“The multiverse, she is a cruel mistress. For much time, things have looked up for me. But for so long, my luck is rather dreadful. While my poems and records will be the stuff of legends, a break from this figurative and literal hells would be quite nice too! I preferred my luck with just the King of the Cross-Trade in Sigil.” – Ramon DeLeon, Planar Traveling Bard
Of Bards and Bad Places
While I assure you that not all planes are mortifying and deadly, I tend to have rather bad luck. This luck has sunk even lower, finding myself in the dark planes of the fiends. Races of creatures built from pure literal evil, formed into physical manifestations. Only the most noble and just and survive a trek into these wretched places. As I can assure that I’m not, I have my work truly cut out for me.
Let us discuss The Lower Planes of the Great Wheel. This is a place for not just creatures made of evil, but the most equally evil souls that find themselves punished or harvested for the creation of more fiends. The most worthy petitioners even gain the chance to become fiends of their own! To make matters more hostile, each plane has its own challenges within the environments themselves. Acidic air, dueling erupting fissures, grey murk and more await the most intrepid and foolish of explorers.
Now, where do I fit into this? A valid question! An attempted escape from strange realities proved rather flawed. My grasp on the planes is quite good, within my rules of reality. Parallel versions of the Wheel has all sorts of alterations, to say the least. With some level of luck, this is the “true reality”, however escaping the Lower Planes proves to be far harder than expected. Even any portals and keys that should work mysteriously fail. Well, through narrowly dodging fiends and escaping hostile environments, I’ve found my way across the Planes Below. Impossible as it may be, I find myself not too damaged by this. But, a Planeswalker has already seen a lot, no?
Author’s Note: I’ve been feeling a little down, so things have slowed a bit as a result. Plus, I junked a previous post that I couldn’t find myself completing, which slowed things down more. My apologies. Anyway, here is something I have been sitting on for a while. My Look at the Planes have focused too much on Ramon flailing about and finding danger, rather than describing locations and happenings in the planes, with Ramon as your guide. Let me change that. Also, I figure I may as well toss out a reference to the recent adventure. In addition, plenty of references to classic D&D lore, as well as my own mad musings.
A Quick Treatise on Fiends
In which your guide informs you on tips for survival and knowledge of lower planar denizens
What is a “fiend”? Well, in the figurative sense, a fiend is someone with awful qualities. They are built upon traits of malice, cruelty and hatred. Anyone can be denounced by this type of “fiend”, but it’s usually a matter of perspective on their actions. More literally, they are spirits of darkness; creatures spawned from the most heinous pits of reality. While one could lecture on the former, this is clearly on matters of the latter. But, most frighteningly, the former can earn their chance at becoming the latter within the depths of the afterlife.
A fiend is not and will never be your friend. In the end, they want to perpetuate evil in the multiverse. Should your goals align with a fiends, this can lead to a couple of possibilities… you can temporarily work with the fiend under immense scrutiny, you can re-evaluate your entire plan and ask how things have sunk so low or just send the blasted thing back to its atrocious home. To do anything else is far more foolish, especially place trust in such a creature. Once the current structure of the planes is ruined and evil reigns supreme, the devils, demons and more have won… until they get tired of their rivals and return to vying for supremacy. After all, whether against itself or another, evil will always defeat evil. At the right moment, they will inevitably betray you for a better option or for their own allegiances. While they may make offers in the ways of mercenary work, contracts and just raw combat; the prices they ask for are rarely upfront and far more insidious than they will ever reveal. Precious forces of life, souls, are but one means. Some literally monetize them, while others utilize them as fuel. To some, they’re just part of the farming process to grow more fiendish power. And even then, other things matter to the fell folk. This can range from simply destroying everything that the “ally” holds dear or taking something else in a valuable trade… and that’s including IF the fiend holds up their part of the bargain.
To start on matters, the fiends of the planes are quite diverse in how they express the concept of “evil”. Within the fiends, there are many divisions, traits and qualities. Some exist as lowly and pitiful wretches, while other tower over some powers even. Several embody the worst aspects of belief and action. War, lust, abuse, tyranny, terror, destruction and more are what drive all means of the underworlds. These drives don’t just motivate actions, they are the building blocks of their existence. And, for each respective mode of evil, a planar home exists. These homes are their own planes of existence, marked by a distinct feeling and alignment.
Across five key planes, and two side planes, the lower planars hold sway and dominion. These key planes are as follows: Baator the Nine Hells, The Churning Towers of Gehenna, The Grey Wastes of Hades, Carceri the Tartaran Prisons, and the Endless Layers of the Abyss. And the semi-aligned planes? Why, the Eternal Battlefields of Acheron and the Howling Winds of Pandemonium, of course. As one would imagine, all of these planes are truly horrible. These places stretch from the crushing suppression of totalitarian order to the maddening survivalism of violent chaos. And from these aligned powers and groups, many factions of the fiends have formed in a sense. Abyssal dominance, infernal hierarchies, daemonic conspiracies and so much more emerge in the dark depths.
All of these dark philosophies have their own way of butting heads. No type of fiend will find themselves willingly working with another distinct type. For this reason, the Blood War surges on. In short, the Blood War is a testament to evil. It is various forms of wickedness butting heads for ultimate triumph. Of course, abyssal and infernal powers have a habit of cancelling each other out. And for the daemonic? They tend to lend mercenary support to fuel the never-ending fire. One of the best ways to incur a fiend’s wrath is bringing up whatever other force they might hate. Only an addle-cove would try to only support chaos when a bunch of baatezu are bopping around. Even in Sigil, it’s a good way to lose your head. Now, should the Blood War end? You’re looking at a cosmic realigning of reality in a positive scenario. In worst case? A flood of fiends that could topple even the powers. It would be an endless blood bath upon the planes, the ultimate success of evil. It’s for this reason that even non-evil planars reluctantly support the Blood War. More than a few devas have fallen in attempt to spur the conflict on…. for the greater good, of course!
With that, let’s go further into the makings and workings of such dark planes, examining curious sites and sights to behold!
Baator, the Nine Hells
Baator is a plane of supreme authority turned into something sinister. This is the plane of oppression and unquestionable order. The Devils, or Baatezu, are the native denizens of this realm. Many of their strategies are brought upon by exploiting the law of the planes in their favor and creating a niche out of it. Their most known interaction with the planes at large is through deals and contracts. While they are upfront about most of their expectations, much is conveniently left for the future. But, should you meet them at their word, they will stand by it, even if they’ll find loopholes to hurt you in the long-term. Being creatures of law, there is a strict hierarchy between the lowest of wretches to the arch-devils themselves. Rivals must be outdone, out shown and outmatched. If you want a better position, earn it through some of the most brutal and dastardly means possible! This is the Hellish way.
The most famous of these layers is of course, Avernus, the first layer. This is mostly due to the fact that overly confident primers don’t have a habit of making it past here. Fire rains down upon burnt out wastelands and blazing structures. This imposing realm embodies the classic image of hellish lands and devilish creatures. Living creatures stranded upon the plane have adapted by crafting makeshift tools and resources in a manner almost similar to the cut-off denizens of Athas. Should you not be familiar with that world, I don’t blame you. All you need to know is that it is a wasted world, with life ruined by magic and rule overseen by the madman responsible. In a sense, it shares many similarities with Baator.
While pieces of planes shifting around has been documented many times, rumors tell of a holy city being ripped from the prime and placed upon Avernus. An upwards battle was fought to return this pinnacle of good back to its rightful state. But, a city of paladins would have decent odds against the evils of the devils, I’d like to believe. It seems that dark forces infiltrated this holy city, weaving all sorts of insidious magic to bring about corruption as well as bind it to Baator. If said rumor wasn’t true, it makes for a good story. More than likely, these details are just a rehash of the triumph against Emirikol the Chaotic at the hands of paladins, enraged that the Temple of Neheod was taken away. One stranded and enraged mage, Jon Irenicus, proclaims that the rumors of the stranded Torilians are as true as the lost temple. In addition, he really wants to leave the plane. He has been there far longer than the former group, as he was defeated by a mighty Child of Bhaal. But, when one trifles in the duels against divine bloodlines, these are possible results. Should there be a day to detail the Bhaalspawn saga, I shall return to it.
The Pillar of Skulls. Throughout Avernus, you can hear it well. Liars, cheats and scoundrels have all found their way into this grotesque pile of rot and anguish. Here, they bicker and chatter about their indulgent nonsense with no one to listen or care. In fact, many of that skulls’ neighbors are busy doing the same. However, it is said that the collective skulls can offer much of their knowledge in exchange for painful trades. Whether this means giving something of personal value or possibly another life to add to the skull pile, this is usually determined based on what the skulls would give. A fair number of heads have ascended in the pecking order. A brutish ogre, a sensible elf, a hungry chubby head and a curious gnomish head. Appeasing one of them is the quickest way to win favor from the tower of heads. In fact, they might give information on how to get past Tiamat, who guards the descend into other layers. And contrary to what primers will tell you, Tiamat ain’t coming out of Baator any time soon. Stories of her return upon Toril are clearly exaggerations.
The Barracks of Dis are a recent investment by the wealthiest Lord of the Nine Hells, Dispater. He is a meticulous and paranoid planner, always wanting to have his hands in anything within The City of Pain. Within the barracks are legions of constructs that act as an evil mockery of a City Watch/City Guard type role. More akin to a Cadaver Collector than a watchman, these burly and gruesome constructs survey the streets to ensure things go by Dispater’s plans. Some figure they are there to keep the peace, but the Lord of Dis could care less about that, if it doesn’t interfere with his plans. However, should too much disorder occur, multiple Barracks Constructs will be deployed to not just break up, but eradicate the situation. As for the constructs themselves, they share in his image. Some suspect out of ego, but he views it as a means of showing the masses that he is always present and always watching. But, the garish use of weaponry and ornament-like armory make some beg to differ on the first point. In fact, the particularly barmy among the city take joy in smashing the faces of the constructs, out of spite against Dispater. This takes no time to fix, with few resources. However, Dispater feels the petty sting all the same. And, should the construct watch not be enough? He has far greater legions of spies and shadowy networks under his command to get what he wants.
Malbolge itself is quite the story. Some say that it’s still the steaming mountains, rolling boulders and copper caves, while others say that it’s reshaped from the remains of The Hag Countess. The true story is somewhere in the middle. While a rivalry between Glasya and Malagard the Hag Countess became known over time, Malagard’s tragedy was more so of her own doing. The hag was well known for arcane experiments, especially with her goals of becoming a self-made goddess. When things had begun to backfire, Glasya took advantage of the situation and attempted to control it in her favor. Malagard the Hag Countess was decreed no more and her remains repurposed for the plane. Stories of Asmodeus’ intervention are largely overstated and exaggerated. It turns out that Asmodeus did however goad things in his favor, allowing control for his daughter. But, this wasn’t out of nepotism, but as a trap. It wasn’t for the Hag Countess, but a previous ruler of the layer, Moloch. Some day, he’ll try to seize his opportunity and then the infernal plan will spring into action! What is the plan? I wish I knew, as mortals dare not pry too much into infernal politics. The fact I’ve gotten that much is legendary. And as for the Countess? She wants Baator to feel that she failed and has died. In reality, she plots beyond as her quest for ascension continues. Over time, she grew tired of Malbolge and aspired for something more. True to the ways of infernal mischief, she succeeded. In fact, her energies surge through her “remains”, meaning she still has some level of control. For now, she does so discreetly. One day, she awaits the chance to outdo Asmodeus at his weakest points. Her current sights? Set on Moloch…
Now then, my own trek to Baator? What a wondrous time. Temptations brought upon by propaganda, offering a chance at leadership, contracts and negotiations and cheap means out. All of these are the quick roads to damnation. More often than not, I found myself in scraps with big brutes and boasting blowhards, all devils of course. However, a few tricky words of my own granted me a brief chat with Asmodeus upon Nessus, a privilege few can be granted. Of course, he quickly grew bored of me and wanted me squashed like an insect. Well, know-how of portals begged to differ.
Smoking towers, showers of rock chunks and magma, deathly smog and more await. The Bleak Eternity of Gehenna is the home to the daemons, the yugoloths as they’re also known. The evil of the daemonic kind is one of banality. Many act akin to the merchants and mercenaries of the City of Doors. However, evil seems to leak into their actions, rather than be an overt force. It’s for this reason that these beings are disturbing in how a prime can relate to them. Their primary plane is a dreadful place, built upon deep slopes. The churning towers embody the plane, with dangerous formations that are as liable to thrown you off into the inky below as they are to shoot fiery bursts. What exists below the volcanic rocks? Likely a portal to something far worse.
The Tower Arcane is a particularly special locale. It is here where many yugoloths brew up impossible schemes to further the most neutral form of evil. Make no mistake, these fiends are detached from order or chaos, not evil itself. Lawyer deals, conspiracies, subtle manipulation. All of that and more is conducted within here. And, as the name implies, the tower is home to all means of underworld secrets of magic. Only the barmiest of mages would dare to visit the tower, with any hope of gaining something new. The primary residents, the jackal-headed arcanaloths, are experts at evil magic and are more than capable of fending off any outsider wizards. But, among their own cabals, there are untold magic secrets that go back countless millennia. It is rumored that the infamous Karsus’ Avatar has been logged and stored here. As to why the Daemon kind would dare mess with such power? Unknown, but perhaps it’s a weapon of leverage and boastful threats more than anything.
Floating above the layer of Chamada is Nimicri, a living moon/trade city that is fueled by many of the same vile tendencies of its host plane. Make no mistake, the polite acts are a facade for a grasping and greedy society. The pillars and steeples that line a web of streets create a disorienting aesthetic. However, the locals are happy to aid travelers, for some proper coin. The town do kind acts to reverence to a singular entity known as “the creature” who has allowed them to persevere through the harshness of the plane. In reality, this set up is a game. In reality, the “moon” is a mutated mimic that has made its residence beside the plane. All things within the city are it, and all traded goods just either waste products or creations that it has grown bored with. And should a piece of a visitor, including blood, be lost to the “city”, there is a good chance that this mimic will sample and create a copy to occupy its space. Again, any polite act that the mimic may exhibit is just to take from any unaware visitors to grow its own power. However, compared to the rest of the plane, it’s far less deadly and malicious.
They say that Krangath represents the yugoloth/daemon aspect of being death incarnate. Connections to a distant dimension known as Golarion may only confirm this. This slumbering slope of crag and sitting lava is both a symbol of evil’s inevitable stagnation as well as the desire for daemonic kind to enact death upon reality in some regard. While many assume the demons are this, many are more likely to compare them to deadly sins without restraint instead. It is here that the Citadel of Death sits, within one of the sloping tubes of the dead volcanic rock. Here, daemons and planar undead congregate on plans to spread rot and doom to the known planes, uniting all under one order of death. A legendary shrine dedicated to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse resides within this citadel, supposedly acting as a gate to bring them into Gehenna. The cult of the horsemen reveres these dark warriors as powers in their own right. Like the yugoloths, this temple was a transplant from The Grey Wastes. The endless violence of the Blood War ironically took too much attention away from the Horsemen, even War. The temple was always under threat or too many worshipers found themselves distracted. As such, it was extracted for a far more remote place.
Two particularly enterprising liches have had luck in expanding the area around the citadel into a city of sorts, Mortuary. The macabre streets are akin to wandering a mausoleum. Eerie lanterns glow a deathly green, as vault-like doors creak with unnatural unease. Much of the city’s purpose is built around necromantic experiments and understanding the nature of evil in the planes. It’s not uncommon for fiends, other than yugoloths, to be captured for either. In fact, many equally interested yugoloths have used the service of the liches to “borrow” fiends for their own research. Among the yugoloths that have willingly gone under procedures, the Darkness Daemons (Tenebriloths) were one such result. As the name implies, they are daemons built of and manifested in shadow. Some have expanded their research stations beneath the acidic snows of the previous layer of Gehenna, Mungoth. But, those who overstep their boundaries find their efforts squashed by the plane’s home denizens. It is rumored that the citadel and expansive city were built to hide and protect The Lichlord, Mellifleur, from the rival forces of Nerull. Whether or not this holds up as true depends on who you ask. His divine dominion exists in a “mirror parallel” that can be accessed through the citadel. By all means, it has many similarities. As for the two liches that created Mortuary as a buffer, their names were lost to time after Mellifleur found no further use for them, as their desires for power made them a liability.
My own experiences included a mock trial by a court of arcanaloths, an attempt at being sacrificed to the four horsemen and witnessing Darkness Daemons exact revenge on Mortuary’s dread mages. All in all, an average day in the lower planes. A break would be nice.
Such a bleak and stark land, devoid of color and hope. It is very much the opposite of Elysium. It is here where the miserable residents do all they can to rob one of any semblance of happiness, before they bring about your demise. It’s hopelessness is pervasive, invading the mind and soul, leaving the body as an equally empty husk. The plane has an inherent defense against interloping outsiders. Not only does the mind fade, but experiences over time have a habit of being taken away too. Those who are of weak mind will find themselves losing not just their personality, but abilities and identity all together. However, not all is dreary doldrums. This plane is mostly well known for being the center of activity for The Blood War. It is here where Demons and Devils clash as perceived neutral ground, which amounts to unbiased combat… before the Daemons get involved.
The creatures of the Grey Wastes are miserable little things. Sickly creatures born from the deepest pits of despair reside here. One such experiment on the nature of the plane is credited for the creation of a unique undead, the wheep. And while not residents, much of the Grey Wastes is a central focal point of the feuds of The Blood War. It was from this plane that the yugoloth was created. Their origins are shrouded in mystery. Some say that they are a mutation of demons and devils, slowly fusing into a compromise between the two. This theory is vastly rejected by the race, perhaps for good reason. In addition to the usual residents of yugoloths and the occasional gehreleth (or daemon and demodand for the prime included), twisted covens of the dreadful night hags call certain layers their dark dominion.
On the subject of Night Hags, the most nefarious of the covens operates on the first layer, Oinos. The Cloaked Coven of Eternal Night was lead by one of the most infamous of all, the walking blight known as Ravel Puzzlewell. The Eternal Night focuses on extracting raw power from the powers of dream. Rumor has it that they have an active portal the demiplane of dreams themselves, perhaps other realities. Their other hobbies include crafting mind breaking challenges to stump and ruin even the mightiest of minds. While the coven operates in her absence, their strength has decreased. As for Ravel? She embarked on a journey to Sigil, the City of Doors, for purposes of “arcane meddling”. She would trick and destroy many souls with all means of puzzles and riddles, true to her name. Her antics weren’t unnoticed, but few could stop her serial slayings. With even the Factions themselves stumped on what to do with her, either by failing to use her for their benefit or failing to stop her, she outright vanished one day. In truth, she was mazed by the Lady of Pain. Even in her absence, her dark shadow still hovers about the city through dark tales and “probable associates” who will ensure that her name is never forgotten from Sigil ever.
The primordial spawning point of the *ahem* “daemons” is found here. The Baernaloths are credited as the creators of the yugoloth, the perfect servitor race for evil. These distant beings have long since fallen from grace and mostly into mystery. However, many a ‘loth will attest that they are their predecessor. As to whether this is true? Uncertain, likely lower planes propaganda. The Wasting Tower of Khin-Oin is created as one such place. Stretching upwards twenty miles and perhaps further below ground, this monument is a testament to an evil race and its progenitors. It is here that the Siege Malicious sits, the throne for the Supreme Oinoloth, high command of the yugoloth race. Originally, the Oinoloth had control of the wicked plagues and depressive effects of much of the plane, but more recent developments have changed this. Pathogeloths were a personal project of a prior Oinoloth, literal daemons of disease. While lacking in the strength of other greater ‘loths, they make up for it by their uncanny knack to destroy health within a massive area in a short span of time. Built hastily near the tower is the Vaults of Unrelenting Ailments, the home of countless experiments with new diseases, filth and more. Such a place is quickly lethal to any mere mortal, even without the fiends. Of course, anything made by these “lesser plague daemons” pales in comparison to the works of the Oinoloth, which is very much intentional. While spreading their work has been accepted, they would never allow a subordinate to ever outdo them.
But, no plague compares to the dark force that is very much native to the Grey Wastes. Simply put, it is called The Grey Disease. This supernatural effect destroys body, mind, soul and spirit alike. As mentioned above, it’s just a fact of the plane. Those who aren’t prepared are turned into husks sooner rather than later. Even those who are prepared feel an otherworldly depression try to influence them. Some say it’s a natural reaction to all the depressing scenery. Others are well aware that the plane actively fights against their wills and personalities. The stronger the mind, the stronger the fight that Hades will give!
Within Hades’ putrid mists is Neflheim, home to wicked beasts and fearsome trolls. Within this misty murk is an establishment called “The Eyes of Prying”. The denizens are grey and about as troll-like as the skulking creatures in the thick fog. While they hold no true passion, they aren’t against obtaining some useful dirt or dark secret from someone else. They claim that it’s a window into another life, giving longing for an existence that wasn’t so meaningless. To those who buy their act, it’s a chance to indulge in a life that doesn’t feel so miserable. The services here count on the user becoming addicted and wanting more experiences, until they whither under realization that they’ll never have any of it. And, while they will take part in scooping up The Dark on someone, they aren’t suicidal. While normally apathetic on matters, they will openly mock someone who wants them to do something as stupid as say trying to take from Vecna’s own secrets. Curiously, the creatures of this place are not affected by the Grey Disease that permeates through the plane. They willingly choose to act as they do. In fact, they embrace the gloom as part of their own identity. Should you try to break them from this act, they are more than liable to kill you. Rumor has it that the Eye was once part of Carceri, perhaps even the Gatetown of Curst. However, some cataclysm caused it to shift to this layer of the Grey Waste instead. No one will give detail on this, but the reason was from a particularly heinous defector of the Sensates teaming up with the the Eyes to expand their “experiences”. The result was the move and subsequent exploitation of the sorrow filled souls there.
The dismal gloom of Hades was getting to me. The battlefield of the Blood War had its way with cutting me up, as millions of fiends surrounded from all angles. The fact that I’m not dead is some holy miracle. Maybe several gods have blessed me… Or I keep dying and they revive me. I don’t know! No matter, informing some Night Hags about the dark tales of Malagard allowed me access beyond. I didn’t start something, did I?
The end all of planar prisons, save for The Mists. Even many of the planes’ wardens want out, which should be telling of the realm’s nature. The demodands, or gehreleths, are the true residents of this realm. They view themselves as the forgotten children of the Wastes, far more deserving than the ‘loths who “usurped importance from them”. They’re petty, irritable and desiring of so much more. And worse, their forms tend to be truly disgusting, to better reflect this. Indeed, they are the perfect prisoners and watchers for the perfect prison. Their desperation has caused them to seek one such representative of the progenitor race (the baernaloths) as a Power of sorts. They seek their own salvation at the hand of their creators, so that they may flourish as an unstoppable underworld force. They act in general malice, with tendencies towards savage retaliation. These acts are an embodiment of the plane itself, an evil place with some chaotic tendencies. Many divine realms reflect this, such as the dominion of the Beastlord, Malar. Likewise, Nerull claims the icy wastes of Agathys as his own. These two alone should be telling of the plane.
Tethered outside of the layer of Othrys is Timbergorge. Originally, this little sylvan glade had little to nothing with the Lower Planes. However, the Unseelie Court ensured that wouldn’t stay the case. While action came from significantly more chaotic places, corruption still bound it to connect to the first layer of Carceri. In fact, a number of fiendish things from the prison plane have made themselves more than at home, such as the putrid Matabiri, who haunt the swampier reaches of the pocket dominion and intentionally sicken Silvermaw in his already eternal damnation. Things have gotten worse as the poisonous jungles of Cathrys have begun to leak in. One such recent inclusion is a deadly plant called Corpse Weed, which has gained as much traction as the Blights that have begun an infestation.
Harvester Yelkantar is a somewhat notorious gehreleth alchemist who is of the few willing residents of the layer of Porphatys. The kelubar/slime demodand is clad in acid-proofed rags and dwells within a small hut constructed of the plane’s black snow. Their specialty is making alchemical weaponry based on the properties of the layer. Prices are intentionally cheap, as the fiend mostly cares about others spreading Porphatys’ destructive power. However, annoying the gehreleth is ill advised. It will do a “demonstration” on the perpetrator, attempting to kill them with a concentrated version of the layer’s power. Likewise, Yelkantar does not want friends. While the hut is a good shelter from the black snow, the owner will chase anyone out who stays for more than a brief moment… even for buyers. Curiously, while demodands have no concept of gender and while Yelkantar does not view itself as female, it enjoys occasionally being referred to as ‘she’ or ‘her’.
Oublié is a grim secret of Carceri. Simply put, it is a prison of forgotten captives. Over time, damned souls who have become lost to time drift over to here. Nestled in the deep layer of Agathys, it’s surprisingly hospitable and far less frigid. This domain is a glorified prison colony, without any means of proper survival. Paranoia, desperate survivalism and pack mentality rule this dingy and dusty place. Many lost legends claim this place as their home. Rumor has it that Kas the Betrayer found himself here before the Mists claimed him alongside Vecna. It could be possible that he found himself here after Vecna attempted to shatter his own domain of dread. Another traitor is the product of temporal distortion. He is an echo that could be, a fallen angel looking for someone to take pity on him. His plan was to get revenge on the Upper Planes, but all around him became all the wiser. He waits, surrounded by barmies and blood-soaked bashers knowing that no one will come to him as he is beyond redemption… for now. Another resident is someone who crossed the King of the Cross-Trade, an enterprising arcanaloth who stepped too far. Clad in dusty robes, he is often seen self-flagellating in some elaborate ritual. Once a potential protege, now a discarded and used asset that languages in this dismal vaults. The daemon simultaneous acts repentant while lashing against anything that gets too close. Most denizens are too far lost to be acknowledged properly. They are nothing and this holding chamber wants to remind them of that, no matter how much they thrash about and fight back. In many ways, it is equally an asylum as it is a prison.
Carceri is indeed a prison and I am stuck. This round’s worth of activities include a great hunt at the hands of Malar’s chosen, attacks at the hands of Hill Giant petitioners in an acidic jungle, a whole asylum united against me and a crooked alchemy vendor who granted me access to an escape because I revered them like a queen. Things sure are weird… especially here.
The most wild and violent of the Lower Planes. The Abyss is a nightmare realm of both the most savage evil and the most hateful chaos. The plane is said to stretch on forever, with countless layers dedicated to some weird vision or power within demon kind. The demons, tanar’ri, are said to be born of many awful things. They are bestial desires, anarchistic tendencies gone wrong and the very manifestation of sin.
The Blood War lasts forever, but this eternal stalemate has found a subtle way of leaking its influence to the Prime through disease. While daemons and devils have found their own methods, the demons have long since perfected it. The Cancerous Biome is one such place. As the name implies, it’s a habitat of tumorous forms and bloated, sickly creatures. In truth, the layer is a laboratory held by groups of sophisticated demons. Blessed by Pazuzu, they have gained insight into making unearthly plagues that they wish to randomly unleash, if partially for test data. Their goal is to create a plague that no priest nor physician can treat; one that will eat away at the Material at an incomprehensible pace. The demonic plague mages in charge of this project call themselves “The Infectious Wrath”. Their latest project involves the chained god, Tharizdun. Their mission? To use and distort his essence. And with it? Breed more demons from the corpses of those infected by their newfound “Abyssal Plague”.
While the Demonlord who created it has long since been exterminated (to the point that even their truename was destroyed), one layer is a truly marvelous place that feels completely at odds with the forces of the Abyss. It is a domain that feels technological, but also biological. In a sense, it is an anti-Mechanus. This place is machine-like fiends is a place of mind rending horror. While Baator has its interests in innovation and order, the Abyss sees the potential for randomness, surrealism and horrific subversion. It is likely that the Demiplane of Augmental was corrupted and turned into its own nightmare because of this abyssal power. While the loathsome biomechanical demons still slink in the layer, it has since been turned into a place to create new monsters for both Blood War fodder and personal indulgence. Among them is the Oozer, a bloated undead in service to Juiblex. When agitated, the walking corpse explodes into an oozy acidic blast. Minions of Orcus are known to slay them or steal them, as the secrets to their creation were partially stolen from their master. The Vats of Steel, as the layer now calls itself, is a place where creative demons come to build vulgar and entropic things. But for non-demonic visitors? This layer chaotically eats away at the victim’s skin, bone and muscle through dark magical energy and replaces them with haphazard bits of metal. Within minutes to hours, a corpse will be replaced by piles of random pieces, scrap and jutting erratic junk, animated by evil and chaotic power.
Layer 53 will forever be the Pit of Brutal Challenge, not because of any set order, but because this arena based layer is a fixture. It is a place where tortured tanar’ri who act too lawful are sent to fight, a place for captured interlopers to be thrown into the ring, a place for mindless and violent entertainment and a place known to particularly vicious planars where they might not be jumped too quickly. Baen’ith-r, Host of Bloodshed, acts as more of an entertainer than any sort of ruler for an abyssal domain. He is brash, obnoxious and weaves a dark sense of humor into wordplay and puns. Anyone who upstages this demonlord causes a destructive fit capable of rending other layers on a whim. Despite being exceedingly powerful, as Lords go, he prefers a less vicious persona. Some accuse him of being a devil, but those accusers don’t last long. The only thing deadlier than the announcer or the groups of pit fighters is the audience itself. A strange fell magic fills the air, enhancing the scrutiny and disapproval of viewers. While cheers will only help morale, condemnation is literally killer. When an arena gladiator is hit with negativity, it literally turns into a deadly effect: slicing winds, power word kill, psychic attacks capable of head explosion, deafening sound and more! Even if a combatant wins, they can lose in a quick snap just from enough angry onlookers.
The Sylvan Cysts, as they’ve been nicknamed, are the result of a brief war, trickery and an awkward truce. Originally, the demons tried to infiltrate the Unseelie Court based on a faulty deal. This fell through and the Queen of Air and Darkness was infuriated. In addition to both sides suffering dearly, little pockets of mixed influence were formed within both Pandemonium and the Abyss, as well as tethered demiplanes. In the case of the Abyss, these micro-layers were infused with strange fae energies. Even the demons feel akin to some of the unholy experiment hybrids found in the Queen’s Court. While the dark faerie traits seamlessly blend into the demonic, particularly enterprising hunters and slayers of either can point out the quirks. Plus, many rules of the fey apply within these bubbles. Time dilates and distorts, tricky glamors run amok and the general mood conveys a terror that’s a bit unorthodox for the rest of the plane. However, some abyssal beings, such as Lolth have ensured that these pockets are not destroyed. Unwritten neutrality has also prevented this, to allow the demons to focus more on the Blood War over simply trying to overtake Pandemonium too… an endeavor that would most likely fail. It is here where abyssal fey are spawned. In additional, Lolth the Spider Queen has loaned her driders and the recently unearthed draegloth to serve in these sylvan corrupted abyssal spaces.
Ah, ever fair abyss. Nothing makes sense here and that illogic wants to kill you. It tried to kill me. A demonlord of bugs wanted to infect me with body-eating larva, the demonweb pits of Lolth were readied with more forces than the Underdark, Iggwilv’s dark witchery combined with the six-fingered sorceries of Graz’zt put my own knowledge and prowess to the test and it all ended in watching some poor bashers blow up in an arena run by madness. All-in-all, a pretty traumatic jaunt across the planes. But, with my luck and seemingly unbreakable mind, I have many stories to share. That will ease the pain, indeed. I’ve been around Abeir-Toril a few times. Let me rest somewhere there. I’m done. Quite done. I’ll accept the Prime over the Planes for a little bit. It has been too much! So long, reader. Take heed, I have extra notes I’ll compile for more at some point. I won’t be ready to return to the Lower Planes, but I have connections to verify any information.
Image Sources: JordarAd – The Marauder’s Retinue; Tony Di’Terlizzi – Balor and Pit Fiend; Don Fuflon – Pillar of Skulls; Concept-Art-House – Volcano; Sterling Hershey – Blood War; Todd Lockwood – The Halfling’s Gem cover; Franz Vohwinkel – Twelvetrees Ritual; The Grumbleputty/DM’s Guild – The Carceri Bestiary