1E [Dragon #51] Dark Dwellers - Good Campaign Idea?
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  1. #1
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    [Dragon #51] Dark Dwellers - Good Campaign Idea?

    Have you ever had a memory about something, that you couldn't quite force out of your brain, that started to drive you crazy? I had that last week, and it took until yesterday before I was able to track down the elements that let me find it.

    In Dragon magazine issue #51 (July 1981), in the "Dragon's Bestiary" section, they debuted Mark Cummings' submission, the dark dwellers. Put simply, they're variant trolls with the following changes:
    • Normal intelligence and lawful evil alignment, meaning they are more tactical.
    • The ability to make arms and armor for themselves. Since they've got troll-like strength, they favor plate mail and greatswords.
    • The mining skills of dwarves, "according to the AD&D Players Handbook."
    • The ability to construct secret doors and traps that are detectable extremely rarely. I mean, even magic spells (normally all-or-nothing in AD&D) fail a certain amount of the time.
    • The ability to domesticate and ride Antrodemus dinosaurs. Antrodemus dinosaurs are now known as allosaurs.

    So, you've got regenerating giant-class creatures, riding carnivorous dinosaurs, wearing plate mail ("of unusual thickness" -- so they get -4 AC with plate and shield) and bearing greatswords, that act tactically and aggressively in expanding their terrain. Also, "they live for about 200 years and have a very low rate of reproduction."

    I mean, I'll grant you, they seem like the ultimate "F U" monster, albeit without crazy magical powers. About the only weaknesses they have is sunlight (but that only loses them some of their incredible bonuses, it doesn't harm them) and their lack of spellcasters. But humanoid spellcasters didn't come up in the Monster Manual; they were introduced in the Dungeon Master's Guide and expanded in Deities and Demigods. Since the dark dwellers showed up in Dragon magazine, they were not considered in any core books, but you could reasonably give them the same availability as Trolls.

    But I guess, in the back of my head, I've always thought they were great for a certain kind of campaign. Consider this: kobolds and goblins, favorite low-level monsters good to throw against beginning parties, hate daylight. They obviously prefer to live underground. What would drive such creatures aboveground? A more powerful group of creatures that have taken up residence in their old Underearth territories.

    I envision a campaign where the players first have to deal with raids of their homefront by social monsters that typically live below ground. After a couple of encounters, they come upon a small orc hunting party, say, dead to the last orc, along with one or two dead dark dwellers, and one that's heavily wounded but regenerating fast. Over time, it becomes clear that a clan of dangerous Underearth creatures (the dark dwellers) are moving in, and will likely wipe out the communities on the surface if they are not stopped.

    There are lots of ways for this to go. PCs could try to unite and organize the surface communities against the greater threat. They could even try to find out what is driving the dark dwellers out of their former Underearth hunting grounds.

    Has anyone used these guys in their campaign, either back in the day or more recently? How did it go?
    ROLAND VOLZ | RPG Director | Double Exposure, Inc.
    XP Doug McCrae gave XP for this post

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Liane the Wayfarer View Post
    In Dragon magazine issue #51 (July 1981), in the "Dragon's Bestiary" section, they debuted Mark Cummings' submission, the dark dwellers. Put simply, they're variant trolls ...

    Has anyone used these guys in their campaign, either back in the day or more recently? How did it go?
    Never used them - never heard of them until now - but I like 'em; and my players will someday regret that you posted this. <evil cackle>

  3. #3
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    They're certainly very powerful and dangerous but they seem to be a fairly random collection of elements without much of a thematic link. I wonder if they're from an obscure fantasy or sci-fi novel?

    I think if I wanted underground giants I'd use something like fomori, cyclopes or gugs (from HP Lovecraft). For smarter, more organised trolls I'd look to Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword, RuneQuest, or Scandinavian myth.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug McCrae View Post
    They're certainly very powerful and dangerous but they seem to be a fairly random collection of elements without much of a thematic link. I wonder if they're from an obscure fantasy or sci-fi novel?
    Possible. There were quite a few in Dragon, and a lot more in White Dwarf, that came from fantasy and sci-fi novels. But Dragon was usually good about citing their sources.
    I think if I wanted underground giants I'd use something like fomori, cyclopes or gugs (from HP Lovecraft). For smarter, more organised trolls I'd look to Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword, RuneQuest, or Scandinavian myth.
    Come to think of it, they do seem to have a little similarity to Scandinavian trolls -- usually good smiths, living underground because of the sunlight (although that usually turned them to stone).
    ROLAND VOLZ | RPG Director | Double Exposure, Inc.

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