The Dungeon of Death was a subterranean structure situated on the southern edge of the Lurkwood.[1] The Dungeon was originally a dwarven gem mine, until the original builders were driven out by a force of medusae, who in turn were killed by a tribe of trolls. It was under troll rule that the mine came to be known as the "Dungeon of Death", owing to the trolls' widespread kidnapping of humans for the purpose of producing children to serve as food. By the 1300s DR, a group of nabassu controlled the Dungeon, using it as a staging ground for their schemes across the North. By 1369 DR, only the adolescent nabassu Viscaris remained, hoping to use the dungeon to lure in able-bodied adventurers for him to feast on.[3]


The Dungeon was located on the southern side of the Lurkwood, slightly north-east of the source of the Shining Creek.[1][2] It was occasionally counted as part of the Frost Hills region.[4]



Dungeon of Death ramp

The ramp leading into the Dungeon.

Above-ground, the Dungeon of Death was marked by a large, fortified stone tower, erected by the original dwarf builders to protect the entrance to their mine. By 1370 DR, only a ruined blockhouse remained standing, overgrown by the local flora, and surrounded by the debris of fallen fortifications. The area was notably devoid of all signs of life, and an eerie stillness surrounded the ruins.[5] The inside of the blockhouse served as the living quarters for members of the Blue Bear tribe of barbarians, servants of the nabassu, and even following their departure, leavings from their habitation lingered. Crude paintings covered the walls, showing the tribe's history and way of life, with one painting showing how the barbarians delivered victims to the nabassu.[6]

A wide, heavily ornamented stone ramp led deeper into the Dungeon, the design of which was intended by the dwarf builders to make transporting supply-laden carts easier. The ramp was originally fortified by a set of large, sturdy doors, but no other forms of defenses or traps, since the dwarves felt it was easier to deal with any intruders inside the Dungeon itself. Later in the Dungeon's history, the nabassu Viscaris concurred with the dwarven builders, leaving both the blockhouse and the ramp unguarded and undefended, and the ramp doors removed. The entrance ramp led down into a downwards sloping tunnel, made of partially smoothed, natural stone and paved with large flagstones.[6] About 30 yards into the ground, the tunnel gave way to a similar corridor, which ended in a pair of heavy steel doors, ornamented with a symbol of four vertical diamonds. Above the doors the message "Stand Fast the Iron Tower" was carved in ancient Dwarvish runes, referring to the capital of the ancient kingdom of Gharraghaur.[7]

Entrance LevelEdit

Beyond the steel doors lay the Dungeon's Entrance Level, which was mostly intended to delay or kill intruders. As a result, it was largely unadorned, fashioned almost entirely from smoothed stone and with heavy, wooden doors separating the various rooms and corridors.[5] The level's very first room contained several traps: the floor was littered with pit traps, pressure plates that activated ascending floor traps, and three of the doors leading out of the room were rigged to collapse. This was intended as a nasty surprise to unbidden guests by the original builders. Intruders who progressed beyond this room were greeted by portcullis traps in every hallway leading out. The crossbars on these were lined with sovereign glue, meaning anyone who carelessly gripped the metal bars were stuck fast. Furthermore, gripping the crossbars activated a paralyzing gas trap. To the south of the first room lay a heavily trapped corridor, constructed by the dwarves solely to confound intruders. To the west lay a sliding door trap, which was guarded by a pair of caryatid columns.[8] The only way further into the complex lay north, where another trapped corridor awaited. Further north in this corridor lay a trapped stairway, which released a 750 lbs. iron ball when unwary souls stepped on hidden pressure plates. The dwarves' waste disposal was located to the east, but by 1370 DR this had been converted to a water jet trap, which pushed its victims into a large drain hole filled with garbage, rotting offal, and the decaying body of a neo-otyugh. At the west end of the corridor was another trapped room leading nowhere.[9]

Successfully navigating all of these traps led visitors to a long, narrow corridor stretching from north to south. At the north end it led to a large room with a vaulted ceiling, which served as a storage area originally, and contained a large mechanism that allowed a platform to be lowered into the level below.[10] The corridor's south end culminated in a large room surrounded by a hidden passage, its walls covered in arrow holes, intended as a killing ground for the Dungeon's defenders. Behind the room's south wall lay a master control mechanism that controlled all the traps on the Entrance Level.[11] Even deeper into the level was an armory and a guards' barracks, once used by dwarves, but most recently Blue Bear barbarians. Connected to the barracks was a larger room, once used as the personal quarters for the leader of the dwarven guards. Beyond the barracks was a bath house, at the center of which stood an exceptionally well crafted hot water fountain in the shape of a dragon taking flight.[12] Between the barracks and the storage area, an 80 feet long stone staircase led deeper into the Dungeon.[10]

Habitat LevelEdit

This level was largely similar to the Entrance Level, but was more heavily ornamented and decorated, and contained less traps.[13] Descending the staircase from above, visitors were led into an entrance chamber from which sprang three corridors.[14] The northern corridor led to a room directly underneath the lift station from the Entrance Level, where it was possible to board for passage both upwards and to the mines below. A small, adjoining room once housed dwarven guards who kept watch over the lift.[15] Past this lay a huge storage area, dominated by large stone pillars and stretching at least 50 feet above the floor. This was once the Dungeon's main storeroom, but by 1370 DR it was filled with refuse and broken objects.[16]

The eastern corridor from the entrance chamber was called the Hall of Honor, and was lined with alcoves housing statues of honored, ancient dwarves, though these were mostly destroyed by the 1300s. At the end of the western corridor lay the main living quarters of the original builders, separated into units designed to hoyse anywhere from two to six dwarves. A staircase led further down into two identical living chambers, before ending in the mine below.[16] A corridor midway between the entrance chamber and the living quarters led to the Dungeon's feast hall. This room had a tall, vaulted ceiling, supported by four massive, rune-clad stone pillars, and a large fireplace was situated along the eastern wall. By 1370 DR, most of the original dwarven furniture had vanished from this room, replaced by crudely shaped and shoddily constructed tables and benches. Directly adjoining this room was the kitchen, furnished with stone cabinets and countertops of marble. The kitchen had a small, separate cold storage room, magically enchanted to keep perishable foods frozen, though the later demon inhabitants mainly used it to store the body parts of unfortunate Blue Bear tribesmen. A larger, normal-temperature storage area was also connected to the kitchen.[17]

Deeper within the Habitat Level lay the workshops of the original dwarven inhabitants. By 1370 DR, only the smithy, carpentry workshop, leatherworking shop, mine cart repair station, and several gem workshops remained in usable condition.[18] The Dungeon's auditorium could be found down a different corridor. This massive, semicircular space had a curved ceiling, at least 60 feet high, and had curved rows of rising seats facing a central stone platform. Though it was once a majestic sight, it was ruined following a battle between demons and a group of adventurers, leading to the entire area lacking in structural integrity.[19] Following the same corridor further east led to a storage room,[18] before ending in a small room that branched into three other areas.[19] Going east led to a lavish and luxuriously furnished set of rooms, including a parlor, a bathing chamber, and a bedroom. To the south lay a grand audience chamber, once used as the dwarven clan's seat of government. The room was enchanted with a continual light spell, which was activated whenever a dwarf set foot inside, and turned itself off when no dwarves were present. The north wall of this chamber was covered in a large mural, depicting brave dwarves in combat against medusae, trolls, and other monsters. This mural chronicled the last decade of the dwarf mine's existence, particularly Oremaster Erden Deepdelve's efforts against intruders.[20] Behind the mural, a staircase led down to a hiding place which the Oremaster kept stocked with supplies and magic items in case of emergency.[21] This room could be accessed by pressing on certain features on the mural in a specific sequence; failure to adhere to the sequence activated a pit trap that sent intruders down into a 700-feet-long, steep chute which ultimately led to a mine corridor deep below.[22]

The Habitat Level also contained a large temple, dedicated to the fourteen deities of the Morndinsamman. The temple had a high, vaulted ceiling, and contained fourteen massive stone pillars carved with runes, each honoring a separate deity. Oremaster Erden Deepdelve was buried in an adjoining, hidden chamber, revealed by correctly manipulating certain features on the pillar dedicated to Dumathoin. When revealed, a hidden door opened, leading to a staircase down, inscribed with a holy rune, which both demons and undead were wholly unwilling to cross.[21] The crypt below was consecrated ground, and was one of the few areas of the Dungeon not affected by the Shadow Curse. The natural stone crypt cavern housed a 15-foot-tall statue of Dumathoin, with eyes fashioned from valuable platinum.[23] A deeper chamber of the crypt contained the Oremaster's sarcophagus, but also fourteen other corpses: the remains of an ill-fated expedition of the Foehammer clan.[24] The room was heavily trapped, including two decoy sarcophagi, and several features were inscribed with runes of power to safeguard the Oremaster's remains, including his mithral chainmail and pickax of piercing.[25]

The Shadow CurseEdit

Due to the innumerable evil acts perpetrated by the various inhabitants of the dungeon, the place carries a unique curse, a curse which permeates the stonework itself. It causes shadows to become deeper and more dense than one would normally expect and sometimes they move of their own accord. Any living creature who passes the threshold of the dungeon not protected from evil is afflicted by the curse, though they won't know it straight away. The curse saps the most useful attribute from those within its boundaries. Warriors become weaker, rogues get slower, wizards minds become hazy, etc. If the curse is allowed to sap the attribute from a victim completely, they fade and become a part of the evil that afflicted them.


Originally a Dwarven gem mine belonging to the Deepdelve Clan, established shortly after the Dwarven kingdom of Gharraghaur fell to constant invasions from orcs, bugbears, trolls and worse in -3611 DR. Most of the Deepdelve clan were killed by a band of medusae who, in turn were killed by a massive troll invasion. This history of death would continue unabated whilst the trolls occupied the place. The self-styled 'Troll King', a two-headed troll named Glarauuth sent out raiding parties to capture human slaves and bring them back. These slaves, when not doing forced labour, were imprisoned and made to breed as much as possible. The babies produced would then be sent straight to the troll's dinner tables. This was how the place earned it's current moniker.

Around 1280 DR a small band of dwarves from the Foehammer Clan attempted to retake the mines but their plans went awry, they disappeared and history does not record their fate. The place has claimed the lives of untold adventuring parties and those few that survive long enough to tell their tale speak of a curse and a toll of blood that is demanded just to pass the doors. Over the next 40 years or so though, the dungeon was inhabited by many different evil creatures who all perpetrated unspeakable acts of foulness.

In approximately 1340 DR a nest of nabassu began occupation of the dungeon. They too raided the area for captives, but not to use as slaves, for nabassu have no need for such things. Since nabassu eat to increase their infernal powers, everyone brought back was to become a meal. Their most numerous servants were members of the Blue Bear tribe of Uthgardt. Unbeknownst to them, they were under the direct control of an evil annis shaman named Tanta Hagara who, in turn, served the nabassu. Tanta Hagara provided the tanar'ri with all the humanoid food they needed and the barbarians who served her were none the wiser. In 1369 DR Tanta Hagara and the Blue Bear tribe were all killed in the destruction of Hellgate Keep. Without their most able servant and her minions, the nabassu decided to move on to a different location and start again. A single nabassu though, elected to stay behind and rule over the ruin by himself. His name was Viscaris and he saw his peers departure as an opportunity to spread terror and woe throughout the north. Unfortunately, very few of the tanar'ri who lived in the dungeon stayed with him and he was still a juvenile demon, not having devoured enough souls to mature. He complicated matters for himself by insisting that he would only eat someone who was 'worthy'.

By the next year, he only needed to eat four more. Viscaris sent his two alu-fiend allies, Anderia and Estellia to spread the location of the dungeon to adventuring parties and to say that it was unguarded now that the demons had left. Still, it's dire reputation dissuaded most from braving the place. As an added measure to ensure Viscaris only gets the best of the best, he will only eat those who get past all of the traps on the first level of the dungeon.

Rumors & LegendsEdit




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 slade (April 1996). The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (Map of Sword Coast, Luskan, and Ten Towns). (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-7869-0391-0.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 2. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 3. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  4. slade, Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Steven E. Schend, Paul Jaquays, Steve Perrin (April 1996). The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (The Wilderness). (TSR, Inc), p. 45. ISBN 0-7869-0391-0.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 5. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 7. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  7. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 8. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  8. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 9–11. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  9. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 14. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  11. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 12. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  12. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 13. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  13. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 15. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  14. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 16. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  15. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 17. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 18. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  17. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 19. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 20. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 21. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  20. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 22. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 24. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  22. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 23. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  23. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 25. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  24. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 26. ISBN 978-1560761327.
  25. Jason Carl (May 2000). The Dungeon of Death. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 27. ISBN 978-1560761327.