Underchasm: That Which Lurks
THAT WHICH LURKS
General Information for Players
The campaign begins in the East Rift region. Huddled on the eastern shelf of the yawning Underchasm, East Rift is a living symbol of gold dwarf ingenuity and stubbornness, having survived when the surface collapsed into the bowels of the Underdark.
The East Rift consists of a country-sized shelf overlooking a cavernous abyss. Waters from various seas spill down from the heights, forming rapids and sparkling falls that tumble into the darkness below.
Suspended in the air are curious motes, clumps of earth and stone that are crawling with strange creatures, wormed with tunnels, and laden with relics from the not-so-distant past. The East Rift is a wondrous place, with cunningly crafted switchback stairs, twisting pathways, and trained griffon steeds that all serve to connect the tiny communities that cling to the wounded stone.
The formation of the [[Underchasm] laid waste to many dwarven cities, a tumult of sliding stone and water washing them into the bowels of the Underdark.
Those who survived fled to the East Rift for protection and a chance to rebuild what they lost.
Eartheart: The principal gold dwarf settlement in the East Rift, Eartheart remains the spiritual and cultural center of these people. Before the great collapse, Eartheart housed all the temples and shrines devoted to dwarven gods and heroes. Dwarves from the depths and from other countries made pilgrimages to behold the architectural splendour of this holy city.
When the city of Underhome was crushed beneath the weight of stone and sea, gold dwarf refugees escaped from that deeper location to take shelter in this far more secure settlement. The Deep Lords, the ruling body of the dwarven civilization, relocated here as well. These leaders retain their custom of masking their identities and communicating through intermediaries to thwart assassination attempts by drow infiltrators.
Eartheart swelled with an influx of fleeing dwarves and other people displaced from the surface. Because the city in its current form was unable to contain them all, the enterprising dwarves set to work to expand Eartheart in innovative ways. Wherever they found a level surface, they built a small community. Where no level surfaces existed, engineers excavated living spaces from the stone, allowing communities to bulge from the chasm walls.
To connect these communities, the dwarves make use of dizzying switchback staircases so narrow that traffic must pass in single file. In addition, specially bred griffons facilitate travel and carry messages to other parts of the city, though the cost of training and keeping such vicious beasts is steep in terms of both coin and life.
Sunlight bathes much of the upper levels, but perpetual darkness presses against the dim watch lanterns and magical light in the lowest levels of the city, which are maintained to drive off the vicious monsters and insidious drow that crawl up from below.
Lost Underhome: Underhome was a massive metropolis, home to nearly 50,000 souls. In spite of its impressive defenses, the city was not spared in the collapse, and the destruction forced its citizens to flee upward for shelter. Into the vacuum moved refugee drow, scrambling up to escape the catastrophes plaguing their own communities. For a time, they held the ruined city, but a strike by the Eartheart defenders ousted some of the squatters and sealed what was left of Underhome. Much of the ruined city remains unexplored, and it has opportunities aplenty for bold adventurers to reclaim lost treasures—if they have the mettle to stand against the terrible beasts and sinister drow creeping through its deep shadows.
Riftedge Towers: A curtain wall surrounds the perimeter of Eartheart, from which rises a series of massive edifices known as the Riftedge Towers. Each holds a band of warriors to guard against attacks from the Underdark. Lacking the means to watch the entire breach into the world below, the dwarves launch regular patrols into the darkness to sweep the immediate vicinity in the hope of detecting a new offensive before it reaches their walls.
Underchasm: East Rift occupies a mere sliver of the Underchasm. Waters from the Sea of Fallen Stars, the Shining Sea, and even the Great Sea spill down from the surface, forming numerous lakes and streams and countless waterfalls. The flow constantly erodes the edges of the Underchasm, washing away stone and loose soil and slowly widening its imprint on the land in all directions. That the Underchasm has not flooded in the last century speaks to the size and depth of this enormous hole.
People of East Rift
The appalling casualties that resulted from the formation of the Underchasm have forced the gold dwarves to reexamine their secluded ways. Although many remain prideful and arrogant, no gold dwarf would refuse help offered by other races. Thus, East Rift is home to humans, shield dwarves, subterranean gnomes, and a variety of other races, all of whom work together to safeguard their adopted home. In spite of the immigration of refugees from the surface and the Underdark, gold dwarves outnumber all the other races combined, leaving Eartheart and its lesser communities firmly in their grip.
Situated at the edge of a yawning abyss that leads to the Underdark, East Rift is a common launching point for expeditions into the depths. One merely has to travel to sealed Underhome to find endless ruins to explore, filled with dire monsters and wicked villains plotting to destroy the dwarves that have reclaimed this land. The East Rift region is dangerous in the extreme, but it holds many opportunities for those in search of excitement.
Dedicated Archaeologist: The creation of the Underchasm destroyed much, but it revealed an equal number of fascinating sites. Lost cities and old civilizations filled with the promise of relics from the distant past draw many explorers to East Rift to plumb the depths and emerge with fabulous treasures. You are eager to explore the secrets of the Underdark to learn what caused the devastation and to preserve the cultures and societies lost to the ruin of this region.
Roleplaying Tips: You are obsessed with old stuff. Whenever you find a bit of carving or a scrap of text, you spend time examining it, discussing its significance, and making a great show about protecting what very well could be a worthless relic.
Defender: The East Rift’s innumerable enemies are poised to strike, readying a final assault to spell the end of the gold dwarves. You offer your life and power to the gold dwarf cause, fighting drow, grimlocks, and any other creatures that would threaten your chosen people.
Roleplaying Tips: Grim and humorless, you are fixated on fighting Underdark races. You might carry an old shirt, a scrap of armor, or some other trinket to remember someone who has been lost to the depredations of those evil beings.
Refugee: After clawing your way out of the debris below, you climbed up out of the darkness and settled in East Rift. Whether you are a gold dwarf survivor, a drow refugee, or a lost explorer, you respect the depths and the dangers that lurk below.
Roleplaying Tips: You are a survivor, having endured a tragedy that claimed countless lives. You are restless and troubled, and spectres of the past haunt your steps.
The lure of gold, the promise of reclaiming lost power, or the chance to spill the blood of dark elves can make heroes out of ordinary people.
For Those Who Are Lost: You have sworn an oath to your ancestors to venture forth and recover the bones of your kin, to find any survivors, and to put to rest the ghosts of your lost people.
Roleplaying Tips: Your drive when exploring borders on obsession, for you believe that each moment wasted is another moment that others must suffer under the sway of evil.
Vengeance: Because of vile deeds committed against you or your kin, you now find your life consumed by vengeance and the desire to right a terrible wrong perpetrated by a wicked race.
Roleplaying Tips: Choose one commonly known subterranean creature to be the source of your enmity. When you encounter creatures of this sort, you always charge into the fray, training your attacks against your hated foes before dealing with any other enemies present.
General Information for DMs
The Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide has this to say about the Oozing Ruin in Underchasm:
Smashed beneath the crushing weight of the earth, the drow city of Llurth Dreier is no more. In its place are fields of rubble and fallen stone. Spaces and gaps within the ruin still allow access to the remains of drow holds. Monstrous oozes and twisted aberrant creatures lurk in the shadows there. Rumours suggest that an amorphous creature of hideous proportions dwells in a vault that yet lies open – and that this creature is an avatar of Ghaunadaur.
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