Derro Lair: Dogmole Slaver Outpost

Derro Dogmole Cavalry + Apeling Slave Outpost
Based on a Dyson Logos’s original…

This is my second example of a potential derro lair, based on an interesting  October 2015 map by Dyson Logos (of Dyson’s Dodecahedron fame) which was originally entitled “Rhinoceros Containment Caves of the Iron Overload” and can be found in its original form here.

I liked it so much I thought I’d see if I could use it somehow and fortunately it’s now available for personal or commercial use under his “Release the Kraken” initiative!

I’ve really added only an impression of a tunnel to the northeast and some stippling to indicate a sandy element to the shore which I imagined was part of a massive cavern that stretched across to the east – I was going to add a wooden bridge linking the northeast tunnel with the approach to the main entry stairs or a dock with a short pier, but I don’t think my artistic skills would do that idea justice. It’s been roughly annotated to reflect a concept I had in mind about a dogmole cavalry outpost but I realised that the normal dogmoles aren’t actually large enough to be used as mounts until too late but have kept the name…

Background Concept

As opposed to the Abandoned Shrine lair, which is essentially a “surface” settlement for staging slaving raids, this outpost is suited to a deeper Underdark setting – perhaps it’s used as a stopover on the way from the shrine outpost on the way down to a deeper enclave such as a larger derro city reached by small boats or perhaps a larger flat-bottomed barge that embark across a “Sunless Sea” or perhaps Dyson Logos’s “Darkling Lake” to the next staging post?


Unless otherwise noted derro mentioned use the basic PFSRD statistics. Derro leaders have additional HD and potentially advanced equipment as per NPCs. 

1. Main Encampment. This large area host bands of the derro’s humanoid minions and their tents and sleeping piles huddled around various camp-fires and weapon racks. A small mob of 15 albino gibberlings, likely failed experiments from the derro’s slave breeding programs usually occupies this area and are used as auxiliaries by the slavers.

a. Lookout post. 2 derro with repeating light crossbows tipped with poison guard the main entrance and keep watch for barges or raiders approaching from the east. The double doors behind them remain barred from the inside, although a small hatch allows them to communicate with the slavemaster inside or to receive orders.

b. Guards. At any time at least 4 derro guards armed with fauchards lurk near this entrance or the base of the stairs, keeping an eye on the gibberlings. One of them carries the keys to the grilles that enclose the apeling and dogmole pens.

c / d / e. Grilles.  Cemented into the natural rock, these iron grilles have gates set within them that are usually locked to keep the creatures within from escaping.

f. Sunless shore. This rocky beach is where the derro slave-barges pull up to be loaded with captured slaves, dogmole mounts or gibberling auxiliaries or to deliver alchemical supplies and reinforcements or visiting students.

2. Apeling Cave. Here the derro keep 2 albino apeling swarms. The cave is strewn with bones, excrement and a type of straw made from a stalk-like fungus shipped in from one of the other settlements along the slave route. At the back of the cave is another grille with a locked gate that opens into a cell containing a handful (4-7) goblin or human slaves at any one time, cowering away from the crazed apelings.

3. Dogmole Pen. This cave holds a labor of 5 scarred and mistreated albino dogmoles that the derro use as pack animals and guard animals for their slave caravans. There is a similar cell at the back where another 2-4 humanoid slaves are held in fear of the vicious beasts.

4. Slave Overseer’s Office. Here the overseer, a 7 HD classed derro warrior, sits at a desk flanked by his 6 HD lieutenant, 2 crossbow armed guards and a 3rd level bard student savant acting as his notary. A large ledger written in Aklo dominates the desk and contains details of recent and planned shipments. Near the northern door is a large pewter bell that acts as an alarm when sounded, summoning the remaining half-dozen or so derro from further within the outpost.

5. Guards. Another 4 guards as per area 1b above sit here gambling using a combination of humanoid teeth and scrimshawed knucklebones carved with Aklo letters.

6. Savant’s Den. The resident vivisectionist savant lives here amidst a collection of scrolls, occult paraphernalia, and gaudy tapestries. He is almost always however found in his lab experimenting on one of the expendable slaves.

7 / 8. Derro Barracks. These two rooms house the off-duty derro guards and are usually occupied by at least 3 off-duty guards and a single 5 HD sergeant armed with fauchards. The overseer’s bunk is situated in the southwestern corner partitioned off by mushroom wood screens carved with depraved scenes.

9. Mess Hall. Usually empty, with a foul-smelling alchemical stove in the southeastern corner. Several unwashed pots with scraps of hardened fungal stew rest on the tables. An open window into the vivisection lab to the west allows for the sights and sounds of the savant’s victims to provide meal-time entertainment.

10. Vivisection Lab. A large torturer’s table surrounded by workbenches littered with bloodied and rusted surgical equipment and alchemical glassware. The 8th level savant-in-residence spends most of his time occupied in here assisted by the single 3rd level alchemist student savant that acts as a part-time cook for the company. Both will flee westwards if there is a commotion in the guard room or they spots intruders in the mess hall to the east.

11. Alchemical Stores. Poisons and various alchemical reagents are stored here with an extensive selection of pickled cave fauna, dried and cured cave kelp, and the occasional bottled humanoid body part.

12. Access Tunnel. This tunnel allows the derro savant to access the sleeping slaves and drag them back to the lab for experiments. The tunnel doubles as an escape route with a spare set of keys to the gates in the grilles of area 2.





Overburn Derro – Intro

Overburn Derro in Shroud

“Apart from their unusual appearance and psychotic temperament, the derro’s most unique feature is their inability to tolerate sunlight. While artificial light causes some discomfort (unsurprising for a subterranean species), actual sunlight kills derro.

Within an hour of exposure their skin is covered in blisters and within a couple of days they are nothing but a festering mass of bloody scabs, burnt flesh and bones. Some have noticed how similar this is to radiation burns.”

PathfinderWiki (accessed June 2018)

This is a key thematic element for derro and I note that it’s evolved over editions to now become enshrined in the mechanics of 3/3.5E and PFRPG through derro all possessing vulnerability to sunlight as a radiation-like Con damage per hour, to the point of being fatal if exposed for too long…

Note: 5E derro as per OotA seem less vulnerable / less “Shaverian” in their sensitivity and just have disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks involving sight in direct sunlight – a lesser nonfatal impediment in some ways but one that carries more immediate mechanical effects than the hourly Con damage inflicted on PFRPG derro. Perhaps this implies the former effect is more physical / sensory and the latter effect is more psychological or spiritual?

The quest to conquer the Overburn and understand the surface races seems a much more dominant driving motivation for Golarion / PFRPG derro, although their insanity leads them off onto very tangential paths to try and achieve their ends that seem doomed to failure from the beginning. This is all compounded by their paranoia and complete lack of cooperation or knowledge sharing.

In terms of practical mechanics, as derro in the PFSRD have default Con 18, even with 8 hours of *direct* sunlight, a derro can last 2 or more days depending on the opportunity for shelter and healing. Sure blistering “similar to radiation burns” is presumably excruciatingly painful, but one does wonder why they don’t just wear masks and cover up like the Tuareg and Bedouin desert nomads or Fremen of Frank Herbert’s Dune?

Or maybe some derro, in fact, do just that…

Continue reading “Overburn Derro – Intro”

Derro Idol Design

Common Derro Idol Features

This post suggests a default build for derro Idols based on the RAW from Occult Realms combined with some assumptions and thematic elements discussed in the previous post. As there is an assumed default starting Ego for a single worshipper cult of 6 and each major sacrifice raises the Idol’s Ego score by 3, I’ve elected to chart the default Idol build using six “ranks” with each higher one having an Ego 3 points higher than the lower rank.

A “starting” 1st rank Idol therefore has an Ego of 6, a 3rd rank Idol has an Ego of 12 and a (likely) final 6th rank Idol has an Ego score of only 21. These “ranked” default Idols are presented as a resource here and can be customised for your use as required.

Note: higher ego score Idols with derro cults can of course exist – any Idol with more than the 10 worshippers base used in this series of posts can have a higher Ego, but the bonus is only limited and mostly mechanically irrelevant until >200 worshippers is reached and derro savants may have good reason to keep their cults limited. Even a larger cult of 101-200 derro has only another +3 Ego, which effectively just shifts it one rank higher at lower levels and a 6th rank Idol with a boosted Ego of 24 is only slightly different to an Ego of 21 mechanically for the purpose of this essay.

Derro Idol Example
A Derro Cult’s Profane Idol?


The majority of derro are chaotic evil, although possibly with some kind of Blue and Orange Morality due to their insanity, so CE Idols make the most sense as a default.

However, less chaotic or more neutrally aligned Idols could make for some interesting personality conflicts between their dedicated savant and provide some interesting plot and story motivations beyond the usual derro  behaviour.

Continue reading “Derro Idol Design”

Savants – Bards? Yes, Bards!

Previous Post: Savants –  5th Level Sorcerer Base

“Savant with Eyeroll”

This is the first post to explore variant savants ie. savants built using classess other than sorcerer.

At first glance, a 5th level bard base savant might seem at odds thematically with the traditional concepts of a derro savant but they are the other applicable Cha based class (Paladins being excluded due to alignment issues), so I think it’s worth having a closer look at them conceptually as they also have arcane spells.

So let’s see what they have to offer us eh?

Continue reading “Savants – Bards? Yes, Bards!”

Savants – 5th Level Sorcerer Base

Previous Post: Savants – Basics (Part 1)

In the first post int this series I looked at the basics for a “traditional” derro savant NPC as it’s come to evolve through 3.0/3.5E, PFRPG and now lately 5E – a 5th level derro sorcerer. Let’s then use this assumption to work forward and see what that might look like in the context of PFRPG and leave the 5E variant for now…

Note: this post draws on ideas from the excellent Kobold Press product Advanced Race Guide 12: Derro (PFRPG) by Nicholas Milasich and Wolfgang Bauer, available for US $3.99 in PDF from DriveThruRPG or the Kobold Press online store. Endzeitgeit’s definitive review (reprinted on various sites) details just why this product is essential for any consideration of savants, let alone PFRPG derro in general. Unfortunately it doesn’t include an example “base savant” character but does include a “Savant” bloodline which unfortunately hasn’t made it into the PFSRD to link to for reference but is available on the community site here.

vreegConsistently, the class level of a derro savant begins at 5th level (anything less being considered a “student, usually portrayed as 3rd level) so we’ll use this as a starting point and discuss 8th level, 11th level, and 3rd level “student” variations as required in two later posts as the former need further development as the BBEG and the latter fill the role of an advanced minion.

OK so let’s explore this default NPC build a bit more closely and see how it fits…

Continue reading “Savants – 5th Level Sorcerer Base”

Derro Idolatory – Introduction

Derro Idol

So I’ve been thinking about the idea of atheist derro for a while – they are after all particularly insane, so the concept of them denying the existence of divinity in the context of clear evidence to the contrary in the default Golarion setting for PFRPG or the various 3.0/3.5 or 5E DnD worlds isn’t inconceivable, just a bit of a stretch.

I mean there’s always the Athar of Planescape and their worship of the Great Beyond – but I can’t seem them welcoming derro to their ranks easily…

The again their Insane Immunity might make them potential candidates in some ways?

But derro don’t exactly make for great clerics in any case, regardless of the potential existence atheist clerics, so I had another thought while reading through the Occult Realms rules for Idols and I think there’s something in them worth exploring that fits with the overall derro themes explored on this site…

Continue reading “Derro Idolatory – Introduction”

Pathfinder Playtest Announced

So I only recently noted the announcement of the Pathfinder Playtest, the open announcement of fan contributions to what will become PFRPG 2.0 – great news to many I’m sure, but I did wonder what this would mean to the way I look at this blog, which is primarily intended to be Pathfinder based mechanically when I do delve into actual mechanics (although it does delve into 5E at times sure).

I really don’t want to have to learn and revise to a whole new system…


But maybe that’s not actually going to be the issue – in fact maybe there are some good ideas to be had looking at some of the initial Paizo blog material…

Continue reading “Pathfinder Playtest Announced”

The Trouble with Theiwar (Krynnish “Derro”)

Theiwar, along with their more brutish cousins, the Daergar, are the Krynnish (Dragonlance) version of derro, collectively sometimes referred to as Dewar or “Dark Dwarves”. There’s a third potential “derro” race on Krynn, the Zakhar, a Khalkist mountain living clan affected by a terrible mold plague (maybe more on them later).

I’m just not convinced they’re “real” derro… at least not in the thematic sense.

Theiwar (DQ2 Flint's Axe)
A pair of Theiwar “derro” from DLQ2 Flint’s Axe

Continue reading “The Trouble with Theiwar (Krynnish “Derro”)”

5E Derro – More Resources (Unlikely Heroes)

Y, a “sane” savant possibly?

So I’ve tracked down some additional 5E resources across various source pages for use in accompanying Out of The Abyss and to continue some of my thoughts in an earlier post

The following PDF title is drawn from DriveThru RPG and in effect this post is the beginning of a series of mini-reviews skewed towards the derro aspects unsurprisingly.

So the first in order of historic search appearance:

UNLIKELY HEROES for 5th Edition (Kobold Press)

This supplement from Kobold Press features a 3-page section on Derro (pages 4-6) written by Dan Dillon with additional material by the great Wolfgang Bauer. Adding resources for playing derro as player characters, it adds to the minimal 5E information presented on pages 224-225 of the 5E supplement Out of the Abyss. 

My comments relate specifically to the derro content and are not an overall review.

Continue reading “5E Derro – More Resources (Unlikely Heroes)”

Hiatus: Planning the Uniting War

Derro (Dungeon 241 LotSI)
The Ranting Savant?

So 18 posts in, not a bad effort for this theme…

I’ve done minimal spruiking of this site, and it’s not linked to any major forum in particular but I think I’ve got a few decent posts out and generated some ongoing concepts and themes that will keep me going for the month to come.

Due to some family issues, I’m going to take a short break for a few weeks, generate a few prescheduled posts to sustain a weekly update schedule and then try and return once the ground beneath my feet has stabilised.

Then hopefully I’ll be back with a vengeance…