May 30, 2006

Published by Wizards of the Coast
Written by Bruce R. Cordell, Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, Jeff Quick
192 pages; $32.95; glossy color pages with color cover

Underdark is the newest tome detailing another corner of the Forgotten Realms. I’m a huge Realms fan, and the campaign supplements are always very welcome additions to my collection. As much as I like them, Realms supplements tend to suffer from the drawback that that they’re very specific. Most of the time, material from FR supplements is not terribly applicable to other games. Thankfully, Underdark does not suffer from this drawback.

Underdark details the world beneath Faerun, the cavernous and deadly realm inhabited by extremly dangerous beings from many different worlds. The first few chapters of the book detail new treaures, equipment, monsters, spells and prestige classes that are applicable in the worlds below Faerun. Some of the spells are pretty specific and not really all that interesting, but a few are nice utility spells. The new magical effects are also somewhat derivative of other effects from other books. The real gems of the “crunchy” section of the book are the prestige classes. Some of them are specialized spelunkers and explorers, while others utilize the strange powers of the Underdark in interesting and specialized ways. All the materials in the crunchy section can easily be transferred to other d20 campaign settings with underground realms

The best part of the book is the location-based setting material. It details the many different city-states and lands of the realms beneath Faerun, from mighty drow cities to the bolt-holes and warrens of kobolds and orcs. Though specific to the Forgoten Realms setting, the intricacy and depth of the regions of the Underdark are very self contained areas. They can be lifted whole from the Realms setting and placed in any campaign.

While the book as a whole was extremely worth my while, it was somewhat frustrating. 192 pages for almost $40.00 felt like something of a rip off. I paid less because of a sale that my local rpg store was holding at the time, but even still. This book is worth your while from from the standpoint of content, but the pricetag may give you pause.

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