Dog Soul Publishing's "The Underhill Court," written by Alexander Bennett with art by Cris Griffin and Jimmy "Dreadjim" Ling, is a 34-page supplement detailing a new adventure location. The Underhill Court is a fairy-like kingdom populated by the sidhe, an ancient race of warriors, artists and adventurers driven underground by battles with the fir bolg, the fomorians and a new race called the Milesians.
Now the sidhe reside in a magical place underneath a majestic hill. "The Underhill Court" provides a mini-setting that DMs can use in their current game, or, with the plot hooks provided, create an entire campaign around the sidhe and the court.
Game mechanic-wise, this supplement keeps things simple; the Underhill Court simply appears somewhere in the world, and lucky, or perhaps unlucky, adventurers might stumble across it. The court is only accessible at night. In fact, if caught inside the court when dawn breaks, adventurers would find themselves suddenly lying atop a green hill. (The entrance to the court cannot be found during daylight hours.)
NPCs are listed - the queen, the king and the jester of the Underhill Court - but even though they're introduced early in the supplement, their stats aren't given until near the end. This is a little frustrating as this format may work well with a print publication, but this is a .PDF document which doesn't allow for easy flipping-back-and-forth between pages. Other NPCs are detailed as well, including the most intriguing - Herne the Hunter, the dark side of the Underhill Courts king's personality given individual life. This bloodthirsty being is actually not a member of the Court itself as he is forbidden to enter the Underhill, cursed to haunt the world at large (and plague unsuspecting PCs!).
Descriptions of the various rooms (including a music room and a fighting pit) are detailed, and include 'read aloud' sections for the DM. These sections do run a bit long, though, some of them running even longer than the descriptions of the room themselves!
A magical kingdom is bound to contain magical items, and The Underhill Court provides a handful. The 'legacy sword' (a longsword +2) is especially creative; at the start of every day, a d100 is rolled, and based on the result, a table grants a class ability to the wielder for the next 24 hours (anything from the barbarian's ability to rage to the monk's flurry of blows, from the druid's wild empathy and woodland stride to the ranger's Rapid Shot or Two-Weapon Fighting - the sorcerer is absent, but spell-casting is represented by mention of the wizard). The other standout item is the 'book of secrets,' kept in the sidhe library under lock and key. Its pages numbering in the thousands, the book contains an alphabetic listing of every single sentient creature within 500 miles of the books' location. (If a creature leaves or enters the 500-mile radius, the book's pages change accordingly.) In addition to the names, each being's deepest secrets appear to be written, and read as if the creature him- or herself wrote them under their name in the book.
These are some powerful magic items, so this may have been why pricing (or even item creation) information was left out of the book. However, it would be nice to know how much the "outside world" would be willing to pay for something like a 'raven mask' or 'coin of ligg,' or any other sidhe-crafted item for that matter - I'd imagine that to the right people (collectors?), physical evidence of the sidhe would be quite valuable.
When the Underhill Court manifests itself, it has a definite impact on the land surrounding it. A timeline, complete with seasonal data, is provided, detailing this impact and further giving DMs information on how best to incorporate this setting into their ongoing games.
My favorite section appears in the final pages of this supplement. Writer Bennett provides sample dialogue from the main NPCs of the Underhill Court. With this, DMs can present the Jester's, King Auberon's or Herne the Hunter's voice with distinction. Also, a pronunciation guide is provided to help with some of the more archaic- or fantasy-based word-conventions. Finally, example male and female names for the sidhe are given.
"The Underhill Court" could easily have turned into a much larger supplement. Extra page length, though, would probably translate into extra cost, and in the world of RPG .PDF publishing, I understand the need to keep costs down in order to sell enough of these .pdfs to turn a profit. Unfortunately, I feel as if these need to keep costs down also cut down on some of the extra editing and proofing that would be required to make any .PDF truly stand out.
LIKED: A unique take on the sidhe
DISLIKED: Editing and layout