The Halls of Beoll-Dur is an adventure printed in issue #41 of Dragon Magazine, September of 1980. Four authors are given credit; Dave Luther, Jon Naatz, Dave Niessen, and Mark Schultz. It is designed as a mid-to-high level adventure for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons where, “it is essential to the success of an expedition that most, if not all, party members be 8th level or higher.”
Adventures are some of my favorite gaming features and I played or ran quite a few of the ones that saw print in Dragon. So it came as a surprise to learn about The Halls of Beoll-Dur, an adventure I had not known about until recently. Issue #41 was before I’d started subscribing to the magazine, but I’d made a point to get my hands on old issues, especially if I heard they had adventures in them. Fortunately I have a copy of the Dragon CD archive collection. Thus after over 30 years I have had the chance to delve into the pages of this adventure.
“You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-Dum, shadow and flame.”
-Saruman the White
There are a lot of things I like about Beoll-Dur, both as an adventure and from a design standpoint. The influence of Tolkien is heavy, from names like the dwarf cleric Duinor and the stronghold’s name of Beoll-Dur, to the setup for the adventure itself.
Beoll-Dur is a large dwarven stronghold dug deep into the heart of a dormant volcano. It was founded as a training site for dwarven clerics, where they could learn and pray in isolation form the outside world. All went well for the temple, until the volcano woke up.
Fissures opened, ripping a crevice through parts of the complex and opening a passage to the lair of Searazul, king of the Salamanders. The fiery warriors stormed up into Beoll-Dur and though the dwarves fought bravely, they were overwhelmed. A few survivors holed up in a hidden chamber, eventually tunneling their way to freedom, while the high priest Duinor and his chosen clerics made a last stand. Duinor’s spirit lives on in the complex, holding out within a divine sanctuary in the hopes that one day the halls will be delivered from Searazul’s grasp.
It’s a great setup for an adventure, with equal parts Moria and Erebor at its foundations.
“Oh I do love maps. I have quite a collection.”
One of the first things I do when reading an adventure is look at the map. Like mister Baggins I do love maps, and if the map appeals to me it’s likely the adventure will too. The map of Beoll-Dur does not disappoint.
The design is aesthetically pleasing, hand drawn by someone with skill but just rough enough that it feels less like a professional module and more like a very well done home adventure. Instead of the usual blue or black fill for solid space, Beoll-Dur’s map uses a hash pattern very similar to the wonderful maps being produced today by Dyson Logos. There are some nice artistic flourishes and I’m fond of the script used for the text, though it doesn’t work as well for the numbers in the room keys.
The layout of the complex is nice, not too spread out and not too cramped and the structure makes sense for a location that was once inhabited. You can tell a lot about the dungeon just from the map and a lot of thought went into the layout here.
“If there is a key there must be a door!”
The upper two levels of Beoll-Dur are a nice mix of realistic and weird encounters. There are temples, lecture halls, dining chambers, recreation, and bedchambers fitting to a population. Then there are stranger things; imprisoned monsters waiting to attack, strange places where elemental magic has crept in, hidden magic chambers, crypts and tombs for the honored dead, and a massive boiling pool that erupts into an enormous geyser. In the center, running between the levels, is a great crystal column where the spirit of Duinor resides, forming an area of sanctuary for those who would aid his beloved stronghold.
But only if they prove themselves worthy of his aid.
The deepest layer holds the chambers of King Searazul and his salamanders, where his elite troops train and his council prepares gateways to other planes of existence. It’s easy for a dungeon master to see Searazul’s halls as the beachhead from which he plans to carve out a domain of fire on the prime material plane.
In fine old school form, there is a lot of exploring to do. Many rooms are empty of monsters. Some hold puzzles, some are deadly traps, some give clues to the history of the site.
And there are secrets. Many secrets. The party that doesn’t search for secret doors will miss a great deal within Beoll-Dur, something which I have an appreciation for. There is a great deal of treasure within the halls and most of it is hidden. Players will need to work to find it, but for those who do a fortune will be theirs.
If they survive.
“The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the shadows!”
I like that they used salamanders as the primary adversaries. They’re not monsters I see used very often. They give an infernal feel to the adventure without resorting to more common demons and devils players are used to fighting. Other fire related menaces arise as the party delves deeper into the halls, including the atmosphere itself. Those without fire protection will suffer from the increasing heat, though Duinor will offer some protection to those who pass his test.
The design of the module is interesting, with a few features that are atypical for traditional D&D adventure design. The adventure goes straight into an “Instructions to the Dungeon Master” section instead of an introduction. The history of the site is given in straightforward text, without the flowery language usually used for backstory. Though it is no less evocative for the lack of purple prose.
A very interesting design choice is that individual rooms are not always keyed. Instead a central room in a section is numbered and the description covers the main room and the surrounding chambers. For example, a single entry covers the dining hall, the kitchen, and the officers’ mess. In another location three hidden treasure rooms share a single numbered entry.
The descriptions themselves are concise with enough information to let the dungeon master build upon. The effect has more in common with the OSR’s one page dungeon design or the descriptions in Stonehell Dungeon than with anything TSR is known for. I’m sure that this style was used because of the space limitations in Dragon Magazine and it allows the authors to cram a lot of material in a short amount of space. The adventure is 16 pages including the maps.
The Halls of Beoll-Dur is an excellent example of old school adventures. It’s fun and interesting to read and will provide a good challenge to any adventuring party. I’m surprised at how long I remained unaware of this adventure. It should receive more attention within the OSR circle and is worth your time to track down.
Have you run or played The Halls of Beoll-Dur? I’d love to hear stories about how the adventure went.