The Black Dwarf Mine was a mining and smelting operation run by Aldurghen Stormhammer and four of his dwarven associates circa the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR.[1] They also had a lucrative side business in storing items that people wanted quickly hidden.[2]



A dwarf tips a cart of ore into a furnace shaped like a large head.

The Black Dwarf Mine was located on and in a ridge in the low hills about 7 mi (11 km) east of Waterdeep. It was accessed by a gravel path that connected to the Run (a spur of the Trade Way that bypassed the big city and connected to the Long Road). Another path ran west over some hills to a limestone quarry.[1]


The mine proper consisted of many tunnels dug into the western side of the ridge about mid-height or above. Mine tailings were used as gravel to pave paths from these tunnels down to the furnace or the tailings dump. The furnace was a circular shaft lined with firebrick topped by a chimney that stuck up out of the hillside.[1] The chimney had an opening (the "maw") in the side where cartloads of ore, charcoal, and limestone were tipped in. A nearby spring drove a waterwheel bellows system with two keg-sized pistons that blasted air down into the furnace via tapering copper pipes. Down the hill was a large wooden shed that covered the entrance to the furnace's "hearth" where a few different-sized taps (made from clay plugs) were opened (about twice a day) to allow the molten iron to flow into small clay molds for making pots and pans or into a large half-cylinder trench (the "sow") in the sand that fed smaller molds (the "pigs"). The shed also supported a hook-and-pulley system for lifting the pigs and sows out once they cooled.[2]

The only other building in the Black Dwarf Mine was another large shed that kept the charcoal dry and provided storage for a few carts and any other raw materials they needed. There were no living quarters as most civilized folk defined them—the dwarves slept with the products of their labor in one of the abandoned tunnels.[1] A short walk north of the main furnace were three smaller fireboxes with piston-driven bellows that were used to turn the brittle pig iron into more malleable, higher grade metal that could be wrought into goods to sell in Waterdeep.[2]


A dwarf works a block of iron. Another tries to get someone's attention over the din.


The mine tunnels were typical dark and dirty holes in the side of the hill. Several early shafts were unfruitful and abandoned quickly. These were usually plugged with heaps of slag and used for storage of spare parts for carts, chains and pulleys, waterwheel buckets and components, and other valuable items that might disappear if left out in the open.[3] The forge area was extremely hot and noisy most of the time.[2]


When they had enough goods to sell, or needed to replenish their food and drink supplies, Aldurghen and at least two of his partners took handcarts of their products to Waterdeep and sold them for a tidy profit while still undercutting most other suppliers on price. Aldurghen would say a few choice words to certain contacts about what was "in back" of the mine and hopefully generate some very lucrative side business. The dwarves typically got the latest news before and after trade negotiations and then filled their carts with kegs of strong spirits and sides of smoked meats and trundled back home again.[1]



The dwarves worked long, hard hours but made good profits.

The primary output of the Black Dwarf Mine was pig iron, at least by weight. A "pig" weighed about 75 lb (34 kg) and a "sow" was 250 lb (about 114 kg).[2] They also made cast iron pots and pans, flatirons, trivets, fireplace screens, door dragons, and bootjacks.[1]

The other side of the business was discreet storage of things that needed to be hidden quickly and quietly, away from the eyes of the authorities or others that had an interest in illegal or questionable contraband. For a price, Aldurghen and his partners would put things (normally brought to them at the mine) "in back", meaning they would be securely hidden behind a wall of rubble deep in a worked-out mine shaft or under one of the many piles of slag that dotted the hillside. Sometimes they even buried them under the gravel paths that their carts passed over many times a day. Delicate or dangerous items, such as corpses or monster parts, were covered by an overturned cart before burial. It was generally made clear that this storage service was short-term only—just long enough for "hot" items to cool down a bit—and no questions would be asked.[2]



Empty kegs in an abandoned mine shaft awaiting resale to a traveling merchant.

The mine had no real defenses unless hiding behind a pile of rubble or in a mine shaft was a defensible position. Each of the dwarves had armor and weapons, but they only wore armor when they went to Waterdeep.[1]


Sometime around the Year of the Staff, 1366 DR, Aldurghen Stormhammer and his cohorts, having fled from persistent Zhentarim attacks in the Sunset Mountains, began prospecting in the low hills east of Waterdeep. After three years of searching, around Year of the Gauntlet, 1369 DR, they hit upon a vein of rich iron ore and began mining and smelting at the site. The name of the mine came from Aldurghen's nickname, "the Black Dwarf", which he earned because of his black chainmail shirt, black helm, a black beard that reached his ankles, and a face that was blackened from the thaolet oil that dwarves used to clean their tools and protect their armor from rust.[2] He was not one to care about appearances and his skin was either permanently stained or he just never washed his face.[1]

Rumors & LegendsEdit

During their first year, after setting up the Black Dwarf Mine, the miners were plagued by rumors that circulated in the Dock Ward of Waterdeep of "walking metal men" and other deadly constructs seen around the mine, but those curious enough to investigate only found hard-working dwarves too busy toiling to make much mischief.[2]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Ed Greenwood (February 2004). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: The Black Dwarf Mine”. In Matthew Sernett ed. Dragon #316 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 74.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Ed Greenwood (February 2004). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: The Black Dwarf Mine”. In Matthew Sernett ed. Dragon #316 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 75.
  3. Ed Greenwood (February 2004). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: The Black Dwarf Mine”. In Matthew Sernett ed. Dragon #316 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 76.