It is a place of screams, and storms, and ten foot tall multi-mouthed starfish with a bad attitude.
"What is the Howling Reef, Alex?"
The sun hangs low, but never sets, casting the entire layer in an orange glow. There is no real land here, just a few outcroppings of twisted coral which might cover an area a few dozen feet on a side, if that. The water is an unhealthy grey-green, the color of filth and decay, and the smell is that of eternally rotting, diseased, flesh. The ocean’s surface is in a state of constant storm, of ebb and flow with no pattern or purpose, and torn and broken everywhere by outcroppings of the infinite, mazelike reef which gives this layer its name. The howling? Ah yes, the howling…
At times, the reef will crack and split from the constant tumult of the waves, or from the endless bloody battles of the starmaws which are the layer’s chief inhabitants. Then, the true framework of the reef is revealed — it is built of souls, encrusted and incarcerated here, the coral of the reef growing in and out of their astral bodies, as agonzing to their spirits as if they were still made of flesh… but of course, there is no hope of death’s respite. Those who are "freed" in this way have, at most, a few hours to stare at the baleful sun and the dim grey sky before the reef once more grows over them; the rare few who are cast free of the reef and try to flee will find no place to go and no shelter to seek, and will be hunted down by the starmaws, torn apart, and cast back into the water, where the pieces of their ghostly form will eventually rejoin and be subsumed once again into the structure of the plane itself.
The ocean has no true bottom — the reef descends anywhere from twenty to a hundred feet and then merges with a single, immense, mass of coral which is the substrate of the layer. The layer itself is a disc roughly a thousand miles in diameter. Apart from the maze-like reef, the only notable structure is what some of called the Castle of Bleeding Walls, a great fortress made of the same soul-infested coral as everyplace else, partially broken into ruin. At times, some being or another will inhabit this place — a powerful demon from another plane seeking a kind of solitude, or a visitor from the mortal realm doing ghastly and terrible researches. The starmaws cannot enter into the Castle, so those "visiting" this place might find it a momentary respite.
According to legend, this layer was once controlled by Zar, the forgotten god of puzzles, mazes, and mysteries, or perhaps by one of his servitors. This would imply the castle was once his, as well, and might contain lore so long decayed that most do not even suspect that it ever existed to be forgotten.
Any who die here risk being consumed by the reef. Each failed death save draws the corpse more and more into the substance of the plane; when the final save is failed, the body is immured and the soul is likewise trapped. The Queen of Death will, very rarely, bargain with the powers of the Abyss to release a soul which has not passed through her realm, but it will take some doing. So long as the soul is trapped in the reef, any form of resurrection or communication with the dead is impossible; this makes it an excellent place to put people you want to be sure stay dead.
Any combat in the Reef is sure to crack the coral, and expose some howling spirit. See below for the effects.
Howling Spirit Level 22 Blaster
Hazard: The soul is freed to howl as described below. Thereafter, it attacks every round on its initiative. 4150 XP
Perception: None needed; a revealed soul is very, very, obvious.
Trigger: Any coral square in the Howling Reef may contain a trapped soul. Any attack which misses a target adjacent to a coral square has a 1 in 4 chance of exposing a soul. The GM should decide how many souls exist in the encounter area and stop rolling after that many have been revealed.
Attack: Standard Action Close Burst 2
Target: All creatures in burst which do not have the "Demon" keyword.
Attack: +23 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 3d12+8 psychic, and the target is deafened (save ends).
Countermeasure: Attacking the coral can free the soul. The coral is AC 28, other defenses 26, and can only be attacked by powers which can target objects. 75 hit points. Destroying the coral will free the soul entirely, at which point it will rush off in a desperate search for an end to its pain. Lots of luck.
|Oozing Glue aura 1; All enemies in the aura are slowed.|
|HP 277; Bloodied 138|
|Regeneration 15 (If the starmaw takes fire damage, regeneration does not function until the end of its next turn)|
|AC 36; Fortitude 37, Reflex 35, Will 34|
|Vulnerable Fire 10|
|Speed 8; Swim 12; Climb 6|
|Action Points 1|
|M Bite (Standard)|
|+27 vs. AC, 4d6+8|
|c Swarm Of Bites (Standard; at-will)|
|Close Burst 1; Up to four enemies in burst; +27 vs. AC, 3d6+8|
|m Rend (Standard; recharge 56)|
|+27 vs. AC; Hit: 2d6+8, and make a secondary attack against the same target. Secondary: +27 vs. AC Hit:4d12+8, and target is grabbed.|
|r Draw In The Food (Minor; recharge 456)|
|Range 15; +25 vs. Fortitude Hit: Pull target four squares.|
|Anchored (Immediate Interrupt; recharge 456)|
|Trigger: The Starmaw is affected by forced movement. Effect: The forced movement is negated. All other effects of the power occur normally.|
|Special; A Starmaw cannot be knocked prone.|
|Skills Athletics +26, Endurance +25|
A character knows the following information with a successful Arcana check.
DC 25: Starmaws are demonic creatures of pretty much unadulterated rage and fury, which dwell mostly in the Howling Reef
DC 30: Starmaws are incredibly dangerous to be near, and they are good at making sure foes are near to them.
DC 35: As creatures of the water, they shun fire.
Imagine a massively thick starfish, twice the height of a man. Now imagine that at the heart of it is an ever-snapping maw filled with jagged, twisted, teeth. Now imagine that at the end of each of the arms is a similair maw, surrounded by eyestalks on tentacles. Now imagine it is next to you, and you cannot get away.
That’s a starmaw.
Starmaws use their aura and their Draw In The Food power to keep enemies close to them, and lash out at all adjacent foes as often as they can. They are poor tacticians and will generally ignore distant targets (except to draw them closer) in favor of pounding on whatever is closest to them. If it will generally save its action point until it has three or more enemies adjacent to it, then use Swarm of Bites twice in succession. If it succeeds in pulling an enemy adjacent with Draw In The Food, it will almost always seek to Rend that enemy.
Coral Wand Of The Tormented Soul (Level 23+)
This rough and twisted wand invariably draws blood when it is wielded, and, at night, strange howls can be dimly heard echoing from within.
Lvl 23 +5 425,000 gp
Lvl 28 +6 2,125,000 gp
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d8 Necrotic damage per plus;
Property: When using this wand, any ongoing Necrotic damage dealt which a save can end imposes a -2 penalty to the save.
Power (Encounter): Minor Action. Spend a healing surge, but do not regain any hit points. The next Arcane Attack power you use will deal an additional 10 ongoing necrotic damage. (Save at -2 to end)