This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Thirty Eight on 26th April, 2023.
Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast.
As we’ve mentioned before, unlike with a lot of modern fantasy media like Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, Dragons in D&D are fully sapient, thinking beings. That has given rise to several dragons who made names for themselves for various reasons. Icingdeath, which is the name I’m using because his real name sounds like someone sneezing into a kazoo, is a dragon made famous from the Drizz’t novels. Ashardalon [ash-AR-dah-lawn] is a red dragon with a terrifying multiversal reputation. Silvara is a Silver dragon whose life and fate were tied in directly to the War of the Lance and the heroes from Dragonlance.
Themberchaud is another dragon who has made enough of a mark on the world that his name is recognizable. Mostly he’s recognized by people familiar with the Underdark. Unfortunately the recognition is not for anything good.
The first mention of Themberchaud was actually in a second edition resource, specifically Drizz’t Do’Urden’s guide to the Underdark. He’s mostly a passing flavor footnote, stating that the dragon is responsible for fueling the forges in the city of Gracklestugh. In 3.5 he gets even less fanfare, simply listed as a notable dragon amongst a list of others in the “Dragons of Faerun” resource. He is mentioned in a few other resources from that edition, but nothing was made of him in 4th edition.
In 5th edition he’s gotten a bit more of a boost to his profile. First, he was included in the Out of the Abyss module in a section where the characters infiltrate Gracklestugh. And then, of course, as everyone saw from the trailers, he made a rather prominent appearance in the “Honor Among Thieves” movie.
Themberchaud was always simply listed as a young adult red dragon until 5th edition, where apparently it’s been long enough for him to age into adult status.
5th edition is also where details of his situation got more fleshed out. As mentioned, he is the primary source of heat for the forges in the duergar city. There’s a group within the city, called the Keepers of the Flame, that devote themselves to the care of the dragon.
See, they provide the dragon with food and treasure in return for his service and a promise not to rampage around the city and kill everyone. They keep a den for him in the city, and he spends or spent most of his time simply wandering back and forth between that and the forges. This is not a terrible commute, especially as he’s really good at convincing traffic jams to clear up.
Themberchaud, being a red dragon surrounded by duergar, has no problem eating living creatures. The duergar also need a convenient way to get rid of slaves who can’t work anymore, slaves who are too much trouble, or people who annoy them.
What you have here is what nutritionists call a “high calorie intake with a sedentary lifestyle.” This means Themberchaud is…big. And not scary big like you usually worry about with dragons, but big in the sense of “can dragons get clogged arteries?”
Themberchaud’s bulk means he no longer has the ability to fly. He can hover briefly if he’s falling or gets a good running…okay maybe jogging jump, and he can certainly slow a fall, but full flight is just no longer possible. Also, he apparently has some issues reliably getting his fire breath going. He sometimes only expels flammable gas rather than a full gout of flame. It’s not clear if that’s a byproduct of his weight issues or some other factor.
The dragon’s weight is a subject of some speculation. It’s not that dragons can’t get fat; that’s been known to happen with other dragons. The 4th edition draconomicon mentioned a female black dragon named Gulgol the Corpulent with a similar body profile.
The fact that Themberchaud is fat isn’t unusual in itself, but some people wonder if the duergar did it intentionally. Those in the know are aware that the Keepers of the Flame are responsible for taking care of the dragon, but they’re also responsible for “taking care of” the dragon if it gets too difficult to control. Supposedly Themberchaud is unaware of that, although the dragon is aware the Keepers are hiding something from him. As he’s now an adult, most people would consider that the cusp of “too powerful to be controlled.”
Then again, if the dragon is doing it’s job and its weight takes away some of its combat prowess, maybe the Keepers don’t consider it as much of at threat. On the other hand, it’s also rumored that the thieves’ guild in the city recently stole a dragon egg from the keepers. So were they keeping Themberchaud around because he’s still compliant, or is it because they lost his replacement?
Themberchaud, as mentioned, appeared in the recent D&D movie. Minor spoilers here, so if you’re still holding out to see the movie, skip the next paragraph.
In the movie, the characters go past the Duergar city while they’re in the Underdark, and they do run into Themberchaud…however he’s not in the city, and seems to be roaming independently. It’s not clear when exactly the D&D movie takes place, but if it’s set after the “Out of the Abyss” module then it’s possible Themberchaud and his keepers had a falling out; either the Keepers tried to get rid of him and flubbed it, or Themberchaud escaped on his own.
Working the dragon into a campaign isn’t impossible, but it depends on how much you want to adhere to the lore.
Fans are already arguing about the canonicity of the Honor Among Thieves movie, particularly where well known figures like Themberchaud and Szass Tam are concerned. So there’s a point of divergence. If you don’t think the D&D movie’s lore is canon, Themberchaud is still in Gracklestugh, scheming around the Keepers of the Flame to avoid being killed, but possibly okay with the status quo; I mean, they are giving him regular meals and treasure, even though he’s apparently not totally satisfied with his pay rate.
On the other hand, if you think the movie is canon then Themberchaud is a free agent, so to speak, He’s no longer in Gracklestugh, though he may be nearby, and still in the Underdark. That said, dragons, particularly red ones, are better equipped to wander the Underdark than most creatures, so as long as he didn’t run into a purple worm or get infected with a mindflayer tadpole he could be anywhere. He may have even made his way back up to the surface, so if you need a slightly pudgy red dragon in your game and you’re comfortable fudging the lore a bit, have at it.
Another note; as we said, at the moment there are no custom stats for Themberchaud. That may change if the movie’s popularity holds and Wizards decides to post some official stats, but right now he’s only statted as an Adult Red dragon, even in Out of the Abyss.
Based on the movie, a more accurate stat block might remove his fly speed, or shorten it, and might make the breath weapon harder to recharge, like requiring a 9-10 on a d10. That is wholly up to you, however.