Wyrms of the North: Klauth, "Old Snarl"

Dragon Magazine #243
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Sean K Reynolds

dragon_243The nasty brutality of this huge old red wyrm has become a watchword in the Sword Coast North, passing into common speech in such expressions as these: "Don't go near him early of mornings; he's apt to be a right Klauth until he's had a mug or two." Or, "Blood and bodies everywhere . . . it looked as though old Klauth himself had come calling!" Or the shorter variant (used to describe butchery): "Regular Klauth work!" The habitual facial expression of this much-scarred wyrm has won him the popular nickname of "Old Snarl."

Klauth is one of the largest and most fearsome red dragons ever to take wing in Faerûn. He spends his days brooding in grim suspicion or lashing out at other wyrms. Velsaert of Baldur's Gate (the sage now recognized as an authority on dragonkind up and down the Sword Coast), describes Klauth as "a grim, nasty, awe-strikingly huge red great wyrm who has slain many rivals in a career spent on the attack, aggressively mauling everyone within reach."

The sage speculates that Klauth is extremely paranoid and always fears that other dragons are rising to surpass him in power, while striking out at those he sees as rivals whenever he judges the time is right. Klauth has also been known to scatter armies, to land atop the orcs of a gathered horde and roll around (crushing thousands), and to swoop down without warning to topple wizards' towers with their owners inside.

Only his unpredictability and great might have kept Klauth from being the sort of menace that archmages band together to track down and destroy in what is known as a Great Hunt. (Such undertakings have been the fate of several titanic beasts in recent centuries, such as the Anglatha of Tulmon, a magically-altered captive deepspawn that disgorged only beholders.) Only threats that seem likely to reach out and menace Klauth -- principally other dragons -- are themselves endangered by the Old Snarl.

As his string of triumphs mounts, however, Klauth's reputation becomes ever darker, and he may soon become the subject of the first Great Hunt in over eighty years. At least one mage of note, Malchor Harpell, has called for Klauth's destruction after learning of the dragon's recent magic acquisitions. Klauth's response was to attack the Tower of Twilight, where the wyrm's massive bulk almost carried him through its defensive weblike fields of crisscrossing lightning bolts before their combined effects caused his muscles to spasm so uncontrollably that his heart faltered and he could no longer beat his wings to fly. It is reported that Klauth flung himself to one side, crashed to the ground in the meadow below the tower pond, rolled away into the trees, and clawed himself aloft again, fleeing before the wizard could send any spells after him. This sort of sudden attack and disappearance is typical of Klauth's fighting style. Although he prefers to slay any foe he fights, he is not above deferring the threat they pose by inflicting as much damage as he can at no cost to himself, then disappearing before his foe can respond.

Old Snarl isn't an unremitting destroyer of all he meets, however. He often obeys strange whims that lead him to acts of kindness or aid to creatures he doesn't think can harm him. One such recipient of this surprising charity was the elven sorceress Jhanandra, whom Klauth found weeping amid the ruins of an elven village she'd reached too late to defend against a brigand raid. In Jhanandra's arms was the only survivor of the attack, a dazed infant whose only kin dwelt in distant Evereska. The dragon flew both elves to Evereska cradled in his talons, "with a gentleness I'd hitherto known only from my own kind," Jhanandra reported. She described Klauth as having a huge bulk but graceful, supple movements, as if he were a hunting cat. His snout, head, and body were all covered in old, wicked-looking scars, where scales had been roughly torn away and had never grown back. Volo recorded the words of the sorceress but scoffed at her story. Elminster, however, sternly insists that the tale is true . . . and that the infant rescued that day is rising swiftly to greatness -- and might soon be known to Faerûn at large.

Klauth isn't known to have shown like kindnesses to other dragons. If he has ever mated, no one has taken note of it. Nor does he ever regard red she-wyrms with any visible romantic interest, though he did devour one once, in a roaring, cartwheeling midair struggle above the roofs of Mirabar. Spectators report that Klauth seems to have deliberately initiated the conflict to enhance his reputation across the North.

Klauth is said to possess the usual vanity of his kind, though adventurers have failed to play upon it to goad him into foolish acts; he seems too wise and controlled to allow pride to blind him to perils or lure him into traps. He is also said to allow himself no true friends or even, among dragons, acquaintances. His appearance in the sky sends most wyrms fleeing for cover as quickly as they can hurl themselves through the air. Thankfully for the general peace of the North, such appearances are few.

The key to Klauth's character could be his constant anticipation of potential dangers and the formation of carefully planned responses. Other wyrms might dream of past glories or future triumphs, but Old Snarl spends his time observing, judging potential rivals, and doing something about it. He's not above sneaking near a lair by nightfall and causing a rockslide to entomb a rival alive or literally stealing magic from another dragon like a stealthy thief in the night. Klauth is said to be accomplished in the arts of creeping around with incredible stealth and silence for a being so large.

He's also widely (and Elminster says, correctly) believed to hunt for and devour the eggs and hatchlings of all sorts of dragons -- except for red dragon eggs, which Klauth uses in a secret magical process to increase his size, health, and vigor. He seems an accomplished master in the art of tricking dragons out of their lairs (leaving offspring or eggs unguarded) so he can slip in and snatch away what he seeks.

On at least one memorable occasion, he failed in this task and was trapped in a cavern lair by its returning resident wyrm (the mist dragon Narnardinath, who dwelt in a Sword Coast shoreline cavern near the mouth of the Iceflow). Klauth brought down its roof to make his escape by deliberately ramming several natural stone pillars, shattering them with his bulk. The Bright Broadaxe, a band of adventurers from Neverwinter who'd crept into the cavern to explore, unaware that one dragon laired in the cave and another had stolen into it before them, witnessed the collapse that slew Narnardinath. It took them hours of clambering over the loose rubble that buried the mist dragon and his hoard to find the way the battered red dragon had taken to the freedom of open air.

Even Elminster is a trifle hazy over just how Klauth discovered how to use red dragon eggs to make himself more mighty, but he knows what spell the much-scarred red wyrm employs to do so: a Netherese spell named Thellar's argauneau, after the mage who devised it (an archsorcerer who delighted in "bettering" dragons with his experiments, over a long career that produced two-headed dragons and several more stable subspecies).

Klauth's Lair

Klauth was sorely wounded on the fourth day of Mirtul in the Year of the Turret, when he was ambushed by two white dragons and a blue dragon working together. The four wyrms engaged in a spectacular aerial battle that raged across the skies of the Sword Coast North from the lceflow to the Fell Pass. Though Klauth did slay all three of his attackers and wasted no time in seizing the hoard of the vanquished blue dragon Irdrithkryn, he then went into hiding. Elminster explains that according to an awed young apprentice mage who was practicing his scrying spells near Neverwinter, Old Snarl came out of that battle with one wing almost torn off and a great gaping hole in his side: almost half of his body had been frozen solid, shattered, and then struck away.

No one saw just where the crippled wyrm flew or the landing that almost slew him. Klauth used all of his hoarded and freshly seized magic to keep himself alive and to build a lair in which to hide away and heal. He chose a narrow, winding chasm in the mountains east of Raven Rock, which is an unnamed, isolated valley that he filled with sheep, goats, and rothé seized from all over the North. There he yet abides among his ready supply of food, building his strength and practicing his spells, and awaiting the day when he'll be powerful enough to sally forth as the unquestioned master of northern dragonkind.

That day might never come; Klauth has become a wyrm who sees rising rivals in every other dragon who has broken out of its egg -- and his paranoia is not soothed by the many monsters and adventurers who enter his valley to help themselves to the ready food.

From these intruders, however, Klauth has gained many magic items, among them several wands. By working on magic of his own and employing a key spell stolen from the hoard of desert dragon Iymrith, he has mounted the wands in his wings and established mental control over them so that he can trigger them as he flies. In this way he has surprised and slain a flying mage and two intruding dragons who were expecting to deal with only a red dragon's breath weapon and perhaps a spell or two. The bodies of the dragons are believed to lie where they crashed: in the depths of the tiny but very deep Orothryn's Well, which is a pond at the heart of Klauth's little valley.

Word of "Klauthen Vale" is now spreading across the North from the taverns of Mirabar, and adventurers may soon become a real headache for Klauth. His hoard is of legendary size, and folk say (accurately) that despite his advancing age, Old Snarl still leaves the valley from time to time to smite potential rivals and to search for the hoards of the two white dragons he slew in the great battle (Aerihykloarara and Ruuthundrarar, both of whom seem to have used several resting-caverns but who kept their treasure hidden elsewhere).

Klauthen Vale isn't known to have any traps or guardians beyond its famous owner (who is known to lie sometimes on a ledge high on one of its walls, from whence he can strike at intruders on the valley floor). The vale walls are broken by several natural caves, at least two of which are large enough for Klauth to shelter in. He keeps his hoard in a small, simple network of tunnels beneath one cavern. The only entrance to this subterranean complex is by lifting a huge slab of stone -- a task only creatures as large and as strong as dragons can easily manage.

Klauth's Domain

Klauth doesn't defend or patrol a territory the way many dragons do; he regards himself as free to roam wherever he desires on his rare forays out of his vale. This isn't to say he doesn't recognize that sightseeing over Waterdeep or Iymrith's desert city would be both dangerous and imprudent. He invades the domains of other dragons only for specific reasons and performs the tasks he sets for himself as quickly and as efficiently as possible. He acts not out of fear but out of the prudence that has become a foundation of his character.

The Deeds of Klauth

Klauth spends most of his waking time scrying the world around him with his spells. He probably knows more about the deeds and whereabouts of surface-world creatures in the Sword Coast North than any other being alive today. Moreover, Old Snarl thinks more about what he sees than most who spy by means of magic; he's seldom looking for just one thing or person, and he has the wits (and experience in their use) to assess problems and reason them through without hesitation. Seeing carts being loaded with swords in one spot sends him looking for activity among armorers in all the places to which those carts could logically be headed. A mustering of forces in a merchant company compound or noble villa brings his full attention to bear upon the purpose of that activity and the potential results.

Klauth's expertise on the activities and behavior of others in the North is as formidable a weapon as the jets of fire and beams of magic that spurt forth from his wings as he swoops down on foes . . . almost. It also gives him something quite valuable to bargain with when dealing with foes he'd rather not challenge; Old Snarl is thought to have come to a "live and let live" agreement with Alustriel of the Seven in this manner.

Klauth: Male great wyrm red dragon; CR 25; Colossal dragon (fire); HD 40d12+400; hp 722; Init +4; Spd 40 ft., fly 200 ft. (clumsy); AC 46, touch 7, flat-footed 46; Atk +49 melee (4d8+17, bite) and +45 melee (4d6+8, 2 claws) and +44 melee (2d8+8, 2 wings) and +44 melee (4d6+25, tail slap); Face/Reach 40 ft. x 80 ft./15 ft.; SA breath weapon (70 ft. cone of fire, save DC 40), crush, frightful presence, spell-like abilities, spells, tail sweep; SQ blindsight, darkvision 1,200 ft., DR 20/+3, dragon traits, fire subtype, immunities , low-light vision, SR 32; AL CE; SV Fort +32, Ref +22, Will +30; Str 45, Dex 10, Con 31, Int 26, Wis 27, Cha 26.

Skills and Feats: Appraise +28, Bluff +42, Climb +27, Concentration +53, Diplomacy +56, Gather Information +18, Hide -6, Intimidate +22, Jump +57, Knowledge (arcana) +51, Knowledge (Sword Coast North geography) +51, Knowledge (Sword Coast North history) +51, Listen +53, Move Silently +10, Search +51, Sense Motive +18, Spellcraft +48, Spot +53, Survival +18; Alertness, Cleave, Delay Spell, Enlarge Spell, Flyby Attack, Hover, Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Snatch, Weapon Focus (claw), Wingover.

Breath Weapon (Su): Klauth can breathe a 70-foot cone of fire that deals 24d10 points of damage (Reflex DC 40 half). Once he has used his breath weapon, he must wait 1d4 rounds before doing so again.

Crush: When flying or jumping, Klauth can land on opponents as a standard action, using his whole body to crush them. His crush attacks are effective only against Large or smaller opponents, though he can attempt normal overrun or grapple attacks (grapple bonus +73) against larger opponents. A crush attack affects as many opponents of the appropriate size as can fit under his body. Each potentially affected creature must succeed at a Reflex save (DC 40) or be pinned, automatically taking 4d8+25 points of bludgeoning damage on that round and each round thereafter that the character remains pinned.

Frightful Presence (Su): This ability takes effect automatically when Klauth attacks, charges, or flies overhead. It affects only opponents with 39 or fewer Hit Dice or levels within a radius of 360 feet. Each affected creature must make a successful Will save (DC 38) to resist the effect. On a failure, a creature with 5 or more Hit Dice or levels becomes shaken for 4d6 rounds, and a creature with 4 or fewer Hit Dice or levels becomes panicked for 4d6 rounds. Success indicates that the target is immune to Klauth's frightful presence for one day.

Spell-Like Abilities: 12/day -- locate object; 3/day -- suggestion; 1/day -- discern location, find the path. Caster level 19th; save DC 18 + spell level.

Spells: Klauth can cast spells as a 19th-level sorcerer.

Tail Sweep: Klauth can sweep with his tail as a standard action. The sweep affects Medium-size or smaller creatures within a half-circle with a diameter of 40 feet, centered on his rear. The sweep automatically deals 2d8+25 points of bludgeoning damage (Reflex DC 40 half).

Blindsight (Ex): Klauth can ascertain creatures by nonvisual means (mostly hearing and scent, but also by noticing vibration and other environmental clues) to a range of 360 feet. Invisibility and darkness are irrelevant, though he still can't discern ethereal beings. He usually does not need to make Spot or Listen checks to notice creatures within range of his blindsight ability.

Fire Subtype: Klauth is immune to fire damage, and he takes double damage from cold unless a saving throw for half damage is allowed, in which case it takes half damage on a success and double damage on a failure.

Immunities: Klauth is immune to fire, paralysis, and sleep.

Low-Light Vision: Klauth can see four times as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar low-light conditions.

Sorcerer Spells Known (6/8/8/8/8/7/7/7/7/4; save DC 18 + spell level): 0 -- dancing lights, detect magic, disrupt undead, ghost sound, mage hand, mending, open/close, ray of frost, read magic; 1st -- expeditious retreat, identify, mage armor, shield, true strike; 2nd -- bull's strength, darkness, detect thoughts, Melf's acid arrow, web; 3rd -- clairaudience/clairvoyance, haste, lightning bolt, vampiric touch; 4th -- improved invisibility, scrying, solid fog, stoneskin; 5th -- Bigby's interposing hand, Mordenkainen's faithful hound, nightmare, wall of stone; 6th -- chain lightning, disintegrate, guards and wards; 7th -- banishment, ethereal jaunt, prismatic spray; 8th -- maze, power word blind, protection from spells; 9th -- wail of the banshee, wish.

Klauth has used wish spells to remove spells he knows from his repertoire to make room for different ones, so his spells known tends to change seasonally.

Possessions: Wand of magic missile (9th level, 20 charges), wand of lightning bolt (8th level, 25 charges), wand of ice storm (7th level, 11 charges), wand of fireballs (8th level, 31 charges), wand of polymorph other (7th level, 16 charges), wand of hold person (10th level, 23 charges), wand of dispel magic (10th level, 13 charges), ring of minor cold resistance, ring of wizardry II, ring of protection +5. Klauth has many more magic items in his lair. If he is prepared for battle and has knowledge of his foes, he arms himself appropriately.

Klauth's Fate

Old Snarl is less likely to die by misadventure than most dragons. Enfeeblement (old age), disease, or a cabal of foes acting together are the dooms most likely to claim him. The last-mentioned cause would probably involve a titanic battle; the others might strike silently or might goad Klauth into one last grand, suicidal flight of destruction across the North.

In any case, once word spreads of the passing of Old Snarl, Klauthen Vale is likely to see a "gold rush" of adventurers hungry for wealth and mages hungry for magic like no other in the modern North. If even one of these seekers recovers an intact triptych spell, well . . . as Elminster has observed, "'Twill be a mite too late, then, for the traditional tactic of 'standing back and looking the other way.'"

Klauth's Magic

Old Snarl is thought to have a generous number of magic items and known spells. Although he possesses more wands than his wings usually sport, changing them is a long and tiresome matter of linking and controlling spells that must be broken and then cast anew. From many accounts (given by adventurers, mages, and observers Volo judged not to be fabricating or exaggerating too badly), a tentative "roster" of the wing-wands employed by Klauth can be assembled. It's important to remember that the wing-wand list given here is quite likely to contain one or more errors.

On Klauth's left wing:

1. Outermost: wand of ice storm
2. Mid-mount: wand of fireballs
3. Innermost: wand of polymorph other

On Klauth's right wing:

4. Outermost: wand of hold person
5. Mid-mount: wand of lightning bolt
6. Innermost: wand of dispel magic

The linkages Klauth has established (by still-secret spells developed by the old wyrm) enable him to employ the effects of Alaunghaer's triptych spells at will (in other words, activating multiple items without actually casting the triptych spell) activate wands #1, #2, and #4 in unison, or trigger wands #3, #5, and #6 together.

These triptych spells come from an original that Klauth stole from the lair of desert-dwelling dragon Iymrith (a magic possibly Netherese in origin, and presumably named for its creator), which follows hereafter.

About the Authors

Ed Greenwood likes to go up to his cottage in the northern woods and relax with a good book atop a lofty rock that looks very much like the battlements of ruined Castle Grimstead in Shadowdale. He was quite startled one afternoon when Laeral, the Lady Mage of Waterdeep, stepped out of a nearby stone, winked at him, turned into a falcon, and flew away. Her appearance did help to explain the two piles of paperbacks he'd found when opening up the cottage one spring, labeled in flowing handwriting: "Utter Trash" and "Garbage, but I Liked Them." He reports that Elminster always picks "Utter Trash" books and ignores the other pile.

Sean K Reynolds is a game designer, computer artist, and philanthropist currently working for Black Isle Studios in Irvine, California. He prefers a shower to a bath. You can find more about him at his website, www.seankreynolds.com

Realm's Personalities