The Search for Balin

A la Recherche de Balin (3A 3000)

Tili’s eldest son, Tali, has pored over copies of his father’s maps and records. The scat­te­red reports concern the foun­ding and fall of Balin’s encamp­ment within the halls of Khazad-dûm. Tali believes he has the key to the mys­tery behind Balin’s doom. He theo­rizes that Balin’s folk kept the records of their own tale in the Cham­ber of Mazar­bul (cf. #38). There, high in Moria’s Seventh Level lays confir­ma­tion of his pos­tu­la­tion. All he needs is someone to reco­ver those records on his behalf.

To this end, he has gathe­red toge­ther a group of adven­tu­rers to reco­ver the Seven Books of Mazar­bul.

Adventure summary

Requi­re­ments: A mid- to high-level party of adven­tu­rers willing to preempt the Fel­low­ship and sack Balin’s tomb. The empha­sis should be on stealth and cun­ning rather than simple brute strength.

Aids: Tali has detai­led maps of Month, inclu­ding a par­ti­cu­larly good one of the Seventh Level. Tali him­self will also insist on accom­pa­nying the adven­tu­rers.

Rewards: Wha­te­ver wealth the adven­tu­rers can find, exclu­ding any books on the his­tory of the Dwarves and any of the Royal Items of Durin’s Line (cf. #54).

The tale

Moria’s Cham­ber of Records lies on the Seventh Level of the Dwar­ven com­plex, near the twenty-first Hall of the North End. Here, the ancient lore of the Dwarves rested undis­tur­bed for millennia—before the rise of the Balrog in T.A. 1980 cast the Nau­grim of the First House out of their Man­sions. Soon the­reaf­ter, Orcs tore apart the cham­ber, des­troying records and sma­shing sculp­tures.

Once Balin foun­ded his expe­ri­men­tal colony in the halls of Khazad-dum, he made a foray up to the Cham­ber of Records, dis­co­ve­ring its tragic state. Never one to let adver­sity daunt him, Balin imme­dia­tely orde­red the recons­truc­tion of the room. The results plea­sed him greatly. The­reaf­ter, Balin spent many long hours in the hall, over­seeing the wil­ting of « The His­tory of Balin’s Folk, » the work that told the tale of his colony and its fate.

It was only fit­ting that—in the final months of Balm’s reign, while his little king­dom stood under siege from forces from below—Balin made the Cham­ber of Records his throne room, It was from here that he ruled the last rem­nants of his doomed domain. Later, after he fell in battle, it was here the Dwarf-king was laid to rest. His body rests in a stone sar­co­pha­gus set in the center of the room.

Although no Dwarves esca­ped the last stand of Balin’s folk, rumors of their fate per­sis­ted for seve­ral years. They intri­gued many people, inclu­ding Tali’s father, Tili. Thus, Tili resol­ved to lead a mis­sion into the Deeps in a mad attempt to reco­ver Hadhodrond’s trea­sures.

Tili wasn’t the only one stir­red by the legends of Khazad-dûm. After many years of endu­ring constant abuse from his father for not having taken up the mantle of a war­rior, Tali deter­mi­ned to arrange a mis­sion to Khazad-dûm to reco­ver the most valuable works of recor­ded his­tory the Dwar­ven people had known : the seven Books of Mazar­bul.

The characters


Tali is not a typi­cal Dwarf. He is unu­sually short, and he is rather shy and reti­ring. His only overt pas­sion is his love of his­tory.

Tali’s beard is long and white and worn in a hand­some single braid. A pair of gold-rimmed spec­tacles perch ten­ta­ti­vely on his nose, the result of spen­ding decades rea­ding and wri­ting by cand­le­light. His com­plexion is pale from long per­iods indoors and, unlike most of his harder kin, Tali’s skin is soft and uncal­lou­sed. He is not well-mus­cled, but what he lacks in strength, he usually makes up for with tena­city.

Tali is deter­mi­ned to secure the Books of Mazar­bul. They pro­vide an oppor­tu­nity to prove his cou­rage to his friends and family. They also represent an unpa­ral­le­led chance for him to at last to earn the res­pect of his father.

As such, Tali has vowed not to turn back until he either suc­ceeds or dies in his chosen quest. He dearly hopes that he can count on his com­pa­nions. Given the pro­bable com­po­si­tion of his party, which should include non-Dwarves, he is neces­sa­rily ner­vous. Still, Tali is less xeno­pho­bic than other Dwarves, as his stu­dies have reflec­ted the nobi­lity of races other than his own, there have been docu­men­ted occa­sions upon which Men and Elves have fought along­side Dwarves to the grea­ter glory of all. The Battle of Five Armies, about which he has writ­ten an exhaus­tive trea­tise, is just one example of the honor of out­si­ders. He hopes to find simi­lar cha­rac­te­ris­tics in his new com­pa­triots. A ques­tion also remains : will they res­pect him ?

Under no cir­cum­stances will Tali allow him­self to be left behind. He has worked too hard, too long. To be exclu­ded from the final chap­ter would be into­le­rable. This may be his only oppor­tu­nity for per­so­nal redemp­tion, and he means to take it. What’s more, he has made a tho­rough study of the maps, and his know­ledge of Khazad-dûm may prove inva­luable to the adven­tu­rers.

The places

The only site cen­tral to this adven­ture is the Cham­ber of Records (cf. #38). The­re­fore, the GM should plot two routes bet­ween the East-gate (cf. #9) and this hall : one for the jour­ney in and one for the trip back. Of course, the adven­tu­rers may find them­selves in need of more than a pair of ways to get bet­ween these two points.

The GM should also be fami­liar with all of the places used in Cha­pitre 17–3 – The Explo­ra­tion Expe­di­tion, just in case the PCs suc­cumb to ava­rice and decide to go hun­ting for trea­sure. If not, this should be a fairly straight­for­ward adven­ture. Assu­ming the adven­tu­rers are care­ful, they expe­rience only a few random encoun­ters beside the one listed below that takes place in the Cham­ber of Records. Still, if luck is not on their side, they may be facing a des­pe­rate battle.

The task

The PCs, along with Tali, must make their way from the East-gate to the Cham­ber of Records on the Seventh Level. There, they will find the seven Books of Mazar­bul, the objects of Tali’s quest. They must then exit Moria safely, kee­ping both Tali and the books intact.

The adven­tu­rers are wel­come to wha­te­ver trea­sure they might find in Moria, and, if they are per­sua­sive, they might be able to convince Tali to help them locate such with his exten­sive know­ledge of Khazad-dûm. If Tali has one fault, it is his ten­dency to wax eloquent upon the sub­ject of Hadho­drond. During one or more of his ram­bling mono­logues, he is sure to men­tion the Royal Items of Durin’s Line, the Three Axes of Aza­ghal, and the items buried in the Crypt of Alvis. He would like the chance to see these won­ders him­self and thus ascer­tain the truth of the tales sur­roun­ding them. If the PCs appeal to his sense of res­pon­si­bi­lity as an his­to­rian, they cannot go wrong.

The encounters

The bulk of the encoun­ters the adven­tu­rers will come from the Master Encoun­ter Chart. Use it well and play wha­te­ver comes your way. The most exci­ting part about any expe­di­tion into Moria is the unpre­dic­ta­bi­lity of it all.

In the Chamber

La Tombe de Balin

The Cham­ber of Records is a ruin. The Orcs and other sca­ven­gers have visi­ted it time after time, and there is little of value left. Books lie scat­te­red across the floor : the tomes were tom from, their shelves and thrown. Many pages have been ripped from their bin­dings, cove­ring the stone like autumn leaves. Some bear scorch marks from a fire set and then has­tily extin­gui­shed to prevent an inferno.

The des­truc­tion is heart­brea­king to any who value know­ledge and its sto­rage recep­tacles. Light strea­ming through the window well in the cei­ling only reveals the wre­ckage more har­shly, although it does pro­vide a wel­come break to the gloom of the under­ground wins.

Tali is over­joyed to have arri­ved in the Cham­ber of Mazar­bul. He sets to work imme­dia­tely, sor­ting and shuf­fling through all the bits of paper he can find. It will take him a long time to review eve­ry­thing, there is far too much mate­rial to simply= remove it all. The PCs should set guards at the doors. Only after a mini­mum of eight hours will Tali be ready to leave.

As the light from the window well dims, Tali sug­gests to the PCs that they spend the night. He points out that they sorely need rest, and there is no place more secure than the Cham­ber of Records. The Balrog’s minions reach their peak acti­vity level in the dark­ness, and the adven­tu­rers would do well simply to lie low until the dawns first light.

If the PCs object to his pro­po­sal, Tali begs, cajoles and pleads. He will say or do any­thing to stay. If worse comes to worst, he will flat out refuse to leave and simply turn back to his work and ignore the PCs. If they try to take him for­ci­bly, he threa­tens to scream, aler­ting every crea­ture in this Level and the next to their pre­sence.

By mor­ning, Tali is ready to leave, having worked feve­ri­shly through the night. He has loca­ted all Seven books of Mazar­bul, and they are all rela­ti­vely intact.

If the PCs force the Dwarf to leave early, roll 1d6. The result is how many of the Seven Books he has retrie­ved when com­pel­led to depart. Ran­domly deter­mine which books he reco­vers. Unless gagged, he insists conti­nuously on retur­ning to the Cham­ber of Records ; if the PCs will not coope­rate now, he will come back later with someone who will.

Wise adven­tu­rers who alert the Balrog’s crea­tures to their pre­sence before they reach the cham­ber will abort their mis­sion and head home. They will not be able to withs­tand the rave­ning horde of Orcs and Trolls, not to men­tion the Balrog, long enough for Tali to gather the manus­cripts he seeks. If they do retreat, the deni­zens of Khazad-dûm will forget the intru­sion in a few days, and within a week, their vigi­lance will sub­side to normal. The adven­tu­rers can then essay ano­ther foray for the books with better odds for suc­cess.


If the PCs fail in their task, but sur­vive, they can try again later. The Orcs are confi­dent that nothing of value remains in the Cham­ber of Records. Nor do they rea­lize that the Seven Books of Mazar­bul were the PCs’ target. Conti­nued efforts should even­tually suc­ceed, pro­vi­ded the PCs escape death.

If Tali col­lates the manus­cripts and the adven­tu­rers pre­serve his life the scho­lar becomes a living example of the phrase : « no friend ever did a Dwarf a favor… without being repaid in full. » Tali’s gra­ti­tude is deep and las­ting. Of course, the PCs may keep any trea­sures they might have found ; more nota­bly, Tali includes them all in his new book about his adven­tures in Moria. This tome will be read and repea­ted throu­ghout Dwar­ven society, and (if the adven­tu­rers com­por­ted them­selves pro­perly) the PCs will be coun­ted as heroes by Dwarves eve­ryw­here.


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