The Forgotten Race of the Drughu
Tim Innes: 23 Los Cedros Drive — Novato, CA 94947, USA
Low, grey clouds hung like a blanket of ice between the snow-capped mountain peaks. Ered Nimrais — the White Horn Mountains — were nothing but faint shadows against the grey sky. The day was cold, but not wet. As the wind blew against his folded cloak, a rider pushed onwards.
Four days had passed since the rider had seen civilization. As a trapper and hunter, this wasn’t a problem, but a blessing — the deeper he trekked into this pathless land, the better were his chances for a good hunt. Yet, for all the time he traveled, the rider could not forget the stories he had heard of this ancient land and of its mysterious inhabitants, whom the high men of Gondor called the Drúedain and the Rohirrim named “Woses.” The latter held many legends and superstitions about them, but very little was known about these people of the mountains. Their magic was strange and their dislike of visitors was just as unusual.
A sensation of mystery filled the air. This vast, impenetrable wilderness, with its sweeping valleys and untamed mountains, was rarely traveled by Men or Elves, and the rider could not disregard the unnerving effect of the landscape in its silent beauty. Yet he traveled it alone.
Finally, on the fifth day, the rider had collected a bounty of pelts and was ending his hunt. Throughout the day, while collecting traps and snares, he felt that he was being watched — almost as if the stone-cold mountains themselves had eyes on him. Later, he made camp at the edge of an old, dried-up ravine which served as a natural trail for his horse, and built a small fire to dry his pelts.
It was a silent night in the mountains, and little sound of wildlife reached the hunter’s camp. And yet, late in the night he heard what sounded like rocks falling from a ledge on the far side of the ravine. Feeling again the sense of being watched, he grabbed his hatchet and circled the area of the firelight, moving in the direction of the fallen rocks as silently as a cat ready to pounce.
That was when he saw them on the ledge, motionless and quiet — three humanoids, sitting cross-legged, with their hands on their knees and faces looking out towards the hunter. They were neither Men nor Dwarves, yet they were short and strong-looking. With muscular bodies, skin grey as ash, and deep-set eyes, they were as still as the mountains them-selves.
Fear struck the heart of the hunter as he froze in his steps, though the figures did not move. His mind reeling, the hunter waited for them to speak or even to attack, but they did not. Time stood still.
Finally, giving a faint chuckle, the hunter reached for a rock on the ground and threw it at one of the three figures. The rock ricocheted with the sound of stone on stone. It was a statue, cold and still. These were Púkel-men, the legendary Watch-stones of the Drúedain.
Satisfied with this revelation, the hunter stood for a moment in thought. “If this is truly the stone craft of the Drúedain,” he said, “then I shall travel no further. I have all the furs that I have come for, and will leave tomorrow; for I would not want to confront these strange people who carve their images into stone.” Then he returned to camp, overcome by hunger and sleep.
Wild dreams filled the hunter’s mind later that night — dreams of the White Mountains, echoing to the ancient sounds of war, as hoards of Orcs traversed the rugged landscape towards Helm’s Deep, never to survive the terror that watched their every step with stone-cold eyes. Faint whisperings of the name “Drughu” filled the dream, as the watchers slowly led their enemies into valleys and ravines where, by the faint light of the moon, they were silently ambushed by small bands of stout Drûg warriors. Only the gurgling screams of the Orcs could be heard as they fell before the poisoned darts of the small but quick Drughu, who retreated into the hills as swiftly as they had appeared. As these echoes of war faded from his dream, the hunter’s last thoughts lingered on the time which had passed between those days and now.
Morning came, and the hunter woke with the rising sun. The sky was clear and not as cold; the fur pelts he had collected draped his horse. The land had been kind to him, for he was ready to leave and could barter these furs for food for another winter.
Yet, as he was leaving, he looked back towards the ravine, remembering his fading dream of the night before. Still sitting, as permanent as the mountains themselves, were the two statues. They were simpler in the full daylight — rugged, with pleasant faces, and distinctly ancient. Yet as he spurred his horse and rode away towards home, he could only remember how he had sworn by the light of the moon last night that he had seen three stone statues, instead of two.
Throughout the writings related to Middle-earth, only occasional references have been made to the little-known people who called themselves the Drughu. In “The Ride of the Rohirrim,” J.R.R. Tolkien himself names one of their chieftains — their “great headman” — Ghân-buri-Ghân (The Return of the King: 106). He goes into greater detail about the Drughu in his essay, “The Drúedain” (Unfinished Tales of Núménor and Middle-earth: 377 – 387). The MERP supplements published by Iron Crown Enterprises also mention the Drúedain in passing.
The main purpose of this essay is to consolidate our knowledge about the Drughu with a view to including this fascinating race into Middle-earth campaigns. I have divided the necessary background information into the following sub-headings: 1) physical appearance, 2) native habitat, 3) legend and history, 4) culture, and 5) ceremonial magic. Additional information is supplied in relation to two very specific elements of Drughu culture — stonecrafting and war paint — which are explained in terms of RuneQuest game mechanics. Statistics for generating Drughu characters are also included.
I. Physical Appearance
The Drughu are unique among the races of Middle-earth in that they are unrelated to Men, Elves or Dwarves. Comparable in stature to the Dwarves (though somewhat stronger and hardier), they are a small race — about four feet tall, heavily set, and stocky. Their rugged lifestyle gives them very thick limbs and an equally dense build.
They have wide, flat faces, long noses, and wide mouths that move very little when they speak. Their eyes are deep-set, and covered with a heavy “Cro-magnum” brow. Unless one stands very close, a viewer looking at the face of a Drûg will most likely not see its eyes, which are nearly unperceivable due to the black color of their cornea, iris and pupil. Yet when angered, their eyes glow distinctly red and are bright enough to be seen even in daylight.
The Drughu have black to grey hair that grows thinly on their head, and eyebrows of the same color. They do not have any significant facial hair, although older males may sometimes grow a thin wisp of hair from the cleft in their chin. This is rare trait, and is therefore considered a mark of distinction by other Drughu.
Their skin is grey like stone, which explains partly why they are often called “Púkel-men” or “Stone-men.” Sometimes their skin is decorated with paints and dyes but, unlike tattoos, these are only temporary and serve mostly as ceremonial or magical symbols.
By far the most remarkable characteristic of the Drughu is their appearance when sitting still in their native habitat: they appear more like stone statues than living creatures. Their nearly undetectable eyes and their stone-gray skin give them a lifeless, mysterious quality when seen.
II. Native Habitat
The Drughu live primarily among the Ered Nimrais, a rugged, mountainous terrain with thick forests and snowy winters. Wandering in small, nomadic clans, the Drughu live in complete seclusion from the rest of civilization, and very few people ever travel far enough into the White Mountains to see them. From the eastern border of Lamedon to the northern and western peaks of Ered Nimrais and the forested plains of Drúwaith Iaur (S. Old Púkel-land), they have hidden for centuries. With little more than two thousand Drughu still in existence by the Third Age, they remain isolated, nomadic, and distrustful of outsiders.
From the beginning of the First Age and into the Second, the Drughu also dwelt in the lowlands of Middle-earth, and the remains of their stone craft can be found throughout Gondor and even in parts of Eriador. In Beleriand at the Crossings of Teiglin, dozens of twenty-foot tall Watch-stones stood as representations of Drúadan warriors squatting heavily on dead Orcs. Living Orcs held these “Oghor-hai” (as they called the Drughu) in great fear, and would neither touch the statues nor destroy them. On the isle of Tolfalas, the Drughu long ago left large Púkel-statues as stone guardians overlooking the sea. These same Púkel-men have been found on the road leading to Dunharrow and the Paths of the Dead.
But, since the arrival of the powerful Dúnedain from over the sea and the wars with the Orcs throughout the ages, the Drughu have been increasingly forced into their mountain seclusion. The only real mass of Drughu left in all of Middle-earth during the Third Age inhabit the cold, highland regions of the White Mountains. Only occasional Northmen, Dunlendings or Gondorian gold miners have ever encountered a wandering Drug, considering these to be “Wild Men.” Whole Drúadan clans are an even rarer sight. Yet the signs of Drughu stonecrafting culture can be found throughout Anfalas and southern Gondor. Hunters and soldiers often would kill the Drughu for sport or out of fear.
III. Legend and History
It is believed by most scholars that the Drughu were the original inhabitants of Anfalas. Living in large nomadic clans, they originally migrated from lands south of Mordor, spreading out across the lowlands during the course of the First Age. During the wars of Beleriand, the Drughu sometimes aided Elves and Men by acting as scouts, a skill for which they won the highest renown in all of Middle-earth. They pride themselves on being able to smell a single gorgûn (i.e., Orc) from over a mile away.
During the bloodiest encounters, Drughu clans would send small parties of six to twenty warriors deep behind warring lines in order to cause confusion and destruction. Although these missions were dangerous, the Drughu were very successful, and were soon feared — among many other reasons, for their ambush and escape abilities.
Near to the end of the First Age, the Drughu had suffered great loss in numbers and were unable to recover due to their small family structure and brief lifespan. Even in the Third Age their population had never risen above two thousand, and this was dispersed among some hundred and thirty separate and largely isolated clans.
Shortly after the battles with the gorgûn had ended, the Drughu were no longer so desperately needed by Elves or Men, and so returned to their secretive lands. There they remain hidden, avoiding the chaos of the outside world, and existing quietly. The Drughu have always held a burning hatred for Orcs, and cry “Kill gorgûn!” whenever they appear in their lands; yet only rarely will Orcs ever dare to enter lands known to be inhabited by Drughu.
Technologically, the Drughu are a primitive race, unchanging as stone throughout the ages. They speak their own unique and somewhat alien language, although they have never developed a written form. They are limited to pictographs and simple symbols used in magical ceremonies. Although some of the more important clan leaders have learned how to speak or even write other languages. Ghân-buri-Ghân was rumored to be fluent in as many as three different languages. Danael, Westron, Rohirric, and (in Beleriand) Sindarin are the most likely tongues for such individuals to be conversant in.
Another distinctive clement of Drughu culture is their inability to forge iron, bronze, or indeed any metals. Even though gold is abundant in the White Mountains, they have seen little use in mining it. Instead, the Drughu have developed the most common resources available to them — plants, wood and stone.
The Drughu are incredibly skilled herbalists and are rumored to be able to concoct drugs to heal mortal wounds, cure blindness, and even remove the poison inflicted by Orc-blades. Of course, they too have the ability to devise poisons (specially brewed to be used only against Orc-flesh). Such poison is strong enough to drop a horse with a single blow-gun needle, yet they never use it against races other than Orcs.
The Drughu also make body paint (often called “war paint”), which they apply to their skin from plant pigments. This paint is functional as well as ceremonial, in that it operates as a slow-acting drug, releasing anti-exhaustion medicine through the pores of the skin, and allowing the Drughu to keep from tiring in time of war, forced marches, or physically demanding magical ceremonies.
As for their use of wood, they use it primarily for tools and weapons — shaft spears with stone heads to hunt, wooden blow guns to induce their poisons, and wood clubs with stone spikes to melee.
But the Drughu do not use armor of any kind, and wear only the most limited fur or skin loincloths for clothes. Shamans or chieftains often wear grass skirts for distinction, while Drug warriors wear thin furs or leather. Weather is rarely a problem for them, except during heavy snowstorms; hence, they do not wear boots except during the harshest winters, at which times they may gather together in a cave or similar shelter. The rest of the time the Drughu live out-doors, without shelter or cover from the elements. They travel lightly, carrying all their possessions in small bags, and never taking more than they need for the day.
The key to Drughu philosophy is their relationship to the environment. They live in complete harmony with the land. Although they often use Watch-stones and Púkel-men as territorial boundary markers, outsiders often confuse these as being “property” markers. This, however, is misleading, since the Drughu do not claim to own the land, but instead believe the land owns them, who are merely its “guests.” The building and use of Watch-stones serves mostly to remind outsiders of their responsibility not to over-hunt or over-harvest the bounty of the mountains. This is why the foresters and gold-miners of Anfalas are not much liked by the Drughu.
Magical ceremonies and rituals of stonecrafting are valued as the “cornerstone” (to blatantly use the pun) of Drûg culture. Oral tradition has handed down hundreds of ceremonies involving the crafting of stone faces and statues. The magic involved in these ceremonies is more sacred and secretive than any other element of their lore. Stonecrafting ceremonies can be summed up into two different kinds, to be explained below.
V. Ceremonial Magic
The primary means of defense and security at the disposal of the clans are the Watch-stone and Púkel-man. These magical images can be made only by the Drughu, and remain one of the their most jealously guarded secrets. Although technically any Drûg with the proper training can make a Watch-stone or Púkel-man, this is usually the prerogative of the shaman (the principal magic-user of the clan).
These are the most common of all stone creations of the Drughu. They are crafted out of the face of rock cliffs, large boulders, stone pillars, cave walls or even stone steps on horse trails. They appear simply as crudely carved faces set in stone, although sometimes painted with strange, plant-based dyes. Many lands inhabited or previously inhabited by the Drughu are littered with Watch-Stones.
The purpose of these magical stones is to see through the eyes of the stone face, as if it were the eyes of the Drug himself. The Drûg can sit miles away and observe outsiders or enemy intruders, as if he were there in person. By using Watch-stones, the Drughu watchers often determine if outsiders/wanderers are a threat and should be attacked, or if they are harmless and should simply be avoided.
Shamans often watch through as many as a dozen such stones at a time for days on end, enabling them to survey many miles of territory simultaneously. In seeing the outside world through the cold eyes of the Watch-stones, the Drughu are able to transfer their perceptive faculties from their physical bodies to those of the stones — without food, water, and exposed to the weather (snow and rain) for as long as a week. Some are rumored to be able to sit longer, unmoved the entire time, while being completely at one with their environment (While in such a state, they are often mistaken for statues).
By positioning themselves among groups of other stone statues and “blending in,” many races are often struck with uncertainty when observing a collection of Púkel-men, asking themselves: “Are the Púkel-men you see simply statues, or are they living Drughu? Either possibility can become equally dangerous!” Between the shamans’ vigilant watch over their dwelling places, and the Drughu’s scouting and legendary tracking mastery, very little ever happens in the White Mountains that the keeps the clans well informed and aware of danger.
To create a Watch-stone, a Drûg need only perform a stonecrafting ceremony, which lasts one hour and requires a POW x 5 roll for success. During the ceremony, the Drûg must spend 1 permanent point of POW, which enchants the Watch-stone with living energy from its maker, forever binding the Drug to the stone. Even after death, other Drughu may use the Watch-stone if they properly invoke the name of the stone and the maker.
Once crafted, a Drug may see through the Watch-stone at will. To do so requires a successful POW x 5 roll, and the expenditure of 1 Magic Point. Even when not being actively used, any creature touching the Watch-stone (or any Orcs walking too close to it) will produce a tangible sensation for the Drûg. A Watch-stone will never lose its capacity for “seeing” unless its face is damaged beyond all recognition, in which case the stone will become disenchanted and a whole new stonecrafting ceremony will need to be repeated in order to restore its capability.
These are the most powerful creations of the Drughu. Used as guardians and sentinels, Púkel-men are usually life-like stone statues of Drughu warriors. Averaging anywhere between four and twenty feet tall, they can be an ominous sight when beheld at rest, and a terrifying sight when awakened for battle.
They combine the “seeing” ability of the Watch-stones with the mobility of a living creature. When a Púkel-man is activated by its creator (who can be miles away) it becomes a giant, stone soldier under the “remote control” of its creator. Moving very life-like, these nearly invulnerable golem statues often equal the strength of a Troll, but are unfortunately rather clumsy. Although they have mostly been used against the Orc hordes in wars, like the Crossings of Teiglin, it is not unthinkable that the Drughu would fail to unleash a few of these juggernauts on human enemies if the safety of their clans was at stake.
A minimum of two points of permanent POW must be expended in this stonecrafting ceremony, with no maximum POW limit. For every point of permanent POW sacrificed, the Drughu don’t know about. Which, of course, creator may animate 2D6 STR, 2D6 CON, and 1D6 SIZ points of crafted stone. The ceremony takes twenty-four hours and cannot be interrupted; the Púkel-stone must be fully carved within this time period, and permanent POW must be spent to complete the ceremony. Often, shamans from different clans assist each other in the construction of larger and more powerful Púkel-men. If the ceremony is interrupted any time after the first hour of casting, all permanently expended POW is lost. Interrupting a stonecrafting ceremony is considered the greatest insult (to say nothing of injury) possible to a Drûg shaman.
To succeed in crafting a Púkel-man, the creator must successfully roll under POW x 4. Once completed, the statue will remain immobile, acting only as a Watch-stone until activated. To animate the Púkel-man, the user must expend Magic Points equal to the permanent POW used to create the Púkel-man. It is not a simple thing to animate stone; so for every round the Púkel-man is moving about, the creator must expend 1 Fatigue Point. In combat, the Púkel-man obliges the controller to expend 2 Fatigue Points per round. This animation of a Púkel-man can be extremely tiring, which is why many Drughu use endurance drugs, like “Gnosh” (see below), to lessen physical, mental and magical Fatigue. Finally, any damage that penetrates through the Púkel-man’s natural stone “armor” is magically transferred to its creator as 1 Hit Point of damage.’
“Gnosh” Body Paint
Used to meet the more exerting demands of their existence, warriors, shamans, women and children alike use variations of these plant-based body paints called “Gnosh.” From stonecrafting ceremonies to forced marches in times of danger, the Gnosh plant is only one example of Drughu expertise in herbalism and plant lore.
A successful Plant Lore roll is needed to prepare this Gnosh war paint, the use of which allows a Drug to expend Fatigue Points without suffering immediate effects. The Drûg can even expend negative Fatigue Points far beyond his total allowed limit.
All Fatigue Points must be regained normally. Gnosh will remain inactive until the wearer begins to sweat (i.e., expends Fatigue Points). The anti-fatigue drug takes effect immediately after it is activated, lasting for 4+1D4 hours. Other variations of Gnosh dye are rumored to exist, including strength, speed and magic-increasing effects.
A Drughu Conclusion
“Kill gorgûn! Kill orc-folk! No other words please…”
Much as the Drughu would like partings to be always short and sweet, I can only hope I have said enough without saying too much! It is my hope that the information I have provided has peaked the curiosity of a few gamemasters and players, and that a fair share of adventure writers might have had their curiosity sparked as well.
Additionally, I hope my supplementation of game mechanics has helped illuminate the relationship between the Drughu stone crafters and their Watch-stones and Púkel-men. I hope that those who do not use RuneQuest rules can appreciate the simplicity of my explanations, and convert them easily to their own rule system.
Finally, I believe that the revival of the Middle-earth gaming universe is going to involve more than a mundane understanding of individual peoples. A full understanding, by gamemasters and writers, of all the relationships and mysteries of little-known people like the Drughu is very important.
Middle-earth is not just a combat playground for Men, Dwarves, Elves, Hobbits and Orcs. The world is a carefully designed web of complex relationships between people, culture, power, technology, magic and politics. All of these elements, not just one, should be kept in mind when attempting to run a Middle-earth campaign. For this reason, I believe the Drughu shed some interesting and thought-provoking light. Their position outside conventional society and mannish “civilization” gives them a unique perspective to role-play from. I believe the Drughu can expect a slow revival in role-playing games because of their unique position in Middle-earth. As history has shown already, it is unlikely the inhabitants of Middle-earth will ever forget the contributions of the Drughu.
- It does not matter whether the damage broke the arm off of the Púkel-man, or if it created only a large chip, the damage is transferred to the Drûg as 1 Hit Point of damage; hence the controller cannot be killed from this form of combat, since the damage is not completely proportional. The lowest the Drûg can be reduced by this kind of damage is 2 Hit Points (at which point the controller is rendered unconscious and, therefore, unable to animate the Púkel-man further). The remaining wounds usually heal back at twice the normal healing rate. Although magical fighting with Púkel-men is fairly safe for Drughu controllers, the pain still remains very real and the damage is still deadly.
- 4 PT Púkel-Man
This Púkel-man is named Gor-Clatu, “Gor” being the name given to the stone, and “Clatu” being the name of its Drûg creator.
|STR: 8D6||28||Move: 1|
|SIZ: 4D6||14||HP: 21|
|CON: 8D6||28||Armor: 8 pts.|
|POW: 4 pts||NA||(4 pts +1/P0W)|
|DEX: 1/2 controller’s DEX||5||Fatigue: 4 (sec above)|
- Strike Rank: (10)
- Attack Base: 25 + 5%/POW(4) = 45%
- Damage: 1D6 (+2D6)
- Strike Rank: (10)
- Attack Base: 25% +5%/2 POW (4) = 35%
- Damage: 2D6(+2D6)
|STR: 3D6+6||17||Move: 2|
|CON: 2D6+12||19||Hit Points: 13|
|SIZ: 2D6||7||Fatigue: 36|
|DEX: 3D6||10 – 11|
Weapons: Attack Mod +1 Parry Mod + 8
Short Spear (35%); Club (45%); or Blow Gun (45%) (laced with Potency 18+1D6 Poison)
Climb 45, Dodge 20, Jump 30, Ride 00, Swim 05
Sing 00, “shaman” or “chieftan” may speak Danael, Westron, Northman and/or Sindarin at Communication Modifier x 3 in %
Animal Lore 20, Stone Craft 35, Mineral Lore 30, Plant Lore 40, Read/Write Language 00
Listen 30, Scan 30, Search 35, Smell 50, Track 50
Hide 25, Sneak 25
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