The Exploration Expedition
L’Expédition d’Exploration (3A 3000)
Balin is one of the thirteen Dwarves that employed and accompanied the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins on the quest to free the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the Dragon. Afterwards, he returned to Mona with a small group of his people to see if the halls of Khazad-dûm could be reopened and reoccupied by the Naugrim. At first, matters progressed nicely. The Dwarves managed to establish a camp in the upper Levels. This foothold eventually broadened into a small town.
When they decided to delve into the Deeps, though, they reawakened the Balrog—Felyashono—Durin’s Bane. The Balrog delighted to find fresh flesh upon which to dine, and quickly exacted a horrible price from the terrified Naugrim. Although they made a valiant stand in defense of their ancestral home, Balin’s people eventually perished. The Balrog annihilated the entire Dwarf-host. Thus Balin, the latest King Under the Mountain, died with his dream.
Of course, word of this tragedy was long in reaching the rest of the world ; and even then, it only came as half-heard rumors floating on the wind. Many Khazad wondered exactly what had become of their kinsmen. One, an aged and infirm Dwarf named Tili—an older cousin of Balin’s resolved to uncover the fate of Balin’s expedition. To that end, he has gathered together a fellowship of worthy souls who are willing to explore the haunted halls of Khazad-dûm.
Requirements: A bold, experienced party of adventures able to face and fight the demons and denizens of the Deeps that guard Balin’s treasure and the other wealth of what was once the Khazad’s home.
Aids: Tili can provide the adventurers with extensive maps of Moria’s tunnel complexes. With these tools, the party should be able to avoid most of the traps. Some magic items would be helpful (as would the panache of a Fire-drake).
Rewards: Wealth beyond all measure. The PCs may keep whatever they can find, as long as they return any and all heirlooms to Tili’s care.
Before Balin made his failed attempt to found a colony in Moria, it had been uninhabited by Dwarves for over a thousand years, ever since the coming of the Balrog. Encouraged by the retaking of the Lonely Mountain, long thought as an impossible task itself, Balin set out to see what could be done in Khazad-dûm. Unfortunately, the fearsome beasts that had driven out his ancestors remained in the Black Chasm.
All that the PCs and Tili know for sure is that Balin’s people have not been heard from for several years now. They all are assumed dead, killed by the Balrog and his underlings. Still, Tili would like to know for certain.
Old, even for a Dwarf, Tili decided to use what wealth he possessed to fund an expedition to discover what had become of his cousin’s settlement. Once able to find a stalwart group of adventurers to undertake the task, he is pleased to be able to accompany them. Tili has often reflected on the idea of travelling to the halls of Khazad-dûm, a place he knows only in the legends passed down from his forebears. Like any Dwarf, he desires to see his peoples’ home before he dies, to stand in awe of the glories of a bygone era.
The only NPC with whom the adventurers are certain to have interactions is Tili himself. He is a weathered Dwarf, his face full of more crags and crevices than the Silvertine itself. Except for a white fringe that dangles like a curtain from the rear of his skull, he has lost most of his hair. His beard is long, thin and stringy and, like his flesh, almost devoid of color.
Tili always dresses in green, a sharp contrast to his bloodless lips and pale skin. His right eye is clouded by a cataract. His left, though watery, shines with the kind of wisdom that only age can bring. Although he manages to walk steadily enough, Tili’s muscles have atrophied, and he finds it nearly impossible to run faster than a gentle jog. For similar reasons, he has abandoned the axe he kept at his belt in his younger days. Now he prefers to wield a light short sword of excellent (+20) design.
In years long past, Tili was something of a rogue. An excellent warrior, he was as fast with his wit as with his axe. Even today, he still sees himself this way, although his body does not always keep pace with his fanciful vision. He has more than once threatened to skin some young Dwarf, a foe who could certainly have made quick work of the old adventurer, but instead backed away in deference to Tili’s age. Even bullies know that to beat someone so old will earn them nothing but scorn.
The fact that Tili is blind in his right eye has done little to slow him down. This is unfortunate. Due to his poor depth perception, he does misjudge distances. Such instances have been to date harmless mistakes (like narrowly avoiding walking into doors), but the time will come when matters might be more serious. Tili should be careful to avoid trying to locate or leap pit traps.
Generally, though, Tili is a fine companion, ready to regale the adventurers with tales of his brazen youth. Some of these stories are actually worth the listening. At the very least, they go a long way toward staving off the darkness on a cold night.
Tili’s major flaw is that he is ready to die, and he is looking for a fitting death. With the adventurers’ help, he hopes to find it in Moria. Unfortunately for the PCs, this means that Tili will be more than happy to leap into battle with the Balrog. It will be up to them to keep him from alerting the Balrog to their presence and to save the old Dwarfs life. After listening to him prattle on about how they are robbing him of his destiny, though, they may be tempted to let him experience his rightful death.
Be sure to review all of Sections 14.0 and 15.0. These sections cover the major Shadow-forces the PCs are likely to meet—including, of course, the Balrog. Tili appears to know a great deal about these creatures and can identify many of them by name, but almost all of his knowledge derives from rumor and legend and so may be unreliable. Use him to build the adventurers’ anxiety about the forces arrayed against them.
This is a fairly open-ended adventure. The PCs are free to explore whatever parts of Moria they like. Be sure to use the Master Encounter Chart to generate random encounters for them as they wander.
Note that the map Tili has is a rough one. Very old, it is drawn entirely from the cartographer’s childhood memories. His depiction of Khazad-dûm is reasonably accurate, in that it depicts all of the major halls and rooms in proper order ; but the map does little or nothing to warn the adventurers about the dozens of traps that riddle the passageways of the Dwarven stronghold. While the drawings do indicate a few notable trap mechanisms (like those outside the King’s chambers), it’s for the most part vague and unreliable.
Places in which the PCs will most likely be interested include the Chamber of Axes (cf. #27); also see Chapitre 17–2 – A Mission to Steal, the Crypt of Alvis (cf. #31), the Balrog’s Lair (cf. #50), and the King’s Chambers and Armory (cf. #54). These halls house some of the greatest treasures hidden under the mountain. Tili is particularly interested in the Balrog’s Lair. To get there, he tries to persuade the PCs that they can enter the King’s chambers in the Seventh Deep without disturbing the Balrog. Of course, his claim is not necessarily true.
The adventurers are to enter Morn and ascertain the location of the greatest of Moria’s long-lost treasures. They will be guided by Tili the Dwarf, who, unbeknownst to them, is searching for a glorious way to end his life. The maps they have are mostly accurate, but they contain sane notable omissions. Perhaps worse, many of the traps on the maps are misplaced.
The PCs are to get in and out with as much treasure as they can lay their hands on. If they cannot actually obtain anything, they should at least attempt to determine if the King’s treasures remain intact. Armed with that knowledge, an army of Dwarves may be able to return and claim what is rightfully theirs.
Most of the encounters in this adventure will arise randomly from the Master Encounter Chart. You will find a few more specific encounters below. Run them if you want to increase the flavor of the adventure, but remember to leave avenues of escape for the adventurers. For example, if they have the misfortune to run into the Balrog, presume some degree of disinterest on the part of the Fallen Maia. Otherwise, the Valarauko will make short work of them.
Use this « non-trap » to put the adventurers on notice that their maps are not entirely accurate. The encounter should make the party a bit more cautious.
The first lime the Master Encounter Chart indicates a trap encounter ; tell the adventurers that they have found a trap marked on their map. The catch is that the trap is not there at all. It should take them a few minutes of testing and grumbling before they decide to either risk activating the trap or, possibly, simply take another route.
After the first non-trap, each time you get a trap result on the Master Encounter Chart, roll 1d100 and consult the following table :
|01–25||The trap is on the map, but does not actually exist.|
|26–50||The trap is on the map and is really there.|
|51–75||The trap is on the map, but it is in a different
part of the room or hall than is shown on the map.
|76–00||The trap is not on the map.|
Chamber of Axes
See Section 17.2 for details on how to handle treasure hunting in this room. In this scenario, however, the PCs will be racing against the clock for fear of discovery by something more dangerous than a wandering Dwarf out for a late-night walk.
The Crypt of Alvis
Finding the Crypt of Alvis (cf. #31) should be a straightforward process. Tili is aware of its location and how it is hidden. Getting past the traps is another matter, and the old Dwarf will be of little help here. Only an experienced thief might deal successfully with the series of plate traps hidden around the brass plate hatchway. The hatchway is Very Hard (-20) to open, and the four plate traps are Very Hard (-20) to find and Extremely Hard (30) to disable.
The traps are arrayed in a circle around the hatchway. It is only necessary to defeat one to enter the crypt ; however, the PCs had then better be careful when leaving the crypt, to avoid accidentally tripping the remaining traps. Dashing up the stairwell while being chased by a ghost might make them overlook this precaution.
While the (Greater) Ghost Rongnir guards the crypt, he is not necessarily a threat He has no desire to injure the PCs, as long as they do not disturb Alvis’ remains. In fact, if Rongnir can be convinced that Moria has been abandoned by the Dwarves and infested by creatures of evil, he will consent to the adventurers entering the tomb. The PCs can perpetuate this ruse by bringing a live Orc into the crypt Rongnir will then allow the party to carry away Alvis’ belongings, as long as they swear to bum Alvis’ remains so that the Balrog’s minions do not defile them. Afterwards, Rongnir departs to his great reward, having finally discharged his ultimate duty.
Should the PCs fail to hatch this scheme, Rongnir refuses to leave the crypt. He fears that someone will rob the tomb while he is gone.
The Balrog’s Lair
Simply put, smart PCs will avoid the Balrog’s Lair. (The chamber is far more dangerous than the plague.) There is nothing for them here but death. Troll guards are stationed throughout the area, and if any of these Tereg raises an alarm, the adventurers can do little but pray for a swift, merciful death.
The Balrog abides most persistently in his throne room, although he occasionally wanders in search of minions to reprimand or kill. All who follow him fear him ; but, at the same time, they take perverse pride in serving such power.
Tili hopes to fight the Demon. The old Dwarf wants to die in the throne room. Accordingly, he will try to convince the adventurers that untold treasures have been swept out of the caverns of Khazad-dûm and collected by the Balrog’s creatures in the vast Place of the Valarauko. While it is true that there are some rather wonderful treasures in this hall, Tili’s claim is a bald-faced lie. He knows that the Balrog hungers for power and feeds on fear. Mundane treasures mean little to him, except as reminders of vanquished foes. What good would wealth do such a creature ? He rules through terror, not by the virtue of any coin.
If the adventurers are careful and lucky, they might be able to break into the vast treasure chambers toward the rear of the Balrog’s Lair, the operation will require stealth and speed, and their chances will improve greatly if they can make their move while the Balrog is meditating. Of course, they will have to deal with Felyashono, should he happen to awaken while the PCs are in his residence.
King’s Chambers and Armory
Confiscated by the Balrog, the greatest of Moria’s treasures now lie in the Black Hold (cf. #50e). Still, the Royal Armory is largely untouched, and many wonderful weapons can be found strewn across its floor. The King’s Chambers are unguarded except for an occasional patrol. After all, the Balrog believes it has little to fear from anything below the level of its lair. He knows that there is nothing trapped there that dares challenge his might.
The PCs may point out to Tili that they were originally commissioned to find Balin. If they do so, Tili looks at them as though they have taken leave of their senses. From the moment they entered Moria, the Dwarf will note, it should be obvious that Balin’s folk are gone. Captured, dead, or driven away, they are nowhere to be seen. Tili is prepared to wager that they are all dead.
If the PCs insist on making a genuine attempt to discover what happened to Balin’s folk, refer to Chapitre 17–4 – The Search for Balin.
This assignment is a particularly deadly one, and any adventurers that leave Mona with their lives should count themselves lucky. If they carry some treasure out with them—particularly any of the sacred Dwarven heirlooms—their names will be sung in Dwarven songs of bravery for many years to come.
Should Tili die a fitting death, his name will be entered alongside his ancestors as a warrior who fought valiantly until his doom. If PCs preserve his life, they will earn the gratitude of their Dwarven friend’s family. Should Tili die an inglorious death, the PCs would do better to fabricate a tale regarding his valor, lest they find themselves branded as liars.
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