Derro Divine Savants?

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:

  • Clerics
  • Druids
  • Rangers

Plus quite a long list from the other major core PFRPG sources readily available on the PFSRD:

  • Inquisitors (APG)
  • Shamans (ACG)
  • Warpriests (ACG)
  • Spiritualists (OA)

Note an Oracle (APG) uses Cha however… more on that later.

Overall it’s an idea almost as crazy as this guy here:

A Derro cleric? (Unknown source)

Or is it?

Interlude: A Short Primer on Derro Theology

Derro religion or lack thereof, as they could make an interesting insane Athar or basis for a variant ur-priest concept I suspect, is too complex and contradictory a topic to deal with properly in this mechanics post, but lets sketch some background.

The main deity associated with derro in earlier editions is Diirinka, who betrayed his imprisoned brother Diinkarazan to save himself from the wrath of Ilsensine (the illithid deity). This probably holds for the World of Greyhawk, but in 3E/3.5E and particularly in Faerun, the second brother is generally forgotten about and 5E appears to have dropped the iconic derro deity entirely as per the following:

“While not particularly religious creatures, when they do chose to worship, their gods are as unpleasant and sadistic as they are. Their pantheon includes the Mother of Monsters – Lamashtu, Andirifkhu the demon lord of knives and razors, Cyth-V’sug the lord of fungus, the demon lord of necromancy Orcus and the sadistic Shax.”
– Out of the Abyss

In Pathfinder’s default setting of Golarion, derro worship ancestral gods of madness (perhaps even a so-called Derantheon like in the Midgard setting of Open Design based on a fan idea), demon lords and even elder gods such as the Old Ones eg Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath and others…

All well and good… or rather evil.

The Consequences of Being Mad

Well see, basically derro are insane. No really, they’re completely nuts in all the descriptions and contexts to date in case you hadn’t noticed..

That’s pretty much all that needs to be said right there.

This means that standard derro have Wis 5, that’s a -3 bonus for the mechanically inclined and more importantly the relevant table clearly states: “Can’t cast spells tied to this ability”.

OK, well that makes for a short post. Answer is just no.

I’ll concede maybe a spell-less ranger would technically still be possible ie. Skirmisher, Trapper or Skin-Changer archetype perhaps.

Sure if the derro somehow stopped being insane (unlikely), their Wis increases by 6 (and their Cha drops by 6), giving them a score of 11, which is just enough to cast Divine spells but pretty sub-optimal for a primary spell-caster really if you think about it.

And well, a derro that isn’t insane… well, that’s not really a derro now?

So where exactly does that leave us I wonder…

Note: a sane derro could then possibly be a “terro” / “tero”, which may or may not be a pech, depending on which setting you’re dealing with (Golarion – yes, Greyhawk – no) and how Shaverian you want to be about everything… I’m pro-Shaverian to be honest but the Golarion idea of being derived from pech is clever.

If You’re Mad, Just Have A Lot of Personality

If only Wis wasn’t the primary spell-casting ability for Divine spellcasters. Perhaps if we could flex it or fudge it so that they used Cha, like a paladin (or an antipaladin more likely) – they’re Divine spellcasters after all but they use force of personality to power their abilities (as explained quite well in this specific reddit post). If only there was a way…

Ability Shifting Feats?

There’s no canonical PFRPG feat that shifts Wis to Cha for Divine spell-casting that I’m aware of (please correct me if I’m wrong here), but there is a somewhat obscure 3.5E feat from the Dragonlance Legends of the Twins supplement,  that should do the trick called Dynamic Priest (see insert). Taken at first level, this effectively switches the primary spellcasting ability from the beginning, allowing the usual spell-progression. It doesn’t allow the character to use his Cha score for Will saves etc, but derro can already do that due to their insanity.

Dynamic Priest

Your self-confidence and personality are the foundations of your faith.

Benefit: For the purpose of determining bonus divine spells per day and maximum divine spell level, your primary spellcasting ability is Charisma. If you have more than one divine spellcasting class, the bonus applies to only one of those classes. Your spell save DCs are not affected by this change.

Special: You may only take this feat as a 1st-level character. If you take this feat more than once, it applies to a different divine spell-casting class each time. You may take this feat even if you have no divine spellcasting classes yet.

– sourced from the Dragonlance Nexus

There are some similar feats from other 3rd party or 3.5E sources such as “Bastard Bloodline” (controversial and often house-ruled to be a mental Ability to avoid abuse by using Str or Con) and “Generic Spellcaster”.

Sounds like a good start, but is there another way?

Of course, there are at least two I can think of.

Divine Savant Archetypes

Using or creating an archetype is an option – the Mysterious Stranger and Buccaneer gunslinger archetypes switch the class feature “grit” from Wis to Cha without the need for a feat and the Sage Mutated Bloodline (the equivalent of an archetype) switches Cha to Int for spell-casting so there’s some precedent here and certainly a racial archetype limited to derro is probably a good place to start.

I’m not going to create a whole new detailed archetype just yet as this is just an exploratory post but given that archetypes can be over-lapped, a very basic “Divine Savant” archetype that achieves this but is limited to derro only would mechanically do the trick and could then be used with other archetypes as it does not overlap with any other changed features.

It could be argued this “template” is effectively the equivalent to a free feat admittedly. Then again derro start with 3HD in any case as a monster race and are not technically playable as a PC race without significant modification so maybe this is not a major issue for some GMs (see “Derro, Lesser“, pages 9-10 of the AR12 – Derro supplement by Open Design).

I’m not sure if I see it as a problem personally. YMMV as always.

These comments mainly apply to a derro cleric or perhaps a druid, even a ranger (although a spell-less derro ranger archetype makes more sense pragmatically) but could equally be used for the other Wis based divine spellcaster classes.

Derro Oracles and Witches as “Divine” Savants

Either of these are actually a pretty reasonable option – oracles are pretty weird and that suits the derro savant divine spell-caster fine and although witches are not technically a divine spell-casting class, they do fit the derro savant role, perhaps with a bit of twisted imagination.

Oracles are Cha based already, but have a lower spell-casting progression – the Dark Tapestry, Lore and Old Gods, Spellscar and Void Mysteries are suggested in AR12 – Derro as highly appropriate and the supplement also has some ideas about Oracle curses.

Witches are Int based (although using the Sage Mutated Bloodline precedent as noted above, could switch to Cha via an archetype or a feat) and have the same spell-casting progression as a sorcerer, albeit with a somewhat different list of spells than most of the divine classes. To me a familiar doesn’t really seem to fit, but a variation of the Bonded Witch (normally restricted to half-elves for some reason), Scarred Witch Doctor (usuall only half-orcs) or Gravewalker would be a good place to start. AR12 – Derro suggests the Dimensional Occultist and White-Haired Witch as additional options.


Looks like there are actually quite a few options for derro divine spell-casters or “quasi” divine spellcasters like the witch, which could fit an ur-priest role even given majority opinion is the 3.5E ur-priest is horribly broken mechanically, while remaining great in concept.

I’ll likely come back to it in another post or when I start building the roster of “variant” 5th-level savants I have planned…








2 thoughts on “Derro Divine Savants?

  1. Hey,
    Check out open designs halls of the mountain kings for pathfinder – derro are the major enemy, known as the ‘forsaken’.

    There’s a madness cleric I built for that mod – I think that’s a cool way to go with them. Also, there is a write up of a derro city in a issue of Kobold quarterly. Farragum.

    I love derro too. I wrote a lot of the open design derro book!



    1. Hey thanks Nick, I have HotMK as my friend Ben MacFarland worked on parts of it and thought the “Forsaken” were cool, reminiscent of the Thiewar of Krynn in a way perhaps – I’ll dig out the PDF file and check out the “Madness cleric”. And yeah, I love the Open Design Derro material – great work on that!


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