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Against the Shadow  |  Creatures  |  The Darguul
The Darguul
Until now the dwarves have found but ruins and glyphs that showcase logic defying and ancient powers, ruins and glyphs that hint the existence of secrets that could predate even the elthedarthemselves. Whether they were wise or fortunate is still unknown, but the dwarves have turned to their lorekeeper at every new discover of ruins, giving them time to study them and preventing any more disturbance until they would be sure it would be safe, sometimes, that never happens.

Around the ruins of the masters of the dark magical wards of great power are often found, glyphs and runes that emanate power and give birth to rumors and, through time, myths. The myths and tales have turned many good dwarves into students of the dark masters lore, which has given birth to even more tales, this is how The Riddle of the Darguul, as it is known, was born, based on obsession, madness and unclear events in the life of those devoted to it study.

The myths, however, do not lack a source of awe and mystery, this is mostly true for the tale of an old and demented student of the riddle, who, it is said, was able of make use of the knowledge he gained through the many years of devotion and created confusing and intriguing machines, machines that seemed to work in the realms of the magical and mundane. The designs of the machine, however, have been related to those of the ruins themselves, as if a small portion of the lost knowledge of the Darguul was placed in the minds of their creators.

The most debated and obscure of the myths, however, is one that a few lorekeepers insist in telling, it is about how a group of creatures made out of stone, clay, steel and gems have marched out of the Kaladruns and fought side by side with the overwhelmed on the Battle of Three Kingdoms, whatever their origins were, they have gone as soon as the Battle ended, into the heart of the mountains and through them, a path none could follow as it closed behind them.

In the most remote depths of the Kaladruns, however, some degree of truth on myths and legends told to scare children an be found, hidden deep in the heart of Eredane lies something that even the deepest of the dwarven holdfasts has yet to face, a society that has been able to endure even the cold and dark heart of the mountains with the sheer use of magic and knowledge.

Arcane wielders of unimaginable powers and unmatched vileness are the true masters of the dark society that dwells below, worshippers of a dark and ancient faith that has been long forgotten by even the most wise and old creatures on the surface. Yet, there are others that follow their lead and hold powers that allow them to meld with earth and stone just to leap out of it over the unaware and others that blend with their surroundings and move with uncanny speed and lethal stealth.

The Birth of The Riddle

Long before the Sundering, there existed a kingdom of mountain dwellers, distant cousin to the elthedar themselves, they were capable wizards and have wielded magic beyond boundaries that were never surpassed before. With their powers they have been able to give life to statues made out of rock, earth, metal and gems, and create more than one item of magical power.

For all their knowledge, they were evil at heart, looking for the domination of all others they captured anyone they could and experimented on them with spells, sometimes creating entire lines of monstrosities, some of which became the current underdark monsters. Their evil knew no limit, they hunted down other creatures and places of power and used them to channel their powers into twisted and cruel spells, which made their grasp even more crushing.

Those were the Darguul, the master of the dark, and through their raw power and evil minds they reigned upon the world as the undisputed masters of evil and corruption. The elthedar, however, would never allow the evil ways of the Darguul to overthrow the world, so it was that a war was waged between them.

The war endured for many years before some unknown power made the Darguul be silent, no more their evil spells and creations made their way to the surface world and powerful glyphs and wards were found in some passages on the underground of the Kaladrun Mountains. Their famous spell mines, however, were never found, all that was known is that they were deeply encroached in the mountains. With the sealing the disoriented and imprisoned Darguul have turned against one another, for they knew that was not beyond their own kind the ways of treachery and fear.

As time passed they knew that they would have to survive and using their epic wizardry they managed to preserve their kind so far from the surface. The elthedar and the other races of Aryth were now free of their threat and, as time passed, the darguul and the memory of their evil faded into history, the ruins of the crumbled empire the only thing that would keep their existence alive in the memory, until the Sundering came.

In the deepest recesses of the earth, however, the descendents of the Darguul have endured and survived, the thousands of years in isolation were combined with purposeful magical modifications that ended up transforming them into the underground life.

Option: Adventure Background

After the many years in isolation the Darguul have finally seen it come to an end, the magical seals that have protected their underground kingdom for so long has been accidentally breached by a team of Idenor miners, free from their magical prison the Darguul have made use of their talents and evil to slowly infiltrate the city and abduct its citizens. The captured dwarves have been turned into slaves and the city has been sacked, after that the Darguul have retreated back into their underworld and concealed the operation with magical seals and powerful illusions.

Through their prisoners, the Darguul learned of the presence of Izrador in Aryth and decided that they should shroud themselves in secrecy for the time being, they are not going to stay quiet, however, and are getting prepared to conquer as many dwarven holdfast as they can, in order to gather the miners and smiths they need to supply their expansion politic and prepare the spells they need to give life to their army of constructs.

Having always been a proud race, the Darguul have turned their back on the gods themselves long ago, for what they have been marked and, possibly, almost exterminated. They fear Izrador has not yet forgotten their treachery to the gods and would turn all his armies against them would their presence be exposed, for that reason, they want to organize and grow in power before they can stand against his armies.

The Darguul have also spotted that their newly acquired slaves have some degree of similarity with them, what made them trace the dwarven lineage to a lineage of their own race that stood against the practice of their magical and technological experiments. Although they have exterminated most of those traitors, some of them fled and joined forces with the elthedar in the war and colonized the surface of the mountains after its end, as time passed their lineage was mixed with the elthedar and ended up giving birth to the current dwarves, which the Darguul see both as heirs to the treachery of their own kind and weaklings.

Darguul Society

The Darguul have a strong sense of competition; each individual is chaotic by nature, yet their society is very orderly and almost tyrannical. They all dream to one day be free (and impose their will on others) by becoming members of the ruling council. This explains why they keep spending their time in magical research rather than killing each other. Don't be mistaken though, they love intrigue, manipulation and slander. Their motto is: “only success matters, not the means to achieve it”. This sums up very well the Darguul philosophy.

The Darguul are organized in a strict caste system.

On top are the ruling council, called the Council of Sorcery, who have a right of life and death upon any others. They are only allowed this position through sheer demonstration of magical power, usually ending in either the candidate’s or a current member’s death. Entrance is only gained through the destruction of one of the current members. Each one of the members has designed a specific ritual that grants him access to psionic abilities. The Darguul only value success; failure is not acceptable and death is most often preferred. This is a proud race indeed. The twist is, however, that success is the only thing requested, and if it is gained through treachery, it does not matter. They always wear black robes and distinctive golden necklaces with a gem pendant, which happens to be a very powerful spellgem.

Under the Council of Sorcery are trusted individuals who are members of elite forces called the Guard: they are militia, secret police and army, defending their kin against the underdark monsters, and mixed in one single corps. They are traditionally chosen among the Council members’ apprentices or trusted servants, and oath-bound to protect them. Unless they are certain to successfully replace their masters, they usually are very loyal to them. They form a militia armed with wands of magic missiles /fireball or such, and make sure peace is kept in the dark caverns of the darguul. They are also always on the lookout for traitors who would wish to strike against the Council of Sorcery or its members. If they hear that someone wishes to challenge their master to gain his seat in the Council, they will try and assassinate him (remember, only success matters), or ally with him if they feel he is more powerful than their current master. They finally are the ones in charge of defending the darguul caverns against external threats: monsters, rebels, and strangers. It is important to note that they are the only ones (except the Council members) who can decide who is a threat and who is not. They wear an elaborate uniform of synthetic red robes and prominently show their wands for further intimidation.

Below the Guard are the "standard" darguul: wizards of some power, alchemists, golem makers, engineers, etc. All of them work hard to improve their lot in existence and gain access to a higher caste, eventually leading to a position in the Council of Sorcery. And for that, they all develop new magic, spells and plots to achieve their goals.

Below are their apprentices or assistants. They work hard to become full-fledged sorcerers or engineers and gain some measure of freedom. This is usually achieved in two ways; either killing or ridiculing their masters, or forcing him to grant them freedom, through blackmail, treachery or the forced recognition of their work’s worth.

Below are the children, the weak-willed, prisoners and other social deviants. They are granted no rights, except that they cannot be killed without justification (this is usually only expected after they are killed, however).

Strangers, slaves or other races are not considered part of the caste system and can be killed on sight by any darguul with no explanation or justification.

The Darguul have no true economic system, only a system of bartering that does not work for material goods but rather as an exchange of favors. For example, knowledge, social power, magical ingredients can all be traded to some extent.

Darguul Technology & Magic

As powerful as their magic can be, it should be noted that most of the powerful tricks of the darguul are linked to their creator; when he dies or is slain, all his creations fall to the ground lifeless and the spell effects he created are dispelled.

Every darguul wears a magical iron crown that allows him to understand any other tongue and grants some charm abilities, this is most useful for communication with the slave races and when dealing with "experiments" that went out of control.

The caverns of the darguul are the shelter for the most powerful power nexus in Aryth, for they are the pulsating arcane heart of the world. These places are called spellmines, and infuse the darguul caverns with magic that pervades even the thin air itself. The Darguul have learnt to tap their powers for their magical constructs. Each spellmine produces magical gems, used to fuel different items. In game terms, all darguul items are considered charge items. This is not a problem as long as they remain in the darguul caves, which are vibrant with magic (they don't need to be reloaded there). Once outside of the caverns, however, they become "charge" items. Roll 3d10: it indicates the number of charges. once emptied, they have to have their spellgem changed or be returned to the darguul caves in order to work again. The spellgem worn by the members of the Council of Sorcery are unique and allow their wearer to double their spell energy and constantly fuel all the magic items they could be wearing or holding.

Due to the ambient magic caused by the proximity of the spellmines, all spells cats in the darguul caves are considered cast as if their caster’s level were +2.

Of course, the darguul have exploited this unique feature of their environment to develop several new brands of magic and of technology, often mixing both.

This has resulted in a common, daily use of golems, most of the time as "robots" used as assistants for their experiments. There are also guard golems that protect the entrance to their labs. They also have created a transportation network using magical wagons, each one being bound for a specific destination available on a rail system. There also exist independent chariots driven by specific golems.

The darguul are also experts at creature building: using magic, they create genetical monstrosities, mixing creatures together to obtain strange results, the masters of Izrador’s breeding pits would indeed be fascinated by their work.

The darguul have also developed their knowledge of biology, and especially the study of underdark viruses. They long have toyed with the creation of diseases, but lately have discovered symbioses that are used to provide spell energy bonuses, con bonuses, and so on. Depending on what symbiose one gets - it's not possible to have more than one symbiose at a time. This is sort of a magical nanotechnology, and looks very promising.

Rather than trusting their notes to old tomes of paper, the darguul have created a central conscience which they use as a steampunk computer network. It is made from the collected brains of the deceased Darguul, especially the defeated members of the Council of Sorcery. Each individual researcher, then, gains access to the magical equivalent of modern-day data storage and processing. Such “flesh computers” usually use a specific slave as a terminal. For accessing the central data, the sorcerer just says his instructions in front of the slave (whose brain is connected to the central network); then the slave tells him (as if in a trance) the data he obtained from the central network. It is to be noted that the darguul only share the knowledge from dead masters and researchers, and it is not rare for them to try and abduct their rivals’ slaves in order to practice brainwashing rituals that will allow them access to their memory… Of course it is a grim prospect to become such a slave.

Finally, the Darguul have gotten some interest into alchemy, which they turned into modern chemistry: this means research into explosives, medicine, synthetic textile, and all sorts of hallucinogenic drugs, both mundane and magical. They know the secrets of many potions.

Original Concept
by smeagol.
Additional development and writing by Nifelhein.

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