Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Stat Block - Duergar


Before 4E, the duergar - also known as grey dwarves - were psionic evil dwarves whose psionic abilities were explained as being the result of a history of being enslaved by mind flayers. Their two signature abilities from the time they first appeared in 1E were invisibility and expansion, the latter being the ability to increase in size.

One of the 4E changes that I detested was making duergar into hell-tainted dwarves with the same history as before but with their deity, Laduguer, being revealed during the Spellplague years as merely being Asmodeus in disguise. As a result, duergar were no longer psionic but infernal with with ability to throw great spikes from their beards.

While I quite like the 4E duergar as a monster - they're clearly inspired by the half-baatezu durzagon from 3.xE's Fiend Folio - they are not the duergar that I wanted to see in my games, in part because I think the rise of Asmodeus is unnecessary and overrated. (If the designers wanted one of Baator's denizens to play a more prominent part in the 4E Realms it would have been better to choose either Malkizid, the Branded King, or Gargauth, both of whom had much more interesting and flavoursome FR-based backstories.)

Suffice to say, my duergar is more Old School... and surprisingly complicated for a 2nd-level standard monster.


While I was originally thinking of making the duergar a soldier - it is a type of dwarf, after all - I decided to go with lurker because if it was going to be able to turn invisible, it should gain some sort of combat benefit from that. So, basically it costs a round to turn invisible but then its strike the next round does more damage in the way the better-designed lurkers seem to work.
This mechanic only works when the duergar is unbloodied. Once it is bloodied, it can increase in size via expansion and then it functions more like a brute. I'm rather happy with how this worked out.

I also wanted to incorporate some ideas directly inspired by 3.xE's Expanded Psionic Handbook - psionic focus and deep impact. I like the idea of the duergar using psionics to charge its weapon in order to strike past an enemy's armour. I can remember using some duergar psychic warriors in my last session of 3.5E D&D that could do this - but 4E makes it so much easier to stat up!

I'm rather happy with this as my basic duergar. At some point I will need to stat up steeders and steeder riders. After all, a duergar isn't a duergar without spider cavalry!

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