Trouble in Castle Dunbarton
Submitted by: Christof Wuttke (email@example.com)
Suggested Levels: Low level (2-5)
The PCs are commissioned by Randal Morn to investigate the happenings at the ruins of Castle Dunbarton, located in southern Daggerdale. They find out that unbeknownst to Randal Zhentilar and Cormyrean Purple Dragons have been fighting for control of the castle. But there is something else in the dungeons below the ruins ... .
Note that this adventure has been adapted to fit the description of Daggerdale in the Northern Journey online project’s module Daggerdale. DMs using or planning to use Northern Journey material in their campaign can easily substitute castle Dunbarton for the Raghansburg (No. 12 on Northern Journey’s Daggerdale map). (Editors note: After discussions with Mr. Wuttke, the Northern Journeys Project chose to change Raghansburg to Dunbarton, and that is how it appears in their expansion. It can be found in the southwest corner of the Daggerdale map. -- Erskine Fincher)
The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, the TSR Modules Doom of Daggerdale, Sword of the Dales, Secret of Spiderhaunt, Return of Randal Morn, Volo’s Guide to the Dalelands (Except for the Campaign Setting all of these were out of print at the time of this writing).
Of the above only the Campaign Setting is absolutely necessary. All other sources expand substantially on the description of Daggerdale.
Online documents (unofficial):
The Northern Journey module Daggerdale, Eric L. Boyd’s mailing list article Realms Speak Teaser: Daggerdale Region Campaign Ideas (found at The Best of the FR Mailing List site in the Lands of Adventure section). (Editor's note: Unfortunately, this website no longer exists, and the file referred to does not appear to be available online anymore. -- Erskine Fincher)
These again are not necessary for running this adventure. The Northern Journey module Daggerdale gives the most detailed description of Daggerdale known to me. I therefore recommend downloading the module even if you do not plan to run the campaign. Eric L. Boyd’s article provided me with the original idea for this adventure and also contains further adventure ideas for the Daggerdale region.
To view the Campaign Mapper maps of the palace in FCW format you need CM 5.214, the corresponding version of CC2 or the last version of Profantasy’s free viewing and printing utility for FCW maps. An update patch for CM and CC2 as well as the viewer is available for download at <http://www.profantasy.com>.
Using the CM2 map: The small dungeon under the castle is integrated into the map. To view it just show the secret layer. To get a good overview hide the structures and the vegetation layer. You'll still be able to see the castle outlines then, so orientation is quite easy.
This adventure was originally based on Eric L. Boyd’s mailing list article mentioned above. It combines the idea of a secret Cormyrean effort to establish a base in southern Daggerdale with the adventure No. 2 Brigand’s Lair. The original version has been adapted to match the information about Daggerdale given in newer sources like the Volo’s Guide and the Northern Journey.
This adventure was originally written to be part of a Dalelands campaign starting with Doom of Daggerdale and peaking with the reconquest of Daggerdale in the Return of Randal Morn. Although no official date exists, Doom of Daggerdale is generally considered to be set sometime between 1366 and 1368 DR. The Sword of the Dales trilogy of modules is set in late 1369 DR. If you own all four modules I still feel that the best place for this adventures is after Doom of Daggerdale. It should be possible to place it shortly after the reconquest of Daggerdale in a time when Randal Morn’s control of the Dale is still very loose. If using the Northern Journey version of Daggerdale this can be as late as 1372 DR. All of the following assumes that the adventure is set before the reconquest of Daggerdale.
Northern Journey Notes
As mentioned before the ruins of castle Dunbarton where a major part of this adventure is set can be replaced by the Raghansburg, which is No. 12 on the Northern Journey map of Daggerdale. Note though that there is discrepancy in the module (version 1.2): While the legend of the Daggerdale map on page 122 of the module declares No. 12 to be the abandoned village of Snowhaven, on page 131 the same map item is called Raghansburg, a ruined castle fitting the description of castle Dunbarton in this adventure.
History of Castle Dunbarton
About 200 years ago Daggerdale began to expand to the south of the River Ashaba. The rulers of Daggerdale decided to build a castle on the foothills of the Dersertsmouth Mountains to guard the southern part of the dale against humanoid raids from mountains and to stop the spider plague originating out of the Spiderhaunt Forest. The chosen location was a rocky above the Dun flow, a tributary of the Ashaba. It was named Dunbarton for the long ruined house of the dark mage Dunbar, whose story is long lost in history. The construction was conducted by the dwarves of clan Brightblade in exchange for the mining rights at the location nowadays called Anathar’s Dell. Only one year after the construction began in 1148 DR the small garrison took its quarters in the castle.
Castle Dunbarton remained in service for more than 100 years, helping to protect the populace of southern Daggerdale against many dangers. Then, in the 1250s, Colderan Morn became the lord of Daggerdale. The evil mage lord was more interested in his dark experiments than in the wellbeing of his subjects. He cut down the defense budget to an all time low, almost completely exposing the more remote areas of the dale to enemy attacks. Thus when an orcish tribe invaded southern Daggerdale in late 1258 DR the populace the dalesmen were on their own. Colderan refused to send help. Many villages and hamlets were sacked. The orcs returned in Tarsakh of 1259 DR laying siege to castle Dunbarton and finally conquering it.
Since that day the castle has remained in a state of ruin. The successors of Colderan Morn did not have the funds to reestablish the defenses of southern Daggerdale. For more than 100 years now castle Dunbarton has only been home to brigands and humanoid bands.
DM: It’s your decision to tell your players any of the above or let them find out about the history for themselves. What no one knows is that the orcs only managed to conquer the castle by building a tunnel with the help of an elementalist mage. 50 years later this tunnel was discovered by a drider named Alduriel who, having gone mad after the Test of Lolth, set up its abode there. It commanded its Duergar slaves to dig a small dungeon to the side of the tunnel. Unfortunately for it the slaves revolted. They sealed the entry to the new rooms with secret magics and collapsed the last part of the tunnel capturing Alduriel in its new abode. Alduriel has survived in the cavern for more than 50 years by use of magic and has been plotting its revenge on the world.
Politics in Daggerdale and Recent Events in the Castle
The zhentish forces only control the town of Dagger Falls itself and the areas along the main roads of the dale. All other areas are in the hands of Randal Morn and his Freedom Fighters. Randal’s control is not very firm, though, as Zhent sponsored bands of brigands and humanoid raiders roam the dale.
Cormyr, ever concerned about political stability and Zhentarim influence in the neighboring dales has long been secretly aiding Randal’s forces in many ways. The dearest wish of the hard-liners and expansionists among King Azoun’s councilors and generals, an invitation by Randal Morn to invade Daggerdale, has not been fulfilled. The rebels are stubbornly resisting any attempts of direct outside assistance. And King Azoun IV, knowing an uninvited invasion would provoke the strongest opposition of all other dales and the Harpers, is not (yet) willing to send in his Purple Dragons uninvited.
DM: Some of the hard-liners have decided to take their own action. Unbeknownst to the king and their superiors they have sent a platoon of Purple Dragons under the command of a war wizard to set up a base of operations in the ruins of castle Dunbarton. The location of the castle seems ideal. Its main structures are still mainly intact or can be repaired without much effort. It is far enough off all human settlements, zhentish outposts and rebel bases while still only one day’s ride from the Tethyamar Trail and the strategically important Serpent’s Bridge.
The operation seemed to be a success in the beginning. The Purple Dragons managed to drive out a small band of brigands lairing in the castle. They rebuild parts of the structures to make the castle habitable and defendable again. Unfortunately one of the surviving bandits was captured by a Zhentilar patrol some time afterwards. The man revealed all he knew to the Zhents including the fact that the brigands had found remains of a tunnel leading towards the castle with only the last part caved in.
The Zhents immediately sent out a strike force which laid siege to the castle and began digging through the caved in parts of the tunnel. The spells their mages and priests cast to aid the digging somehow dispelled the magical seal the duergar had put on Alduriel’s abode, freeing the drider at last from its prison. When the Zhents finally got through and invaded the castle all of the Purple Dragons were killed. But their forces, too, took a heavy beating and thus they did not have much to counter the reckless attack of the drider, taking its revenge on the surface dwellers.
The strong zhentish activity has not gone unnoticed by Randal Morn and his Freedom Fighters. Randal has sent a small patrol to scout the area but they have fallen prey to Alduriel. He is now looking for a small band of adventurers to carry out the task.
When no news from Dunbarton reached Tilverton anymore the hard-liner officers there also managed to reroute another small patrol of Purple Dragons to the castle. They will arrive at Dunbarton one day before the PCs.
Randal Morn will ask the PCs to find out why the Zhents suddenly are interested in a remote castle ruin in southern Daggerdale. He already suspects Cormyrean involvement, too.
On their arrival at the castle they will meet the Cormyrean patrol. They should be smart enough to at least temporarily ally themselves with the Purple Dragons. Finding the lair of the drider should not pose a big problem as there are enough tracks leading to the tunnel. Alduriel however has not been idle since annihilating the Zhent forces. She has raised a small contingent of undead servants and also has paid Spiderhaunt a visit and brought some spiders with her.
After the PCs have dealt with the drider a new Zhent force will arrive looking for their lost comrades. And besides helping to defend the castle the PCs also have to fulfill the diplomatic part of their mission – convince the Purple Dragons to leave Daggerdale.
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