofRumble Bellwould surely be known throughout the Republic of Darokin, providing a suitable adventure hook. The situation might be comparable to the fall of Erebor as related in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, in which men from the nearby communities remember the glory of the lost dwarven kingdom.

If the Halls of Paradise are restored, the module states that Nimron, the former Clanmaster, attempts to reestablish Thunderdelve as a fully operational dwarfhome. This would have immediate political implications in Darokin, particularly in light of the proximity of Thunderdelve to the elves of Alfheim. Humanoid tribes within the Cruth mountains would also take note, and the position of Rockhome would have to be considered.

There is passing mention of an evil wizardjustly cheatedby Nimron, who may have engineered the downfall of Thunderdelve. This may have been one of the Glantrian princes, although any high-level magic-user within the general vicinity could be implicated.

The mines below Thunderdelve, rumored to harbor many new horrors, represent additional opportunities for intermediate-level dungeoneering in the players quest to recover the Forge of Power. Once discovered, a curse behind the mysteriously tainted forge must be discovered and lifted.

The surviving bandits also continue to harass the region, potentially under new and more powerful leadership, and must also be dealt with. The nearby goblin cave depicted on the original map of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos can serve as the focal point of a renewed goblin and dwarf war, supported by additional humanoid allies.

Once external threats have been addressed, the death of the Clanmaster triggers a civil war among the dwarves, providing an opportunity for player characters to unravel the political intrigue behind the motivations of the various factions. The module can therefore serve as the basis for a rich and long-running campaign set in southern Darokin.  

The Legacy of Loktal Ironshield

GAZ 8: The Five Shires describes the history of the hin, and the difficult years of dwarven rule under King Loktal Ironshield from 929 B.C. until the successful hin uprising in 912 B.C. This was during a period of centuries of continuous war between the dwarves of Rockhome and orc and goblin tribes, although there is no mention of Loktal Ironshield or his clan in the annals of Rockhome.

A compelling theory is that Loktal Ironshield and his followers were originally from Rockhome, the homeland of the dwarves. Their ancestral lands may have been overrun by orcs and goblins during the wars, and so Loktal led his surviving warband from Rockhome in search of a new home. He might even be regarded as a great leader among the dwarves, although it would be understandable that his reputation would be less admirable among the hin during those troubled times.

When Loktal finally turned his back on the Five Shires, never to be heard from again, it is possible that his clan actually founded Thunderdelve, going deep underground in order to avoid attracting hostile attention. This would be 1800+ years prior to the common era and Loktal Ironshield could very well have been the architect of the Halls of Paradise.

(sidebar: Loktals Vault

Could Loktals Vault be part of a Mystaran megadungeon? Join in on the discussion at [A Megadungeon Idea] The Piazza!