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Underdark (4e)

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No realm in the Dungeons & Dragons world stirs the imagination like the Underdark. This vast subterranean domain holds thousands of adventure possibilities and myriad threats, including drow, mind flayers, dragons, and worse! Entire campaigns can unfold in its depths, and its rewards are boundless.

This Dungeons and Dragons game supplement contains everything Dungeon Masters need to run adventures or campaigns set in the sprawling underworld of their campaigns, including new monsters and hazards, ready-to-play encounters, monster lairs, and detailed information on various dark-dwelling "movers and shakers."

Product History

Underdark (2010), by Rob Heinsoo and Andy Collins with Brian R. James, Robin D. Laws, and Matthew Sernett, is a geographic sourcebook for D&D 4e. It was published in January 2010.

Continuing the 4e Sourcebooks. Underdark was an unusual sourcebook for the early 4e line, as it was essentially a setting sourcebook for (under) the world of the Nentir Vale, produced before Wizards was really detailing the world. It was probably considered a companion to the Manual of the Planes (2008) series of books, which detailed the most mysterious corners of the World Axis cosmology.

A History of the Underdark. The Underdark got its start when Gary Gygax detailed underground civilizations in his "D"escent adventures (1978), but it didn't get a name until Douglas Niles wrote the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide (1986). Though Niles introduced the word Underdark, he also detailed a specific Underdark called Deepearth; it's the latter name that was used by other supplements in the late '80s, until Underdark rose up as the preferred terminology.

The Underdark came to prominence through the adventures of its favorite son, Drizzt Do'Urden, who debuted in the Forgotten Realms novel The Crystal Shard (1988). After that, most explorations of the Underdark involved the Realms, with the best sources of the AD&D 2e era (1989-2000) being FOR2: The Drow of the Underdark (1990), Menzoberranzan (1992), and Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark (1999). The detailing of the Realms Underdark would continue into the 3e era with the War of the Spider Queen novels (2002-2005) and a new Underdark supplement (2003).

However, a few books instead opted to detail other Underdarks. The most notable of these was Night Below: An Underdark Campaign (1995), a massive boxed adventure path. Similarly the late 3e Drow of the Underdark (2007) was more generic.

4e's Underdark followed in the footsteps of these later books by detailing another new Underdark.

Exploring the Underdark. Underdark's Underdark lies beneath the world of the Nentir Vale. It's a land of writhing, connected tunnels created by the monstrous and mad deity Torog. The Nentir Vale's Underdark is divided into two parts, the Shallows and the Deeps — both of which are detailed, with notes on specific locales and the lands' denizens.

The Underdark of the Nentir Vale also connects to the rest of the World Axis — a rather innovative conceit that makes this Underdark quite unique. In the mirrored lands of the Shadowfell and the Feywild, there are also mirrored Underdarks — the Shadowdark and the Feydark. Their caverns and tunnels also received some exploration here.

Monsters of Note. A small bestiary of monsters in this book contains many Underdark favorites, including kuo-toa, mind flayers, myconids, and oozes. It also features many new adversaries, some of whom link back to classic D&D lore. The Elder Elemental Eye cultists follow a god that Gygax had intended to use in both the original "D"escent adventures and in his Temple of Elemental Evil (1985), while the Incunabulum of the Shadowdark worship Vecna, the ancient lich first referred to way back in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976).

It Takes an Event! A few months after the release of Underdark, Wizards of the Coast held a special one-time event on March 27, 2010 at the first PAX East convention. "D&D DM Challenge: Horrors of the Underdark" let DMs show off their best sixth-level Underdark adventures.

Future History. Though Underdark was a well-received book that's usually considered one of 4e's best, the underground setting didn't receive much additional attention until 4e's last year. Then, the Underdark returned with a vengeance.

Encounters Season 8, The Elder Elemental Eye (2012) focused on the ancient god who was alluded to in this book. Then Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook (2012) kicked off a new era of Underdark adventuring by offering a player-oriented book on the setting. It was followed by no less than three Seasons of Encounters adventures deeply enmeshed in the Underdark: Season 9's Web of the Spider Queen (2012), Season 10's Council of Spiders (2012), and Season 11's War of Everlasting Darkness (2012). Between those last two seasons of 4e Encounters, Wizards kicked off its post-4e line with one more Underdark book, the system-neutral Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue. (2012).

About the Creators. Heinsoo was of course the lead developer of D&D 4e (2008), but he was also heavily involved in its setting books, including Manual of the Planes (2008). Collins was another member of the 4e design team, and a contributor to books dating all the way back to the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game (2000).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Timothy B September 15, 2017 6:57 pm UTC
PURCHASER
This PDF is usually $4.99 on DM's Guild. The September Settings sale has actually increased the price to 33% off of the printed book's cover price, which is higher than the typical PDF price. Is there any way to get this corrected? Thank you.
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This title was added to our catalog on November 03, 2015.