The first module of the second Adventure Path” “Curse of the Crimson Throne” written by Nicholas Logue back in 2008, before the advent of the PFRPG proper, this module is set in Korvosa, in the northern country of Varisia.
The adventure features a small derro contingent at the finale, the first appearance of the race in the Pathfinder series. As such, it’s a seminal work and set the scene for a lot of the thematic flavour of the derro of Golarion, casting them in sharp contrast to their previous incarnations as former Suloise slaves in the 2E Flanaess or the irrevocably warped escaped mind flayer thralls of the 3E Forgotten Realms setting.
Yes, the derro beneath Korvosa are something different again…
Potential spoilers follow.
As previously with these cameo posts, this is not a review of the actual module, I’m only going to comment on the derro elements and their portrayal, in this case
The Derro of the Dead Warrens
It’s in this section that the players encounter 4 derro and their “variant savant”, Vreeg (see below). Not many admittedly, but enough to convey some of the newer themes – remember this is a APL 1 module after all.
The following insert, sets the Golarion derro well apart from their previous counterparts, drawing heavily on the Shaver Mysteries for inspiration it would seem…
Most native Korvosans have heard stories about the wererats, otyughs, and goblins said to haunt the deeper Vaults under the city, but few have heard of the pervasive derro. These small, three-fingered, blue-skinned menaces operate in semi-independent groups beneath several regions of the city. The largest of these groups live under Gray District, the Longacre Building, and Thief Camp.
Derro are sometimes responsible for mysterious disappearances (to say nothing of confused reappearances), as well as cattle and pet mutilations. When those kidnapped by derro suddenly and inexplicably return to Korvosa, they frequently have only vague and horrifying memories of the missing time. They speak of bizarre experiments, painful tortures, and an ever-present pale blue light. The extent of derro activity under Korvosa and the exact nature of their plans are unknown, and while their role is small in Curse of the Crimson Throne, the unstable times afflicting the city do make the menaces more bold in their activitie
– Edge of Anarchy, page 49
Much more Shaverian, with a hint of Communion / grey abduction antics thrown in for good measure to enhance the creepiness factor… except the derro in this adventure work for the necromancer antagonist rather than themselves, behaving somewhat contrary to the description.
Addendum: interesting to note these 3.5E Adventure Path derro have *three* fingers, as opposed to the four described in the later PFRPG Bestiary and presumably the usual five fingers of derro from the other settings of Flanaess, Toril or Ansalon. Probably just a typo rather than a specifically intended mutation.
Hmmm, derro mutants, there’s an idea…
A Derro Necromancer as Savant?
Encountered in his own chamber (page 54), Vreeg is a 5th level derro necromancer, possible apprentice to the series’ antagonist Rolth and effectively the “variant savant” (ie. a 5th level spellcaster class boss) for this group of derro. He’s an intelligent opponent (Int 18 in fact as this is his primary spell-casting ability as a specialist wizard), although by himself of little threat to the party unless their resources are depleted from the previous fights, particularly the encounter with the oytugh.
The choice of necromancer wizard fits well with the main storyline but is an unusual departure in the sense that derro in earlier editions were generally weak in necromancy – the original derro savant spell lists contained no necromancy spells and were heavily weighted towards conjuration and illusion. It’s these 2 schools Vreeg seems to have chosen as his opposition schools (at least according to the omission of cantrips from this school from his spellbook).
As an introduction to the setting, I think this works, but the derro within are not actually utilised in the role the inset describes or in line with later concepts – they’re basically the hired goons for the out of scene necromancer antagonist that appears later in the series.
Still, the concept of a “variant savant” (ie. one that isn’t just a standard sorcerer with the Arcane bloodline) is a good one and fits well, even though it seems to be going against the grain of the earlier presentations. That’s OK, mixing up the concepts can be good.
Synopsis: see Pathfinder Wikia article
Physical: 96 page PDF with 4 page front – back cover
APL: 1st level
Setting: Korvosa (Golarion)