How to Make a Villain-Based Plot Engine
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0645
- A Brief Word From Johnn
- Last Round Stories
- How to tell evocative stories about each combat round none of your players will ever forget
- Note Key Battle Moments
- How Do I Track It?
- How Do I Deliver It?
- Narrate Through The Characters’ Point Of View
- Use Evocative Language
- Finish With A Question
- Test Your Might
- Combat: The Untold Story
- How to Make a Villain-Based Plot Engine
- List the Villains
- On Probability
- Power Combo
- Putting It All Together
- Actions Table d6 or 3d6
- Victims Table d6 or 3d6
- Using the Tables
- 15 Unusual Dwarf Types
- Powrie (Bloody Cap dwarves):
- Classic Mythology
- R. A. Salvatore’s Demon Wars saga
- Deal-making” dwarves
- Dwemer (Skyrim Dwarves)
- Gully dwarves (Dragonlance)
- Arctic dwarves
- Gold dwarves
- Shield dwarves
- Wild dwarves
- Dream dwarves
- Seacliff dwarfs (Kalamar)
- Badland dwarves (Kalamar)
- Chromatic dwarves
- Azurn (Combat-oriented)
- Rutilan (Magic-oriented)
- Veridin (Stealth-oriented)
- Powrie (Bloody Cap dwarves):
A Brief Word From Johnn
I have a special opportunity coming tonight just for Roleplaying Tips Patrons (you can become a Patron here).
I’m starting up an epic, weekly online campaign for just 6 players.
I’m taking three of my all-time favourite mega-modules and converting them to 5E. Then we’ll tell some incredible stories together every Wednesday evening.
To ensure everyone has fun, and to help Patrons decide if the campaign style is for them, I created a campaign guidelines video.
And I thought you might be interested in what I put in the video and the tool I used to figure out what guidelines to add to help everyone be on the same page at campaign start.
You might use this tool too for your next campaign.
D&D 5E Campaign Session 8
We had another great game last Friday. I missed an obvious group choice I should have anticipated, so I had to do a lot of thinking on my feet.
Last session, the mercenary PCs had just defeated a Dragon Cult cell in a ruined town, while surviving a green dragon attack. The group decides to go the long way back to their town of Phandelver (I thought they’d take the direct route through the forest, lol.)
Just before hitting the road, the group releases the cult member they were holding prisoner. Then Reidoth the local druid appears. He needs Roscoe to help him find “an escaped pet.” This was an easy way to remove the character of an absent player for the session.
Another New Player Joins
Reidoth also introduced the group to Luther Goldhand, a servant of a “mutual friend.” Luther joins the party, and we welcome a new player to the group!
So to recap, as the group has had member changes recently due to schedule conflicts, we have:
- Six the wizard who seeks his past
- Malchor the fighter who wants one more big haul before retiring
- Kriv the barbarian who serves his wise forest master
- Belenos the cleric/monk who seeks redemption
- Roscoe the rogue who yearns to have his unicorn tattoo removed
- Luther the warlock who champions the Queen of Air and Darkness
The PCs head up river to the Conyberry trail. Along the way they see a new totem has been built at the site of the alligator attack. The party muses over what the totem’s purpose is before destroying it.
A couple of days later they spot goblin headbands and crossbow bolts in the bush beside the trail. The group quickly detects it’s a ruse and that the creatures are actually a ways further up the trail waiting in ambush. Just as the party attacks, the green dragon they encountered back at the ruined down flies down the trail and strafes Belenos and Kriv. Both mercenaries go down. The goblin fight suddenly becomes challenging!
Then the dragon comes back and deposits the last few days’ meals on the unconscious forms of the cleric and barbarian. There’s evidence the dragon has been dining on the Cult of the Dragon members the party slew. Ewww.
The wyrm flies off then, and the goblins are on their own. A quick fight ensues, and after cleaning themselves off the characters decide to follow the creatures’ trail back to their lair. This turns out to be caves in a small hill.
Six casts a spell to make it sound like an angry cave bear is outside the entrance, ready to eat any goblins who emerge. Luther, Malchor, and others take out goblins guarding the rear exit. then the whole party rushes into the caves.
Unfortunately, during the battle, the party had successfully surprised the goblins. But I had the creatures running towards the rear exit to greet the PCs. This was a GM Time Bomb, as the goblins should’ve been surprised. Grrrr.
So we retcon’d the current round, and instead the PCs found the goblins heading towards the front of their lair to check out the bear. The battle ended quickly, with 20 goblin lives lost, and the group continued on their way.
A Disturbing Game
Several days later, Six’s owl familiar spots a trio of men playing cards in the middle of the Triboar trail. The group creeps up, only to discover it’s the old farmer and his two sons the party had robbed on this spot a week ago.
However, the men have daggers in their backs and are actually dead. There’s a spider symbol drawn in the dirt in the center of the grisly card game.
A couple of sessions ago, after the group had robbed the farmers, they encountered goblins. After the fight, Malchor arranged a few of the dead gobbos in a mock card game in the middle of the road.
Belenos gives the victims last rites, and the group concludes the farmers are a message sent by the Black Spider, a warning. Startled by this, the PCs travel on, warily watching the trail for Black Spider dangers.
We finally make it back to Phandalin. Many changes have happened in the two weeks the PCs have been travelling, the biggest being a large caravan calling themselves the Blue Diamond Traders has arrived and is constructing a permanent home for themselves outside of town.
Six and Belenos go to spy on these newcomers. Luther, Malchor, and Kriv head to the Lionshield Coster to cash in all the goblin weapons and armour they’ve looted. The coster says they’ll give them a fair rate but they only want to buy 1/3 of the PCs’ inventory.
The PCs decide to go to management. That’s Linene Greywind, who’s also the new Mayor of Phandalin. (The PCs helped “Create” that vacancy by disposing of the old Mayor during a robbery gone wrong weeks ago.)
Linene has a long line of petitioners at her door. Miners wanting deeds and permits, residents with complaints, people with petty needs. When the PCs enter she welcomes them with relief and has an ale with them out back. The abandoned petitioners start to get unruly about this, but some merry tunes and soothing words from Luther calms them down.
On the porch, the characters negotiate a private arms deal with Linene. She does not say why she wants all the arms and armour, but the PCs are just happy to have a buyer to take the equipment off their hands.
The party reunites, debriefs, and splits up again.
The Broken Deal
Kriv takes his share of the loot, buys a chest, and buries it outside town. Belenos quests for healing potions to purchase. Six resumes spying on the Blue Diamond. He detects several magical auras around their camp!
Malchor and Luther go speak with the head of the Blue Diamond, a Khemed Mostana. The leader offers a higher prices for the goblin equipment than Linene, and the PCs sell to him instead!
We end the session there, with the group agreeing they’re headed straight to Cragmaw Castle in the morning.
It’ll be interesting to see what Linene does about the broken deal. Plus, the party is quite suspicious of the Blue Diamond, and with magic detected, I fear the merchants now top the Murder Hobo list of targets for the party.
We’ll see what happens in two weeks.
Hopefully you can get some good gaming done this week too!
Last Round Stories
How to tell evocative stories about each combat round none of your players will ever forget
From Tony Medeiros
Are your combats so long everyone struggles to remember their pivotal points?
With all the dice rolling and number crunching, it’s hard for players to see the bigger picture of what’s happening – the story unfolding before them. They get caught in the weeds of micro-managing decisions. Worse, teamwork disintegrates because players get too focused on just their character’s situation. When analysis paralysis sets in, and the group fails to combo their efforts, combats grind and take much longer, chewing up unnecessary session time.
The Last Round Stories technique lets you recap each round’s highlights to help everyone make faster, smarter decisions. At the top of each new round, you take a moment to recap all the craziness that just took place in the fight last round. Doing this encourages teamwork because it keeps your group thinking about the bigger picture of the combat. And best of all, it’s another way to turn fights into fantastic stories as you play.
Today’s article will show you how to tell these tales using the Last Round Stories technique.
Note Key Battle Moments
During each round, make mental or physical note of important happenings. You’ll use these at the top of next round for a quick recap.
And to make your recaps interesting and valuable, you’ll we want to track two kinds of events each round:
- Exciting successes
- Unfortunate failures
We want to spot these when they happen because they represent notable character experiences and possible momentum shifts.
What profound victories occurred? What significant setbacks? It doesn’t matter whether the PCs or their enemies created the success or failure – all such events help tell the Last Round Story.
Character experiences make fights personal, but momentum is an especially exciting story to tell. Momentum creates drama. Were the PCs on top last round but now the monsters have rallied? Did the foes lose ground and can the party take advantage of this for victory?
The back-and-forth of momentum gives you a great way to make your Last Round Stories dramatic and exciting.
To tell Last Round Stories, train yourself to spot the triggers of major change.
When these events or triggers occur, they often indicate momentum shifts and story points. They signify increased drama, and you should take advantage of these moments to feed your Last Round Stories.
Here is a list of the top success and failure points to spot.
Success and Failure Points
- Incapacitations (or removal from combat in some other way)
- Hazards and traps catch victims
- Major spell effects
- Leader defeats or incapacitated
- Skill or ability use with major consequence
For example, Dice the rogue makes a tumble check and moves through an enemy’s space. He then attacks from behind and lands a great hit.
Your Triggers to note here are a brave move (tumbling) that succeeded, plus some good damage dealt.
In the parlance of a Last Round Story, this becomes, “Ok guys, here’s what just happened. As arrows fly all around him and spellfire crackles overhead, Dice smoothly rolls between the demon’s legs, avoiding the creature’s grasping claws. In one sleek motion he corkscrews to his feet, turns, and sinks Pawn deep between the creature’s shoulder blades. The demon howls in pain and rage and staggers. You’ve got him on the ropes, guys!”
Now how do you think the rogue’s player feels right now? Like a million gold pieces! Your quick little story made Dice the hero of the round.
Your story also rallies the group because they see progress, keeping the table energy flowing. And it recaptures focus, as the demon is the key to the encounter. Players tempted to tackle the archers and spellcaster might now stick with whacking the demon. If the demon falls, the other foes flee, though the party doesn’t know this. But your story keeps the party focused to this end. This makes the combat shorter and more dramatic. And when foes flee, that’s always a boost to table morale.
How Do I Track It?
Once you’ve spotted a Trigger, track it for your Last Round Story recap. Choose a tracking method that suits your GMing style. Some GMs are classic pen-and-paper, and some use digital tools and apps. Do you have a more theatrical approach? Do you enjoying winging an adventure as much as writing and planning for one? Or do you keep hyperlinked world, character and combat notes on a website, at your fingertips via your phone, tablet or laptop?
The most important thing is to use a simple system. Ask yourself: what methods and tools help me best note, remember, reference and communicate (i.e. read aloud from) combat’s pivotal events?
Here are a couple of tips to track last round’s story.
Use a color-coding system for your pen-and-paper tools. For example, use only red Post-it notes for combat. This helps you sort through your notes faster and stay better organized.
Dedicate one particular tool or app to Last Round Stories. For example, use only the Notes app on your phone to list Triggers. Avoid tracking and reading your Last Round Stories from multiple apps and devices, you risk wasting time finding them.
Combo With Init
Johnn uses index cards to manage initiative. One card per PC and NPC group. He also has a New Round card that tells him when another round is about to start. This also reminds him to tell a Last Round Story. On the card he makes all the Trigger notes. As he recounts events from last round he checks them off so he doesn’t mention them twice. In this way, init and Last Round Stories use the same system, keeping life for Johnn simpler.
I have not tried this, but you could ask players to track and recount their own Last Round Stories. This gets their heads out of the dice and numbers for a moment, and helps them relive each combat round as a quick story. If you use this approach, let us know how it works for you.
How Do I Deliver It?
You’ve made it! Now it’s time to dramatically deliver those Last Round Stories! At the top of each round, describe without all the rules and numbers what just happened. Turn it into a quick story that hits just the high and low points.
Tell the story through the characters’ point of view. Use evocative language. And finish with a question.
Connect your list of major success and failure points – reframe these bullets into prose. Make them a story. Like any story, it has a beginning, middle and end.
The easiest way to tell the story is chronologically. Tell last round’s events in the order they occurred. Just call out the notable and interesting bits. That’s what Triggers will help with.
Start with the first major success or failure point and connect to the next, and then the next.
Include the foes’ points of view, as well. Have them snarl in frustration or grin with confidence, dance in pain and shout with glee.
You don’t need to include every PC in each story. You are just recapping the notable. As a combat wends on, chances are at least every PC will get some Last Round Story love, so it’s ok to skip a PC if they did nothing notable last round.
(By the way, this becomes a great diagnostic tool for you. When PCs don’t get much Last Round Story time, you should dig into that and figure out why. Chances are the player isn’t enjoying combats much.)
Keep the story direct while covering the major momentum-changers. Focus on actions taken and results.
Also keep it to about 10 seconds. The Last Round Story should not dominate the round. It should set the next round up in an exciting way with a crisp and dramatic description of last round’s pivotal events.
Narrate Through The Characters’ Point Of View
Narrate through the Character Camera. Use the lens of the first character in initiative order, and focus on all the major success and failure points from last round that character as they perceived it. This gives another little reward to players, and makes fights more personal. Each round, rotate the camera to a new character.
Use at least one sense besides vision, such as hearing or smell. Include details. Make it personal. This is just another form of roleplaying, which makes it a great exercise for beefing up your RP skills.
Use Last Round Stories via the Character Camera to increase emotional connection to the action by the PCs. You also increase story immersion, reduce player disengagement, and help everyone remember better a combat’s highlights so everyone makes takes more meaningful actions each round.
Use Evocative Language
Here is where you truly tell Last Round Stories. Give them the facts, efficiently, and do it with evocative language. Great storytelling relies on evocative language, so speak clearly and with good pacing.
Good pacing heightens dramatic tension. One way to achieve good pacing is include a few short and direct sentences about the action. These short bursts of descriptive story create natural pauses to balance out the longer sentences about the action.
Be specific when you narrate the major events of the past round. Include an odd detail in the environment or event. This contrast evokes more powerful imagery that make your story visceral.
Highlight the strong emotions of the events, such as shock, horror, or sadness over sudden death. Describe foe reactions (but not PC reactions – leave those to player control) to failures, successes, and pain. Strong emotions make your stories and the game more memorable.
Finish With A Question
End each Last Round Story with a question to transition back to the action.
The question should be simple and shift the spotlight to the first character in initiative order.
“What do you do?” is a good transition question.
But the question should also create a sense of urgency. Do this by tying in an imminent foe action, effect, or event as a result mentioned in your Last Round Story.
“Krug, your foe is enraged from the massive blow you just struck. He’s putting all his strength into a great cleave aimed at your head. What do you do?”
The combat highlights are fresh in that PC’s mind and dramatic tension is high. He must decide to do something, using last round’s critical information – information purposely wrapped in immersive language and emotion. The story continues!
Test Your Might
Here is an example Last Round Story. Can you pick out the major success or failure points, the point of view and senses used, and specific instances of evocative language? See below the passage for answers.
LRS: Sudden Death.
“Vertul sees Craen explode right next to him – your friend’s gore and blood run hot down your face, Vertul.
“You see Eryl’s snaring vine spell just missed the orc runner’s ankles, so he’s made it to the gong and just finished pounding it with all his might. Your ears ring.
“Storm clouds rumble. A droplet of rain strikes your blood-drenched face. Craen is no longer recognizable. What do you do?”
Craen is downed by a critical strike, standing right next to Vertul – the first major failure point from last round. The second major failure point is the orc sounding the alarm by pounding the gong.
The point of view is Vertul’s, the first character to go in the round. Vertul:
- Sees Craen’s death firsthand
- Feels his blood and gore on his face
- Hears both the gong and the storm clouds
- Feels rain on his face
Finally, there are several instances of evocative language: explode, gore and blood, no longer recognizable. Two short blurbs create good pacing and heighten dramatic tension (e.g. Your ears ring. Storm clouds rumble.). And there’s an odd, specific mention of a single droplet of rain.
Combat: The Untold Story
You’re now a master storyteller! You’ve learned how to tell evocative combat stories with the Last Round Story technique.
You know what information to track, how to track it, and how to deliver it in a compelling way.
You and your players will remember each round’s highlights and take more immersive and informed action for the rest of combat.
Try this technique out and let Johnn know how it worked, and if you have any combat storytelling tips to share.
How to Make a Villain-Based Plot Engine
From Phil Nicholls
Your players will tire of the same plots time after time. You need to create a selection of varied stories for your campaign.
The heart of a plot is an antagonist taking an action against a victim: somebody does something to someone. The victim might then respond with an action of their own, and so the story spirals onwards. Plot and counter-plot eventually build together into a epic tale.
Here is a technique to create a custom villain-based plot engine. These three tables will bring your setting to life, creating active factions pursuing separate agendas. You will have the tools to create an endless string of varied, challenging plots for your game.
List the Villains
Make a large list of the villains you want to use. Here are a few sources with which to complete your villain listing:
Step 1: Grand Plans
Start with your grand plans for the campaign and note forces opposed to the PCs. These villains, both individuals and organisations, are your ideal antagonists.
Step 2: Villains
Your world will have many evil forces lurking within it, and these broader foes can appear on the Villains Table.
Look for NPCs with ambition, who lead armies and guilds, who want more power, who crave gold.
Step 3: More Villains
Any published adventure or setting you want to incorporate into your campaign will have more names for your Villains Table.
Step 4: PC Backstories
Mine character backgrounds. Your players will thank you for weaving their stories deeper into your campaign world.
Step 5: Shades of Grey
Dedicated villains are obvious antagonists, but there are other options. A wider selection of entries in the Villains Table broadens your range of plots.
Antagonistic unaligned factions complicate any plot. If the Silver Scales seek to assassinate the Queen’s Steward, then the PCs have a subtle problem to address. Simply storming the Guild House of the Silver Scales would push the group towards an alliance with the villainous Red Brotherhood. Yet, the Queen’s Steward must be protected.
By blurring morality you give players more to think about. How the PCs deal with the Silver Scales determines the future allegiance of these merchants.
So look for other NPCs from various unaligned factions in your game you could add.
Step 6: Good Guys Gone Bad
Further complicate the PCs’ lives by including allies on the Villains Table!
Now the moral issues facing the PCs are much harder. This plot features brains and political intrigue above swordplay. The players must carefully consider their options: a welcome change of pace after endless combat.
You now have a long list of villains suitable for the Villains Table. Next, you need to decide how to fit these villains onto your table.
Use probability to maintain the desired focus. The central villains from your setting should be recurring problems for the PCs. Therefore, ensure these villains occupy the higher probability slots on your table.
The sample tables use two sets of numbers to illustrate the effects of varying probability. The flat probability row uses a single d6, while the variable probability row uses 3d6.
With a flat distribution in a 1d6 roll, each villain has an equal chances of coming up next to cause your PCs trouble.
This is a great structure for a revolving or alternating villains type game, or a multi-faction game.
In a 3d6 roll, the most likely outcomes occur in the centre of the table. The positions you choose for the villains affect their chances of being rolled, which gives you control of how often they appear in your campaign.
When rolling 3d6, the most likely outcomes will be 10 or 11. So place your central campaign villains on these numbers, ensuring their regular appearance in your game. If there is only one central villainous organization, then place the villain’s group on 10 and the leader on 11.
Enter lesser members of this central organization on the remaining numbers between 8 and 13.
Then add other villains from your list onto numbers 3-7 and 14-18. These are great places for allies who have turned against the PCs, or light-relief villains such as a comedic kobold chieftain.
This now completes the 3d6 column on the table.
You can actually use both columns on your table for the same campaign.
The d6 column is ideal for the start and end of a campaign, when you want the story focused around your central villains.
And the 3d6 column is great during the middle of your campaign, when you want to bring in side-plots or weave in multiple plot arcs.
Next is the Action Table. You want to create plots where the antagonist is on a clear collision course with the PCs. Attacking, stealing, and kidnapping actions all drive a campaign forward. Passive actions such as watching, waiting, or following only create dull plots.
List the most dynamic actions in the centre of the 3d6 table, where they are more likely to be rolled. Consider the type of game you want to run, and place suitable actions in the middle of the table.
Does your central villain enjoy blackmail and intimidation? Then place those actions in the high-probability slots. Special abilities, organizational resources, and a villain’s personality can all suggest actions for the Action Table.
If the villain has a signature modus operandi, then repeat that entry to increase its chances of occurring.
Finally, the Victims Table is the reverse of the Villains Table. Ideally, the PCs protect their allies from the foul plans of the campaign villains.
Follow similar steps to the ones used to populate the Villains Table.
The allies of the PCs will arise from your setting. These friends and patrons appear in the central slots of the 3d6 Victims Table.
Other possibilities include family members, mentors, and anybody from the PCs’ histories. Religious, political, and mercantile groups from your setting also make good victims.
There is great potential in varying the selection of targets. The politically neutral Silver Scales make for interesting victims. If the PCs thwart a plot by the Thieves Guild against these merchants, then the Silver Scales may turn into valuable allies.
Putting It All Together
To create custom plot tables, you need a list of potential antagonists, some sample actions, and a selection of victims.
Here are three examples:
Villains Table d6 or 3d6
|–||4||Sisters of the Holy Light|
|–||5||Captain Ballatine of Caernport|
|–||6||The Azure Blades Mercenary Company|
|–||7||Glanok the Troll|
|2||9||Kalluk Red Blade|
|3||10||The Red Brotherhood|
|5||12||Zandor, Master Thief|
|6||13||Mazella the Green|
|–||14||Cult of the Broken Dagger|
|–||15||Sassdric of Mortavia|
|–||16||The Silver Scales|
|–||17||The High Steward|
Actions Table d6 or 3d6
|–||5||Declares war on|
|5||12||Attacks followers of|
|–||14||Destroys the income of|
|–||15||Burgles the home of|
|–||16||Firebombs the home of|
|–||17||Frames for murder|
Victims Table d6 or 3d6
|–||3||Kalluk Red Blade|
|–||6||Provost Marshal Herreth|
|–||7||Captain Jerrek of the Palace Guard|
|2||9||The Palace Guard|
|4||11||The High Steward|
|5||12||The Silver Scales|
|6||13||Sisters of the Holy Light|
|–||14||Bereneth, the Queen’s Champion|
|–||16||The Red Brotherhood|
|–||18||Zandor, Master Thief|
Using the Tables
Roll on each table in turn, then combine the results to form a simple plot, such as “The Red Brotherhood attacks followers of the Queen.”
This creates the elevator pitch for the next plot in your game. As this plot features the central elements of each table, it would make a fine opening scenario for a campaign.
Tweak this elevator pitch as desired, then add all the mechanical details you need to run a scenario under your chosen rules.
To make a villain-based plot engine, create your custom Villain, Action, and Victim Tables. Choose entries to match your chosen style of game, and mine PC backgrounds, the setting, and your planned adsventures for tailored options.
Then roll on these tables whenever you want to inspire elevator pitches for your plots.
15 Unusual Dwarf Types
From Jesse C. Cohoon
Dwarves in popular culture are often depicted as being dour, bearded, short, and squat creatures who excel in mining gems and precious metals from the earth, have a great fondness of drink, are expert miners, and excel at smithing.
But a more thorough look at these creatures might show them to be a bit more complex than first thought. Here are several ideas to help flesh out your campaign setting with interesting dwarves.
Powrie (Bloody Cap dwarves):
Amazingly fast and deadly dwarves who wield iron pikes and murder travelers who wander into their homes. Powrie dye their caps with victims’ blood, hence their name.
It’s said they must find a victim regularly, for if their cap dries out, they die. Redcaps are fast in spite of the heavy iron pikes they wield and the iron-shod boots they wear. Outrunning a redcap is supposedly impossible.
R. A. Salvatore’s Demon Wars saga
An aggressive and proud warrior race living on an archipelago. They use blood magic to maintain their physical prowess.
They’re also a nasty lot that enjoy raiding. They are famous for their “barrelboats.” Most other races hate and fear them – a reputation they’re more than happy to encourage.
Show up in times of need, offering a service in exchange for a horrible price, such as marrying them, giving away their first born child, giving away all their wealth, or some other horrid deal.
Some of these dwarves also bring horrible pronouncements of bad luck with them if their end of the deal isn’t held up. Rumpelstiltskin is just such a dwarf.
Dwemer (Skyrim Dwarves)
Were an ancient, “Lost Race” who had an advanced race and civilization, in many respects far ahead of the other races and civilizations of their time, developing technology, engineering, crafting methods, metalwork, stonework, architecture, city-planning, science, mathematics, magic, and the academic arts.
Those that studied these crafts would have been elevated to the highest, most respected, and most prestigious of positions in Dwemer society and their cities showed how important these ventures were, being marvels of these studies.
Few written works have described the appearance, personality, or achievements of individual Dwemer. Most knowledge of them regards the race as a whole. Despite being called “dwarves” by giants, the Dwemer are actually of average human height.
Are a strange and sadistic race. They are clever, stealthy, and murderously insane, said to have been created by some crazed deity in ages past, mysterious fay, or by genetic experimentation by the Illithid.
Derro travel in groups to ambush unwary travelers, taking captives as slaves using poison, crippling weapons, and natural spell casting to further their aims.
Individuals devote themselves to strange quests, such as collecting certain types of gemstones for a magical device, slaying as many members of a particular race as possible, or are assigned specific missions by powerful derro savants.
Gully dwarves (Dragonlance)
Are a potbellied, stupid race whose skin is often covered with scars, boils, sores, and filth.
Hair color ranges from dirty blond to dull black. Gully dwarves have watery blue, dull green, or hazel eyes. They speak a pidgen tounge known as gullytalk, a constantly shifting language that borrows words from whatever main language is nearby.
They eke out a meager existence mainly in refuse heaps, sewers, and other places most civilized races would not care to touch, foraging for their sustenance.
They may seem cowardly, running from most any danger, but corner them and you will be in for a surprise.
Are short, squat, and hardy.
Most of them barely reach three feet tall. They have blocky bodies, pinched faces, stubby legs, bright blue eyes, ruddy cheeks, and white-blue skin. They wear polar bear fur tunics.
They are generally open and friendly, and can be quite sociable with neighboring races, with the exception with their mortal enemies: the frost giants.
Unlike other dwarves, they don’t mine or excel in crafts, instead devoting themselves to hunting, raising children, and leisure. Though they are curious about the outside world, they have little inclination to go and explore it.
Are a charismatic, if highly materialistic race who believe the resources of the natural world exist only to serve the purpose of conscious beings that enjoy fashioning minerals of the earth into things of usefulness and beauty including their finely, often enchanted crafted weapons and armor.
They often employ weapons that can also be used as tools, such as axes, picks, or hammers.
They are a proud race confident in their future after millennia of stability. Because of this they have earned a somewhat deserved reputation for xenophobia and supremacism, believing themselves to be the greatest of all races and themselves to be the greatest of all dwarves.
Are a cynical and gruff people, taking a long time to trust and even longer to forgive.
They are as fine craftsmen as other dwarves, but their craft tends to be weapons of war including axes, urgroshes, spears, swords, and mauls as well as heavy armors.
Their attitudes are divided between the Hidden and the Wanderers. The Hidden believe in isolation, fortifying their mountain homes, and continuing their ancient ways. Wanderers have been adventurous, seeking their fortunes on the surface world among other races.
Are a lost race, known only by legend as Stonefriends, who look much like mountain dwarves with light gray skin, silver eyes and well-groomed light gray to dark gray beards. They wear a tight-fitting one-piece flexible garment composed of stone and metal.
These dwarves move through stone as easily as others move through air, and will often use their ability to take their enemies into the stone, leaving them there. If the person is completely encased in stone, they die.
Urdunnir also have a unique ability to shape metal with their bare hands. Weapons or armor struck by an Urdunnir can be rendered useless in this way.
They have a clan-based society, with each clan specializing in finding and shaping a certain substance. Known clans include Marble, Gold, and Ruby.
Are nomadic, illiterate, communal forest dwellers who see the world in terms of hunter and prey.
They have an ever-changing pack mentality, caring only about securing their next meal and surviving the dangers of the natural world. Material wealth and goods mean very little, with weapons being the only objects to which they evince any real attachment.
The only wild dwarves encountered outside their forests are loners who have either been captured and enslaved or who have chosen exile. Many exiles eventually find their niche alongside rangers, hunters, or druids, although a few join packs of lycanthropes and other sentient beasts.
Are a cruel and malevolent race who have the ability to see in the deepest darkness. They are also immune to many mind powers, have a general resistance to fire and poisons, and are good at detecting hidden objects. Some even have powers to enlarge and turn invisible.
But these abilities come at a cost. They’re especially vulnerabile to sunlight. They are also a merciless, sneaky, crafty people, who excel at setting up ambushes or moving out of sight. They take great pleasure in inflicting pain on others.
Unlike other dwarves, duergar have no prejudices against arcane magic. Smiths who specialize in enchanted items and wizards are well respected.
Are an inquisitive lot, seeking to supplement the information and wisdom they gain from the earth dream with personal experience. They believe the hills slumber beneath them.
Wise, reserved, and cautious, they understand nature in a way at once similar to but wholly alien to the understanding of druids and shamans of other races. They share a sort of collective subconscious with the world around them, a powerful phenomenon they call the earth dream.
Seacliff dwarfs (Kalamar)
Are tough, resilient individuals who are only taken out of the action by death, not injury.
Due to their life near and oftentimes on the sea, all seacliff dwarves are excellent swimmers.
In their minds, there is no substitute or exception to an honorable victory in hand-to-hand combat. Others refer to them as salt beards. They typically are shipwrights, sailors, or fishermen, as well as expert armorers, weapon smiths, and engineers. Their services are highly sought after and paid for by many captains.
Badland dwarves (Kalamar)
Are a hardy, but declining folk skilled at surviving in the desert wastes. Only a few now survive and this has made the survivors very cautious.
They are inheritors of a long history of struggle and turmoil. Their need to keep self-preservation part of daily discussion makes many think Badland dwarves are cruel.
Some have gone insane from watching their brethren wither right before their eyes. Originally they came to the badlands to mine mithril and brightstones. Now they use their mastery of stone to locate water and dig wells, which has granted them great wealth and political power.
Have three main sub-races. With eons of racial interaction and desolation of norms and values, they left the underground, abandoned their crafts, and let their forges grow cold. Unlike other dwarves, they are less serious and favor freedom over valor.
They often have a firm personal code, and tend to have less patience for matters that require discretion and preparation.
Are musclebound beardless aquatic dwarves with webbed hands and feet. They have black eyes, bluish gray sharklike skin, and thick black tendrils of hair.
They are somewhat savage and unsophisticated, and impulsive and mistrustful of most other races. This often manifests in open hostility, especially when they find themselves opposed.
Azurn are fiercely loyal to their friends, and have tribe-wide large and hedonistic feasts.
re a charismatic, proud, beautiful, well-groomed. They have shiny crimson skin, often ornamented by black tattoos. They wear refined clothing and spend a large amount on their appearance.
Their culture developed in volcanic and deserts areas, so they make excellent evokers, especially centered on fire magic.
Rutilans are a proud race who enjoy intelligent conversation perhaps almost as much as a good fight, and are often seen as fair and sometimes generous.
Are a glib, dexterous, and deceitful race of gaunt dwarves having bark-like hair, blue-green skin, and unkempt, rugged facial features that help them to blend in with the marshes, forests, and jungles where they live.
They prefer swift and agile guerilla attacks. Due to their environment they have become immune to poisons. Their blood has actually become quite poisonous, an effect they quite expertly put to use.