Wyrms of the North: Daurgothoth, "The Creeping Doom"
Dragon Magazine #234
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Eric L. Boyd
The pryings of Volo (polished somewhat by Elminster, whose eyebrows rose on more than one occasion while reading them) bring us this time to something the Old Mage had intended to omit from this survey of powerful dragons of the North: a dracolich. So you're now reading something even Elminster decided to leave out of a book!
Why would one of the most powerful wizards in all Toril break his own rules now? Well, this undead wyrm bears watching. Not only is his influence quickly spreading, but the dracolich Daurgothoth is attempting to gain some abilities of other dragon types (he was originally a black wyrm) and to "come back to life" sufficiently to breed true and found his own new dragon species.
The twin obsessions of achieving personal supremacy and fathering a new race have kept Daurgothoth busy for over a century, improving his abilities however he can, and seeking a suitable mate -- or planning how to construct one, much as he's been modified in undeath.
The implications of Daurgothoth's fascinating endeavor are dark indeed. The only reason hordes of adventurers haven't descended on the dracolich, seeking his destruction, is that they don't know about him. Plenty of wild rumors are, however, spreading. . . .
Both Tolgar Anuvien and Malchor Harpell are (independently) beginning to uncover the location and activities of the undead wyrm, but the only folk who know the broad truth about the nature and aims of Daurgothoth are the Chosen of Mystra, powerful figures such as Elminster, Khelben, Laeral, and Alustriel. These archmages will not act or speak out against him, because the magical experimentation and advances Daurgothoth is making are precisely the sort of thing Divine Mystra encourages so that magic will continue to grow.
Daurgothoth is under no such restrictions and energetically seeks to slaughter any being who learns of his endeavors or who stumbles upon his lair. He has already slain no fewer than three bands of hired adventurers who were working for him in Waterdeep -- but whom he judged had begun to suspect too much about him. His spells allow him to speak with such underlings by means of projected (human-seeming) images and to spy upon them from afar. When doing so, Daurgothoth customarily poses as some sort of renegade, deliberately mysterious wizard.
In such roles, this dracolich has begun to play an increasingly active role in the shadier businesses of the cities of Waterdeep, Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter, and Secomber. At first, he pursued the acquisition of spells, magic items, and substances that might serve as magic components, but this drew the attention of too many alarmed spellcasters and authorities (one of whom dubbed the unknown cause of the thefts "the Creeping Doom," a title Daurgothoth gleefully adopted), so he has taken to cloaking his activities behind a web of often unwitting thieving bands and sharp-dealing gray market merchants.
Once a great wyrm of considerable size, with a distinctive gouge in his left flank (an old, nearly mortal wound), Daurgothoth was transformed into a dracolich by the crazed Cult wizard Huulukharn. He promptly slew the wizard and vanished from the knowledge and influence of the Cult.
Today, the Creeping Doom possesses all the normal powers of a great black wyrm dracolich who is also a 20th-level wizard and 5th-level archmage (detailed in the Forgotten RealmsCampaign Setting, pages 41-42). Daurgothoth is known to be developing other breath weapon attacks -- in particular seeking to modify certain of his spells into this attack form.
Daurgothoth's phylactery is rumored to be a black opal of insignificant size, and it may be hidden in a huge heap of gems of all types and sizes that nearly fills a cavern that also holds the skeletal bodies of six lesser dragons that could serve him as a succession of replacement bodies. This cave is walled away behind tumbled rock somewhere under the gem-filled cavern of Daurgothoth's main lair. (The rock to be dug aside to reach it may well underlie the dracolich's bone pile itself.)
Daurgothoth is a brilliant crafter of magic, an eternally inquisitive being, and a practiced observer with an impressive memory. He is governed by a wary paranoia that keeps him always on the lookout for lurking foes and possible attacks, and that makes him work constantly to better his personal powers and defenses. This is one wyrm who will never be found with most or all of his spells exhausted. If he ever reaches such a state (in the heat of protracted battle), he swiftly departs, to hide away until his magic is again strong. He is patient in his dealings and calm in battle; none can successfully goad him, and pride never leads him into overconfidence in battle, or any stubborn refusal to retreat. For an immortal dracolich who takes care to safeguard himself from destruction, there will always be another day for fighting -- or for seeking revenge.
Daurgothoth has a cruel sense of humor and enjoys anticipating tactics ahead in any struggle. He craves music and company from time to time, but he never lets these needs compromise the security of his lair. Beautiful lady bards who acquire mysterious lone male human audiences at their campfires in the North are warned that they could be entertaining simple travelers, lycanthropes or doppelgangers, Harpers -- or the Creeping Doom. Daurgothoth seldom molests or devours good singers.
The Creeping Doom lairs in the abandoned gnome city of Dolblunde, which is north and east of Waterdeep. Known entrances to this subterranean labyrinth include the "Bandit Tunnels" in nearby Maiden's Tomb Tor, certain passages in the vast dungeon complex of Undermountain, and a flooded tunnel leading from the muddy bottom of the River Dessarin itself. This latter, largest route is the one most often used by Daurgothoth, though the dracolich does employ teleport spells on occasion. Daurgothoth's spells have hollowed out many large caverns for his convenience, forming an ever-growing chain that is tunneling slowly northwest, to a planned emergence shaft in the mountains north of Waterdeep.
To discourage intruders, the undead wyrm has placed many traps in the smaller gnome-created passages surrounding the great caverns of his lair. There are a few teeter-block pit traps of varying depths, but most of these perils are stone spikefall traps consisting of sharpened stones on dangle-chains suspended from the ceiling. These mechanical hazards are assisted by unswervingly loyal undead servitors -- deathfangs, bone lurkers, and bonestings. The last are the wyrm's salvaged early attempts at creating a tail-sting.
Spikefall Trap: CR 1; mechanical; location trigger; manual reset; Atk +10 ranged (5d4/x2); Search (DC 20); Disable Device (DC 20). Market Price: 1,000 gp. Note: Damage applies only to those underneath the spikefall block.
At the heart of Daurgothoth's chain of caverns is a side passage large enough for a dragon to fly down. It is guarded by a wall of Large skeletons (the remains of a tribe of hill giants, still armed with their greatclubs) who have orders to attack all beings in the tunnel who aren't Daurgothoth himself. Above them hangs a death tyrant (its precious surviving eyestalk powers unknown) with similar orders.
Beyond these guardians, the tunnel leads to a closed stone door that is itself a stone golem that attacks anyone trying to open it. The door opens into a vast, ravaged cavern almost half a mile in length, its walls scorched and scarred, and its floor heaped with broken stone. This is the dracolich's spellcasting chamber, where he experiments with magic.
A smaller tunnel leads off of one side of this cave, doubling back on itself several times, to reach the gem-filled cave where Daurgothoth sleeps and broods upon a huge pile of bones. Aside from the rumored secret, walled-away chamber that holds his host, two lesser caverns branch away from the main one: a treasure vault crammed with all manner of magic, statuettes, coins, and the like; and a storage room where the dragon keeps his spellbooks, the magic items he knows enough about to feel safe in using (just what these are remains a mystery), and a smooth-walled prison pit into which he drops living creatures he wants to keep for later. This pit is a smooth-walled (the stone walls fused into an almost glassy state by many applications of fiery breath and certain spells) shaft 30 feet across and 100 feet deep. The pit floor is damp sand, and lost in it is a staff of the magi (unknown to Daurgothoth). The dragon typically loops a rope around prisoners and tosses them down the shaft, securing the upper end of their pull-rope under a "lid" consisting of a huge, four-ton slab of stone that covers the top of the shaft. Dangerous prisoners (such as spellcasting adventurers) are encased in a set of iron bands of Bilarro first; this sphere lies ready in a hollow beside the shaft. Much of the rest of this storage cavern contains a vast collection of odd substances that might serve as material components, including the pickled corpses of such large monsters as dragon turtles, purple worms, and remorhaz (and, of course, several sorts of dragons).
In his main lair, Daurgothoth's massive bone pile affords him raw material for some bone-related attacks he is currently researching.
From Dolblunde, Daurgothoth keeps watch over traffic on the High Road, the Long Road, and on the River Dessarin, as well as overland from the walls of Goldenfields south along the west bank of the Dessarin to Zundbridge, and north from there along the coast roughly as far as Mount Sar. He lacks the time to spy much in Waterdeep but employs a modified, long-range wizard eye spell for hours at a time to peer at things in the City of Splendors when he's interested in something (when word is abroad in the city about a wizardly duel, for instance, or the Watchful Order is gathering to discuss something important). Daurgothoth is interested in all things magical and in news of dragons and their doings. He's not, however, interested in being identified and located by nosy priests or wizards, and he seldom acts openly in his "territory."
One day, when his lair reaches to the surface somewhere in the mountains, he may fly forth each night to destroy any who dare to question his authority -- once his traps are ready to deal with the archmages who will inevitably try to destroy him. Soon, perhaps. . . .
In the meantime, Daurgothoth prefers to employ various unscrupulous minor wizards (including, notably, several Zhentarim wizards who fled the fall of Zhentil Keep) and adventuring bands. He keeps these forces believing they're working for a Waterdhavian noble who uses magic to conceal his identity and tries to keep each group of his agents ignorant of the existence of the others. Sometimes he tests their loyalty and mettle by sending various agents after the same thing, to see who prevails, how, and what they report to him about it.
These agents seize various magic items, spells, and substances that could serve in spellcasting. Daurgothoth often employs such aliases as "the Masked Master" or "Onalibar" when dealing with his underlings (the latter name is a private joke: it once belonged to a Cult wizard who tried to enslave the dracolich soon after his initial rebellion -- and who was promptly eaten for his pains). He rewards the wizards with useful spells from his collection, steering them into stealing or developing other magic for him in return.
Deeds of Daurgothoth
Freed of the need to hunt or consume any sort of food, Daurgothoth can pursue ever-greater magical achievements more or less constantly.
Daurgothoth tries to hide from other dracoliches and living dragons as much as possible, as well as from the annoyingly energetic members of the Cult of the Dragon. He has decided that if the latter organization proves to be too much of an annoyance, he will attempt to take over its leadership (concealing his true nature) and put it to work on his quest for the finding or making of a perfect mate.
Daurgothoth is especially wary of, and yet fascinated by, amethyst dragons. He judges that their skills make them unpredictable and therefore dangerous, yet he also considers them possible sources for something that could be bred or modified into his mate. Studying the activities of the Cult of the Dragon and of wizards in general (while keeping well away from strongly organized groupings of wizards such as the Red Wizards of Thay or the archwizards of Halruaa) makes up much of his daily work. He's always considering schemes to improve the powers of any underlings or constructed servitor creatures to "snatch" newly developed magic from such sources undetected -- or at least in such a way that they can't reliably be followed. Often he ponders how he might control the mind of a scholar of Candlekeep well enough to learn things mind-to-mind and direct what books the individual read, while at the same time eluding the efforts of anyone searching for such a mind-link (which those in power in Candlekeep do regularly, as such infiltrations have been attempted so often in the recent past).
Daurgothoth's current activities include trying to infiltrate temples of Lathander to gain magic related to the creation of life (for his own breeding plans) and personally trying to develop a breath weapon that will act as a Mordenkainen's disjunction on everyone's magic but his.
The Creeping Doom is so ambitious that his schemes seem destined to failure. Even Daurgothoth himself is aware that spawning a race of descendants having powers akin to his own could well be bringing on his own eventual doom (at their hands). Still, even if he never mates, his continual growth in power is a matter of grave concern for folk all over Faerûn, both draconic and human.
This dracolich will stop at nothing, and Mystra seems content to let him build himself into the greatest creature of magic in all Toril if he can achieve this aim. At the same time, his lonely search for a mate opens him to attack from wily foes, and if his capturing of magic grows more successful, he'll soon have no shortage of those.
Daurgothoth: Male black great wyrm dracolich Wiz20/Acm5; CR 49; Gargantuan undead (Water); HD 37d12 plus 25d4, hp 302; Init +0; Spd 60 ft., swim 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (clumsy); AC 44 (touch 6, flat-footed 44); Atk +59 melee (4d6+13 plus 1d6 cold plus paralyzing touch, bite) and +57 melee (2d8+6 plus 1d6 cold plus paralyzing touch, 2 claws) and +57 melee (2d6+6, 2 wings) and +57 melee (2d8+19, tail slap); Face/Reach 20 ft. x 40 ft./15 ft.; SA Arcane fire, breath weapon (120-ft. line of acid, 24d4), control undead, paralyzing gaze, paralyzing touch, spell-like abilities, spells, tail sweep; SQ Arcane reach, blindsight 360 ft., charm reptiles, corrupt water, dracolich traits, flight, invulnerability, keen senses, mastery of elements, mastery of shaping, spell power +1, spell resistance 31, undead traits, water breathing; AL CE; SV Fort +32, Ref +32, Will +37; Str 37, Dex 10, Con --, Int 23, Wis 21, Cha 22.
Skills and Feats: Alchemy +41, Bluff +16, Climb +19, Concentration +37, Diplomacy +47, Escape Artist +37, Hide -12, Intimidate +45, Jump +19, Knowledge (arcana) +43, Knowledge (history) +43, Knowledge (nature) +43, Knowledge (planes) +43, Knowledge (religion) +43, Listen +42, Scry +43, Search +43, Sense Motive +11, Spellcraft +45, Spot +42, Swim +21, Wilderness Lore +23; Brew Potion, Cleave, Combat Casting, Craft Wand, Craft Wondrous Item, Flyby Attack , Forge Ring, Great Cleave, Hover, Multiattack, Power Attack, Scribe Scroll , Silent Spell, Skill Focus (Spellcraft), Snatch, Spell Focus (Abjuration), Spell Focus (Evocation), Spell Focus (Necromancy), Spell Focus (Transmutation), Spell Penetration, Still Spell, Sunder, Wingover.
Arcane Fire (Su): Daurgothoth can channel arcane spell energy into arcane fire, manifesting as a bolt of raw magical energy. The bolt is a ranged touch attack with long range (600 feet) that deals 5d6 points of damage plus 1d6 points of damage per level of the spell channeled to create the effect.
Breath Weapon (Su): Daurgothoth can breathe a 120-foot line of acid that deals 24d4 points of acid damage (Reflex save DC 28 halves). Once he breathes, he must wait 1d4 rounds before he can do so again.
Control Undead (Sp): Once per 3 days, Daurgothoth can use control undead as a 15th-level sorcerer. He cannot cast other spells while this ability is in effect.
Paralyzing Gaze (Su): The gaze of Daurgothoth's glowing eyes can paralyze each victim within 40 feet who fails a Will save (DC 34). If the save is successful, that creature is forever immune to Daurgothoth's gaze. If it fails, the victim is paralyzed for 2d6 rounds.
Paralyzing Touch (Su): A creature struck by any of Daurgothoth's physical attacks must make a Fort save (DC 34) or be paralyzed for 2d6 rounds. A successful saving throw against this effect does not confer any immunity against subsequent attacks.
Spell-like Abilities (Sp): 3/day -- darkness (120 feet), insect plague; 1/day -- plant growth. Caster level 20th; save DC 16 + spell level.
Spells: In addition to his wizard spells, Daurgothoth knows and casts spells as a 15th-level sorcerer.
Tail Sweep: Daurgothoth can sweep with his tail as a standard action. The sweep affects a half-circle with a diameter of 30 feet, centered on his rear. Creatures within the area that are four or more size categories smaller than Daurgothoth are affected. The sweep deals 2d6+19 points of damage plus 1d6 points of cold damage plus paralyzing touch. An affected creature can attempt a Reflex save (DC 28) to take half damage.
Arcane Reach: Daurgothoth can use touch spells on targets up to 30 feet away. If a spell requires a touch attack (melee or ranged), the archmage must make a ranged touch attack.
Blindsight (Ex): Daurgothoth can maneuver and fight by nonvisual means (mostly hearing and scent, but also by noticing vibrations and other environmental clues). Invisibility and darkness are irrelevant, though he still can't discern ethereal beings. Daurgothoth's blindsight is effective to a range of 360 feet. He usually does not need to make Spot or Listen checks to notice creatures within range of his blindsight ability.
Charm Reptiles (Sp): Three times per day, Daurgothoth can produce an effect identical to that of a mass charm spell, except that it works only on reptilian animals. He can communicate with any charmed reptiles as though casting a speak with animals spell.
Corrupt Water (Sp): Once per day, Daurgothoth can stagnate 10 cubic feet of water, making it become still, foul, and unable to support animal life. This ability spoils liquids containing water. Magic items (such as potions) and items in a creature's possession must succeed at a Will save (DC 33) or become fouled.
Dracolich Traits: Daurgothoth is immune to cold, electricity, paralysis, polymorph, and sleep effects. Like a skeleton, he takes only half damage from piercing and slashing weapons. He has low-light vision.
Flight (Su): Daurgothoth now flies without the aid of his bony wings.
Invulnerability: If Daurgothoth is slain, his spirit immediately returns to its phylactery, a black opal of insignificant size. If there is no reptilian corpse within 90 feet for his spirit to possess, it is trapped within the phylactery until such a time that a corpse becomes available. If his spirit is in its phylactery, destroying that item when a suitable corpse is not within range effectively destroys him. Likewise, Daurgothoth is unable to attempt further possessions if his phylactery is destroyed.
Keen Senses (Ex): Daurgothoth sees four times as well as a human in low-light conditions and twice as well in normal light. He also has darkvision (120-foot range).
Mastery of Elements: Daurgothoth can alter an arcane spell when cast so that it utilizes a different element from the one it normally does. This ability can alter only spells with the acid, cold, fire, electricity, or sonic descriptors. The spell's casting time is unaffected. Daurgothoth decides whether or not to alter the spell's energy type and chooses the new energy type when he begins casting.
Mastery of Shaping: Daurgothoth can alter area and effect spells that use the following categories: burst, cone, cylinder, emanation, or special. The alteration consists of creating spaces in the spell's area or effect that are not subject to the spell. The minimum dimension for these spaces is a 5-foot cube. Furthermore, any shapeable (S) spells have a minimum dimension of 5 feet instead of 10 feet.
Spell Power +1: This ability increases the DC for the saving throws against Daurgothoth's arcane spells and caster level checks for his arcane spells to overcome spell resistance by +1 (already included in save DCs below).
Undead Traits: Daurgothoth is immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death, effects, necromantic effects, mind-influencing effects, and any effect requiring a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. He is not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Negative energy heals him, and he is not at risk of death from massive damage but is destroyed at 0 hit points or less (but see invulnerability above). Daurgothoth cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if he is willing.
Water Breathing (Su): Daurgothoth can breathe underwater indefinitely and can freely use his breath weapon, spells, and other abilities while submerged.
Sorcerer Spells Known (6/8/8/7/7/6/6/5/5/5; base DC = 17 + spell level or 19 + spell level for Abjuration, Evocation, Necromancy, and Transmutation spells): 0 -- arcane mark, detect magic, disrupt undead, light, mage hand, mending, open/close, prestidigitation, read magic; 1st -- alarm, comprehend languages, mage armor, shield, ventriloquism; 2nd -- alter self, alter self, arcane lock, bull's strength, cat's grace, detect thoughts; 3rd -- dispel magic, haste, nondetection, vampiric touch; 4th -- charm monster, detect scrying, improved invisibility, scrying; 5th -- cloudkill, dominate person, major creation, nightmare; 6th -- analyze dweomer, move earth, true seeing; 7th -- prismatic spray, teleport without error, vision; 8th -- demand, discern location, mind blank; 9th -- foresight, Mordenkainen's disjunction, wish.
Wizard Spells Prepared (4/6/6/5/5/5/5/4/4/4; base DC = 17 + spell level or 19 + spell level for Abjuration, Evocation, Necromancy, or Transmutation spells): 0 -- dancing lights, daze, mage hand, ray of frost; 1st -- change self, color spray (2), grease, hold portal, magic missile; 2nd -- blindness/deafness, fog cloud, locate object, Melf's acid arrow, see invisibility, Tasha's hideous laughter; 3rd -- fireball, hold person, protection from elements, sleet storm, suggestion; 4th -- Evard's black tentacles (2), polymorph other, polymorph self, wall of ice; 5th -- animate dead, cone of cold, hold monster, teleport, transmute rock to mud; 6th -- acid fog, circle of death, disintegrate, globe of invulnerability, mass suggestion; 7th -- ethereal jaunt, finger of death, forcecage, project alternate image; 8th -- bonemelt, mass charm, protection from spells, summon monster VIII; 9th -- meteor swarm, shapechange, temporal stasis, wail of the banshee.
Spellbook: 0 -- arcane mark, dancing lights, daze, detect magic, detect poison, disrupt undead, flare, ghost sound, light, mage hand, mending, open/close, prestidigitation, ray of frost, read magic, resistance; 1st -- cause fear, change self, chill touch, color spray, grease, hold portal, identify, magic missile, ray of enfeeblement, shocking grasp; 2nd -- blindness/deafness, fog cloud, ghoul touch, knock, locate object, Melf's acid arrow, scare, see invisibility, spectral hand, Tasha's hideous laughter; 3rd -- fireball, gentle repose, halt undead, hold person, invisibility sphere, lightning bolt, protection from elements, sleet storm, suggestion; 4th -- contagion, enervation, Evard's black tentacles, fear, ice storm, minor globe of invulnerability, polymorph other, polymorph self, stoneskin, wall of ice; 5th -- animate dead, cone of cold, fabricate, hold monster, major creation, permanency, teleport, transmute rock to mud, wall of force; 6th -- acid fog, antimagic field, chain lightning, circle of death, disintegrate, flesh to stone, globe of invulnerability, mass suggestion, programmed image; 7th -- delayed blast fireball, ethereal jaunt, finger of death, forcecage, greater scrying, plane shift, prismatic spray, project alternate image, spell turning; 8th -- antipathy, bonemelt, etherealness, horrid wilting, mass charm, Otiluke's telekinetic sphere, prismatic wall, protection from spells, summon monster VIII, trap the soul; 9th -- astral projection, meteor swarm, power word, kill, prismatic sphere, shapechange, temporal stasis, time stop, wail of the banshee.
Languages: Alzhedo, Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Elven, Loross, Netherese, Roushoum.
Possessions: Countless coins worth approximately 200,000 gp in total, countless varieties of gems worth approximately 850,000 gp in total, various art objects worth approximately 50,000 gp in total, a darkskull, a dragonskull talisman, iron bands of Bilarro, a hand of the mage, an orb of storms, a portable hole, a ring of evasion, a rod of metal and mineral detection, a mirror of mental prowess, a staff of the magi (fully charged), a rod of lordly might, a wand of fireball (10th-level caster), a staff of power (fully charged), a holy avenger, celestial armor, an absorbing shield, a dwarven thrower, numerous wizard spellbooks, a ring of spell turning, and a torque of the titans. Dungeon Masters should feel free to add in epic level items from the Epic Level Handbook in place of several other items.
The Creeping Doom commands almost as wide an array of personally modified spells as do the Seven Sisters, or such mighty spellcasters as Elminster and Khelben Arunsun. This write-up could be filled several times over with them, but one deadly magic deserves mention because it is so spectacular. Also a variant on a common spell deserves mention because Daurgothoth so frequently employs it when dealing with other creatures: Bonemelt, Project Alternate Image
About the author:
Ed Greenwood is an overweight, bespectacled, hirsute rogue who loves crawling through caves and swinging swords at imaginary foes. What he did to the armorer at the local museum last year was purely a misunderstanding.
Ed Greenwood, like his alter ego Elminster, is tall, bearded, untidy, pranksome and generally annoying -- but he freely admits it all.
Ed Greenwood's Wyrms of the North column ran from Dragon Magazine 230 through 259, detailing over two dozen unique dragons of Faerûn. Although written for 2nd edition AD&D, the original articles largely eschewed game statistics in favor of descriptive text, with the exception of the occasional spell or magic item. These articles will be reprised in a regular column on the Wizards of the Coast website with the addition of game statistics and updated spells and magic items for the new D&D.