Stygian Depths – Dark Diplomats, a Fierce Tomb and Macrosian of the Long Shadow!

Illustration by Sidney Sime, because you never need a reason to post a Sime piece!

A few more from Stygia! NOD 14 is pretty much on schedule. I’m 95% finished writing the Stygia hellcrawl, and am ready to tackle the city of Dis. I’ll post my thoughts on Dis tomorrow.

43.69 Diplomats: There is a vast expanse of mud flats here. The mud is fairly solid, though strange, burrowing worms sometimes push up from the mud, “stare” vacantly at passers-by and then disappear once again. Ten rusty, iron pylons form a gathering in the mud flats, each one a bit tilted. They are, at the moment, occupied by a ten bat monsters, envoys of Bael who are hearing the pleas of a diplomat of Adamantia, one of the Queens of Elemental Earth. The diplomat, if anyone so brusque can be called a diplomat, is an elder xorn called Xaanon. He has been accompanied by six normal xorn, and they are demanding that the soul of a wicked elementalist who did much harm to their people be turned over to Adamantia for proper punishment. Bael is not inclined to agree, though he is willing to make a deal that Queen Diamond will probably find repugnant.

48.31 Macrosian: A tower made of nightmares – surging and writhing like a tower of crimsons, ambers, golds and bilious greens, screaming or weeping faces appearing and then dis-appearing on the surface – stands here, overlooking a dismal landscape of frothy water and black claws that might once have been trees. The tower seems solid enough, despite its moving surface, and it has a wide door composed of black oak embossed with a golden eye.

To enter, one must simply push through the door, saving as they do against a nightmare spell. Inside, they find themselves in a throne room with walls lined with books (most are false, containing only the screaming faces of damned souls that attempt to steal levels per a wraith). In the middle of the room there is a throne of built of metal cubes, shimmering with peacock brilliance. One’s footsteps echo in the chamber and the air is so still it almost strangles a person’s words before they can utter them. Spiral stairs of hepatizon rise from the four corners of the throne room to other chambers and halls.

When a person enters the tower, a shadow version of them emerges from the wall. These shadow clones (the effect is similar to greater shadow conjuration or greater shadow monsters) act very much like their doubles, but one of them, randomly, is possessed by the spirit of Macrosian – He of the Long Shadow – a powerful sorcerer (Mage 17; 44 hp) consigned to Hell. Macrosian seeks to conjure the Typhon from its slumber in the abyssal depths.

The tower is inhabited by hundreds of shadow people, the clones of people who have passed through, and any one of them could be Macrosian. He speaks with a thunderous whisper, and it is through his speech that one can identify him. He can move from body to body at will, and is canny enough to take on the mannerisms of the person he is, at that moment, possessing.

53.80 Athachs: A pair of athachs are clumsily working their way through a village of mostly ruined brick hovels in search of a very special child. The inhabitants of the hovels are twisted, little grey men and women in dirty smocks who seem to make a living raising cabbages. The child was found by them in the swamp. He is a frail lad of about 7 years with opalescent skin that gives off a coiling green mist and completely black eyes that mirror one’s soul.

56.30 Bronze Tomb: On a high, flat mound of earth, surrounded by a picket of bronze spears, there is a tomb of bronze in the shape of a demon with a distended belly. The demon sits in a squatting position and its clawed arms drag the ground at its sides. The demon’s belly is made of glass – in fact, it is actually a sphere of glass about 3 inches thick and mingled with silver dust. This sphere is filled with a pale, grey ichor and floating in it is the preserved corpse of a murderess. The corpse is in a fetal position, clinging to an iron chest, her black hair fanning out in the weird liquid.

A flight of harpies protect the tomb, swooping down on any who would disturb it within 3d6 rounds of their first approaching the tomb. The tomb is also capable of defending itself, for the wicked soul within it can animate the monstrosity, making it arise and flail at tomb robbers with its claws.

Stygian Depths – Hellcrawl Preview III

Gustave Dore – Satan talks to his children, Sin and Death

37.41 Ossuary: A muddy little island here is topped by a stone building about 30 feet wide and 100 feet long, with a peaked roof that is also made of stone. The building is sealed by double doors of polished oak that bear four brass medallions, each one depicting a grinning skull. The door opens easily.

The building within is composed of a single large chamber wracked with thunder and lightning. As soon as the doors are opened, the storm spills out from the building, with almost hurricane force winds that make closing the doors very difficult. The winds swirl around the building, forming clouds in the sky overhead. After one minute, the clouds erupt in lightning (per the call lightning spell cast by a 20th level druid). The storm soon covers the entire hex, and an hour later expands into all of the surrounding hexes. If the doors are closed, the storm soon ceases.

Inside the building, there are stored hundreds of skulls engraved with glyphs and runes that emit a phosphorescent glow. Each round, there is a 1 in 6 chance that the skulls, which are blown around the room by the violent winds, swarm around the adventurers and attack.

If a skull is removed from the ossuary, its animation ceases and it gives its bearer the power to cast control weather and call lightning once per day.

SKULL SWARM: HD 12; AC 1 [18]; Atk 3 vicious bites (1d8); Move F15; Save 3; CL/XP 15/2900; Special: +1 or better weapon to hit, immune to electricity, half damage from bludgeoning weapons, 1 point of damage from slashing and piercing weapons.

38.70 Temple of Sin: There is a temple here, standing above the swamp waters on vaulted granite legs. Will-o-the-wisps swarm beneath the temple and around these legs, tracing out glyphs of warding (no magical power) to frighten away travelers.

One enters the massive structure by catching hold of a barbed chain (holding it inflicts 1d4 points of damage per round) and climbing 20 feet up to an alcove in the wall that holds an iron door. There are a dozen such doors, each looking like the monumental brass of a warrior king.

The temple proper is a tall stone building covered with patches of purple moss; it is about 40 feet wide and 200 feet long with a ceiling 30 feet high. The temple holds an idol to Lucifer’s daughter, Sin. From this sanctum, there are six portcullis-barred tunnels (three per side) leading back into the living quarters of the thirty hobgoblin priests of the temple and their mistress, the so-called Woman of Many Faces.

The Woman of Many Faces is just that, a humanoid woman with coppery skin and wearing heavy black robes. She has no face, the front of her head being perfectly smooth and flat. She has five artificial faces that she can hold up to her face, as one holds up a mask, and animate. These are her porcelain face of beauty (cast charm monster and suggestion), emerald face of envy (cast mage’s lucubration and transformation), her ruby face of rage (cast flame strike and rage), her iron face of war (cast ironskin and spiritual weapon) and her wooden face of contemplation (cast augury and divination).

42.38 Bodikar, High Inquisitor: The necromancer Bodikar (Mage 16; 43 hp) occupies a tower of granite faced with sheets of beaten bronze. He serves as the chief inquisitor of Bael, seeking out high-ranking demons who may be disloyal to Bael and putting them through trials and eventual imprisonment and torture. Torturing a demon is, of course, a tricky thing to do.

The offenders have strange metal boxes strapped to their heads. The surfaces of these boxes look into the Empyrean Heaven (per a crystal ball), showing them a world they may never visit again. All the while, lumpy green energy leeches draw their vitality from them, making them as weak as humans. When the leeches grow fat, they are removed from the demons and polymorphed by Bodikar into amber globes that hold the devils’ ichor and a portion of their power.

Bodikar uses these globes to create clones of some of the devils and demons that are loyal to him above all else. Other globes are retained as ingredients for potions or to be used as splash weapons, the ichor acting as flaming oil that causes double damage to lawful creatures.

Stygian Depths – Hellcrawl Preview II

Writing has begun in earnest on the Stygia portion of the Hellcrawl. Here are some samples of what I’ve written so far.

33.50 Tree Temple: The mangroves here grow to a truly enormous size. A city of 500 frog men is built in the tree tops, centered around an abbey dedicated to Tsathogga. Their matriarch is an engorged female frog man, bedecked in amber beads and holding in her hands two crystal balls, each one colored bright green with a white, star shape in the center that spins and waxes and wanes. Though they appear identical, one seems to promise security and safety, while the other promises unending struggle and chaos. As soon as people enter the temple their gaze must be drawn to one or the other.

Those who choose safety and security gain the ability to commune with Tsathogga once per day, but whatever advice he gives, they must obey. Those who choose unending struggle have chosen life, and suffer no ill effects other than the ire of the frog men, who attempt to sacrifice those who reject the fatherhood of Tsathogga in his name, hosting a grand feast of them for those who have chosen Tsathogga’s blessings.

34.59 Love Shack: A red, serpentine dragon courses through the mud, battering down trees as it does so. When it spots travelers, it slinks close and opens its great mouth, revealing a door of ruby crystal. It waits patiently for 1 turn to allow people to enter the door, and then moves on.

Beyond the door there is a grand hall of red velvet and marble floors. The spirits of jealous, bitter lovers slink by the walls, hissing at travelers. The twisting hall leads to a shrine in which there is a throne of green stone. Sitting on the throne there is a handsome youth who looks much like Cupid, but has glowing green eyes and pincers in place of hands. This is Phthonus, a daimon of jealousy who stirs the fires of love and unleashes it in violent passions.

36.48 Flooded Temple: A sinkhole here might send unlucky travelers into a series of flooded caverns. The largest of them holds an ancient, partially ruined temple. The temple is composed of blocks of lapis lazuli. The temple is dedicated to Omoo, a sahuagin goddess regarded as the mother of the species. The idol holds a statue depicting the demon lord Dagon simultaneously copulating with and tearing apart Omoo, whose blood, according to the myths of the sahuagin, turned into the first sahuagin, who then fed on her flesh and drew on her powers. A reliquary hidden in a dungeon beneath the temple holds her dismembered hand, which gives the bearer command over sahuagins, sharks and rays and denies creatures struck by it the ability to regenerate for 24 hours. If the hand is planted, it grows into five fiendish sahuagin warrior-maids who persist for as long as they are fed the blood of their summoner. They obey their summoner loyally.

Into Stygia … Preview 1 Again!

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.

STYGIA
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:

ROLL PASSAGE
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.

Finding Phlegyas
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:

ROLL POSITION
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.

Into Stygia … Preview 1

I’m just beginning the process of writing the Stygia portion of my Hellcrawl – the fifth circle of Hell, to be precise, wherein dwell the wrathful and the sullen. What follows is my initial sketch of the overview. Some parts are in a finished state, most are just bits and pieces of notes. I thought it might be interesting to people – like an illustrator showing a sketch before the finished drawing.

WHAT – swamp, mangroves, weird plants, amphibians, deeper lakes, river

WHO (WRATHFUL)

Stygian darkness

Wrathful souls in the mud, biting and attacking

Berserkers

Souls of the sullen beneath the waters, grasping and pulling people down

Inability to control anger and rage

Tower wreathed in flame and boatman Phlegyas taking people across the Styx proper

Blue bayou pirates

Terrains – mud flats, rocky islands, wooded islands, clumps of mangrove, Spanish forts, Spanish moss, vines

“Shooting the Rapids”
You have to do a check to find a channel to the hex you want to enter – if successful, you find a deep channel. If not, you find a shallow channel filled with the souls of the wrathful, who are stuck in the mud but no less dangerous for it.

Reflex saving throws – once per mile

If failed, you are grappled by first one wrathful, then 1d4 more per round, all trying to damage you and pull you into the mud, where then the sullen grab from below and suck you in to drown

Dipping in the Styx can make people invulnerable for a time (1d8 days) (bonus to armor and saves), but also makes them intemperate (save or go berserk)

Races of Stygia
Stygia, like most of the other circles of Hell, is not only inhabited by pitchfork-carrying devils and their victims. ??? 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.

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.

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).

Ogres: The ogres of Stygia are the devoted servants of Bael. 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).

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.

Lords of Stygia

Prince Baal of the Land – sometimes Bael, Baell – associated with Ashtaroth – principal king of Hell – 66 legions of demons, main assistant of Satan – can make people invisible or wise, speaks hoarsely, carries ashes in his pocket, appear in forms of man, cat and toad or as a man or bull

Prince Dagon of the Water – also called Lotan, patron of Ophir – has a chain gang of drowned kings – Anat is his sister, cooked kings on a fisherman’s spit – wife is Ishara or Shala – patron of Hammurabi – weapon of the god was used to slay Arman and Ibla by Naram-Sin – Joppa (Jaffa, famous for Jonah) is the land of Dagon – possesses the head of Saul – also called Marnas – Saint Porphyry destroyed his temples

Ishara – goddess of the oath, “binding promise”, “magical charming”, “white ghost” – inflicts bodily penalties to oathbreakers, in particular breakers of military oaths and a goddess of medicine, mother of the seven stars, associated with Scorpio, also love goddess and associated with underworld

Vepar – strong Great Duke of Hell, 29 legions of demons, governs waters and guides armored ships laden with ammunition and weapons; can bring storms and rough seas, can make men die in three days by putrefying sores and wounds, causing worms to breed in them, depicted as a mermaid

Furfur- great earl, chief of perytons – 29 legions of demons, liar unless compelled to enter magic triangle – causes love between man and woman, creates storms and tempests, thunder, lightning and blasts, teaches on secret and divine things, can appear as winged deer or angel – corruption of Furcifer, Latin for scoundrel

Aguares – duke of the eastern zone of upper Hells – duke served by 31 legions – see NOD 9 – can make runaways come back, and those who run stand still, cause earthquakes and teaches languages, finds pleasure in teaching immoral expressions, destroy dignities (temporal and supernatural) – pale old man riding crocodile with hawk on his fist

Scox – chief of the eblis – Marquis – also Shax, Chax, Shass, Shaz – 1000 legions of demons on evil horses, takes away the sight, hearing and understanding, steals money from kings’ houses, steals anything, discover hidden things, faithful and obedient, but a great liar, stork who speaks with a subtle and hoarse voice, but voice becomes beautiful when forced into magical triangle and made to speak the truth

Nickar – chief of the kelpies and pirates – green hair and plays harp – mermaid creature

Styx – daughter of Oceanus and Tethys – a titan/neried, wife to Pallas, bore him Zelus, Nike, Kratos and Bia (Eos) – supported Zeus in the titanomachy

Phlegyas – the boatman of the Styx (according to Dante)

Random Encounters
Demons – Lemures, Dretches, Imps, Achaierai, Rutterkin, Vrock, Chasme, Hydrodaemon, Greruor, Shrroth

Dhezik
Wight
Eblis
Kelpie
Spriggan
Peryton
Devil Wasp
Brykolakas
Ghoul Stirge
Ogre Mage
Grey Nisp
Undead Raven Swarm
Aberrant
Witch Tree
Bog Mummy
Cerebral Stalker
Fen Witch
Entropic Ooze
Tenebrous Worm
Groaning Spirit
Demiurge
Hydra
Widowshark
Giant frog
Giant crocodile
Froghemoth
Death head moths

Gehenna – Besieged Towns and Ruby Cities

Probably the last Gehenna preview until NOD 13 hits the virtual shelves – having an extra day this February is going to help. Other articles slated for lucky number 13 include Shades of Red (the variant red dragons), Hero vs. Villain (stats for Zanzibar the magician and the speed demon Greymalkin – and an adventure seed as well), a crop of Demon Lords, Epic Journeys (a series that will lay out the concept of a 1st level to 20th level campaign centered around an epic level monster, in this case the Anaxim), the rules to my card game Greatsword, the Evolutionary PC class (with some sweet art) and a few new magic helms.

On to the preview …

Fly Man of Abaddon by Ndege Diamond – not in this preview

80.28 Nathox: Nathox was once a splendid town of 1,000 Xshayathian ophidians under the command of the glabrezu Keirzer the Dreadful. It is now besieged by an army of demonic centaurs and erinyes that marched into Gehenna from Stygia. Powerful magics from the centaurs and their leader, Erichtho (Mage 17; 43 hp), the Stygian witch and a servant of mighty Dagon, Prince of Stygia, who seeks the soul of the damsel Beatrice, stolen by rebel erinyes.

Erichtho wields the horn of an ancient white wyrm, using it to freeze the once blazing city, encasing the walls in ice and causing all of the fires in the city to sputter and die – they now produce nothing but thick, acrid smoke.

87.76 Black Dogs: This hex is patrolled by packs of gaunt, black dogs. The dogs are about the size of terriers and are capable of emitting a terrible shriek before attacking (save vs. fear or flee for you drop). The strange beasts are only harmed by holy symbols (which are pretty pathetic weapons) and divine magic. They have 90% resistance to arcane magic and even magic weapons only harm them 90% of the time. The dogs were summoned by an unfortunate wizard using a small book bound in black leather. The book was stolen from the camp of Paymon, and may contain other weird summonings.

88.73 Monastery of Madness: There is a monastery here that looks like it might have been dreamed up by Salvadore Dali – all abstract shapes and weird lines. The monastery is dedicated to Azathoth, the Slaad Lord of Madness, and is staffed by a priesthood of walking slimes and overseen by a balor demon called Karum, Bringer of Madness. Karum looks as though his flesh is melting from his body, and he leaves a trail of slime that, if it puddles, has a 1 in 6 chance per turn of animating as yet another walking slime.

At the heart of the monastery, if one can find it through the shifting corridors and many pit falls, there is an idol in the form of a black sphere that gives off a strange humming noise (like a theramin) and great arcs of electricity (1 in 6 chance per round of striking a random person within 30 feet with a 3 dice lightning bolt that also steals their soul unless they pass a saving throw). Rumors speak of a vault beneath the idol holding all manner of relics and riches.

The idol is surrounded, at a distance of 35 feet, by six hepatizon pedestals. A thief can work out that they are triggers that must be weighted down with 100 lb. each to be triggered. If this is done, the would-be tomb robbers get a nasty surprise. Instead of discovering a treasure vault, they instead are drained of 1d4 levels, their life energy passing into the black sphere, which shatters and is sucked inward into a umbral blot that has been summoned to wreak havoc in Hell in service to mighty Azathoth.

92.42 Calepp: Calepp is a grand city of ruby spires inhabited by the 1,000 Lamuresti elves. The city is constructed of ruby-colored crystal and blocks of brass, each one a bas-relief of a beauteous elf. From the walls of Calepp, the elves sing terrible chants that echo across the metallic sands, mourning the kidnap of the Princess Ninsab, daughter of King Barimu (Fighter/Mage 10; 36 hp).

The elves are especially enraged that Barimu has launched no counter attack against the gnolls [90.76] who took her. He is currently enchanted by Eshkit (Duelist 11; 35 hp), a rakish woman who is actually a doppelganger in service to Mammon, sent to spy on these elves who worship Mulciber above all other demons. She has carried a magical garnet into the city and has secreted it in Barimu’s treasure chamber. The accursed garnet has not only stolen Barimu’s heart and will, but is spreading a wasting curse (per mummy rot) through the elves of the city.

Hellcrawl Preview – White Towers and Black Volcanoes

I’ve come to the monumentous decision to push the portion of the Hellcrawl covering Stygia, the 5th circle of Hell, back to the next issue of NOD. Honestly, I don’t think I could write it quickly enough to get NOD 13 out in February if I don’t. So, Stygia and Dis will be covered in NOD 14, and NOD 13 will contain Abaddon and Gehenna.

And speaking of Gehenna … a few more previews of that bleak landscape:

Image found at the Happy Whisk

25.58 Aurika’s Tower: The dwarven adventurer Aurika (Elementalist 11; 32 hp) has established herself in a tower of cracked, creamy white stone. The tower is a spiral cone, in the fashion of an alicorn, and appears to have been raised from the ground by the way the metallic sands are piled around it.

The tower can be entered through a single large portal that is blocked by a massive block of stone that weighs about 3 tons. Aurika simply uses passwall to move through the stone, though she rarely ventures out into Gehenna. She sought the gates of Hell as an adventurer long ago, and the dwarves still speak of her legendary career. After finding the bleak wasteland of Gehenna, she became intrigued by the metal sand and what challenges they might hold to an Elementalist. She was also changed by her travels through Hell, her natural dwarven avarice heightened and excited.

Aurika is a heavy woman with brown skin and a thin nose (for a dwarf). Her hair is brown and worn very short, and her grey-green eyes show a fickle side to her personality.

The bottom of her tower contains pure lead sands, which she has sifted with the help of various elementals. Aurika is using this lead sand to create a lead golem, which she believes will be able to challenge the demon lords. The lead golem is about 50% complete.

27.57 House of Lead: A monastery of lead blocks has been constructed here. The monastery consists of an outer building and an inner building. The courtyard between them is a weird garden of burning coals and slim, crystalline growths reminiscent of branch coral. Igniguanas skitter around the coral. The only way from the outer building into the inner building is across the 12-ft. wide garden, the rectangular portals from one building to another being offset and located about 10 to 20 feet above the ground – a difficult jump indeed.

The outer building is home to the lesser demonic monks, a collection of peoples from Gehenna and a few tieflings as well, all dedicated to attaining physical and mental perfection that they might better serve their ultimate liege, Lucifer. They number 20 in all.

The inner building is the home of their master, Amus (Monk 15; 68 hp), a muscular man, heavily scarred, with reddish skin and a face encased in a brass lion mask that covers his entire head. A sapphire embedded in the mask permits him to communicate telepathically with all sentient beings within 100 feet. His home is a great cube of lead, 40 feet to a side, and cluttered with ledges and poles jutting from the floor, ceiling and walls at every conceivable angle. Amus’ meditation platform is a stout column in the center of the building, about 10 feet tall and topped by a bed of nails.

Besides Amus, the inner building is guarded by four chain demons, that lurk in the shadows. Their true purpose is to guard the treasure within the lead pillar, a vial of Lucifer’s own ichor, which appears as a black, viscous fluid.

28.61 Volcano: A volcano of black rock rises from the sands here, eternally spewing streams of magma that solidify on the extremes of the hex into promontories of porphyry, serpentine, hornblende and magnetite. Rivers of molten metal flow through these promontories from a molten lake into the rest of Gehenna, and sleek crystalline sea serpents can sometimes be seen surfacing in the lake.

There are dozens of monastic cells carved into the rock within the rim of the volcano. Naked hermits, their hair singed and their skin like leather, dwell in these places, contemplating the fall of Lucifer and the end of the cosmos. They are all powerful clerics (Cleric 9), and capable of answering many and varied questions about Gehenna and Hell as a whole (i.e. they’re a good source of adventure hooks).

30.48 Xarcho: Xarcho is a magnificent citadel of 2,000 Xulites who serve Mulciber. Their citadel has 60-ft. tall walls laid out in a circle set with nine great towers, each 100-ft tall and studded with arrow slits from which 4d6 heavy crossbow-armed Xulites can shower bolts down from any given angle.

Within the walls, the citadel is divided into raised streets lined with cheerless basalt buildings housing the people and their shops, and between them 200-ft. wide canyons of basalt where the smithwork of the people is performed. The furnaces are natural vents of burning gasses that send a crimson radiance into the sky – a radiance that can be seen from one hex away in otherwise black Gehenna.

At the center of the citadel there is a palace-temple of black marble where sits the balor Vugencothi, the Herald of Insanity and ruler of Xarcho. The balor is entertained by the sufferings of slaves drawn from all over Hell, including the form of the succubus Neveh, flayed alive and bound with leather thongs crafted from her own hide. She is forced to dance by a gang of sabre-toothed tigermen armed with pitchforks and wearing leather battle harness.

Rising from the black temple there is a scarlet spire around which curls a writhing flame. Once per day, at the direction of Vugencothi, this flame can be send blasting through the citadel, this holocaust of flame inflicting 6d6 points of damage on all who are not immune to fire (no save).

The temple is surrounded by a marketplace of shrewd traders and moneychangers from around Gehenna. At one end of the plaza there stands the infamous inn known as the Sign of the Smoking Serpent, where fire nymphs in mithral collars that send shocks of electricity through them serve platters of smoked meats (very well done, of course) and fiery wine that forces normal folk who drink it to pass a saving throw or suffer 1d4 points of damage and the loss of their voice for 1d8 days.

Xarcho is currently suffering a rash of banditry from a warband of Uccenite warriors. Encounters with the sahitim occur on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6 in this hex. Encounters are with 2d6 sahitim, and there is a 25% chance that they are battling with 2d6 bronze men.

Gehenna – Introduction

Mammon by George Frederick Watts (1885)

Time for my first preview of Gehenna, with an overview of this rather warm circle of Hell.

Although Gehenna is a dry, inhospitable wasteland of black, burning metallic sand, it almost looks like paradise to travelers who have just slogged their way through many leagues of sewage and decay in Abaddon.

Getting into Gehenna is dangerous. When one is one the very edge of Abaddon they cannot see into Gehenna. Instead, they see nothing but miles of sewage and junk as far as the horizon. When they place one over the border, though, they suddenly find themselves in the midst of a howling, raging storm of burning metallic sand and fire (per the fire storm spell). This persists for 1d6 rounds, and when it ends, one sees nothing but Gehenna, with no trace or sign of Abaddon.

Gehenna, as mentioned above, consists of mile after mile of rolling dunes of metallic sand. The sand is mostly black, but there are lines of coppery red, golden brown and silvery white worked into the landscape, making it almost pretty for a circle of Hell. Rivers of molten metal flow through the landscape aimlessly, ending in bubbling lakes. There are also great mesas of basalt to be found in Gehenna, and it usually on these that the landforms that the various tribes and lords of Gehenna dwell.

No plants exist in Gehenna, but the landscape is often broken up by growths of metallic crystals, some tall and branched like trees, others in spiked clumps.

All of the animals of Gehenna are immune to fire. Most are reptilian or insect in nature.

Gehenna is the ring of Hell allotted to the souls of the avaricious and prodigal. Avarice (also known as greed or covetousness) is the rapacious pursuit of wealth, status and power. While all people have ambitions, the covetous take this to an extreme, casting aside the eternal (and Lawful) for the temporal. In time, these things they sought fall through their hands as dust and escape them.

In Gehenna, the shades of the avaricious are turned into “misers”. Misers take the form of slaves in Gehenna, being driven by the Gehennites to push around great stones for their pointless monuments to the glory of Mammon, Amon or one of the other lords of the circle. The misers have lost their humanity and their individuality, and are now little more than beasts of burden.

The shades of the prodigals, on the other hand, become small in stature – nimble little thieves who try their best to steal from travelers and others, but find their bodies become immaterial whenever they attempt to hold onto anything, their newly acquired wealth quickly slipping through their hands. They are naked and hunched, and would be pitiable if not for their rapacious faces.

Races of Gehenna
Gehenna, as lifeless as it might seem, has its own inhabitants. These are the seven tribes of Gehenna, all of them races known to people of the surface world but altered by their habitation in Hell.

Arkusites: The Arkusites are hairless gnolls with pallid skin and icy blue eyes. The Arkusites build strongholds of gold and ride out from them on feral centaurs to raid and plunder. Arkusite warriors wear glistening scale armor, amply decorated with gold and tall, golden conical helms and wield long horseman’s axes and shortbows. Warriors are extensively tattooed.

Arkusites worship various demon lords, and change their allegiance often. Their priests use drugged wine to bring on prophetic dreams and practice ritual cannibalism.

The Harrites: The Harrites are kobolds that look like pteradactyls with golden scales and eyes like multi-faceted garnets. They roam Gehenna in great swarms, swooping down on victims from above with their cruelly barbed and hooked spears, snatching people up into the sky to be roasted alive in their towers. The Harrites dwell in great fluted towers of blue metal (cobalt, in fact). In the base of these towers, which rise in clumps from the landscape, they keep great fires burning at all times. The towers are open from base to ceiling and ringed with platforms and shelves on which the kobolds dwell. They hang their captives over these fires from chains and allow their screams and moans of torment to echo up through the tower. On the ceiling of the tower they keep strange ooze, which feeds on these screams and produces weird, sticky nodules that the kobolds collect and sell. The nodules are eaten by the inhabitants of Hell like candy. The Harrites usually worship Pazuzu.

The kobolds can exhale plumes of burning ash. Alone, a kobold can spew this into the face of an opponent once every 1d4 rounds, the victim having to pass a save or be blinded for 1d4 rounds. In groups of 30 or more, the kobolds can swoop down and exhale in unison, creating the equivalent of an incendiary cloud that lasts for 1 round.

Lamuresti: The Lamuresti are the elves of Gehenna, with warm, copper skin and entirely black eyes. They are graceful in appearance, with sharp, severe features. The Lamuresti are completely loyal to Mammon, whom they call their divine king. Each lamuresti village is governed by a priestly steward (an anti-cleric of level 1d4+2). They construct two-towered bronze ziggurats to Mammon and decorate their walls with bas-reliefs and metallic tiles depicting woodlands and marshes they may never visit. They are particularly known for their bronze lions.

The villages of Lamuresti contain eternal flames fed by the bodies of the shades punished in Gehenna (or any other captive they can get their well-manicured hands on). The Lamuresti are known for their harsh punishments and cruelty (pyramids of skulls, flaying captives alive, walling people into their city walls, etc.). The males wear flowing robes of cloth-of-gold and conical caps, with tighter dresses and feathered head-dresses on the females.

Lamuresti warriors wear scale armor and carry short swords, spears and longbows.

Sarrimites: The Sarrimites are changeling goblinoids. When first encountered, they look like hunched and muscular goblins, with short, bandy legs and bearded faces with over-large teeth jutting from their grim, low-set mouths. They wear iron masks that depict noble-looking men with dead eyes and long beards. When joined in battle, they shout their war-cries and become large hobgoblins. If reduced to half their normal hit dice, they grow into ogres (their equipment growing with them), gaining 2 extra hit dice and doing +2 points of damage with their attacks. The Sarrimites wear iron scales and horned helms. They attack with axe, spear and hand cannon (per heavy crossbow).

The Sarrimites are usually loyal to Mulciber, but worship his wife, the sensuous demoness Tyrana, a winged lilin only marginally loyal to Lilith of Erebus. Her temples grace the citadels of the Sarrimites and are attended by the female goblins. The citadels are ruled by the high priestess of Tyrana, the goblin king being subservient (and married) to her – a situation no goblin king cares for.

The goblins are expert engineers and smiths. Their villages are joined by iron-shod roads that rise above the burning sands of Gehenna, and they have canals that channel the molten rivers of metal to their foundries where most of the weaponry, armor and ordnance of Hell is manufactured.

Uccenites: The Uccenites, or “wolves of Gehenna” are sahitim, demonic humanoids who dwell in some of the deserts of Nod. Like their surface kin, the Uccenites are lean and lank, with golden-orange skin, with black horns like those of an antelope rising up to 3 feet tall. They swathe themselves in black robes, the men veiling their faces, the women adorning theirs with black tattoes.

The Uccenites are nomads, setting up temporary camps around large sepulchral tomb mounds in which they store their mummified dead. These mummies are animated, of course, and appear as naked, hunched sahitim (they are interred in a fetal position that bends their spines) covered in red ochre paint and in a state of decay. These mounds look like conical pyramids, wider than they are high, made of various metal blocks. The Uccenites also raise megalithic monuments to Amon, whom they worship exclusively. In honor of their demon lord, they sacrifice captives by slowing carving up their bodies while alive – first the ears, nose and lips, then the fingers and toes, etc.

Uccenite warriors wear mail tunics and carry bronze shields, scimitars and jezzails (as crossbows). They ride beasts that look like a cross between wolves and camels.

Xshayathiyans: The most grandiose and powerful of the peoples of Gehenna are the Xshayathiyans, also known as ophidians. They were worshipping demons before it was cool – perhaps before there actually was a Hell. Here they preside over stately cities of silver and gold, encrusted with gems and inlaid with serpentine and lapis lazuli. They wear kilts and loose tunics of cloth-of-gold and –silver and tall crowns (even the lowliest wear crowns). Warriors wear bulbous helms with golden face masks depicting demons, gorgons, medusas and other monstrous creatures. They are armed with iridescent scale coats, oblong shields, spears, axes, short swords and longbows.

The Xshayathiyans are ruled by their magic-users, who preside in palatial temples that are home to powerful glabrezu demons, the ruling class of the ophidians, who serve as the various satraps under their emperor, Mammon from his capitol, the Burnt City. These temples also hold ritual vats in which the priests bathe in oil or in the blood of sacrifices. The temples are guarded by winged gorgons and serpoleopards.

Xshayathiyan magi possess the most useful objects in Gehenna – at least for adventurers. These are stones that look like pure, white quartz spheres that, when buried one foot beneath any soil, cause a spout of pure, fresh water to erupt into a fountain for 1d4 minutes. One waterskin can be filled from the fountain per minute. The stones, called stones of necessity, function once per day, and there is a 5% chance per use of them crumbling into dust.

Xulites: The Xulites are bronze men – humans with skin not only the color of bronze, but the consistency as well. The Xulites build citadels of brass, decorated with gynosphinxes with golden bodies and ivory faces. Within these citadel they keep gorgons who feed on the metallic sands (they are immune to their petrifying breath) and grow crystalline trees of emerald and ruby.

The Xulites are slavers, capturing the zombie-like prisoners of Gehenna and using them as beasts of burden. They wear pointed helms and scale hauberks and wield longswords, spears, daggers and crossbows that throw metal darts. The elite Xulite warriors ride scaled lions (like miniature dragonnes) into battle, their roars driving their foes in fear before them.

Lords of Gehenna
Mammon, the Grand Prince of Avarice, rules the Circle of Gehenna with subterfuge and double dealing. There are those who say he commands a power greater than himself, and uses it to get his opponents out of the way. Four demon lords have proven too powerful for Mammon to unseat, they being Amon, Maphistal, Paymon (king of the glabrezu demons) and Pazuzu. The smith of Hell, Mulciber, also dwells in Gehenna, though he shows no interest in the politics of Hell and is not seen as a rival by any of the other lords.

Hellcrawl! – Abaddon Preview 3

One month. Thirty days. I’ve spent thirty days trudging through the third circle of Hell, the circle of gluttons that is, by Dante’s description, a giant sewer in which the damned souls lie on their backs in the raw sewage, mouths open, catching new sewage as it falls like snow from the sky. Yuck. Glad to be done with it!

Over the weekend, I not only finished Abaddon (well, 90% finished, still need to add monster stats and edit), but converted another chapter of Rappan Athuk (this baby is going to be big – and very cool) for the Frog God, edited Space Princess (I’m starting to really dig this one – it’s all falling into place nicely), did some more work on Blood & Treasure (primarily the re-laying out the monster chapter and adding bits of art) and got in a few updates to my Google + play-by-post games. One party in the Nod hex crawl has ventured outside Ophir, the other is looking for a wizard to check out their magical frog; meanwhile, in the Mystery Men! Dark Renaissance campaign, three heroes are preparing to join battle in a cellar in the hills of Mexidor while the others have discovered Nazi flying saucers hidden in a subterranean base in Greenland.

On to the preview …

29.40 Silk Pavilions: Hundreds of tattered silk pavilions flap in the breeze here. The ground is solid here, and about six feet above the surface of the sludge, and is littered with broken arrows and bolts. Each pavilion is inhabited by a single female shade, their grey skin painted with mauve and white paint and their bodies clad in skimpy costumes composed of copper coins (100 cp each). These shades (there are 100 in all) are completely silent, and when they discover intruders they approach warily and begin dancing and cavorting about, trying to lure them into their pavilions. Those who enter the pavilions discover a warm, comfortable space, dimly lit, with velvet pillows and silver platters of dumplings, croquets and other foods. There are flagons of wine and the sound of silver chimes. Any person that disbelieves this feast will “see through it”, seeing nothing but wooden platters of rotten food, soiled pillows, etc. In fact, the food and comfort is real, but only lasts a single night. In the morning, the pavilions and their weird inhabitants have disappeared.

30.80 Cloaca: A low, flat plain of mud covered with rotting vegetation and shed scales and teeth is punctuated by a large fort of mud ramparts topped by a picket of rotting timbers. The fort is occupied by 400 stout, black ratlings with long snouts and wearing tattered loincloths.

The ratlings hate and fear everything that isn’t a black ratling wearing a tattered loincloth. They survive on the rotting vegetation and by hunting. Their village is collection of shanties constructed of driftwood and bits of stone, brick and metal. The village is dominated by a large, round tower of chipped red brick. The tower has no roof and contains a deep pit in which lived the slumbering form of Cloaca, a titan of sewage who acts as a patron of rats, ratlings and otyughs.

The ratlings are currently gathered before their “temple”, their high priest Urdish is leading in them in wild chanting while a feast of captured adventurers is being prepared over open fires. One of the adventures, a magician named Gonda has been saved, for she is sought by Cloaca. Cloaca has long dallied with both Beelzelbuth and Jubilex, playing one off the other. Gonda has caught her intention because she is currently carrying the cambion son of Jubilex in her belly, on her way to deliver him to a waiting cult.

35.26 Bone Market: A village of 100 painfully thin goblins with turned up noses and rheumy, dripping eyes run a bone market here. Their village is constructed of bits and pieces dragged out of the sludge. It rests on a muddy flat punctuated by noxious herbage. In the middle of the village there is a square in which dozens of little tents and booths have been erected selling every kind of bone imaginable – assume a gold piece cost equal to a tenth of the original owner’s XP value. In the center of the square the goblins keep a large kettle ever on the boil, making a thin, greasy soup using some of their precious bones.

Each of the goblin houses has a trapdoor in it that leads to a stark chamber with spiked walls located well beneath their village. Here, they keep instruments of torture and yet another kettle for stripping the flesh from bones. Beware an invitation to enter one of those homes and share some tea and biscuits.

37.86 Cursed Causway: When folk enter this hex, they see a brick causeway 10-ft. wide rising from the sludge and pointed in whatever direction the party is traveling. The causeway rises at a gentle slope, but after 3 miles it is about 60 feet high. At the mid-point of the hex, the causeway stops. When people turn back, they discover that what was behind them has faded away, leaving them with no more than 40 feet worth of causeway. It is at this point that the flock of twelve erinyes attack, trying to grasp people and carry them to the dungeons of Mammon in the fiendish city of Dis (see NOD 14).

41.28 Forest of Rusty Poles: This hex is devoid of large islands of debris, but it filled with hundreds of long, rusty poles. One of the poles in sight of the adventurers has a red scarf tied to it. There is another about 50 feet away, and so on, leading those who follow them on a pointless journey through the hex. There is a 1 in 6 chance per hour that the adventurers come across a strange woman balanced atop one of the poles on one knobby-kneed leg.

The woman is called Geirl, and she is a rather strange entity. She beckons people to climb her pole and speak with her in hushed tones, promising them one wish – anything, including escape from Hell – in return for killing one of their companions and delivering their heart to her.

Image from Wikipedia

Hell Hexcrawl – Abaddon Preview 2: Death Temples, Diggers and Wailing Infants

20.59 Death Temple: A low, round hill rising from the muck here is covered by giant mushrooms. The mush-rooms grow around and through dozens of humanoid corpses, rotting timbers and rubble. Rising above these mushrooms there is an ancient temple of cracked and stained stone dedicated to Death itself.

The temple consists of an antechamber filled with murky water to a depth of three feet. This water is home to a sewage water weird. Beyond the fetid pool there are tarnished bronze doors decorated with hundreds of tiny skulls that appear to have been embedded in the door and then covered with a layer of bronze. Opening these doors without removing a trap causes the floor under the pool to collapse, sending the water and the characters into a deep pit that connects to the secret sanctum of Death below.

Beyond the doors lies the inner sanctum, where stands the great bronze idol of Death, covered in verdigris, eyes downcast, hands gripping a scythe. The idol is surrounded by several large hepatizon bowls holding rotting fruit and tarnished copper and silver coins (about 300 cp and 100 sp) and twenty grimy jars filled with greenish liquid (50% chance of a strong liquor, 50% chance of acid). A secret door in the inner sanctum leads to stairs that descend 50 feet into the earth, to a subterranean abbey.

The abbey is home to twelve priestesses (Clr3) and their mother superior, Mergsta (Clr10; 31 hp; potion of healing). All of them women have had the skin flayed from their backs (each carries a bloody scourge), and wears nothing but a long, black loincloth and a string of pearls wound into their hair (worth 50 gp each for the priestesses, 300 gp for Mergsta). Besides their scourge, they are armed with heavy maces. Their abbey consists of several living chambers, a pantry of unpalatable, rotting food, a large dining chamber decorated with soiled tapestries and bunches of sickly purple mushrooms growing from the walls and a secret sanctum.

The secret sanctum holds a smaller idol of Death carved from black marble and garbed in the same manner as the priestesses. The back of this idol is hollow and contains the Codex of Saint Death, which permits anti-clerics who read it daily to cast one additional evil or reversed spell of each level open to them per day, and a single large ruby worth 15,000 gp. Mother Superior Mergsta reads from the codex daily.

Those who touch the idol without first supplicating themselves to it have their backs break out in painful welts that soon burst open (per a cause serious wounds spell). Removing the ruby from the secret sanctum causes a swarm of biting flies (i.e. insect plague) to be summoned to defend the idol.

21.56 Diggers: Ten skeletal trolls scrape at the sides of a rocky hill with little progress. Inside the hill, behind a cave-in, there is an evil +3 longsword called Himon. Himon has a reddish blade and the pommel is set with a cluster of tiny rubies. The sword sheds darkness in a 10-ft. radius but allows the wielder to see through it. The sword can also animate up to 20 HD of creatures it has killed – the troll skeletons are its servants, and they are attempting to unbury it. Its former owner, the reaver Vigon, lies dead underneath all of the rocks. He entered the cave to avoid a pack of demon dogs.

22.62 Pitted Statue: The remains of a giant iron statue – humanoid, but unrecognizable – stands here, overlooking a vast miasma of waste in which float hundreds of wicker baskets containing wailing infants (glamered madragoras). A tribe of winged kobolds flit around the statue, gnawing at the metal (for metal is their only source of nutrition). The kobolds prefer precious metals, and can devour up to one pound of the stuff before they are sated. For every pound of precious metal brought into the hex, there is a 5% chance of an encounter with 3d6 of the kobolds.