By Quillian Valendiel, Sage
Fair greetings, one and all…
…even though I cannot claim Fair Greetings upon myself, for as much as I would desire it. I fear I have not been in blithe demeanor since my last discourse here. For my palate has been most disaffected since I imbibed the wine called Thunderbird, as gifted to me by the Editor in gratitude for my last lecture. Perhaps I simply have no taste for the magical wines of this realm, for I felt as if I was ill unto death. But no matter, I will go about my Sagely duties, although my disposition be somewhat gloomy.
So, as fitting with my current temper, I have chosen to put aside the Folio of Fantastical Fauna, and selected instead an Excerpt from The Treatise Tenebrous, known also as the “Book of Shadow”. Unlike the aforementioned Folio, which discourses upon Fey creatures, this dark tome instead details the dwellers of that gloom-filled realm called the Shadowfell. Like the Feywild, the nightmarish Shadowfell lies past a Veil between Worlds, a Veil that can sometimes be crossed by dark denizens seeking to haunt the Mundane Realm.
And so I shall hold discourse on one such denizen, a ghoulish and greedy thing which rises from the burial mounds of Dwarfkind to stalk the living, and feast upon their blood – the dreadful Draugr.
It is said that tales of the horrid Draugr (pronounced ‘DRU-gor’) are told in many golden Halls of Dwarf-lords in the depths of winter, cautioning those assembled that it is possible even for a Dwarf to be too greedy. For it is claimed by the Wise, that when a Dwarf of great greed dies, a Draugr may rise from its grave barrow in jealous hatred of the Living.
Draugr appear mainly as they did in life, as a Dwarf dressed in the rich robes or armor of their burial finery. But the touch of the Shadowfell and their greedy souls corrupt them, and they rise at night with hands grown into talons, their teeth into fangs, and grave mold entwined in their matted beards. Their tainted flesh pales to white, or darkens to a deathly blue, or even a black so dark that they are like a piece of the night itself.
With fearsome countenance, the Draugr will haunt the countryside around his forsaken mound, seeking always to consume the blood of the Living. Corrupted by the Shadowfell’s insidious power, a Draugr is not locked into merely a ghastly dwarven form, but may also stalk about in a most terrifying guise of a bear or oxen, but with its skin flayed off, to chill the soul of any beast or folk which behold it.
And should the Living ever cross its path, jealousy and rage fill its dark soul. It swells up, growing in size and strength, until it is a dwarf-shaped hulk, taller than man. And the Draugr crushes its prey in its mighty grasp, talons rending flesh to drink the blood.
Of the Folklore of Draugr
It is told among the Wise of the Dwarves that only a dwarf of great evil and greed may rise up from its grave as a Draugr. But from my own studies, a Draugr may arise should a dwarf be buried poorly, with insufficient riches in his tomb, or an heirloom neglected to be buried alongside their body, for this casts a dishonor upon his Family. There also are tales told, of Draugr that do rise when their mounds are despoiled, and will pursue their grave-robbers to punish the offenders. And should the robbers escape their grasp, traveling too far from their mound, they will wreak havoc upon their Kin until their treasure has been returned or until they are slain and laid low.
There is told one tale of a Draugr who arose to haunt his Kin, when his favorite axe was claimed by a greedy cousin, and was not laid within his tomb. When the moon was at its palest light, the Draugr would come to his cousin’s Hall, and pound upon the roof and walls with his great fists. The door would be battered off its hinges, and in the Draugr would come, chasing his Kin out into the night. There it would remain until dawn, wreaking the place, tearing apart anything it could find within. Finally, when the axe was placed at his side within its tomb, it troubled its Kin no more.
It is said that the burial places of a Draugr may easily be found, for a fox-fire glow may be seen about the mound at dusk, when the horror stirs within his chamber. And whether buried beneath an earthen and rune-stoned mound, or within sealed tomb carved from living rock, a Draugr can seep forth after the sun has set, sliding through the earth and stone with ease. Often a mist or fog arises with the Draugr from their grave, hiding them from even the moonlight, for they jealously abhor the light they have lost in death.
One story is told of a shepherd, who unwisely drove his flock onto the low green hills near a Dwarf-Lord’s Hall, all unknowing that this was the burial mounds of his short and doughty neighbors. And when at dusk a fog arose, the shepherd foolishly chose to camp the night, and let his sheep graze upon the rich grasses there. And so he was found when the Draugr arose, his sheep stampeding away into the mist, for they could sense the evil stirring beneath them. A Dwarf patrol found the shepherd’s body the next morning, all his bones cracked and broken through his rent flesh. And when the shepherd’s twisted and horrid form arose the next night, as a mindless ravening thing, the Wise among the Dwarf-folk knew a Draugr was in their midst.
To lay a Draugr to rest is no easy feat, for while steel and magic may serve to subdue the thing, it will rise again at the next new moon, its flesh restored by the dark forces of the Shadowfell. The Draugr must be battled within its tomb, where it will surely rise up to defend itself against those who dare to intrude. It must be subdued first, with what weapons and magicks can be brought to bear, and then the Draugr must be decapitated. No ordinary blade will do, for to sever the greedy thing’s tie to the dark Realm of Death, some piece of the Draugr’s own burial horde must be used to do the deed. And then the Draugr’s foul corpse must be staked through its heart with a spike of cold iron, to completely break the hold of the Shadowfell upon its flesh. Only then may the corpse be burned to ashes, and those remains of the Draugr scattered to the winds, to ensure that it will never rise again to trouble the land.
So let adventurers and heroes beware, lest when despoiling the mounds and tombs of the Dwarf-folk, they find themselves assailed by a foe of greater greed and power. For while the treasure laid by in a Dwarven grave may be rich, the enmity of a Draugr is without measure!
A character knows the following information on a successful Religion check.
DC 25: A draugr can only be permanently slain in its mound or tomb. After a draugr has been subdued (brought to 0 hit points), it must be decapitated by one of its own weapons (found in the tomb). It must be staked through the torso with an iron spike, and then burnt, and its ashes scattered.
Draugr Lairs – A draugr can either come from a dwarven burial mound or a carved rock tomb. They will not stray more than a few miles from their grave.
A typical Dwarven burial mound is a deep pit lined with stone over which a stone roof is erected, usually supported by wooden or stone columns. It can consist of one to three chambers, and may include traps. The entire structure is then covered with earth and sod, and is surmounted by a runestone marker. They are completely sealed and require substantial excavation to enter. Draugr, however, have no problem passing in and out of their mound by using their Stone Meld ability.
Draugr will often start an encounter in flayed form, charging amongst his enemies and using flayed terror to hinder them. It will then call up the fog to further hinder and isolate his foes, and begin rending them. His grave breath can slow his enemies and keep them off him while he moves the fog to best defense. After taking about half his bloodied value, he will use vile clutches to separate a victim and bloody shredding to heal. He will attempt this again after he has been bloodied and is near death. The meld into stone power allows a draugr to optimize his movement on the battlefield.
Draugr Spawn (Zombies)
Any being slain by a draugr will arise the next night as a draugr spawn unless the body is destroyed before sunset. Draugr spawn appear as they did in life, but twisted from the mangled bones within them from the draugr’s attack. Their torn skin changes to the same color of the draugr that made them, and their broken teeth grow sharp. They will arise to accompany their maker on his nightly hunts.
Draugr Spawn Tactics
Draugr spawn will attempt to grab and gnaw the Living, feasting on warm flesh. They will batter opponents only when they cannot grab them.
References: Thanks to the Viking Answer Lady for her research on Norse ghosts and undead – while the Draugr is actually an undead Viking, their nature makes them a very fitting Dwarven undead.
Stat Blocks by DDI Adventure Tools – Neuroglyph Games is a registered D&D Insider Subscriber.