Saturday, May 22, 2021

OSR: Yugoloths: Sumhigh Squad


from D&D 4E

Other Yugoloths:
Shiver Squad: Shock Troops
Gelid Squad: Silk-workers, infiltrators and spies
Bluster Platoon: Magical powerhouses, negotiators and administrators
Vernal Company: Amphibious Light Infantry
Floral Squad: Magically gifted Lordlings rejected by their peers

Joyful Janet was a member of the Sewing Circle, but unlike all the others, she was an Annis Hag.  As she was never a normal sorcereress, there were those who considered more of a pet or a nuisance than a proper member.  She was tolerated, but few of the others even pretended to like her, much less care about her opinions.  There was even some debate over whether or not she should be allowed to bear a litter of Yugoloths.  Fortunately, that decision wasn't in the hands of the Circle, but their benefactor.  This engendered quite a lot of bitterness, but that was mostly alleviated when Janet gave birth to a shower of enormous maggots 10 months later. 

The Circle would have destroyed them at the moment, had it not been for the dissent of Kindy Isabella, a Night Hag of terrible power and awful glory.  Thus the disgusting little children were spared, and allowed to grow.  Soon they began to grow and grow and grow, swelling until they towered over other Yugoloths.  It was in those moments when the other Hags most regretted not disobeying Isabella and smashing those little grubs into paste. 

Sumhigh Squad is composed of 20 members.  They primarily work as heavy infantry, as their thick natural armor and powerful limbs enable them to smash formations of weaker beings with ease, and their armor protects them from most casual attacks.  That being said, they rarely fight in pitched battle unless in larger groups, as they tend to attract a lot of attention and are not strong enough that 100 men with spears could not eventually wear them down and kill them.  They are also known to work as substitutes for calvary or to exterminate the latter.  But their best and common use is as infiltrators and sappers.  Their burrowing abilities mean they are perfect for sneak attacks and subverting static defenses.   

Sumhigh Squad prefer to be paid in meat, wine and other luxuries, especially drugs.  Some of them will also accept slaves.  Others prefer jewels- despite the fact that jewels are harder to liquidate. 

Their mother, Joyful Janet is still alive and is currently working to recover her children.  Her children, though they feel some affection for her, would hate for that to occur.

Their Book is lost but there is ample evidence to suggest that the Dhergoloths hid it in a ruin somewhere in the White Chalk Desert, in the hopes that no one would ever find it.  There are multiple concerned parties, including their mother, scouring the desert in search of that hiding place.   

Base Dhergoloth Statblock:
HD 4
AR 3 [Natural Armor]
Atk Claw (1d6/1d6/1d6) or Weapon (1d10/1d10)
Mor 14
Saves 11 or less
Immune to Poison and Poison Damage
Resistant to Fire and Psychic Damage

Telepathic: Dhergoloths can communicate telepathically with any creature they can see, or have previously made contact with, as long as that creature is still within 100'.  They can also use their telepathy to send disturbing images or creepy messages to people, sometimes to frighten them but just as often for their own juvenile amusement. 

Burrower: Dhergoloths can dig through earth at preternatural speed, tunneling through earth at a rate of 30' per round and through sand at a rate of 60' per round.  They can choose to dig a tunnel and leave it open behind them, or leave no tunnel behind them. 

Claw Vortex: As an action, a Dhergoloth can rotate it's body in a storm of flashing claws.  This does 2d6 damage to all creatures within melee range.  This attack also grants the Dhergoloth +4 AR when it is spinning and can deflect projectile attacks.  Additionally, any creature that takes more than 5 damage from this attack must save or be knocked 10' backwards and prone.  Dhergoloths can only use this ability once every 1d4 rounds.

Disembowelment: If a Dhergoloth successfully grapples a creature, it can make two claw attacks against that creature as a free action.

Reinforcements: Dhergoloths have a 50% of being able to summon another Dhergoloth or a 10-20% of being able to summon a Yugoloth from another unit, depending on the unit. 

- Use Telepathy to scare and mislead foes
- Use burrowing to sneak up onto opponents, ambush them
- Grapple vulnerable creatures and rip their guts out
- Use Claw Vortex to escape or defeat groups of weak opponents

Dhergoloths resemble ten foot tall Beetles covered in a shiny black exoskeleton.  They have shiny black carapaces and six limbs, all tipped in gleaming claws.  They have glittering compound eyes and clicking mandibles, but ape-like teeth behind them.  They can stand on two legs but prefer to walk like chimpanzees, leaning on their middle set of limbs.  Their bodies are segmented and incredibly flexible, allowing them to turn 360 degrees without hurting themselves.    

Dhergoloths do occasionally use weapons, preferring long tridents, spears or polearms, but also occasionally curved swords and powerful bows.  Their deadliest weapons are actually their natural ones, namely the razor claws tipping every finger on their hand.  They rarely wear armor of any sort, sometimes they will carry shields if they feel a situation is gravely dangerous, but they usually have no need for such weapons, their chitin plates deflecting or blunting most attacks better than any manufactured armor.

by John Silva

Mental Faculties and Temperment:

Dhergoloths are not the smartest creatures out there.  They are not stupid, but they lack a certain mental sharpness that most intelligent beings have.  They are common in intellect, but prone to impatience and not being able to figure out certain difficult things.  Puzzles and riddles confound them and open-ended solutions are frustrating.  That being said, they do possess a certain animal cunning that enables them to produce clever results when least expected.  They are also extremely good at certain types of thinking. 

A Dhergoloth could never do any math that would require counting past it's 24 claws, but if you showed them a diagram of a fortress and explained the various defenses, they could easily describe a dozen access points.  They function best with limited problems within a set of pre-defined parameters.  They are also very good at spatial thinking and tend to have strange but inconsistent webs of knowledge.  A Dhergoloth could tell you how to make steel and cast bronze, but couldn't tell you anything about a poem beyond "It sounds pretty".  They also tend to be extremely bad in social situations, having almost no ability to read social cues.  They often offend people, usually by accident. 

In terms of temperment, Dhergoloths are usually cruel and greedy, characterized by their lack of concern for non-Yugoloths, which they usually regard as replaceable or worthless, depending on how annoying those creatures are.  They usually do value some Yugoloths, but do not treat them all equally.  Some other groups are full of useful individuals, while others are just pointless.  They have a strong rivalry with Shiver Squad and try to fill the same role as them sometimes, but are never quite as successful.  

They also regard some of the other smaller squads as pointless.  This is sort of true of Gelid Squad as well, with many of the Dhergoloths wishing that the members of that Squad would quit being soldiers and be their brides instead. This is not an opinion exclusive to Sumhigh Squad, though they are the most vocal about it.

The one exception to this is other members of Sumhigh Squad.  All Dhergoloths regard each other as kin, and have mostly positive feelings toward each other.  Should a Dhergoloth call for aid, it is very likely that another is going to respond.

However, this carelessness with the lives of others ends when a Dhergoloth is appointed to command a number of creatures.  When this happens, the value of those creatures dramatically rises in the mind of the Dhergoloth, who will then treat those creature as it's property/younger siblings.  While this does usually make a Dhergoloth care more from these creatures, it doesn't necessarily make it less cruel.  As a creature raised by a Hag, Dhergoloths do not really know how to lead without using fear or threats of violence, so Dhergoloths usually keep their subordinates in line through acts of random violence, threats and displays of dominance.  

But usually on some level, they do actually care about the creatures under their command and will do their best to protect them.  They will not die for them, but they will often go to great lengths to protect and guide them.  The best reference is that of an abusive father, he does actually love his children, at least a bit, but when he is angry with them he has no trouble hurting them emotionally or even physically.

What Dhergoloth do you run into?


1- Yug.  True Name: Artax.  Travels with a group of amateur teenage adventurers who alternate between cringy romantic drama and murderhobo antics.  He's pretending to be dumber than he actually is and secretly thinks of them as his rascally children.  He is recognized by the broad-brimmed hat and custom floral robes he wears, both of which he discards before fighting.
2- Slice.  True Name: Geova.  A murderer who likes killing defenseless men.  He lies in wait, then when he finds a lone traveler or someone that looks vulnerable he springs out and murders them.  He is an opportunistic killer who strikes his opponents fast and hard.  He flees from his victims if they're able to put up any form of threat.  He is unwilling to hurt women and children, and spares them, only hurting them if absolutely necessary.
3- Blocks.  True Name: Ruli.  Travels with a group of mercenaries who are skilled in taking walled cities and fortresses.  Their success is largely due to their weapon, him.  Blocks is highly knowledgeable in construction techniques and is able to determine where best to tunnel under walls to weaken them, and sometimes infiltrates fortresses by himself to stealthily kill the guards and open the gates under the dark of night.  Blocks is not evil, but he is aggressively amoral and loves his comrades, who treat him halfway between a mascot and a spirit they must appease with gifts of meat and confections.
4- Delficar.  True Name: Bya.  Delficar is a gifted sibling, gifted with the magical power to move matter with his mind (Telekinesis - with a mental "strength" of 13(+1)).  He has also been cursed with visions of the future.  Due to his pessimistic outlook, all his visions are gloomy or interpreted as omens of doom.  He lives alone in the mountains, but a cult has still managed to develop around him, which reveres him as a pseudo-benevolent spirit.  They leave offerings for him and occasionally climb the mountains to try and find him, to consult with him on the future.  He cannot always avoid them, but hasn't the heart to crush them either. 
5- Hawk.  True Name: Dohaz.  Hawk acts as the muscle for a Chaos Cult which works to overthrow their government and bring about the glorious future utopia.  He doesn't really understand their ideology except in the broadest terms, and is mostly following them because of the charisma of their Red Ruler than leads the cult.  He helps the cultists break into secure areas, covers their retreat and when subtlety is unnecessary, the cultists paint in red and cover his shell in glyphs indicating his allegiance to Chaos. 
6- Shelly.  True Name: Yula.  Shelly is part pet/part concubine to a Blackstar who serves the Dark Powers.  They are both part of a Minion cell that disguises itself as a caravan of nomads who travel from place to place, looking for a homeland of their own.  She doesn't really understand why he is so resentful, but believes him when he says that the world is evil and that she should just trust him to make all the decisions.  Her husband might even actually love her, or he might just be manipulating her.  They have three monstrous children, who Shelly would die for.  She might die for her husband too, but only if she was confident the children would be well cared for.  She will take revenge on anyone who harms her family.
7- Isa.  True Name: Beneni.  Isa is a wandering mercenary who pretends to be an ordinary giant insect mount.  Her rider is a madwoman who believes a number of outlandish things, such as the fact that the rulers of her land are controlled by demons, that the brothel she was previously enslaved at is actually the meeting place for spies, that the King's advisor is actually a monster in disguise and the giant beetle she rides around on can talk.  Isa uses her rider to gain contracts and then after letting the madwoman negotiate a small price, steals money from her employers when no one is looking.  She is probably going to be discovered eventually, but so far, no one has figured out it is the "horse" of the Mad Lady.
8- Bulger.  True Name: Yasahi.  Bulger is a happily married man, and his wife is a monstrous Ogress who loves him in her own strange way.  They got married recently and spent their honeymoon pillaging and looting.  Unfortunately, and unknown to them, they kidnapped an agent of a powerful local, who might actually be a monster and/or have sinister ulterior motives.  That person has promised a large reward to whoever can find his missing man (and the other captives, of course).  

by Yuuki Morita

Notable Members:   

Verzan the Breaker.

True Name: Herat

Herat is widely considered to be the strongest member of Sumhigh Squad.  If they had a leader, it would likely be him.  Luckily for the rest of the squad, Verzan is a wise and mostly benevolent leader who has no real desire to dominate his brethren.  He himself is only interested in studying martial arts and finding strong opponents to test himself against. 

He is currently traveling with a disguised Orc and an Adventurer who is possessed by a Demon.  The Demon and the Orc are unaware of each other and are only concerned about tricking Verzan.  They are traveling North into the lands of the Handsome Men, where they plan to assassinate one of that land's Princes and start a war with the Orzanian Empire to the South.  The Demon has some ulterior motive, planning to use the war to cover up another scheme while the Orc and Verzan are just there to test their skills on the Prince and his elite bodyguards respectively.

Verzan has already figured out that his companions are not what they appear, but he is pretending to be dumb and keeping quiet.  The second they prove to be too much trouble for him, he plans to abandon them.  Secretly, he has been hired by a rival Handsome Man Prince to steal an artifact that the party's common target has in his possession. 

Verzan loves a good fight.  When he could avoid a strong opponent, unless he fears for his life, he will challenge that opponent head-on, rather than evade them. 

Statblock Changes:

Martial Arts: Drunken Boxing: Verzan is an Expert in the Fist Art of Drunken Boxing

Goti the Poet.

True Name: Bizozo

Goti is widely considered foolish by his kinsmen, a rare feat among the Dhergoloths.  He is not considered stupid or less smart than them, but is characterized by a unique and passionate breed of madness.  Goti has a great love of beauty, especially the beauty of nature.  Unlike other Dhergoloths, or even other Yugoloths, he has no appetite for gold or glory, only to indulge his hobbies of poetry writing, exploring and painting. 

He works when he has to, but spends the rest of his time producing large amounts of average quality paintings and volumes of mostly sub-par poetry.  He understands the basics, but he clearly has much more enthusiasm than talent.  He is easily offended by those who fail to acknowledge his talents.  He's not in denial about the amateur nature of his work, but those who fail to be respectful can easily themselves on his enemies list. 

Goti is aware of how most people feel about him, and thus presents himself as an artistic fop.  He is dramatic, clingy and seemingly insecure.  He adds ridiculous flourishes to his gestures and speech, and generally behaves like a weak-hearted aristocrat stranded in some terribly tacky part of town.  But this is all a facade- an exaggeration of his true personality.  For while his passions is painting and poetry, Goti is a great actor, and uses his imitation skills to pretend to be someone he is not.  His enemies never see it coming then when he reveals he is much smarter and narcissistic then he seemed to be. 

Goti is currently pretending to be the dim-witted, mute creation of a Sage's assistant.  The assistant needed to prove he was actually learning something from the Sage or was to be thrown out, but had produced nothing useful.  So when Goti discovered this fact, he came to the assistant and tricking him into believing it was a chance encounter, begged him for food.  The assistant then "convinced" Goti to pretend to be his creation.  Goti's true goal is to steal the Sage's sorcerous knowledge for a jealous rival. 

Weakness: Goti is a deceiver, and a good one.  As such, he doesn't expect to be deceived himself.  If presented with a deception, unless it is clearly incompetent, he will not see through it.

Statblock Changes:

Perceptive: Goti has an incredible talent when it comes to reading people.  He can vary easily discover what kind of person someone is just from minor clues.  When he meets a creature, have that creature roll a saving throw.  On a failed save, Goti learned 1d6 facts about that person.  Example facts could include such things as "He is married" or "She is proud and redirects her anger at herself at the world around here."  A creature who passes his save is harder to read and Goti will have to guess, but he's pretty good at that too. 

Grimm the Hollower.

True Name:

The name "Hollower" is actually a joke, and a dark one at that.  The name comes from when the Dhergoloth currently calling himself Grimm punched a fist through an Oxman's chest and tore out a handful of entrails.  "If you'd hit him any harder, you'd have hollowed him out," came the sarcastic quip from one of his brothers.  Thus, Grimm adopted the epithet, "The Hollower" and such a gruesome method of killing his speciality.

Grimm then proceeded to begin carving a path through history, starting with a local group of bandits he was hired to destroy.  But after he tore the bandit chief in half, the chief's faithful second managed to convince Grimm that he would gain more booty if joined them.  Grimm almost still killed him, but then the second told him that there would be no glory in killing him, an idea that struck home with the Dhergoloth.  So instead he took up the second on his offer and claimed the bandit gang as his followers.  From there he began a reign of terror through the river vallies and baronies of the New Kingdoms that have sprouted along the mighty Rhomidir and Gulmidor rivers.  At first his men obeyed him only out of fear, but after seeing how powerful the Dhergoloth was and the ruthless efficiency he displayed in dispatching his enemies, they began to take fierce pride in their commander.  They call him "Lord Hollower", "The Emptier" or "Lord Beetle".  These names have become infamous in the regions he preys on, names that send cold chills down the spines of merchants and travelers alike.

Grimm has gained quite a following since those early days, with his small band of brigands having swelled into a warband of several hundred, divided into smaller raiding parties scattered across the region.  He has also begun to attract the attention of monsters, who have come to test his strength and to lend their aid respectively.  If Grimm's warband continues to grow as it does, he will soon be able to do more than attack merchant caravans and shake-down nobles on their palanquins and in their wheel-houses, but he will be able to threaten their cities and swallow up their towns. 

Luckily for everyone involved, Grimm has not grown so greedy as to attempt to swallow an entire town yet.  But at this rate, it's only a matter of time.

Weakness: Grimm is a glory-hound.  He wants to be remembered forever, whether as the hero or the terrible villain it matters not.  As such, he is dramatic and has a great sense of drama.  He doesn't always make the smartest decisions, because he wants others to spread his legend and to think of him.  Additionally, he's vain and vulnerable to flattery.

Statblock Changes:     

Bone-Breaker: Grimm is much stronger than a normal Dhergoloth, able to break bones and tear limbs off.  As an action, he can make a single melee attack against a target creature.  That creature must save or have a bone broken.  Creatures with armor make the save with advantage, creatures with shields are immune, instead saving to see if their shield breaks under the force of the blow.  To see what bone he broke, roll on the following table: He broke your 1dX [1= Finger; 2= Hand; 3= Arm; 4= Ribs; 5= Collarbone; 6= Leg.]  See the Horrible Wounds Scar Tables for the effects of such a broken bone.

Rip and Tear: Grimm can rip creature's limbs off if he gets his hands on them.  If he grappling a creature, Grimm can force that creature to make a STR contest against him.  He can do this each round.  Each round he wins the contest, that creature takes 1d8 STR damage.  If this damage ever equals or exceeds the creature's STR score, Grimm can tear off one of the creature's limbs.  Consult the Horrible Wounds Scar Tables for the effects of such a loss.  If by contrast the creature he is forcing to compete against him wins the STR contest, that creature has advantage the next time it attempts to break his grapple. 

Sumhigh Squad Plot Hooks:


1- A group of mercenaries have been rampaging through the countryside, sacking enemy towns and destroying border forts.  No fortification or defenses seem able to stop them.  Find out how they can defeat the walls of cities and fortresses and then put a stop to them.  Secretly, it is because of the trio of Dhergoloths the mercenaries have brought along.  The Dhergoloths might be convinced to break their contract with the mercenaries, or you could just kill them.
2- The party comes across a merchant lying injured in the road next to a wrecked carriage.  He says that as he was traveling, his chief guard suddenly went mad and fled with his daughter, running into the wilderness.  When the other guards and the merchants tried to stop him, he attacked them.  Return her safely and he will reward you.  Secretly, the guard's madness is actually a deception perpetrated by a Dhergoloth, which used it's telepathic powers to convince the guard that it was a benevolent spirit and the merchant was actually an evil cultist who was going to sacrifice his daughter to some blasphemous God.  When you arrive, you will find the Dhergoloth struggling to retrieve the girl without hurting her, as it needs her undamaged for the most money in the ransom.  But the chief guard is actually sane and obviously refuses to let any giant bug monster near his charge. 
3- The local shrine to the King of Insects has invaded several nights in a row by a rude Beetle Spirit.  The locals want you to scare the Spirit away without hurting it, as it might be sacred to the Insect King.  When you arrive you will find that the Beetle Spirit is actually a Dhergoloth and it is researching the King of Insects, as he wishes to woo one a Mantis Maid, one of the servants of that King, but so far she has rebuffed his advances.  You can help him with his romance, or find some other way to get rid of him. 
4- The party needs to get into a highly secure location, but there are no weak spots to exploit.  But then one of them hears about the Dhergoloths, which are excellent at smash-and-grab operations, as well as infiltration.  But can the party pull off a difficult heist while managing a slow-witted Yugoloth and more to the point, can they trust the Dhergoloth not to betray them?            

by Howard Hsu

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