To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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The Abyss harbors no illusions that it is anything but a den of mortal sins, projected in unimaginable scale. Concepts such as “good” and “order” should be tossed away when entering this hellish plane; it is said there are 666 layers deep, each layer devoted to a different hell. You’re as likely to find a layer dedicated to burning your corpse alive as you are to find out that slowly saps your strength under a brutal cold. There are places within this plane that are certainly hospitable to life, at least physically. Still, those who wish to leave the plane at some future point one shouldn’t linger any longer than they must…
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Borders: Carceri, Pandemonium
Connected by: Blight (Outlands), the River Styx.
Planar features: Varies, although usually familiar. In general, one finds normal gravity, time, and magic. Many layers however, have their own planar properties, some of which are the complete opposite of “normal”. The Abyss is considered to be infinitely large.
By Serenity-of-Pain of the Former Gate-Town of Plague-Mort
Citizens of Plague-Mort, life is hell. This is obvious to the Bleakers, driven mad trying to find sense in a senseless multiverse. It‘s evident in the philosophy of the Dustmen, each of them pining for escape from this cruel life. The Doomguard understand this fact best, for they see entropy‘s hand at work as strife breeds greater hatred and violence, and all that was once good is torn apart. The maxims of power and corruption are the only constants in the multiverse, my friends, and beyond this gate we shall find those truths made manifest!
Don‘t believe me? Then ask yourself, why is there not a single world in the Prime Material that is free of war? Why do the forces of Good bicker and fight with one another rather than vanquish evil from existence? If we know that even the exalted gods of the Upper Planes are impotent before the terrors through this gate, then we know that peace and harmony are but a stopgap, a futile resistance against the inevitable. Evil continues to fester throughout the multiverse, and the seeds of corruption can be seen buried in all things! We do not fall into damnation this evening; the consequences of our misdeeds have not caught up with us. You see my compatriots, we have always been in hell! For no matter where in the Great Ring one might run, the Abyss was there first!There are countless tales of what we can expect to find. It is true, the Abyss is the largest of all planes, hosting an infinite number layers, one for every evil act possible and torment imaginable. Some house forests of blood drinking trees, sunlight that sears flesh from bone, or living darkness that drains away the warmth of one‘s soul. Can one hope to imagine prisons constructed from screams, or pits where are all one‘s senses become mute and useless? Horrors to be hold, certainly. Horrors to inflict upon one‘s rivals, upon those worms beneath you, and ultimately upon those who dare claim to be better than you! Those of you who are smart enough, fast enough, will become masters over your leatherhead peers and find exultation in orgies of food, flesh, and violence. You will come to know the wonders and allures of the Abyss, discover firsthand what draws planars and primes, bloods and berks, to the Infinite Hells.
Here, now, before this great gate, I shall be your guide. Not out of mercy, nor out of any hope of cooperation, but because when you abandon your fear and restraint as I have our little burg will join the gate-towns that have gone before on the Layer of Infinite Portals, first layer of the Abyss! Yes, I know much of the land beyond the gate. It is a barren wasteland burning under a bright red sun, riddled with iron keeps and pits that lead further into the Abyss. The forces of evil gather there to make war upon the Great Ring or move from layer to layer, but no man nor demon nor power can claim the first layer as their own. Roving mobs, dozens or hundreds strong, demonstrate that even the weakest know real power in numbers. Such gangs will provide you your first opportunity to prove your worth, or, at least for the clueless, a faster death than what the plane might give you otherwise.
The strongholds and few towns that have managed to survive the chaos and destruction of the plane can provide for most of your needs or desires, assuming you have what it takes to buy or seize them for yourself. Food, weapons, drugs, slaves, and magics of every sort—many of which are unknown or illegal in the rest of the multiverse—can be found in their markets, but you‘ll find jink holds little true worth compared to the intrinsic value of blood, flesh, and souls. Some of you may be able to trade for services, but only fools accept one‘s word in a deal, and fools are put in the dead-book might quick. Likewise, any gully merchants thinking they can make an honest profit from the Abyss deserve whatever you can give them. Honesty and honor are some of the first lies to be stripped away like oh so much deadweight.
Now scan this, you sodding maggot-brained rubes! The clueless amongst you have been flapping their bone-boxes about resisting the Abyss‘ pull hoping you can avoid the nastiness of the Blood War. You think we ain‘t part of it already? You think the baatezu don‘t send their spies through here, hoping to pick up some chant on their enemies? You think the tanar‘ri don‘t use our little town as a meat-shield to guard this here gate? They‘ve been grabbing folks to serve as cannon fodder from this burg since its founding. We‘re already part of the Blood War, just like every piking planar and power in the whole multiverse. Aye, the battles of the Blood War come to the Abyss, especially the first layer, and when they don‘t the demons are often looking to snatch some new recruits. But there can be no freedom from it, it is the rage and the hatred of the Abyss reaching out to consume the Great Ring. The only recourse a blood has is to prove to every berk and basher that they‘re too damn mean and tough to be put on the front lines.
What of the lower depths of the Abyss? Yes, the baatezu rarely make it past the first layer. Even if they did, they‘d just as soon be made slaves or food for what lies below. Many of the plane‘s layers are held by monstrous deities and their petitioners, whether they be the drow of the Demonweb Pits, lizardfolk of the Phantom Plane, beholders in the Realm of a Million Eyes, troglodytes from the Rotting Plane, or other fell creatures without name. Aye, the Abyss has more deities and petitioners than any plane of existence, countless monstrosities, human and not, of every form. Some can be reasoned with, but many will just as soon tear you to bloody mist while exalting the name of their god. If you‘re truly lucky, you might be welcome amongst the worshippers of one of the dread powers and ascend to a purer form.
No, bar that, if you‘re truly lucky you‘ll live long enough to find places where vice is made manifest and evil finds true reward. Temples to sadism, cults of lust and greed, and dens of debasement and degeneracy are rare treasures hidden throughout the Abyss, where the savageness of life momentarily gives way to the purification of a specific form of sin. Sometimes they are dedicated to a god or demon lord, other times they are simply led by mortals demonstrating a capacity for evil beyond their humble means. In such places even the tanar‘ri can find pleasure, relax, and appreciate a world without virtue or restraint.
Ahh, the tanar‘ri, greatest of all demons, of all fiends! They and the abyssal lords above them are the true masters of the Infinite Hells, for their numbers are endless and can be found in nearly every realm and layer of the Abyss. They are the exemplar to which we must all aspire, for the tanar‘ri are unadulterated power, constantly evolving spirits of wanton pain, destruction, and sin. Their lust and gluttony are boundless, their anger and hatred affirmations to the cruelty of the Abyss and of all Creation. They possess a singularity of purpose that other beings can only dream of, for the tanar‘ri recognize that in the deepest regions of soul, under the false guises of civility and moral conscious, each individual is a monster all their own. Theirs is the freedom to indulge in every dark thought and every foul impulse, to do everything we secretly desire to do and revel in every second of it. Each is a unique being all its own, a product of the individual hell that has been its life. Only their pride and jealousy of one another has prevented them from overrunning the Great Ring, but that is what makes them strong, for those who can survive the treachery of their fellows rise in rank and power until they can be counted among the true tanar‘ri. There is no greater form save that of a god itself, and yes, my dear friends, the dark is that the tanar‘ri lords may eventually rise to the status of power! Freedom and power, the enticements of the Abyss, of evil itself.
Do you hear it now? That voice in your heart that cries to be free, that demands the abandonment of all virtue and restraint? It has undoubtedly grown loud in the ears of many of you, else we would not find our little burg sliding into the maws of the Abyss. Embrace it! It is the voice of truth, long smothered by the tyranny of conscience and shame, and it will drive us to untold ecstasies and power. The time will come when all the multiverse returns to this natural state, when the Planes of Law and Good are nothing more but layers of scorched ruins lost in the Infinite Hells. By then we shall be lords of the tanar‘ri and gods amongst men!
Blight (Outland Gate-Town)
by Marila Tendershoot
Yeah, I‘ve been to Blight, where the old gate-town Plague-Mort use to be. Even shared a piss-tasting drink with an ogre mage there. I guess they figured if they used a different name for the new burg maybe this time it wouldn‘t shift. It‘s still right close to the Abyss and has a high percentage of tanar‘ri and other miserable sods, so I wouldn‘t bet on the name change doing much good. Now, Blight is nowhere near as big as Plague-Mort was, not yet, but it‘s growing. It‘s population is mostly evil humanoids: orcs, the bulk of ‘em, or at least a good plurality, with a good supply of troglodytes, gnolls, harpies, minotaurs, and other beasties. All those monsters don‘t get along much better than they do anywhere else, so really, Blight‘s less a coherent city than it is a bunch of disordered towns that are right next to each other and constantly at war. It certainly ain‘t the mercantile outpost the last gate-town was, but they‘re trying to get their act together (the key word being try).
The good news, as far as anything round here can be called good, is there‘s not much in the way of tanar‘ri influence in the new town yet, and if anything seems able to unite the locales it‘s keeping themselves out of the Abyss. They‘re even tolerating a household of Harmonium orcs that have camped on the outskirts of town. Yeah, you heard me, a whole clan of orcs touting the hardhead creed. It‘s enough to make you want another drink.