I’ve always been intrigued by the derro, the strange degenerate dwarf / human hybrids first introduced in Gary Gygax’s S4 Caverns of Tsojcanth.
They were then portrayed as the crazed albino remnants of the Suel Imperium beneath the Forgotten City in his 3rd “Gord the Rogue novel”, Sea of Death.
Derro were also one of my favourite adversaries in the classic UK6: When a Star Falls module, as well as appearing in Carl Sargent’s Night Below campaign box.
Ah, those were the days…
Fast forward 15+ years later and I’ve become interested again in the Pathfinder RPG system and their representations of the derro. Detailed in the Tome of Classic Horrors and Into the Darklands supplements, the PFRPG derro are an even darker version tracing back to their potential 1940s roots in the Richard Sharp Shaver stories first presented in Amazing Magazine as a story entitled “I Remember Lemuria” that came to be collectively known as “The Shaver Mysteries“.
Listen to this radio interview for some of Shaver’s ideas.
Although these derro of Golarion, the default Paizo Pathfinder campaign setting, have a variant origin as devolved fey, the “Shaverian” aspects are played up significantly, with derro enclaves canonically situated in the highest level of Nar-Voth beneath every major city. Their noted obsession with the “Overburn” (the world above) has now become an overriding theme, leading to their insane experiments on their captives.
The derro of Open Design’s Midgard Setting, presented in Advanced Races 12: Derro (Pathfinder RPG) vary slightly from their cousins in Golarion, but likewise draw heavily on “Shaverian” influences and are foremost a race of insane slavers. The supplement presents the derro as a possible balanced playable PC race, “Lesser Derro” and reintroduces one of their signature weapons, the fauchard.
I’m going to use this blog to explore aspects of the derro from older editions and alternative settings that might work well in a PFRPG game, as well as extrapolating from some related “Shaverian” concepts and my own ideas to produce original not-for-profit material under the Open Game Licence.
And so now, let’s start on our journey into Lemuria…