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.

Adventure summary

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.

The tale

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 characters


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.

The opposition

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.

The places

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 task

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.

The encounters

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.

The non-trap

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 :

Roll Result
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.

Finding Balin

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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