The Mountain Stirs

Levels 11-16

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In the heart of a volcano, a mighty red dragon makes preparations for a terrible plan… unless something changes, and quickly.


A massive red dragon (name suggestion: Grodraltyr, the Duke of Magma) has stirred up the heart of a volcano, hoping to cause a massive eruption that will drown towns in lava and spew enough ash into the air to stop the growth of crops for hundreds of miles. He has entered into a dispute with the government faction of the region (any local kingdom, empire, etc) as both parties wish to use the volcano’s heat to smelt precious metals.

Currently, the dragon is swimming down into the magma and wreaking magical havoc under the surface, disturbing the volcano and driving it to eruption.


For whichever reason they arrive, the dragon erupts from the lava in a massive fury. The ledge around the perimeter of the crater is 100 feet above the magma, and the ceilings to the top of the crater are 200 feet, gently sloping slightly inward.

The walkways above the lava are extremely unstable—the first time each turn any creature walks on it, it must make a DC 16 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check or that quadrant of the walkway (from the edge of the crater to the center junction) immediately falls, plunging whoever was on it downwards. The sections of walkway are immune to fire, psychic, and poison damage.



There are 2 main parties interested in the volcano:

  • The Dragon wants to cause it to erupt, killing everyone around it and letting him keep it for himself.
  • The Kingdom wants to drive out or kill the dragon, then harness the volcano for use in smelting mythical metal alloys.

What do your player characters want? What are their best and worst qualities? What goals are they pursuing? Read through a few of the examples below, then choose the encounter that best suits your situation.

  • If you have player characters who are pious or helpful, or who like to defend the weak, run Encounter B. If, on the other hand, they are greedy or uncaring, run Encounter A.
  • If you have player characters who want to gain political or social favor with a local faction, run Encounter C. If you have player characters who want to keep an allied government intact, run Encounter B.
  • If you have player characters who need information from or about a criminal element, run Encounter C.
  • If the player characters are working to foil some kind of villainous plan, any encounter would be appropriate.

If the player characters are looking for a powerful servant, run Encounter A.

Encounter A

In this encounter, the dragon has a magic item in his hoard the party needs… and it will likely be destroyed when the volcano erupts.

Setting up this Encounter

This encounter involves stealing a special item from the dragon’s hoard. If you have player characters who are greedy or uncaring, then this magic item is a powerful scepter, called the Flamecaller Scepter. It has a single purpose: causing a volcano to erupt exactly one time before it loses its magic. Callous characters can use this on their enemies or sell it to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, the dragon is using it at the moment.If you have player characters who are looking for a powerful servant, then the item is the last egg of the dragon’s clutch, and it’s in the process of hatching. The newborn dragon could be used as a bargaining chip for its parent, or could be raised by the characters.


The encounter could go a few ways, but the primary ones involve sneaking or fighting. One could easily lead to the other.

Sneaking means the characters need to make Dexterity (Stealth) checks contested by the dragon’s passive Perception (which is 23—a difficult task). Keep in mind the dragon’s Blindsight feature. This ability lets it see anything within 60 feet as though it was looking in broad daylight, meaning the group needs to either get creative or keep far away.Fighting means the dragon breathes a considerable amount of fire and tries to blow characters over the ledge using its wing attack legendary action. Risky business…

Resolving this Encounter

When this encounter finishes, your players who are greedy or uncaring might have an extremely dangerous tool. Find a nearby mountain and turn it into a volcano! The only problem is getting away intact.If your players wanted to look for a powerful servant, then they might be able to manipulate the dragon to do their bidding by holding his child hostage. It’s never a great idea to keep a dragon that unhappy for long though—the old serpent will strike the minute he has the chance.

Encounter B

In this encounter, the dragon’s plan threatens the party’s home, and to stop it, they’ll need to stop the eruption of the volcano itself.

Setting up this Encounter

This encounter involves slaying the dragon to halt the volcano’s eruption. If the characters are pious or helpful, or like to defend the weak, the magic to awaken the volcano requires human sacrifices, which the dragon has already begun using. There are five peasants still alive in the heat of the volcano, but they won’t be alive for much longer as the dragon spills their blood far over the magma. If the players can take the peasants away, the dragon can’t complete the ritual…for now.If a character wants to keep an allied government intact, then the dragon’s plan will lead to the ruin of that government’s capital city. The volcano’s eruption is partially underway, and if the dragon is allowed to continue agitating the mountain, it will bury the city in ash and flame.


The dragon is the agitator of the volcano, so killing him is the best solution to halt its eruption. Alternatively, stilling its fiery breath may be the best way to halt the beast. Tricking the dragon into eating something that can tear up its fire-producing gland, or alternatively, climbing atop it with contested Strength (Athletics) checks and dealing at least 50 points of damage to its neck, can prevent it from using its fire breath.

Resolving this Encounter

Player characters who wanted to defend the weak should have had a chance to do so, possibly by protecting the peasants that were being used as sacrifices. They may be rewarded by the meager riches of peasants or by looting a considerable amount of gold from the dragon’s hoard.Player character who wanted to keep an allied government intact, they hopefully managed to prevent the dragon from succeeding in his plan. A grateful nation can provide a considerable reward—gold, magic items, political power—but if the players were interested in seeing it preserved, they may already have something in mind.

Encounter C

In this encounter, the party has been sent to negotiate with the dragon, but does a mutually beneficial agreement even exist?

Setting up this Encounter

This encounter involves (attempting) negotiation with the dragon. It likely works best if your characters are on the lower end of the suggested level range, or even below it. If your player characters are trying to gain political or social favor with a local faction, this could be an opportunity to ingratiate themselves to whatever kingdom the dragon threatens. If this is the case, consider implementing some rivalry between the dragon and the kingdom—perhaps they’ve had run-ins before.If the PCs need information from a criminal element, the dragon is associated with this faction somehow. Befriending him may be the best possible path to gaining this information, though it may be difficult to achieve such an end…


So long as the characters don’t try anything extremely aggressive or underhanded, the Dragon will hear what they have to say, though he plans to eat them as quickly as possible. Depending on your group, consider some of the following methods the characters may take to win the dragon over:

  • Flattery: Dragons have infamously massive egos. With a high Charisma (Persuasion) check, the party may be able to win over the beast.
  • Offerings: This dragon wants to keep the volcano to himself, but if the party can somehow offer even greater riches, they may be able to conduct trade.
  • Threats: Unless the party is extremely powerful or has an army at their back, this tactic will likely end in barbecued adventurers. 

For any rolls necessary, DCs should be around 20 or 25 for especially far-fetched appeals. If you have a lower-skill optimized party (no characters with the Expertise feature, Skill Empowerment, etc.) consider lowering the DC by increments of 1 or even 2 for each successful check beforehand, as the dragon becomes more lenient.In order to keep the party on its toes and decrease the likelihood of an attack and nothing else, consider having this dragon be an ancient red dragon. Parties will be looking to negotiate more and fight less with such a threat, but be warned: if it does come to blows, the group has almost no chance of success, which can be frustrating for the players.

Resolving this Encounter

For player characters trying to gain political or social favor with a local faction, coming to an amicable agreement with the dragon can put them in high regards with the kingdom indeed. Access to whatever mythical metals they plan to cook up in the heart of the mountain would be an appropriate reward—consider mithril or adamantine armor.Parties who need information from a criminal element, so long as the group can use a successful negotiation tactic, the dragon is happy to give them information they want. If the bargain struck is particularly lucrative, they may even be able to barter for some gold or gems from the dragon’s hoard.