requently and incorrectly dubbed Barovian dwarves by outsiders, the fell karliki are among the more dangerous threats to travelers in the wilds of Barovia. These small folk dwell beneath the Balinok Mountains and their foothills, only emerging to prey upon lost travelers. In many ways, the karliki are the antithesis of dwarven races from other worlds—craven, impulsive, and sadistic.
Karliki are squat humanoids standing approximately three and a half feet tall. Their rough, callused skin is deep brown tending toward reddish tones. Their hair is gray throughout life, though it slowly changes from deep charcoal to a dirty ash-white as they age. Their unnerving eyes are featureless black orbs without irises or pupils. Their flat, grinding teeth are the color and hardness of iron. Both males and females grow beards, though only males have mustaches. Both sexes braid their whiskers into thick, stiff braids. Karliki favor clothing of simple, rough construction. They rarely dye or color their clothes, so earth tones are common. When hunting human flesh aboveground, karliki wear strong metal armor, featuring beautiful but terrifying designs.
Most Karliki know a few rudimentary phrases in Balok or Luktar, but make little effort to learn more. They speak their own bizarre tongue, which has an utterly alien alphabet. The sound of karliki speech is said to actually cause physical discomfort to other intelligent beings, and no sane person is capable of learning it.
Combat: Karliki are aggressive and unpredictable, but they are cowardly. They haunt the wild regions of Barovia in search of human prey, but never attack unless they possess a strong advantage. Lone, lost travelers are their favorite targets, but they are not above ambushing adventurers for their treasure or magic. Karliki know nothing of fair play; they use any dirty trick or craven tactic they can muster to slay their opponents.
Karliki have no natural weapons, relying on their skill at arms to slay opponents. Most wield broadswords (2d4 damage) or two-handed axes (1d10 damage). All karliki are considered specialized in their weapon of choice, and strike with a +1 bonus to hit and a +2 bonus to damage. Unlike dwarves, they disdain crossbows and other missile weapons. Unarmored karliki have an Armor Class of 8 due to their agility and tough skin. When moving about on the surface world, most karliki wear plate mail armor, which raises their AC to 2. Those wielding broadswords also carry shields (AC 1). Karliki armor is made of a dark iron-like metal with an oily sheen to it. It is frequently etched with depictions of demonic creatures, and is highly resistant to long-term corrosion, abuse and wear. The secrets of how to forge such armor, however, have not yet been wrested from the karliki. Like dwarves, karliki possess infravision, enabling them to see up to sixty feet in darkness.
Karliki hunting parties usually include around ten to twenty 1st-level fighters with the attributes listed above, which are led by a 3rd-5th level fighter. Though they do possess magic resistance, karliki are fully capable of using arcane magic. Roughly 15% of karliki encountered are fighter/mages, favoring the schools of Enchantment/Charm and Invocation/Evocation. Priests, however, are unknown among them.
The only natural weakness of the karliki is the sun; sunlight literally transforms them to stone in minutes. Three rounds of continuous exposure to direct sunlight will turn a karliki into a stone statue at the end of the third round. The sun must be clear of the horizon and unobscured by even the slightest cloud, however. Sunlight causes the karliki no damage or other hindrances before turning them to stone, and they are free to seek shelter while exposed to the sun's rays. Karliki are not affected by other light sources, which cause them no discomfort. Even magical sunlight, such as that produced by sunray, will not petrify them. A petrified karliki can only be restored to normal through a stone to flesh or wish spell.
Habitat/Society: Karliki are a frightening and mysterious folk. They dwell beneath the mountains and hills of Barovia, where they lead a dreary existence mining, working stone and metal, and studying magical secrets. They frequently emerge from their cthonic realms, however, to hunt humans for their flesh, which the karliki find tasty. They may also have some kind of spiteful grudge against mankind, for they seem to take a sadistic pleasure in slaying humans in a bloody fashion. They are said to laugh maniacally with every blow that bites into human flesh, and smear their faces with spilt blood while their fallen victims are still warm.
Little is known of karliki society beneath the earth. They organize themselves into tight familial clans, one of which always dominates a single subterranean enclave of one to two hundred karliki. Karliki society is insular and hateful, and the creatures destroy any weaker beings that encroach on their underground territory. They hate surface dwellers and the undead, but they freely associate with werebadgers, sometimes deliberately allowing lycanthropy to spread among their kind. Karliki lust after wealth much like the dwarves they resemble, but they also hoard magic. They are not known to worship any gods.
Compared to the undead and lycanthropes that haunt the Barovian wilderness, the karliki might seem to be a relatively minor threat. Barovians have a healthy fear of them, however. While silver, holy symbols, garlic, and similar accoutrements might keep other supernatural horrors at bay, nothing short of a strong blade will help a wanderer faced with a karliki hunting party. The karliki never harm Vistani, though, for reasons that neither party seems ready to divulge. Barovian legend says that the first karliki were angels who betrayed their patron gods. Their crimes were so heinous, however, that mere destruction or banishment was not sufficient. They were instead exiled to the Land of Mists, where they were forced to dwell beneath the earth to hide forever from the face of the sun.
Ecology: Karliki steadily mine the earth for its ores, gems, and other mineral wealth, but they hide themselves well from human miners and underground explorers. Some say that the karliki are simply clever enough to avoid areas that humans might discover, while others insist that they mask their subterranean passages with magic. Regardless, their underground enclaves are always far from human villages, frequently being constructed directly beneath torturous mountain passes. Karliki detest most foodstuffs that can be procured underground, emerging on the surface at night to hunt game (including humans) and gather fruits, roots, and other vegetables. When a karliki dies, its flesh and bones fall apart like crumbly stone, and then blow away like so much dust. Its possessions, however, remain behind. A few lucky smiths have thus managed to study the odd, dark metal used in karliki armor, but none have been able to reproduce it or smelt it for other purposes.