This week has seen a lot of 2e reading, which is good because it was past due.

I don’t really know where to begin, I guess I owe a lot of it to our current D&D campaign which picked up again about a month ago. Without that, I wouldn’t have been inspired to read so much about the Underdark.

My first edition of D&D was 3e. I know the most about that, and I own the most hardbacks from that edition. When 4e was announced, I didn’t intend to go forward. Much of this blog is a testament to my ultimate decision to do otherwise.

Toward the end of 4e’s lifespan, I began doing lots of reading into 1e — I think a lot of people were about then, notably WotC, and once again I had no real intentions of moving on to 5e. Oh, how history repeats itself… albeit with a twist.

Much as my group eventually did move on to 5e, we didn’t accept the move to Forgotten Realms. I’ve played in the Realms. It’s fine. But not again. I did that in 3e. It’s where I cut my teeth. Our group has a setting.

And so I went about adapting Rage of the Abyss: Out of Demons. Or whatever. It’s two bland names bashed together like WotC couldn’t decide between vanilla and French vanilla ice cream.

Man, though… my reading of the adventure? I’m like, sighing through this whole thing. Demogorgon, man? Come on, we killed him back at the end of 3e! What’s he doing back here again. Orcus coming back again, I get. He’s like a bad joke. And Vecna is like, the god of coming back from the dead. (Sometimes literally.)

I know Rage of Demons is supposed to be like the “Greatest Hits” version of the demon lords, but the premise is like… “we couldn’t decide who the villain was supposed to be, Lolth, or one of these demon lords.”

It smacks of the same problems in Princes of the Apocalypse: there’s no one cohesive villain like in Temple of Elemental Evil.

See, Zuggtmoy thought worshiping something as vague and superficial as “elemental evil” would go over better with humans (and evil humanoids) than fungi, so she engineered this fake cult… and what do you know, it worked out so well that Gondor called for aid.

But PotA is like, Elemental Prince Survivor. The final boss changes based on your actions throughout the adventure. A decade ago, I might have lauded a decision like that, but looking at it now, I see it as a cop-out.

Rage of Demons is little better.

And I wanted to do something better.

And that’s what sent me reading The Illithiad series and the Night Below series (plus a bit of a refresher on the Queen of the Spiders series).

I had an odd realization while I was plowing through all this material (plus whatever side-tracked me from time to time) … the Underdark is a campaign setting. I mean like, unto itself.

No matter how TSR or WotC has tried to rebrand the Underdark to each or any other campaign, the Underdark is indivisible — it might connect to any setting, but it remains itself.

It certainly isn’t treated that way, it’s far too valuable.

But that line of thought brought me to another weird realization, that while given product lines might have been discontinued, the effects of many adventures throughout different editions of D&D made a lasting mark — though not always as one might hope.

After skimming through Dawn of the Overmind, I can’t imagine why every single time WotC knocks out another Monster Manual with a mind flayer entry, they somehow fail to point out, as I like to put it:

“That time mind flayers tried to block out the sun, the players stole a spaceship and traveled to the mind flayer homeworld, fought a hyper-intelligent, psionic sandworm and followed up by slaying a mind flayer demigod, then polished off the adventure by detonating a psychic nuke to take out a primordial mind flayer abomination.”

I’m paraphrasing, but that kind of thing is awesome.

Anyway, all this brought me back to Night Below, which I hoped to borrow from a bit. It’s kind of too bad aboleths don’t feature more often, but I kind of get why they don’t. Some monsters though, it seems like they only got one great hurrah.

They show up from time to time, but how often do they get the spotlight? I mean, really get the spotlight. It’s such a shame. Meanwhile Orcus or Vecna gets brought back to life again. Sheesh.