Characters should strongly consider a "good" alignment.. There are lots of possible backgrounds for non-dwarven PCs.
Outsiders are not uncommon in Cragmire. The dwarven community opens itself to the outside once per year to facilitate a festive and bustling Gem market during which the city brims with a variety of visitors. Some befriend craftsmen over several years - and many of these eventually settle and are welcomed within the community. The market is critical to Cragmire's reputation and economy.
Cragmire also offers refuge to those persecuted by evil. It is an overwhelmingly lawful good place and extends the protection of its caverns to the deserving.
Powerful arcane magic users are very rare, however, within its confines. Those that are present are extremely discrete, especially following the recent (in Dwarven terms) betrayal of the old King (who was widely loved) by his arcane advisor. The current King keeps no magical counsel. The craft guilds do profit handsomly from enchanted weapons, armors and items made in Cragmire - and have started to pressure for a broader acceptance of those appropriately talented. They worry that a scarcity of magical means will eventually endanger their profits.
Cragmire has a small Royal Guard, any number of craft guilds, active Clerical groups. All of these entertain appropriate visitors - some more secretively than others.
Cragmire is the size of a major city. There are grand and ancient stone buildings. A river. Light is tunneled through crystal lined portals - the city is well and naturally lit in many portions. There are also museums full of the work of old artisans... The place is very established and is physically hospitable to non dwarven races.
Cragmire is relatively isolated, geographically, from its neighbors. But politically and socially intertwined. It is, in a way, an industrial power, providing its friends with arms and goods - in return trading for grains and other required natural products difficult to produce underground.
Some of those neighbors keep amabassadors in Cragmire, the ancient city is just too important to ignore and too difficult to otherwise keep an eye on. There are Humans, other dwarves. Even an (extremely) unlucky elf or two has found himself cast in this role - though none has been known to stay long.
Cragmire Herald Excerpts
Another in a long string of disappearances
Jergeuson Hammermite, young son of Jarl Hammermite and heir to the Hammermite council seat, vanished in what are now only too familiar circumstances. He joins twenty seven other victims -- all members of old and prominent Cragmire families. Jergueson slowly dissipated from sight in the middle of a cermonial family dinner. "He was there, jovial and ruddy-cheeked, and then . . . then he just slowly faded away," related Jergueson's mother, Henda Hammermite. "We hope for his return, and the return of all the other fine young dwarves" she continued, barely holding back the tears welling in her red, but gruff, eyes. Causes of these tragedies are still unclear. There was no comment from the council.
Ancient Local Pub to Close
The Trollbooth, one of the oldest pubs in Cragmire, announced that it would close it doors in two weeks. The Trollbooth's proprieter, Kegelitch 'Corky' Carmunth, announced that he would not sell the Trollbooth upon his retirement. When questioned on his closing of this Cragmire institution, Corky responded, "Ain't no damn whippersnapper runn'n my Trollbooth and muck'n with how I a'done it. So if you want another Trollbooth beer, just get your short self down here in two weeks or forget about it." We all know you can take Corky at his word - and this reporter will be there to celebrate this first hand.
Addervane, Doren, Fergus, Bayne and Roywen are returning from the closing of Corky's. They find Pargamite - son of Pargamite king of Cragmire - wounded in an ally. Beside him lies an ancient and ornate shield. Legend says this shield was once wielded by one of the Dwarven Defenders said to live deep within the mountain of Cragmire, forever serving to keep it safe from the evil that threatens from below.
As they approach Pargamite, he yells a strange curse and throws five strangely shaped stones. They scatter and he slowly fades away, disappearing.
Beardless, the king's arcane advisor, scarred in a magical accident that leaves him unable to grow the traditional Dwarven beard, comes rushing from around the corner. He instructs you to gather the stones and beckons you to follow him. He eventually leads you to two stone doors in the basement of one of the king's buildings. They open to reveal a long stair case downwards.
After descending many, many feet the six enter a round room. There are five doors. Eventually they open the doors using the strangely shaped stones. Behind each is a statute of a mythical dwarven defenders carved in rare stone. Each bears a real weapon, gleaming. A sixth door opens and several goblins come rushing through. The adventurers grab the weapons and defeat the goblins. In the confusion, Beardless slips away.
The party continues; passes through a spiralling dungeon, crosses a lake on a small raft; defeats the sea hag that lives there. Eventually they come to a stone bridge passing thirty feet high over a cavern floor covered in crystals, three to eight feet tall. Beardless is here. Doren discovers that Beardless is evil - and without hesitation - shoves the powerful wizard from the bridge. Beardless, slipping, grabs at the lip and catches brief purchase. Doren (?) steps forward and severs his arm - sending him falling on to the crystals to his death.
Beardless dispatched, they navigate the rest of the dungeon, find the captive young nobles, Pargamite included. They walk out of the dungeon. As they exit, they re-arm the stone defenders, returning the weapons they've borrowed to their rightful owners. Their return to Cragmire is tempered by news of the King's passing.
Pargamite's Son Ascends the Throne
The fearsome five return to Cragmire with the young nobles in tow. All told, losses are few and the community regains its calm, for a short while. Doren, Fergus, Bayne, Roywen and Adervane sit in the favor of the new King Pargamite. In confidence, he shares his disturbed dreams: fearful tales of battle and harrowing evil - and always the ancient shield of legend at the center of the visions.
Pargamite explains that the ancient evil beneath Cragmire is at work once more. Beardless had been asked by the old King to select five young nobles to replenish the ranks of the Defenders that live beneath the mountain. Instead, Beardless took almost 30 and intended Pargamite's son be killed - leaving the throne uncontested and without heir.
Corky's is closed to the public but not to you. Corky tells you you winding stories of the world beyond Cragmire and legends of the world beneath it. Only your stint with Beardless makes them believable. Even in death, though, Beardless has not been silent. You find a letter in his satchel hinting that he was not alone in his horrible plans.
Our protege is progressing well in his training. We must secure the "Good Will" of the captain before the unfortunate passing of the older Pargamite. I will meet you at the keep to split the gold - after the captain's cut.
So, even with the nobles back and Beardless dispatched, peace does last long. Rumors float, furtively whispered, of shadows in the night. Strange figures stalk through cragmire. Deep and frightful rumblings in the rock tremble the deepest levels of your ancient mountain home.
Oh Captain - which Captain?
In the second episode, the heroes follow up the letter they found in Beardless's satchel. They know there are two captains in Cragmire - Captains Eaglemite and Darkshire. They are unable to determine which is implicated in the letter until an assassin appears at Corky's bearing Beardless's Arm, embued with magical powers, and indirectly fingers Eaglemite.
Over the course of the adventure, Pargamite is again taken captive. Eaglemite's reputation is cleared by the party and Darkshire, the guilty captain, is brought to justice. Doren and Addervane cement their reputation following a stirring soap box sermon by Addervane in the town square.
They learn of a Drow threat beneath the mountain, finally defeating a drow wizard, D'Enthrich, who was coordinating one of the drow units.
Eventually, Pargamite is again returned to his throne but the evil lurks below more threatening than ever.
The Ringleader (New PC)
The ringleader is an ex-circus owner who's reputation proceeds him. As do his followers, extolling his virtues and preparing his way. The ringleader is a 12th level sorceror with a reputation of Great Prestige. His cohort is weretiger. The circus is in town!
Kathrin the Hathrin (New PC)
Kathrin the Hathrin (and her Hathrin sisters) are friends of Cragmire.
Council of Doom
The mountain beneath you has shaken with the great battle magic of the defenders. Rumors of drow advancing from below have begun to circulate through the royal court. Kathrin alerts Pargamite to a great army of undead marchng on Cragmire. She scries to show the others the army. Pargamite asks you to stop it as Cragmire's guard is already over-extended securing the caverns below from the ongoing drow invasion.
The undead army is a couple of thousand strong, shuffling on the mountain. When you scry on the army, you see a a council of 13 leaders. They are talking about their plans. One indicates that he has been instructed to break off at the Pass of Towers and rejoin the other 12 later.
Through the scry, you overhear the 13 relate that the TutKing is still ready to proceed but that Cragmire must first fall -- as the dwarves dead corpses are required to be reanimated if the plan is to succeed.
Pargamite shows you a way to get to the Pass of Towers via the caverns below cragmire, but you will have to avoid the drow, of course. If you travel overland, you will have to pass over a wide sea and through a winter mountain pass. A difficult journey. It will take the party approximately 10 days to complete the march.
You reach the towers as magic ceremony begins atop one of them. The pyramid of the Tut King appears in the sky. Big conversation, lots of Evil . . and the Tut King asks the council leader to step forward to be temporarily transported to the pyramid for longer council. The characters sneak into the dark cloud that envelopes him - and are transported to the pyramid.
A Lich in the Plan
The Tut king is surpised to see the heroes appear with his subordinate. Brief combat ensues. The ringleader is slain and the Tut King escapes. When he is finally hunted down deep in his pyramid of evil, many enemies, including a warhammer hungry nightshade later, he stands at lectern looking into a small pool of still water. He holds a glowing twisted skull - an artifact known to have great powers over the undead. In the pool you see the undead army reaching the outskirts of Cragmire.
With great effort, the heroes slay the Tut King, a Lich, but are unable to find his phylactory. Later they discover it is in the possession of demons. The artificact is handed over to the clerics of Cragmire - who learn to use it to repel the undead army. Cragmire is once again saved from its enemies.
Somewhere in all that, Doren befriends a young dragon - helping it out of some prediciment I can no longer recall.
Sadly, even after some scrying and some adventuring, it is still not clear what the source and evil purpose of the demons is. The phylactery of the TutKing always seems well guarded by powerful outsiders; the defenders continue to battle against the evil below.
Pargamite requests the continued service of Dorin and Addervane to determine the true source and cause of infestation - they adventure for several years without success.
A dozen years have passed in the kingdom - all peaceful. Many a dwarf of Cragmire, tongue loosened by a pint or three of ale, has been overheard recounting the hero's tales. Their names and deeds have given comfort to the good - pause to the rest. But now the enemies of Cragmire have gathered forces - an evil lurks and rumbles through the mountain's deepest foundation - its low moan an emissary of a dark future.