Huddled on the eastern shelf of the yawning Underchasm, East Rift is a living symbol of gold dwarf ingenuity and stubbornness, having survived when the surface collapsed into the bowels of the Underdark. Protected by enormous towers connected by a high curtain wall, the gold dwarves are ready to defend themselves against the drow or any other horror that rises from the depths.
The East Rift consists of a country-sized shelf overlooking a cavernous abyss. Waters from various seas spill down from the heights, forming rapids and sparkling falls that tumble into the darkness below. Suspended in the air are curious motes, clumps of earth and stone that are crawling with strange creatures, wormed with tunnels, and laden with relics from the not-so-distant past. The East Rift is a wondrous place, with cunningly crafted switchback stairs, twisting pathways, and trained griffon steeds that all serve to connect the tiny communities that cling to the wounded stone.
The formation of the Underchasm laid waste to many dwarven cities, a tumult of sliding stone and water washing them into the bowels of the Underdark. Those who survived fled to the East Rift for protection and a chance to rebuild what they lost.
The principal gold dwarf settlement in the East Rift, Eartheart remains the spiritual and cultural center of these people. Before the great collapse, Eartheart housed all the temples and shrines devoted to dwarven gods and heroes. Dwarves from the depths and from other countries made pilgrimages to behold the architectural splendor of this holy city. When the city of Underhome was crushed beneath the weight of stone and sea, gold dwarf refugees escaped from that deeper location to take shelter in this far more secure settlement. The Deep Lords, the ruling body of the dwarven civilization, relocated here as well. These leaders retain their custom of masking their identities and communicating through intermediaries to thwart assassination attempts by drow infiltrators.
Eartheart swelled with an influx of fleeing dwarves and other people displaced from the surface. Because the city in its current form was unable to contain them all, the enterprising dwarves get to work to expand Eartheart in innovative ways. Wherever they found a level surface, they built a small community. Where no level surfaces existed, engineers excavated living spaces from the stone, allowing communities to bulge from the chasm walls.
To connect these communities, the dwarves make use of dizzying switchback staircases so narrow that traffic must pass in single file. In addition, specially bred griffons facilitate travel and carry messages to other parts of the city, though the cost of training and keeping such vicious beasts is steep in terms of both coin and life.
Sunlight bathes much of the upper levels, but perpetual darkness presses against the dim watch lanterns and magical light in the lowest levels of the city, which are maintained to drive off the vicious monsters and insidious drow that crawl up from below.
A curtain wall surrounds the perimeter of Eartheart, from which rises a series of massive edifices known as the Riftedge Towers. Each holds a band of warriors to guard against attacks from the Underdark. Lacking the means to watch the entire breach into the world below, the dwarves launch regular patrols into the darkness to sweep the immediate vicinity in the hope of detecting a new offensive before it reaches their walls.
East Rift occupies a mere sliver of the Underchasm. Waters from the Sea of Fallen Stars, the Shining Sea, and even the Great Sea spill down from the surface, forming numerous lakes and streams and countless waterfalls. The flow constantly erodes the edges of the Underchasm, washing away stone and loose soil and slowly widening its imprint on the land in all directions. That the Underchasm has not flooded in the last century speaks to the size and depth of this enormous hole.
Underhome was a massive metropolis, home to nearly 50,000 souls. In spite of its impressive defenses, the city was not spared in the collapse, and the destruction forced its citizens to flee upward for shelter. Into the vacuum moved refugee drow, scrambling up to escape the catastrophes plaguing their own communities. For a time, they held the ruined city, but a strike by the Eartheart defenders ousted some of the squatters and sealed what was left of Underhome. Much of the ruined city remains unexplored, and it has opportunities aplenty for bold adventurers to reclaim lost treasures—if they have the mettle to stand against the terrible beasts and sinister drow creeping through its deep shadows.
People of East Rift
The appalling casualties that resulted from the formation of the Underchasm have forced the gold dwarves to reexamine their secluded ways. Although many remain prideful and arrogant, few gold dwarves would refuse help offered by other races. Thus, East Rift is home to humans, shield dwarves, subterranean gnomes, and a variety of other races, all of whom work together to safeguard their adopted home. In spite of the immigration of refugees from the surface and the Underdark, gold dwarves outnumber all the other races combined, leaving Eartheart and its lesser communities firmly in their grip.
Situated at the edge of a yawning abyss that leads to the Underdark, East Rift is a common launching point for expeditions into the depths. One merely has to travel to sealed Underhome to find endless ruins to explore, filled with dire monsters and wicked villains plotting to destroy the dwarves that have reclaimed this land. The East Rift region is dangerous in the extreme, but it holds many opportunities for those in search of excitement.