Excerpts 06/05/2006


Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss



Demons. The creatures you love to hate (or who love to hate your character!). You can get an Abyssal-sized serving of these creatures, their organizations, their powers, their tactics, and more in Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss. Make no mistake, though. This book has a lot of crunchy bits for the players of characters who have it in for demons, too! Take a look at some of the excerpts we're providing for your fiendish amusement. The excerpts below include information about nabassu, Yeenoghu, three feats, and the location known as Pazunia.

PAZUNIA

Pazunia, the Plain of Infinite Portals

Layer Number: 1
Ruler: Pazuzu (see page 76), contested
Traits: Self-contained

The top layer of the Abyss is Pazunia, also known as the Plain of Infinite Portals or the Palace of 1,001 Closets. It is a realm of windswept barrens and jagged tors flickering with swarms of winged demons. An oppressive red sun, heavy with infinite age, bathes the layer in sweltering heat and harsh light. Angry shadows curtain the plains in places, concealing hidden menace. And everywhere are massive pits that plunge into deeper layers of terror.

The pits are portals to deeper layers of the Abyss, so that those who descend into them soon find themselves in the associated layer (see Getting Around in the Abyss, above). Most of these pits are two-way portals, but some are one-way, leaving no means of return. Leaping into a pit without knowing where it leads is as good a way as any to commit suicide on Pazunia, for the pits often lead to inhospitable layers filled with deadly environmental dangers. Some of the most remote layers of the Abyss do not attach to Pazunia at all, and are accessible only from stable gates on lower layers.

On the edges of the great pits crouch massive iron fortresses, relics of the obyriths now inhabited by mighty tanar'ric lords who have not yet mustered the power to bend an entire layer to their wills. These warlike, scheming lords use special chambers within the fortresses to project themselves through the Astral Plane and onto Material worlds, where they attempt to sway events and attract followers and cultists. When so engaged, their physical forms are rendered helpless, protected only by the iron fortresses of the obyriths and the demons' own hordes of servitor creatures and pact-gained allies.

The armies of the Abyss continually clash with each other as the lesser demon lords jockey for position. They clash too with invading armies of devils from Baator, for the layer is one of the primary fronts of the Blood War. The methodical baatezu know, as the obyriths before them knew, that to control Pazunia is to control the whole of the Abyss.

Not all visitors to Pazunia come to fight. Because it is a gateway to most of the plane, the layer draws merchants, explorers, and occultists from around the Great Wheel, attracting the most diverse pilgrims of anywhere in the Lower Planes, let alone the Abyss.

The layer is self-contained, but is so large that huge sections of it remain essentially unexplored.

If one walks far enough toward the horizon, he eventually finds himself in the bordering plane of Pandemonium or Hades (depending upon the direction he walks). Those traveling in other directions reach the "edge" of the layer and are teleported to the opposite edge, often without knowing that they have moved. Due to its lack of discernible borders, maps of Pazunia seldom attempt to encompass the whole layer, but instead focus upon a smaller section bounded by the iron fortresses of locally influential demon lords.

DENIZENS

More chaotic evil petitioners manifest as manes on Pazunia than upon any other layer of the Abyss. Local demons hunt these creatures for food or press them into war bands, driving vast herds of petitioners through the pit gates and into the deeper Abyss. Some remain on Pazunia to marshal the defenses of demon lords inhabiting iron fortresses. Demons view these pitiful creatures as little more than living shields and sacrifice them with impunity. Many manes willingly flee down unexplored pits merely to escape their pursuers.

Molydei press gangs wander the layer, picking off stragglers and collaring them to the town of Styros, there to depart upon the River Styx to the Lower Planar battlefields of the Blood War. The massive, two-headed tanar'ri seldom take on demon lords entrenched in iron fortresses, but they eagerly thrust wandering unaffiliated demons into their press gangs. Molydei are also tasked with provisioning the army and demand tribute from all they encounter. Those who cannot give are immediately conscripted and sent to Styros and thence to the raging wars of the Lower Planes.

A surprising number of merchants, mortals, and outsiders alike brave the treacherous Plain of Infinite Portals, for Pazunia's gates lead to unparalleled business opportunities. Those who fly the flag of the Dark Prince Graz'zt enjoy the best protection against banditry, but even this is far from foolproof.

The following creatures dwell on Pazunia and command considerable local clout.

Pazuzu: The Lord of the Lower Aerial Kingdoms has ruled the skies of Pazunia since before the fall of his obyrith fellows. Countless chasme, vrocks, and other flying demons that perch atop the jagged tors and pinnacles of Pazunia pay obeisance to Pazuzu and occasionally snatch travelers from the surface as sacrifices to their prideful lord.

Lawful good characters traveling on Pazunia risk a 5% chance of attracting Pazuzu's attention each day they remain on the layer, for the winged demon is always on the lookout for new innocence to corrupt and ultimately devour. In some cases, Pazuzu waits until goodly characters are in a difficult bind before sweeping in at the last minute and offering to help the unfortunate characters in exchange for some unspeakable service. He pays little attention to the other demon lords of the layer and seldom interferes with their business or their iron fortresses.

Aldinach: Like Pazuzu, the reclusive demon princess Aldinach delights in the perversion of the pure and innocent, but her methods are not quite so subtle. The Lady of Change commands a growing cult upon several Material Plane worlds that concerns itself with the abduction of righteous holy figures or sacred beasts such as ki-rins or lammasus. These pitiful creatures soon find their way to Aldinach's Egg, on the edge of the Grand Abyss, where they endure vile experiments that corrupt their nature and enslave them to her capricious whims.

Aldinach appears as a lithe humanoid woman with polished mahogany skin and long fingers that end in needles she uses to inject putrid sap into the subdued bodies of her victims. An alabaster mask obscures her monstrous face.

Baltazo: When the great demon prince Fraz-Urb'luu was imprisoned on the Material Plane by the mad archmage Zagig Yragerne, several opportunistic demon lords flocked to his abandoned layer, Hollow's Heart, hoping to make it their own. The ambitious minor demon lord Baltazo, a retired general with several Blood War victories under his ever-expanding belt, knew he could not hope to command Hollow's Heart, but he saw opportunity in the growing conflict. Instead of staking his own claim, he instead conquered the iron fortress of Shullen-Gat, on the precipice of the pit leading to Fraz-Urb'luu's lair. Commanding this gateway allowed him to subtly influence the affairs on the layer, affording him prestige elsewhere in the Abyss.

Upon Fraz-Urb'luu's return, the Prince of Deception wiped out most of the rival demon lords squabbling over his layer, but he saw value in a strong defense of the Pazunia gate. The two demons came to an agreement, and Baltazo now stands sentinel over the pit to Hollow's Heart as a sponsored vassal of Fraz-Urb'luu, for whom he sometimes acts as a diplomat or interlocutor.

Baltazo appears as an extremely corpulent human man with an elongated face and deep green skin that constantly fizzles and pops, spilling a variety of sickly fluids upon a poor-fitting military uniform festooned with dozens of ostentatious medals and ribbons.

LOCALES

Specific locations of interest on Pazunia include the following:

Aldinach's Egg: Aldinach's cultists bring their abducted charges to this ovoid iron fortress, where the wood-skinned Lady of Change warps them into twisted mockeries of be paladins, unicorns, and exemplars of pure good they used to be. The transformation grants them the half-fiend template and irreversibly changes their alignment to chaotic evil. Although these victims are occasionally crippled with remorse over what they have become, they cannot fight their new natures long, and soon give in to overwhelming rage and deviousness. Those strong enough to survive the rigors of Pazunia fiercely defend the territory within a mile of Aldinach's Egg; the weakest are eaten by the layer's countless demons.

The Egg itself is a towering structure packed with grim laboratories, operating theaters, and hideous audience chambers draped in the skins of failed experiments. Aldinach occasionally tolerates visitors who offer technology or magical lore that allows her greater malleability over her patients, but has little patience for those who do not share her enthusiasm for perverse surgeries. Guests who tarry too long are fed to the Brethren, a score of chaos beasts who dwell in the Egg's uppermost Forbidden Chambers.

Broken Reach: A succubus sorceress named Red Shroud built this fortress of crumbling stone towers atop a portal to the Outlands gate-town of Plague-Mort over 200 years ago, and the small community that soon grew up around it has served as one of the most popular gathering places on the layer ever since. The guests of Broken Reach include Blood War mercenaries, merchants coming to and from the plane of Concordant Opposition, and even mortal adventurers enjoying one of the few places on Pazunia where they are unlikely to be devoured by demons. Red Shroud displays little tolerance for violence of any kind on her grounds, but death matches occur with regularity beyond the rickety walls. The succubus demands obedience from her guests and expects them to back her if trouble breaks out.

Broken Reach houses dozens of visitors at any one time, many of them enjoying the relative comfort of richly appointed (and hugely expensive) luxury suites. Red Shroud knows her clientele, and hence stocks a huge variety of weapons and armor, which is available for purchase at three times the costs listed in the Player's Handbook. The demoness is a great poison enthusiast and offers a wide selection of venoms from the lowest pits of the Abyss. Such is her love of the stuff that she gives great deference to guests who offer her some new lethal substance.

When not directly engaged in business, it's best to give Red Shroud wide berth, for the succubus is capricious and untrustworthy -- you never know when she's about to order your death. Red Shroud is constantly on edge, for she has had to defend the citadel from mobs, githzerai, and even a minor Abyssal lord. Molydei are encouraged to look for conscripts elsewhere.

The Grand Abyss: The cliff walls of this great tear in the fabric of the Abyss bear an infinity of portals to other layers of the plane. Considered a layer of the Abyss in its own right, it is covered in detail below.

Lakes of Molten Iron: This series of steaming crucibles provides the iron that composes most of the weapons and all of the fortresses of Pazunia, making the surrounding area one of the most fiercely contended regions on the layer. The lakes range in color from scalding white to scorching red, emitting waves of heat that make for a difficult approach. Creatures within 100 yards of the lakes take 1d10 points of fire damage per round of exposure. Characters submerged in a lake take 20d6 points of fire damage per round, and even those who merely touch it take 2d6 points of fire damage per round of exposure.

The abandoned town of Raazorforge, on the banks of the largest lake, is home to scores of magma mephits who once aided in a massive forging operation here but who escaped when an entropic ship of chaos destroyed most of the community. Demons shun the site, making it one of the safer locales on Pazunia. The iron fortress Ferrug, on the opposite shore, couldn't be more different. It swarms with herds of armanites, murders of vrocks, and countless ravenous manes led by a willful marilith named Galizsheth.

River Styx: The bruise-purple waters of the River Styx flow throughout the Plain of Infinite Portals, breaking into numerous tributaries that disappear into the gaping pits and thence to lower layers of the Abyss. Some reverse waterfalls rush out of the portals and feed the river, which also stretches away to both Pandemonium and the Gray Waste of Hades.

Styros: The sullen, muddy garrison town of Styros marks the point of embarkation for the molydeus-captured demons forced to serve in the armies of the Blood War. The unfortunates are herded onto massive fast-moving riverboats powered by the combustion of souls, spitting cloying ash into the acrid air out of crude smokestacks. Babau officers abound here, abusing their charges with threats and random beatings. Strangers require some quick thinking and a great deal of cash to escape Styros without being thrown into the slave pens of a battlefield-bound war hulk.

Vanelon: A series of rose-hued marble pillars leads to the iron fortress of Vanelon, which guards the pit leading to Shendilavri, domain of the succubus queen Malcanthet. Whereas most citadels of Pazunia reflect the bizarre architectures of the ancient obyriths, Malcanthet has embellished Vanelon with sweeping towers and magnificent facades that would make it fit in the most romantic of Material Plane kingdoms. Such beautiful style befits the structure's role as home to her Favored Consort, an ever-changing position filled by whatever minor demon lord manages to strike her fancy at the moment.

Its current occupant is Mastiphal, the Hunting Sovereign, a handsome fiend with bright red skin, four arms, and a rack of ibex horns upon his angular forehead. The calculating demon lord gained Malcanthet's favor by presenting her with the head of a huge fiendish smilodon slain on the hunting fields of Spirac (layer 71), but his audiences with Shendilavri's seductress have become less and less frequent recently, and Mastiphal is willing to do anything to regain her attention. His servitor glabrezu zealously patrol the pit's perimeter, bringing any interlopers to the lord's trophy-bedecked audience chamber. Only tales of an invincible wild beast are enough to dissuade him from taking lethal action against spies, since a part of him longs to be free of the walls of Vanelon and back on the hunt.

ADVENTURE HOOKS

Characters on Pazunia might be drawn to one of the following quests:

Helping the Highfather: The high priest of a PC's faith has been abducted by the cult of Aldinach and taken to her monstrous Egg on Pazunia. The PCs must venture first to Broken Reach to rendezvous with a contact willing to provide a map of the citadel (for a price), and then must penetrate the iron fortress of the Lady of Change before she can work her ministrations upon their spiritual leader.

The Right Metal Makes All the Difference: The PCs or a favored patron must construct a desired magical weapon using metal harvested from the Lakes of Molten Iron. Demons in league with the marilith Galizsheth surround the lake, forcing the adventurers to cut a deal with the mephits of Raazorforge.

Filling out the Roster: The PCs are hired by the Fraternity of Order to catalogue what lies beyond an uncharted pit of Pazunia that leads to an undiscovered layer of the Abyss. Before they get there, however, they encounter scheming Baltazo, who offers to help them if they first travel to Hollow's Heart for a personal audience with Fraz-Urb'luu, who also has a mission he'd like them to accomplish.

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