Overlooking the Desert of the Gods, and the primary location of most of our “Desert of the Gods” campaign that we launched into our long love-affair with third edition D&D with, is Powell’s Folly.
To those approaching the Desert of the Gods, Powell’s Folly is the last refuge before entering the desert proper. A dwarven citadel perched atop the crater wall that surrounds the whole desert, the lookout on the citadel is the only civilized stopping place from where the plateau in the desert can be seen.
But it is only just civilized anymore.
Powell’s Folly was founded towards the end of a long ago B/X campaign by none other than Powell, a mighty Dwarven Lord. All would have been fine, but Powell wasn’t exactly sane. Years before he had been placed under a permanent charm person effect by a race of hideous mud-creatures from deep under the earth. These same creatures were all slain before they had time to order Powell in any way, and he has mourned their loss since.
When he founded Powell’s Folly, he managed to bring in two clans of dwarves to help dig it out and build the fortress itself. They in turn were brought here by the sapphires Powell had found in the cliff face below the uppermost facing edge of the crater. A series of small mines were dug, and the mighty cliff tower and accompanying keep constructed. Soon the gems ran out, and Powell continued excavations. He paid well for the dwarves to keep digging and mining, but many of the clan members felt betrayed by the lack of gems or valuable metals being pulled from the stone despite all their efforts.
The depths under the fortress continued to be expanded, and other pre-existing constructions were discovered and incorporated as best they could be into the sprawling labyrinth of passages, mines and shafts. Peace was negotiated with a flock of harpies who then moved into caves in the cliff face below the tower itself. Rumours also persist of an ancient temple of the four armed desert raiders having been annexed in the depths of the earth.
Today the citadel is nearly empty. Only the top two levels of the tower are still maintained, the lower levels and the dungeon depths barricaded and nearly forgotten. The remnants of the two dwarven clans are too busy dealing with goblin raiders from the caves downhill from the keep to actively work on patrolling or reclaiming the depths – assuming they could be convinced there is any reason to do so.
The only reason the clans haven’t left entirely is that some feel that the place must live on, that Powell be remembered, and that the lookout over the desert to see the plateau be maintained. It has almost become a sacred duty to them.