Saturday, 28 December 2013

Silver Marches Sandbox 7 - The Nameless Dungeon, Part 1

At the southern edge of Mike Schley's excellent map of the Silver Marches, essentially due south of Sundabar, is The Nameless Dungeon. For much of the published history of the Forgotten Realms it has been a place of mystery at least until Rich Baker wrote The Last Mythal trilogy. Before throwing out a few suggestions about how to use it as an adventuring location I thought it would be interesting to look at its published history.

History Check

FR5 The Savage Frontier (1E)
Until adventurers from Sundabar brought a glowing suit of mithral chain mail +4 out of the ruins of this elven citadel, the treasures of elven Eaerlann were believed to have disappeared with the elves. The discovery of the Nameless Dungeon has caused a furore among elves in the North. An envoy from Evermeet has gone as far as to ask High Lady Alustriel of Silverymoon to outlaw those known to have trespassed here. There is something in the ancient  crypts that the elves do not want anyone to know about.
This appears to be the first time the Nameless Dungeon is mentioned in Realmslore. There is a hint of great treasure and a great mystery.
The North (2E)

Page 51
The third green dragon is a female named Chloracridara, newly arrived from the Far Forest. She currently cares for a clutch of two eggs in her lair and intends on remaining until these are hatched and her young are ready to leave. Her lair is located among the ruins of Mhiilamniir between the Lost Peaks and the Nameless Dungeon. She attacks anything within 200 yards of her lair to provide food for her young.

Page 53
Eaerlann and its holdings were abandoned when their fair city of Ascalhorn fell to tanar’ri hordes, becoming fell Hellgate Keep. Many, if not all, of the elves joined the migration to the west to Evermeet. Still, the works and some of the sites of Eaerlann remain evident today, but only to those who know where to look. Tall Trees, the Nameless Dungeon, and the Old Road are the most noted of the ruins of Eaerlann, but others exist.
Page 58
Eaerlann's treasures were believed to have disappeared with the elves, but this was proven wrong when the elven ruin soon known as the Nameless Dungeon yielded mithral armour, magical weapons, and other works of lost elven craft to adventurers from Sundabar in 1351. The plundered citadel quickly caused a furor among elves in the North, and envoys from Evermeet have established some guardians at the site (along with troops supplied by High Lady Alustriel of Silverymoon and others from Evereska) to prevent trespassers from plundering elven treasures that should remain buried.

In almost two decades, the Nameless Dungeon has produced only a few artefacts and items, such as two mithral suits of scale and chain mail armor, an ornately-crafted longsword with a basket hilt (carved to appear as multiple tongues of flame), and a helm made of mithral that was shaped like a hawk's head complete with beak. This scarcity is due to the fact that its guardians (2-12 moon-elf warriors of levels 3-8) have allowed no one to enter for over twelve years without tokens of free passage granted exclusively by Alustriel (granted ostensibly to historians and elven scholars).

The elves claim they simply don't want the holy ground of an ancient elven burial ground violated by ravaging intruders. Others claim that there is something powerful in the ancient crypts that the elves wish to keep secret.
The extent of the mystery - particularly in terms of the evil that the site hides - is strengthened in these paragraphs plus now we have a sense of the history of the place, something that will gradually take stronger shape.

In terms of using this material in play, I definitely want to use the named green dragon either as an encounter or as the mother of another green dragon that the PCs encounter (those eggs that are mentioned have obviously hatched by now...).
Hellgate Keep (2E)

The first mention of the Nameless Dungeon in this adventure is in relation to Kaanyr Vhok and his Scourged Legion of tanarukka where it is noted that the Nameless Dungeon is, for all intents and purposes, a barracks for Vhok's troops but connected to the grand prize - Hellgate Keep - by tunnels. (These tunnels are noted as having been completed in 1356DR, the Year of the Worm.)

Those tunnels could prove useful in terms of expanding the adventure into Hellgate Keep.

Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (3E)
In the northeastern High Forest (near Tall Trees) stands a ruin of fallen Eaerlann, a crypt beneath a shattered and overgrown mansion. There's also a small subterranean storage complex near the mansion (not guarded by the elves, and not connected to the mansion crypt.) It's said by some to be a long-abandoned dwarven or gnome dwelling.
I find the mention of the mansion and the crypt to be a bit inconsistent with the hints of the place given in the earlier lore. Of course, the mansion could be a far more recent addition but the Nameless Dungeon itself certainly feels like more than just a "crypt" or "small subterranean storage complex". I think this entry can simply be ignored.

Silver Marches (3E)
Located near the old town now known as Elven Port, the Nameless Dungeon is another ruin of Old Eaerlann. It's linked to Elven Pot and the ruins of Mhiilamniir by an overgrown elf highway known as the Old Road. The dungeon consists of an ancient citadel in which were hidden many terrible elf artefacts. Access to the Nameless Dungeon was long barred by the wood elves of the forest. Three years ago, in Alturiak of 1369DR, two groups of monsters invaded the Nameless Dungeon, driving off the elf garrison.

The first was a strong company of tanarukka and half-fiends calling itself the Scourged Legion of Hellgate Keep. The second was a powerful band of nagas, yuan-ti, and other snake-like creatures that arrived through a mysterious portal. The two bands vie for control of the dungeon.
That's better. Now we're back to the ruined citadel. This is also where it is first revealed that two factions were fighting over the dungeon: the Scourged Legion and naga-led yuan-ti. I rather like the idea of another faction being present without a DM needing to create it himself.
Lost Empires of Faerûn (3.5E)
Sarya freeing a fey'ri from The Nameless Dungeon

During the Crown Wars, the elves of Aryvandaar built a citadel known as Nar Kerymhoarth in the northeastern region of the High Forest to serve as an armoury for their war magic. When the empire dissolved, the armoury was abandoned.
Five thousand years ago, a group of rebellious sun elves influenced by House Dlardrageth claimed the old armoury and restocked it with magic created by the elves of the ancient Vyshaantar Empire. Years later, in the closing campaigns of the Seven Citadels' War, the army of Eaerlann defeated more than two thousand fey'ri warriors of House Dlardrageth and House Vyshaan and imprisoned them in magical stasis in the belowground levels of the armoury. The imprisoned fey'ri were soon forgotten by their jailers, and their prison, which was known as the Nameless Dungeon, became a place of intrigue for adventurers.

After the fall of Eaerlann, the wood elf patrols that guarded this part of the High Forest successfully barred access to the Nameless Dungeon for a time. In 1369DR, a contingent of orcs and tanarukka from the Scourged Legion seized the dungeon, only to be drive off by a tribe of dark nagas and other scalykind from the Slitherswamp. These monsters, which had travelled to the dungeon through a portal, settled in and made the place their lair.

In early 1374DR, the daemonfey Sarya released powerful magic from the Gatekeeper's Crystal to free the imprisoned fey'ri. The resulting explosion wrecked the upper levels of the keep and killed many of its naga and yuan-ti residents, trapping the rest in the lower levels of Nar Kerymhoarth.
The secrets of the Nameless Dungeon, and even its real name, are starting to be revealed, and the fey'ri and daemonfey are absolutely key. Frankly there is a lot of material in this section of Lost Empires of Faerûn to inspire a campaign based on the legacies of ancient elven kingdoms in this part of the Forgotten Realms.

The Final Gate (novel)

Shortly before sunset, they finally reached the rocky tor of Nar Kerymhoarth, the Nameless Dungeon. A low hill of ancient stone rose up through the forest mantle, its sides draped with young evergreens. Without Gaerradh’s aid, they might easily have missed it altogether. Approaching from the north, there was nothing to indicate that a buried vault lay beneath the hill. The wood elf led them around the base of the tor and finally brought them out into a valley between two arms of the hill.

“Here,” said Gaerradh. “This is the place where the daemonfey opened Nar Kerymhoarth.”

Araevin frowned. All he saw was a desolate clearing in the forest between the rocky arms of the hillside. But then he realized that the defile in which they stood was not a natural valley, but instead a titanic bite taken out of the hillside. Clover and blackberries covered much of the bare dirt, but shorn tree trunks marked the edges of the vast wound, and great boulders lay tumbled out of place all around them. The defile ended in a deep cleft in the hillside, where a dark cave mouth awaited.

“Let me guess,” Maresa said. “In there? That would be our luck. Trolls, demons, devils, whatever in the Nine Hells that monster Grimlight was… I just can’t wait.”

“It may not be inside,” Araevin told her. “The crystal might be lying on the forest floor a mile or two away.”

The genasi eyed the beckoning darkness under the hill. “Care to wager on that?”

Nesterin looked to Araevin. “You said that this was an old elven stronghold,” the star elf said. “Who delved it, and why? What is the story of this place?”

“Its name is Nar Kerymhoarth. My people do not like to speak of it,” Gaerradh answered for Araevin. “Because we don’t tell its name to outsiders, the place became known as the Nameless Dungeon. It’s one of the Seven Citadels of ancient Siluvanede.

“Long ago, three elven kingdoms shared this forest: Eaerlann, Siluvanede, and Sharrven. Siluvanede was the strongest of the three realms. It was a sun elf kingdom whose people hoped to build a realm to rival long-lost Aryvandaar.

“But a new shadow fell over Siluvanede. The sun elves grew proud and ambitious. Many were seduced into swearing allegiance to the daemonfey-though the Dlardrageths remained hidden for a long time, guiding the kingdom’s affairs in secret. Finally war broke out among the three kingdoms; Eaerlann and Sharrven stood together against Siluvanede. That was the Seven Citadels’ War.” Gaerradh glanced at Donnor and Maresa, hesitating, but then she continued. “In the last years of the war, the fey’ri legions appeared. The foulness of the daemonfey was revealed for all to see. But Eaerlann and Sharrven together overcame Siluvanede.

“My ancestors bound the fey’ri and their masters in timeless magical prisons, buried beneath their ancient strongholds. The people of Eaerlann and Sharrven vowed to keep an eternal watch over these places.”

Araevin picked up Gaerradh’s tale. “Sharrven fell not long after Siluvanede,” he said. “Eaerlann endured for many centuries more but was overthrown five hundred years ago, when demonic hordes emerged from Hellgate Keep and destroyed all the lands nearby.”

Gaerradh nodded. “Our watch failed. By the time my people returned to this part of the forest, we’d forgotten the story of the old prisons. We knew that something old and evil slept in the secret strongholds of the forest, and so we kept watch. But we didn’t know why.”

“You seem to have pieced it all together now,” Jorin observed.

“Only because the daemonfey showed us what we’d forgotten.” Gaerradh shrugged. “I only learned the beginning of the story-the story of the fey’ri and the Seven Citadels’ War-after speaking with the sages and scribes of Silverymoon this summer.”

“So Sarya Dlardrageth’s fey’ri army was imprisoned right in there-” Donnor Kerth nodded at the ruined hillside-“after some ancient elven civil war?”

“Yes, you are right,” the wood elf answered.

“Any idea of what lies buried here? What sort of magic or guardian monsters we might find?”

Gaerradh shook her head. “We never set foot in the deeper halls of the Nameless Dungeon. They were sealed so thoroughly we didn’t even know they existed.”
The book continues with a description of the entrance tunnel lined with 88 alcoves at least one of which holds an elven "war-construct", some sort of lesser golem:

Maresa led the way as they followed the passage. Donnor and Jorin stayed close behind her, swords at the ready. They soon came to a series of alcoves or niches in the vault. The first few they passed were empty, but then they found one occupied by a tall statue of iron. It was shaped like a proud sun elf warrior, dressed in the same sort of ancient armor that Araevin had seen many of the fey’ri wear. This was no fey’ri; for one thing, the statue lacked wings, horns, or any other demonic features. Heavy, spiked gauntlets encased its fists.

“That thing is built to fight,” Donnor said. The cleric looked up and down the hall at the empty niches to each side. The company had already passed thirty or forty of them. “I wonder if all these alcoves used to have statues in them… and where they all went, if more of them were here once.”

“Leave it alone,” Araevin decided. “It doesn’t seem to be active now.” The mystery of the abandoned war-construct could wait.

He turned away to follow his companions deeper into the dungeon. They were ten paces farther down the hallway when the squeal of rusted metal in motion stopped him in his tracks.

“I do not like the sound of that,” Nesterin said to Araevin.

Together the elves turned, and found themselves staring at the iron statue as it ponderously stepped forth from its alcove and swiveled to face them. It raised one arm slowly, as if to accuse them of some crime. Brilliant blue sparks abruptly sprang into life in its blank eyes and the joinings between its armored plates. From its outstretched gauntlet a great stroke of lightning leaped down the hallway with a terrible booming thunderclap.

Araevin threw himself aside but was still caught and spun around to the hard stone floor by the force of the bolt. His muscles jerked and kicked, leaving him writhing on the flagstones with searing white pain all along his right side and smoke rising from his cloak. Nesterin fell nearby, singed as badly as Araevin. Maresa ducked out of the way with an oath, but the lightning stroke bent toward Donnor in his plate armor and struck him with its full force. Blue sparks flew from the Lathanderite’s body, and he was flung ten yards down the hall, spinning through the air as his sword clattered to the floor.
I can definitely use this construct in my adaptation. Frankly, I don't want to read on further simply because I would rather build my own version of The Nameless Dungeon based on some other published adventures and the backstory provided here.

A lot of people on the internet seem to dislike the Forgotten Realms because there is so much material to master. Even a location on a map like The Nameless Dungeon seems to have accumulated a fair amount of lore. But the internet - and the work of fellow fans - makes tapping that material for inspiration so much easier than even a decade ago.

I really do see this more as inspiration than as a straightjacket on an individual DM's creativity. From this material, we have the following to work with:
  • The Nameless Dungeon was an ancient elven armoury but also a secret prison.
  • A green dragon (or two, or even a family) considers The Nameless Dungeon to fall within its (their) territory.
  • At least four factions are interested in The Nameless Dungeon: the elves who want to ensure that further evils are not released, the Scourged Legion who see it as a lair, the naga-led scalykind who are trapped there, and whatever fey'ri might remain.
  • The elves placed lesser golems - war-constructs - as guardians but there's probably some item that allows them to be controlled so that they can also be used in battle.
  • And, of course, we have a really solid backstory for the dungeon which should inform its design and details.
Frankly, it seems to be a pretty good start for designing a dungeon that makes some sense. More to follow in part two....


  1. Great work Scriv! I'm working on a High Forest campaign and looking for all the lore I can scrounge on the ancient civs. The nameless dungeon, as presented here is very interesting. I already planned to use the green dragon(s). I'm also interested in the red dragon, Imvaernarho, who lives in the Star Mounts, and all those Star Mounts ruins that appear on some maps, Like the Aerie of the Avariel, Talontower, and the Endless Caverns.

  2. Thanks, mate! Yeah, there is a tonne of lore than can be dug up plus hints that a couple of the Candlekeep posters have something special planned as a DM's Guild product. I'm definitely going to have to run another campaign there at some point.

  3. Do you have any leads on any further dungeons based on this? We just ran Hellgate keep and one of our PCs was kidnapped and taken to the Nameless Dungeon. I plan to go there next but not sure if I want to take it on and create it from scratch.