As discussed in my first post, I’m planning to talk a lot about derro savants, drawing on both the older Gygax material of 1E/2E and the later versions and setting based variations for inspiration, while pushing some of the existing concepts in different directions, whether they be Shaverian, Lovecraft inspired or just interesting.
This little guy on the right, Y, from the 5E Out of the Abyss, is part of the inspiration – a seemingly sane Neutral savant member of the Faerun Underdark’s “Society of Brilliance”
Before we start looking at variants, let’s get some basics out of the way.
In the previous post I speculated about the horde of albino apelings from Sea of Death and their relationship to the Suloise derro of the Greyhawk setting.
I think the cross bred origin, while somewhat distasteful admittedly, does fit with the original derro concept and is an expansion on the folklore. To that end, modeling the albino apelings as single minions or a swarm seems like a fun project, so I’ll present some of my design thoughts here.
A living wall of albino apes was coming through the doorway. Their faces twisted in snarling expressions, showing their yellow canines but making no sound, the mute, baboon-like things began to plow through the opening. The front wave had impacted the partially open door and pushed it inward. Because they had paused outside the door and thereby lost their momentum, and because the portal was heavy and not easily moved, the beasts’ initial entry was slow. The apes behind the first wave had an opportunity to build up some speed in the corridor, and they ran over the ones in front of them. The result was that a few of the apes were stunned or injured by their allies, and the haphazard nature of the charge gave the adventurers inside the room a few valuable seconds to prepare for the onslaught.
– Chapter 12, Sea of Death, by Gary Gygax 1987
An evocative scene from the 3rd Gord the Rogue novel (the first one after Gygax’s falling out with TSR) where the heroes are attacked by a reckless horde… nay, a swarm of angry albino apelings led by “pale midgets”.
I was originally going to title this post Derro Clerics, Seriously?, but given the focus of the discussion is really going to be about derro as Divine spellcasters that most use Wis as their primary ability, it’s probably worth expanding on to include all these:
Plus quite a long list from the other major core PFRPG sources readily available on the PFSRD:
Note an Oracle (APG) uses Cha however… more on that later.
Overall it’s an idea almost as crazy as this guy here:
This landmark article, written by Roger E. Moore and published in DRAGON #241 (Nov 1997) is one of my favourite pieces of roleplaying history, with extensive 2E mechanics on playing PCs from the lost albino Lerara tribe (first tantalisingly mentioned in the original Greyhawk boxed set), derro, the diminutive jermlaine or even a unique albino su-doppelganger.
The fiction material in this piece forms the basis of much of the Greyhawk derro lore, detailing and expanding on the now classic Suloise slave origin story first hinted at in Gary Gygax’s third Gord the Rogue novel, Sea of Death, which details the exploration of the Forgotten City.
Much of the background fiction is in the form of a letter:
This is Buppido, a derro prisoner encountered at the start of WotC’s 5E supplement, Out of the Abyss, the tabletop component of their latest epic cross platform event, Rage of Demons.
Further details, background and motivations / goals for Buppido are given on page 6, but it will come as no surprise that he’s mad, bad and quite certainly dangerous to know on so many levels… but for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll leave the extent of his primary personality traits for your to find out yourselves
But he’s not the only derro in the supplement, which is the first 5E product to give us the latest incarnation of derro, there’s a whole ghetto of a duergar city known as Gracklstugh filled with the degenerates…
The following post below may contain some spoilers, so reader beware!
2018 Addit:I’ve now added some more thoughts on 5E derro in a later post…
Published in the March/April 2000 of DUNGEON (issue #79), the year in which 3E was later released, this 16 page 2E adventure by author Jeff Fairbourn deals with the players foiling a somewhat anachronistic derro smelting operation linked to the production of secari, the signature weapon of Suloise derro (Greyhawk).
The derro are the primary antagonists of the module, led by Jinjuk, a derro savant and his two students (Isho and Kuruki), supported by a band of derro and some bugbear guards.