The Underworld or Underdark or whatever you call the lightness world beneath the surface in your fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting is a dangerous place. You should not go alone and you should not go unprepared. In order to be better prepared perhaps you can have some extra knowledge. With that allow me to present a couple of books packed with extra fun to add into your 5E D&D game. Let me introduce Underworld Player’s Guide and Underworld Lairs from Kobold Press. These two books share themes and concepts with Empire of the Ghouls, an expansive undead themed campaign we got our hands on recently too.
Kobold Press: ‘You get underworld. You get underworld. Everybody gets underworld!’
Underworld Player’s Guide comes jam packed with 8 new races, 8 new subclasses, 3 new backgrounds and new spells as well as some new underworld beasts for your summoning spells and underworld druids’ turn Wild Shape. When I began reading this the races jumped out at me first. While all the races are cool, two of them spoke to me as really interesting not only with rich lore but fun stat block choices as well.
First there is the Darakhul. This is essentially an undead race. The subraces take into account what you were before you died. There are even mechanics for what happens if you are brought back from the dead through magic. I am not a big fan of undead but reading this I can understand the appeal and would enjoy playing this race very much. The other race I took to was the mushroomfolk. The lore here is just as exotic while distinctive from myconids. With great lore to use them as a character or a varied culture to add to your world I think these are the stand out winners of what race I would play out of this book. There are different sizes within the race and they can be described almost anyway you want based on what type of mushroomfolk you choose.
In addition Underworld Player’s Guide includes Dark Trollkin, Derro, Dhampir, Drow, Satarre the Children of Nidhogg and Shade race options I’m certain lots of players will enjoy for creating characters.
As far as subclasses go there is a new Primal Path for barbarians excellent at fighting undead. The bard College of Echoes is a master at manipulating sound. The Monastic Tradition is designed with a restriction for the undead races in the book but has a really awesome flavor to it. (If you read the book you will get that pun as it has to do with not eating). Paladin Sacred Oaths and Ranger Archetypes have race restrictions as well. There are also two each for rogue, sorcerer and wizard. A friend asked why there’s no undead themed sorcerer to me just the other day and low and behold there already is one. Looks like someone beat you to the punch. On top of that one of the wizards is a White Necromancer.
Check out these evocatively named subclass options and I’m sure a least a couple call to you. There’s Path of the Ebon Star, College of Echoes, Way of Sated Hunger, Oath of Consumption, Oath of the Plaguetouched, Imperial Hunter, Herald of the Ebon Star, Soulspy, Hungering, Spore Sorcery, Gravebinding and White Necromancy. There’s a huge array of interesting features in these subclasses that bring new abilities and new storytelling possibilities into your games.
Backgrounds are a great way to ground characters in a particular setting before they even become adventurers. Underworld Player’s Guide includes heavily themed backgrounds like Ghoul Imperium Deserter, Red Winter Adherent and Siwal Embalmer and rounds out character creation with Underworld Trinkets like a simple, long black cloak that never makes you feel warmer, a jar holding a single dessicated eye that always seems to be looking at you and plenty more creepy keepsakes.
Spells range from blood puppet to unluck on that covering 28 new spells and spell lists for all the spellcasting classes in 5E D&D. As you can imagine there’s a lot of necromantic stuff and blood magic. To give you an idea how heavily undead themes run through these books and Empire of the Ghouls rotting corpse is a 2nd level necromancy and the only function is decomposing bodies so they can’t be returned.
Lastly 7 new creatures lurk in the underworld ready to become pets, familiars or gnaw your face off in the dark. There is something cute about the ghoul bat though.
Check out Underworld Player’s Guide here.
Moving onto stuff dedicated to those wondrous souls who step behind the screen let me tell you some fun things about Underworld Lairs. I have the original Book of Lairs from Kobold Press and I have used it and enjoyed the layout. It was time to check out the next one where all those cool options from Underworld Player’s Guide get put to the test.
This book features 14 lairs for adventurers to plumb the depths of looking for monsters to slay and loot to discover. These lairs are designed for adventurers from as early as 3rd level and all the way up to 14th with something for just about every level. If you were to make some modifications you could easily turn this book into a campaign in the underworld as you prepare to rid the underground world of its most dangerous creatures. It is up to you how you want to do so. Like its predecessor this one has everything you need including maps of the lairs you would need to run within the adventure.
Breaching Worm Citadel is a great adventure for five 14th level characters . It has a lot of great lore related to the Midgard setting and pits the party against a lesser lich and its minions.
The Sanguine Lodge is a great place to start and if you plan it correctly characters could be traveling in the area for 1st-3rd level to get ready for the adventure to start here. They would be able to pick up on clues and get to know the everyone involved before the adventure even takes place.
The book gives three decent adventure hooks to get the stories moving so you can choose which method fits your Game Master style and what type of players you have at your table. The Kobold Press website has map packs useful to print out at home or to be used in virtual tabletops especially since most games are happening online right now.
Underworld Player’s Guide and Underworld Lairs are two great books and resources to either use all of them and make your worlds underground that much more rich or add bits and pieces to your 5E D&D games as you see fit. Check out Underworld Lairs here.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, stay nerdy!