Canon:Axe of the Dwarvish Lords

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In the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, Axe of the Dwarvish Lords refers to both a powerful magic item and to an adventure module focusing on the item.

Within the context of the game as an item, the Axe is an artifact, or a unique magical weapon of great power.

Publication history[edit]

Long associated with the World of Greyhawk campaign setting, the axe made its first appearance in the small saddle-stapled supplement booklet Eldritch Wizardry,[1] which was written for the first published edition of D&D. It was later presented in a number of publications belonging to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) edition of that game.[2][3][4] An adventure module Axe of the Dwarvish Lords[5] involving the Axe and written by long-time Dungeons & Dragons designer Skip Williams was published under the TSR imprint in 1999, after Wizards of the Coast had purchased TSR, Inc., and revived the long-dormant Greyhawk campaign setting.

The Axe of the Dwarvish Lords is also one of the few magical artifacts described in the 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.[6]

Description and powers[edit]

In its earliest form in Eldritch Wizardry, the artifact is described as a short-handled axe backed by a clawed hammer head, with its history being that it was forged far in the D&D world's past by a king of the dwarves. Regarding its powers in the game, the item, as a weapon, has all the powers of a sword of sharpness and additionally confers on its user the keen eyesight and senses of the dwarven race, an ability to teleport at intervals, and a weekly Wish spell. The artifact's possessor faces certain, inherent disadvantages imposed by the intense magic of the weapon, however. The longer the item is in a person's possession, the more that person's appearance will begin to become dwarf-like (facial hair, shrinking height and increasing girth). The possessor takes additional damage from any attacks and must sacrifice a living human in order to activate the axe for each 24 hour period.

In publications for AD&D, the axe's powers and history were further detailed in the Dungeon Master's Guide, which described its maker as the "first Dwarven King" who forged it with the aid of a deity, but having been lost in the Invoked Devastation, a fictional event that took place in the World of Greyhawk setting. The Book of Artifacts expands on this history, stating that the Axe was one of "Five Great Tools" forged by the king. In this history the Axe is given the additional name of The Fierce Axe, but the details of the loss of the Axe were changed to a civil war among the dwarves for possession of it. Additionally, the powers of the Axe were changed in these publications. The Dungeon Master's Guide dropped some of the powers ascribed to it in Eldritch Wizardry for a system where each individual dungeon master would determine them. In Book of Artifacts the powers were again strictly defined, although some were still different than those given in Eldritch Wizardry.

The Axe of the Dwarvish Lords adventure module, written for the second edition rules of AD&D, greatly expanded on the history given in Book of Artifacts, going into great detail regarding the fictional forging of the Axe and the dwarven civil war. The powers of the Axe were also detailed in greater depth and again changed somewhat from previous versions, though the Axe's physical description remained essentially the same.

In the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, Epic Level Handbook,[7] the Axe is described as it has been in products since Book of Artifacts. Regarding its powers it is described as a dwarven war-axe with a powerful enhancement bonus to increase the chances of successfully hitting an opponent. Additional special abilities of the Axe include a doubled chance of scoring a critical hit, the ability to be thrown by its wielder as if it were a throwing weapon, and an increased chance of successfully hitting and dealing extra damage to goblinoid opponents. It also stated that any non-dwarf who holds the Axe loses some of their vitality, while a dwarf who holds it gains an improved ability to see in the dark, bonuses to their ability to craft items, and the ability to summon an elder earth elemental.


The fictional legends within the D&D game state that it was forged by the First King of the dwarves for the honor of the god Moradin, and that it was lost after the Invoked Devastation and Rain of Colorless Fire. It was the last of the Five Great Tools; the others were the Brutal Pick, the Earthheart Forge, the Anvil of Songs, and the Shaping Hammer. These other four tools were used to make the fifth. Legend has it that when the Axe is found again, the Age of High Kings will return and the dwarven people will be reunited at last.

Other uses[edit]

Axe of the Dwarvish Lords is also the title of a 1999 Dungeons & Dragons adventure module written by Skip Williams. In the adventure, the player characters must retrieve the artifact from an evil wizard who had stolen the powerful weapon and who intends to use it to marshal a massive goblin army against a dwarven community, while avoiding an agent of the derro god Diirinka.

Notable game designer S. John Ross praised the module for delivering an exciting adventure despite "... its tremendous flaws of writing and design."[8]


  1.  (1976). Eldritch Wizardry. (TSR, Inc.)
  2.  (1979). Dungeon Master's Guide: Essential Reference Information for Gamemastering Advanced D&D. (TSR, Inc.)
  3.  (1993). Book of Artifacts. (TSR, Inc.)
  4. Dale Henson, Doug Stewart (1994, 1995). Encyclopedia Magica. (2e) TSR. ISBN 1560768428. Volume 1. pp. 115-116.
  5.  (1999). Axe of the Dwarvish Lords. (TSR, Inc.)
  6. (). Dungeon Master's Guide. (4e) Wizards of the Coast.
  7.  (2002). Epic Level Handbook. (Wizards of the Coast)
  8. S. John, Ross. "Review - Axe of the Dwarvish Lords". Retrieved 2008-02-03 

External links[edit]

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