A Brief But Comprehensive History of Tunnelhome’s

By Les, Bob and Tom B

If you’re an adventurer in either my or Bob D’s campaigns – BDC or LNGN – you know that they exist in the same universe, albeit on different sides of the Oerth globe (Golarion, Tien Xia, Ravenwind, the Forgotten Realms AND Greyhawk all improbably have a location on this world; there are no globes).

During the 20+ years of Bob’s Death Campaign, one mainstay has been Sternhaven’s magic shop, Tunnelhome’s. Run by Tunadhom the dwarf, it was marked by a couple features:

  • Tunnelhome’s routinely charged well over book price for magic items;
  • Tunnelhome’s always preferred to conduct transactions regarding magic items involving trade, rather than coin for items; gems were acceptable, but coin transactions typically were reserved only for Tunnelhome’s most favored clients and were never above 10,000 gp.
  • Tunnelhome’s had a very limited stock, typically including a base volume of low-magic items and, on top of that, an inventory comprised of items that other PC’s had traded to him.

The history of Tunnelhome’s, however, is much more expansive that that, and begins before the First Canistani War. In the lands of northwestern Canistan, there existed a small group of dwarves called the Jawbreaker clan. They were wanderers – not part of any established dwarvish kingdom – since having fallen out of favor with Moradin due to some forgotten transgression, the Jawbreaker dwarves traveled about the foothills of northwestern Canistan selling their services as fighters and healers. Although they still worshiped the dwarven pantheon, due to the ire of Moradin the Jawbreakers had no clerics; hence the focus on more traditional, non-magical healing. The Jawbreakers excelled at both, and were jewelry makers of note as well. The clan, though small (only 30 men, 2/3 of whom were fighters) found steady work guarding Canistani caravans and crafting jewelry for sale, through which they earned official approval from the Canistani to conduct trade within the country. The entire clan would travel alongside the caravans – the Jawbreakers were highly mobile, and the small but tight-knit group could travel atop a comparatively few number of wagons.

Into this clan was born a dwarf by the name of Tunadhom. His father was a highly respected fighter in the clan, and young Tunadhom took up that trade as well, joining the clan adults as a warrior when he came of age. Tunadhom’s mother, however, was a highly skilled healer, and the young dwarf also learned the healing arts. Being part of such a small clan, however, meant that for everyone’s safety, there were some strict rules to be followed, and Tunadhom grew up inclined toward Lawful-ness. And since fairness and the benefit of the clan were also prized qualities, he leaned toward Good as well.

One season, three brothers caught up with the clan as it guarded a Canistani caravan loaded with silver from the mines. Their names were Ramlin, Tramlin and Balin, and although they had split with the clan years before, they occasionally returned when they needed healing, preferring the old traditional medical methods. On this occasion, the three brothers arrived in an ancient artifact – the Apparatus of Kwalish, a large metallic vehicle that resembled a lobster, and capable of moving on land, on water, and underwater. The brothers joined the clan in guarding the valuable caravan, and good thing too: the caravan was attacked by a sizable force of bandits, more than 200 strong. The battle was going against the dwarves, and the caravan might very well have been lost had it not been for the timely arrival of a company of young privateers under the leadership of Captain Stern. Stern and his men had recently left the Hold of the Sea Princes, to search the interior for (as it happened) silver to bring back north. Stern’s arrival turned the tide of the battle and the bandits were repulsed.

The dwarves escorted Stern through Canistan, and Stern in turn was impressed by the Jawbreaker clan. They were doughty fighters to a man, and they had another skill as well: they were one of the few dwarven clans who still retained the secret of making dwarvish throwing weapons, which were magically endowed with the ability to return to the hand of the thrower. Tunadhom himself bore one, a highly magical hammer that he’d received as a gift from his father.

In any event, the clan finally reached the Canistani capital, and Stern was introduced to the old metropolis. The Canistani have always been a slaveholding people, as had the Sea Princes, but the concept of owning others had never set well with Stern, so of those slaves he acquired he invariably freed, and often he would take to the auctions, buy enslaved people and manumit them on the spot. Dwarves are rare in Ravenwind, and in light of his newfound when Stern saw a dwarven slave on the auction block; Stern immediately bought and freed him. When he introduced the freedman to the jawbreakers, they were shocked: this dwarf, as it happened, was a prince of the dwarven people. He adopted the Jawbreaker clan and, by way of thanks, declared that Stern would forever be friend to the dwarves of this land, and friend to him personally. Ultimately, the two groups departed fast friends – the dwarves back to the mountainous northwest, and Stern back to the Hold.

Five years passed, and Stern was once again sent south by the Sea Princes, this time to establish a new port on the southern continent. With a fleet of 20 ships, Stern found a sheltered port, completely uninhabited, that would be perfect for the establishment of a trading colony that could be supported by the Hold. Stern disembarked and began work on the colony, which over the decades ultimately became the city of Sternhaven. But before that could happen, there was much work to be done, and Stern sent a message to his old friends, the Jawbreaker clan. Tunadhom, alongside several other dwarves including the three brothers, arrived in Sternhaven shortly after, to assist in the building a defense of the colony. Balin, a prodigious fighter, earned the position of Sheriff of Sternhaven; Tunadhom set up a hospital to provide healing services. Business for both was booming – the First Greyhawk War had started, and refugees by the hundreds were escaping those war-torn lands and heading south. Many of these refugees landed at Sternhaven – the population swelled, straining resources and requiring much of Tunadhom and his fellow dwarves. The sign on his door (which remained unchanged long after Tunadhom’s lines of business had evolved), read thusly:

Tunadhom’s Healing Services
Lose A Fight With A Ghost Or Medusa? No Problem
Open 8 to 4

Soon after going into business as a healer, Tunadhom had cause to expand into one the traditional efforts of his clan: jewelry making. By this time, the Jawbreakers had begun capitalizing on their newest endeavor – the creation of magic items. Like all nomads, hard coin was at a premium, so Tunadhom used his position as the first real merchant in Sternhaven to expand his business even further: the commission, manufacture and sale of magical items, with his first inventory created for him by the dwarves. Tunadhom’s – or, for the linguistically-challenged refugees and Ravenwinders who formed the majority of his customer base, the phonetic derivation Tunnelhome’s – soon became virtually synonymous with the trade and sale of magic items.

Tunnelhome’s became something of a sensation in Sternhaven, cultivating a highly diverse clientele and growing alongside the city itself. When the demand for magical items outstripped the manufacturing capabilities of the dwarves, Tunadhom forged relationships with both Heroditus and Verstrate Aurora, the latter of whom opened a wizarding college at nearby Colleton that proved to be more than up to the task of providing Tunadhom with increased inventory.

There has only been a single recorded attempt to rob Tunnelhome’s. A quartet of medium-level malefactors from the south spent several weeks casing and planning the job. They managed to enter the shop, but had forgotten that Tunadhom’s stock is not exhibited in the customer area except by drawing – the items themselves are down in the vaults, underneath the building, along with workshops and living quarters. The robbers ventured below, but encountered some unknown defenses. Three of the four were killed, and the survivor, an elf named Malachi, was imprisoned. Stern initially argued for Malachi’s execution, but Tunadhom persuaded him to allow Malachi to live, provided he assisted in the manufacture of magic items from his cell.

It was Tunadhom’s mercy, however, that eventually led to Malachi’s escape some three years later. During the course of his work manufacturing potions, Malachi managed to surreptitiously create a potion of Gaseous Form, which he used to flee Sternhaven Prison and make for the elvish woodland, called the Viscum Forest. At that time, relations between Sternhaven and the woodland realm were bleak; the towns of Colleton and Elf Point had been established on either side of the Viscum, to the chagrin of the elves, but Ravenwinders who ventured within the forest would never return, victims of elvish arrows. Malachi fled into Viscum, and Stern prepared to raze the forest if the elves did not offer him back up. It was Tunadhom, however, that opened negotiations with the Varanasi, a merchanting house in Viscum, and despite the fact that Malachi was never recaptured and ultimately escaped to Canistan, those negotiations ultimately led to an alliance between Stern and Solotharius Viscum, ending the uneasy relations between the elves and men of the region.

After the abortive robbery, Tunnelhome’s reputation for inviolable security was entrenched. In additional to Tunadhom himself, the building housed others that further enhanced this reputation: Balin, Tunadhom’s clan-mate and Sheriff of Sternhaven, called Tunnelhome’s his home. And a monk named Berwyn took up residence a few years later. Balin’s reputation as a fighter and lawgiver was a part of Sternhaven’s own history; Berwyn’s prowess was well-known too. No one has been foolish enough to attempt to rob Tunnelhome’s again. If anything, Tunadhom worried more about his customers’ safety: if someone is seen entering or exiting Tunnelhome’s, the likelihood is that they are either wealthy or looking to get that way. The door to Tunnelhome’s could be a deciding factor for criminals trying to select victims, and Tunadhom did his best to ensure their security.

Sometime after, Tunnelhome’s opened its second store, in the capital of Canistan. It is run by one of Tunadhom’s clan mates, but since the Jawbreaker clan, tightly knit family that it is, has many men who look and dress similarly, the legend grew that Tunadhom himself somehow ran both locations. This is false, of course, but the legend persists to this day.

There are no known images of Tunadhom. However, he is described as a well-dressed and well-groomed dwarf, with leathery sun-damaged skin. Tunadhom’s beard is said to be precisely groomed, plaited into three tidy forks that, tastefully jeweled, are invariably tucked into his belt. His clothing has been described as understated but of the first-class. Tunadhom has a thick accent, best described as Northern Canistani Dwarvish (this may have contributed to the transformation of Tunadhom’s to Tunnelhome’s in the common parlance – Tunadhom’s own pronunciation of his name left much interpretation to the ear). He has a familiar – a pseudo-dragon named Sparky, with whom he has been close for decades. Sparky is often the first thing a new customer sees when entering Tunnelhome’s; he has several perches in the main room, and flies between them continuously. Sparky’s squawks are the “merchant’s bell” that will draw Tunadhom from the back to wait on a customer. Sparky and Tunadhom have been with each other for so long that they’ve begun, in the manner that wizards’ familiars do, to take on aspects of each other’s personalities. Sparky is known to be agoraphobic; Tunadhom has similarly developed a dislike of large open spaces and crowds, and it is rare for him to be seen in a public place that does not have several easily accessible exits.

Tunnelhome’s ability scores are high – none lower than 16 except for Charisma, which is moderated by his occasionally crabbiness. He carries both a +3 dwarven throwing warhammer and a +5 short sword of unknown provenance. Rumor has it that the sword is sentient, but can only speak with Tunadhom via empathy; Sparky, however, is telepathic, and so it is said that Sparky and the sword can converse freely, while Tunadhom must have the sword’s messages relayed to him by the pseudo-dragon. Whatever the case, the combination of the three would make sneaking up on Tunadhom a challenging affair indeed.

Sparky is also considered the way into Tunadhom’s good graces. Tunadhom has a reputation for shrewd pricing, but there are rumors that some are able to wheedle a discount from the surly dwarf. The best manner in which to do this, according to reports, is to earn the friendship of Sparky, which is done in one of two ways: bring tasty treats from afar for the pseudo-dragon, or offer him gemstones – even moderately valued gems are prized by Sparky (he is a dragon, after all, and there are rumors that he’s not so pseudo, either). Lord Bastonel is known to enjoy steep discounts at Tunnelhome’s due to his longstanding habit of bringing presents for Sparky.

Beyond that, Tunadhom has been known to do business with anyone, provided they are of good character. He dislikes elves, like many of his kind, but that has not precluded him from having several mutually profitable business arrangements with elvish merchanting concerns. He is even reported to do business with Githyanki elements from Tu’Narath, and in some tales Tunadhom is reported to have a pact with a Githyanki tribe, one that has promised vengeance should Tunadhom ever come to harm.

There is some discussion as to the dwarven origins of the now ever-present Tunnelhome’s, and in large part focuses on who Tunnelhome was, and from what background he came. 

In some stories, the actual Tunnelhome is not Tunadhom at all but rather, Balin the Sheriff of Sternhaven himself. Balin is said not to be a member of the three dwarven travelers, but instead from a separate lineage, albeit known to the three, who were known colloquially as “the Mad Dwarves.” Alleged to be “from the north,” these dwarves reportedly migrated to Sternhaven after the city was founded, responding to the general call for workers. 

Balin’s story begins with an adventuring past, one in which he is reported to have been part of an adventuring company that journeyed to various locations in Greyhawk. Balin did not meet the Mad Dwarves until after he’d arrived in Sternhaven. Balin’s reported place among the three dwarves is taken by the previously unknown Anlar, who shares some qualities previously associated with Tunadhom, including the possession of a dwarven throwing hammer. Balin also carried a hammer, but that weapon is reported to be Whelm, one of three magical weapons taken by Balin and his companions from White Plume Mountain, a lone, geyser-spitting mountain on the plains of the central Flanaess, north of the Nyr Dyv, south of Rift Canyon, and inhabited by a wizard named Keraptis. Whelm is reported to be plain and unadorned, with a steel head and a haft made from the golden wood of a gingko tree. When it’s wielded, Whelm glows with a soft, silver-black light. Whelm has bonuses to attack and damage, and is said to be more powerful in the hands of a dwarf. It magically returns to its wielder when thrown. But even more interesting, the weapon has the unfortunate tendency to inspire agoraphobia in its wielders. Blackrazor, another of Keraptis’ weapons, was also retrieved from the White Plume Mountain at the same time Balin acquired Whelm, but was reported to have been stolen and replaced with an identical, but vastly underpowered, copy.

Balin and his companions were also said to be instrumental in the defeat of Count Strahd of Barovia, resulting in Barovia later being inculcated into Ravenwind. Strahd’s castle was remaned Eagle’s Nest, and was ruled by a King Rence, alongside his wife Jacinth and son Aracles. Eagle’s Nest is reported to house a contingent of pegasi, and riders upon the flying steeds patrol the land on Pence’s behalf. Additionally, a mirrored gate is reported to be in Eagle’s Nest, with its match in Tunnelhom is Sternhaven. Other adventures embarked upon by Balin’s company included a voyage to Tamoachan (from which the group barely escaped with their lives) and an extended visit to the desert south, culminating in the looting of the famed Tomb of Martek.

Over the course of their adventuring they ultimately located and sat upon on the Throne of the Gods: an ornate chair, inlaid with gold and decorated with precious gems and mosaics. It is big enough for a storm giant to sit upon comfortably, and is carved from the heart of a mountain. The Throne protrudes from the rear wall of a 100 foot-diameter cavern, and rest upon a floor of billowing clouds. The Throne is said to have the power to grant wishes, but if the gods are offended by the request, then the gods may curse the foolish mortal instead. It is unknown what Balin wished for, but it apparently offended the gods, for Balin was then cursed with severe agoraphobia. So severe was the curse, reportedly, that he would only go about in public at night, when there were fewer people abroad. It was Balin who subsequently named his villa “Tunnel Home,” since he spent the daylight hours below ground. 

After coming to Sternhaven and being awarded the position of Sheriff, Balin would still only emerge at night to perform his law enforcement duties. In fact, the criminal element of Sternhaven would laughingly say that the smartest criminals would commit their infractions only during the daytime, when they could be sure the Sheriff would not be out. It wasn’t until this time that balien made the acquaintance of the Mad Dwarves, who included:

  • Tramlin, a cleric 
  • Ramlin, a rogue, and 
  • Anlar, a fighter

In any event, in the course of his duties, Balin would confiscate magic items from miscreants. These items, reportedly, formed the initial stock of what, ultimately, became Tunnelhome’s. 

In Late Night Game Night and 13C, Tunnelhome’s-Sternhaven has evolved into the Tunnelhome Collective, an expansive commercial organization, strictly controlled, in which individual franchises are awarded or purchased. Franchises are typically located in large cities that support populations that cater to adventures – indeed, gaining access to Tunnelhome’s require’s two things: that one be an adventurer, and that one be referred to Tunnelhome’s, by someone that enjoys a previous relationship with the franchise.

Franchose holders will often refer existing customers to other Tunnelhome franchises in other cities…. cities that are, sometimes, quite far:

Sam turned a well-worn corner and saw the squat stone cylinder that was Tunnelhome’s. He hitched his bags a little higher and made for the door.

“Mr. Chopper,” said the anonymous elven archer, who leaned insouciantly against the pale stone walls and knuckled the front of his feathered cap.

“G’wan in,” said the equally anonymous half-orc bodyguard, gesturing with his immense, wickedly curved talwar. The two were never apart and were never seen away from their posts.

Sam entered the familiar halls of Tunnelhome’s with a frisson of deja-vu. Many visits, many transactions, and bloodstains on every piece pulled from the bag…

“Samwell,” said the dwarf. “Welcome back.” Tunnelhome was dressed the same as always, samite shirt, pantaloons, and a dwarven leather apron. He reminded Sam a bit of Bazrum. Bazrum, the only father he’d ever known, dead by a ‘yanki reaver.

“Greetings, Tunnelhome,” Sam said. He heaved the bags from his shoulder onto Tunnelhome’s famous, zinc-topped appraisal table and began pulling various items from them. Mithril table settings, Githyanki small arms, coins of various denominations – the portable loot of a long and arduous campaign.

Sam’s bags held far more than would seem possible considering their size, but neither commented on it.

Tunnelhome surveyed the variety, scattered about atop the zinc. His eyes narrowed. “What are you looking to achieve, my friend?”

“I’m leaving Westcrown,” Sam said simply. “I’m selling, with a few exceptions.” He drew a small roll of parchment from inside his cloak and handed it to the dwarf. Tunnelhome unrolled it and examined the contents with a jaded eye. He nodded. “This is well within reason, with a fair bit left over. How do you want it?”

“Gems, mostly, 50s and 100s,” Sam said. “But I do have a question for you: how far afield does your network extend?”

Tunnelhome smiled indulgently. “Depends on who’s asking, usually. Since it’s you…?” he shrugged, “It extends far.”

“As far as Sigil?”

Tunnelhome raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps.” He paused, looking at Sam thoughtfully. “That’s a fair distance.”

“If you’ve a branch there, then I can can take some in draught, alongside a letter of introduction.”

Tunnelhome was silent for a long moment. “We do have a branch there,” he said finally. “Why Sigil, if I may ask?”

Sam leaned back in his chair, and sighed deeply.

“Have you spent time on the Planes?”

“No, can’t say that I have. My business keeps me here, as you can imagine.” He gestured broadly at the interior of his shop.

“It’s made all this… insubstantial” Sam said simply. “My home is there now.”

Tunnelhome looked at Sam, again silently, for nearly a half a minute. Then he nodded.

“Gems first,” he said, waving over a functionary. “Then your list. Bank-draught for the rest, and a letter of introduction.” Tunnelhome took another look at the list. “This will take… an hour. Maybe an hour and a half.”

“I’ll stay, if you care not.”

Tunnelhome smiled. “I have a room, with refreshments and wine. Satisfactory?”

Sam nodded.

“An hour.” Tunnelhome smiled, and pointed to his employee. “Room three, if you please.”

This passage specifically refers to the Tunnelhome franchise in Westcrown, Cheliax, but does illustrate, in certain ways, the evolution of the franchise itself:

  • The Tunnelhome Collective network extends far indeed; Sigil is one of the oldest cities on the planes, (The network does not, it should be noted, extend to Tu’Narath, despite that city’s significant non-Githyanki quarter);
  • Regardless of location, Tunnelhome franchisees remain dwarves exclusively;
  • Tunnelhome door security consists of two, reportedly incredibly competent individuals: an elvish archer, and an half-orc fighter who bears a large curved sword, often a tulwar, about whom we’ll discuss in more detail later;
  • “Modern” Tunnelhome franchises have a much expended scope of services compared to the Ravenwind location, including providing referrals, money-changing, purchase of various sorts of loot both magical and nonmagical, and providing credit notes in the form of gold draughts payable at other franchise locations – essentially, acting in certain ways as an adventurers bank.

Since Tunnelhome’s are franchises, sometimes for the right person a franchise will become available. Tunnelhome franchise territories are strictly regulated by the collective, and on top of that Tunnelhome’s select clientele mandates a population that can support it. At the end of the 13C campaign, Mira Keredes sought out and acquired a franchise for Magnimar:

Lady Mira Keredes had already made her plans. She had signed a contract with the Tunnelhome Collective, known far and wide as the place for adventuring professionals, to operate a franchise in Magnimar, some 600 miles northwest on the Varisian coast. Her franchise was already being arranged, logistics and support in place, and she would leave in a month to take it up.

Mira was asked to sign a pretty lengthy contract with the collective, inside of which were several interesting elements:

  • Cost of a franchise: 200,000 gp, with a mandatory 10% (20,000 gp) down payment, financed internally at 5% annually for 10 years;
  • A fair amount of discussion about suitability and safety of the physical plant;
  • Franchisees are issued door guards: “Sef”, an elven archer, and “Viss,” a half-orc fighter, both considered to be “of excellent martial and diplomatic capabilities.” They post themselves outside of the location and are always there when the location is open for business. They follow the franchisee’s orders “within reason and insofar as they do not interfere with Collective orders.” The collective’s orders are not specified.

The Franchisee Agreement also delineates the responsibilities of the franchise holder:

  1. Engaging in the buying, selling, trading, commissioning of and speculation upon magical items of all types;
  2. Engaging in the changing and speculation of currency between nations, and the appraisal of currencies and bullion to further engage in the buying, selling, trading, commissioning of and speculation thereon;
  3. Storing of currency and bullion securely for clientele, and further issuing draughts thereon for the purpose of international trade and exchange between Franchise locations;
  4. Providing of diversified services to an exclusive clientele as client need and Franchise amenities permit;
  5. Recommending international clientele between Franchise locations, and accepting Franchise recommendations as required;
  6. Providing news of commercial and political interest between Franchise locations, both periodically and as circumstances warrant;

But there is a section titled “Miscellaneous Duties”:

  1. Fulfill special requests, as delivered in writing, from other Franchises and Franchisees;
  2. Accommodate draughts of bullion and currency drawn on other Franchises;
  3. Maintain sufficient inventory to satisfactorily accommodate local market needs;
  4. Restrict clientele to professional adventurers, select political and merchanting concerns, select local aristocracy, and select mercenary representatives;
  5. Personally do business under the name of “Tunnelhome” and exhibit the physical qualities of a dwarf during the conducting of business;
  6. Act in keeping with the reputation norms and mores as befits a Franchisee and member of Collective;
  7. Attend in person the annual Collective conclave as a representative of territorial Franchisee; locations are named and disseminated to all Franchisees 60 days prior to event.

As you can see, the history of Tunnelhome’s is varied, unique, and reflects in many ways the evolution the game itself has undergone. From magic shop to global banking concern, the growth of Tunnelhome’s mirrors the needs and scope of both its clientele and the world around it.