The Darklands are an immense series of caverns, vaults and passages under the surface of Golarion. While entrances to the Darklands can be found throughout the world, it is not common for travelers to venture into the almost universally unsafe depths, making the subterranean realm almost a world unto itself.
The Darklands can be divided into three distinct layers, each with their own characteristics, inhabitants and hazards.
Full article: Nar-Voth
Nar-Voth is the uppermost of the three regions—the "wilderness" of the Darklands. Most explorers of the Darklands are only familiar with this region. It is mostly composed of a series of cave networks connected by lengthy twisting tunnels. For a cave network to be considered part of this region, there must be a connection to the region of Sekamina below.
Full article: Sekamina
Below Nar-Voth lies the largest realm—Sekamina. This region consists of a vast underground warren of tunnels that span continents. Found here are also great underground rivers and lakes. Most of the entrances to Sekamina require traveling through Nar-Voth first, but it is believed there are exceptions.
Full article: Orv
The deepest realm of the Darklands is the mysterious and dangerous layer of Orv. Here, many immense caverns known as vaults host a wide array of underground oceans, caverns with jungles and artificial suns, entire nations of warmongering humanoids, and regions containing mountain ranges and vast deserts but deep under the earth. Typically the denizens of the upper Darklands think of the vaults with the same sense of fear and wonder that surface folk do for them, thus only the absolute bravest of adventurers ever seeks out these deep subterranean worlds.
Entrances to the Darklands
Full article: Entrances to the Darklands
Just because a cavern or dungeon is deep does not mean that it is part of the Darklands. Most such places are simply natural or artificial caves that connect only to the surface and do not delve any deeper. In order to truly qualify, an underground location must possess connections to the greater system of tunnels and caverns of Nar-Voth or Sekamina. These entrances range from the once great dwarven Sky Citadels to the infamous Pit of Gormuz and aren't always as obvious as one might suspect.
The Darklands play host to a wide array of creatures, both intelligent and civilized as well as savage and primal, as does the surface world. Throughout the three layers that make up the subterranean domain one can find any number of settlements which rival their above-ground counterparts. Most of these are in the upper layers of Nar Voth and Sekamina, but even the most deadly vaults of Orv are teeming with life.
The 'civilized' races that inhabit Nar-Voth include duergar, mongrelmen, troglodytes, and derro. Most of these races are relatively isolated, tribal, or small with the exception of the duergar who occupy a number of abandoned pre-existing dwarf cities.
In Sekamina are found grimlocks, ghouls, vegepygmies, aboleth-thrall skum, morlocks, serpentfolk, svirfneblin, and drow. Despite the wide variety of humanoid races living here, the drow tend to be in control of a large portion of Sekamina.
Inhabiting Orv are neothelids, urdefhan, intellect devourers, gugs, gore weavers, and umbral dragons. Most of these creatures are isolated to specific vaults, but the urdefhans can be found in many places.
The Darklands are a dangerous place, a fact to which anyone who has ever journeyed there can easily attest. This is partially due to the fact that compared with the surface world, food sources are extremely scarce there. This makes the competition for those sources that do exist that much more intense. Perhaps because of this, the creatures and inhabitants of the Darklands, all up and down the food chain, are quite deadly. In addition to the obvious threats presented by deadly predators, insatiable scavengers, and diabolical ambushers, there are the more mundane, but nevertheless lethal, hazards of the Darklands.
Most of the air found below is safe to breathe, if a little stale. In areas blocked off by tunnel collapses or water, or near sources of noxious gases, however, it can become dangerous to travelers. The air near large magma flows can be quite caustic, and poisonous gases like carbauxine or quickdeath can lead to an even quicker demise.
- James Jacobs. (September 17, 2008). Down Orvway, Paizo Blog.
- Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 204-205. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
- James Jacobs & Greg A. Vaughan. (2008). Into the Darklands, p. 4. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-140-4
- James Jacobs & Greg A. Vaughan. (2008). Into the Darklands, p. 47-55. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-140-4
- James Jacobs & Greg A. Vaughan. (2008). Into the Darklands, p. 11. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-140-4