Beneath a bloated, cancerous, sun sprawls a baked and hostile land, an endless maze of twisting canyons, daggerlike rocks, and pools of stagnant, poisonous, water. Lost souls wander here in a futile search for shelter, herded and hunted by demons… and others…
It’s thought that this particular layer of the Abyss is close to, or was once a part of, the Nests, as it shares some similarities of geography. On the other hand, the nature of the Abyss is such that parallel creation occurs often, as the nightmares of mortals shape the Abyss and the Abyss shapes the nightmares of mortals. Either way, it’s an unpleasant place.
The layer known most commonly as Soulcrack Ravine consists of a seemingly endless maze of twisting canyons carved out of dry, tan, rock. The cliff faces which line each canyon’s edge stretch upwards for hundreds of feet. Attempting to fly over the cliffs is uniformly fatal; anyone who passes beyond the top and into the "open" is instantly broiled by incredible heat, tainted with dark necrotic energies. Even those normally immune to fire damage will succumb after a round or two. Attempts to set scrying sensors or other magical aids "above" the maze are likewise futile; seeing the full pattern of Soulcrack Ravine apparently drives observers to madness.
The exact dimensions of Soulcrack Ravine have never been determined, and some insist that it is fractal, that the winding canyons constantly turn in on themselves, unto infinity. Others deny this, but agree it is an immense place.
As layers go, it is fairly close to the badlands and canyons of some mortal realms, but twisted and exaagerated in the manner of the Abyss. Day and night exist here, of a sort, but the lengths of the each are random — there may sunlight for six hours and darkness for twenty, or vice versa, and the shift from one to the other is sudden, a matter of seconds. The pulsating and vile glowing orb that is the local sun convulses and flickers, and then there is darkness, utter and complete, and a soul-cutting cold to replace the hideous heat of the day, and then it shifts again, the sky seeming to ignite with a malign glow which coalesces back into the opressive and diseased sun.
Most of the ravines are dry, but a few contain trickles of rivers, and a rare few which open into larger spaces hold small lakes or ponds. The water here is foul to taste and even fouler to drink, and choking it down requires madness or desperation, but it is not usually lethal in small doses. Some pools are highly acidic, though, and others are poisonous, so its well advised that travelers bring their own supplies — of course, keeping them might be problematic.
Soulcrack Ravine is not an empty layer. It is well populated with the desperate and the mad, souls housed once more in flesh and made to wander, eternally, in search of food, shelter, and most especially water. Those souls drawn here are those who abandoned their companions to die (or even worse, killed them), and then died themselves. Now, following the typical "justice" of whatever forces shape and mold the Abyss, they endure their fates without any hope of death’s embrace — if they "die" or are killed here, they reform shortly after and the process begins anew. Almost any type of being could be encountered here, and some may even be equipped with various items. (For the most part, items on incarnated souls will dissolve if removed from the Abyss,but a few might be true items, relics from planar travelers which were taken from them.) These creatures will attack almost anyone they see, especially if they seem to have food or water. They can be driven off by force, but are generally too maddened with hunger and thirst to be negotiated with.
Of course, there are natives to this plane as well, creatures generally known as Cactus Demons. They hunt and harry the desperate dead throughout the stone maze, making sure any respite won is brief indeed. They also gleefully attack any truly living beings who venture here, unless somehow dealt with or bribed.
Dralika, the Abyssal river, also runs through here, though it is dry — the "river" is actually a pattern woven through the intersecting cracks and gullies, and following it will allow one to traverse the layer in a controlled manner. Of coure, detecting where a dry river of sand and dust passes through a region which is almost nothing but sand and dust is not easy. (Level 24 skill challenge; useful skills are Nature, Dungeoneering, Arcane, and Endurance; Complexity 3.)
Despite it all — the hunting souls, the demons, the maze — this layer has become something of a meeting place. The village of Dustblood, built of carved stone in one of the largest open areas among the intersecting passes, has sprung up, and it serves as a trading post for a number of abyssal residents and visitors from other realms. It’s not exactly safe — there is no law here but brute force and guile — but it’s better than the open wilderness, as it is shielded against the local demons and the mad souls.
Fourth Edition Rules
Soulcrack Ravine is a place of terrible extremes — it is around 130 degrees during the "day" and drops to 0 at "night". (Farenheit). Endurance checks for survival are at DC 27, but for thirst, checks must be made after 3 hours, with each check occurring hourly. A day’s worth of water for a normal environment lasts an hour here. Nature checks to locate food and water are made at a DC of 30. Supplies can be bought at Dustblood, but at a hundred times the normal cost. (Anyone who has plans to set up their own business supplying planar travelers must deal with the powerful forces behind Dustblood, the exact nature of which is left up to the DM’s twisted imagination.)
Inhabitants Of Soulcrack Ravine
Zungol The Water-Trader : A charming fellow who resides in Dustblood. A simple trader, peaceful and harmless. Just don’t try undercutting him…
Cactus Demon Impaler: Pretty much what it says on the label. It’s a demon, it’s a cactus, and it wants to impale you.