I need suggestions for a Derro lair.


Advice

Dark Archive

I've had a crazy idea for a campaign and I want to start with the lucky heroes waking up in a mostly abandoned Derro lair. From there they have to find their way back to the surface. All but one of the Derro are dead, due to some kind of experiment gone wrong. For now I've decided on Plague Zombies, but I'd love to hear some other suggestions. There are Mites who've helped out the Derro with some Dream Spiders and the production of Shiver. There's a lab with a Pickled Punk that's about to fall of a shelf. A cytillesh farm underneath whatever they use as a toilet.

I'd like some more suggestions, as I'm sure there are more options for me here. The party should exist of 4 level 1 characters.

If this campaign takes of, the players will encounter Gray, Anunnaki and an Elohim later in the campaign. It doesn't take place on Golarion. Instead it takes place on an enormous demiplane made by the Elohim.


I find that at this point in the creative process, questions other people pose are more useful than whatever answers they may offer. With that in mind, a few initial questions:

For the lair specifically you have to determine what it is primarily used for. Is it primarily a research laboratory? Then most rooms will be used for this or storage. If it is a town, there will be a lot more areas dedicated to food production and industry. Does the lair get supplies from external sources or is it mostly self-sufficient?
What sort of waste, other than used food, did they produce, and how did they get rid of it?
What sort of sleeping accommodations do they have?
Was this all research and maintenance or was there a security detail?

How were the PCs captured?
How were they restrained? How are they expected to escape?
What was the experiment, why did it kill all the derro but leave the PCs unharmed?
Why is the lair so low powered that 1st level characters can be expected to survive it? Are there other derro communities nearby that will come to investigate the catastrophe?

More generally about the set-up of the campaign:

What are the goals of the three super races, how do they interact with each other, and how will the PCs get involved in their plans and survive said involvement? Are these three races important to the derro lair?

Dark Archive

- The Derro and the Mites are experimenting on humans, as well as producing Shiver for a crime lord in the city.
- The lair should be somewhat self sufficient because:
- Excrement and bodily remains are composted before being used as manure to farm Cytillesh, which is a fungus that Derro eat and use for alchemical purposes.
- They probably sleep in barracks.
- I don't have plans for security.

- The last thing they remember before waking up is having a drink at the local inn.
- They were drugged. Restrains weren't really necessary, although it is possible. One PC would have to succeed at an Escape Artist check so they can free the others. From there they'll have to find weapons and other useful stuff to escape.
- The Derro have made some bodily adjustments to the heroes, like an extra liver or an extra thumb where a pinky used to be. (Campaign traits.) Other experiments weren't so lucky and didn't survive. The zombie outbreak could have started in another room or in the offal heap. The heroes are really just lucky they didn't die on the operating table, or that they didn't end up as zombie food.
- There really shouldn't be much left behind that poses a threat. The last Derro is CR3, and that should be the highest level encounter.
- There are no other Derro communities. At least, not in my plans for now.

- In this campaign Derro are the results of Gray experimentation. I have to find a way to foreshadow this in the Derro lab. Probably through murals in a chapel of some sort.
- The Gray, Anunnaki and Elohim all come from the same place outside reality. As far as the people know, there is only their demiplane and that which us outside their demiplane. The Elohim is their creator, although they might not realize it. In the end the Elohim will terminate his project in the worst way possible. Before that the Gray and Anunnaki will visit to perform the final tests. The heroes will have to find a way to stop the Elohim from destroying their world.


I'm not familiar with all the elements you're referencing (The Gray, etc.), but I'm digging this story already.

Plague zombies could work, or maybe a singular expiriment gone wrong? Maybe someone in the party has some sort of transformative power, like rage or mutagen, and they put up more of a fight than the derro expected? Add in some jars of corrosive/explosive materials as needed.
Or maybe it was some sort of outside threat. A purple worm tunneled into the lab or a hill giant pillaged it from above. There could be an element of stealth/exploration where the party has to find a way around such a threat that's, say, maybe turned the uppet levels into its nest?

Or it could just be totally unexplained. There's a lot of overlap between baby-stealing fae and modern day alien abductions, to the point that they could be considered the same phenomenon. The derro are a great example of that themselves. Maybe the derro are just gone. The party could have been part of an abandoned project, or maybe their seeming freedom is just another stage of an ongoing expiriment?

I'd definitely stat up some less fortunate survivors, from drugged-up mutants that use an orc stat block to a mass of writhing meat that's similar to a gibbering mouther.

A few traps/torture devices and some strange alchemical goodies.

But mostly, I'd play up the quiet and the isolation. Silent Hill 2 style.

Finally, I'd neve heard of a "pickled punk" in Pathfinder before. That just has to be a reference to the book "Strangeness in the Proportion." If you're looking for some trippy, gross, eerie, weird ideas, that's a good one.

Dark Archive

Pickled Punk (and Bestiary 4) precedes Strangeness in the Proportion by about 4 years, so no.

As for Gray and Anunnaki, you can find them in Bestiary 5. Elohim can be found in Bestiary 4.


Side note: pickled punk is an old carny term, if you are at all curious, and not currently eating, wikipedia can expalin it.


the David wrote:
As for Gray and Anunnaki, you can find them in Bestiary 5. Elohim can be found in Bestiary 4.

The tone you've set up already gives a lot of subtext to the terms, whether the reader is familiar or no. At least, I think it does. Which is a sign of a strong, compelling story, in my opinion.

the David wrote:
Pickled Punk (and Bestiary 4) precedes Strangeness in the Proportion by about 4 years, so no.
Java Man wrote:
Side note: pickled punk is an old carny term, if you are at all curious, and not currently eating, wikipedia can expalin it.

That...makes a lot of sense. I mean, even considering the fact that a good chunk of the books readers would be gamers, I doubt it's particularly well-known. It seemed like a really odd coincidence. But then, the term "pickled punk" is so clearly not a typical bit of fantasy jargon.

Man. The fact that such things are/were real is...yucky.


This almost has a Lovecraftian vibe.

I'd have some strange anomalies happening. Derro play with some messed-up stuff. Weird gravity warping, living 'furniture', vats of strange liquids leaking (oozes?) Maybe some freaky low-level undead...(other than the pickled punks, that is) How about oddly malformed zombies?

Dark Archive

The Derro (or Dero) actually originated in the works of Richard Sharpe Shaver. You might want to do a quick google search on him, you won't be disappointed.

I already mentioned the plague zombies so that's a confirmation that I'm on the right track, but it would be nice to have some other suggestions.


the David wrote:

The Derro (or Dero) actually originated in the works of Richard Sharpe Shaver. You might want to do a quick google search on him, you won't be disappointed.

I already mentioned the plague zombies so that's a confirmation that I'm on the right track, but it would be nice to have some other suggestions.

When I mention oddly malformed zombies, I'm not talking plague zombies. Think about zombies custom made for strange jobs - extra arms, some coming out of odd places, animal parts, extra structures - maybe one built as its own cart, maybe one with picks instead of hands, for mining. Several joined together in whatever creepy way you like - a zombie gate, maybe.


Zombies with the Mutant template


the David wrote:
...it would be nice to have some other suggestions.

There have been several. If they're not quite what you're looking for, we probably need some more details to understand what is.


Greylurker wrote:

Zombies with the Mutant template

(grr silly Edit timer)

Mutant Template (Bestiary 4 I think) in general might be useful to you, along with Limbjack and Metalclad templates (from advanced Bestiary)you can get a real "weird science" feel going.

Dark Archive

I think it's more that plague zombies fit really really well. Let me see if I can order my plot for you.

1. The big screw up. Something went horibly wrong. This is why there aren't many Derro left in the dungeon. It's also why the PCs wake up. There's nobody left to keep them sedated. That's the vibe I'm going with, and a zombie plague would work really well. Facehuggers and Xenomorphs would work too, but Plague Zombies are... easier to work with? I don't know. I guess it's a lazy plot that works well. If I'd use mutants I'd have to explain why they're killing everything in sight. (Although they have more variety than Zombies.) Zombies are a trope and the failed experiment is an obvious story element.
I've been wracking my brain trying to decide what the players can find on the waste dump. Obvious answer is more zombies, because that's where the dead bodies were dumped.
That being said, maybe zombies are too obvious. I don't like to go for the first idea, because the second one might be better.

2. The Derro had some help with kidnapping their victims. That's one plot hook for a side quest.

3. The Derro and Mites are creating Shiver (a drug) as a little side business for someone in the city. This is another plothook for a side quest.

4. The Derro are the result of Gray experimentation. Gray seem to work together with the Anunnaki and the Anunnaki work for the Elohim. The Elohim is going to wrap up his experiments and destroy the demiplane. The increased frequency of Gray and Anunnaki sightings is linked to this.
In the end the PCs will have to face the Elohim that wants to destroy the demiplane.

Dark Archive

I am thinking of those leaf-cutter ants that cut up leaves to bring home and cultivate and grow the fungus in their tunnels that they actually eat.

Now imagine that Cytillesh grows best on living people, strung up to the walls and kept bleeding and pustulent, in a warm, moist cave.

And imagine further that the Cytillesh-sprouting victims have experienced some sort of infectious mutation that gives them a surge of mad strength, and allowed them to break free and wander around berserkly...


What the party finds in the ruins of the Derros' lair seems to be the party's starting wealth. How many of the party are actually Dwarves?

Dark Archive

Set wrote:

I am thinking of those leaf-cutter ants that cut up leaves to bring home and cultivate and grow the fungus in their tunnels that they actually eat.

Now imagine that Cytillesh grows best on living people, strung up to the walls and kept bleeding and pustulent, in a warm, moist cave.

And imagine further that the Cytillesh-sprouting victims have experienced some sort of infectious mutation that gives them a surge of mad strength, and allowed them to break free and wander around berserkly...

That sounds a lot like... a Cytillesh Zombie. To be honest, I don't really like Cytillesh Zombies. I think I prefer the Plague Zombie or the Mutant.

I have to remember to sprinkle around corpses of mutants to remind the players that experimentation doesn't always result in a snazzy new template.


Dreamspiders and alchemy right?

1. Haunt traps: these aren't Haunts, you'll have to make up some mechanics, but these are areas where bad air carries an airborne version of the Dreamspiders' venom causing hallucinations. I call them Haunt traps because instead of them JUST being the Bad Air hazard with a twist, they actually deliver story-based info; they're the trapped memories of the Derro who perished during the calamity.

2. Alchemical Ooze Swarms: pretty low power, low impact monsters but fit a sort of oozing horror theme and coupled with other monsters (like mites, aberrations) who use their paralytic qualities like mobile hunting traps these could make dangerous encounters

3. Aberrations: not every Derro died. This might fly completely against your story so feel free to ignore, but you could have some of the derro having succumbed to terrible experiments that turned them, small, rubbery and feral (Chokers), gave them a spider-like body (use the Drider and reduce power enough to make them suitable to the party) or made them into truly inhuman horrors (Akatas, Eye Sentinels). You could also do this with the humans that were being experimented on.

4. Improvised weapons: don't know if this would fit but leaving some weird, alien equipment laying about could arm the PCs with bizarre, improvised weapons like misshapen medical tools or lab implements. If not these, consider some one-use weird stuff like an acid sprayer or a negative energy flask (not unholy water, literal negative energy distilled into an oily black substance)

5. Liberal use of the Homumculus: scatter Tiny, flying constructs all around. These can go one of 2 ways - lab assistant drones trying re-secure the "experiments" (the PCs) or reskinned homunculi with weird shapes/abilities to replace the natural bite and poison of the original creature, representing their own kind of weird experiment.

6. Vermin, lots of Vermin: Mites love vermin. If there's a LOT of vermin, or at least there were, consider throwing in swarms, giant centipedes, fire beetles, etc. Once these get added, what could the mites have been pulling out of them with access to derro and a lab? Poisons, unique arcane materials, chitinous material crafted into armor or shields, weapons made out of mandibles, unique wondrous items made out of vermin eyes or glands, etc.

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