The Underdark

I’ve spoken quite a bit about the world beneath the world in Exploration Age. Now, I’m happy to present you with a work in progress map of what the known Underdark looks like.

Known Underdark in Exploration Age
Known Underdark in Exploration Age
And here it is overlayed on the map of the surface of Canus
And here it is overlaid on the map of the surface of Canus

As you can see, most of the world of The Underdark is unexplored. What dangers, wonders, and rewards lie miles below the surface of Canus waiting to be discovered?

Why Explore The Underdark?

Just like Venice.

The unexplored Underdark isn’t solid rock. It is a world beneath a world about which a fraction is known. Here are just a few reasons one might want to delve into the most dangerous place in Canus.

  • Trade Routes There may be some way to get from Parian to Findalay to Verda without using a ship. If these pathways and tunnels could be charted perhaps a railway similar to the Jackrabbit could be built for faster, cheaper transportation of goods.
  • Gem Mining All permanent magic items in Exploration Age require gems to focus their power. Beyond that, gems also have their normal uses as decorations and displays of wealth and beauty. Right now only a few mines are worked on the surface and in the fortified zones of Quatus. The discovery of a mine would spell profit for any who could hold it.
  • Precious Metals While more mines for precious metals like copper, silver, gold, mithral, and adamantine exist on the surface of Canus than gem mines, most of those mines are in Bragonay. The other countries of Canus would love to discover mines of their own to take power from the dwarves, while the dwarves themselves would love to increase their holdings on precious metals.
  • Aberrant Technology Many aberrant ruins dot the surface of Canus, and their exploration has led to the discovery of many wonderful modern technologies. Those ruins are hundreds of thousands of years old, so imagine what the aberrants may have in their Underdark cities now. The danger of a recon mission into an aberrant city is great, but the rewards could be limitless.
  • Threat Removal Under Parian and Findalay the aberrants roam unchecked, while The Sleeping Ones plot their revenge in their dreams beneath Verda. These are threats which could strike the surface of Canus in the future – so isn’t it better to strike now before the incursions begin?
  • Fresh Starts Dwarves in Bragonay seek to escape the caste. Drow do not share the patriotism of their brethren. Shifters are tired of wandering. These are just a few of the folk who might strike out into the unknown Underdark seeking a new life all about basic survival.
  • Discovery for Discovery’s Sake Sometimes a person needs to climb a mountain just because it’s there. The Underdark is rife with the unknown. There are new people to meet, civilizations to be uncovered, creatures to fight, and experiences to be had. The draw of the unknown has a powerful pull on some curious humanoids of Canus. Many academics would also argue that learning for learning’s sake is what separates people from animals.

Dangers Below

Was ever a creature more appropriately named than the roper?

The Underdark is teeming with dangers unlike any on Canus’ known surface.

  • Aberrants The Underdark beneath Findalay teems with all manner of aberrant creatures looking to take the lives of the folk of Quatus. These aberrants abhor most humanoids and fight with a belief that their home was taken from them unjustly. Any adventurers who cross paths with aberrants would be wise to strike first or run with all haste.
  • The Sleeping Ones Beneath Verda lie the ancient aberrant-devil hybrids known as morchia. Though these creatures are supposedly slumbering thanks to The Reckoning Spell, there are those who claim to have seen morchia moving about in excursions into Verda’s underground. Other rare expeditions into Verda’s Underdark have been lost only to turn up somewhere else deep underground later, killed in a ritualistic fashion.
  • Beasts There are plenty of creatures in The Underdark who have always lived there. These beasts are as natural to Underdark tunnels as a camel is to a desert. Beware them when adventuring below ground. That’s their turf.
  • Other Humanoids Orcs, kobolds, goblinoids, troglodytes, and more have been known to call an Underdark cavern home. They’ve also been known to call other humanoids dinner.
  • Collapses The tunnels of The Underdark are not always stable and as such have a way of collapsing. If certain weak tunnels suffer trauma such as mining, battle, or even heavy travel the reverberations from these activities could cause a collapse.
  • Traps In several places, the aberrants, the morchia, the folk of Quatus, or other humanoids may have erected traps for battles imminent or long forgotten. Adventurers would be wise to examine where they step.
  • Diseases The Underdark isn’t the kind of place in which one wants to catch a cold. Strange diseases could ruin an individual’s health and mind in ways unlike any other. Here are a few examples of Underdark diseases:
    • Mushroom Mind The mushrooms of The Underdark are generally harmless, but there are those that should be avoided. None more so than the green-spotted murder mushrooms. Breathing in the spores this fungi produces gives them a chance to attach to one’s brain. From there the mushrooms grow within a person’s skull, slowly reducing their mental and physical faculties. Victims of this disease eventually get green spots on their scalp similar to those on the murder mushrooms. If a creature breathes in the spores he or she should make a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails, he or she contracts Mushroom Mind. During each extended rest roll 1d6 on the table below to determine what happens. The disease may be cure by a restoration spell. A second casting of the spell also restores any ability score damage.
      • d6 Effect
        1 Reduce victim’s strength score by 1d4
        2 Reduce victim’s dexterity score by 1d4
        3 Reduce victim’s constitution score by 1d4
        4 Reduce victim’s intelligence score by 1d4
        5 Reduce victim’s wisdom score by 1d4
        6 Reduce victim’s charisma score by 1d4
    • Slug Snot When adventurers sleep in the open Underdark at night, they would be wise to plug their noses. Brown slugs called drunkbugs are known to crawl into a sleeping victim’s nose and travel down their throat into their stomachs. These slugs attach themselves to the lining of the stomach and secret alcohol, thus intoxicating the victim. The victim also produces an excess of mucus which is colored brown, hence the name of the disease. If a drunkbug crawls into a person’s stomach, he or she must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or contract the disease. For the duration of the disease the target is intoxicated. Each extended rest, the target is allowed a new Constitution saving throw to try to vomit up the bug and cure the disease. A lesser restoration spell can also cure the disease.
    • Wasting Away This is the most horrifying disease The Underdark has to offer. There are special patches of phosphorescent, psionic mold which grow only in the deepest tunnels of The Underdark. Breathing in the spores of the mold can cause Wasting Away which causes its victims to age one year per day. A victim may not realize he or she is infected until several days go by, thus they have aged several years. When breathing in the psionic spores, a creature must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or contract the disease. Once wasting away is contracted it can only be removed by a restoration spell and the aging process can only be reversed by a wish spell. Ageless creatures, such as elves, shardmind, drow, and warforged are immune to this disease.
    • Wiped Away This disease is caused by breathing in a magical mist which is created by The Void. Those who breathe in the mist must make a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or contract Wiped Away. Wiped Away is a special disease which magically influences any person who has met or heard of the victim. Over the course of ten days, the victim begins to forget who he or she is – as do the people around the victim. By the end of the disease it is as if the person never lived and he or she literally phases out of existence. This disease may only be cured by a wish spell.
  • The Void Scholars believe that there is something beneath The Underdark called The Void. This space is actually no space at all. It is absolute nothingness. It has the absence of being. There are a few places in The Underdark which are open pits into The Void. Spending too much time near one of these pits can make a person’s outlook become nihilistic to the point of insanity. This can be seen in the troglodyte clans who worship The Void. They sacrifice victims by throwing them into the Void Pits. Many of the troglodytes seek to end the pointlessness of existence by finding a way to set The Void free and destroy Canus. Those who fall into The Void are never heard from again and cannot be raised from the dead… Suggesting perhaps that either their soul is destroyed or they are alive somewhere within The Void or somewhere else.

Interesting Underdark Sites

When traversing the world beneath the surface, there are many fantastic and awesome sights upon which to look. Here are a few.

  • Dragon Chambers When the dragons were born out of the crust of Canus, legend has it they sprung forth as fully formed adults. There are impressions of scales, horns, wings, and tails in the tunnels and chambers of The Underdark to support these claims. Some chambers even have the shape and appearance of a dragon’s body and those are the Dragon Chambers. Depending on the dragon birthed in the chamber, spells of a certain energy type may be stronger.
  • Softstone In Underdark badlands, one must be particularly careful about where he or she steps. There are patches of ground known as softstone, which can swallow a creature whole. These patches are actually holes in the ground, filled with a stoney liquid that is a colony of carnivorous mold. It is essentially a camouflaged quicksand which devours its victims while suffocating them.
  • Infinite Tunnels Some tunnels in The Underdark seemingly go on forever. Others do go on forever. Canny adventurers may discover they are traveling the same stretch of hallway over and over again. They have entered an infinite tunnel, one which loops a constant mile or less stretch. One end of the tunnel connects to the next. Infinite tunnels share another common feature – all have the remains of at least one dead humanoid. These anomalies are usually caused by the spirit of a person who died in the tunnel with unfinished business. The characters must find a way to speak with the spirit and either agree to help finish its business or destroy it to get out of the tunnel. Those who agree to take care of the spirit’s business have a year to do so. If they do not they will suffer a horrible curse which turns all water and food in their mouths to dust until they starve to death. This will happen whether or not the creature needs to eat and drink.
  • Bloody Grounds These semi-magical patches of stone have absorbed the blood of great battles which happened upon them. While standing on the Bloody Grounds a creature delivers a critical hit on an attack roll of 19 or 20.
  • Ice Slides The fastest way to get from one place to the next in The Underdark are the Ice Slides. Scholars believe these ice-coated tunnels were made when white dragons dug their way to the surface using their breath weapons. The ice has lasted ever since. Travelers can go down these tunnels very quickly by body-sliding, but they will probably want to be sure they know where the tunnel ends. Some are short and will only take a person a few hundred feet down and others go for miles into The Underdark. Traveling up an ice tunnel is a different matter entirely. Travelers can only move at half speed while making their way up an ice tunnel, and are subject to a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check every hour. If they fail they make no progress on their journey that hour.
  • Underdark Ocean There is an underground ocean which seems to separate the West Canus Underdark from the East. The full size of this watery expanse has never been explored, for the darkness hides rocky stalagmites rising up from the depths. Not to mention the terrifying Underdark sea creatures waiting with hungry mouths for anything to eat. Dark krakens, deep crocodiles, aberrant merfolk, and more await unfortunate travelers. The dangers have made all attempts at scouting the Dark Ocean fail. There has not been an attempt to map it for nearly 500 years, when a drow explorer named Vasperio Dumasca set out to cross the yawning body of water. He and his crew were never heard from again, though they say if you stand on the coast you can hear their ship, Prime Voyager, ringing its bell. Others claim to have seen its ghostly visage far in the distance. At the bottom of the Dark Ocean’s freezing depths lie centuries old shipwrecks waiting to be discovered.

How’d I Do?

Let me know what you think! Is this Underdark dangerous enough? Is it different enough, but still recognizable? Does an underground ocean terrify you? I want to know what you think!

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