Ravenloft Affiliations: Dark Delvers



Jun 18, 2007 5:12:53
I'm updating 2nd-edition Ravenloft to 3.5 (rebooting it from the 735). I want to introduce the affiliation options from Player's Handbook II 163 (imagine how cool it would be to have definitive membership in the Keepers of the Black Feather or the Deep Delvers?!) and would like some feedback. The text is lifted (and reordered) directly from Cryptic Allegiances

Also, any ideas on what the Hated Mother might be? Demon? Devil? Evil elemental? Demigod?

Dark Delvers

Background, Goals, and Dreams: The first Dark Delver, an unknown and unnamed man, dreamed on night of the hated mother. He saw her calling to him, her sinuous arms urging him forward. She spoke in a secret language, full of urgency and supernatural power. When he awoke, he was fluent in this mysterious language, which he called the mother’s tongue.
Dark Delver legend has it that he explored the caves and tunnels beneath an unknown mountain, obsessed with the idea of finding the hated mother and learning all her secrets. He convinced a few others to help him, in exchange for sharing the power that he knew would soon be his. According to the stories, the first, nameless Dark Delver explored a previously undiscovered cave and found the way to the hated mother. He stole from her the secrets of her power, but she caught him and devoured his body and spirit.
The Dark Delvers believe that all supernatural power flows from the hated mother up through the earth and into the creatures of the land. Those creatures that live underground are closer to the mother and therefore inherit more of her power. The farther underground a creature lives, the more powerful it seems to be, further supporting their theory.
The Dark Delvers tend to use the themes of earth and water in everything. Since water is found in plentiful supply deep underground, obviously water is a source of subterranean power. Finding a new underground river is very exciting for a Dark Delver.
As a member rises in the ranks, he learns of the hated mother. He is also initiated in the ways of the dark passages. These are known tunnels that supposedly lead to the hated mother. In truth, they are tunnels and caverns that have not been fully explored. Any cave or tunnel that is a dead end is a false passage. By definition, all others are dark passages.
The goal known to the common member of this society is to discovered buried secrets. The implied assumption is that true power is to be found deep underground. Things live there that know secrets hidden from mankind.
In particular, they search the domains of Arak and Bluetspur. These mighty mountains domains must surely contain a passage down to the lowest depths of the world. Of course, few explorers in these places ever return to report their findings.
Members: All members of this secret society have a fascination with things subterranean. They are always looking for new caves or for ways to further explore old ones. Secret underground passages are particularly exciting to them. The Dark Delvers meet in dungeons, cellars, or case.
There are four layers to the Dark Delver secret society: niches, fissures, pits, and the abyss. Each layer is composed of from three to ten members. It is rare for more than that many people in any given area to know of the society and be interested in joining. There are fewer than 750 members of the Dark Delvers throughout the lands of the core. The leader of each layer is in turn a member of the next later. This pyramid effect ends with the members of the abyss. The leader of the abyss is known as the loathsome consort.
Members can leave a niche safely, relinquishing their membership in the secret society. In the eyes of the members of the abyss, nothing of any importance is learned in a niche. These low-level members are merely agents to be used to attain the ultimate goal. However, is such an agent starts to spread the word that the society exists, he may find himself at the bottom of a dark pit – permanently.
Any member who leaves a fissure is killed on sight, but they are not important enough to hunt down. As long as they go away and don’t talk, they are safe. Members of a pit or the abyss can never abandon the society. If they try to do so, they are hunted down and killed.
The Dark Delvers are primarily humans, but there are a number of dwarves too. Elves, halflings, and the like are usually shunned by this society. Strangely, so are gnomes. The abyss is currently composed of two humans, two dwarves, and a drow (dark elf). It is highly unusual for a drow to be involved with the Dark Delvers, but of all the elven races only the drow would be considered for membership.
It is easy to believe that a person may be a Dark Delver. Anyone fascinated with rocs, caves, and underground passages is suspect. Occasionally a person may even claim to be a Dark Delver when in fact he has no connections to the society.
True members of the Dark Delvers can only be identified by their knowledge of their secret language, called the mother’s tongue. New members of a niche know only a few words of it. The longer a person has been a Dark Delver, the more he knows of this secret language. In its written form, the mother’s tongue is runic, composed of straight-line, stick-like characters.
In many cases, a Dark Delver may need to determine whether or not another person is a member of the secret society. A member rarely knows other members outside of his own group. Usually the Dark Delver makes some obscure reference to the “power below.” For example, if the topic of conversation is political he might say “The Burgomeister has no power below the town.” The proper response is any word or words in the mother’s tongue. If instead he is asked to explain his strange statement, the Dark Delver explains that he merely meant the Burgomeister has no power outside the borders of the town.
The majority of Dark Delvers are found in the mountainous domains, such as Barovia, Dorvinia, Markovia, and Tepest. However, Nova Vaasa, with its easy access to all these domains, as well as Arak and Bluetspur, is home to many Dark Delvers.
The abyss can meet anywhere. However, they prefer the rocky, cave-ridden terrain provided by mountain ranges. Their most notable meeting place is a hidden cavern, called the Abyss of the Hated Mother, on the slopes of Mt. Nirka in the domain of Darkon. The caverns and tunnels are kept dimly lit. most of the members have excellent night or low-light vision.
Secrets: The goal as understood by the inner circle of Dark Delvers is to find the hated mother. They search continuously for caves and tunnels that burrow deeper and deeper into the earth. As of yet, they don’t know how to wrest from her the ancients secrets of power. If they found her tomorrow, they wouldn’t know what to do.
Type: Cabal
Scale: 12 (multiregional)

Affiliation Score Modifier

Criterion Affiliation Score Modifier
Character level +1/2 levels
Elf, halfling, gnome -1
Drow -1/2
Can cast arcane or divine spells that have the earth or water descriptor +1/2
Has a burrow speed +2
Knowledge (nature) 5 or more ranks +1/2

Multiple Use
Explores a new underground or mountainous area +1
Completes a mission assigned by the Dark Delvers +1

Titles, Benefits, and Duties: As you advance within the ranks of the Dark Delvers, the rend some of the Hated Mother’s secrets from her.

Affiliation Score Title: Benefit and Duties
3 or less No affiliation.
4 – 10 Niche: Bonus skill: Speak Language (Mother’s Tongue).
+4 competence bonus on Survival skill checks made while underground.
11 – 15 Fissures: Whenever you are underground, you can draw upon the earth to gain the following abilities.
Your bases speed increases by 10 feet, an you gain a +2 circumstance bonus on Balance, Climb, and Jump checks. You also gain low-light vision that functions as long as you remain underground. If you already have low-light vision, you instead gain darkvision out to 60 feet while underground; if you already have darkvision, add 30 feet to its range.
16 – 22 Pits: Earth mastery (Su): You gain a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls if both you and your foe are touching the ground. If an opponent is airborne or waterborne, you take a -4 penalty on attack and damage rolls. (MM 98)
23 – 29 Abyss: Earth Glide (Su): You can glide through stone, dirt, or almost any sort of earth except metal as easily as a fish swims through water. Your burrowing leaves no tunnel or hole, nor does it create any ripple or other signs of your presence. A move earth spell cast on an area containing a burrowing character flings the character back 30 feet, stunning the character for 1 round unless it succeed son a DC 15 Fortitude save.
30 or higher Loathsome Consort: Once per week, you may use contact other plane as a spell-like ability (CL = character level), except that you do not contact another plane of existence. Rather, your mind touches upon that of the Hated Mother’s. Use the “Outer Plane, demideity” entry to determine the results. (PH 212)

Executive Powers: Assassinate, Craft, Research


Jun 18, 2007 21:05:35
Nice work! I also am a fan of 735 Ravenloft, pre-Grand Conjunction.

As for the nature of the Hated Mother itself, I would suggest you leave it nebulous. It could be a manifestation of the Dark Powers, in which case the blurrier you leave it the better.

We know what it's not. It's not Ebb, the Shadow Dragon ally of Azalin, though evidently she's close enough to what the Delvers thought the Hated Mother would be, that they mistook her for it for a while.