Category Archives: Abyss Project

666 layers of the abyss. About 22 done. Go figure.

025 The Caustic Glaciers

Alzarath

The Caustic Glaciers

What’s better than a sea of acid? A sea of acid filled with giant floating acid icebergs! And what’s better than that? There’s stuff inside the icebergs! And walrus demons! Does any other site give you walrus demons? No! Continue reading

024 The Carven Spires

The Carven Spires

Seen through a scrying mirror, or from some other secure vantage point, this layer of the Abyss possesses some measure of eerie beauty. It is a realm of tall, graceful, spires of stone, in a dozen shades of tan and orange and brown, straining towards a sky of the palest blue, rarely seen through the flowing streams of yellow clouds. The spires are marked by endless twists, circling them, cut into them in a variety of never repeating patterns, some deep, some shallow, some symmetrical, some chaotic. Shadows in the rocks hint at caves cut even deeper into the stone. There is a ceaseless low whistling noise, not enough to be bothersome at first. The air thickens with distance, so the true size of the layer is unguessable, but from your presumably safe viewing portal, the column-laden landscape goes on forever.

Then the whistling picks up, and you see something, or someone, scrambling along one of the narrow ledges which form around each spire, the consequence of whatever force carved it. The figure moves rapidly, too rapidly to be safe, its feet slipping and nearly sliding from the precarious foothold as it struggles to move, clinging against the rock. It’s not at all evident what is causing its panic, as the ledge is reasonably safe so long as caution is maintained, but it grows ever more frantic as the whistling increases in volume. Yellow mist begins to stream in, moving quickly now, and then the storm comes, a gale of golden-hued fog that whips around the spires, blocking all vision for a moment.

Then it retreats, and nothing remains of the struggling subject of your scrying except a rapidly collapsing pile of bones, and the narrow path on which he walked is carved a little deeper.

The acidic winds move on.

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023 The Oozing Sea

The Oozing Sea

It heaves, lurches, and moves, almost like a living thing — which, perhaps, it is. Hundreds of miles across, ringed by craggy cliffs of black glass and dotted, here and there, by daggerlike islands, the Ooozing Sea is part of the realm of the Slime Lord, or, perhaps, a part of his own body. None know for sure, and His Insane and Unknowable Majesty isn’t talking, or even burbling. Though it is a sea of corrosive and insidious ooze, it is nonetheless a sea, and that means there are those who travel upon it, live beside it, and otherwise exploit it, even as it seeks to devour them.

 

Read on!

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022 The Plains Of Iron

The Plains Of Iron

Gray land beneath gray sky.

They stretch beneath a sun the color of dried blood, always waiting at eternal late afternoon. The vast flatness is broken by occasional low, worn, hills, or bisected by a flowing river of red dust. Copses of trees appear sporadically, as gray as the grass, as gray as the hills, as gray as the sky. The only colors here are iron gray and rust brown.

Oh, and blood red. Briefly. When the wolves have taken another soul.

These are the Iron Plains.

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021 The Midnight Depths

The Midnight Depths

There’s darkness. And then there’s something else, something that is to ordinary darkness as darkness is to light. This darkness is not merely the lack of light, but a force unto itself, light-devouring. It can be found in many parts of the Abyss, but rarely is it as dominant as it is in the Midnight Depths.

Mortal scholars call the lowest parts of the sea the Abyssal Zone, and in some worlds this is done without knowledge of how accurate that term is. The crushing pressure, the life-draining cold, the utter darkness, and the nightmare things of claw and tooth that dwell in those bleak expanses all combine to form a sort of psychic symmetry with the swirling maw of nightmares that is the Abyss, and where there is symmetry, there is connection. It is quite possible that those few explorers brave and foolish enough to enter the abyssal zone of the seas of a mortal world may find themselves in a somewhat different kind of Abyss.

The Midnight Depths is a layer of the Abyss where there is an ocean without surface, and not merely without light, but actively, brutally, hostile to light. It is a place of crushing water and crushing despair, a maze of blade-edged canyon walls and sudden, unavoidable, currents, inhabited by strange and twisted creatures, all dwelling forever in a blackness that cannot be easily described, just experienced.

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020 The Clockwork Hive

The Clockwork Hive

Something continues to grow in the Abyss, a new power, once which the elder Demon Lords do not seem to comprehend. In the twisting tumult, it infests one plane after another, slowly gaining a foothold in many places before it reveals itself. The first hints of it were seen in The Jungle Of Gears, and a second stronghold has now been documented — the winding passages of the Clockwork Hive.

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019 The Flaying Tempest

The Flaying Tempest

The Flaying Tempest, sometimes called the Cyclone of Blades, the Knifestorm, Razorwind, and so on, is one of the many planes of the Abyss which doesn’t even pretend to mock the shape or form of the mortal world. It has no surface and no clear boundaries, and it is lit from everywhere and nowhere with a brilliant, almost blinding, glow. (Creatures with darkvision or low-light vision will suffer a -2 to Perception checks.) There is no gravity as such. There is only the wind.

And the knives.

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018 Nugraal’s Arena

Nugraal’s Arena

Nugraal’s Arena is an unusual layer, in that it is not controlled, technically, by demons. Nugraal, often called Nugraal Paingaze or Nugraal of the Black Diamond, is a medusa death knight of tremendous power, who struck a bargain with some of the powers of the Abyss, offering them easy access to his homeworld to despoil as they wished. He has managed to enforce the terms of this bargain by a combination of raw power and trickery, and the fact the arena has attracted other beings of might, who act to make sure it continues to function.

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017 The Maze Of Fangs

The Maze Of Fangs

The Maze of Fangs is the very heart of the Darkbriar, a twisting labyrinth of thorns, leading to the Enshrouded Towers at the heart. Here is where Zagralath dwells, and if he ever leaves his home – or even if he can – is something of a mystery. He has never been known to visit other planes in person, though he will sometimes send servants on such errands. He has sealed his domain as tightly as he can, with no direct routes other than those portals he personally opens and closes. The only other way in is via the Overgrowth, an often difficult journey. Even those passages end far, far, from the Enshrouded Towers, leaving visitors to wend their way through the myriad passages, tunnels, and dead-ends of the Maze.

Read on for the venom-dripping details!
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016 The Overgrowth

The Overgrowth

The third layer of Darkbriar, the realm of Zagralath, strongly resembles a typical chunk of the mortal realm. There are small forests, rolling hills, a meandering river or two, lakes, and plains… all covered with twisting brambles, briars, and thorns, choking the realm completely. Here, the hedges are a single writhing entity, constantly in motion, constantly overgrowing and consuming. There is no rest or respite — the hedge grows and surrounds anyone or anything which enters here, imprisoning it and drawing strength from its pain.

The layer is a disk two hundred miles across, vanishing into the surrounding maelstrom. Night and day occur without stars, moon, or sun, a gradual fading and brightening of the sky. The plane is filled with one sound, the sound of constant creaking growth and rustling motion, of tangled vines and blood-seeking needles continuously turning in on themselves. It is discomfitting, at best, and the continual chaotic noise makes hearing difficult; Perception checks for sound are at -5 for sounds within 10 squares, -10 for sounds within 20, and are impossible outside of that distance.

The Overgrowth serves two functions. Firstly, it is a barrier to Zagralath’s home plane — there is no other way to the heart of the Darkbriar. He has sealed all portals, blocked all channels. Only by passing through the Overgrowth, or by his special invitation, can one enter his home. (He would seal the Overgrowth if he could, but the nature of his realm does not permit it; the layers are "touching" according to the strange laws of the Abyss, and he cannot block all passages.) As such, Zagralath’s agents and servants constantly patrol the Overgrowth, looking for those who can survive the nature of the realm itself. He has appointed Clemeren, a transformed Eladrin soul, to oversee this gateway.

Second, the Overgrowth serves to imprison those beings Zagralath wishes to keep close… but not too close. The great palace at the center of the Darkbriar is where he keeps his current projects, his active concerns. The Overgrowth is, in a sense, his storeroom, the place where can toss things he doesn’t need now but might need later. To be honest, he is only vaguely aware of what creatures he has imprisoned here and why he might want them, and his various aides charged with record-keeping are not the most accurate — demons never are.

Those who guide the powerful through the Abyss avoid the Overgrowth; the best you might get is pointed to a gate which will lead you here. There are no trading posts or rest areas or meeting places here; this is a layer directly adjacent to the home of a Demon Lord, albeit a minor one, and such places do not generally serve as gatherings for the riff-raff of the planes.

The land which underlies the Overgrowth is known to shift and change over time. Mountains are worn down; rivers change their path; forests grow and shrink, become tropical jungle or northern pine. At times, the Overgrowth will suddenly sprout a village, a fortress, or a lonely waystation; these are consumed and enclosed as quickly as anything else, and their inhabitants drained. It is generally believed that in areas where the Feywild and the Mortal Realm are linked, and where there has likewise been dark corruption and powerful abyssal magic, that things can shift, that pieces of the world can move to the Overgrowth. What happens to that portion of the Overgrowth which is replaced? See below…

Clemeren has a small dwelling place here, known as the sphere of thorns, for such it is — a hollow globe a few hundred feet across, attached to the plane-wide hedge network, which moves constantly across the twisting surface. He is ever alert for intrusion, not so much out of loyalty to Zagralath, but because the slaying of invaders is one of his few pleasures. There are whispers that Clemeren desires Zagraleth’s throne, and will be willing to let those who have the power to slay him, and the will to do so, through to Zagraleth’s inner sanctum… but it may also be those whispers serve only to lure new playmates for the Overgrowth’s master.


Survival

The Overgrowth constantly attacks. Unless a group has magical protection, long-term flight, or other means of avoiding any contact with the surface, they will be continuously subject to the following:

Attack Of The Overgrowth: +27 vs. AC, 4d6+6 damage and target is slowed (save ends). First Failed Save: Target is immobilized (save ends). Second Failed Save: Target is imprisoned.

Imprisoned: An imprisoned target is trapped in the dense thicket of thorns, which pierce his flesh completely, growing into and throughout his body. He is unconscious. Each round, he loses a healing surge; when he has been reduced to zero surges, he is trapped in a state between life and death, and his mind is infiltrated by the Overgrowth. Clemeren, and Zagraleth, can acess the Overgrowth as a minor action to dominate any imprisoned target. This is usually done for interrogation purposes. An imprisoned character can be freed by doing 60 points of damage to the Overgrowth, which has Regeneration 10 (Radiant), and Resistance 15 to Maces, Flails, and Hammers. An imprisoned target has concealment.

A quick note to DMs: Obviously, just dumping the characters in the Overgrowth and waiting until they’ve all been imprisoned is No Fun. Unless the character’s stupidly charge in unprepared (in which case, give them what they’ve asked for), it’s usually best to make sure they know what the place is like and allow them to take precautions. A rare ritual might stave off the plane’s voracious assault for a few hours. A bargain for safe passage might be reached with Clemeren before entry. (They may imitate/impersonate invited guests, somehow…). It is also possible to let them enter, learn, and then quickly retreat through a portal which remains open for a few key rounds.

Obviously, if the characters can be attacked, it is not possible to take a short or extended rest.

The tendrils of the Overgrowth reach upwards for 6 squares.

Thorn-Tainted (Template)

Where the Overgrowth shifts and momentarily merges with the Mortal Realm, a fragment of the demonic plane is left behind. Cut off, it will quickly dissolve into grey ash, unless it can find a host. If it comes into contact with an animal or humanoid, it will merge with it, creating a twisted new entity.

"Thorn Tainted" is a template which can be applied to any Humanoid, Beast, or Magical Beast. It represents a monster infected by the power of the Overgrowth. Such a creature’s appearance transforms; it is covered with sharp thorns and spikes, each twisted and jagged. Blood, or a viler fluid, leaks from where the thorns grow out of the flesh, and the creature’s bones and form become twisted.

Thorn-Tainted Elite Brute

Piercing Aura: aura 1; each enemy that starts its turn adjacent to the thorn-tainted takes 1d6 points of damage per tier.

Hit Points: +10 per level+Constitution score.

Resist: 5 poison

11th level: 10 poison

21st level: 15 poison

Saving Throws: +2

Action Points: 1

Impaling Attacks: All melee attacks which do not have the weapon keyword made by the thorn-tainted creature do 5 ongoing damage (save ends).

11th level: 10 ongoing

21st level: 15 ongoing

Cage Of Pain: (Standard Action; Encounter; Close Blast 5) Level+3 vs. AC, and the target takes Medium/Limited damage, plus immobilized and ongoing 5 per tier (save ends both).

Grappling Thorns: (Minor Action; Recharge 5,6; Range 3): Level +1 vs. Reflex, and target is pulled three squares.

Thorn-tainted creatures will use their grappling thorns and cage of pain powers to bring foes close to them, and will then attack whoever seems weakest until they die.

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