Maciste in Hell

I have a ton of old movies queued up on Youtube, and I finally decided to start watching a few of them, bit by bit, before nodding off at night. This week, I chewed through a 1925 Italian picture called Maciste in Hell. It’s not just a clever title, as it really does concern Maciste, a long-standing character in Italian movies, a sort of Herules-type, going to Hell and giving the infernal hosts a bit of trouble.

If you have an hour to spare, and especially if you dig weird fantasy and/or Dungeons & Dragons, I suggest you check this baby out. The story is simple and the acting is fine. It’s the sequences in Hell that make this movie worth a watch. Awesome design of sets and costumes, with intrigue, betrayal and a battle between armies of devils – just really good stuff. You even get a shot of Dante’s concept of Satan at the lowest level of Hell committed to film. So groovy.

The movie also offers a neat concept that DM’s might want to steal for their own depictions of Hell – the effects of kissing a daughter of Hell. I won’t say more, as it might be considered a spoiler – just watch the darn movie already.

Hell is for Geniuses

In working on my Blood & Treasure revision, I started thinking today about one of the aspects of monsters that often gets overlooked – intelligence. Starting in AD&D, monsters started getting intelligence ratings, and I think most referees note them and use them to help play a monster encounter, but I wonder whether they really take them into consideration.

Let’s take Hell for an example.

Illustration by Thomas Theodor Heine

Many devils have a high intelligence rating, making them the equivalent of college graduates or even geniuses. A few are super geniuses – and we’re not talking Wile E. Coyote super geniuses, but the real deal – folks smarter than Einstein, Elon Musk and Tony Stark put together. They’re also lawful (evil, but lawful), which means they can work together. Imagine it – thousands of super geniuses working together to create a tech boom in the depths of Hell.

There is some literary precedence for this idea. Milton, in Paradise Lost, noted that the rebel angels used engines of war – possible cannon – in their battle against the Heavenly Host. This was probably an early version of casting “modern” warfare, with its noise and smoke and fire, to our typical vision of Hell, or a Hellish landscape.

We could go a step further, and let the devils in a campaign go full steampunk. What a surprise for high level adventurers, who are expecting the cover to a heavy metal album, and instead enter a nightmarish “World of Tomorrow” when they visit Hell – something more Kirby-esque than classical art. This would also mean that the allies of Hell on the Material Plane would have access to some interesting “magic items” – cannons of course, but also rocket packs, difference engines, steam-powered tanks, etc.

This could make for an interesting campaign, as Hell embraces sorcery and super-science and begins equipping mad wizards and anti-clerics with steam-era technology to conquer the Material Plane, with the adventurers left to discover what this stuff is, how it works, where it comes from and, ultimately, how to stop it. Maybe they’ll need to engineer a rebellion in Hell – the low-order devils against their masters, like something from Metropolis. Or maybe they’ll need to ascend the Seven Heavens and petition the solars and planetars for help in storming the Hellmouth – thousands of aasimars and elves and dwarves brightly arrayed against an undead army that looks like it might have crawled out of the trenches of the First World War!

It could be epic.

Illustration by Thomas Theodor Heine

Cocytus, Hell’s Frozen Heart – Hunters and Titans

Finally. The last of the nine circles. Here are a few previews of the things to see in the final bit of the Hellcrawl, due for publishing in a couple weeks. It includes two of the key components to this circle – the elder titans imprisoned here after the titanomachy and gigantomachy, and one of the four angelic watchtowers meant to provide a last bit of help for those who wish to escape Hell and return to the surface of Nod.

57.52 Hunters: A pack of 13 winter wolves patrol this hex constantly in search of a golden elk that roams Cocytus, a glimmer of hope in an otherwise hopeless place. Adventurers can try their luck as well – the elk is capable of casting the following spells, each once per day: Heal, cure disease, neutralize poison and restoration. The wolves are encountered on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6.

58.50 Clytius: Clytius, the elder titan, was immolated by torches conjured Hecate, and he burns to this day. He is chained to the walls of Cocytus here with adamant links, sending flickering shadows over the frozen hills and moaning in agony. Salamanders caper about him, basking in the warmth and sampling the flesh of the shades roasting in his fires while skewered on pikes. Magical shields and armor tempered in Clytius’ flames grant their wielders immunity to fire for a temporary amount of time. Each day, there is a 1 in 20 chance that the armor or shield loses this new magical property.

CLYTIUS: HD 35 (180 hp); AC -8 [27]; Atk 2 slams (3d6 + 1d12 fire); Move 15; Save 3; CL/XP 40/10400; Special: Flaming aura (60 ft. radius, 1d6 points of damage per round), immune to fire damage, spells as 20th level magic-user and cleric plus at will—change self, commune with nature, cure serious wounds, eyebite, free action, fly, fog cloud, monster summoning VI, produce flame, protection from fire, read magic, remove curse, speak with animals, soften earth and stone, speak with plants, teleport without error, wind wall; 3/day—antilife shell, astral projection, contact other plane, dispel magic, invisibility purge, plane shift.

60.53 Watchtower of the West: Though Cocytus is the very heart of Hell, it is not without angelic influence. The gods of Law, cognizant that the only way for mortals to escape Hell is by being of a non-Chaotic alignment, and knowing how they do the way Hell can prey on a person’s soul and by degrees turn them from the path of Law (or even Neutrality), they established four watchtowers staffed by powerful champions of Law. These angels are in Hell to provide atonement and succor to Lawful and Neutral souls in Hell.

The watchtower is composed of brilliant white quartz and takes the form of a grand tower keep, about 100 feet tall, with pearescent battlements and golden spires that give off a warm, inviting glow. The battlements are guarded by three companies of luminous aasimar, who wear white tunics (no armor) and carry white heavy crossbows, silver glaive-guisarmes and daggers and quivers of twenty +1 crossbow bolts.

Araqiel is the angel of judgment for clerics, and this is his watchtower. Here, Chaotic clerics can turn from the path of wickedness and atone for their past sins, and neutral druids can prepare themselves for the ordeals ahead. Clerics in need of atonement must fast for one week and cast aside their armor, relying until they escape Hell on nothing but their spells.

Moving Feasts and Undead Assembly Lines – A Glimpse at Malebolge

I’m finishing up my rough draft of Malebolge tonight, and starting Cocytus tomorrow. Here are three encounters from Malebolge, a land of volcanic mountains and hidden valley kingdoms of demon lords and arch-devils.

55.58 The Moving Feast: Terraced, ashen hillsides here are connected by broad, stone steps carved by ancient duergar slaves. The heads of the slaves are preserved here in wax, and are affixed to iron stakes that line the stairs. The stairs lead up to a platform that bears the bloody remnants of some great feast; it is a terrible carnage of humanoid and animal bones, flesh and sinew, that rises up in a distorted parody of life to attack those who approach. The basalt wall behind then feast is an illusion; behind it, one finds the temple-fortress of a giant god of carnage and death.

56.48 Undead Assembly Line: Fiery crabmen are roasting corpses over long trenches of flaming blue gas, part of a process of turning zombies into exploding bones (a type of animated skeleton). A long procession of the revenants are marching into the flames; while standing in line, they receive glyphs on their shoulders, hands, foreheads, feet and small of back (like evil tramp stamps!) from a gaggle of lesser necromancers (level 1d3+3). When they emerge from the fires, they look like brightly painted skeletons (not unlike those seen in Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration) and are marched to the palace of Orobas where they are used as an outer picket of suicide guards.

59.62 City of Ten Thousand Devils: The owl-headed arch-devil Andras dwells here in his grand city of monasteries. The city has grand walls of dark granite that form a wide circle (3 miles in diameter) and are lined by leering gargoyles (some are monsters, some statues). The city has three gates, each one in the shape of a pentagram and alive with dazzling lights. A causeway passes up and through the star, subjecting travelers to a cascade of colors that affect them per a color spray unless they curtain has been deactivated by one of the guardians of these gates, a shining child surrounded in a 60-ft radius aura of blinding light (save or blindness for 1 hour).

Phlegethon – Ice Wights, Magic Crowns and Nrogara of the Long Stride

Wow – been a while since I previewed old Phlegethon here. I’m actually now working on Malebolge (not to be confused to Male Bulge, a truly frightening demi-plane of male underwear models), and have my eye on Cocytus. I’m nearly through with Hell!!!

So, here’s four nasty little surprises lurking in Phlegethon …

46.62. Misty Cave: Water from the boiling river flows into a misty cave. One must wade into the cave – the water reaches their waist – and if they do they discover that it is clad in ice. The cave is 200 feet long and quite rugged and twisting. The water in the cave is tepid at first, then chilly and finally slushy at the back wall. In the colder portions of the cave, one sees several corpses (ice wights) embedded in the walls. The back of the cave is solid ice, and within it one sees the leering face of Lucifer. The face gives off a low, rumbling laugh and then a wall of ice forms about 20 feet behind the adventurers. The ice wights break from their confinement and attack the party, attempting to wrest from them their weapons, shields – anything they can get – and then merge back into the icy walls.

ICE WIGHT: HD 8; AC 0 [19]; Atk 1 claw (1d6 + level drain); Move 9; Save 14; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Drain 1 level with hit, +1 or better weapon to hit, immune to cold, merge with ice.

50.66 Tower Keep: A grand tower keep dominates the badlands here. It looks to have suffered little damage over the eons from wandering Vandals, and this is because permanent walls of force screen it from the landscape.

The fortress is composed of the reddish stone of the badlands, set haphazardly with purple moss growing between the cracks. Trickles of reddish water seep from the high, barred windows and form little streams that collect within the area contained by the walls of force, making a reddish moat that is hot to the touch (1d4 points of damage per round).

The fortress has double doors for entry, the doors being made of strips of cold iron bolted to a backing of 10-inch thick black oak. The doors are always kept locked, and murder holes above the doors permit the devils inside to pour boiling red water on those who bother them.

Within the doors, the fortress takes on the aspect of an Escher painting (treat its navigation as a maze, except for the inhabitants). It is the home of Galiffiet, a night hag of tremendous power and cunning. Under her command is a company of giant spiders and a “harem” of six chaotic androsphinxes, the largest and most dominant of them being called Rekur.

Gallifiet seeks her lost lover, Zenrukh, the balor demon who now leads the resistance of “fallen devils” in Hell. Whether she wishes to help or destroy him is unknown.

Gallifiet holds a treasure of 790 sp, 11,110 gp, 320 pp, ten pounds of silver ingots (worth 100 gp), a brass candelabra (worth 4,000 gp) that casts the illusion of the angel of death hanging over one person within its light, a silver pendant (worth 4,800 gp, a gift from Zenrukh) and a golden crown that, when tapped against various materials, summons various evil lords and ladies (15th level each) that must serve their summoner for 1 day.

Base Metal / Thief
Copper / Magic-User
Gemstone / Monk
Gold / Cleric
Iron/Steel / Fighter
Platinum / Antipaladin
Silver / Illusionist
Stone / Ranger
Wood / Druid

55.39 Adamant Fountain: An adamant fountain is hidden away in a deep cave, magenta-colored water pouring from the fountain, through the cave and out into the badlands.

The fountain features a hollow adamant statue of a marilith holding six adamant swords. If struck by a metal object, the sound waves cause the water to drain from the fountain and the bottom descends, permitting folk to enter a strange subterranean prison. When a person approaches the fountain they are attacked by black tentacles (per the spell), which last for 10 minutes.

The prison is a vast labyrinth of corridors an alcoves, the alcoves filled with force cages. The cages contain various powerful undead (corporeal), demons, devils, daemons and demodands.

57.40 Black Avengers: A company of 20 wicked avengers occupies an ancient castle of blue-grey stone. The avengers (Ftr 5; 20 hp each) dress in black cloaks and coats of blackened mail and arm themselves with longswords and longbows. Their leader is a fallen ranger, Nrogara of the Long Stride (Ftr 16; 68 hp), who was bewitched by Amduscias through a strange, cloudy crystal ball he discovered in a wizard’s tower.

The avengers have a treasure of 1,260 sp and 350 gp in a grand, heavily ornamented gold urn (worth 7,000 gp). They also have 8 casks of fine burgundy (12 gallons each, 100 lb each, worth 600 gp each).

This guy has nothing to do with Nrogara of the Long Stride. Absolutely nothing.

60.38 Forgotten Sea God: On the banks of the boiling river, amidst the weeping pines, there is an ancient abbey of pocked, gray stone and roofs of sparkling aquamarines. Within the abbey there is an idol of a forgotten sea titan, muscular and pale, a cloak of silvery fish scales thrown over his shoulder. No priests now throng the idol or drown victims in the sacrificial pool at his feet, and the idol’s missing head and symbol of Dagon engraved in its chest tells the tale as to why. Still, the god’s pool is still inhabited by the souls of the departed, and when the living approach too close, they begin to rise from the waters as brine zombies (1d4 per round for 10 rounds), seeking new souls to join them in the abyss.

The pool leads to a pocket dimension of a wine-dark, salty sea populated by brinze zombies and shadow sharks. At the heart of this seemingly infinite plane there is kept a relic called the Orb of Elemental Water, an orb capable of casting any water-based spell at will and controlling water elemental creatures en masse. It is a powerful artifact, and it is guarded by a monstrously huge hydra whose heads are those of the high priests who once served the forgotten god (his name even escapes them now), each one capable of casting spells as a 12th level anti-cleric.

(Yeah, there are other Orbs in Phlegethon – one of those things that wasn’t planned)

Phlegethon, The 7th Circle

And now we’re into the 7th circle of Hell, Phlegethon. Here’s a preview …

After the crowded, dangerous cityscape of Dis, it’s nice to settle back into the bleak, dangerous wilderness that dominates most of Hell.

Phlegethon is the seventh circle of Hell, wherein the violent are imprisoned for eternity. It is divided into four different landscapes – bleak highlands, the boiling river of Phlegethon, a tangled woodland of despair and a salty desert caressed by rains of fiery flakes.

The only way to enter Phlegethon is by hitching a ride on Geryon, the reigning prince of Phlegethon. The circle is ringed by 10 mile high walls of granite and quartz, at the tops of which is the vast, sprawling city of Dis.

Myriad caves open in these walls, sending the dank waters of the Styx in waterfalls to fall in the highlands, blanketing them with a red mist. The grandest cave, replete with sparkling quartzes serves as the palace of Geryon.

The reddish liquid of the Styx forms streams and rivulets that flow into the boiling Phlegethon, where shades who dedicated themselves to violence in life are anchored to a depth commensurate to the level of their sins. The craggy, damp hills are home to many oozes and fungi, not to mention the minotaurs of Baphomet, medusas of Stheno and Euryale and savage centaurs of Chiron.

The highlands end at the banks of the Phlegethon, where the centaurs patrol in armies, keeping the shades interred in their boiling punishment. Vandals (shades that escaped the Phlegethon) roam the highlands, keeping its cities and fortresses in a constant state of ruin. The highlands ever ring with the clash of sword and shield, so bring plenty of hit points if you’re planning to spend much time there.

Beyond the boiling river is a gnarled woodland of twisted, black trees with human faces. These are the shades of people who committed violence to themselves in life, their bodies twisted into the shapes of trees that moan and grasp at hair and clothing. Harpies and hell hounds pursue the Profligates through these woods.

The innermost landscape of Phlegethon is a desert of life draining salt. The salt wastes are wandered by the blasphemers and userers, who carry their heavy purses chained round their necks. The salt wastes end at miles-high cliffs that overlook the mountains and jungle valleys of Malebolge, the eighth and penultimate circle of Hell.

Dangers of Phlegethon

As with all of Hell, Phlegethon is not entirely welcoming to life. It has several specific dangers to watch for.

Dehydration: The salt wastes of Phlegethon aren’t just bone dry, they suck the moisture out of living bodies. Living creatures must double their normal water intake here or suffer 1d4 points of constitution damage per day. After two days, living creatures feel their tongues swell and lips crack, and they are unable to speak properly (i.e. no more spells boys and girls!). After three days, one’s skin is so dry that it begins to flake off. Movement is reduced to half and salt insinuates itself into open cracks in the skin, imposing a -2 penalty to all attacks and saves due to pain.

Depression: The woodlands are not just dismal, they suck at one’s will to live. Each day in the woods, one must pass a saving throw or be struck by despair (as the crushing despair or emotion spell). Those who succumb to despair become beacons for the monsters of the woods, and subsequently wandering monsters are encountered on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6.

Phelegethon: The Phlegethon is a boiling river, with flaming oil above and super-heated water below. Touching the water inflicts damage per round based upon how much of one’s body is exposed: 1d6 for a single limb or head, 3d6 for half of one’s body and 6d6 for one’s entire body.

Races of Phlegethon

Phlegethon, like most of the other circles of Hell, is not only inhabited by pitchfork-carrying devils and their victims. Four races known to people of the surface world dwell in Phlegethon, though these races have been changed in many ways by their habitation in Hell.

Centaurs: The centaurs of Phlegethon’s highlands are large creatures, wild and unruly and with blazing eyes. They are immune to fire.

CENTAUR: HD 8; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 kicks (1d8) or longbow (1d8); Move 18; Save 8; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Immune to fire.

Harpies: The harpies of the dismal woodlands almost have the appearance of angels – porcelain skin, icy blue eyes, white, feathered wings – but marred with a cruel visages and black talons.

HARPY: HD 6; AC 5 [14]; Atk 2 talons (1d6); Move 6 (Fly 18); Save 11; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Flight, siren-song, magic resistance (30%).

Medusas: Phlegethon’s medusas have skin as hard and green as malachite.

MEDUSA: HD 8; AC 1 [18]; Atk 2 claws (1d6) and snake bites (1d4 + poison); Move 9; Save 8; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Gaze turns to stone, poison, half damage from non-magical weapons.

Minotaurs: The minotaurs of Phlegethon have the heads of Brahma bulls, as white as snow, and the bodies of gorillas. They are especially cunning, and are immune to mind control and illusion.

MINOTAUR: HD 8+4; AC 4 [15]; Atk Head butt (2d6), bite (1d6) and battleaxe (1d10); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Never get lost in labyrinths, immune to mind control and illusion.

Lords of Phlegethon

Several archdevils and demon lords make their home in Phlegethon. The great lord of all the circle is Geryon, who dwells above the landscape of Phlegethon and rarely imposes himself on those below.

The master of the highlands is Baphomet, demon lord of minotaurs and wayward crusaders, who fights ceaseless battles against his ambitious rivals – Gorson, Caym and the sisters Stheno and Euryale.

Amduscias claims overlordship of the woodlands, but must contend with Marchosias, the chief of hell hounds, Eurynome, demon prince of ghouls and lacedons, and Ipes, the chief of the hezrou.

The desert is firmly under the control of Moloch, who savages all who would challenge his dominion. His vassals are Gremory and Uvall.

Dis, Grand City of Hell – Bureaucrats!

I have no idea which preview this is, and yeah, I’m just lazy enough not to look.

Today, we’re looking at Spades.

Originally, I had planned on spades being associated with war, but then I realized that Spades was where I had planned to place Pandaemonium, the Parliament of Hell … thus, Spades is the center of Hell’s government … thus Spades is where the most terrifying thing in the universe has to live … BUREAUCRACY!

Within the blocks and quarters represented by the suit of spades are the most terrifying edifices of Hell, where even arch-devils and demon lords fear to tread … the government offices of Dis. Devils are natural bureaucrats, and the city of Dis lays this truth bare to the world. Each block of spades is crammed full of the government offices of one ministry or another. Petitioners find themselves waiting in lines that last for days only to discover they have the wrong paperwork or should be in the adjacent line.

One cannot enter one of these quarters without showing their papers (which they almost certainly will not have). This requires they be guided to a devil that can process their claim for papers, and thus starts the insanity. In essence, the attempt to process any task in one of these quarters is the same as for finding anything in a block of Dis, and the penalty (wisdom damage) is the same.


1. Zombie bureaucrats seeking papers (and brains) (4d6)
2. Amaimon tax collectors (1d8)
3. Azizou demons on inspection (1d6)
4. Iron golems (1d8)
5. Bearded devils on patrol (1d8)
6. Random official and retinue

“My symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.” – C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)

A. Nybbas: Nybbas is the demon lord of jesters and charlatans, and he heads up the Ministry of Food & Drink, which is in charge of tasting the food of archdevils and demon lords (they use shades for that) and in arranging entertainments and diversions for the masses of Hell. Nybbas’ quarter is always in an eternal state of misrule and mayhem, and the people here play rough, seemingly getting their ideas for pranks from old cartoons (you know, the funny ones made by our grandparents’ generation).

The quarter is a carnival of capering buffoons and clowns and mad pranksters parading through blocks that may once have looked like a sinister Paris, though it is now a ruin of broken glass, splintered wood and vandalized buildings. Besides the japing shades (most of them were wicked bards, illusionists and jesters in life), the quarter is inhabited by nupperibos and lemures, who work in the diabolical bureaucracy under the direction of dretches.

Nybbas’ gate is a 10-ft. tall red door with a golden knocker in the shape of grotesque jester’s face. Touching the handle on this door sends a 6 dice electrical shock into the person who touches it. The shock acts like chain lightning. Behind this door there is a 10-ft. long tunnel that ends in a second door colored green. When one enters this door, a gallon of alkahest, the universal solvent falls from the ceiling (save or struck by disintegrate spell). Beyond the green door there is a white door; when opened, the first person who opens it is struck by a scalding hot pie in the face (6d6 points of fire damage, plus 1d6 points of damage per round thereafter until the filling is scraped off). Beyond the white door there is a chamber guarded by 1d4+4 rubber chicken golems … okay, maybe that’s taking it a bit far. Beyond the white door is the final chamber – a seeming dead-end holding a garishly colored statue of a harlequin pointing at the door through which the adventurers entered. Pulling this finger releases a stinking cloud (as the spell) and, 6 rounds later, causes the entry door to become a gate into the next quarter.

In the center of this madhouse is a grand castle reminiscent of Mad King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein castle, though Nybbas’ looks like it’s been through a tornado. The castle also serves as the ministry headquarters, where 20 companies of nupperibo and lemure bureaucrats do their best to follow the rather chaotic orders of their master. Five companies of red jesters serve as the supervisors of the ministry and Nybbas’ personal guard.

Nybbas appears as a fat man in a comfortable throne flanked by two fiendish giant hyenas. His court is filled with red jesters and shades forced to laugh eternally at stale old jokes and cruel pranks. Everyone entering the room must pass a saving throw each turn or be struck by hideous laughter. Nybbas has a moon-like face, glistening eyes that burn with an infernal passion and thin lips curved into a grotesque smile. He holds a traditional jester’s marotte tipped with a grimacing skull with living eyes.

NYBBAS: HD 15 (80 hp); AC -6 [25]; Atk 1 slam (2d10) or marotte (1d12 + save vs. hideous laughter); Move 6; Save 3; CL/XP 23/5300; Special: +2 or better weapon to hit, magic resistance 76%, immune to fire and poison, spells (dream, nightmare, hideous laughter, stinking cloud), summon 1d6 red jesters 1/day.

4. Chadper: Chadper is the Minister of Internal Revenues and perhaps the only demon in Hell more feared by other demons than by shades and mortal visitors. He and his tormentor demons, with their hell hounds, collect the tributes owed to Lucifer, in soul coinage and shades, by the other demons of Hell, down to the lowliest lemure.

The entire quarter is composed of black streets of smooth obsidian and buildings of the same material – all of it seemingly carved from a great block of the material and smoothed as though by burning sands. The only shades in Chadper’s domain are those collected for Lucifer and meant to be doled back out to the demon lords and arch-devils to reward their loyal service. They might be found in long chain gangs heading into or out of the city, but most often are kept in deep, stifling pits awaiting an accounting. These pits are guarded by squadrons of erinyes, who perch on the buildings above, slinging the odd dart or rebuke into the pits to keep the shades quiet. Chadper detests noise, and demands almost complete silence throughout his domain. All communication is by whisper or hand signal, and those who break this commandment are immediately set upon by a squadron of silenced tormentor devils and summarily executed.

The gates of Chadper’s domain are composed of the same obsidian as the rest of the domain, and consist of long tunnels with low ceilings (10-ft.) upheld by rows of pillars (20) carved into the shape of grotesque minotaurs. The gates are completely silenced, and rarely passed through save by captive shades, tormentors carrying back tributes, or demons and devils (including lords) coming hat in hand to beg forgiveness from Chadper and pay their taxes. The gates are guarded by obsidian golems, who merely masquerade as the grotesque pillars. Folk who enter the gate areas can be teleported by Chadper into his throne room as he desires, once per day.

Chadper’s great chancery is an obsidian cube, unadorned, with tiny doorways marked in silver tracery on the ground level of each face. Within are 1,000 joined courts where the tribute of Hell is counted, re-counted, certified and then, by the direction of Lucifer, doled back out. Chadper has no lair, per se’, but merely travels from court to court, accompanied by a squadron of tormentor devil guards, directing the dretches who serve him. He commands 8 companies of dretches and 20 companies of tormentor devils, making him among the most powerful devils in Hell. He can also sic a dozen hounds of Chronos on those defy him or refuse to submit to his summons.

Chadper appears as a faintly glowing angel with a twisted, atrophied face and two large, saucer-like ears that permit him to hear, per clairaudience, anything said in Hell. He wears black robes and a black breastplate and carries a +3 glaive that opens bleeding wounds (1d6 hit points per round until healed) in its victims. Those who die from these wounds rise up as vampires under his control.

CHADPER: HD 20 (101 hp); AC -5 [24]; Atk 1 glaive (3d4+3 + bleeding wounds); Move 18 (F24); Save 3; CL/XP 31/7700; Special: +2 or better weapon to hit, magic resistance 35%, immune to fire and poison, spells as 15th level cleric, double damage from sonic attacks and saves at -2 vs. sonic effects, control stirges and vampires, change into death fog (double strength) 1/day, summon 2d4 vampires or 1d4 stirge demons 1/day.

9. Leonard: Leonard, or Master Leonard, is also known as the “Black Goat” and serves as the Inspector General of Hell. His quarter appears to be a place of Renaissance splendor – broad avenues of azure stone flanked by white trees and buildings of peuce and tourmaline with ornamental iron work and gold filigree around the doors. Promenading through the streets are shades dressed in finery, with large, ribboned hats on the women and fine, ebony sticks in the hands of the men. All of these shades are mere illusion, and the buildings, though pretty, are all empty.

Underneath the streets the demons of the Inspector General do their work, in labyrinthine dungeon corridors were every torture known to demon is employed to root out opposition to Lucifer. The practitioners of the torture are 16 companies of azizou, who have a special knack for the work, while another 8 companies of barizou skulk about Dis seeking out disloyalty and inefficiency.

The gates of the quarter are located above ground, and are flanked by an honor guard of 60 manes demons in gleaming, golden armor, with hundreds of pretty, fluttering pennons on long pikes, each one topped by a bleeding, moaning head. The gates are curtains of acid (6d6 points of damage when walked through – save for half – and 1d6 points of damage each round thereafter (for 10 rounds) until neutralized with salt – eats flesh, stone and all metals except silver, gold and platinum). The curtains of acid are drawn aside to allow people to pass when Leonard wants them followed by his geruzou demons.

Leonard’s lair is deep within the dungeons under the streets, in a fortress of solid blue jade (3-ft. thick walls) called the Hall of Injustice. The Hall has many pitfalls and is guarded by a company of mehrim (goat demons). Leonard can be found in a scrying chamber, which allows him, via hundreds of floating crystal spheres, to see through the eyes of all of his servants.

LEONARD: HD 17 (101 hp); AC -1 [20]; Atk 1 touch (save or lose half hit points) or rapier (2d4+2 + 1d6 electricity); Move 18; Save 3; CL/XP 26/6200; Special: +2 or better weapon, magic resistance 85%, immune to electricity, petrification, poison and mind effects, cast spells as 11th level cleric and magic-user, teleport with error 3/day, scry (as with crystal ball) 3/day, summon 1d6 mehrim demons 1/day.

Dis, Grand City of Hell – Asteroth and Natijula

Still plugging away. I’m working on “spades” tonight, which I was going to have revolve around violence, but then got my head out of my butt and realized needed to revolve around bureaucracy. How could I have missed that? Anyhow … enjoy some crazy diamonds.

2. Natijula: This block is as hot as an oven, with brick buildings of bright red, with flint roofs and wrought iron accoutrements that give it the appearance of a Hellish New Orleans. The buildings hold bakeries of hellstoker demons producing ashen loaves and deadly delicacies, café’s that serve scalding coffee and bitter tea and every sort of restaurant and tavern. In the streets there are fire pits on which are roasted stench kows and other hellbeasts. These pits are tended by lemures whose flesh drips into the pits, the fire hissing and sending up gouts of steam that become sinister steam mephits. Zombified shades in silk finery walk the streets selling wine from casks on their backs or giant rats on iron skewers.

The gates of Natijula are tall and composed of ivory-colored stone with steep battlements and blue, conical roofs. The battlements and towers that flank the gates of thick, bluish wood, are defended by a company of anti-paladins sans heads. Behind the gates are hidden a giant ballista, cranked by a stone giant in black platemail and armed with a giant halberd.

Natijula, the self-proclaimed Lady of Agony, is an inhumanly tall woman with an hourglass figure. Her head is bald and she has deep-set green eyes. Her body is covered in golden scales and she wears a classic chainmail bikini and many rings on her fingers and toes. Two massive eagle wings sprout from her back, and she has the ability to take the shape of a roc.

Her “palace” is a great courtyard paved with azure stones and filled with long tables where all manner of demons and devils feast, served by emaciated halfling shades weighed down by iron boots. About 1 hour in 6 is filled with a melee between the demons and devils, always over something trivial, but always fought to the death. Natijula has a deep, abiding hatred for all Mephistopholes (they’ve had dealings in the past), and will do everything in her power to oppose him and his servants.

5. Liro: This quarter is reminiscent of Venice, with many canals of water, Stygian black, cutting through the Renaissance-style buildings of glistening, slick black stone with silver highlights and ornaments; the tarnished domes, the thin bell towers with their black, iron bells that, when struck, cast a deafening silence over the quarter (save or deaf) and their crooked piazzas of spongy stone that spurt blood as one walks over them. Floating above the streets are ghostly shades engaged in a never-ending dance and cavorting in the heady fumes dispatched from great, silver braziers that line the streets and produce no light or heat, only a thick, white smoke that stings the nostrils.

Within the canals there float black lotus that attract ill-tempered sprites, and on great burgundy lilly pads there sit black-fleshed hezrous, fat and self-satisfied, eyes drowsy and glazed, thick purple tongues darting about, capturing screaming sprites and sending them to a terrible death in their bellies.

Leather goods are the business of this quarter, leather drawn from every creature imaginable. Some shops sell the prepared hides, while others fashion them into suits of armor (always of the finest quality), scabbards, boots, saddles, cloaks and other goods. Leprechauns handle most of the fancy craftwork, the other goods being imported from other quarters.

The gates of the quarter are located about 20 feet below the surface of these waters – quite a surprise to those who have entered through a normal gate from elsewhere – and are secured by walls of ice one foot thick. Swarms of giant piranha guard the gates, under the seeming command of the hezrou, who make some effort not to displease the mistress of the quarter.

Liro’s palace is set between three of these canals, giving it a triangular shape. It is the most imposing building in the quarter. It is a gracious affair, though much of that grace is robbed of the place by the tempestuous behavior of Liro. Liro is a short, elegant, petite demoness with dark, ruddy skin that is slightly scaled around the hands, feet, shoulders, neck and eyes. Her eyes are teal in color and appear to be looking directly into the eyes of every person within 30 feet of her (even those behind, who see her as facing the other direction). She wears only a cloak of tiny, triangular gold panels and a diadem of gold and pearl. She is surrounded by a pall of the same stinging white smoke that issues forth from the braziers on the streets, though this acts as the death fog spell. Liro is always accompanied by a guard of chittering rubinous xaocs, visitors to Hell who find it entirely too stifling and staid for their tastes.

J. Astaroth: Astaroth is a prince of Hell, and through the markets of his quarter flow spices, narcotics and other such substances sought after by the manors of the demon lords and arch-devils. Astaroth’s quarter is a maze of zigzagging corridors between ziggurats of iron and marble, atop of which pit fiends on thrones of fire roar defiance to the assembled masses of bearded devils who cluster at their feet.

The streets are lined with walls covered with blue tiles and mosaics of serpent people, demonic lions, pit fiends and great battles between devils and demons, all with the bodies of mortals trampled beneath them. Alcoves are set into these walls wherein sit wrinkled, pot-bellied shades wrapped in tattered, dusty azure robes. Before them are spread shallow wicker baskets filled with all manner of herbs, spices and narcotics. Anything you could want, at tremendously high prices, though they will sell almost anything for a drop of a person’s blood. Mangy camels covered with oozing sores, some with leathery bat wings, are led through the dusty streets, laden with goods from the world above, or with the bodies of shades in need of correction and punishment. The everpresent buzz of fly demons can be heard above, the demons swarming over the streets and sometimes swooping down to pluck up a shade, camel or traveler for a quick meal (i.e. 1 in 6 random encounters is with 1d8 fly demons).

The streets are patrolled by scorpion demon magistrates, on the lookout for double dealing and a cut of the proceeds of the shades’ business. They serve Astaroth as his enforcers in his quarter, keeping the spice lords (there are several) under control. Among them are Tizu the hezrou who controls the opium trade, Mosheveti the marilith who controls the supply of saffron and white pepper and Vucarik, the pit fiend who controls the flow of honey. These lords dwell in the ziggurats with their retinues.

The gates of Astaroth’s quarter are numerous, though most of them are false. Finding a gate in this quarter can always be accomplished in 1d3 hours of travel, but only 1 in 4 found gates is genuine. False gates drop people into deep pits lined with burning coal, where they are roasted alive. All of the gates are guarded by twin sirrush and a company of bearded devils armed with mancatchers and heavy crossbows that fire spiked spheres. When these spheres hit a person, they discharge an electrical shock that deals 1d6 points of damage and paralysis for 1d6 rounds (save to negate).

Astaroth dwells in the largest of the quarter’s ziggurats, one surrounded by a moat of mercury (those passing over must pass a saving throw or lose 1d6 points of wisdom and suffer confusion for 10 minutes). Within the ziggurat there is a grand palace of chambers thick with painted columns and deep pools of icy water inhabited by bound water elementals which Astaroth can shape into the form of beautiful women who dance seductively for the arch-devil and his court of pseudo-intellectuals. Astaroth commands three squadrons of inquisitor demons (xxx), five companies of scorpion demons and ten companies of bearded devils. Astaroth is mounted upon a wolf-headed black dragon so ancient it may predate Hell itself.

Dis, Grand City of Hell – Slums

This one took me a while. I couldn’t map it, couldn’t treat it just like any other city (it was too large to do it justice with a few shops and such) and needed to find a reason for characters to wander around a bit. I think (or hope) I finally cracked it.

Dis is like a collection of cities, which will still be represented on cards, that connect with one another – kinda like they predict the great eastern megalopolis of Boston – New York – Philadephia will be one day. Each of these cities/blocks/quarters is ruled by a separate demon or devil lord, and each is like a prison with heavily guarded gates. The only way to get through a gate besides fighting through it is to gain a brass seal from the lord of the place, and that means doing a favor (rolled randomly). This creates a reason to move about and explore – finding the other demon lord that has to be parlayed with / killed / paid tribute to etc.

Escape from one block to another is one thing. How about escape from Dis. The city of Dis just sprawls – it has no beginning and no end. Nobody can simply walk through it and get to the next circle of Hell. To escape, one must summon Geryon for a lift, and to do that, they need a silver seal from one of the more powerful lords of Hell, represented by the Jacks, Queens and Kings of the deck. Getting in to see them requires seals from at least three of the demon lords under them (i.e. of the same suit). The whole point is to draw players into the politics of Hell and, hopefully, produce a fun experience.

With that said, here’s a sample of some of the quarters in the suit of Clubs, the suit of toil and despair.


The buildings in this block are tall and irregular, and covered in a greasy sheen that stinks of rotting flesh. Those who enter the block must save as though facing the noxious stink of troglodytes. The streets are narrow and twisted, and every so often empty into vast, circular courts. These courts are flurries of activity, as manes demons scurry about, tossing writhing mortals and shades into a pit, about 30 feet in diameter, of boiling liquid. Bearded devils armed with iron staves push these poor souls back into the pit when they try to escape. Other bearded devils are in charge of ladling off the greasy slime that these people are rendered into, scooping it into large black barrels carried on the backs of manes demons. These barrels are loaded on carts when they are full and delivered to other blocks for processing.

The gates of Borbazu’s block are composed of a vast weave of skeletons. Above the gates, bearded devils man great pots of boiling oil to pour through murder holes that send a great spray down before the gates (all within 30 feet of a gate must pass a saving throw or suffer 3d6 points of damage from the boiling oil). In towers that flank the gates there are 40 manes demons armed with heavy crossbows ready to send a volley of bolts down on invaders. Each gate is under the command of a barbed devil armed with a chain that ends in a three-pronged meat hook. If an attack with a chain beats an opponent’s AC by 5 or more, it hooks into their flesh and holds them until removed with a successful bend bars check (which inflicts an additional 1d6 points of damage). The skeletons of the gates can deliver 1d6 attacks to any within reach, trying to grab and hold intruders rather than kill them.

Borbazu, a minor lord of Dis, rules this block. He takes the form of a towering serpent of pallid flesh (not scales) that dwells beneath the block. He can emerge from any of the flesh pits scattered through the city. Borbazu can also assume the form of a ruddy-skinned, boyish warrior, handsome, but with vestigial horns and a lenonine mane. This form has aquamarine eyes and wears white robes. In this form, Borbazu can form metal objects of up to man-sized with the merest thought.


This block consists of crooked buildings made of pale, sweaty stone. The buildings hang over the streets, making the air close and stifling, though at odd intervals blazing hot winds whip through these corridors. The walls are spiked, and the doors are all clad in green copper. The streets sometimes empty into pit-like courts with ophidian designs carved into the sides, and winding ramps that lead down into the courts.

The gates of Caila’s block are all at the end of cramped streets, and consist of circular doors. The doors are coated in deadly poison, and touching the doors causes the spikes in the nearby buildings to fire (1d6 poisoned dart attacks, 1d6 points of damage from each). The buildings on either side of the street hold a company each of bearded devils. Behind each door, a purple worm lurks, waiting to lurch out and swallow people whole.

One of the courts is entered via a bronze arch hung with crystal beads that cut one’s flesh like razors and whisper portents of doom into their ears. The court’s walls are set with dozens of little windows covered by shutters painted with images of demons or devils, others with shocking scenes of hopelessness and despair. Behind each of these windows is an oracle who can give one piece of information, provided the questioner passes their palm with an equally valuable piece of information written on a parcel of their own flesh. The oracle reaches their hand through the shutter (as in incorporeally) to retrieve their payment and then reaches back out with a tiny scroll containing the desired information.

Within sight of this alley is the jagged red tower of Caila the Judge. The upper portions of the 10-story tower are circled by a guard of young red dragons. The tower’s interior is as red as the exterior, with ornaments of carnelian, ruby and bloodstone. Movement from one level to the other is via teleporting cabinets, though some of the cabinets in the tower instead fill with poison gas or spears that leap up from the floor.

Caila is a short, leggy demoness with blue-black skin that bristles into barbed scales when she is excited. She has almond-shaped eyes of azure. She surrounds herself with artists, who she can inspire with her gaze, replacing a portion of their soul with her own. Caila can summon 1d6 fiendish giant scorpions three times per day and can assume the form of a giant scorpion once per day.


Malphas is both a prince of Hell and a grand president, and he is the patron of architects and masons. As one might imaging, his sprawling block is composed entirely of stone buildings, and everyone a piece of art. Cathedrals, strongholds, towers, all ornamented with flying buttresses, fanciful water spouts, bridges, tunnels, fountains, statuary, veritable skyscrapers; amazing and very difficult to navigate, as it is so crowded and the streets so narrow. Construction is constant here, with bits of masonry sent falling to the ground at random intervals (1 in 6 random encounters forces adventurers to pass a saving throw or suffer 4d6 points of damage).

The gates of Malphas’ quarter are great strongholds, ten stories tall, with perfectly straight and smooth walls. They are patrolled by his gargoyles (three companies are assigned to each gate) and barred by wooden portcullises that instantly rust any metal that touches them. Within each gatehouse tunnel, Malphas’ soldiers can pour green slime on invaders and deliver fusillades of poisoned darts.

Malphas occupies the grandest cathedral in his domain, a veritable demon-made mountain of stone, all of it rare and expensive, with spires that defy gravity. Within this monument he houses the remainder of his infernal army and keeps a population of slaves, artisans (he has bargained for the soul of many great artists and can summon them at will) and priests. He sits at the center of a maze of passages, all trapped and well-guarded, for Malphas is paranoid in the extreme.

Malphas appears as a crow, but can be induced sometimes to take the form of a handsome humanoid with blue-black skin and curved, golden horns. In either form, he carries a mason’s trowel, which attacks as a +2 battleaxe, can cleave through any stone, cast disintegrate and earthquake once per day and can, at will, transmute rock to mud and mud to rock. Malphas is always at war with one demon lord or another, and is always in the market for spies.

Stygian Depths – Moon Pulses, Titanic Towers and Reg

Three more previews of Stygia. I’m writing Dis now and I’m starting to get into the material. Still working on Blood & Treasure, as well, and it’s coming along pretty nicely. I’ll probably do a couple art previews soon. 1800 – American Empires is definitely next on the docket. I might change the focus on that one a bit – make it more of a game in its own right than a simple “trek into the wild” sort of thing. We’ll see – the setting offers lots of opportunity for large scale battles, wilderness adventure, etc. Should be fun.

57.77 Murderous Blade: A gleaming sword of red steel sticks out of the water here, causing the water around it to boil. The sword is known as the King-Slayer (it calls itself Reg, short for Regicide). King-Slayer is a +2 flaming weapon with a powerful Ego that seeks the blood of kings – including infernal kings like Bael. The waters around the sword are rife with giant leeches – 3d6 of them are encountered when one makes a grab for the sword.

64.78 Moon Pulse: A low, hilly island in this hex is crowded with rank trees and noisome undergrowth. Demonic jaguars haunt the trees, waiting for prey to wander their way. Each night, at midnight, a pulse of inchoate energy flows across the island (but not the entire hex) from a blackened silver pillar at the center of the island. Adventurers hit by the pulse must make a saving throw or be transformed, instantly, into a lycanthrope. The exact kind is determined by the character’s highest ability score:

Strength = Werewolf
Constitution = Wereboar
Dexterity = Wereweasel
Intelligence = Wererat
Wisdom = Wereowl
Charisma = Weretiger

The transformation is immediate, but the adventurer can attempt another saving throw to retain their own mind for one minute, needing additional saving throws each minute to avoid become a chaotic, slavering beastman.

65.32 Tower of Titans: There is a tower here formed from the bodies of three petrified titans, standing up to their knees in the waters of the Styx. One titan is a curvaceous woman with hair like molten copper flowing from her head and eyes like prismatic spheres. The second titan is a graceful young man with fulginous skin and deepset eyes of opal. The third titan is an athletic man with pearly white skin and narrow eyes.

The tower is the home of Soazil, a cambion wizard (Mage 11; 32 hp) with crocodilian skin and close-set, steel-blue eyes. Soazil has five apprentices (Mage 5) and commands a company of crocodile-men.

Soazil is a master of teleportation, but has found no way to escape Hell, despite his vast knowledge. He is also skilled at cloning, and seven clones of himself hidden throughout the tower (and maybe others hidden throughout Hell). Half of his soul is possessed by the succubus Arete, in the form of a silver apple hidden in her chambers in the palace of mighty Bael.