Friday, April 6, 2012

An Underdark Sandbox Campaign

I've been brewing about the idea of a sandbox game set in the Underdark for quite some time, but I'm just now getting to the point of gathering info and presenting it to my players. I actually ran something similar back in the 90's when we were playing 2nd edition and were all reading the Drizzt novels. My players and I were all middle and high school students, and all we knew was the Underdark through Drizzt's eyes. The party consisted of a drow fighter and a drow fighter/mage. Both of them were dual wielding (the fighter/mage had scimitars), and both of them had ties to the Do'Urden family. All we knew at the time was the Drizzt series, the Fiend Folio, and Drow of the Underdark. What can I say? We were fanboys in the worst sense.

But things changed over time. I haven't played D&D with the guys in that campaign in over ten years, and my drow reading list has expanded to include the War of the Spider Queen series, the Starlight and Shadows series, as well as 3rd and 4th edition sourcebooks on the drow and a handful of third party supplements. My favorite drow from Forgotten Realms fiction is now Pharaun rather than Drizzt. I still think it's a shame he died at the end of the War of the Spider Queen series. Needless to say, my horizons are much broader than that initial drow-focused campaign. I think I can do a much better job of it.

In any case, I would love to revisit the Underdark setting, not as an occasional visit in a typical campaign, but as the primary setting for the campaign itself. In the same spirit as (and perhaps drawing material directly from) the Night Below campaign setting, characters would need to find allies in the Underdark rather than just seeing everything that isn't a dwarf as an enemy.

My players already know that many of the Underdark races are my favorites, so seeing a steady supply of opponents such as these wouldn't be entirely out of the ordinary. However, there are many Underdark races that I have used very sparingly and that I would like to give a shot. Mind flayers, beholders, derro, and aboleth immediately jump to mind.

As far as sandbox settings go (I feel like I need to explain because I'm not sure my players are familiar with the term), this would not be a story-driven game. Rather, the game would begin with some sort of story hook to explain why they're together as a team, but thereafter the players themselves would be the movers and shakers of the campaign. The DM creates the setting but doesn't have a particular story line to follow, allowing the players to explore Morrowind/Oblivion/Skyrim-style and building the story as they go based on player actions.

Guys, what do you think?

Note: I'm sending this link to my players in order to get some feedback.


  1. One thing to make sure of is that alll of your players are up for the underground lifestyle. I tried to run an underdark sandbox a short time ago and one of the players didn't seem to be on the same page as everyone else and just kept trying to find way to get back to the surface and never return to the underdark.

    1. Indeed! That's part of the reason I wrote this post and sent the link to my players. I'm not sure how they'll react to the idea.

      That said, I also think it could be fun to run a "trapped in the Underdark and trying to get home" campaign, which I mentioned here a long time ago:

      Either way, this is really just a pitch to the players to see if they'd like it. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Funnily enough, I've been considering running something similar under Labyrinth Lord. Great minds, eh? I'll be watching this closely if it goes ahead. For... inspiration. Yeah.

  3. Hey all. I just put together an underdark campaign myself, full underground. Because u lose out on a bunch of core player races, ive substituted them with: drow, tiefling, duergar, illithid and minotaur. Goes without saying im using a bunch of house rules also. Stumbled across your message board while poking around for more campaign content ideas. As it stands, im building up to a githyanki invasion on the underdark. They are after the mines and the underdark already has a labor force ready to dig it up for them, once suitable convinced. :-)


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