Campaign of the Month: August 2012
(City of the Duergar)
Deep in the Underkiln lies Snivelgarth, the main trading post for all Grey Dwarf commerce, which mostly involves the Drow. Snivelgarth is located 5 miles below and 150 miles away from the Drow city Valsharess’ Zenphe; massive, fortified adamantine gates guard the main entrance. Snivelgarth once belonged to the Deep Gnomes: the Svirneblin, but Duergar raids and eventual assault overthrew and overran the city; the occupants were slaughtered, sacrificed, or sold.
The ruler of Snivelgarth is King Nador Gray of Underkiln, a pragmatic being who has learned to live within the harsh confines of his environment and act accordingly. It is for this reason, and because both the Duergar and the Drow have common enemies, that he has made a truce with the dark elves where trade flourishes. He is a draconian ruler of his own people and enforces this rule through three Tunnel Lords – Lord Pecan Boremine, Lord Macadamia Hellthorn and Lord Hickory Shagbark. The names given are actually more titles; such things as hickory, macadamias, and pecans are all luxury delicacies in Snivelgarth, and these names therefore reflect the Lords’ opulence and power. The Lords’ secondary names suggest their function in the Snivelgarth order: Boremine handles all mining and construction in Snivelgarth; Hellthorn has chief control of the military and defense force; Shagbark is lord of craft and commerce in the city. Each Tunnel Lord administers control through their network of Tunnel Sheriffs, organizations that are said to operate more like secret police than traditional constabulary.
All Duergar (Grey Dwarves) can use Invisibility and Enlarge Person innately, but the king also realises the strategic importance of having more powerful forms of magic at his disposal, so training in the Arcane Arts is encouraged. The king himself is protected by a mercenary human wizard named Allumnac Hall more commonly called “The Boss,” a surface dweller who was forced to leave his lands for undisclosed nefarious activities. There is also a rumor that diabolism is rampant in the city.
The Duergar are more often lawful, very belligerent, and have split from the dwarves and their god; they also want nothing to do with elvish rumors and so do not revere Leoric in any form. Therefore the dominant deity among the Grey Dwarves is Emphyreon the Sword whom the Duergar refer to as Abbathor (“Abator”). Although the surface dwellers depict Emphyreon as human in appearance, the Duergar represent him as distinctly dwarven; especially given his typically long beard; Emphyreon apparently has no objection to this form. High Priest Battlescar Hibiscus presides over all matters religious. The fact that The Sword is associated with devils and demons may be the origin of Snivelgarth’s rumored diabolism.
Most trade with the drow is done through the city of Valsharess’ Zenphe, but the Duergar “trade” with other creatures found in the Underdark as well. Due to their truce with the Drow, they do not openly hunt the Kuo-toans under Drow protection but any stragglers are snapped up and clamped into yokes. The Duergar have also become experts at hunting Sverfneblin (Deep Gnomes) and these bring a high price at Drow auctions, given their near-extinction (at the hands of the Duergar). Other things traded include, fungi, gems, beasts of burden, and high-quality weapons.
The Duergar also enforce a strict caste system in Snivelgarth, denoted by beards. The King is permitted the longest beard, which he keeps as long as his knees. The Tunnel Lords are permitted the next longest beards, reaching beyond their belts. Important servants, officials, military officers, and members of the Royal Guard (which also protects the nobility) are permitted beards that can be tucked into a belt. Better citizens such as guildmasters, teachers, and other prestigious duergar are permitted ‘hanging’ beards. Lesser citizens, adults who owe no servitude or debt (i.e. who haven’t defaulted) are permitted the shortest beards or ‘clinging’ beards. The least of the duergar, dungsweepers, slaves, prisoners, and criminals are permitted no beards at all, and some are even permanently stripped of their beards by a very torturous process1. These rules are enforced on everyone within the city, and most everyone is treated according to their beards. As such, ‘smoothskins’ (drow) and women are seen as least of the least in Snivelgarth since they are born unable to grow beards. One of the greatest prizes an outsider could possibly be awarded is a dwarf-hair beard, made from the well-kempt beards of higher class duergar; but such is a rare prize indeed.
1 Serious criminals (whether or not they get the death penalty) have their beards plucked in chunks by yanking, and the remnant scorched off with fire. If they are in danger of death at this point (or the skin was scorched too well), the area will be healed enough to rectify that. Then the skin is electrocuted and flayed; the under-skin salted, poisoned, doused with acid, and studded with cloves and garlic. If they are in danger of death at this point they will be healed enough to rectify that, unless they were already granted that favor. Then the criminals are subjected to whatever other (often worse) punishment awaits them.