Worldbuilding Power: Underground

Use Underground Realms in Character Development, Adventure Design, and Worldbuilding

The concept of an underground world comes straight out of the classic hero’s journey. The hero leaves home, descends into the underworld to be tested, and returns a changed person. It’s the part of the story where the challenges are faced, the glory is earned, and the treasures are acquired. Other mythologies portray realms under the earth to be the land of the dead, where souls go after a person dies. A lot of folklore, and quite a bit of fantasy fiction, depicts underground as the place where evil dwells.

For characters, underground realms are places of legend. Any adventurer worth their salt has descended into the earth to battle all manner of bizarre and terrifying creatures. There are stories of entire civilizations that have fled the light to dwell in darkness, carrying with them an abiding hatred of the surface world that shunned them. Parents frighten their children with tales of the monsters that come up from the deepest caverns, simply to eat naughty boys and girls who don’t finish their porridge.

Antagonists will find the underground to be a place of sanctuary and power. There will be allies there possessed of the same loose morals and twisted ethics. It may be that the underworld is their home, their point of origin, providing a metaphorical if simple explanation for their distorted views and baser desires.

Among common folk, the underworld will represent the unknown. As a place few have ventured, it will be a source of folklore, fear, and superstition. While there may be truth to what passes for common knowledge, it will likely be greatly distorted. The popular version of underground realms, for surface dwellers, will be rooted more in theme and motif than fact.

In this book, we’ll show you how to utilize the underground in your worldbuilding endeavors. You’ll see how it can influence character, setting, and story elements. By the end, you’ll understand how to better utilize underground realms as essential, useful, and entertaining parts of your campaign.

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