|Is it me, or is that demon photo-bombing those fighting naked dudes?|
Well, you’ve seen the sketch of Stygia a bit earlier … now the finished product.
As one passes from hot, dry Gehenna into cool, damp Stygia, the metallic sands beneath their feet harden and become a plain of swirling metals. This plain abruptly ends in a metal cliff, perfectly smooth and angular, as though cut by a die. One mile below the top of this cliff lies the murky swamp of Stygia, a land of mangrove swamps (though such mangrove trees one has never seen on the surface, with trees so twisted and black that even a druid would be compelled to grab and axe and fell the lot of them) mud flats, rocky, vine-choked promontories and always the thick, reddish water, so much like blood, that sucks and laps at the swampy shores. Eventually, the islands in the swamp become less and less, and finally one enters the sluggish, crimson River Styx. Beyond the Styx, of course, lie the battered walls of Dis, the great metropolis of Hell in which lies Pandaemonium, their parliament, and the manors and manses of the lords of Hell.
Stygia is the fifth circle of Hell, given over to the souls of the wrathful and forlorn. It is swathed in darkness both physical and spiritual, and sits upon a base of black mud. Wallowing in this mud, incapable of escape, are the souls of the wrathful, who look much as they did in life, but with faces twisted with unending ire. Beneath their feet are trampled the souls of the sullen and forlorn, who choke eternally on the mud and seek to pull others into it.
Stygia is an eternal battleground between two great princes of Hell, Bael and Dagon. Ancient enemies, they launch their forces against one another in an unending farce, for Bael rules the land and has no use for the waters of the Styx, while Dagon rules the Styx and has no use for the land above. One cannot use what the other possesses, but desires it just the same.
Dangers of Stygia
Crossing Stygia: Stygia is a difficult terrain to move through, for it requires a boat, skiff or raft of some sort, and such an item is not readily available when one first enters the swamp. One might wait for Phlegyas, the boatman of the Styx, to arrive, but his price is a heavy one – a portion of one’s soul (and impossible gift for those of lawful alignment) and a service to be granted at some point in the future. We’ll discuss Phlegyas more below.
Wrathful and Sullen: Assuming one is not ferried across Stygia, one must pole themselves across the landscape. The channels of Stygia are treacherous and ever-shifting. When one seeks passage from one hex into another, one must roll a die to see what passage they find:
1-2 No passage by water – one must walk and leave their craft behind
3-5 A narrow channel (see below)
6 A wide channel (see below)
Wide channels are also deep and the safest routes for travel (though random encounters may occur there as well as anywhere else). Narrow, shallow channels, on the other hand, are clogged with the souls of the wrathful and sullen.
Those who travel a narrow channel have a 1 in 6 chance per mile (roll 1d4 to determine the length of the channel) of being beset by these creatures. Each person so attacked must pass a saving throw or be grappled by 1d4 wrathful. They are incredible powerful, making grapple attacks with a bonus of +3. If they get a hold, they then attempt (also with grapple attacks) to pull a person into the water. Each successful attack deals 1d4 points of damage. A successful grapple attack on a person already grappled drags them into the water and muck.
Each round, 1d4 more wrathful will attempt to grab a person not already dragged into the water (and each of their companions, so delayed, must make another saving throw to avoid the same fate). No more than six wrathful can grapple a person at one time.
If a person is dragged into the water and mud, they are then grappled by 1d6 of the sullen, who lie beneath the mud (and who also attack with a +3 bonus), with the purpose of drowning them.
Waters of the Styx: A dip in the Styx has the same effect as oil of invulnerability (i.e. per the spell stoneskin). This effect lasts for 24 hours. The invulnerable is also affected as per the spell rage whenever they are challenged in any way.
Phlegyas dwells in a stone tower bathed in blinding light. This tower’s position in Stygia is quite variable, moving every 1d6 days. Its position can be rolled as follows:
1-2 Opposite side of Stygia from the adventurers
3-4 Quarter of the way around Stygia from the adventurers
5 2d4 hexes away from the adventurers
6 In the same hex as the adventurers
Races of Stygia
Stygia, like most of the other circles of Hell, is not only inhabited by pitchfork-carrying devils and their victims. Five races known to people of the surface world dwell in Stygia, though these races have been changed in many ways by their habitation in Hell.
In particular, the race of Stygia, living so long near or in the River Styx, are nearly invulnerable to normal weapons (i.e. those of less than adamant construction), taking only half damage from such weapons. They are also all berserkers, gaining double their normal attacks in combat, but suffering a -2 penalty to their Armor Class.
Frog Men: The frog men have long, thin legs and great, wide mouths filled with needle thin teeth. They have glossy black skin and warm, amber eyes that produce a dim glow. Their tongues are long and barbed, and those struck by them must pass a saving throw or be infected by disease (lose 1d3 points of wisdom per day). Just as frogs straddle land and water, the frog men straddle the lines between Bael and Dagon, attempting to play one side off the other for their own benefit.
Hobgoblins: Hobgoblins, as mentioned in NOD 11, are “the wrathful”, so it is only right that they dwell in Stygia as the foot soldiers of Bael. Stygian hobgoblins have crimson skin so dark it is almost black, with beady eyes of a sulfurous yellow. They dress in light or medium armors, like ring armor or lamellar, for the danger of being sucked into the mud is ever present in Stygia. Stygian hobgoblins arm themselves with sabres and scimitars, hacking falchions, barbed spears, throwing axes, brazen muskets and pistols. Some protect stone fortresses hidden in the swamp, while others patrol the swamps in shallow draft, iron-clad galleys armed with rows of ornate bronze cannon.
Mermaids: The mermaids of Stygia have pallid skin and overly large, deep green eyes that can allow them to charm person. Their lower bodies are those of eels and their hands are tipped with deep, green claws. They are utterly without mercy and quite carnivorous.
Ogres: The ogres of Stygia are the armorers of Bael, forging the weapons, armor and ordnance of his armies. They have greenish-black skin and lank, green hair that grows to their ankles. This hair is matted, sometimes braided, and the ogres weave iron knobs into the ends so that their hair becomes a weapon while they are fighting. Any creature in melee contact with them must save each round or suffer 1d4 points of damage from these knobs. The ogres of Stygia are berserkers (two attacks per round).
Sahuagin: The sahuagin of Hell are not terribly different from the sahuagin of any other world – a testament of sorts to their innate wickedness and ferocity. The Stygian sahuagin have dull black scales that aid them in surprising their prey in the black waters of the swamp and river.
Lords of Stygia
Stygia is divided between two princes, Bael and Dagon.
Prince Bael is a fallen solar, and one of the principal kings of Hell. He is one of Lucifer’s lieutenants, and thus also one of his greatest rivals. Bael can take the form of a crimson-skinned man with a face twisted with rage (even when he is calm is appears this way) and bull’s horns jutting from his head, as a brazen bull with a man’s face, or as a strange creature with the body of a spider and three heads, those of a crowned man, a cat and a toad. This last form is his true form since his fall from grace.
Dagon is the prince of the waters of Stygia, i.e. the River Styx. Also known as Lotan, the patron deity of Ophir, he dwells in a grand palace beneath the Styx with his wife, Ishara, a demi-goddess of the oaths and magical bindings, who inflicts bodily penalties on oath breakers. Both appear as demonic merfolk. Ishara is known for her milky white skin. She can also take the form of a white scorpion.
Vepar is the lieutenant of Dagon and a great duke of Hell in his own right. He governs the waters and on Nod is invoked to guide armed vessels to safety or to sink such vessels beneath the waves. He takes the form of a fetching mermaid clad in armor of coral and gold.
Furfur, a great earl of Hell, is the chief of the perytons, and he commands 29 companies of demons and devils. He appears as either a winged deer or an angel and is the patron of furcifers (i.e. scoundrels). Furfur believes the skies of Stygia to be his domain, and he counts himself neutral between Bael and Dagon, though the raids of his servants on the land forces of Bael have disposed the former quite badly toward him.
Aguares, who was covered in NOD 9, is a duke of Hell and an unsteady servant of Bael. He appears as a pale, old man mounted on a crocodile, with a hawk on his fist. He is served by 31 companies.
Scox is a marquis of Hell and the chief of the eblis, and he attempts to take no part in the battles between Bael and Dagon. He is faithful to Lucifer, and acts as his chief factor in Stygia, despite the fact that Bael is supposedly Lucifer’s right-hand-man.
Nickar, chief of the kelpies and pirates, is a servant (unwilling to some extent) of Dagon. He commands the shallower channels and appears as a demonic nixie playing a harp and attended by kelpies and nixies who comb his hair and whisper sweet nothings in his ears.
Finally, we come to Styx herself, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, a titan and nereid who bore to the titan Pallas the children Zelus, Nike, Kratos and Bia. She remains above the fray, but lends some support to both sides to keep them locked eternally in battle and thus out of her hair. Styx is fairly neutral in alignment, and the most approachable of the lords of Stygia, though she is rarely inclined to lend aid.