Over the past few years we’ve been secretly hard at work on our latest project for the Underworld Races & Classes for 5th Edition and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This immense tome (two books actually, one for each system) has been in the works for many years now, starting originally with individual books created by popular demand after our best-selling Rise of the Drow became a heavy hitter in the RPG world. Since the original builds we’ve gone back and revised/added a ton of new material, produced new gear, spells, archetypes, domains, and more to craft a solid book filled with gorgeous top notch artwork (thanks to stretch goals).
For those of you who are fans of Hero Lab, Realm Works, and Fantasy Grounds we’ve got some amazing backer goals which everyone gets by pledging for a copy of this amazing book. Sure to be a classic and weirder, more insidious companions to your core books– Underworld Races & Classes Kickstarter awaits you!
Help us make this project a reality- there’s only 6 days left to pledge!
Yesterday we gave out a taste of the duplicitous underterror, but today the AaWBlog dares to be even more bizarre with the otherworldly hoyrall! Back in January you might remember The Blessings of Zagn, where the insectile aliens are mentioned in passing. Jacob Blackmon is turning in the rest of the artwork this week, and it’s just too darned good not to share with everyone immediately.
Moreover, this player race takes up a very big role in the near future of Aventyr, and are a major part of PATHMASTER contest winner Michael Allen’s upcoming adventure path! They’ve terrorized Picollo in the past, and infest various regions of the Underworld—but where did they come from? What are their plans for the surface world? Why are they in Aventyr, and what keeps them here?
Today an unwitting band of apprentices dare to learn some of these secrets, perhaps biting off more than they can handle…
It was a rare day indeed, Markos thought. Not only had he, Sylveni, Karris and Jorall managed to sneak out of their rooms beneath the notice of Master Halwoan—he who bemoan, the quartet often joked—but down off of Cape Fin, jammed into a watery cove, they had found a true wonder.
The capsule (which it was Markos’ idea to call) was actually quite large, maybe 60 feet longways and another 15 across, laying at rest on a sandy beach at the far side of the watery cavern. Its exterior was pocked and marred by rocky abscesses in between chitinous scales that seemed to move ever so slightly of their own accord. Sylveni and Karris were very careful, unwilling to enter into the cove at all—it took foolish Jorall and his mischievous sling to convince them, but when the capsule didn’t show any signs of reacting to his stones their natural curiosity was sufficiently peaked.
Cautiously, Markos produced a scroll, an invisibility spell he produced when Professor Kambrudge dozed off the other afternoon. As the others waited, he conjured forth the arcane magic and disappeared from sight, leaving only shallow footprints in the wet sand around the cave’s edge in his wake. Initially it seemed as though the entirety of the capsule was solid, but once he was quite sure that it would not react to his presence, Markos ran his gloved fingers along its edges and eventually found a large fold. With a bit of working he managed to work first one, and then both of his arms into it and with a bit of leverage, the whole thing made a large slopping noise and stretched open to make a portal within the capsule.
Giving a thumbs up to his companions, which Markos quickly figured was actually kind of silly given that he was invisible, the apprentice mage carefully peered into the interior of the strange thing hidden in the cove of Cape Fin. A soft orange glow filled the cramped expanse, just enough that he could make out what was on—or rather, in—the walls. Chitinous statues, their eyes made of large red rubies, peered outward from strange insectile faces. Each sculpture was slightly different, but all had antennae and four arms in repose, standing on two powerful legs seamlessly encased in the wall.
Seeing the gems was one thing—Jorall would undoubtedly be pleased—but this was unlike anything Markos had even read of before! One night when they snuck out to a tavern on the far side of the gate, a minstrel told tales of similar bug-men, four-armed warriors that terrorized Picollo before he had been born. Very little was known of them to the scholarly world, however, and suddenly the student in Markos leapt to the fore—this could be his mark of distinction! The founder of an alien artifact such as this was sure to be laden with rewards and laurels for their efforts, were they not?
While the cramped confines undermined his confidence, that urge for academic recognition spurred Markos deeper into the capsule and further on, even after the opening behind him slowly closed back up. The layout made no sense to him and denied a sense of the cardinal directions. Even in so small a space it only took him a few minutes to get lost, but he came upon a room filled with carvings and hieroglyphs that demanded Markos’ attention. A great, strange serpent of some kind sailed across the stars with crowds of dozens of the insect men on its back. Once arrived on the planet, the thing tunneled into and through the sphere as its passengers spread across the surface. With a sense of dread, the apprentice mage followed the next series of symbols, but they were the same, cycling through the sequence in nonsensical directions that covered every surface of the room he was in.
Yelping in surprise, something in Markos’ peripheral vision caught his eye; a small movement in the hallway. Creeping closer he peered at the carved statue on the wall and breathed a sigh of relief, seeing that the gems on its face were still.
But then the scales above the gem moved, and whatever pretense of safety Markos once had evaporated in an instant.
Still huddled against the entrance to the cove, Sylveni, Karris, and (most of all) Jorall were getting impatient. He looked at his fellow apprentices sternly and said, “Markos should be back by now; I say we go in and make sure he’s okay.” The conviction of his words matched the resolve on his face, and Sylveni could tell right off he wouldn’t be dissuaded. Markos had always been sweet to her and if one of them didn’t return, she knew that Master Halwoan would be furious beyond description.
“Karris—you stay here near the entrance. If Jorall and I aren’t back within the hour, run back to the academy and tell them what you saw here.” Sylveni pressed her prized hourglass—a silver-gilded ornament bestowed to her for being scholar lariat a few years ago—into Karris’ trembling hands and squeezed them briefly. For her part, the timid novice mage gave a nod and shrunk behind some stalagmites, watchful of her friends as they approached the capsule.
Jorral practically sprinted up to it, running his hands along the edge like his friend Markos had done. With a victorious shout he found it, prying his arms inward and unfolding the doorway. Unlike what Markos had seen, however, no sculptures lined the walls—instead, standing insectile four-armed men briefly regarded him with ruby eyes. For one brief moment, everything stood still as Sylveni gaped in horror at the things within the capsule—Jorall’s scream broke the reverie as half a dozen of the creatures leapt out and dragged him inside.
Sylveni began to run for the beach, yelling for her friend to get away. The bug men were on to her too, though, and the last thing she saw as they wrestled her into the capsule was Karris’ cloak flitting out of view, whipping away in the direction of Nyamo.
What did the hieroglyphs mean? What are the hoyrall’s intentions with Karris’ friends? Where are the alien bugs from and why are they on Aventyr?
The answers to these questions (and so much more!) are in the upcoming Underworld Races: Hoyrall! Keep an eye out for it and the other Underworld Classes and Races books hitting the digital selves soon!
AdventureAWeek.com is gearing up to explore the endless caves of Aventyr in a host of upcoming products (some of which are part of PATHMASTER contest winner Michael Allen’s adventure path!) that introduce brand new races and classes to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!
In a post for the playtest back in January we brought out the ahool and a bit of the drow—today we’re looking at the gitwerc, and more specifically, their horrifying warriors: underterrors! These shapeshifting horrors (a new base class!) stalk the Underworld, subduing those that refuse to parley and consider partaking of the same devilish fruits as the misbegotten deep dwarves.
Garenth was beginning to have doubts about heading deeper beneath the surface. Their friend and prodigious wordsmith Frednir, a dweorg merchant that became a fast ally after meeting on the road months ago in between two subterranean dwarven settlements, spoke of great riches farther into the depths but definitely downplayed the danger of such an expedition. Not three weeks ago, Garenth was forced to order his companions to flee while a monster that morphed out of the cave wall itself devoured his lifelong friend Barsk, and a few days ago the halfling cleric Kira entirely disappeared. While he liked the plucky girl, it was hard to argue with Frednir at the best of times and the meager rations she had left behind were a welcome addition to their scant meals.
With food supplies running so low, the paladin feared that he may have led his allies too far along to turn back, and that the endless caves of Aventyr might prove to be a tomb to them all. Trulai broke him from his reverie, the mage’s keen half-elven eyes picking out a flitting shadow from the darkness beyond Garenth’s torchlight. “I’m quite sure I saw something,” the wizard said, reaching for his components bag, eyes cast outward with a steel resolve. “I’m done taking chances down here, Garenth. It’s time to turn back.”
A mild guffaw from behind Garenth brought him back to ease. “Ohhhh lad, don’t be ridiculous,” Frednir said, slapping both the paladin and the elf on the back, “my dwarven eyes aren’t seeing a living thing anywhere in this chamber—you’re just paranoid from hunger. I think I’ve got a flask of ale I hid away when we visited the last tavern…”
“No, dweorg, I think not.” Something about the mage’s tone struck a chord and Frednir stepped away, his hands raised apologetically. Trulai continued, excited and invigorated, “you’ve dragged us down near the very pools of HEL and I’ve had enough of it!” The elf’s face began to turn red with rage, but then to Garenth’s astonished eyes, a crimson distinction of something more suddenly accompanied a slightly lower pitch to his voice. “Kira is gone, Barsk is dead, and it’s all your fault! Garenth, he’s a menacing curse upon us both and his time ends now! We—aaargh!”
To the astonishment of both Garenth and Frednir, the mage began to change and morph, his skin turning a hideous bright red and erupting with exploding postules that immediately hardened into chitinous scale. “Heavens, Garenth, it’s him! It’s the damned elf, of all things, it’s a demon!” The dweorg grabbed his trusty axe, slamming it into the screaming creature’s shoulder. “Attack now while it’s weak, before it’s too late!”
Drawing his blade and muttering a prayer to his god, the holy knight struck fast and true; the greatsword slammed into the wound opened by Frednir, cleaving into the elf-things chest and killing it instantly. In a moment that stretched for what felt to Garenth like hours, the warm blood flowing from his dead friend’s chest slicked the blade and the body fell down to the cold floor of the cavern with a thump that haunted the paladin for decades. Looking around for his last remaining ally in the Underworld, the dweorg was nowhere to be found—had the monstrosity attacked Frednir in the heat of the battle?
The eerie silence of Garenth’s lonely victory only lasted for a moment. In frustration and rage the paladin let loose a cry that echoed off the walls and farther down the tunnel ahead of him—and to his horror, something answered.
Winging up from the darkness, a creature in the shadows let loose a wave of sound that struck the paladin with the force of a giant’s club, smashing the cuirass of his armor into broken ribs and sending his sword scattering out of sight. Hairy, unnaturally strong arms gripped his body and though Garenth landed a few punches against his attacker’s skull, he briefly lost consciousness as his body slammed into the side of the cavern.
Blackness receded just long enough for Garenth to feel a fleeting sense of hope as the familiar image of Frednir swam into view. Wrapped in the embrace of a creature he still couldn’t see and overwhelmed with pain, the warm wash of blood from his neck filled the paladin with dread but his ally was surely about to fight to free him.
To Garenth’s horror, the dweorg merely grinned as of horn and tusk grew from his skin and massive, leathery crimson wings sprouted from his back. “Told you his blood would be sweet, Rorsk’haht. Was I not absolutely correct?”
Whatever held the paladin in its steely grip muttered affirmatives through sloshing gulps of blood, words Garenth couldn’t recognize. With the dweorg’s eyes locked onto his, Frednir grinned maliciously, “just make sure he doesn’t die. We gitwerc can do great things with so righteous a holy warrior. Great things indeed.”
As the realization of betrayal dawned on Garenth, the will to fight receded and the blackness consumed him once more.
The duplicitous gitwerc, bestial ahool, and monstrous underterrors are only some of the truly fantastic material about to make it to PDF! Keep an eye on the AaWBlog for more information as we bring these bloodthirsty denizens out of the Underworld of Aventyr and onto your tabletop!
The rim of this ornate circular heavy steel shield is decorated with thousands of miniature fragments of gem and crystal inlaid in complex gold trim. The gilded metalwork sweeps inward to the center of the armament like a draining pool of water, each separated by strands of reflective, polished silver. A second rounded plate at its center, worked in a pattern opposite the outer ring, holds a large ornament filled with bits of jewels, with two smaller sister accouterments just off the center of the bulwark
This +2 heavy steel shield, in addition to being a true work of art, grants special abilities that may be activated after a successful shield bash. Three times per day after successfully hitting an opponent with a shield bash, the wielder of Uyutmak’s Shield may take an immediate action to temporarily disorient their opponent, cuffing them lightly and allowing the enchantment to do its work. Instead of dealing damage, the wielder uses hypnotism (as a spell-like ability that does not provoke attacks of opportunity) against the struck opponent; any creature with two or more hit die than the wielder ignores this effect, but otherwise the target is forced to make a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 wielder’s hit die + wielder’s Charisma modifier) or be fascinated, reacting to the wielder with two steps more friendly an attitude, prepared to take one brief, reasonable request. This effect ignores spell resistance and is considered ‘out of combat’ for purposes of the save to resist it, incurring a -2 penalty to the target’s saving throw.
History A character that makes a Knowledge (history) or Knowledge (local) check to learn about this magic item identifies the following fragments of lore:
DC 15 Stories abound about why and how Uyutmak’s Shield came into existence, but everyone knows the person responsible: Uyutmak the dweorgskald, explorer of the Underworld. Some of the most popular tales claim that the diminutive storyteller used it to escape scores of drow raiding parties, fell subterranean monsters and confound more than one dragon in his time. Naturally, it has long been a popular item for wandering dweorg and skalds alike.
DC 20 The stories all carry a bit of truth to them, although they’ve been warped by the passage of time as much as by Uyutmak himself. While his enchanted shield certainly had a great deal to do with how he survived so many dangerous encounters in the Underworld, it was rarely ever by attacking his foes; instead, the dweorg often smacked his spellcasting companions, compelling them to do as he bid (resulting in the deaths of many of their allies, and sometimes the mage or cleric themselves).
DC 25 Uyutmak actually led to the downfall of several adventuring groups that otherwise would’ve been successful; many of his contemporary skalds claimed that the dweorg was cursed, or worse. This rumor was only enforced by the fact that several of said storytellers found that to be the last tale they spun, each suffering the same gruesome fates that met the few of Uyutmak’s companions that survived to (briefly) retire.
DC 30 The dweorg Uyutmak was not as he seemed – in truth he was a foul gitwerc, sent to the surface by a drow House deep in the Underworld to do reconnaissance, testing the proficiency and competency of Upperworld’s denizens. Eventually he came to a violent end after a collection of skalds took arms against him in a cunning magic assault, forcing the traitorous brigand to impale himself on his own blade.
CONSTRUCTION Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, hypnotism; Cost 8,085 gp 324 xp
Do you have an idea for an enchanted sword, arcane-empowered armor or unique magic item? Take a look at the submission rules and send a brief summary of your proposed enchanted item titled ‘Armory of Adventures submission’ to submit(at)adventureaweek.com with the following:
the nature of the item (weapon, armor or wondrous)
one or two sentences about its appearance
what the item in question does
the components and spell(s) used in its construction
How better than to delve into a series of reviews than with an epic trilogy? The Adventureaweek.com-crew has recently launched their first multiple module spanning epic, the Rise of the Drow and today, I’m going to take a look at Part 1!
This pdf is 121 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving a whopping 116 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players might wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? The underdark is boiling from the flames of war – Maelora of House Gullion (nice tribute to fellow reviewer KTFish7, I assume?) has taken control over the drow trade-hub of Holoth via an interesting coup d’état – allying herself with the alien Vidre and siphoning power from an artifact granted by these enigmatic, crystalline schemers, she indeed triumphed and funneled the souls of her captives through the artifact to gain immense power. Unbeknown to her, half of the souls have been funneled to the greedy clutches of the alien Vidre and sacrifices have started to become harder and harder to come by. Not one to be dictated what to do, the matron managed to sever the binding ties and arcane entwinements of the pact between her and the Vidre via the Spider-Goddess’ help (we’re looking at old-school drow here, obviously) for the promise of a conquest of the worlds above – the goddess has spoken and so it shall be done. The Vidre, meanwhile, prepare for war – their thirst for souls must be slaked.
Enter the PCs via a relative of Rybalka’s blacksmith Quorron, a female named Miah, ambassador of Embla, a dwarven city that seeks to unite the denizens of the underdark to address the drow-problem. Time is of the essence, though, and the PCs will have to take a dangerous road into the underdark via the ruins of Krelgar keep (5 level-mini-dungeon, lavishly cartographed in a stunning full-color map) – and something is definitely amiss, indicated by the dimensionally shackled bralani the PCs encounter there. After encountering the first troupes of drow (thankfully only zombies), the PCs may be in for a surprise – if they can decipher a missive, they’ll realize that the dark elves have planned a raid on the surface world. Even cooler: Drow Paper, Quills and Ink are described and they are anything but common – what about e.g. quills made from giant spider fangs? Neat! Nevertheless, the PCs should think about warning Rybalka – whether they do or not, the repercussions will be felt. However, the immediate threat, the boss of this dungeon, will prove to be a challenge – the disturbing drow mhorg Yul will prove to be a worthy challenge, no small thanks to his items and the new “Third eyes of fear” that lets the users blink.
The journey through the underdark, accompanied by a cool map as well as information on various types of gases and multiple encounters will also see the PCs encounter their first driders, a wizard of house Gullion and then culminate in a chance for them to disrupt a drow raid on a dwarven caravan and then finally arrive at the gates of Embla, where the second module of the trilogy will start.
The pdf also includes the Titanic Beastmaster PrC. The class gets d8, 2+Int skills per level, full BAB, good fort- and ref-saves and focuses on taming and training the larger monsters – no spell progression or the like and the requirements for the PrC are rather steep, making it an accomplishment to actually qualify for it while granting massive enhancements to the special companion granted by it.
On page 41, the statblock-index starts with an encounter table and takes up all space till page 117 to deliver all the stats for both D&D 3.5 and PFRPG. Unfortunately, the index is not bookmarked, which makes this vast section of the pdf harder to navigate than it should by any means.
The pdf closes with two player-friendly versions of the stellar maps.
Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect – I encountered some minor glitches, but none that severely impeded my enjoyment of the module. Layout adheres to AaW’s full-color two-column standard and the cartography is simply awesome. I was also blown away by some of the artworks – the drow depicted mostly can stand up to the Paizo-level regarding the quality of the art. However, there are also some jarring full-color illustrations that feel somewhat shoehorned into the adventure, are of a lesser quality and detract from a unified look. I frankly would have preferred them to be left out. The pdf comes with a printer-friendly version and nested bookmarks. At the time of the writing of this review, Herolab-files have not yet been provided, but are planned.
“Rise of the Drow I” is an interesting module in that it builds up a sense of threat and consequences for the region of Rybalka and its surroundings and works well to set up not only the drow as a credible threat, but also to evoke a sense of grand changes afoot. The environmental effects and cultural details like the paper/ink etc. they use lends an added sense of credibility to the dark elves. It should be noted, though, that the drow of AaW seem to worship a certain spider-goddess and thus are different from the demon-worshipping drow of Golarion – I’m already curious how this worship interacts with a fabled origin that hearkens back to Norse mythology. All in all, this is a good module with already rather significant decisions to make, but judging the repercussions and consequences etc., for now, remains hard – I look forward to seeing how the sequels can implement these diverging paths. Content-wise, thus, there’s not much to complain about. Add to that the jarring difference in quality between beautiful and rather hideous artworks and we have some factors that conspire to keep this module from the full 5 stars. Thus, my final verdict will be a solid 4 stars with your humble reviewer looking forward to seeing how the saga continues.
All right, as always: Thank you for reading my ramblings – and see you soon in part 2!