Out of the Abyss: The Ultimate DM’s Guide

Cover for Out of the Abyss

Out of the Abyss invites adventurers to explore the vast, subterranean world known as the Underdark—a place where darkness reigns eternal and the line between friend and foe blurs amidst the cavernous landscapes. From the moment adventurers step into this underground labyrinth, they are thrust into a plot that intertwines the fates of infamous demon lords with their own. With each step the stakes rise, as does the realization that escaping this dark place won’t save the world. What lies ahead is a struggle to prevent the chaos of the abyss from consuming everything.

The Underdark holds a special place in D&D lore. It is a subterranean realm where light is a stranger and danger lurks in every shadow. It is here, in this vast network of caverns and tunnels, that Out of the Abyss unfolds, offering players a journey into the heart of darkness.

As we journey through the cavernous expanse of the Underdark, this guide aims to illuminate the path, offering insights, resources, and strategies to help Dungeon Masters craft a truly memorable adventure. So adventurer, prepare to descend into the abyss. The depths that await are treacherous, and only the bravest will emerge from the darkness.

Exploring the Underdark

To master Out of the Abyss, it’s crucial to grasp the essence of its setting. The Underdark is a sprawling underground world home to some of the most fearsome creatures in the D&D universe, from the sinister drow to the enigmatic illithid. It’s a place where society and civilization take on a different meaning, governed by the law of the strongest and the most cunning.

Understanding the Underdark’s environment is critical. From bioluminescent forests of fungi to vast stone cities carved into cavern walls, the landscape is a patchwork of wonders and horrors. It’s an ecosystem alive with strange creatures and ancient magic that differ from those of the surface world.

Darkness affects not just the visual aspect of the adventure but also the psychological tone. Players aren’t just fighting monsters; they’re battling the claustrophobia, the constant threat of getting lost, and the strain of being away from the sun. This palpable tension adds a layer of depth to the campaign, literally.

Bringing the Underdark to Life

When running Out of the Abyss, Dungeon Masters must evoke the senses. Describe not just what players see, but what they hear in the dripping of distant water or the distant rumble that could be a natural phenomenon—or something far worse. Let them feel the oppressive weight of miles of earth above them, and the occasional, fleeting hope when they stumble upon a rare, natural beauty in the depths.

In the Underdark, the environment itself is an adversary. It’s a setting that requires players to be resourceful, to think beyond their character sheets. Here, the survival skills, the alliances they forge with unlikely friends, and their ability to adapt to a hostile landscape are just as important as their combat prowess.

Setting the stage for your Out of the Abyss adventure means immersing your players in the Underdark’s oppressive, alien atmosphere from the outset. It means making them feel the weight of the darkness, letting the environment challenge them, change them, and, ultimately, draw them deeper into the story.

Getting Out of the Abyss

This classic D&D 5e adventure is available in a variety of formats. The most popular one is a physical book, which you can get from your local gaming store or over at Amazon. Given it’s sandbox nature, you will likely find yourself flipping through pages as the players drive the direction of the story through their exploration. Having a physical copy of the book is a great way to ensure you can find content quickly when your players take an unexpected turn.

In an era where digital tabletops have become a staple for many gaming groups, Out of the Abyss – Roll20 VTT is an indispensable resource. The Roll20 adaptation of Out of the Abyss is designed to facilitate easy gameplay, with preloaded maps that include dynamic lighting, tokens for every NPC and creature, and quick access to rule references. It transforms the management of the game into a smooth online experience, allowing DMs to focus more on storytelling and less on the logistics of tracking character movements and encounters.

Getting the Most from Out of the Abyss

Out of the Abyss is a thrilling yet challenging journey, one that requires the right tools and resources. Fortunately, community of creators have made available a wealth of resources designed to enrich the gameplay and narrative depth of your campaign. Here, we delve into some essential tools that can elevate your game to new heights, ensuring both you and your players are fully immersed in the adventure.

These resources offer a deep dive into the lore, setting, and mechanics of Out of the Abyss, as well as offering expanded background information, additional plot hooks, adventures, creatures, magic items, and more. These resources not only augment the existing material but also inspire DMs to tailor the adventure to their group’s tastes, ensuring each journey through the Underdark is unique.

Essential Campaign Resources

Navigating the Underdark in Out of the Abyss benefits from specialize tools to help organize and streamline the campaign. Fortunately there are a number of expert guides that make running this campaign simple.

  • Out of the Abyss – DM Guide is a comprehensive DM Guide for those venturing into the Underdark. It breaks down the campaign’s complex narrative, providing a detailed overview of each chapter, insights into character motivations, and strategies for managing the story’s progression.
  • A Guide to Out of the Abyss is another essential resource that offers advice for the campaign’s setting, characters, and key plot points. It features stats, detailed explanations and summaries of key points, and significantly reduces prep time.
  • A Motley Crew: The Velkynvelve Prisoners as PCs for Out of the Abyss takes a creative approach by allowing players to explore Out of the Abyss from a new perspective by turning the Velkynvelve prisoners into player characters. It’s an innovative way to run the campaign and offers pregenerated characters that are ready to play.
  • Gracklstugh Revised – Turmoil in the City of Blades is for those seeking to expand and restructure Chapter 4 of the campaign. It offers an extensive overhaul that enhances many of the characters and factions, as well as providing a ton of new content to the duergar city.

By incorporating these resources into your Out of the Abyss campaign, DMs can elevate their storytelling, enrich their world-building, and provide players with a deeply immersive and challenging adventure.

Extra Encounters for Out of the Abyss

Out of the Abyss, with its alien setting, provides a unique canvas for such encounters. Within the confines of this campaign setting there is ample room to elevate the experience by integrating additional adventures and encounters. These supplemental encounters serve to provide a change of pace, introduce new narrative threads, offer opportunities for character development, or even alter the campaign’s direction based on player choices.

Among its vast offerings, certain encounter packs stand out for their compatibility with the Underdark setting and their ability to enhance the core adventure:

  • Journeys Through the Center of the Underdark: This bundle of encounters is designed specifically for the Underdark, offering a collection of mini-adventures that can be inserted into your Out of the Abyss campaign. With two products, one geared for any Underdark locations and another specifically about the Darklake, these encounters offer unique challenges suited for this underground world.
  • Encounters in the Savage Underdark: With 150 pages of encounters and mini-adventures, this book is jam packed with NPCs, locations, magic items, and more. With 24 unique encounters, you have a wealth of opportunities to add encounters to your Underdark campaign wherever you need them.
  • Underdark Encounters – Random Encounter Tables: For Dungeon Masters seeking to inject unpredictability into their campaign, this set of random encounter tables is a gold mine. It allows for the spontaneous generation of encounters based on the party’s location within the Underdark, ensuring each journey through the darkness feels unique.

Integrating these encounters into your Out of the Abyss campaign enriches the adventure with new challenges and opportunities for storytelling.

Creatures of the Underdark

The Underdark is home to some of the most iconic and terrifying creatures in the Dungeons & Dragons universe. Populating your Out of the Abyss campaign with these denizens not only brings the dark world to life but also presents numerous opportunities to challenge your players. For those venturing into the Underdark, these resources become invaluable:

  • Planar Bestiary: For those Dungeon Masters looking to introduce a touch of the extraplanar into their Underdark adventures, this bestiary offers creatures from across the planes who have found their way into the Underdark’s depths. These beings add a layer of the unexpected, bringing with them the mysteries and dangers of their home planes.
  • Creatures of the Forgotten Realms PDF BUNDLE: This comprehensive collection provides an extensive overview of the creatures that inhabit the Forgotten Realms, including those lurking in the darkest corners of the Underdark. Each entry comes with detailed descriptions, stats, and lore, offering Dungeon Masters a deep well of information to draw from.
  • Monster Loot – Out of the Abyss: An adventure in the Underdark is bound to involve combat encounters with its monstrous residents. This resource takes those encounters one step further by providing detailed loot tables for every creature featured in Out of the Abyss. Now, vanquishing a foe not only provides a sense of accomplishment but also rewards players with unique items that can be used or traded on their journey.

Strategies for Using These Creatures

Incorporating the diverse creatures of the Underdark into your campaign involves more than just placing them in front of your adventurers. Here are some strategies to make the most out of these encounters:

  • Narrative Integration: Use the creatures not just as obstacles, but as part of the story. Perhaps a group of duergar are mining for resources and release an ancient horror, or a mind flayer colony’s actions are inadvertently driving other creatures towards the surface.
  • Environmental Challenges: Many Underdark creatures have adapted to thrive in their dark, often hostile environment. Highlight these adaptations in encounters, forcing players to think creatively. A battle with a group of drow in a cavern filled with luminescent fungi might require different tactics than one would use on the surface.
  • Moral Complexity: Not all creatures in the Underdark are evil, and not all encounters have to end in combat. Introducing morally complex situations where dialogue and diplomacy can alter the course of an encounter encourages players to engage with the world on a deeper level. An uneasy alliance could provide valuable information about the territory ahead.

By leveraging the rich array of creatures that call the Underdark home and integrating them thoughtfully into your Out of the Abyss campaign, you create a world that feels alive with storytelling opportunities.

Mapping Out of the Abyss

Navigation in Out of the Abyss is as much a part of the adventure as the encounters themselves. The Underdark’s environment, with its natural caverns, ancient ruins, and complex ecosystems, presents unique challenges and opportunities for tactical gameplay. Maps bring these elements into sharp relief, allowing players to visualize the terrain they’re traversing or the battlefield they’re navigating. A well-designed map can highlight environmental hazards, strategic points, and areas of interest, encouraging players to think creatively and plan their actions with the terrain in mind.

Several map packs have been crafted specifically for Out of the Abyss, offering visually stunning and practical layouts that breathe life into its key locations. Here are some highlights that can significantly enhance your campaign:

  • Out of the Abyss Battle Maps Bundle: This comprehensive collection features detailed maps tailored for every terrain location you can imagine in the Underdark, plus every city, settlement, and dungeon. From the fungal forests of Neverlight Grove to the Drow City of Menzoberranzan, these maps ensure that each encounter is visualized to the fullest extent.
  • Arilmyth’s Maps: Out of the Abyss: Offering a comprehensive set of maps for the most important locations and dungeons within the campaign, this collection is invaluable for DMs looking to provide a visual anchor for their storytelling. The detailed layouts of key places enhance the sense of scale and complexity of the Underdark.

By incorporating these detailed maps into your Out of the Abyss campaign, you elevate the gameplay to new heights. The tactical depth added by these maps enriches combat and exploration, while their visual appeal strengthens the bond between players and the dark, wondrous world of the Underdark.


Out of the Abyss is a campaign that offers players to explore the enigmatic and perilous realms of the Underdark. Each group’s journey through the Underdark will be unique, shaped by the choices they make, the challenges they overcome, and the stories they weave together along the way.

Out of the Abyss is an opportunity to explore the limits of bravery, cunning, and teamwork. With the right resources at your disposal and a willingness to embrace the unknown, you can craft a story that will be recounted for years to come. Venture forth into the depths, and remember that the darkness heralds the start of adventure.

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