Hordes of the Underdark provides a much larger selection of characters than SoU. In fact, a larger selection than the original campaign, but it comes with a twist. See, most of the henchmen from the OC make a comeback – they also decided to go help Waterdeep in its hour of need –, but they are only available in the first Chapter (of which there are a total of three). You first encounter them shortly after the expansion begins, in the Yawning Portal Inn, but will have to wait until you actually enter Undermountain to be able to recruit them. And they’ll all be dead when you do, so you’ll also need to resurrect them first. Grimgnaw can also be encountered in Chapter 3, but he’s not available for recruitment. Boddyknock, however, has mysteriously disappeared. Good riddance. Although I do have to wonder why BW hates gnomes so much? And if they do, why do they keep including gnomish companions? But I digress. In Chapter 2, you’re only allowed to pick three henchmen (of which two are new), and only the two you have with you at the end of the Chapter will transition into Chapter 3, where a fourth new henchwoman awaits. Most of the henchmen are multiclassed, like in SoU, and, once again, you are able to tell them how to distribute their levels.
Drogan’s Pupil: After bringing Heurodis’ plans to a crashing halt (pun fully intended) in Shadows of Undrentide, Drogan’s Pupil managed to escape through a magic mirror to the Plane of Shadows in the nick of time. While there, s/he found an artefact called the Relic of the Reaper, but it’s never explained how. It’s also never explained what happened to her/his henchman, although, considering Deekin is alive and well in Hordes of the Underdark, presumably Dorna and Xanos would be as well, although you’ll never hear about them again. Anyway, as HotU is meant to be a direct continuation of SoU, with higher level enemies, you are meant to import your character from the latter into the former, which at least bypasses character creation concerns. You can also select a pre-made character of the appropriate level, if you didn’t actually play SoU.
Deekin: The lovably goofy kobold Bard makes a comeback from SoU. You’ll find him in the main room of the Yawning Portal Inn and can recruit him after the initial drow attack. Surprisingly enough, Deekin has now changed alignments: instead of Chaotic Good, he has become True Neutral. He’s still a Bard, but has mysteriously lost all of his Rogue abilities from SoU. Instead, you can tell him to start levelling as a Red Dragon Disciple, which makes a lot of sense, considering kobolds are distant cousins of dragons, and works wonders for his combat usefulness. Eventually, he’ll even sprout wings and start breathing fire! This is useful to know beforehand, because Deekin’s initial attributes are…pretty bad. His Strength is terrible, his Intelligence is poor and his Dexterity is mediocre. He comes equipped with light armour and a crossbow, and this is probably the best (or least bad) way of using him, even though his Constitution is surprisingly good and he also has a short sword and a shield in his inventory. His Charisma is also very good, which bodes well for his Bard Song. Deekin is still a total fanboy of your protagonist, having written a best-selling book about their adventures in SoU. However, due to being a kobold and a bit naïve, he didn’t get paid a lot and soon got swindled out of the little he did have. This may be what affected his alignment. So he now hopes to do even better with a book about the events in Waterdeep and is very happy to be adventuring again. He’s helpful, enthusiastic and loyal, and will also frequently point out some of the more absurd things you encounter, although whether he’s being cheeky or just clueless is not entirely clear. He’ll also happily regale you with some (bad) singing, including the infamous DOOM song.
Sharwyn: The sassy and opinionated red-haired and brown-eyed True Neutral human Bard from Neverwinter is still out for coin and fame. After the events of the OC, she wrote a book about it all (which Deekin didn’t like, although he seems to think that an elf wrote it). She will say that she eventually left Neverwinter shortly after the man she loved did (possibly your OC protagonist, if he ‘romanced’ her), because it felt lonely. The poor girl seems to be collecting men who dump her. Anyway, Sharwyn has multiclassed as a Fighter since the OC, although, surprisingly enough, that doesn’t seem to have done much for her attributes. Her Dexterity is good (although not as good as Tomi’s or Nathyrra’s), but her Strength and Constitution are lower than what I would expect from a character with several Fighter levels. Not that it matters much, mind you. Her Charisma is great, which is good for her Bard Song, but her Intelligence is mediocre, so let’s hope you’re not in dire need of her spells. You’ll meet her along with all the other OC henchmen at the beginning, but she’s the first one you’ll come across in Undermountain. Despite saying that most of her equipment has been taken, she comes with a double-bladed sword, a bow and a personalised ring (likely the engagement ring from her first lover, judging by the description). The bow is the better option, and you just need some armour to round her off.
Daelan: The stoic red-haired and black-eyed Chaotic Good half-orcish Barbarian of the Red Tiger Uthgardt tribe still makes a point of doing honourable things. After helping to save Neverwinter, he returned to his tribe to complete his Vision Quest and bring back the legendary spear of Uthgar. This earned him a hero’s welcome. However, when the Elders offered him a place among them, he turned it down, feeling that he wasn’t ready, and set off to adventure some more. He met up with Linu and Sharwyn, and decided that fate had brought them together again for noble deeds. They heard of Waterdeep’s plight soon afterwards, and the rest is history. He’s not too fond of Tomi’s and Sharwyn’s money-grubbing ways, but appreciates Linu and will respond positively to a protagonist who says that they’ve also come to help out of the goodness of their heart. Daelan is one of the two single-classed henchmen, and his Strength is just as stellar as Linu’s Wisdom, but his Constitution is rather mediocre, especially since, as a Barbarian, he’s not allowed to wear heavy armour. Still, he’s the only proper melee henchman available at the beginning, so if your protagonist is of the squishier persuasion, feel free to use him as a meat shield while you can. He comes equipped with a double axe and his own gloves, but you still need to find him some armour.
Tomi: Unlike his OC character model, Tomi now has the black hair and black eyes to match his character portrait. The cheeky and carefree Chaotic Neutral halfling Rogue has now also multiclassed as a Shadowdancer, thus adding to his bag of tricks. He makes no secret of only being in it for the money, which meets with disapproval from both Linu and Daelan, but hang it if he cares. After the events of the OC, Tomi tried to open a Thieves’ Guild in Neverwinter. Unfortunately, there was already one there, and they didn’t take too well to the competition. They sent assassins after him eight times before giving up, but Tomi decided it wasn’t worth it and tried to steal from the city’s treasury to get funds for another venture. Lord Nasher kicked him out of the city, and he’s been on the lookout for another opportunity to find some moola. Tomi has – you guessed it – stellar Dexterity, as well as surprisingly good Constitution for a halfling Rogue (better than the larger and more heavily protected Linu and Daelan!). So if you happen to require help with traps and locks, he’s your man. Or half-man. He starts out with his own armour, a dagger and some boots.
Linu: The incredibly clumsy brown-haired and brown-eyed Neutral Good elven Cleric of Sehanine Moonbow from Evereska is now somehow the de facto leader of the group of OC veterans. Her legendary propensity for mishaps has also been somewhat toned down. She’s still sweet and kind, and eager to help people in need, however. After the events of the OC, she stayed to help rebuild Neverwinter, but then felt the call of adventure again. She frowns on Tomi’s and Sharwyn’s more materialistic pursuits, but they’re still part of the team. Linu comes equipped with a mace and her own robe (despite the fact that Clerics can wear heavy armour). She’s one of the two single-classed henchmen, so there’s no debate involved in how to level her up. Her starting Wisdom is stellar, unlike in the OC, and her Strength is pretty good as well, which takes care of both a Cleric’s main stats. Her Constitution could be better for a frontline character, but it’s nothing that some decent armour won’t fix. So if you need a healer, look no further.
Nathyrra: You first encounter this white-haired and black-eyed Lawful Evil drow Wizard/Assassin/Rogue in Chapter 1 in Undermountain. She offers assistance in locating Halaster, then brings the character to Lith My’athar, the city where the Seer’s forces are located, but only becomes recruitable in Chapter 2. Despite what her alignment says, Nathyrra only used to be Evil. However, only Evil characters can be Assassins, so it was kept as was for those who may want her to keep levelling as one. Originally one of the daughters of the Matron Mother of House Kant’tar, which got destroyed by the Valsharess, Nathyrra was hounded by her Assassins, the Red Sisters. She managed to best all the ones sent after her, so the Valsharess decided to recruit her instead. She was trained as a Red Sister herself and eventually sent to kill the Seer, researching Eilistraee’s teachings in order to get close to her. However, when the occasion to strike came, something stayed her hand and caused her to have a profound change of heart. She pledged her faith to Eilistraee and is now loyal to the Seer’s cause. Nathyrra is the only triple-classed henchwoman, and comes equipped with a short sword and light armour, although she also has a crossbow, dagger and rapier on her. She has excellent Dexterity, which is good for her Rogue and Assassin skills, but her Intelligence is mediocre. What’s more, the A.I. tends to make a mess of her spellcasting, even if you tell her to stop levelling as a Wizard. I prefer to go with Deekin and Valen, partly because of this. Personality-wise, Nathyrra is confident, somewhat cynical and has a snappy wit. She also retains some of the haughtiness of a typical female drow. However, she deeply regrets her past and all the lives she took, which makes her melancholy at times. A male character can romance her.
Valen: My favourite character in the game (this includes the OC and expansions) is a Chaotic Good red-haired and blue-eyed tiefling; that is, a human with fiendish blood in his ancestry (c.f. Haer’Dalis in Baldur’s Gate II). In Valen’s case, his mother was a human servant and his father was a cambion (half-demon), which has resulted in Valen sporting a pair of horns and a spade-tipped tail. He was born in Sigil (c.f. Planescape: Torment), the City of Doors and centre of the Planes. After his mother’s death at the hands of her mistress, Valen lived on the streets, but was eventually captured by a demon and made to fight in the Blood War, the endless feud that opposes demons and devils. Eventually, both he and his master were summoned to Toril by a drow Cleric to fight the Seer, but, upon encountering her, Valen felt his humanity reawakening. Despite being tortured by his master to try to rekindle his bloodlust, Valen couldn’t forget the encounter and eventually managed to escape through the Planes and join the Seer’s ranks. He is now fiercely loyal to her and initially very suspicious of your character, when they first arrive in Lith My’athar in Chapter 2. You can, however, slowly earn his trust, and a female character can romance him. Valen is a Fighter/Weapon Master and comes equipped with heavy armour and a flail. He has great Strength and Constitution, which is all you really need from him, but also good Dexterity, which helps his survivability. So if your character is of the squishier kind, he will provide much needed melee protection. Personality-wise, Valen is serious and somewhat broody, especially in the initial stages, but also dedicated, reliable and sensitive, upon closer acquaintance. Just like Nathyrra, his past troubles him, as does his demonic heritage, which he would much rather be rid of, if he only knew how.
Aribeth: Considering how much of a writer’s pet she was in the OC, it would’ve been surprising if Aribeth hadn’t managed a comeback somehow. And now, she’s a potential henchwoman. This auburn-haired and brown-eyed half-elf (she was an elf in the OC…) used to be a Paladin of Tyr, but turned against Neverwinter when Lord Nasher unjustly executed her fiancé, Fenthick, to pacify an angry mob, and joined forces with the OC’s big bad, Morag. The Hero of Neverwinter could either kill her in a duel or persuade her to turn herself in for her crimes and hope for Nasher’s mercy. Clearly, Nasher was not merciful, as, whatever the outcome chosen, your current protagonist will find Aribeth’s ghost frozen in a block of ice in Cania in Chapter 3, which is the result of her trying to oppose Mephistopheles. Aribeth starts out as a Paladin/Blackguard, but since the two classes are incompatible lore-wise, you have to choose between the two. Either persuade her to do what good she still can, which will result in her becoming Lawful Good (just like that, in one conversation) and to stop levelling as a Blackguard, or to persist in her ways, for the opposite result. Aribeth comes equipped with her own armour, a longsword and a shield. Her Strength is excellent and her Charisma is stellar, which is great for her fighting skills and Paladin/Blackguard abilities. However, both her Constitution and Wisdom are mediocre, which isn’t so good for her survivability or her Clerical spells. Still, she’s a powerful ally, if you care to use her. Her personality obviously depends on what you did with her alignment, which doesn’t really bode well for consistency of character: she’s generally still bitter about what happened to her, but either deeply regrets her actions or finds wicked enjoyment in her new status. A male character can also romance her.