D&D 5E Out of the Abyss: Underdark as Favored Terrain

lyranedara

First Post
My group will be starting this campaign soon, and one of my players expressed interest in playing an Underdark Ranger. I was hesitant at first, due to the nature of the early segments of the module, but I thought I would see if anyone else has experienced this yet. Does it ruin the feeling of the early chapters, or has it been a non-issue?
 

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S

Sunseeker

Guest
This is sorta a loophole to making an Underdark PC race. Also, I'm a little concerned about the direction "Underdark Ranger" is going to go with that player of yours, will they also be a dual-scimitar-wielding Drow?

I like the idea that the player characters are not supposed to be familiar with the Underdark. That doesn't mean they can't be Underdark races, they just need a reason to not be very familiar with it, so I'd say no to getting to pick Underdark as a favored terrain. I'd also be cautious of if they ask for "caves", but I could see that working as the Underdark both is, and isn't a cave in the sense that surfacers deal with an interact with them.

Either way, I think any sort of familiarity with the Underdark is going to, by-and-large, create a lot of "rulings" situations where you're going to have to determine if the player's abilities are actually any use at all. I think the worst one is going to be the "can't get lost" in favored terrain.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
One of my players is an Underdark ranger.

What effect is it having?

1. They can move at a fast speed with no Perception problems since the ranger is always alert.

2. He casts goodberry to keep them nourished. They still have to find water, which is relatively easy given two of the characters have Outlander and the ranger can forage well in his favored terrain.

3. Difficult terrain doesn't have much of an effect on them. The party can generally move across spider webs and such at full speed. Not sure the rule was ever intended for this, but by the rule for terrain the ranger negates difficult terrain after spending an hour in the area.

Life is much easier with an Underdark ranger. I imagine it all depends on how important it is to you as a DM to create the feeling of being stranded in the Underdark. I didn't feel it was very important. I like the idea of having characters tied to the Underdark with reasons for being there other than imprisonment. Most of my party is drow. They have business in Menzoberanzzan other than what is listed in the module.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Sounds Celtavian is almost running a completely different scenario (the part before chapter 8 anyway).

I would suggest that if you want the "standard" experience, Lyranedara, don't have any PC familiar with the Underdark.

At least for that crucial first part (before Sloobludop) when the tone of the campaign is set.

One of my characters is planning to multiclass into ranger sometime after level 3 (I think) - I will have no objections if he want to choose Underdark for his ranger at that time!

The secret is that the first few time you have an "underdark scare" (being lost, going hungry, and so on) it's new and exciting. After that, not so much. As PCs level up, it's more than okay to let the scenery slide into the background.

So, try to reason with your players. Ask them to resist the temptation to start out with underdark-savvy PCs. The campaign will be better for it. And they can always add in familiarity with Underdark later on, after the initial impression has been made!
 

psychophipps

Explorer
Was this before or after you mentioned, or they searched the internet, the campaign was going to be in the Underdark? If it was after, I would definitely have a discussion with that player about metagaming and how it can ruin the tone of the adventure.
 

lyranedara

First Post
First, I wanted to thank all of you for your insights! And now for more details about my current situation. He wants to go Level 1 Fighter - Great Weapon Style, and then into Ranger. We've never played in the Underdark before, so I was also a fan of playing up the alien and survival elements, at least at first. I figure the Faerzress would probably count as a means to get lost, so I wasn't so worried about that part. I definitely didn't want them to feel at home in the Underdark though. It seems like delaying his multi-classing slightly might be a good compromise. He was was aware of the issues he was creating with his choices when he approached me about them. He's my worst metagaming, munchkin by-far, but he's aware of his tendencies, and is generally willing to go with what's best for the group.
 

lyranedara

First Post
I talked it over with him this evening, and we came to the conclusion that Favored Terrain is really meant to be a "sometimes" thing. We decided to go with the named regions of the Underdark as the different places he could use as his Terrain. As he levels up, he'll be able to add new regions to his list. We talked it over with the rest of the party, and they were cool with it as well.
 

Neorealist

First Post
I find the benefits of Favored Terrain to be situational at best even if it's 'always on' so to speak.

I am currently playing a deep gnome ranger with the outlander background who has Underdark selected for Favoured Terrain in the current season of adventure league. I haven't found it to be too powerful in the slightest, in truth other than the: 'oh, we can move at a normal pace because the ranger has it covered' alertness-and-foraging-wise; the other features haven't actually come up much at all.

The only real consideration I worked out with the DM beforehand is that my PC was kidnapped from their home area and magically transported to the new area with no real idea of the intervening distance/locations; and is therefore just as lost as the rest of the PCs. Made sense to me and it was an easy fix that did not involve banning the combination.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I talked it over with him this evening, and we came to the conclusion that Favored Terrain is really meant to be a "sometimes" thing. We decided to go with the named regions of the Underdark as the different places he could use as his Terrain. As he levels up, he'll be able to add new regions to his list. We talked it over with the rest of the party, and they were cool with it as well.
I wouldn't worry about the "always on" thing. It's not that a Ranger is so overpowered that always being in favored terrain breaks the game. In fact, the Ranger is struggling enough as it is. I wouldn't mess with different regions.

Just make sure you play a couple of sessions before anyone gets familiarity with the terrain, so the rules on terrain, survival, food and drink, and Drow pursuit isn't short-circuited before the Underdark has had a proper chance at awing the players! :)
 

Uchawi

First Post
The flaw in my opinion by the developers was allowing the ranger to have a broad category like the underdark, where instead you would just apply a subset of above ground terrains to underground, like coast (water), desert (barren caves), mountain (spelunking), or forest (underground vegetation).
 

CapnZapp

Legend
The flaw in my opinion by the developers was allowing the ranger to have a broad category like the underdark, where instead you would just apply a subset of above ground terrains to underground, like coast (water), desert (barren caves), mountain (spelunking), or forest (underground vegetation).
Well, not really, since for most campaigns "Underdark" is a very niche terrain that gets used only in one or two scenarios during the mid levels of your character.

For Out of the Abyss it's a whole other ballgame. There your suggestion makes a lot of sense.

But that doesn't make the dev decision a flaw in general. If there is to be a flaw, it is how OotA neglects to make your suggestion a rule for that specific campaign!

:)
 

DMCF

First Post
I find the benefits of Favored Terrain to be situational at best even if it's 'always on' so to speak.

I am currently playing a deep gnome ranger with the outlander background who has Underdark selected for Favoured Terrain in the current season of adventure league. I haven't found it to be too powerful in the slightest, in truth other than the: 'oh, we can move at a normal pace because the ranger has it covered' alertness-and-foraging-wise; the other features haven't actually come up much at all.

The only real consideration I worked out with the DM beforehand is that my PC was kidnapped from their home area and magically transported to the new area with no real idea of the intervening distance/locations; and is therefore just as lost as the rest of the PCs. Made sense to me and it was an easy fix that did not involve banning the combination.

I don't know what your DM shared with you or how close to the book he is staying so I won't spoil anything. As written; travel speed has a very large effect on a party's ability to survive in this module.
 

The Myopic Sniper

Adventurer
I just say let Natural Explorer applies to all terrains and let the Ranger be all Rangery... instead of "umm, guys, we have left the desert and are in the grasslands now, I can't help you forage as well since I am no longer in my preferred terrain" even if it has some basis in reality. I kind of wish the Favored Terrain concept had been used as a bonus or expanded spell concept instead like they did with Druids Circle of the Land, but I can see why they didn't want to reduplicate that feature in two classes. I think that more strongly represents differentiating an arctic ranger from a forest ranger more strongly than the Natural Explorer mechanic.
 


Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Tbh I always figured that the ranger would spend most of his time in his favored terrain and facing his favored enemy for the first few levels of a campaign. Because frankly if he isn't, then he's :):):):).
 

Uchawi

First Post
Well, not really, since for most campaigns "Underdark" is a very niche terrain that gets used only in one or two scenarios during the mid levels of your character.

For Out of the Abyss it's a whole other ballgame. There your suggestion makes a lot of sense.

But that doesn't make the dev decision a flaw in general. If there is to be a flaw, it is how OotA neglects to make your suggestion a rule for that specific campaign!

:)
I agree that sub-categorizing underdark to specific terrains in OoTA would address it. But that also implies it could be addressed for the overall game. It is not like the entire concept was alien when going into 5E by reviewing each edition and what is presented as terrains. It would favor the mountain terrain overall, with does not get a lot of use on the surface with is dominated by forest in most instances.
 

Neorealist

First Post
I don't know what your DM shared with you or how close to the book he is staying so I won't spoil anything. As written; travel speed has a very large effect on a party's ability to survive in this module.

I appreciate the spoiler-free reply. In response to your comment however: Doesn't a DM 'want' his or her party to survive their module, so wouldn't something that assists with that be a 'good' thing?
 

ehren37

Legend
I don't see a problem with a class that most consider on the weak end of the power curve, which was explicitly designed to trade combat prowess for exploration utility, actually gaining use out of said utility. This might be the one game where a ranger actually shines.
 

Gimul

Explorer
One of my players is an Underdark ranger.

What effect is it having?

1. They can move at a fast speed with no Perception problems since the ranger is always alert.

2. He casts goodberry to keep them nourished. They still have to find water, which is relatively easy given two of the characters have Outlander and the ranger can forage well in his favored terrain.

3. Difficult terrain doesn't have much of an effect on them. The party can generally move across spider webs and such at full speed. Not sure the rule was ever intended for this, but by the rule for terrain the ranger negates difficult terrain after spending an hour in the area.

Life is much easier with an Underdark ranger. I imagine it all depends on how important it is to you as a DM to create the feeling of being stranded in the Underdark. I didn't feel it was very important. I like the idea of having characters tied to the Underdark with reasons for being there other than imprisonment. Most of my party is drow. They have business in Menzoberanzzan other than what is listed in the module.
I'd say you are being overly generous if you allowing the party to traverse spiderwebs without penalty. Favored terrain doesn't grant webwalk (party wide no less); similarly a mountainous ranger isn't granted a climb speed, nor a coastal ranger a swimspeed.

It's one thing for knowledge of terrain to aid the party (follow this path, don't step here, mind the potholes, etc) it's quite another for it to grant what are essentially special physical abilities (webs don't stick to you, your feet/boots grip smooth surfaces, etc).

The baseline I use is normal, but difficult (wet, contains obstacles, uneven grading, etc) is affected; but terrain that requires an all together different mode of travel (climbing, web walking, swimming, flying, etc) are not. The existence of a specific trait/speed rule for something is a strong indicator favored terrain shouldn't handwave it away. #IMO #YMMV
 

discosoc

First Post
If I end up playing OotA, which I really don't want to because I think the theme is boring for a long-term campaign, I'd either want to do an underdark ranger or a demon warlock for the sake of making the best of that kind of setting. I sure as hell don't want to waste some of my more interesting character concepts on a campaign that won't care about them.
 

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