It is not wise, tis said, to ask questions about the sidhe, the fairy folk of Irish legend. So be wise, and read this book instead! Starting with a story told by an old man to his grandson, of how his grandfather came across a gathering under a hill in a forest, and was able to party and dine with the remnants of an ancient race, it looks at an otherworldly location which can be dropped into any campaign setting where there are legends of 'fairies' - or indeed, any campaign setting... these legends have to start somewhere, and maybe your players will tell the first stories ever told of the sidhe in your world!
Described as a place of mystery, danger and dream, normal laws of nature do not apply in the realm of the sidhe. Home of the very last remnants of a dying, ancient race the Underhill Court is capable of moving around the world, always picking the middle of a dark forest in which to base itself. While the main adventure would come from an attempt to visit, the mere presence of the Court can cause a fair measure of disruption to the neighbourhood - perhaps your characters are investigating strange monsters in a new area, lights and sounds reported by the locals or even the dreadful passage of a Wild Hunt. Alternatively, they can come upon a grassy hill at night, with sounds of revelry and a brass-handled door improbably set into the side of the hill and just decide to knock...
The first chapter describes the nature of the sidhe and their home, complete with details of the appearance and motivations of some of the leading characters and groups you'll find there. Loads of atmospheric material to enable you to make the Underhill Court come alive in the minds of your players. Some of the background is information that even the sidhe are not privy to, material that may be of use to the DM in deciding what will happen and how things work. Perhaps an astute character will figure them out, perhaps not.
The second chapter examines the physical structure of the Court itself, detailed chamber by chamber so as to make it easy for the DM when his players come a-visiting. This is followed by a set of 'likely reactions' - how the sidhe are likely to respond depending on what the characters choose to do. Rather confusingly, these exist separate from the areas to which they apply, so it's well worth having read through them in enough detail so that you can have the sidhe respond appropriately as the characters visit each area.
Next comes a chapter on the 'Ecology of the Court' describing the day-to-day life of its inhabitants in a way that will make it easy to describe what is going on as if the characters have interrupted something that will be happening irrespective of their presence, rather than events that are only being detailed because they are there. There are also some magical items that may be found in the Court (although it's extremely unlikely that the sidhe would let anyone walk off with them...) and details of the monsters that are kept for the sidhe's entertainment in pit fighting. Unruly visitors may suffer the same fate!
Following on from this is a timeline showing the annual calendar of events in the Court's life. It is particularly concerned with the effect that the Court has on the area in which it is located, which will likely be the trigger that causes your players to want to investigate further (unless they come across the Court hill by chance one night of course).
Then there are some overview maps of the Court - although more detailed maps including ones suitable for printing out as battlemaps if you use them are provided in a 'Book of Maps' that is included in the download - and full statistics for the sidhe and other beings likely to be encountered. There are also some dialogue samples, giving an impression of the way in which some of the major players talk - for an adventure setting where the interactions and atmosphere are vitally important this is a nice touch.
Finally, there is a collection of plot hooks. As well as a couple of (fairly obvious) ways in which players could be encouraged to look for the Court, there is an extended idea in which the characters become embroiled in sidhe plotting and may have some interesting results to contend with!
Overall, this is very well presented, with a lot of very atmospheric detail crammed into a small space. There are a few careless errors, sloppy editing, that ought to have been caught before it got loose; but in general presentation is good with apposite illustrations and pieces of Irish-looking decoration. While the DM will need to do a fair bit of planning to make this all work well, the concepts are presented clearly and should give him a solid ground on which to base an adventure. Guess it's a pity my current adventurers are wandering through a swamp at the moment...
Update: In an unprecedented fast reaction, as soon as this review was published Dog Soul got in touch, asked what the trivial errors were and have already corrected them! The revised version should already be on RPG Now.
Return to The Underhill Court page.
Reviewed: 9 October 2005
Updated: 10 October 2005