Beyond the Sword Coast: Daerlun

Posted on January 21, 2022 by


In this post we”ll visit the rich merchant kingdom of Sembia, and specifically the city of Daerlun.

Sembia’s published origins are…interesting. Ready?

in the first edition Forgotten Realms boxed set, much of Sembia was purposely left blank to allow DMs a clean slate to create their own cities and NPCs on. That idea went out the window some time later, but that was the original intent. In the 2nd edition boxed set entry for Sembia, we get a bit of passive-agressive text from Jeff Grubb about TSR having to fill in Sembia a bit, and people getting upset about it. It’s a wonderful little piece of gaming history, as you’d never see something like that published in a D&D book today.

Screen Shot 2022-01-21 at 1.33.07 AM

Pretty wild.

Sembia is a rich merchant country in the western heartlands, on the northwest coast of the Sea of Fallen Stars, and neighbored by Cormy and the Dales. Sembia has had its fair share of appearances in Realms fiction, such as an entire book series devoted to it titled Sembia: gateway to the Realms, and an appearance in the Forgotten Realms DC comic book. 

After some shenanigans with Sembia fallen under the control of returned Netheril in 3e. and a war against Cormyr and the dales in 4e, Sembia is back to where it was in 2e, which means that any 2e sources are perfect to set up a Sembian campaigned, with the understanding that there isn’t much and you’ll have to fill in some blanks as originally intended. 

So let’s look at Daerlun specifically. The best source of information on Daerlun comes in the Forgotten Realms Adventures hardcover (pg. 82). That book served as a way to transition The Realms from 1e to 2e before a proper boxed set would release for 2nd Ed. 

Screen Shot 2022-01-21 at 11.53.32 AM

The book describes Daerlun, provides a map, and important places and folks in town.

Here’s a good nugget on Daerlun from the 2e boxed set to get you started on the city’s mindset: 

It is the most Cormyrean of the Sembian cities, which is to say its people are polite, warm, and friendly—far from the stereotypical ruthless Sembian merchant.

The natives of Daerlun are, however, wealthy, and seek to protect both that wealth and their own security. Adventurers and particularly thieves are not openly welcome in Daerlun, and those caught trying to ply their trade within the city walls are quickly caught and sent to the Deep Cells of the city, never to be seen again.

A really interesting thing about Daerlun you might want to introduce in your game is that the Cult of the Dragon uses the city as a refuge, and although the ruler of Daerlun was the elderly merchant Halath Tymmyr, the captain of the guard, Allathast had the true power by influencing Tymmyr. With backing from the Cult of the Dragon, Allathast controlled the city. The Cult leaders used Daerlun very cautiously, not openly showing their power, but using it as a secret sanctuary for the Cult’s holdings and members.

Here’s what 2e’s book, The Cult of the Dragon has to say about the city:

Daerlun is run by Halath Tymmyr, an elderly merchant. However, Tymmyr‘s commander of the guard, Allathast (LE hm F8), pulls the simple Tymmyr’s strings. And since Allathast is controlled by Cult magic and friends who are members of the Cult of the Dragon, Daerlun is a haven for the Cult. However, the Cult of the Dragon conducts no cere- monies or operations out of Daerlun, preferring to keep Daerlun as an ace in the hole and a place of refuge. The Cult uses Daerlun as a place to store its arms and valuables and a sanctuary for wounded and recuperating Cult members. Daerlun also has a small, little-publicized slave trade that deals in the criminals that are convicted in this Sembian city. The Cult of the Dragon runs this trade and profits from it.

There’s some room for adventuring right there! 

So why are the PCs in Daerlun? Any number of reasons really… merchants are always looking for escorts or they could be investigating rumors of cult activity.

So let’s take a look at a location, NPCs, and a faction we can use to launch a campaign in Daerlun.

And for the location and NPC, we’re going to ignore the boxed sets and the Forgotten Realms Adventure hardcover, and hit up the venerable Dragon Magazine, where a very specific location was fleshed out in issue #287, in an article written by Ed Greenwood himself titled “Elminster’s Guide to the Realms: Shadowdark House”. This article even includes the only piece of art I’ve been able to source of Daerlun, an illustration by David Day.

Screen Shot 2022-01-21 at 11.21.59 AM

A grouchy old woman named Thelbaerone Shadowdark runs this magic shop in Daerlun where she sells potions, trinkets, and other supplies, and dispenses advice and magical insights. She’s a great NPC for your magic using characters to meet and interact with, as she can either dispense a lesson or two, help identify items, or have some information on a particular item the PCs may be after. 

Her home and curio shop is a place filled with potentially fun roleplaying moments, and is detailed out with a fun illustration in the magazine. 

Screen Shot 2022-01-21 at 11.37.55 AM

As far as a faction, you cannot go wrong with the Cult of the Dragon. In the older editions, the Cult of the Dragon venerated dragons, evil dragons in particular, and specifically dead evil dragons. They reanimated the gargantuan corpses as powerful and fell dracoliches. The Cult acted as an information network for its draconian “masters”, brought gems and riches as offerings, and encouraged evil dragons to become dracoliches. Their belief was that dracoliches were destined to one day rule the world. 5e changed that a bit and made them so they worship Tiamat and engineer her return to the world. Whatever vision of the cut you choose (I prefer the older one but both are valid and fun to use), the Cult makes a great faction to have your PCs go up against in some capacity, and having a secret based of operations in Daerlun is an adventure hook delivered in a silver platter. 

There you have it, Daerlun in Sembia, another location beyond the Sword Coast where you can launch an adventure from. 

Support the blog! Here are a couple of affiliate links to products you can use if you plan to make Daerlun your campaign’s starting point:

Forgotten Realms Adventures

Dragon Magazine #287

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Tagged: , , , ,