Posted by : David Guyll February 15, 2011
Randy is currently running us through a campaign that thankfully utilizes Palladium Fantasy in geography only. Currently, we're plundering dwarven ruins oddly brimming with their devil-worshiping, quill-tossing counterparts, duergar. At least in 3rd Edition, duergar were basically evil dwarves--sometimes psionic--that could both enlarge themselves and turn invisible, in addition to few other minor benefits.
Now? They're resistance to fire and chuck their beards at you. Okay, okay. Technically, they throw quills that just happen to grow out of their beards (or hair in the case of females). It just sounds ridiculous no matter how I try to spin it (and this article has plenty of variations on the theme, which I'll get to in just a bit). I get the reasoning as to why they dropped invisibility and enlarge person from their repertoire: gnomes already have fade away, and being Large is a *ahem* big deal.
I think that since they associate with devils, that there would have been something better for them besides tossing toxic hair at their enemies. Give them a daily racial that lets them summon a devil. It doesn't have to be super awesome, just useful and flavorful. What about conjuring a pillar of hellfire? Crib the dragonborn's breath weapon, just re-flavor it. What about giving them something like the tiefling's infernal wrath, but instead of fire damage, they grant combat advantage or something like that? Hell, keep the mechanics of the quills, but make it like...a curse, or something. Sorry about the mini-rant, but I just fucking hate the quills. Moving on!
The article actually opens up with about half a page of flavor content on duergar society. As with most evil things, the strong rule, they advance through treachery, and they deal in slaves. Oh, and they constantly fight against basically everything else that lives underground. You know, the usual requirements to be an evil race that dwells in the Underdark. Nothing really special here, but then I've been around for a few editions and already know their MO.
The next part is, as mentioned, a power swap for each monster role. They're still usable as minor actions, but lieu of the typical attack penalty and ongoing damage, let you do other stuff like slow, blind, or immobilize targets. An interesting way to shake things up and keep your players guessing, but it's still beard quills.
Speaking of beard quills, there's also new monster blocks scattered throughout the article. Almost immediately after the part on quill variants is the barbazu-bonded duergar, who has a beard aura. These guys are created when Asmodeus binds a barbazu's soul to a duergar, giving it the ability to strange enemies with its beard if they get too close. It also swaps out the usual hammer/crossbow rollout for a glaive (but keeping the quills).
Breaking up the crunch, we move on to duergar settlements. The next three or so pages are dedicated to information on duergar lair-building techniques--such as sticking close to volcanoes and managing mushroom farms--and their more impressive structures, towers wreathed in eternal fire. It's occasionally broken up by adventures hooks and stat blocks for a duergar-mounted-howler and duergar bloodmage, level 13 and 8 threats, respectively.
Despite all the shit I give duergar for their quills, there's a lot of information here for duergar fans (or player's stuck in a game with them). If you hate duergar, obviously this isn't for you. Assuming Randy hasn't already read this, I'm going to toss him a link. At the least it'll help break up the quill monotony.