CLEAN THIS UP
My suggestion is to make deepscouts the most badass dwarves alive. Basically when dwarves are going for incursions into enemy territory against giants or orcs, they are generally outnumbered and require a tactical advantage or the element of surprise to win the day.
Enter the deepscouts. Travelling light and fast over mountain territory and through tunnels considered too treacherous by other dwarves (even those lost to their common memory), the role of a deepscout is to meticulously map territory linked to all Dwarven military campaigns, past, present and future. By knowing hidden supply tracks, infantry friendly goat trails, water sources and how to forage from sparse mountain country (even eating cave lichen and mushrooms when need be), the deepscouts provide the dwarven cities with the greatest defense of all: knowledge.
Those who seek this knowledge are among their finest warriors, but also rugged individualists who respond well to an environment of low authority, high danger and above all, no end of challenges. Deepscouts are hardy enough to deny themselves light, warmth, food, water and shelter for protracted periods of time and then charge into a horde of enemies with unwavering vigor. They are skilled, versatile and hardy, and thus widely respected accross the known world.
Soldiers of all nations hold deepscouts in awe. Among Marchlanders, their expertise in fighting orcs, circumventing attacks, launching surprise raids and helping to find defensible locations is near mythical. The few Marchlande companies who benefit from the services of a deepscout are the envy of their brethren. Some dwarves find their individualism and lack of respect for tradition and authority disagreeable, but they are a vital part of the military might of the dwarves nations.
Deepscouts become adventurers for a number of reasons. Some seek knowledge of places the dwarven kingdoms no longer control, perhaps in search of greater challenges, perhaps foreshadowing the desires of the dwarven sovereigns. Some seek challenge that service to the regular military fails to offer them. Some seek gold, glory and fame, whether as an end unto itself or to earn the prestige required for a favorable marriage arrangement. It seems that once one becomes a deepscout, he answers to whom he chooses, making them an authority unto themselves that other dwarves must seek for aid.
Whatever their motivation, they find their skills under demand on a constant basis.
It is also known that the deepscouts—in times of peace—are the Dwarves surveyors, map-makers and survivalists. They are known for scouting out new tunnel systems, forgotten caches of wealth and for investigating the enemies that might lie within. Constant exposure to light-less environments helps hone their dark vision, their perception, and their awareness of where they are, even in uncharted tunnel systems. This is particularly pertinent, because an unskilled scout who loses his direction in such a place will not live to see daylight.
Combined with the obvious benefits these skills bring to their military prowess and utility, deepscouts are not just tools of the Dwarves, but often mercenaries-for-hire, strategists and guides. The danger that the orcs pose to those in the Marchlandes has strengthened this demand, and a good deepscout is rarely without employ.
Nice, that rounds them out really well and the idea of initiation by survival is a cool one. I imagine deepscout membership to be a very loosely governed thing, more like a club than an actual formation of units. Basically, to call yourself a deepscout, you need to find an existing one willing to train you. After they give you a run down of the basics, their way of blooding you into the membership is to lead you to a tunnel in the middle of nowhere, leave you nothing but a dagger and enough food and water to last you a day, tell you to map the surrounding caves accurately and then wish you happy trails and set off.
If you make it back with a proper map, congratulations, you’re a deepscout. If you die, you’re scavenger food. If you survive with a shoddy map, you’re a tough dwarf who’s no good to anyone as a scout. Go back to the infantry.
Compared to the atypical dwarven virtues of cooperation, duty and loyalty, this sense of utter survivalism and victory at all costs would be another reason they are alienated from their kin to some degree and see mercenary work as a viable source of income. It would also be a good reason to have Dagrin somewhat contemptuous of his family – he’s survived more in a handful of decades than the rest of them have collectively in millenia. Who are they to tell him to limit his destiny to trading and smithing? Let the fat, the old and the infirm stay safe within their walls.
It would also justify a certain sense of arrogance and superiority among deepscouts compared to many other warriors.
Bear in mind, this doens’t necessarily apply to Dagrin. Edited, and trimmed up, it’s what I’d chuck into a source book about typical character traits and the way the organisation fits as a whole. It’s still completely alignment open, so you might have a LG deepscout who doesn’t let his initiates die, but watches over them from the shadows. You might have a CE deepscout purposely antagonise the local monsters and beasts so that his initiates who survive are nothing short of amazing, but clearly this rate of attrition would stop many dwarven parents from allowing their children to “apprentice” to him. And may even draw a response from within their own community.
I kind of see Deepscouts not having a given chain of command, but basically communing at certain times of the year in certain caverns, with the eldest among them leading proceedings, but all given a chance to speak. Weighting of opinion would not necessarily go to age (though obviously, those capable of surviving to old age would be remarkably canny and skilled, for the most part), but for skill, bravery, the magnitude of one’s deeds, etc.
It could also be the one avenue for military service open to dwarven women – if regular armies will not have them, and the only requirement for a deepscout is merit….well, who knows?
Focusing on the need for alertness in their native tunnels much more so than the stealth required by above ground rangers, deepscouts feel little need to pursue talents of the latter path. After all, in complete darkness, how hard does on really have to work to hide in the shadows? Instead, they gain the ability to take advantage of their other senses, to the point that their ability to fight without light is uncanny.
Deepscout has the exact progression of a normal ranger bar the following:
Race: Dwarf only
No Woodland Stride
No Hide in Plain Sight
In return they receive the following bonus feats and abilities at the corresponding levels:
(1) Blind Fight
(7) Improved Blind Fight
The Deepscout ignores the normal prerequisites.
Benefit: Your melee attacks ignore the miss chance for less than totalconcealment. You may still reroll your miss chance percentile roll for total concealment. If you successfully pinpoint an invisible or hidden attacker within 30 feet, that attacker gets no advantages related to hitting you with ranged attacks. That is, you don’t lose your Dexterity bonus to Armor Class, and the attacker doesn’t get the usual +2 bonus for being invisible.
Special: The Improved Blind-Fight feat is of no use against a character who is the subject of a blink spell.
Blindsense is a lesser ability that lets the creature notice things it cannot see, but without the precision of blindsight. The creature with blindsense usually does not need to make Perception checks to notice and locate creatures within range of its blindsense ability, provided that it has line of effect to that creature. Any opponent that cannot be seen has total concealment (50% miss chance) against a creature with blindsense, and the blindsensing creature still has the normal miss chance when attacking foes that have concealment. Visibility still affects the movement of a creature with blindsense. A creature with blindsense is still denied its Dexterity bonus to Armor Class against attacks from creatures it cannot see.
(15) Greater Blindfight
The Deepscout ignores the normal prerequisites.
Benefit: Your melee attacks ignore the miss chance for less than total concealment, and you treat opponents with total concealment as if they had normal concealment (20% miss chance instead of 50%). You may still reroll a miss chance percentile roll as normal.
If you successfully pinpoint an invisible or hidden attacker, that attacker gets no advantages related to hitting you with ranged attacks, regardless of the range. That is, you don’t lose your Dexterity bonus to Armor Class, and the attacker doesn’t get the usual +2 bonus for being invisible.
Special: The Greater Blind-Fight feat is of no use against a character who is the subject of a blink spell.
Some creatures possess blindsight, the extraordinary ability to use a nonvisual sense (or a combination senses) to operate effectively without vision. Such senses may include sensitivity to vibrations, acute scent, keen hearing, or echolocation. This makes invisibility and concealment (even magical darkness) irrelevant to the creature (though it still can’t see ethereal creatures). This ability operates out to a range specified in the creature description.
Blindsight never allows a creature to distinguish color or visual contrast.
A creature cannot read with blindsight.
Blindsight does not subject a creature to gaze attacks (even though darkvision does).
Blinding attacks do not penalize creatures that use blindsight.
Deafening attacks thwart blindsight if it relies on hearing.
Blindsight works underwater but not in a vacuum.
Blindsight negates displacement and blur effects.
Basically the philosophy is the total inverse to the normal “elven” ranger – rather than being akin to a wraith when in a forest, if a forest wraith were stupid enough to fight a deepscout then he’s screwed, blued and tattooed.
This build gets some powerful abilities, but hey, hide in plain sight is pretty goddamn powerful versus most creatures too. I think it’s pretty balanced given what’s being taken away.