Monstrous Lair: Duergar Outpost (system neutral)
This installment of the Monstrous Lairs-pdfs clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Sometimes, you just need a bit of dressing for a wayside encounter – or something specific to a monster type. Finding appropriate entries can be rough, and so, this series attempts to remedy this shortcoming on 2 pages, with a total of 7 d10-tables.
Okay, so, the outside of the lair features improved defensive positions on alternating sides of the corridor, accounting for the duergar’s low speed; hidden deadfalls, crossbow emplacements, guard posts with a large steel gong – this is generally a table with a couple of cool entries, though once more, we have slaves stumbling along booted tracks, and there is a bit of a strong focus on poisons, which struck me as slightly odd. As for what’s going on, we have duergar chasing wounded dwarves, we have duergar branding slaves, consulting elf-skin maps, etc. The table also includes duergar forcing slaves to pile rocks, and examples for their cruel and unrelenting obsession with duty – I liked these former entries; forcing two elven slaves to fight to the death? Less unique.
Among the major lair features, we can find mutilated dwarf corpses, braziers emitting light and smoke, stone statues lording with evil smiles over crushed adversaries, stalactites poised to collapse – several interesting ones, though there are two brazier entries, the second of which is cooler and renders the first pretty obsolete. Minor lair features include heavy stone blocks crashing down, hollow pebbles that break loudly, catapults firing oozes at intruders – oddly, these minor lair features are much cooler than the major ones – and more mechanically significant. Though a dead elf hanging from the wall? Not that interesting.
The different duergar appearances include bushy eyebrows poking forth from helmets, duergar growing to wield huge towershields with halflings strapped to the front, individuals with spike-hand prosthetics or priests wielding red-hot, fiery chains. I can get behind this table – it’s varied and interesting. The treasure section includes light-absorbing amulets, barbed whips made from roper tendrils and doppelgänger face-masks – grisly, and yet distinct from the decadence that was on display in the drow-entry. Nice! The miscellanea this time around includes empty vials of spider venom (kinda lame, duergar are not exactly the race that is known for their spider-theme), edible puffballs, spore-stained copper rings. The best entries here deal with well-crafted items that have subtle traps/caveats included – these are great, and I wished the whole table consisted of the like.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and we get a nice piece of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity (kudos!) and is included in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one for the printer.
Duergar are harder to set apart than e.g. drow, but for the most part, Steve Hood’s pdf does a solid job; while not all tables are winners, each has a couple of entries that I considered to be genuinely interesting. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
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