Duergar

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Greyhawk creature
Duergar
Duergar01.jpg
Duergar, as depicted in the Monster Manual 2 (2009). Art by Eva Widermann.
Alignment Lawful evil (lawful neutral tendencies)
Type Humanoid
Subtype dwarf
First appearance

Duergar, also known as gray dwarves, are Underdark-dwelling relatives of the other dwarven peoples.

Ecology

Duergar believe all other races are abominations, created by a false god and doomed ultimately to be cleansed from the world. They hate other races of dwarves especially, believing them to be weakling mockeries of their own race, although this antagonism isn't as great as that between surface elves and drow.

The closest allies of the duergar are the drow, with whom they trade weapons and information regarding aberrant races such as illithids, cloakers, and aboleths.

Duergar are great rivals with the svirfneblin over gems and other precious materials, but they respect svirfneblin craftsmanship. They compete with deep dwarves for resources and living space.

Duergar disapprove of derro cruelty, but will sometimes allow derro to live in their communities.

Some duergar slaves were brought to the Abyssal layer known as the Iron Wastes by frost giants; they evolved into a race known as frost dwarves.

There exist crossbreeds between duergar and devils called durzagons. Durzagons have rust-colored skin, sharp claws, and venomous beards. The descendants of durzagons and other dwarves are called maeluths, who resemble their dwarven parents except for red eyes, elongated fingers, and nearly hairless bodies.

Duergar merchants trade with illithids, kuo-toa, and fouler creatures. They will often secretly manipulate other races to war with one another in order to eliminate competitors or sell more weapons. Sometimes they will even send raiders to wipe out the victors of such a battle, carefully covering up all evidence of duergar involvement. Duergar are also adept at creating deadly mechanical traps.

The gray dwarves drink ale distilled from a poisonous mushroom they call g'shnakki. Like svirfneblin, they herd a subterranean cattle known as rothe.

Duergar train giant spiders known as steeders to serve as their mounts. These spiders resemble enormous hairy tarantulas, but are capable of prodigious leaps. They lack venom and do not spin webs. According to myth, the duergar learned how to train steeders thanks to a brief alliance between their patron deity Laduguer and the demon queen of spiders, Lolth. Duergar also occasionally use other forms of giant spiders, including even phase spiders, as mounts.

Environment

Duergar dwell in caverns deep beneath the skin of the world. They have a number of communites below the Hellfurnace Mountains. One of their cities there is shared with a group of derro, with whom they are at war. The city is largely ruins, both sides paranoid and quick to assume any strangers are mercenaries, spies, or assassins working for their rivals. They are often found trading in the drow city of Erelhei-Cinlu. Duergar serve as the guard and police force of the illithid city of Dra-Mur-Shou, working with lesser devils. There are svirfneblin and duergar communities beneath Blackthorn. Duergar rally beneath the Abbor-Alz hills, led by a mysterious figure known as Father Eye.

They seldom permit other races to enter their stronghold-cities.

Typical physical characteristics

Duergar resemble other dwarves, but have pale, gray-tinged skin. Males never have hair, though they may have beards, and female duergar occasionally have thin hair on their heads as well. Most duergar show great pride in their beards; those that do not are dismissed as "prideless" duergar by others of their race, and considered fair game for other duergar to prey upon. Duergar are emaciated-looking compared to other dwarven races due to the harsh conditions of the Underdark.

Gray dwarves typically stand about four feet in height, weighing around 120 pounds. They have been know to live 400 years.

Duergar clothing is usually plain and unadorned, as is their art. They hate adornment for adornment's sake, so their weapons and architecture are functional and pragmatic.

Duergar find the sunlight painful, and so seldom venture to the surface except at night or on the most overcast of days.

Alignment

Duergar are usually lawful evil with lawful neutral tendencies. Their society is harsh and ruthless, but not as vile as that of the drow. Exceptions do exist, and even lawful good duergar have been reported.

Society

Duergar society, like that of other dwarves, is based on the clan. Each clan has its own priestly caste and its own security force which is in many ways a combination of a police force, thieves' guild, and assassins' guild. Although some gray dwarf clans can be warm friends with one another, duergar clans are often hated rivals, with the priests only barely keeping them from open warfare. It is not unknown for them to dispatch gray dwarf assassins to eliminate members of other clans.

Duergar spider-riders are known as kavalrachni (singular: kavalrach), and are the honored elite knights of duergar society. It takes over four years to train a steeder to respond fully to its rider, so the kavalrachni are relatively rare.

Duergar often keep slaves, working them to death without pity or regret. The gray dwarves are feared for their embrace of torture.

Religion

Duergar communities are usually theocracies ruled by priests of Laduguer. They also worship Abbathor, the dwarven god of greed, but any offerings they give to other members of the dwarven pantheon are so minimal as to be insulting.

Language

Duergar speak the duergar dialect of the Dwarven tongue, which has been deliberately modified to help preserve their secrets. They also speak Undercommon, the trade language of the Underdark. The more intelligent members of the species may speak other languages as well.

History

Duergar claim to have exiled themselves from the company of their "weakling cousins," but the other dwarven races claim to have banished them for their evil.

In the Abbor-Alz, duergar wiped out a hill dwarf settlement and claimed their mines for their own. Soon, however, with the various duergar clans feuding with one another and the local human barbarians were promising war, they retreated back into the Underdark. Decades later they reemerged, better organized and equipped, under the leadership of their new leader.

Bibliography

  • Bambra, Jim. The Complete Book of Dwarves. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1991.
  • Bonny, Ed, and Jeff Grubb, Rich Redman, Skip Williams, Steve Winter. Monster Manual II. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2002.
  • Cagle, Eric, and Jesse Decker, James Jacobs, Erik Mona, Matt Sernett, Chris Thomasson, James Wyatt. Fiend Folio. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2003.
  • Cordell, Bruce R. Expanded Psionics Handbook (Wizards of the Coast, 2004) ISBN 0-7869-3301-1.
  • Cordell, Bruce R., Gwendolyn F. M. Kestral, and Jeff Quick. Underdark. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2003.
  • Heinsoo, Rob, and Chris Sims. Monster Manual 2. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2009.
  • Niles, Douglas. Dungeoneer's Survival Guide. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1986.
  • Oppen, Eric. "Servants of the Jewelled Dagger." Dragon #152. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1989.
  • Richards, Johnathan M. "The Ecology of the Steeder." Dragon #245. Renton, WA: TSR, 1998.
  • Scott, Amber. "The Ecology of the Duergar." Dragon #325. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2004.