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2/03/2013

Underworld Lore

underworld-lore
“What race or races had built the original maze no one knew. It seemed, in the opinion of the sages and magicians of the time, that there must have been many layers of dungeons and underworlds laid down, one atop the other, as the world crust was formed, so that now no one knew, or even guessed, how many levels it extended below the surface.”
- From The Maze of Peril by John Eric Holmes
What would one expect to find in a book of Underworld lore? I would think it would contain several or all of these things:
  • A theory/interpretation of the D&D Underworld (see below)
  • Examples of Underworld strata (i.e. dungeon levels) that illustrate what this region is like (a) near the surface, (b) somewhat further down, and (c) drastically deeper.
  • Descriptions of native fungi, molds, jellies, and oozes
  • Descriptions of inhabitants and their activities
  • Examples of imprisoned powers
  • Random tables of weird goings-on
  • Survival tips
My own take on the Underworld is heavily informed by the musings of Philotomy. The “Mythic Underworld” he describes is a kind of descent into madness. The deeper one travels, the more peculiar and unearthly this subterranean realm becomes. The megadungeon provides its own raison d’etre and has no obligation to reason or Law. This is the antithesis of Gygaxian Naturalism. Call it Holmesian Unnaturalism: The gradual dissolution of surface-world logic in the Underworld cauldron of magical thinking.

A great literary example of exactly this sort of subterranean milieu: Margaret St. Claire’s The Shadow People.
“I kept on eating atter-corn. There was really nothing else for me to eat, unless I wanted to fight one of the elves for the poor loot he had brought from Upper Earth. The meal is not only a potent hallucinogen, it is also extraordinarily nutritious and sustaining, though its exclusive ingestion gives rise to long-term deficiencies.”
- From The Shadow People by Margaret St. Claire
I think it would be worthwhile to congeal all these ideas into a single resource. Would something like this be of value to the old school community? I can’t guarantee the project would ever see the light of day, naturally. But I’m curious to read your thoughts on this.

9 comments:

  1. Yes. A detailed account of Holmesian Unnaturalism (great name!) would be invaluable and fascinating. Also, that would be a great cover.

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  2. Wow, I saw the picture and was getting my credit card out when I realized this isn't available...yet!

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  3. Yes very much! It could be a great combo with the Dungeon Alphabet.

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