Level Up (A5E) Birthplace of Legends: Valhal

Today’s ENterplanetary DimENsions entry is known by many names but always as the birthplace of legends: Valorous Valhal!

Valhal Level Up 5E DnD Banner SHRUNK.jpg

Illustration by Jeff Brown.

Throughout existence Valhal is lauded as the forge of legends, a realm of trials and challenges that have proven the mettle of the greatest warriors to ever carry a blade. The splendor of this place is matched only by its harshness for in its wildernesses there are dangerous monsters lurking, swells of deadly weather, and obstacles of unmatched tenacity which make its civilization all the more remarkable. Many have sought Valhal believing it to be where their path to glory begins, finding instead that they are one of countless courageous souls found worthy only of an early demise.

The denizens of this planet are as fearsome and deserving as their home’s reputation. Each is a master of their craft whether their art is combat, melody and song, pulling upon the threads of magic, stalking the shadows, or working the forges. Indeed armaments made by the smiths here are as superlative as the legends trained to carry them into battle, wrought using secrets that rarely travel beyond its hallowed halls, impressive cities, and ancient dungeons. Valhai (as they prefer to be known, though most mortals call them Valhallans) take great pride in their tremendous accomplishments, their culture, and themselves. Their history has the occasional blemish of a misguided hero-turned-villain coming back to take revenge, but these have only ever served as examples of how terribly foolish it is to raise arms against Valhal and its rigorous peoples.

Planar Traits. Valhal has the following planar traits and the Narrator should make use of each of the encounter elements (especially high gravity, though all are carefully managed across the realm’s various trials and some can be found in the wilderness). When it is possible to do so, noticing one of these encounter elements before it is too close to avoid requires a DC 18 Perception check.​


Dwarven Dynasties

There are people of all kinds in Valhal but more dwarves call it home than anyone else. Whether or not the plethora of dwarven ballads describing how the planet’s high gravity made them broad and strong are true, only fools deny it is their home. Stout folk hold the reins of power, statues of their heroes are by far the most common sight in their magnificent stone cities, and their servants can be found everywhere. For the most part prosperity reigns as their rulership is fairhanded and few seek to topple them from their thrones.

Far greater resources are spent upon the fortresses where peerless armaments and legendary heroes are forged than on the maintenance of settlements, and again on the recruitment of supremely talented artisans from afar. Even so, what dangers lurk in the wildernesses beyond are still held back by peerlessly crafted ancient defenses. Only when a strand of fate has gone awry and a hero trained in Valhal falls to villainy are its peoples inadequately protected. Every few centuries one of these fallen legends raises an army from those envying the planet’s mythical status, themselves becoming just another trial among the realm’s thousands. Rarely—once in perhaps a millenia—does a great enough threat arise that the successful heroes wrought in Valhal are called back to defend it, and each time such a terrible clash occurs the powers involved are of such magnitude that all of existence can feel the weight of destiny straining upon reality as the conflict plays out.


Valhai Servants

Practically every structure and most of the trials in Valhal are protected or staffed by at least a few automatons: bolt-throwers, clockwork sentinels, gear spiders, and hound guardians. These cleverly-crafted creatures all follow the simple orders given to them (dwarves taking precedence) but are otherwise a boon to society and perform all kinds of menial tasks from cleaning the streets to pouring drinks. Each of these wonders is also forged from an alloy of brokr; they are not only far more resilient, they are all the deadlier too.

Valhai Automaton. An automaton crafted in Valhal increases its hit point maximum by 20, gains an expertise die on attack rolls and 1d8 expertise die on damage rolls, and increases its Challenge Rating by 1.​


Famous Forges

Whether speaking of armor or weaponry (and whether they know it or not) the greatest bardic epics talk of items crafted in Valhai forges. The first holy avenger, luck blade, vorpal sword, warpblade, and even the mighty Mjölnir are all weapons the dwarves of Valhal claim to have created, and multitudes of scrolls penned by their peers attest that their own contributions (like armor of invulnerability, the golden chain shirt, and plate armor of etherealness) have had just as great an impact on history’s greatest battles. In any event the best days of artisanal crafting are behind them, and the planet’s many smiths are eager to work with fine materials brought by customers that have a discerning taste and the coin to back that up. While some of Valhal’s famed forges are within ancient hearths in its cities, most are found in its strongholds—closer to where the legends destined to wield them are mastering their skills.

Valhai Smiths. Smiths from Valhal have extensively studied the properties of brokr and reduce the time required to craft an item made out of it by half. Any item crafted by a Valhai smith and made from corzcu (see Corzcunath) or nalpine (see To Save A Kingdom) loses the material’s flaw property. Finally, the weight of an adamantine item crafted by a smith of Valhal does not increase and the low-maintenance property of an item created from mithral gains a 1d6 expertise die (in addition to advantage).​


Legendary Location

Valhal’s impact is so far-reaching because many places are connected to it by inlets from the Astral Sea, the realm dotted by grand fortresses protecting these sacred subterranean shores and incursions from the planar beyond. Dwarves consider the defense of these gateways to be a hallowed duty and each of the impressive citadels is overseen by trainers of heroes more than capable of repelling invaders (all arcane blademasters, archmages, archpriests, ascetic grandmasters, master thieves, and mountain dwarf lords). Tunnels extend far below these bastions to the places they are devoted to, the passages of such incredible geometry that they capture ethereal currents able to carry travelers onto the Astral Plane and from there to a great many other locales.

It is rarely by true chance that someone passes through the thresholds defended by Valhal’s grand fortresses—they are almost always led there by the subtle strands of destiny pulled and woven by fateholders (Gate Pass Gazette #1). Figures from myths far and wide have dueled within the halls of the vast dwarven castles, survived obstacle courses filled with lethal traps (often overcoming numerous constructed exploration challenges along the way), and proven themselves worthy of the powerful gifts given by the minders of this world.

Valhai Trials. Should the PCs arrive here (whether on purpose or seemingly by accident) it’s up to the Narrator to determine what the masters of Valhal have in store for them. This of course includes adventurous trials in the dungeons of grand fortresses (see the Dungeon Delver’s Guide), but also overcoming carefully prepared weather exploration challenges or navigating the complex political framework of Valhai society to achieve an otherwise unattainable goal. In any event the party’s experience in Valhal should ultimately serve a much greater goal in a very direct manner, something the fateholders that guided them can gradually reveal the further throughout any training they undertake. After completing Valhai Trials the Narrator should reward adventurers with a magic item suited to their talents, possibly a Valhai automaton companion, a Valhai mount, a discount for a Valhai smith to craft something special, or a mythical mount.​


Miraculous Metal

Of all the materials a smith of Valhal might work one is prized above all others: brokr, an ore of remarkable properties that rained down from the night sky in the planet’s most ancient tales. When exposed to magic the metal formed from brokr shines like a star in the heavens, twinkling in response to arcana and divinity alike. Unfortunately it was all mined out ages ago—what remains is meticulously tracked and repurposed for under dire circumstances. When a hero falls Valhai rulers are tasked by long held oaths to recover any brokr they might have kept, frequently tasking adventurers (ostensibly as a trial of course) to get it back from whatever terrible place was inevitably taken. Several times this has brought an unlikely soul to the grand fortresses of Valhal where their true destiny begins, though their paths to greatness tend to be perilous beyond measure.

Table: New Material (Brokr)
Description
Weight
Cost
PropertiesRepairability
Brokr​
×1/2​
×10​
Comfortable, feybane, hardy, high-quality, lightweight, low-maintenance (expertise die)DC 28 smith’s tools, access to a forge

Mythical Mounts
One of the reasons that the wildernesses of so old a realm as Valhal remain relatively untamed is to provide a natural place where powerful mounts suitable for legendary warriors can develop unfettered. Peerless dwarven rangers oversee vast reserves where creatures of suitable size and rigor (from herds of axe beaks and horses to winged lions, manticores, chimeras, wyverns, and everything between) are protected from malign influences, cataloged, and chosen to be captured and tamed by the people destined to ride them. Hunts of this nature are sacrosanct, and interference with them by outside parties (whether friend or foe) can carry the penalty of expulsion—but to those who succeed a lifelong bond is formed, one that is likely to save their own and the lives of countless others.

Valhai Mounts. After proving themselves worthy to the masters of Valhal, an adventurer may forgo other rewards to instead gain a Valhai mount. At the Narrator’s discretion, this may require additional tests (such as Survival checks to track the creature and Animal Handling checks to befriend it), but the mount cannot be of a CR greater than 1/4th the adventurer’s level.​
The mount follows and is loyal to the adventurer, but it acts independently. In combat, it rolls its own initiative and acts on its own turn. The mount won’t attack except as a reaction to being attacked, but it can take other actions as normal and makes death saving throws. An adventurer can only have a single Valhai mount at a time.​
In addition, whenever the mount rolls initiative it gains a number of temporary hit points equal to the adventurer’s level multiplied by their proficiency bonus, and its Armor Class increases by an amount equal to the adventurer’s proficiency bonus.​


Superlative Songs

Valhal produces legends and the finest items ever worked upon an anvil, but it is also the birthplace of melodies that rival the heights of music even in the Upper Planes. These remarkable songs can be heard nightly in Valhai taverns yet their magic is elusive, their secrets protected by the masters of the more musical grand fortresses and only revealed upon the completion of a suitable trial.

Valhai Battle Hymns. At the end of a long rest after proving themselves worthy to the masters of Valhal, a bard may forgo other rewards to instead learn a Valhai battle hymn. This battle hymn is in addition to the bard’s known battle hymns. Unlike other battle hymns, the magic from a Valhai battle hymn prevents it from being used outside of combat, and it has no effect unless you or the target of the battle hymn is bloodied.​

Table: Valhai Battle Hymns
Bard Level
Battle Hymn
5th–8th
Charge for Valhal. The creature gains a 20 foot increase to Speed.
9th–12th
Legend of Glory. Choose bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage. The creature gains resistance to magical damage of the chosen type. This hymn ends early if the creature takes damage of the chosen type equal to or greater than your bard level (after resistance).
13th–16th
Ballad of Battle. The creature gains an expertise die on spell attack and weapon attack damage rolls.
17th–20th
Dwarf Lord’s Lament. A number of creatures equal to your Charisma modifier gain immunity to the confused, frightened, slowed, and stunned conditions.
 
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler


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