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 intersting.

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!

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.

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

Savants from Earlier Editions

In 2E D&D and even 1st edition, the derro savant was a notable aberrancy – not due to their insanity but as an advanced HD creature without classes that threw together additional combat effectiveness with a suite of seemingly random additional spell-like abilities and several selected spells of widely different level.

How very, very Gygax you might think.

I’m looking at you, drow…

Continue reading “Savants from Earlier Editions”

A Savant by Any Other Name…


The defining “boss-type” of the derro in D&D, the crazed magic users of their chaotic settlements and the leaders of the “Uniting War”… savants are undeniably an essential part of the derro.

No discussion of derro is complete without savants.

Part sage, part warrior chieftan, the derro savants are paragons of their race and in earlier conceptions proxy for the religious leaders (priests, shamans) of other cultures.

I’m going to be talking about and exploring a lot about savants here, not only in terms of their background and origin, but also their classification and variations across the different editions and game systems.