Savants – Basics (Part 1)

Y, neutral savant?

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.

The Base Derro Savant (PFRPG)

So what exactly is the normal or base derro savant?

As per the description in the Pathfinder Bestiary, derro leaders are derro sorcerers of 3rd-8th level, capitalising on the race’s high Cha scores to increase their arcane spell-casting abilities. These then seem to be the logical direct candidate for the concept of the earlier edition “savant” as concluded in an earlier post – a charismatic leader and spontaneous spellcaster, able to easily use magical devices and found utilising a variety of weapons and light armor (see insert).

Insert: Summary of Elements of a 1E Savant for PFRPG

  • Additional 3-5+ class levels
  • Proficiency with several racial Exotic Weapons
  • Limited spontaneous arcane magic (sorcerer-like)
    • Ability to read magic
    • Access to comprehend languages
  • Use Magic Device as a Class Skill
  • Knowledge (various) as Class Skills
    • Possible bonuses to Knowledge checks
  • NPC Magic Items based on level

In the Tome of Classic Horrors, derro leaders are instead referred to as “magisters” and are noted to be more widely either alchemists, sorcerers or rogues, whereas the older Mongoose 3E/3.5E supplement The Slayer’s Guide to Derro considers the savant a prestige class that usually builds from a 5th level sorcerer (pages 21-22) that gains access to all magic items and a bardic knowledge like lore ability, keeping to the older concepts.

The Advanced Races 12: Derro supplement retains the term savant however and takes pains to distinguish them from derro “priests”. This supplement also introduces a specific “Savant” bloodline on page 18 meant to replace the default “Arcane” sorcerer bloodline – the addition of the Knowledge (forbidden) as a bonus skill and choice of spells, feats, arcana powers reflects traditional derro savant features above.

Let’s leave aside the derro fetal savant for now as they are more a companion creature or living magic item in role than a leader type. Also the psychic derro magister from the Occult Bestiary is worth a discussion of its own  and how it is both similar and different to a derro psychic.

Across the sources, the distinction between a savant and a “student” seems to be mainly one of level and status, with those individuals of less than 5th level being referred to consistently as “student savants. This incidentally is the exact example give for 5E derro savants in OotA.

So maybe a 5th level derro sorcerer works best as the base savant?

Next Post: Savants – 5th Level Sorcerer


Insert: Suggested Ability Scores for PFRPG Savants

As advanced creatures with class levels, any derro savant automatically gains the following “Elite”Ability score modifications:+4, +4, +2, +2, +0, and –2,  to the base derro stat block (Str 11, Dex 15, Con 18, Int 10,Wis 5, Cha 16) according to d20PFSRD Monster Advancement rules.

For most savants, increasing both Cha (used for most thematically applicable spell-casting classes except the occultist and witch) and Int (for Knowledge skills and the spell casting of the occultist and witch), while leaving the poor Wis score the same is the default choice. Leaving Str neutral (+2/-2) and increasing Dex leaves the following final default stat block applicable to most Cha based savants (sorcerer, oracle, psychic, mesmerist or cleric archetypes that use Cha instead of Wis such as the Elder Mythos Cultist):

Str 11, Dex 17, Con 18, Int 14,Wis 5, Cha 20 (default)

This effectively optimises their spells and Use Magic Device skill, gives them some additional skill ranks to spend on Knowledges and slightly improves their AC, CMD and ranged attacks.

As an alternative option, an occultist or witch savant that uses Int as their primary spell-casting Ability may choose to increase their Int score further instead of their Cha, leaving their Cha untouched:

Str 11, Dex 17, Con 18, Int 18,Wis 5, Cha 16 (occultist or witch)

This further boosts their skill ranks further, aids their variant spell-casting at the expense of their Use Magic Device skill.

Divine Savants: a similar re-allocation to Wis for a Divine spell-caster is unlikely to be beneficial as a derro starts with such a low Wis due to their insanity – savants from classes that normal have Wis as their primary Ability are significantly disadvantaged, if not unable to cast spells without a feat or exotic archetype that switches their primary spell-casting Ability as discussed in an earlier post.

Of course, unique and higher-level leader savants may benefit from a different allocation or have completely different Abilities to suit their desired concept.


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