Perilous Gateways
Dwarven Portals
By Robert Wiese

The Rift Gate

The dwarves of southern Faerūn are different from those of the north. While the shield dwarves were carving out many small nations and being decimated by humanoid attacks, the gold dwarves of the south were secure in their home, the Great Rift. Left undisturbed, they prospered and carved the Rift into a huge complex of mines and dwarven cities. They pushed into the Underdark and across the surface as well. Before living in the Rift, they lived in the plains of the Shaar. It was the gold dwarves that helped the Ilythiiri elves form the portals known as the Great Runes, and during this partnership they learned about creating portals.

The problem was that the Ilythiiri elves were already corrupted by their worship of Araushnee, and their magical knowledge was becoming corrupted, too. The knowledge of portals that they passed to some of the dwarves was tainted, since the Ilythiiri and their dark goddess wanted to spread as much evil across the land as possible in their thirst for power.

After the Ilythiiri had been cast into the Underdark as drow, they attempted to destroy the gold dwarves, and in the process created the Great Rift that became their home. The gold dwarves prospered in their new home, and well within a century some of them began to show interest in portals. The dwarves already controlled parts of the Underdark and the surface, and they had the power to exert themselves in other parts of Faerūn as well. They knew of the constant troubles of their shield dwarf "brethren," and a group of them decided to create a portal so they could travel north and assist.

Gold dwarves at that time were not known for great magical works, and indeed they had no real magical expertise at all. However, their success in making the Great Rift into a magnificent home, and their defeats of the nearby drow, had given them a haughty "we can do anything" attitude. Plumbing the knowledge given them by the Ilythiiri, this group of portal-building dwarves hoped to turn it to good use. Alas, they didn't bother to find anything to compare it to, and they could not tell what parts of the lore were corrupt.

They created their portal at the edge of their territory, two days? ride from the Great Rift directly north. There they built a great arch wide enough for four dwarves to walk through abreast. They surrounded the arch with statues of past dwarven heroes, all facing the arch as if to watch over it. They invoked their gods during the creation process, but the elven knowledge did not combine with their dwarven ways, and they followed the elven knowledge when it diverged from what they knew.

The portal they created is nearly 20 feet wide and 9 feet tall, and it is marked with a multitude of runes both Dwarven and Elven. The Elven runes contain incantations of dark magic that the dwarves thought were necessary to create the portal, but did not understand fully. The arch is 4 feet thick. Nine statues of heroic dwarves surround the center arch, each on its own base. The whole area is paved with great stones that are meticulously joined to appear as one huge piece of stone.

One thing the dwarves in charge of this early attempt at portal building did not know was that they had to know precisely where the portal would exit when they created it. They assumed, based on the Elven writings, that they need only declare the destination when the portal was activated. This, along with other small but crucial pieces of information left out, resulted in the dwarves creating a truly horrific magical nightmare that plagues the Realms to this day.

The Rift Portal is a malfunctioning portal, but its malfunctions are unique. The portal is continuously active, and one-way. It cannot be closed using gate seal or other magic. Even a wish is ineffective. Treat it as a major artifact. When anyone attempts to use the portal, consult this table instead of the one in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

Rift Portal Malfunction Table

d% Result
01-05 The portal acts as a gate spell and connects to a random evil plane. One or more demons, devils, yugoloths, or other powerful evil creatures are attracted to the gate on the other plane and step through within 3 rounds. They are immediately hostile to the portal user, thinking that the user summoned them but did not bind them.
06-15 The portal functions, but its destination is set to a random place inside an active volcano, or somewhere on the Plane of Fire.
16-30 The portal does not function, but instead summons 2d4 drow. The drow are immediately hostile, not knowing why they were summoned. They return to their point of origin in one hour, or when killed.
31-50 The portal teleports 1d4 of the user's limbs to random dwarven cities in the north. Enough of the user is retained to keep him or her alive, but that is all. No wounds are left behind, so bleeding does not occur. The user can reattach any lost limb by touching it to the stump where it belongs, but the regrafting is extremely painful (Fort save DC 20 or suffer 1d8 points of damage per round for 1 minute).
51-75 The portal teleports the user to itself. The user becomes a summoned creature in the service of the portal for 1 hour, during which time he or she attacks anyone within sight of the portal's arch.
76-99 The portal does not function. All within 30 feet of the portal suffer the effects of an inflict critical wounds spell cast by a 10th-level caster.
00 Nothing happens.

How to Incorporate the Rift Gate Into Your Campaign

  • The PCs come across the dwarven "shrine" and the portal located there. Any of the malfunctions should provide them with more adventure than they want, especially if they have to seek lost limbs across the Realms.

  • The portal begins to activate itself, summoning demons and devils at random. These fiends attack dwarven patrols and nomads in the vicinity, and the heroes are asked to find the source and stop the attacks. Once they link the fiends to the portal, they can learn its history. Powerful magic is required to stop the portal -- magic that is found only among the drow.

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