Friday, April 25, 2014

U is for Underdark

I'll be frank, once you get towards the end of the alphabet, things start to thin out dramatically. The tale end provides a few challenges. So officially, while Underdark is really part of a number of greater campaigns, it has enough similarities from world to world to count.
Underdark, not Underdog

The Underdark is pretty much the underground civilizations and connections of your D&D campaign. It first appeared in Doug Niles' Dungeoneers Survival Guide as a general term for this region, and has been adopted by the Realms, but really it goes all the way back to Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, Module D1, which consisted of a string of underground encounters that sketches out the idea of a larger economy and interrelationship of various species. Just because it is not human-dominated doesn't make it any less important.

D1 - Classic Underdark
I helped name the Underdark. Well, kinda. Doug was working on the project and looking for a name for the underground regions. I mentioned in my original campaign, I had the Heaven/Hell dualism of Overheaven and Darkunder (we had shipped the gods over to Krynn but not these names). Doug liked the idea and flipped the words to create Underdark. (which is just as well because there were a series of Darkover novels from Marion Zimmer Bradley).

The Underdark as a setting is pretty uniform, whether it is in
Oerth, the Realms, or the Rock of Bral. Natural features. Rough caverns. Stalactites. This is where the drow and the mind flayer are comfortable, where herds of rothe (miniature musk ox) roam, and fungoid creatures like myconids and various noxious molds hang out. In many ways it is as typical fantasy as any dragon-haunted mountain or orc-populated plain. Its greatest challenge for players is safe locations where one can recover and heal up, as most of the inhabitants are hostile to humanity with only a few that skew towards the neutral-greedy end of the spectrum.

As a result, the Underdark, a dungeon world without all that finished stonework and doors, remains a tool in the GM's kit, capable of being adapted to any campaign at need. And it rates as a campaign of its own.

More later,