Pathfinder Chronicles: Into the Darklands (OGL)

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Pathfinder Chronicles: Into the Darklands (OGL)
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At the World’s Core

Another world is hidden below—a world that slumbers under the foundations of mortal cities, dreams below the deepest roots of the oldest forests, and plots in hidden places as far below as the mountains are high. These endless caves have many names. Cold Hell. Evernight. The Hunting Grounds. Yet to those who dwell within they are known as the Darklands.

Into the Darklands explores this mysterious and deadly realm of caverns and secrets, from the numerous hazards that plague the deeps to the strange and sinister races that dwell therein. Within these pages you will find maps of the major entrances to the Darklands throughout Golarion’s Inner Sea region, as well as dozens of locations hidden within three distinct realms of the deep. Tables to determine random dangers and wandering menaces, new languages and exotic hazards, and all manner of monsters, including the degenerate morlocks, the wormlike seugathis, the destructive vemeraks, the blood-drinking urdefhans, and the sinister serpentfolk await discovery within!

Just remember—in the Darklands, the night lasts forever, and the denizens of the depths never sleep.

The perfect companion to the Pathfinder Second Darkness Adventure Path! This comprehensive 64-page sourcebook provides an overview of the cavernous realms below the surface of the Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-140-4

Other Resources: This product is also available on the following platforms:

Hero Lab Online
Fantasy Grounds Virtual Tabletop
Archives of Nethys

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Flavourful Overview

5/5

In the official Pathfinder campaign setting of Golarion, the vast subterranean reaches of ancient empires and degenerate monsters is called the Darklands (i.e., the Underdark for those of you who played a lot of D&D). Into the Darklands, published in 2008, was one of the early entries in Paizo's line of campaign setting books for Golarion--so early that it predates the actual Pathfinder RPG and instead references 3.5-specific rules elements (including psionics!). It's a 64-page full-colour softcover book that is really well-written, flavourful, and useful for a GM planning to set any adventures in the area.

The artwork, frankly, is a mixed bag: there's a cartoonishly busty Drow on the otherwise-solid cover, and the interior art ranges from fantastic to mediocre. The inside back-cover reproduces the cover art, while the inside front-cover is an extensive wandering monster table with columns for the three different "layers" of the Darklands (something I'll talk about in a moment). As with too many wandering monster tables, I think I'd find it useless because it includes such a vast range of CRs on the same table--if your chance of running into a few fire beetles is the same as your chance of running into a purple worm, there's going to be a lot of short-lived adventuring parties! On the other hand, I really liked the several maps that show how the surface world overlays various entrances and different areas of the Darklands.

The interior of the book is separated into five parts.

The first part, "Exploring the Darklands", takes up 16 pages and provides a good overview. It explains that Golarion's Darklands are best thought of as having three "layers," with the shallowest layer (Nar-Voth) less dangerous than the middle layer (Sekamina) and the rarely-visited and mysterious deepest layer (Orv). Connections between the layers are rare, and most surface-world expeditions to the Darklands go no further than Nar-Voth. Still, the layers, in a "horizontal" sense, can be as large as continents, so there's plenty of exploration to be done! After a brief list of common languages and terminology, the section spends several pages summarizing (with one-paragraph each) known points of entry to the Darklands. This part will be quite important for GMs, and the amount of flavour provided even in the capsule descriptions makes just getting into the Darklands seem like an exciting adventure in itself. I particularly liked the "Dread Dungeons" (a political prison in Galt that extends so far down that it reaches Nar-Voth), the Pit of Gormuz (an important site from a world-lore perspective as it ties in Rovagug, the Tarrasque, and more), and the Shadow Caverns (an important aspect of what's happening in Nidal). Next up is a section on hazards, including mundane dangers like getting stuck or lost, as well as more exotic threats like toxic fungi and radiation. This part is excellent, as it provides a wealth of detail to make travel in the Darklands really come alive--everything from travel time through different types of tunnels to dealing with bad air to navigating in total darkness (with a doubling of random encounter chances if the PCs use light sources!). Players will quickly realize they have far more than just monsters to worry about in a Darklands-based adventure.

The second part of the book covers Nar-Voth (the upper layer) in about 12 pages. There's an interesting, and coherent backstory to the Darklands that ties into other important aspects of Golarion history, including Earthfall, the Quest for the Sky, etc. The most common denizens of Nar-Voth (Derro, Duergar, Troglodytes, and Vegepygmies) each receive several paragraphs of description. Derro are still creepy as heck, but I was most surprised to read how something that seems really stupid like Vegepygmies can be given a surprisingly interesting backstory. There's also a couple of paragraphs each on other denizens of the layer: Dark Folk, Grimlocks, Gremlins, and Mongrelmen. The section concludes with several pages describing notable locations in Nar-Voth, and a useful map shows where these places are both from a Darklands perspective and from a surface perspective. There's some creative writing here, with my favorite location being the Court of Ether (an inverted-pyramid hanging from the ceiling full of dark fey!).

The middle of the book fittingly details the middle layer of the Darklands, Sekamina (14 pages). This can be summed up as the most "civilized" layer, as it's home to empires of Drow, surprisingly organized cities of ghouls, and more. The Drow are described in ways very similar to how they are in the Forgotten Realms, and I think there are some links provided to the Second Darkness AP. The stuff about ghouls was fascinating, and I could imagine some excellent adventures using their cities as a location. Other important races to receive focussed-coverage are Skum and Svirfneblin, with about a paragraph each devoted to driders, gugs, morlocks, ropers, Serpentfolk, and Seugathi. There's a really interesting mix of cultures and creatures in Sekamina, and lots of potential for a wide variety of stories taking advantage of the relationships and tensions between them. As with the previous section, this one ends with several pages detailing particular locations on the layer. Most are interesting, but I would have liked to see some adventure-hook ideas to help GMs provide reasons for PCs to visit them.

Orv, the lowest layer, is covered in ten pages. I thought this was the most original and interesting take on the Darklands. Orv is known, even to most inhabitants of Nar-Voth and Sekamina, only by legend. It consists of a series of immense chambers, some as large as surface nations, called Vaults--and they're full of different environments that could never plausibly exist through mundane means. Thus, they're thought to be almost terrariums of a sort, built by the mysterious and now-absent Vault Keepers. The only widespread inhabitants of Orv today are a scary race called urdefhans (detailed further in the next part of the book), but particular Vaults are home to creatures like neothelids, intellect devourers, and aboleths. There's even a "Lost World"-style Vault full of prehistoric creatures and dinosaurs. Orv is a strange and dangerous place, and perhaps a good alternative to plane-hopping for high-level groups of PCs who outmatch most things on the surface world.

The last section of the book is a bestiary. Five different creatures each receive a full two-page spread: Morlocks, Serpentfolk, Seugathi, Urdefhan, and Vemerak. All of the entries are well-written and the creatures fill a useful role from a GM's perspective. Because they each get a two-page spread, there's plenty of room to discuss the ecology of the creatures and detail a host of special abilities.

In sum, I would say the book is excellent and almost indispensable for adventures set in the Darklands. It's also one of those RPG books that can be read just for pleasure even if there aren't any particular games on the horizon planned.


Portuguese - Br

4/5

Com excessão de algumas meta tramas do cenário, mestres narrando Second Darkness ou fãs do Underdark (os fãs de drows conseguem melhores informações comprando as aventuras de SD) as darklands são um cenário bem aparte do Inner Sea e portanto bastante opcional. No entanto este livro contem praticamente tudo necessário para fazer campanhas em ambientações subterrâneas e isso o torna uma fonte de referencia necessária (já que a maioria da informações com excessão das fichas das criaturas, não se repetiu em mais nenhum livro). Também é importante para saber um pouco mais sobre raças e criaturas que são grandes antagonistas e outros cenários e que em Golarion até agora apareceram pouco.


Golarion: A World with a Chewy Lovecraftian Center!

4/5

Once again, Golarion breaks from the pack. Detailing the lands below, a complex somewhat orderly ecology exists miles below the surface. Serpent Men and the Culture of Ghouls replace the Mindflayers as rivals for Drow dominance. A must have suppliment. Check my full review: Into the Darklands


If you're a Lovecraft fan...

5/5

Then you will love this book. It takes the very best hollow earth 'bits' from the past hundred years or so and brings them all together in the vast, sprawling, and maddening Darklands of Golarion. It has ghoul kingdoms, demon-worshipping drow, hollow earth vampires, Howardian/Clark Ashton Smithian serpent people, massive caverns with dinosaurs, and even gugs. You can't go wrong with this!


Good structure

3/5

The first thought on Paizo's underdark treatment is they've done a very good job of keeping things segmented/customizable. The division of three layers, and regions reminded me a little of Ravenloft domains in a good way. The GM is not obligated to have everything in the mix but rather to focus on what they want.
Now to the content itself. There's some neat stuff, love the treatment of the derro, the Lovecraftian/Hodgson touches of the the third layer with gugs, ghoul empires and prehistoric beasties. Oh, and neothilids!
A great hollow earth pulp feel.
My main issue is with the Sekamina, the 2nd layer. Paizo's done a commendable effort with the drow but I think they would have been better to jettison entirely. Yep they're an iconic villain but thanks to Salvatore and FR I wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole.
Still all and all a good starting document to springboard ideas for campaigns/adventures. Recommended. PDF is good quality.


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One more monster-related question:

Where can I find the Ecology section of the Urdefhan statblock in the back? I'm guessing the most relevent bit for me is Advancement (which I suspect will read, 'by character class, Fighter is Favored Class').

Thanks for any help.

Contributor

That's what I'd do.


Given that this is a 3.5 OGL product, is there a pure-Pathfinder conversion floating around?

-The Gneech

Contributor

Not officially, no.

Though the intellect devourer is in the PF Bestiary. And the urdefhan's sword is updated to PF in Adventurer's Armory.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Neothelids are in the Bestiary, too.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

John Robey wrote:

Given that this is a 3.5 OGL product, is there a pure-Pathfinder conversion floating around?

-The Gneech

Morlocks showed up in the Bestiary; the other four new monsters will appear in Bestiary 2.


James Jacobs wrote:
John Robey wrote:

Given that this is a 3.5 OGL product, is there a pure-Pathfinder conversion floating around?

-The Gneech

Morlocks showed up in the Bestiary; the other four new monsters will appear in Bestiary 2.

Excellent, thanks!

-TG

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Rather than see a PFRPG update to this book, I think a set of 3 new books, one for each layer of the darklands would be nice (though, preferably, not all at once - February is already smiting my wallet). Just covering one segment at a time could also give you room to bring some crunch into play, though I understand you want to avoid the nuclear proliferation of (prestige) classes that was classic 3.5. Perhaps some iconic magic items. I'm still in love with the flesh-implanted ioun stone idea from the first PFAP series, and it would be keen to see some underused items from the core book get a cultural and mechanical update in the darklands.

Beyond that, I'd love to hear some of the crazy things from real-world caving get brought in. Recent discoveries in Earths caves include:

* The role that "bacterial snots" play in cave formation: http://news.softpedia.com/news/Bacteria-Snots-Form-Caves-42720.shtml
* Crustal bacteria and other life forms live in compressed, heated water that has been isolated from the rest of the Earth for millions of years: http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/interviews/interview/648/
* Superman the movie's fortress of solitude exists: http://www.canyonsworldwide.com/crystals/
* Our caves are extremely deep... much deeper than we used to believe: http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/offbeat-news/10-deepest-caves-in-the-w orld/1185

In terms of mapping... that's the hardest part. Caves are inherently more 3D than anything we deal with on a regular basis. How do you accurately portray that? Can you ever have a map like the Inner Sea map that conveys the scope and breadth of the Darklands without feeling myopically 2D?


I know this is some thread necromancy, but I just picked this book up and I have to say, WOW. Thank you Mrs. Jacobs and Vaughan for exemplary, evocative, and thought-provoking work. This book is a pleasure to read and will be a pleasure to use in my games.


Casting Raise Thread on account of the just announced sale.

Can anyone who has this tell me a couple of things:

1) Does this have substantially more information than the Inner Sea World Guide's entry on the Darklands?

2) It mentions maps of the entrances, but are these detailed maps? Just dots on a copy of the Inner Sea World Map? Are there other maps inside?

Thanks in advance!


1) Inner Sea World Guide - 4 page entry. Into the Darklands - 64 pages long. YES!!

2) The maps show the various levels of the Darklands, with a map of the Inner Sea region overlaid, which has dots showing the entrances, as well as markings of places of note in the Darklands.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I would just add that this is an ultra-cool book. What Gregg H. said above is right on the money. I would like to see more of its elements explored in APs, scenarios and modules.


Nice, thanks guys (especially Kajehase). Sounds like this is a bargain I can't afford to pass up!

Shadow Lodge

I want to run a Darklands campaign, I take it that even though this is 3.5, it is very useful?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Oh, yeah, it is. Just kind of wish it had a little more specific details, but other than that, most of the stuff in it has been updated in other products (such as the Underfhan being in the 2nd Bestiary), and its good overall of explaining both the feel of a Darklands campaign, and the maps are (as far as I can tell) up to date and accurate still...


do they have a statblock for the grimlock in this book ?

Contributor

There is not, though you can get the 3.5 version of the Grimlock right here at d20srd.org.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Or: use morlocks from the Bestiary. They're what we use instead of grimlocks these days.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Sorry to necro an old thread but, would this book be the original to the Darklands Revisited?


H2Osw wrote:
Sorry to necro an old thread but, would this book be the original to the Darklands Revisited?

Not really.

This book gives an overview of the geography, adventure sites/hooks, civilisations and such of the Darklands.
Also, it was released at around the time when Paizo was switching from 3.5E rules to Pathfinder itself (or then abouts). So there may be a few details that might have changed since then, as well as some rules that mmight need updating...

The Darklands Revisited book that's just been released is part of the Revisited line, which deals with a selection of 10 monsters/races and then does "ecology-style" chapters on each (complete with a statted example). Of course, new information about specific places or aspects of the Darklands might be mentioned, but only in context of the races/monsters featured.

TL;DR:

  • Into the Darklands = setting specific information (geography, civilisations, monsters, etc).*
  • Darklands Revisted = specific ecology/society information on 10 Darklands races/monsters.
*Caveat: Some ideas may no longer be current.

Hope that helps.

BTW Into the Darklands is a good book!

Carry on!

--C.

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