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.





Albino Apelings: Swarm vs Troop?


BaldMonkeySwarm_final (HIt Adjacent Ally)
Monkey Swarm (“Hit Adjacent Ally”)

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.

Continue reading “Albino Apelings: Swarm vs Troop?”

Of Albino Apes and Pygmies

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”.

Did I say a swarm?

Hmmm… there’s an idea, an encounter with a swarm of diminutive baboon creatures in service to a mad derro savant, a subterranean living crazed albino monkey swarm.

Come to think of it, derro mobs might make the basis for a good swarm (or more likely a disorganised troop given their Small size)…

Continue reading “Of Albino Apes and Pygmies”