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A Goblin Kingdom: The Rise of Dhrom Dhum

by Francesco Defferrari from Threshold Magazine issue 1

Dhrom Dhum was born several years ago in a small village in the Dymrak forest that was embroiled in continuous fights with humans and elves. When he was still a young goblin, two accidental encounters changed his life forever. The first one was with a young female Callarii elf, the second with an old, persecuted, wandering goblin shaman of Hela. In the following years Dhrom Dhum became a shaman of the goddess himself and, with the help of his elven friend, tried to convince his tribe and the surrounding ones to change their ways, pressing for a diplomatic solution to stop the wars and the human encroachment into goblins land. His efforts were not rewarded, as his friend was killed by humans and goblins were framed for her murder. The more radical elements soon prevailed among elves, humans and goblins, and Dhrom Dhum was almost killed himself and had to escape the forest. Forced to hide in the Wufwolde hills, he met the Nightstalkers, a goblin tribe beset by enemies, that he led to victory after victory, making them a regional power and converting most of the goblins to the cult of Hela (even if he did not ban the traditional cult of Wogar).
Driven by a powerful vision from his goddess, the goal of Dhrom Dhum is nothing less than uniting all the non-human races of Karameikos against what he sees as the common threat: men.



Caption: View of the entrance to the underground goblin city in the Wufwolde hills


Caption: The entrance is lit by fires during the night.


Dhrom Dhum speaks

I am Dhrom Dhum, shaman of Hela. I speak to all the humanoids in Tra Gar and to all the humanoids in the world. I had a vision from my goddess. I saw many wolves scattered around a big forest. Hunters came to kill them. Many hunters with long bows. They came and killed the wolves, because every wolf was alone. The hunters killed the big wolves then, laughing, they killed the whelps. And I knew the wolves were us. Killed by our enemies, the humans, one by one, tribe by tribe, because we were scattered in the world like the wolves of my vision were in the forest. I speak to goblins and kobolds, to trolls, orcs and ogres, to gnolls and bugbears. Our enemies will kill us all. Our enemies are not the elves. Our enemies are not the giants, not the dwarves, nor gnomes or halflings. Our enemies are the humans. They are as numberless as lice, and they breed like rats, stealing our lands and killing us all. They enter our caves and kill warriors and females and whelps. They search for us in the forest, ten one day, a hundred the next day, a thousand the next day. They search for us in the tallest and loneliest mountain and come to kill us. They want to steal the land of all the other races, and they will kill us all. We have to forget hatred between tribes. We have to forget enmity with elves and dwarves. Humans have forced elves to hide in the forest, dwarves to hide in the mountains. Many moons ago we were numberless, and here in the world there were only us and the elves and the dwarves and halflings and giants. Then humans came, and easily defeated us all, because we were fighting each other. Now there are humans everywhere, and they spread in the world like a pestilence. Their cities are bigger every moon, and every moon they want more land.

They want all the world, and they will kill us all.


The Nightstalkers


Led by the visionary shaman Dhrom Dhum (Goblin 7/Shaman 6), the Nightstalkers are a typical Goblin tribe, worshippers of Wogar, but also of Hel; the chief himself is a shaman of this northern Immortal.

Dhrom Dhum controls five hordes of goblin wolfriders in the area between Highforge and Penhaligon, north of the Faz-Plak territory.

The shaman has a powerful vision of a united Goblinoid nation, and is trying to bring the northern tribes and those of the Dymrak to his side, but he is opposed by the Witches of Dymrak and, indirectly, by the green dragon Argos.

The Nightstalkers favour the use of hand axes, maces and short bows. They use grey-green cloaks and their shamans carry war drums in battle.



A plea for aid


To His Highness King Stephan Karameikos and the royal court

To the Lords of Penhaligon and Threshold and their courts

To the Lord commander of the Dukes road keep


A very urgent request of aid from the towns of Irenke and Knosht


Your Graces,

We have sent several petitions already to anyone who could help us. We are just two small towns in the wilderlands that have fared well for some years being on a trade road between Threshold and Penhaligon, and being somehow favorite places for young wizards and adventurers. We have had our share of troubles with goblinoids and such lot in the past, but never before has the situation been so bad as it is now.

The Nightstalkers goblins have always been a threat here in the Wufwolde hills, yet many young adventurers from our towns or from many other places in Karameikos and other lands have several times aided us against them, keeping their strength and raids in check. But in the last year things have changed for the worse. At least three different groups of adventurers never returned from the wilds, many caravans and merchants have been robbed by goblins and just a few days ago goblin emissaries came to both our towns with a white flag, but they had no intention of surrender, my lords. They demanded our surrender, meaning that our towns should from now on be under the rule of the goblin kingdom of Wufwolde, or else.

I well know we are free towns, we are not part of the dominions of Threshold or Penhaligon, yet we are part of the Kingdom of Karameikos, so we ask for help from any one of your high lords willing to aid us, because we fear the goblins are growing stronger and stronger, and we will not be able to resist them.


What this means

Dhrom Dhum is now ready to go to the next level and declare unilateral independence from the Kingdom of Karameikos, thus ratifying the de facto situation of the Wufwolde hills, that humans have never been able to colonize in all the history of Karameikos and even Traladara.

Yet obviously the King will not accept this and will probably send adventurers, at the least, or even a full army, to deal with the goblins. But Dhrom Dhum is smart and will avoid any wanton slaughter, trying instead to demonstrate to anyone sent against him that the Wufwolde hills have always been goblin territory and the humans have no right to claim them.

He is right, and he even collected several documents to support this - very old human and elven chronicles that describe the hills as inhabited by goblins from many centuries ago. He is also ready to address his petition to the Western Defense League and any foreign ambassador in Karameikos, with the goal of embarrassing the King or exposing his hypocrisy if he refuses without grounds the goblins claim for independence. If PCs are involved, they should resort to diplomacy rather than violence, as Dhrom Dhum has many warriors that know the hills very well, and could be rather difficult to defeat. Indeed the underground areas under the Wufwolde are so extensive that even the task of simply finding Dhrom Dhum would be really daunting.


Argos will


You will do as commanded, said the dark green robed figure.

The big goblin shifted on his feet, troubled.

But the runt has always been our enemy, he said, disgruntled. We exiled him.

Because my stupid minions failed to kill him, he also thought.

Its the will of the Green Lord and you will obey, said the figure in her quiet voice, with just a slight note of irritation.

Kosivikh shivered. In his life he had survived much and feared very little. Indeed, he feared only the Green Lord and the witches in all the world. And one of the witches was now standing quietly before him. He almost hadnt the strength to reply again, but then somehow managed to speak.

He worships another immortal. The shamans of all the hordes will be displeased.

The figure made a sound. It sounded almost like a laughter, but it terrified him.

Your immortals are not here. I am here. And the Green Lord is near, she said.

As a whelp, Kosivikh was taught it was foolish to defy immortals and shamans, unless you were powerful enough to do it. He bowed before the dark green figure.

We will ask Dhrom Dhum to join the goblin kingdom as his loyal subjects, he said. He almost choked on the words and felt sick. He didnt look up, but he knew the witch was smiling.


What this means.

In the past, the green dragon Argos has actively tried to kill Dhrom Dhum, as the only goblin leader unwilling to bow before him. But the idea of creating a goblin kingdom amuses him so much he has decided to join it. Not overtly, obviously, but he is sure the event could only be advantageous to him.

If the goblin succeeds, Argos could one day replace him with a more suitable ruler; i.e one he can better control. If the goblin fails, he could use the event to unleash an humanoid war upon all Karameikos. In either case, Argos will win.


Nights dark encounter


She was not cloaked in a black cloak, or cape, or anything like that. She had a simple and modest brown dress, with only small silver linings as decorations on the sleeves. Not in any way a concession to vanity, but a reminder of the Lady to herself. She wasnt dark of hair or eyes either, even if the Lady was always pictured thus in classic iconographies. She was blonde, and had green eyes. None of this mattered to the goblin, to whom she was just a human, a potentially useful one. Some humans said that Dhrom Dhum was a bloodthirsty savage like any goblin, and wanted only to slaughter every man and woman alive and eat their babies. That wasnt true. He was there because he was willing to ally with some humans to stop those who were encroaching on goblins land. He wouldnt eat babies either, he wouldnt even enslave them. He strongly believed cruelty was stupid, and it was far more useful to adopt enemy prisoners into the tribe rather than exterminate them. Humans said humanoids are bloodthirsty savages, but they committed the worst wars of extermination.

And so are you sure there will not be religious conflicts between us? the woman asked, interrupting his thoughts.

Why should there be? he asked. Our immortal Ladies have similar philosophies. Some say my Lady spawned yours, he added, smiling.

It could be, the woman shrugged, earning more points in Dhrom Dhums opinion. Yet we believe in undeath. Will your people accept it? Will you? the woman asked, looking at him with her intense green eyes.

Even Dhrom Dhum found them charming, and he imagined they would impress many a male human. I think your undeath-for-all is something of a long term plan, he said. First of all we should gain independence for my people and yours. Independence and recognition, forcing the king and all the other rulers to accept and respect our existence. Dont you think that would be enough for a start?

The woman smiled, too. I suppose it would be, she said. Yet you and I will have to face this religious debate sooner or later, dont you think?

I look forward to it, he replied.

The woman kept on smiling and nodded. Dhrom Dhum made a little bow before her. And so the alliance between the Nightstalkers and the Darkers was done.


What this means

The Darkers, a secret organization of followers of Nyx (see the article on Koskatep), has waited centuries to openly practice their religion. The new goblin kingdom could give them that chance. And Dhrom Dhum could use their magical expertise and, - if necessary - their ability in creating powerful undead.


Integrating this scenario with other Mystara modules


The Mystara modules and placement1 article by Andrew Theisen in the Vaults of Pandius provides useful information to integrate Dhrom Dhum and the Nightstalkers in Karameikos.

B8: Journey to the Rock. The placement of this module is not very consistent with Karameikos geography, but if the DM has already used it in the area north of Threshold, as shown in this map by Simone Neri: http://pandius.com/thrshld.html, the Nightstalkers goblins could have relations with some of the people mentioned here. In the module this area is inhabited by the wizard Lirdrium Arkayz and his champion Jenlar Temlin and many other people: gnomes, a tribe of dwarves, the elves of Sylvanhome, a camp of ogres, bugbears, sprites, many harpies, some human goat herders, a hidden city of chameleon men, rock men, rock baboons, and the Singing Skulls goblins. There is also a Crone of Chaos in the Hall of the Rock and the lost city of Tuma, moved to another plane. Many things can change if the Crone is defeated and the talisman is retrieved, or if Tuma returns. The city, as a beacon of law, would certainly oppose a shaman of Hel like Dhrom Dhum, but other inhabitants of the area could ally with him.

B9 Castle Caldwell and beyond: The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent is right in the centre of the area controlled by Dhrom Dhum. Elwyn should be a cleric of Chardastes that stole the sacred bell and turned to Leptar. She has orc allies and a black dragon. If she was defeated by adventurers the complex could be now empty and Dhrom Dhum would probably take it.

B10 Nights Dark Terror: If PCs have already defeated or killed some goblin chiefs of the Dymrak woods they could be weaker, thus falling more easily under Dhrom Dhums influence.

B11 and B12: If Ilyana Penhaligon is still alive and in control of Haradraiths keep she is unlikely to ally with Dhrom Dhum and will probably be a very dangerous enemy for him. If she is dead the goblins could have taken control of the keep and of several former minions of Ilyanas. The Dark Web orcs, followers of Nyx enslaved by Ilyana, could become willing allies of Dhrom Dhum. The Faceslashers gnolls would be less willing, but the goblins strength could force them to escape into the mountains.

GAZ1: One very old Red Dragon is mentioned in the northern Wufwolde Hills. Could he be an ally of Dhrom Dhum, or even the real power behind him, the rise of the goblin shaman just his plot to replace Argos as the dragon ruler of Karameikos? Could the gold dragon posing as a beggar in Threshold also be involved?

DDA4 The Dymrak Dread: If the PCs have killed Kosivikh he will not be the leader of the Dymrak goblin horde anymore, but as above that would just make things easier for Dhrom Dhum. According to the module there are also lizardmen in the forest. Lord Roderick the Forester could be the Karameikan official in charge of the unsettled lands, thus being a likely delegate to parley with the goblins.

The Sound of Madness (From Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure): Around Eltans Spring, there is a hag that leads some goblins. She could have become an ally of the Nightstalkers, or her former goblin band could if she has been killed. There are also stone giant clans east of Threshold. If the goblins respect their lands they could be persuaded to join Dhrom Dhums kingdom.

Hail the Heroes: There are goblins and ogres around the ruins of Zadreth. If Dhrom Dhums goblins have taken control of the place, the quest to retrieve the Shield of Halav could become much more demanding.


Goblin population and military strength


By the lowest estimate, the Nightstalkers should number around 2,000 between goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears and others, and have a number of possible warriors between 1,000 and 1,500. In this case they should control only an area of 16x24 miles or less in the forested hills between Threshold, Penhaligon, Highforge and Irenke2.

If the DM would like the Nightstalkers to be stronger, they could have expanded through the hills all the way up to the border with Darokin, effectively surrounding the human villages of Irenke and Knosht, controlling a total territory of approximately 24x40 miles. Thats the scenario supposed in this article, and therefore the Nightstalker population could have grown up to 7,000 humanoids in recent years, with a number of warriors between 3,500 and 5,000.

The Dymrak Dread goblins (and other humanoids) should number between 10,000 and 20,000, depending on the extent of the forest area the DM would like them to control, with 50 to 75% as warriors.

All these calculations assume a basic humanoid density of 6.5 per square mile as in the Demography of Mystara: Karameikos article by Simone Neri (see page XX). Read it for more accurate numbers about the estimated humanoid population in the nation.

If the DM plans a population explosion or if the goblins have gained access to more resources (for example they are using herding, horticulture or magic to have more food available) their numbers could be even higher, as the basic density could easily be doubled.

In any case, the goblins strength should make them a very serious threat for Karameikos, one that PCs should face with stealth and diplomacy rather than brute force.

1 http://pandius.com/modules.html

2 For more detail, see the map of Goblinoid tribes and the small-scale map of Karameikos by Agathokles at the Vaults of Pandius: http://www.pandius.com/karatrib.html and http://www.pandius.com/32karamp.html