The Azathyr - Background and Lore.   Posted by Lurker in the Darkness.Group: 0
Lurker in the Darkness
 GM, 2 posts
Fri 14 Apr 2017
at 05:51
The Azathyr - Background and Lore
The drow call this entire region of the underworld
the Azathyr (pronounced ah-zah-theer rhymes with
fear). It means web, so named for its many labyrinthine
passages. The Azathyr is vast. These upper reaches
are only a small part of that dominion. And yet they
are critical enough to warrant watching. Thus was a
small outpost on the very edge of drow influence built
here many years ago. This is Vothys.

Vothys (pronounced VAH-this) is a minor outpost
of the drow city-state of Taaryssia (pro. TAH-rissia).
It controls access to the lower regions. It secures the
entire area including the vast Fungal Jungle. It ensures
that neither the deep gnomes nor anyone else can infiltrate
the drow holdings beyond. And yet absolutely
no drow wants to be here. The most remote and forgotten
installation of the drow empire, to be stationed
at Vothys is to be banished here.

Players in the Throne of Night adventure path begin the game in Vothys.
Lurker in the Darkness
 GM, 5 posts
Fri 14 Apr 2017
at 22:07
The Azathyr - Background and Lore
Traveling Through the Underworld

This campaign is set in a massive underground region
known as the Azathyr of which only a portion
is detailed here.

Travel is slow

Each hex represents a vast amount of space. A hex
is eight miles across or approximately 55 square miles.
Caverns, with their shifting elevations, winding indirect
passages and ease of getting lost always count as
difficult terrain for overland travel unless everyone in
a party has a climb speed and is native to the underworld.
That means that a dwarf party with an average
movement of 20 ft. will traverse one hex a day. Small
parties of unarmored drow could manage one and a
half hexes, but even one armored individual with them
slows them down to again one a day. And larger bands
have little hope of traveling more than one hex a day.

Every hex you traverse takes a full day of travel. The
passages of the underworld are not level, and while
some are more difficult than others, this simplification
better approximates average travel times. Even in the
comparative wide open spaces of the fungal jungle,
this rule still holds. The floor of that vast cavern is
anything but flat and the giant mushrooms that grow
everywhere can be slow to circumnavigate.

Three passages are shown on the hex map above.

Major Passages (double line): These wide passages
are consistently twenty feet across or even wider. Huge
creatures can pass without issue.

Secondary Passages (single line): The passages are
ten feet across. Large creatures can pass without issue.

Minor Passages (dotted line): These passages are traversable
by medium sized creatures but often only just.
Often not level, travel times are doubled. Large creatures
and wagon caravans cannot take them.

This is A World without the Sun

Darkness is the norm in the Azathyr and everything
down here has adapted to that fact. Anyone without
darkvision (or similar non-light based senses) is at a
serious disadvantage. Using fire or magical light attracts
every sort of predator and signals to intelligent
opposition that you are outsiders. Most enemies will
use magic to counter magical light and try to extinguish
torches and lanterns, realizing that such blindness
creates serious problems for their enemies.

Water is Not a Problem

The Azathyr is located beneath a great forest and
water filters down through the cave almost everywhere.
Many cave walls are wet. Water drips and small
pools are the norm. This water is largely fresh and fine
to drink. In short, water is not a problem unless specifically
noted.

Food is a Problem

Every living thing in the Azathyr struggles to find
enough food. Starvation is a constant threat and even
in the sprawling fungal jungle, food is not easy to acquire.
Many of the mushroom that grow there are either
not very nutritious or genuinely poisonous. Randomly
eating mushrooms is surely asking to die.

That said the staple diet of the underworld is the
mushroom. About a hundred different varieties of
mushrooms are commonly eaten in the Azathyr from
the common button to fire-caps to yellow frills and
brown-heads. These mushrooms are consumed by
almost every inhabitant of this region and provide a
solid base for their diet. These mushrooms consume
everything that dies underground. In the case of the
fungal jungle that great cavern was once a sprawling
bat cave before it got sealed up by seismic activity millennia
ago. The mushrooms thrive on ancient guano
hills that are in places hundreds of feet deep.

Further, the giant mushrooms of the fungal jungle
(and the deep gnomes’ mushroom fields) produce
spores in such vast quality that they can be collected
and milled into a sort of flour that can be baked into
spongy grey bread known in undercommon as veska
or mushcakes in the common tongue. Mushcake is
hardy and nutritious but has an earthy flavor that is
definitely an acquired tasted for surface dwellers.

There are even species of mushrooms that can be
brewed into sweet wort. That wort can be fermented
into beer. These “black beers” are very alcoholic and
dark in coloration. Their flavor closely resembles an
oatmeal stout - malty, sweet and perhaps slightly bitter.
They have a unique musky aroma that those born
on the surface sometimes find off-putting. But the
Azathyrians themselves relish these black brews and
every race proudly brews their own variation.

Black beer can be further distilled into a hard liquor.
These home-made “shines” are made a thousand different
ways. However, if you triple distill the beer, you
end up with night whisky. This powerful stuff is black
as ink and, if well-made, smooth as silk. The finest
night whisky comes from the drow city of Taaryssia.
The drow sometimes lace their whiskey with powerful
hallucinogenic extracts.

But as nourishing as mushrooms are, most species
of the Azathyr also need animal protein. The deep
gnomes raise eyeless cave fish in their stock lake. Here
is the secret to eating them – they must be eaten raw
and whole. By eating them this way, the valuable vitamin
C in their organs is not destroyed by cooking.
Of course, the svirfneblin do not understand why this
works. They simply relish a small cave fish quickly
scaled, soaked overnight in a peppery-salty-sweet
candycap vinegar brine and eaten whole the next day.
Needless to say, surface dwellers often consider this
‘delicacy’ revolting.

The fungal jungle also supports lizards, salamanders,
cave crickets and pteranodons all of which may
be eaten. But most prized of all, and very rare, are the
cave auroch. It was likely the duergar who originally
bred this species of miniature cattle for the depths.
Whatever the source, these cattle are often treated as
more valuable than gold. They graze on mushrooms
and produce meat, leather, milk and beef tallow just to
name a few. Wild herds are very rare, but a large free
herd does yet wander the fungal jungle. This valuable
resource as yet remains unclaimed.

Food imported from the surface is eagerly sought
and ludicrously expensive when you can get it at all.
Honey, wine and dried fruits and meats are particularly
valued and fetch at least five times their surface
cost.

There is No Weather

The Azathyr is a fairly constant 60 F/16 C. Certain
areas are warmed due to geothermal activity and
those will be noted. But for most areas there is nothing
equivalent to surface weather. It is always dark, damp
and cool. Most dwellers here like it this way.

Wood is Scarce

Another surface commodity that the PCs may take
for granted is wood. Wood is a precious and rare commodity
that must be imported from above. Wood
items are rarely available for sale at all, but when they
are they usually fetch ten times their list.

However, the inhabitants of the Azathyr have
learned to make due. Giant mushrooms stalks can be
cut into fibrous planks. If these planks are dried and
kilned at a low temperature, they become hard as pine
wood. This “grey wood” is commonly used in everthing
from crossbow quarrels to wagon wheels. Mechanically,
it has no difference from normal wood. It
is unquestionably inferior to good hardwood however,
particularly in terms of longevity.

Metal and Stone are not Scarce

The Azathyr is blessed with rich deposits of iron
and marble. Items surface dweller would never dream
making out of such materials commonly are in the
underworld. For example on the surface, hammers always
have wooden hafts. In the Azathyr, hammers are
often entirely metal perhaps wrapped with leather to
avoid conducting heat.

Another example – every gnome peasant in Fasturvalt
lives in a house made of carved marble. This is
not because of the beauty and opulence of the stone
(though it is lovely). Instead, this is because marble is
easily acquired from the nearby quarry and the svirfneblin
are masters at working it.

The Azathyr is a Wild and Lawless Place

There is no central government in the Azathyr. No
great empire unites the disparate peoples of this region.
When you leave a town or city, you are on your
own. Even the so-called Gnome King’s Highway that
connects to great svirfneblin cities outside of the Azathyr
is not routinely patrolled.

This anarchy has two effects upon almost anyone
the PCs meet for the first time. First, strangers are always
regarded with suspicion and caution. Weapons
are kept at hand and a fight is expected. Second, people
who don’t want a fight are often very polite and
formal in their speech. They know that a single slight
could start a deadly battle and so they seek to head off
such confrontations by being pleasant.

The closest thing that there is to a central power
is the drow vault of Taaryssia. It is very distant from
where the PCs begin the campaign and the drow are
disinterested rulers. Almost all of the Azathyr is a wilderness.
Perhaps it will be the PCs who will change
that and bring law to this sunless borderland.