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The Darklands

Brooding deep beneath Golarion lies another world, a dark mirror giving broken ref lections of the surface above. These endless caverns are called the Darklands in children’s tales or around campfires—or at the council tables of dwarven war chieftains and elven inquisitors. To the folk who live in the lands below they go by many names: Nar-Voth, Sekamina, Orv, the Vaults, Cold Hell, Evernight, the Hunting Grounds, or simply Home. While many races live there and even thrive in its harsh environs, those that are aware of a surface realm universally lust after its resources, soft living, and prey so abundantly available, while at the same time cursing its burning sunlight, mysterious weather patterns, and the agoraphobic openness that is anathema to most Darklands races. The inevitable result is a deadly animosity to any surface-world visitors daring to descend into the night below, into a world where even the air one breathes or the ground one walks upon can kill. Such are the dangers facing anyone daring to venture into the Darklands.

The Darklands are an immense series of caverns, vaults and passages under the surface of Golarion. While entrances to the Darklands can be found throughout the world, it is not common for travelers to venture into the almost universally unsafe depths, making the subterranean realm almost a world unto itself.


Layers

The Darklands can be divided into three distinct layers, each with their own characteristics, inhabitants and hazards.

Nar-Voth

Narvoth is the uppermost of the three regions—the “wilderness” of the Darklands. Most explorers of the Darklands are only familiar with this region. It is mostly composed of a series of cave networks connected by lengthy twisting tunnels. For a cave network to be considered part of this region, there must be a connection to the region of Sekamina below.

Sekamina

Below Nar-Voth lies the largest realm—Sekamina. This region consists of a vast underground warren of tunnels that span continents. Found here are also great underground rivers and lakes. Most of the entrances to Sekamina require traveling through Nar-Voth first, but it is believed there are exceptions.

Orv

The deepest realm of the Darklands is the mysterious and dangerous layer of Orv. Here, many immense caverns known as vaults host a wide array of underground oceans, caverns with jungles and artificial suns, entire nations of warmongering humanoids, and regions containing mountain ranges and vast deserts but deep under the earth. Typically the denizens of the upper Darklands think of the vaults with the same sense of fear and wonder that surface folk do for them, thus only the absolute bravest of adventurers ever seeks out these deep subterranean worlds.


Entrances to the Darklands

Just because a cavern or dungeon is deep does not mean that it is part of the Darklands. Most such places are simply natural or artificial caves that connect only to the surface and do not delve any deeper. In order to truly qualify, an underground location must possess connections to the greater system of tunnels and caverns of Nar-Voth or Sekamina. These entrances range from the once great dwarven Sky Citadels to the infamous Pit of Gormuz and aren’t always as obvious as one might suspect.


Inhabitants

The Darklands play host to a wide array of creatures, both intelligent and civilized as well as savage and primal, as does the surface world. Throughout the three layers that make up the subterranean domain one can find any number of settlements which rival their above-ground counterparts. Most of these are in the upper layers of Nar Voth and Sekamina, but even the most deadly vaults of Orv are teeming with life.

The ‘civilized’ races that inhabit Nar-Voth include duergar, mongrelmen, troglodytes, and derro. Most of these races are relatively isolated, tribal, or small with the exception of the duergar who occupy a number of abandoned pre-existing dwarf cities.

In Sekamina are found grimlocks, ghouls, vegepygmies, aboleth-thrall skum, morlocks, serpentfolk, svirfneblin, and drow. Despite the wide variety of humanoid races living here, the drow tend to be in control of a large portion of Sekamina.

Inhabiting Orv are neothelids, urdefhan, intellect devourers, gugs, gore weavers, and umbral dragons. Most of these creatures are isolated to specific vaults, but the urdefhans can be found in many places.


Darklands Hazards

The Darklands are a dangerous place, a fact to which anyone who has ever journeyed there can easily attest. This is partially due to the fact that compared with the surface world, food sources are extremely scarce there. This makes the competition for those sources that do exist that much more intense. Perhaps because of this, the creatures and inhabitants of the Darklands, all up and down the food chain, are quite deadly. In addition to the obvious threats presented by deadly predators, insatiable scavengers, and diabolical ambushers, there are the more mundane, but nevertheless lethal, hazards of the Darklands.

Air

Most of the air found below is safe to breathe, if a little stale. In areas blocked off by tunnel collapses or water, or near sources of noxious gases, however, it can become dangerous to travelers. The air near large magma flows can be quite caustic, and poisonous gases like carbauxine or quickdeath can lead to an even quicker demise.


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