[The World Below] What do you do?

Garworms leaving a fertile zone in their wake

Matthew here once again, excavating more of The World Below!

Last week we examined the Dialectic Path of The World Below, being your attunement to the environment around you, reflected in many of your abilities and future powers accessible to you. I asked you to write in the comments what you wanted to see next, and the requests spanned “why do characters team up in this game?” to “tell us more about spirits” and a couple of requests in between. So let’s start with the basics:

What Do You Do?

The World Below is a game of exploration, discovery, danger, and survival. Your characters don’t choose to live in their subterranean domain, but must make the best of their arduous situation, sometimes unearthing wonders that improve their lives and the lives of those around them, sometimes kicking a nest of ferocious spiders that’ll devour them and all their friends while they’re sleeping (if the spiders are feeling merciful.

But what do you do in a game like this?

Over on RPGnet I was asked the same question, and here’s how I answered:

Player characters are people part of the few communities and settlements dotted throughout the World Below. Some will have ancestrally descended from those who made the exodus beneath the surface, others can certainly be part of the indigenous cultures of the World Below.

The World Below’s a game of exploration, discovery, and survival. Therefore, your characters are individuals equipped to map the Vast Underneath, unearth treasures, lost colonies, and safe habitats, drive back threatening monsters, and potentially come to peaceful accord with other peoples and settlements.

Each character possesses a Dawn, speaking to their settlement, their ancestry, their dogma, and their guild. These aspects define where they’re from, their beliefs, what their objectives are, and the kinds of natural talents they possess.

Each character possesses a Dialectic, speaking to their attunement to the World Below, the gifts you wield as a result of your inhabiting this hostile, but magical world.

Each character possesses a Calling – the six in the core game are the Alchemist, the Farsighter, the Holy, the Hunter, the Kaosist, and the Silhouette – and they influence the way you conduct yourself, your “professional” abilities, and the Sorceries you can tap into (each Sorcery having a flavor tied to the kind of Calling, i.e., the Hunter has Sorceries that assist them in hunting, combat, resource acquisition, and harvesting).

To get really basic, a few typical stories might include:

  • Searching for a lost expedition in tunnels partly sealed up in a recent Kaos storm. Defeat beasts, excavate new passages, try and find survivors, and get them home.
  • Exploring a settlement that suffered some kind of kaotic anomaly, such as mutating its inhabitants or making them disappear. This kind of “necropolis” adventure would be like a city dungeon crawl, with treasures you could theoretically loot, monsters to kill, mysteries to solve, etc.
  • Your own settlement, guild, or temple is in dire need of resource X in Y cave, meaning you have to venture out and fetch it before the next Kalm season, when the Kaos storms rage. A race against the clock to get this McGuffin and get back in time.

There are a lot of deeper campaigns you can embark upon, such as trying to wrest power from the Well, where Kaos seems at its strongest (consider that like a mega-adventure in the D&D style, but with more political and philosophical overtones, if you want to explore them), or trying to map and explore some of the more alien phenomena-stricken parts of the World Below, such as those in the Dark, the Abyss, or the Fade (consider those like planar adventures, in a D&D sense).

In terms of why a group of characters might work together, the simplest answer is “survival,” but I feel that narratively, it’s a limiting approach. Comradeship, a desire to explore the same place, a wish to strengthen your community, guild, temple, or of course, enrich yourselves, or maybe even set up your own settlement somewhere out there in the dark are all perfectly reasonable ideas for working together!

What it comes down to most of all is personal relationships. The example characters in The World Below are Xayens (a Plutonic Hunter-Templar), Luk (an Adamas Hobgob Silhouette), Dierdra Thinscale (a Fortunate Holy of the Qeobaca), Cevin Blackleg (a Warmed Elemental Kaosist), and Trylyn (a Wandering Myceli Farsighter). Why do they form a pack? 

Well, Xayens, Cevin, and Dierdra have a bond, as they’re both from the settlement of Telver’s Hearth and maybe even grew up together. Luk and Trylyn appreciate each other for their sense of humour, especially in times of crisis and peril, and gravitate toward each other for morale reasons. Cevin and Luk are in the same guild – the Union of Cartographers and Stratigraphers – meaning they have a professional or academic relationship. Luk and Dierda also share the same faith, as both worship Fortuna. 

So all of that explains why they know each other, but does it motivate them to leave the safety of the cave and go exploring together? I’d say maybe, and add to that that not every player character needs to be the focus of every campaign, so perhaps in the first scenario, a crew from the Union went missing trying to unearth a Fortuna shrine somewhere on the edge of the Dark. Immediately there’s buy-in from the player characters who share that guild and that faith, and any others will want to support their friends and companions. In the next story, perhaps Telver’s Hearth is under threat, and a debt of friendship needs to be repaid.

Naturally, threats and motivators can be existential. Whether it’s the promise of treasure and new wonders, or the looming danger of a migrating haemexii hive, such things can make comrades of us all in The World Below. There’s a lot of darkness between where you and and where you want to go, and if you’re swinging a sword you’ll need someone to hold up the lamp so you know where to chop.

We’ll move on to spirits in next week’s blog. Thank you so much for following along!

Please continue to tell us what you want to hear about and see of The World Below! And please share these blogs. Post about them, message them to your roleplayer friends, and discuss what you want to do with this game! 






10 responses to “[The World Below] What do you do?”

  1. Nicolas Avatar

    Amazing preview Matthew

    Say,can I have characters with the Holy Calling with a Buddhist-inspired aesthetic? Think Virgo Shaka from Saint Seiya

    1. Matthew Dawkins Avatar

      There’s nothing stopping you creating your own faiths or transposing them from other games or our world, if you want.

      If you were going for a Buddhist-inspired character, I’d probably build them like this:

      Dawn: Zilenzian Faceless elv of the Union of Cartographers and Stratigraphers.
      Dialectic: Scarab
      Calling: Holy

      Zilens is a community with a monastic quality, the Faceless are a charitable and merciful faith, the elvkin have a tendency toward introspection and deep thought, and the Union like exploring.

      Scarabs benefit from insectlike Syntheses, allowing them to walk up walls, spin silk, and speak to bugs.

      Holies are our priests and monks, dedicated to healing, protection, and judgement.

      I hope this helps!

      1. Nicolas Avatar

        It helps a great deal buddy!
        Looking forward to more previews and the eventual crowdfunding campaign 🙂

  2. Chris jones Avatar
    Chris jones

    Looks good, and that you could easily pull together a longer chronicle from those various setups and communities.

    In terms of other things I’m interested to see, I’m curious if there is a political structure down below. Clearly there are faiths, but how do they interact, and who runs the communities, and what laws (if any) do they follow!

    1. Matthew Dawkins Avatar

      There are indeed various political hierarchies and structures in the World Below. I’ll have to preview them in an upcoming blog.

  3. Pineapple ? Avatar
    Pineapple ?

    My apologies if this has already been asked or answered.

    What are my options for raising a personal army of random creatures/mobile fungus/mechanical entities/sentient rocks? Must I be very charming and persuasive, or can I collect minions from the bestiary with a pocket full of specific snacks?

    1. Matthew Dawkins Avatar

      Well there are certainly several spore and fungi based powers in the game. Whether you can recruit an army depends entirely on how effective you are at appealing to your fungal peers.

      1. Pineapple ? Avatar
        Pineapple ?

        Mmmm yes, cordyceps wrecking crew. Perfect. Little mushrooms wielding tiny knives and chemical warfare.

  4. Ismael Alves Avatar
    Ismael Alves

    Hi,what’s the setting of the game? Medieval, modern or something else? Pretty interesting, congrats and thanks in advance for the explanation!

    1. Matthew Dawkins Avatar

      I’d class it as feeling like a cross between mediaeval and renaissance in parts (rough living, superstition, tentative technology and science awareness) with some fairly modern political structures embedded in various settlements (there are signs of simple democracies, syndicates, even some socialist principles, depending on where you are.