Daggerdale during the AD&D 2nd Edition-era is full of cool stuff: its rightful ruler (Randal Morn) runs an open resistance against the Zhentarim that occupy Dagger Falls and the northern trade route; a resurrected Mage-Lord is inflicting a terrible plague upon the inhabitants of the city; a Zhentarim archwizard intends to take control of the region in the name of Zhentil Keep; an undead enchantress seeks lichdom.
While the modules from this era are of varying quality, the plot elements, many items, and the region itself remain rife for fantastic stories of freedom fighting, dungeon-delving, political maneuvering, or large-scale warfare between armies from Shadowdale and Zhentil Keep.
With that in mind, this article provides an overview of the state of Daggerdale and the threats that face it in a more sandboxy manner, complementing the article Dungeons & Dragons 5E: The Daggerdale Campaign Sandbox by providing the context of many active factions and their roster, and providing monster and NPC references straight from the D&D 5th edition rules.
- Doom of Daggerdale (DOD) by Wolfgang Baur
- The Randal Morn trilogy: The Sword of the Dales (SOD), The Secret of Spiderhaunt (SOS), and The Return of Randal Morn (RRM)
- The Wandering Dwarf’s The Daggerdale Project
- The Daggerdale Campaign Sandbox – the sister article by yours truly converting magic items, spells, and encounter tables for the Daggerdale setting to 5th edition
Proper credit is due for all the following: 98% of this is the work of module designers Jim Butler (the Randal Morn trilogy) and Wolfgang Baur (Doom of Daggerdale): they created the NPCs, organizations, threats, and storylines. I have simply converted this material to the D&D 5th Edition rules, and jury-rigged the storylines for a far more open-ended, sandbox-style, often using The Daggerdale Project as an added resource.
The goal here is to present the information as various conflicts to drop the players in the middle of, so there isn’t some predetermined, railroaded plot, but instead many fun and interesting NPCs and factions to deal with as you and your players wish.
Overview of Daggerdale
This campaign takes place sometime just before 1369 DR, and chronicles the events leading up to Randal Morn — the rightful ruler of Daggerdale — reclaiming the land from the Zhentarim.
While there’s plenty of information on the region here, the short of it for this specific time-period is:
- The rightful hereditary ruler of Daggerdale, Randal Morn, was deposed when he was still barely in his teens by the Zhentarim.
- Randal Morn leads a growing force of freedom fighters called the Freedom Riders who fight the Zhentarim and have significant support from the populace in central Daggerdale. They occasionally use the ruins of Castle Daggerdale as a hideout.
- The Zhentarim have taken over the capital — Dagger Falls — and placed Constable Tren Noemfor in power.
- Though a fairly capable political powerhouse in the Zhentarim, Tren has had a lot of trouble enamoring the public, and the Freedom Riders aren’t helping. Therefore, Zhentil Keep has tasked Ilthond with checking in from time to time to make sure Tren defeats the freedom fighters.
- The Temple of Lathander in Dagger Falls burned down recently, in what appeared to be an accident, but some of the populace suspects it was a way of killing supporters of the Freedom Fighters as several priests of Lathander died in the blaze. The truth is that an evil cleric, Eragyn the Dark (NE human female priest of Cyric) resurrected Colderan the Mage-Lord.
- Colderan subsequently captured Eragyn, and built up an army of blights. He is using an artifact to gain more power and learn the status of Daggerdale so he can one day resume his control of it. In the process of killing the priests of Lathander that reside over Colderan’s crypt (an accidental run-in), the Temple of Lathander burned down.
- Unrelated, an undead witch named Gothyl that resides in the Spiderhaunt seeks to become a lich, and requires the power of a magical artifact to create her phylactery: Randal Morn’s magical sword is one of her possible targets.
Going Against Canon
It should be noted that relatively little information details Randal Morn’s renewed rule of Daggerdale outside of the 3rd edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book. Therefore, it’s very easy to set your campaign as an alternative telling of events, where Randal Morn himself may perish or succeed based on the actions of the player characters.
Dagger Falls & the Zhentarim
Constable Tren Noemfor is the political head of the Zhentarim forces in Daggerdale, ruling from the occupied city of Dagger Falls. Though he has significant military might at his disposal (see Doom of Daggerdale and especially The Return of Randal Morn for a breakdown of forces), it is important to remember that a large portion of this is made up by mercenary humans and orcs. Such forces are lackadaisical about enforcing any sort of law, but bloodthirsty when committed to fighting the allies of Randal Morn’s Freedom Riders, which keeps the populace in a continual state of unrest.
To add to Tren’s worries, there are two more problems: Randal Morn has several secret agents active in Dagger Falls, and the most powerful priestess of the Zhentarim forces has gone missing. Morn’s agents include Dulwar and Kessla (see below), as well as several undercover Freedom Riders that are likely active at various times in varying numbers in the city to watch Zhent trade caravans and military maneuvers. As for the priestess, Eragyn the Dark, she represented a significant amount of divine magical power in the Zhent’s ranks, but has gone missing, having been captured by Colderan the Mage-Lord after she resurrected him; she’d hoped he’d help her rise to greater power, but instead he saw this as his chance to take back his former domain.
NPCs & Resources
- Constable Tren Noemfor (LE male human assassin; DOD p. 4).
- Eragyn the Dark (NE human female priest of Cyric; DOD p. 29) – missing, currently a captive of Colderan.
- The Constable’s agents: Guthbert Golthammer (CN male dwarf berserker; RRM p. 15), Toren (NE male half-orc veteran; RRM p. 13), Sergeant Wilton Mortaire (CE male human knight; RRM p. 23).
- The Constable’s messenger: Marrakt (LE male orc spy; DOD p. 10).
- The mercenaries: Larkell Greenspring (LE male human veteran; DOD p. 11) and Trover the Stout (LE male human gladiator; DOD p. 11).
- Typical Zhent guard (LE guard).
- Typical Zhent patrol leader (LE thug).
- Typical Zhent priest (LE acolyte).
Dagger Falls. Large town; Population 2,804 (Humans 92%, Halflings 3%, Dwarves 2%, Half-orcs 2%); Ruler: Mage-Lords for many generations, the Morn family for nearly 100 years, then Malyk became puppet-ruler for the Zhentarim in 1336 DR, and now Tren Noemfor was named Constable in 1353 DR. Dagger Falls is described in detail in RRM p. 9-12, DOD p. 3-6, and a detailed map is included in RRM p. 33.
Randal Morn & the Freedom Riders
Randal Morn’s father was deposed when he was a young boy. Growing up in the wilderness under the protection of several loyalists, he has risen to be a determined and wise young freedom fighter, often leading from the front. He has several captains that control various contingents of Freedom Riders across the wilderness of Daggerdale, and maintains two close allies in Dagger Falls while often sending in freelance operatives (such as adventurers and others of noble bent) to keep an eye on Zhentarim forces in and around Dagger Falls and the Tethyamar Mines.
Two issues keep Randal Morn from being able to take back Dagger Falls. The first is the sheer size of the Zhentarim forces: though it’s possible to break Dagger Falls’ walls, the Zhents have constant patrols moving between The Flaming Tower and the Tethyamar Mines, which means that reinforcements could arrive en masse at a moment’s notice. The second issue is that Randal has been unable to forge a lasting alliance with several inhabitants in Daggerdale, as they live either in fear of the Zhentarim or other monsters (like Gothyl, or the few roving dragons like Emerash that are active in the area), or they are bound by longstanding oaths sworn against the Morn family. The later is a consequence of the rule of the Mage-Lords and particularly Colderan Morn nearly 100 years ago, for they ruled with evil force and broke the power of the dwarves that once mined Tethyamar.
NPCs & Resources
- Randal Morn (NG human male knight; RRM p. 20).
- Silver Cormaeril (CG female human noble; mentioned here), Randal Morn’s sister.
- Ariton Delmis (LG male human knight; RRM p. 8), captain of the Freedom Riders.
- Temeron Flightseeker (CG male human scout; SOS p. 4), leads the Company of the Aerie, a band of roving freedom fighters.
- Kiksa the Bard (CG male elf noble; RRM p. 25).
- Captain Mestin “Troll” Durmark (LG female human scout; RRM p. 7), captain of the Freedom Riders.
- Dulwar (NG male human spy), proprietor of Dulwar’s Leatherworks in Dagger Falls, and secretly spying on the Zhentarim for Randal Morn and the Freedom Riders.
- Kessla (NG female half-elf druid), proprietor of the Red Rock Inn in Dagger Falls, and secretly a Harper.
Castle Daggerdale. This was the hereditary seat of the Morn family and was where the Zhentarim installed Malyk as a puppet ruler for some time. In 1353 DR, Morn and his freedom fighters attacked the castle, burning it badly and slaying Malyk, which forced the Zhentarim to move their forces to the larger town of Dagger Falls, where Constable Tren was put in charge. The castle remains gutted by the fire, but underground fortifications still provide safe haven to the Freedom Riders, and they often have their largest camps of forces and supplies nearby, as it remains a defensible position.
Front: The Mage-Lord
- Colderan the Mage-Lord (NE human male mage; DOD p. 9, 28)
Colderan Morn — popularly known as Colderan the Razor — was one of the last Mage-Lords active in Daggerdale nearly 100 years ago. He is notoriously remembered as an iron-fisted leader that betrayed the Tethyamar dwarves, which led them to a final stand against him in Eagle’s Eyrie, where they crafted the magical weapon Olar (“Magekiller”).
Resurrected a few years back by Eragyn the Dark, Colderan didn’t thank his savior, but instead captured her to learn more about current times and figure out how best to achieve his own ends.
Colderan has one goal since his resurrection: to retake Daggerdale and rule it again with an iron fist.
Colderan has Eragyn trapped in a Dream Globe, and has crafted the Net of Dreams to help capture Zhents and Freedom Riders alike to learn as much as he can in order to ascend to power once again. He has crafted an army of nightshades and raised a few undead to act as servitors.
- The Mage-Lord’s Crypt (DOD p. 20-29, map p. 33), a hidden redoubt beneath the streets of Dagger Falls that is connected to both the burned out remains of the Temple of Lathander and to the Constable’s Tower.
- Various types of blights (these replace the nightshades).
- Colderan isn’t nearly at the power he once was (probably closer to an archmage before his death), but he might still have access to scrolls that allow him to summon minor demons or the like (manes and dretches).
- As the former ruler of Daggerdale, Colderan may have multiple hideouts and secret caches of gear or minor allies held in stasis throughout the land. It all depends on how squirrely of a villain the DM wishes to make him…
The Mage-Lord’s Crypt. (DOD p. 20-29, map p. 33) This is the initial headquarters of Colderan the Razor, a resurrected Mage-Lord who seeks to take over all of Daggerdale.
In the original adventure module, Doom of Daggerdale, this is a low-level encounter area featuring a few nightshades, an under-powered hook horror, and a few other random, low-level creatures, along with Colderan himself. To shake things up, and keep conversion work to a minimum, consider the following changes and additions:
- Replace the nightshades with the various blights (twig, needle, and vine). Colderan uses bizarre alchemical concoctions and perhaps even necromancy to raise the blights, and has them travel out at night with the Net of Dreams to capture folks to power his horrible experiments in re-powering himself.
- The folks that get captured and used up by Colderan and the blights make great candidates for skeletons and zombies to guard the inner areas and keep the Zhentarim from venturing into the basement of the Temple of Lathander (after all, they lost their key priestess, Eragyn the Dark, down here).
- The hook horror can remain…at full power, even! Same with an ochre jelly that inhabits a pit for refuse.
- Colderan might keep a frightened dog as lookout — use hyena stats — and make this a chance for Rangers and Druids to shine if they try to save and befriend it.
- Low-level demons and devils or even constructs can make great guardians: dretches, manes, homonculi, or even animated swords.
- Story-wise, Colderan’s got at least two possible escape routes from the crypt (into the Constable’s Tower or into the ruins of the Temple of Lathander), so if you want him to be a recurring villain, have the players come through here to learn some plot details, but have Colderan absent or flee after a short encounter.
Some traps that Colderan might have in operation, or that might exist in the secret chambers of the Lathanderites, could be:
- Spear Traps. +3 to hit, reach 5 feet, one target, 1d6+1 piercing damage. Passive WIS (Perception) DC 12 to notice them, and they are easily disabled.
- Glyph of Warding. Roll 1d6 to determine which glyph is triggered. Passive WIS (Perception) DC 13 to notice them. Neither of these glyphs affect followers of Lathander.
1-2: Radiant glyph. DEX save, or take 1d8 radiant damage.
3-6: Blindness glyph. Two targets within 30 feet are blinded for 1 minute unless they make a CON save.
- Build a powerbase of fiendish and supernatural allies.
- Reestablish contact with his “friends” among the Drow.
- Seize control of Dagger Falls — starting with Constable’s Tower — through any means necessary.
Front: The Undead Witch
- Gothyl (a wraith with maximum hit points; SOS p. 21, RRM p. 30)
Gothyl is the primary antagonist throughout most of Secret of the Spiderhaunt and The Return of Randal Morn, an Arch-shadow of a terrible witch that seeks to grow in power, becoming a demi-shade; essentially a ghost that can re-materialize as a lich-like creature after draining a certain amount of life essence. For the sake of keeping Daggerdale a relatively low-level campaign area, Gothyl has been recast as a wraith with the knowledge of a forbidden ritual powerful enough to turn her into a lich, should she find a suitable artifact to act as her phylactery.
Drain the souls of powerful spellcasters — arcane or divine, doesn’t matter! — to increase her power, and prepare a phylactery suitable to begin the transformation into a lich.
Gothyl maintains a fortress known as the Dream Tower that holds her undead servitors. If a DM plans to use the additional background provided in the Daggerdale Project, consider adding several drow to increase the difficulty of this location.
- The Dream Tower in the Spiderhaunt Forest (SOS p. 18, map p. 33).
- Several undead servitors (see below for conversion ideas).
- Once Gothyl has chosen an artifact to act as a phylactery, she can unerringly detect its presence and location as long as it remains on the same plane.
The Dream Tower. (SOS p. 18, map p. 33) This fear-inducing tower is notoriously the stronghold of a witch, though few know the name Gothyl outside of the gnomish settlements within the Spiderhaunt. Here are some ideas for converting the denizens of the Dream Tower to D&D 5th edition monsters.
- There are a variety of skeletons, from giant skeletons to skeletal spiders. Consider using the standard skeleton, minotaur skeleton, and perhaps adding Undead abilities to creatures like giant spiders (add the Undead type, and add Damage Immunity poison, Condition Immunity poisoned).
- Zombies and ghouls should regularly patrol the grounds around the tower, as well as being active in fairly large groups within it. Consider bolstering their ability to resist any Channel Divinity abilities targeted at them.
- If you are not using the Zhent encounters, replace them with additional undead encounters. Drow, or even undead drow in the form of ghouls and ghasts, will likely make up the bulk of these encounters.
- The ritual of the apprentice (see Area 10. Circle of Darkness, SOS p. 22) can instead be reframed as a means by which Gothyl can attune herself to an artifact she wishes to use as a phylactery (such as the Sword of the Dales, if the PCs have it in their possession). This might work better if an enterprising DM is hoping to cast Gothyl as a recurring villain, as she’ll be able to sense and locate the item anywhere (on the same plane, at least).
- Utilize a drow connection to gain Colderan’s allegiance. (This can be played any number of ways, from Gothyl seeking to use Colderan as an unwitting pawn to the witch having an unhealthy obsession or even reverence for the long-dead Mage-Lord.)
- Find a suitably powerful magic item to act as her phylactery (the Sword of the Dales might serve).
- Gather together any powerful spellcasters — Colderan (if disloyal), Ilthond, other Zhentarim, anyone — and drain their souls.
Front: The Flaming Tower
- Ilthond (NE male human mage; SOS p. 22, RRM p. 16).
- Tierimar and Morias (LE male human mage; SOS p. 7).
- Commander Kara Chermosk (LE female human priest of Bane), commander of the Zhentarim mining operation at the Tethyamar Fortress.
Under the lead of Ilthond, the Zhentarim maintain two high-level groups of agents that are active in and around Daggerdale.
The first is a duo of magic-user troubleshooters, Tierimar and Morias, who travel about the region undercover, keeping an eye on the Zhentarim’s forces, spying on the Freedom Riders and their supporters, and carrying out missions that require both stealth and firepower.
Optional spells for Tierimar & Morias. To personalize the arcane duo, consider making them twins, or change the gender of one of them (or not) and making them lovers to punch up the dramatic possibilities. Furthermore, consider customizing their available spells (listed here are only the higher levels of spells that an NPC mage normally gets):
- Choose one 5th level spell each: immolation (Elemental Evil Player’s Companion), dominate person (PHB).
- Choose two 4th level spells each: arcane eye, dimension door, greater invisibility (PHB), storm sphere (Elemental Evil Player’s Companion).
- Choose three 3rd level spells each: animate dead, counterspell, fireball, fly, gaseous form (PHB), Melf’s minute meteors (Elemental Evil Player’s Companion).
The second is a fortress and mining operation located in the Desertsmouth Mountains, under the watch of Commander Kara Chermosk (Lords of Darkness p. 106). It is this facility that provides Zhentil Keep with the resources that have motivated them to take Daggerdale, securing the trade routes necessary to traffick materials from Tethyamar to the Zhentarim’s headquarters.
Ilthond wishes to become the de facto ruler of Daggerdale, as the power behind the throne if not in name.
Ilthond is a powerful wizard within the Zhentarim organization, and has access to considerable numbers of soldiers and resources because of this. Constable Tren of Dagger Falls would undoubtedly chafe under Ilthond’s overbearing rule, and his soliders would likely work at cross purposes to Ilthond, but even that still leaves Ilthond as the leader of Sergeant Mortaire and the Dagger Falls garrison, Eragyn the Dark, Tierimar and his apprentice (Morias), and access to forces from The Flaming Tower and Tethyamar Fortress.
- Ilthond and several servitors will be installed as a new power to watch over Constable Tren, who is seen as failing to control Dagger Falls now that Eragyn the Dark has disappeared and the populace blames Tren for burning down the Temple of Lathander.
- Ilthond will attempt to gain support against Tren by undermining his rule.
- Ilthond will try to clear out the ruins of the Temple of Lathander in Dagger Falls and build a new one (to an evil god, of course!).
If you enjoyed this article, please comment, like, and share! You can support future reviews and articles at our Patreon. We publish supplements, campaign accessories, and adventures for Dungeons & Dragons at Dungeon Masters Guild as well as other OSR games and Cortex Plus at DriveThruRPG.