Friday Favourite: Traps & Hazards: The Sword in the Stone

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 2, 2013

sword-in-a-stoneOn Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From May 19, 2010, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Traps & Hazards: The Sword in the Stone.

What do you do when you discover an ancient red dragon living in your neighbourhood? You get adventurers to kill it, of course. But what happens if the adventurers don’t kill the dragon? It will be angry that you tried to kill it and it will likely destroy your village. If only there was a way to keep sending adventurers against the dragon while avoiding the dragon’s wrath after each failed attempt. The inhabitants of Burrow’s Scar have come up with just such a plan. Unfortunately for your PCs, they are likely to be the next heroes tricked into face the dragon.

Hazard: The Sword in the Stone

Adventurer’s Background

A red dragon has awoken after a century of sleep. The unfortunate townsfolk of Burrow’s Scar have unknowingly settled near its lair. The village is made up of simple folk, mostly farmers and trades folk. Should the dragon go on a destructive rampage across the countryside, Burrow’s Scar would be first in the path of destruction. But the town is not competently defenseless. There is a legend of a magical sword embedded in a stone that has the power to slay dragons. Should a truly worthy hero draw the sword from the stone he shall be granted power to defeat the great wyrm.


The party arrives in the village of Burrow’s Scar. They might be here because they’ve heard of the legend and want to see if one of them will fulfill the prophecy. Or perhaps Burrow’s Scar was just the next town on their travels. In either scenario, the villagers welcome the PCs with open arms and assume that one of them is the hero who will slay the dragon.

The villagers throw a feast in honour of the party’s arrival. They explain that according to legend that only a truly worthy hero can draw the sword form the stone. If any of the PCs are interested in testing there mettle they are welcome to do so at dawn. Until the appointed hour the PCs are given the royal treatment. All the food and beverage they can consume is provided at no charge.

The following morning as dawn approaches, the PCs are brought to the sword in the stone. The village elders perform a traditional ceremony before anyone can attempt to draw the sword. The first PC attempting to draw the sword is unsuccessful. The second PC draws the sword without difficulty. They are the chosen one. With the enchanted blade in their hand they will surely be able to defeat the dragon. The villagers provide the PCs with a map to the dragon’s lair and wish them good luck.

What’s Really Happening

The community of Burrow’s Scar finds itself in a strange arrangement with a red dragon living nearby. The dragon was recently awakened from a century-long slumber. The villagers spotted the dragon flying through the night sky when it first left its lair in search of food. Fortunately the dragon did not attack the village that first night. So the village elders decided to try and negotiate with the dragon before it got hungry again and attacked Burrow’s Scar. The town’s most experienced Ranger found the dragon’s lair and made the pitch. The Ranger returned to the village with the terms for an alliance.

The dragon just gorged itself on a tribe of orcs, so its appetite has been satisfied temporarily. If the villagers send sacrifices regularly to the dragon it agreed not to attack the village. In fact, it would rather not leave its lair so this arrangement will make it very happy (always a good thing when dealing with dragons).

The townsfolk being simple, honest folk couldn’t bear to send any of their own people as sacrifices to feed a hungry dragon, but if they didn’t feed it they were likely to be eaten anyway. So they decided to trick adventurers into sacrificing themselves. If the adventurers were eaten, then the villagers believed they were simply fulfilling their end of the bargain. If the adventurers were somehow able to defeat the dragon then the village would be free of its dragon problem. Win-win.

The villagers of Burrow’s Scar created a “legend” about a magical sword in the stone capable of slaying a dragon. With the help of a powerful and reclusive Artificer (Wizard) who lived on the fringe of Burrow’s Scar, they created a magical sword that suited their need.

The sword is a Dragonslayer Weapon (it has to be a sword, but the exact type is up to the PC who pulls it free). A permanent ritual was placed on the stone. The ritual keeps the sword firmly embedded in the stone. The ritual can be suppressed long enough to draw the sword free if the proper words are spoken and gestures made.

The “ceremony” the villagers performed covered the verbal requirements and most of the semantics. One designated representative performs the final gesture when the second PCs attempts to draw the sword from the stone.


The villagers have been doing this for a few years now. Every month or so, a new group of adventurers shows up. One of them draws the sword form the stone and they head off to slay the dragon. So far none have returned.

The magic sword has a minor secondary enchantment on it. If the dragon is still alive at dawn on the day after the sword is drawn from the stone, the blade magically teleports back into the stone and the ritual once again imprisons the sword.

If the PCs manage to defeat the dragon they get to keep the Dragonslayer Weapon in addition to any other treasure they find in the dragon’s lair.

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1 Joe August 2, 2013 at 10:59 am

I like it. Opportunistic and simple, and the PCs can’t really blame the townsfolk.

2 Vobekhan August 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Reminiscent of the Connyberry ghost in the Drizzt novels but a great idea all the same 🙂

3 Chad August 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm

After reading this article in the archives, I finally employed a modified form of this adventure idea in a heroic tier campaign, using a young blue dragon in the place of the ancient red and a dragonlance in the place of the sword. The players, enticed by the thought of a dragon hoard, gladly diverted from their current quest (to reach the coast and fight pirates) and walked right into the trap.

4 Emanuele Galletto August 7, 2013 at 7:18 am

Cool idea. I think I will be able to incorporate something like this in my campaign. Thanks!

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