“The air is cold and dank, heavy with the weight of the earth hanging high above your head. Jagged, black stone walls stretch ahead and behind. The torch in your hand flickers as a dead breeze staggers down the passageway. You draw closer and closer to the end of this bleak tunnel until finally, the narrow rock walls vanish on both sides. You can hear the heavy breathing of something in the darkness ahead and…”
“I have darkvision!”
“You… Oh, whatever! You see a feral troll in the back of the cave. Everybody, roll initiative.”
Douglas Niles, a legendary name for those who hail from the days of AD&D and TSR. A man whose legacy spans from the very first Forgotten Realms novels to the creation of the Dragonlance world, Doug is a New York Times Best-Seller and his work has been read and utilized by countless roleplayers. Doug is also well known for creating the groundbreaking Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (TSR, 1986) with legends Gary Gygax and David C. Sutherland III, a book which detailed exploration of the subterranean world, a realm which was previously only hinted at and briefly explored in a few select modules. The Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide finally gave DMs the ability to craft their own adventures and full campaigns in the Underdark.
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!