Diary of a D&D Adventure

Yesterday a friend of mine stumbled across some old diaries he had written, and found an entry of a D&D adventure I put him through in 1991. It was the last year he and I played D&D together. We had just graduated from college; I would soon be joining the Peace Corps and he’d be off to grad school. Our lives had revolved around D&D since 1980, sometimes with other friends, but often just together, with one of us DM’ing and the other role-playing many characters. It was challenging and fun role-playing between 7-9 characters.

This entry was a delight to read; it brought back memories that probably would have stayed locked away without the trigger of these details. The adventure was Mount Gundabad in Middle-Earth. I vaguely remember our game of this orc-capital hell but forgot most of what happened. One of my friend’s characters died permanently — the cleric’s resurrection attempt failed — a ranger he’d grown very fond of.

Here’s the diary entry. Without the cleric and his resurrection rod, this game would have been over in a snap. Mount Gundabad is a nasty place.

Monday, June 17, 1991

After work today, I went to Loren’s house and played some Dungeons & Dragons. My characters were summoned to Earthsea by a group of magicians from Roke Isle who needed our help in retrieving a powerful evil artifact from the Hogans (Orc-like humanoids) of Mount Gundabad in Middle-Earth. We first tried to enter via the main entrance (using a mass invisibility spell) but we were soon detected by a monstrous dragon (350 feet long) which nearly killed us all (Aragorn lost his right leg), so we fled. Nenaunir then used his fly spell to discover an alternate entrance far up the mountain, and carried the rest of us up there one by one. We soon encountered a very large Hogan, whom we killed with only moderate difficulty, and recovered lots of treasure and magic items from his quarters. We then proceeded into an empty throne room, where Aragorn fell into a chute trap and plummeted thousands of feet down the mountainside to his death. Nenaunir flew down after him and recovered his body, and Nostrakan successfully resurrected him. Further on, we encountered a powerful Hogan magician who managed to slay Dranelian and Nenaunir and polymorph Aragorn into a loathsome monster. However, the remaining survivors managed to vanquish the bastard, and Nostrakan used his Rod of Resurrection to successfully reanimate Dranelian and Nenaunir, and Nenaunir then cast a spell to restore Aragorn to his original body. After this encounter, we traveled deeper into the depths of the mountain, and soon came to a room which was full of gold but apparently unguarded (obviously there was a trap around somewhere). We proceeded to cautiously enter the room, making sure not to touch the gold. Immediately, Aragorn and Dranelian fell victim to another trap: the floor slid back, dropping them into a pit filled with thousands of rats. By the time Nenaunir managed to get down there, ward off most of the rats with a Wall of Ice spell, and bring them out of the pit, both of them were already dead. Nostrakan managed to successfully resurrect Dranelian, but Aragorn was dead forever.

I wish I’d kept a diary like this — for that matter, that both of us had kept diaries throughout the ’80s. I have forgotten as many campaigns as I can remember. To gamers who are reading this post, I encourage you to keep diaries, not necessarily of every painstaking detail or what happened at every encounter area, but the highlights.

Anyway, I pulled Mount Gundabad off my shelf and reconstructed my friend’s movements through the mountain based on the diary entry. His mission was to retrieve the horrible artifact, the Ulûkai of Morgoth (see here for details), which is located on the Fourth Rise of the Great Spire:

I forget how he got to the top of the Great Spire, or if he ever even did. Based on his descriptions in the diary entry, he entered the mountain on the Second Rise of the Cloven Spire when he failed at the Drake Gate, then went down to the First Rise (where his ranger was killed for good), and that’s the end of the entry. Maybe we finished the campaign at a later date.

His seven characters were high level (15th-18th) and they were as follows. His original party in the ’80s was nine: the paladin and dwarf fighter/thief had been killed years ago.

1. Nenaunir (human mage)
2. Dranelian (human fighter)
3. Aragorn (human ranger)
4. Nostrakan (half-elf cleric)
5. Dalin (wood-elf druid)
6. Elvaire Eldamar (female half-elf cavalier)
7. Conan II (human barbarian)

Ivanhoe (human paladin) – died one or two years before
Drasmir (dwarf fighter/thief) – died many years before

Here’s the path his characters took through the mountain. I’ve replicated the diary entry and added the area keys.

Monday, June 17, 1991

After work today, I went to Loren’s house and played some Dungeons & Dragons. My characters were summoned to Earthsea by a group of magicians from Roke Isle who needed our help in retrieving a powerful evil artifact from the Hogans (Orc-like humanoids) of Mount Gundabad in Middle-Earth. We first tried to enter via the main entrance [The Drake Gate] (using a mass invisibility spell) but we were soon detected by a monstrous dragon (350 feet long) which nearly killed us all (Aragorn lost his right leg), so we fled. Nenaunir then used his fly spell to discover an alternate entrance far up the mountain [at the top of the Cloven Spire, 29], and carried the rest of us up there one by one. We soon encountered a very large Hogan [The Warlord Hurog, 28 B], whom we killed with only moderate difficulty, and recovered lots of treasure and magic items from his quarters [28 C]. We then proceeded into an empty throne room [27], where Aragorn fell into a chute trap and plummeted thousands of feet down the mountainside to his death. Nenaunir flew down after him and recovered his body, and Nostrakan successfully resurrected him. Further on, we encountered a powerful Hogan magician [The Warlock Akargun, 25 A] who managed to slay Dranelian and Nenaunir and polymorph Aragorn into a loathsome monster. However, the remaining survivors managed to vanquish the bastard, and Nostrakan used his Rod of Resurrection to successfully reanimate Dranelian and Nenaunir, and Nenaunir then cast a spell to restore Aragorn to his original body. After this encounter, we traveled deeper into the depths of the mountain [from 18 down to 13], and soon came to a room which was full of gold but apparently unguarded [4] (obviously there was a trap around somewhere). We proceeded to cautiously enter the room, making sure not to touch the gold. Immediately, Aragorn and Dranelian fell victim to another trap: the floor slid back, dropping them into a pit filled with thousands of rats. By the time Nenaunir managed to get down there, ward off most of the rats with a Wall of Ice spell, and bring them out of the pit, both of them were already dead. Nostrakan managed to successfully resurrect Dranelian, but Aragorn was dead forever.

These are the two rises of the Cloven Spire.


After the tragedy in Room 4, we appear to have stopped the game. Eventually my friend would have left the Cloven Spire (the tunnel from area 1) and worked his way to the Great Spire. But neither he nor I recall finishing the game.

Though apparently we did, because a month later he recorded a non-detailed description of his D&D characters officially “retiring” after eleven years. This was our last game, but he didn’t get into any details:

Monday, July 15, 1991

Last weekend Loren came over. We played Dungeons & Dragons (my characters’ last adventure, and it was successful; now they will retire and live happily ever after), watched Warlock on the VCR, played Shogun on the IBM, and went to see Terminator 2: Judgement Day (awesome!).

Was this last adventure “Mount Gundabad, Part 2?” Maybe so, but we honestly don’t remember.

In any case, this was fun to relive. Six out of nine characters making it to high levels — and then a well-earned retirement — over an eleven-year period. Keep a diary if you play D&D, especially if you’re young! I can’t stress how much I wish I had done this myself from an early point. Going back to old adventures is powerful nostalgia.

3 thoughts on “Diary of a D&D Adventure

    • Mount Gundabad is definitely a killing ground, and for high-level characters only, but no, most of the MERP modules weren’t this deadly. Southern Mirkwood (Dol Guldur) and Mount Gundabad were the notorious killers. Angmar and Gorgoroth (Mordor) were nasty too, but a notch or two down. Modules like Riders of Rohan, Sea Lords of Gondor, Rangers of the North, etc. were considerably moderate by comparison. Rivendell was practically a vacation module. That’s one thing I liked about the MERP modules, they were varied, and designed according to what Tolkien’s settings demanded, rather than what players might “want” from a module.

      • I’ve read your whole series of I.C.E.’s retrospectives and I find what they did to flesh out the setting beyond what Tolkien showed and told us fascinating. Definitely makes me nostalgic for that old feeling of the classics. It’s funny playing in my current Pathfinder campaign talking with people who missed D&D, AD&D, and started with 4th and 5th edition it almost feels like a sense of wonder and exploration are gone

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s