Mt. Ottermack is a system-neutral adventure setting consisting of a mountain, an abandoned dwarven settlement, and a dragon’s lair… Could your world include a place such as this? This article is designed to help you flesh it out.
Welcome to Mt. Ottermack, a mountain with a rich history. Once, a mighty colony of dwarves lived here, but they met with great misfortune. Now, a dragon is trapped in the mountain, and its kobold followers torment a mining town at the base. Does your region have some mountains in need of intrigue? Do your players like delving into abandoned settlements? Then this article is for you!
The Company Town
A town stands at the bottom of Mt. Ottermack owned by the Lavigne Mining Company, a company exploiting a major iron vein to feed the demands of civilization. A hundred or so workers live here, working the mines under exploitative contracts. Gambling and alcohol are banned here, and the employees are paid in scrip, a currency only useful here in town. The company claims that they’ll exchange it for proper gold when an employee finishes his contract, but the strict contract conditions and the resultant penalties make that far from guaranteed.
Most of the town’s population, aside from the foreman, live in a single barracks. The building is two stories tall, and kept warm by fireplaces. Spots by the chimneys on the second floor are prized, for the winters here are long and cold. The foreman lives in his own cabin, located right beside the only route out of town.
A stream runs behind the barracks, carrying meltwater down from the mountain.
Ralrax Sonji, Foreman. Ralrax is an old, pale-skinned human. He carries a cane, but he doesn’t need it to walk. Instead, he keeps it around to beat misbehaving employees. He’s kind of a jerk.
Zivko Ruski, miner. Zivko is a scrawny man with a sharp, angular face. He has almost no fat on his body, just wiry muscle. He’s a good guy, but his contract length has been doubled due to “infractions,” so he’s not allowed to leave.
Matej Milevski, gambler. Matej is a foul-mouthed man, but a hard worker. He’ll bleat and complain and he’s hard on the equipment, but you an rest assured that he’ll do whatever he’s told to. He’s very fond of gambling, which is bad news for his wallet, due to both gambling losses and fines from the company… for gambling.
Jordan Racan, miner. Often used as an enforcer for corporate law. He gets paid to rough up other employees, and doesn’t seem to mind the fact that his payments are always in scrip.
Serafima Moncheva, charcoal hauler. Serafima runs the charcoal wagon from the Piles to the Town, hauling the precious fuel for the smelters. She tends to get lost in her thoughts, which is probably not a great trait for somebody with such a vital job.
A complex network of zig-zagging tunnels runs through the mountain, following iron veins. The mines are dangerous places; a few dead miners’ skeletons still lay under cave-ins, and some of the lowest sections are filled with some kind of poisonous gas. The miners often report hearing knocking sounds in the mines, and try to steer clear of wherever it’s coming from. Unbeknownst to them, the “knocking” is the sound of kobolds running around in the old dwarven fortress.
The Charcoal Piles
Some distance from the mines is a cleared section of forest, centered around a smoking pile of dirt beside a rickety shack. The owner of this shack is Goran, a gaunt, quiet man.
Inside the pile of dirt is an intricate arrangement of logs and kindling, burning at a controlled rate to turn it into charcoal. The smoke from the pile is thin and blue, and if the pile is left alone too long, it will burst into flame and probably cause a large forest fire. This outcome would be considered undesirable by a number of people, not least of which Goran, who quite enjoys his work.
Creatures of the Surrounding Woods
Bipedal wolves, who can “energize” into the trees to hide there. They’re vulnerable to sunlight, so they only come out at night. You know one is hidden nearby when you can hear the wind howling through the trees.
Grahbni, the Ravenous One: A large grizzly bear that has made a habit of raiding the camp and breaking into the food storage, injuring or killing anyone that gets in its way. Grahbni has no fear of humans or other sentients, and raids the camp every two days or so. Grahbni is actually three very similar bears, but the miners don’t know that.
Goldhorn, a deer with golden horns. Wherever its blood falls, healing flowers grow.
The Old Fortress
Carved by an esoteric order of dwarves some centuries ago, the fortress winds its way up the interior of the mountain. The main entrance is concealed behind overgrowth. The lower sections look like your typical mountainhome, for the most part: Workshops, stockpiles and gathering areas on the main floor, dwellings above that. In the center of the main floor, a gigantic statue stands, carved straight from the rock. It depicts an enormous dwarf with a twin-braided beard, holding up the mountain itself. An amulet hangs around the dwarf’s neck, shaped like a wide V with a gem in the center.
Below the main floor is the “mudfarm,” an area used for growing edible fungi. At the north end of the mudfarm is a lever that opens a gate, allowing water to flow in from the spring outside. On the southern wall is a grate which opens onto the side of the mountain, allowing excess water out. Even so, the area is uncomfortably humid.
A wide corridor winds its way up the mountain in a sort of squared spiral. Blood is splattered throughout the corridor, especially at the corners. This blood comes from various animals, mostly deer, which the kobolds have hunted and brought up to their master, but this fact won’t be obvious to most interlopers.
Many doors line the lower sections of the corridor, thinning in number as one ascends. These doors lead to dwarven clan dwellings for the most part, but some lead to storage areas and offices.
A colony of feral cats lives in the fortress.
Dwarven Stone Carvings
On the stone walls of the entry hallway are bas-relief artworks carved deep into the natural stone. Many of the dwarves’ faces have been scratched off with claws.
- A bushy-bearded dwarf smashing a pickaxe into a rock. This carving is entitled “Hard-working Uvash Eribonol.”
- The bushy-bearded dwarf holding up a square gem of some kind. Lines radiate out from the gem, as if it was glowing. The pick has been discarded to the side. This carving is entitled “Uvash Eribonol discovers the Mountainheart Ruby.”
- The bushy-bearded dwarf hammers away at a forge. Bars of gold sit beside the forge, represented here by thin pieces of gold inlaid into the rock. The same sort of glowing effect radiates from the forge. The inscription reads “Forgemaster.”
- The bushy-bearded dwarf holds an amulet above his head triumphantly. The amulet consists of the glowing gem and a wide V of gold, again represented here with a golden inlay. The dwarf is carved in exceptionally intricate detail here, showing his sharp cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes. The inscription reads “Uvash Eribonol, triumphant.”
- The bushy-bearded dwarf hands the amulet to a dwarf with a twin-braided beard and short, mohawked hair. The bushy-bearded dwarf is on one knee, but has his head held high. The twin-braided dwarf stands up straight as he accepts the gift, but appears to be bowing his head in thanks. This carving is entitled “An Offering to Shorast Dastotlibash.”
- The dwarf with the twin-braided beard, now wearing the amulet, hefts a huge rock above his head. Much like “Uvash Eribonol, triumphant,” exceptional care has been put into the dwarf’s features. His face is very square and he has hooded eyes. His lips are thin, in contrast to his wide nose. Once again, the arms of the amulet are made of inlaid gold. The inscription reads “Shorast Dastotlibash, Mountainlord.”
- The last carving is rougher than the others, but the image is still discernible: A mountain of skulls, with the amulet sitting on top. There is no title for this carving.
Many strange things gather dust in the fortress ruins, though it seems that the prime pickings have long been looted by others…
|1. A strange figurine that seems to move and shift as the viewer moves around it. If closely examined, intricate representations of many historical events can be seen on its hyperdimensional surfaces. Among the carvings are several of the statue itself, sometimes alone, sometimes surrounded by other figures. One surface appears to show the statue, surrounded by the people currently examining it.|
|2. A sword with a copper inlay along the blade. The inlay is a message in Dwarven runes, which reads “Old age grants no truces.” when translated.|
|3. A book titled “Identifying Stone: Accurate Results with Simple Tools.” Its cover depicts a black-haired, gray-bearded dwarf examining a piece of rock with a jeweler’s loupe. The book provides a series of flowcharts for distinguishing different kinds of stone, alongside information on their characteristics and uses.|
|4. A wooden shield painted with a geometric blue design. Pieces of what appears to be elven bone line the rim of the shield.|
|5. A toy hammer, with a wooden handle and a granite head. Still hurts if you hit somebody with it.|
|6. A string instrument with a wooden body. A rough inscription on the body reads “THIS MACHINE KILLS ELVES” in dwarven. Showing this instrument to an elf is not recommended.|
|7. A heavy cask filled with liquid, labelled “SPIRIT SPIRIT.” It’s booze made from distilled specters. It’s very potent.|
|8. A strange curved sword, with a handle as long as the blade. It looks like it’s meant for slashing, and a keen-eyed adventurer would recognize the handle’s design as elven.|
|9. A greatsword that can split in two down the middle when a latch on the hilt is released. This will cause the latch to break due to an oversight by the weaponsmith. It cannot be put back together.|
|10. A weighted net. You could throw it at something, or use it to build a trap, maybe. It doesn’t look like it got much use in its day.|
The Dragon’s Lair
100 meters below the lower peak, the fortress’ main tunnel breaches the side of the mountain. In most fortresses, this would just be for air circulation, but here there’s a secondary purpose. A path of carved hand and footholds, augmented with a chain secured to the mountainside, runs up to the lower peak.
A few hundred meters below the summit is a smaller peak, branching off the main mountainside. The top of it has been flattened, and a stone bridge has been built toward a hall carved into the main body of the mountain. The bridge has broken apart in some places, but an adventurous sort of person could jump most of the gaps. Despite its height, the area around the lower peak is unusually warm, like a summer’s day.
The Grand Hall
Beyond the bridge, a pair of gigantic doors sit. In the past they protected this place from the elements, now they lay on the ground, shattered.
The hallway is uncomfortably warm. Despite being inside, it feels like the sun is beating down on anyone who enters.
The hall has two major chambers: One, historically used for holding scrolls and holy books, and the other, historically used for the actual purpose of worship. Now, a clutch of kobolds calls the scroll chamber home. A large pile of eggs sits against one wall, and against the other, the scriptures have been piled up, sometimes torn, into makeshift bedding.
The ritual chamber is the home of Ortodrut, the Dragonlord. On a dais he sleeps, surrounded by gold, relics and trinkets from far-off lands.
Ortodrut is a dragon, a beast of cunning intelligence. Years ago, he settled into this forgotten hall to hibernate a while, drifting into the dreamworld of the dragons. Unfortunately, when he awoke, he found he was unable to get back out the door. Now, he relies on a clutch of kobolds to bring him food and treasure, something that has become much more difficult since a company of humans settled in at the bottom of the mountain.
Ortodrut’s goal is to find a way to break out of the hall. The dwarven strength amulet worn by Dred, one of his kobold servants, would likely give him enough raw strength to break out if he realized its nature.
A small clutch of kobolds attends to Ortodrut. They’re all a dark grey in color, and most are as skittish as your average kobold, save for Zreggu.
Dred, hammerkobold. Dred is a tall (5 feet), sinister kobold who carries an ornate dwarven warhammer. Around his neck is an amulet shaped like a wide V with a gem in the center. This massively increases his strength.
Shreg, kobowld. Shreg is a relatively cunning kobold who is very proficient at tracking and killing wild game. He likes to aim for the eyes.
Zreggu, klawbold. Zreggu is an avarious but not terribly bright kobold, easily distracted by shiny objects. He fights entirely with his claws. He’s abnormally aggressive for a kobold, and he is very wiry.
Boz, pickkobold. Boz is a strong kobold with metaphorically sticky fingers. He wears a steel hat he stole from the miners, along with a pick, which he also stole from the miners.
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Former esports wannabe, current TTRPG streamer and TTRPG creator interviewer. I like science fiction and I have a soft spot for licensed tabletop RPGs. You can find all the campaigns I’m in and interviews I’ve done over on YouTube.
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