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.





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”

Cameo: Edge of Anarchy (CotCT)

Vreeg, derro necromancer (Edge of Anarchy)

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.

Continue reading “Cameo: Edge of Anarchy (CotCT)”

Derro… of the Sunless Sea

261414-Sunless Sea
The Sunless Sea (Failbetter Games, promotional picture)

Eerie picture right? Well it gets eerier actually, even sometimes downright disturbing on the waters of the perilous Unterzee

In fact Sunless Sea, by Failbetter Games is pretty weird and spooky and there’ some elements of it that I find quite inspiring.

A rogue-like game set in a bizarre underground environment linked to their previous Fallen London offering, the player controls a ship that ventures through the subterranean ocean or “Unterzee” in search of profit, adventure and reputation. As a game it good but definitely requires patience and a sense of fatalism, tempered by persistence – it’s not an easy games or one for the novice or faint-hearted.

As a setting though it’s pretty interesting.. and reminiscent of the Sunless Sea from D1-2 or the Night Below, but with a further Lovecraftian element refracted through a Victorian perspective.

And just who would be crazy enough to captain a ship on a subterranean ocean littered with massive stalagmites and unseen horrors.

Why a derro savant captain of course!

Continue reading “Derro… of the Sunless Sea”

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.

Continue reading “Savants – Basics (Part 1)”

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?”

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?

Continue reading “Derro Divine Savants?”

5E Derro – Out of the Abyss

Buppido (Out of the Abyss)

This is Buppido, a derro prisoner encountered at the start of WotC’s 5E supplement, Out of the Abyss, the tabletop component of their latest epic cross platform event, Rage of Demons

Further details, background and motivations / goals for Buppido are given on page 6, but it will come as no surprise that he’s mad, bad and quite certainly dangerous to know on so many levels… but for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll leave the extent of his primary personality traits for your to find out yourselves

But he’s not the only derro in the supplement, which is the first 5E product to give us the latest incarnation of derro, there’s a whole ghetto  of a duergar city known as Gracklstugh filled with the degenerates…

The following post below may contain some spoilers, so reader beware!

2018 Addit: I’ve now added some more thoughts on 5E derro in a later post

Continue reading “5E Derro – Out of the Abyss”

Traditional Derro Savant Spells

In initial descriptions, derro savants knew 1d4+5 of the following spells:

affect normal fires, anti-magic shell, blink, cloudkill, ESP hypnotic pattern, ice storm, invisibility, levitate, light, lightning bolt, minor creation, paralyzation, repulsion, shadow magic, spider climb, ventriloquism, wall of fog, wall of force.

Derro Idol

Breaking this down into PFRPG schools yields the following list:

Abjuration: anti-magic shell*, repulsion
cloudkill, fog cloud
Divination: can use comprehend languages and read magic at will
Enchantment: ESP**, paralyzation***
ice storm, light, lightning bolt, wall of force.
hypnotic pattern, invisibility, shadow magic****, ventriloquism
 affect normal fires*****, blink, levitate, spider climb

*as PFRPG anti-magic field
** as PFRPG detect thoughts
*** no direct PFRPG correlate, consider hold person
**** as PFRPG shadow evocation
**** no direct PFRPG correlate

And classified by level (as per Sorcerer class):

0th: light
1st: ventriloquism
2nd: detect thoughts, fog cloud, hypnotic pattern, invisibility, levitate, spider climb
3rd: blink, hold person, lightning bolt
4th: ice storm
5th: cloudkill, shadow evocation, wall of force
6th: anti-magic field, repulsion

So in summary: spells involving misdirection and allowing capture of prisoners are favoured, with some conjuration and evocation effects whereas necromancy appears to be passed over completely.

Note: these are all core spells, excluding spells from later supplements