Tuesday, 18 March 2014


 They value only work and blood.

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Only two things matter, work producing some result, and the transmission of ascent from the core, which is a kind of work in time.

Long ago the first of them emerged from a distant primal core. He made himself. That work goes on. They believe they are improving. It is their mission to do so.

Their family trees spring upwards, not down. Each generation more focused and efficient than the last. This is the Ascent. Duergar heredity. A machine of blood and bone, carrying them into the pre-remembered future. One of only two things in which they truly believe.

They have statistics, and the graphs all show a clear upward trend. Production, efficiency, development, all increase.

They imagine the future and the things they will build there. It belongs to them. They want it more. They understand it more. They will become what the future needs them to be. The future is a god to them. A god-above-gods.  They know it to be true.

Even as the race slowly winds itself deeper and deeper into the earth, passing through fretted valves and carved abandoned chambers they have made, falling in its orbit of stone; they map their continual advance.

Each thing must be built upon another thing. A word, a deed, a thought, each must have its foundation. For this reason they obsess over blood. Arguments over the Ascent are arguments over reality itself. Without its sustaining foundation, the word becomes a gabble of sound, the deed an accident, the thought a dream, the existence a lie.

They do not like metaphor. Things mean one thing. If a thing tries to mean two things then it becomes nothing.

The only other thing they understand is work.

A body and a mind are only useful because of the work they can together do. The soul is the work passing through the flesh.

No other race grasps this. They might ask “what are the Duregar working towards? What is their plan?”

They are working to be working. Work is the plan. Work is the point.

They will never stop. They can never stop.

They will cut cities from bare stone, tear up every vein, embellish every surface, then, when there is no unworked spot or unplanned gap, when every single piece and thing has become a channel for planned creation, when even the pebbles stare up from the floor with idly carved eyes, then they move on.

Gems mean nothing to them except that they can be cut, or have been cut.

If one loses the ability to work and if they cannot further the ascent, they simply walk into the dark. Or sit where they are, staring at nothing, waiting to starve.

The Drow have recorded many thousands of wars with the Duergar, over many thousands of years. Uncounted conflicts, flashing into life in the dark, raging with strange entrails and many an unexpected reverse, then ending as suddenly as they began. Replaced with an equally unsteady peace.

The Duregar record only one war. It began millennia ago. It is currently approaching the end of its initial exchange. There have been interruptions. Adjustments. But there has only ever been one plan. One plan, one war. It is progressing according to schedule, give or take a century or two.

Duergar do not torture or psychologically destroy their slaves. Not deliberately at least. They simply kill them when they fail*.

Skilled slaves can appear to rise far in Duergar ownership, and will. (Any skill at work must be nurtured and sustained so that better work may be done.) But it is not the individual that is respected. It is the work. The work passing through the alien flesh.

They do not really hate their slaves. They do not realise that they are beings at all. Only vectors for work.

They do not really hate anyone. Because they really don’t know there is a anyone there to hate.

They do not grow or shrink at will. Neither to they become invisible at will. They simply alter their relation to the world. Work is real and the world exists only to have work done upon it. They are vectors for work. They are more real than the world. The more work that passes through them, they more they can adjust their relation to the world. Scale, light, these are petty things.

They do not dream. They do not believe in chance.

You do not roll dice when they act.

Procure a list of appropriate random numbers before the game begins.

Instead of rolling dice for the Duergar, simply reveal them to yourself one by one. It’s what they would prefer. If you want you can re use the same list again and again for every encounter they are in. Because there is no chance. There is nothing random in the world.

*Then eat them. But everyone does that.

(Attempts to produce a Duregar un-random table or anti-reaction chart have so far proved ineffective. Really they should always respond the same way, like a broken computer program.)


  1. This is brilliant. The flavour alone is good, but reinforcing it with unrandom numbers is even better. Can't wait to try this out!

  2. Just a thought...

    Start with the mean of the possible rolls the Duregar would produce. Each subsequent attack roll goes up by one as he/she aligns his/her work vectors better against the adventurers anti-work (nothing is quite so anti-work as adventurers).

  3. This is amazing. Set up a Partreon or something so I can give you money for this stuff!

    A full on Underworld (print) book would be an auto-buy from me, get this and that thing about the creepy flexible giants and all your other thoughts and tables together.