You: Anthony, whatcha doin'?
Me: I already told you.
You: You're writing stuff for your campaign that I can't read?
You: Can you show me some of it?
Me: Ok. But only because if I don't, there's NO blog post this month. Understand this is not final form. Nevertheless, you are fee to use this material however you would like. It's basically a rough draft of one section of my rules for the final adventure in my current campaign arc.
*****begin sample WIP*****
ENTER THE ABYSS
Dante told us about Hell. But the Abyss is not Hell. It is arguably worse.
While Pandemonium's winds might tear you limb from limb the instant you enter that plane, it is unwise to think of the Abyss's “Abfero Cerebri” as less dangerous. As the name implies, the Abfero gibbers and frays the mortal mind until soul and sanity are carried off, leaving only a shell, ready to be rendered into fat. Delicious, savory fat.
The Abyss can be summed up with one word: hunger.
Its inhabitants remain ravenous no matter how they gormandize. Paradoxically, demons cannot starve. The bottomless pits teems with all forms of craving: ghouls feast on corpses. Larvae gnaw steadily on whatever they can find. The Dretch, with their spindly limbs and distended bellies parody the horror of malnutrition-children. Rutterkin appear to have rickets. The Babau? Skin and bones. Chasme? Flies ever searching for a corpse. Vrocks wheel through Pazuzu’s cauldron of skies with vulturine eyes while below, swine-like Nalfeshnee seek new kills on which to binge.
Only major demons seem to get enough to assume some semblance of health. And only Lords and Princes ever manage to appear fat. Much of Orcus’ prestige is in his belly, whereas Yeenoghu—a lowly Lord—appears to have fallen on hard times.
The Abyss itself is an empty stomach, a hollowness, a nothingness unable to be filled. This hunger is the central theme. The constant need for more can drive all the DM’s demonic creations and endeavors. On this insatiable principle, you may stretch the psychopathy of your demons and paint their endless, ravenous boredom.
What do demons eat? Other demons of course, but mortals if they can get them, and more specifically their fat if such delicacy can be found! Like bacon, or pork-belly, human fat is what demons crave.
Let us then answer the question of how they obtain and use human cuts of meat.
Excluding fools who deliberately enter Pazunia, there are two methods by which mortals enter the Abyss.
The soul travels the Astral and enters the Abyss (unless an Astral panderer can seduce it to another of the lower planes first!)
Having entered, souls precipitate across the plane, accreting as sediment, and forming the predominant geology
This sediment is compressed by eternity into Haunted Jet
Pieces of mined jet (300 GP minimum) is combined with human fat (one body’s worth is usually enough) in a crucible. Thereafter, at the word of a Major Demon, a larva emerges from this material.
Demonic Conveyance (uncommon)
A mortal is physically dragged into the Abyss by a demon
The mortal is slain
The soul is then trapped in the corpse and cannot escape
Corpses are food for all Abyssal natives, beginning with larvae.
Obese humans are highly prized.
Fat is eaten by demons but is
Also required for larva manufacture
Despite constant demonic effort, fat is at a premium in the Abyss.
The abyss, therefore, may contain trillions of bones, but corpses with flesh are treasured and corpses with fat on them are the most prized. The Princes hoard them; or waste them through conspicuous consumption of wealth. Ergo a mountain of frozen bodies is a demon’s pile of gold. And those demon’s with the most bodies in their hoards are reliably dangerous.
Who is the most dangerous?
There is no hierarchy in a maelstrom. Prestige and envy and punishment are objects hurled by the storm. Abuse is the key verb here. Ascendency is not linear but scattered among rival forms. Each demon is both insecure and vain, wanting something better but also certain their current form is superior to others of their ilk.
Demons are broken into six rough categories:
One might say there is a seventh category: High Princes. But only three demons might classify for this distinction: Pazuzu, Demogorgon, and Fraz-Urb’luu.
Pazuzu is at the top of the demonic dogpile for he controls the skies over every layer of the Abyss. He is also seemingly the most ascended of the Princes (and the least demonic considering his sense of humor when dealt a defeat). This cannot be said of any other demon, high or low.
They say in the Abyss, all flesh is interchangeable. This is because demons are routinely transformed into other sorts of demons as rewards, punishment, out of necessity for troops, or simply for fun. Regardless of form, nearly all demons (above larva status) share the following traits/abilities:
Infravision / Unaffected by Darkness of any kind
Teleport No Error
Telepathy [Understand all Communication]
Ability to Gate in other demons
Resistance to: Magical Cold; Magical Electricity; Magical Fire; Poison Gas
Immune to normal Cold; Electricity; Fire
Immune to Prime Material Poisons (when in the Abyss)
Base 5% (+ 10% per level of the speaker) of hearing one who speaks their True Name
Cannot enter the Prime Material w/o aid, typically through:
Demonic Gate or
Rebirth from Amulet (discussed later)
Can freely roam the Astral and Ethereal Planes
Can return to the Abyss from the Prime Material at will (often while carrying a victim)
With regards to the transformation of demons into other sorts of demons, Sub-Demons have nowhere lower to go and barely understand the agony of their existence. Many are killed permanently out of sheer murderous joy akin to hurling eggs or breaking bottles in an alley. Later, we will discuss demonic death in greater detail.
For now, let us discuss the making and unmaking of Demons: a process called Transmogrification.
Minor Demons are not endowed with this ability. They are at the mercy of Major Demons who may unmake and remake them according to their whims.
Transmogrification requires but two things:
Larvae (if the new form “costs” more than the current form) and
A Word of Power from a Major Demon
These Words of Power cannot be vocalized by mortals and only Major Demons are thought to be capable of uttering them. Some sages, however, believe that very powerful divine beings such as Solars can also unmake a demon.
If the new form “costs” less than the current form, the Major Demon need only speak the Word of Power to initiate unmaking. This action is identical to spell casting and, much like any other Power Word, requires but 1 segment to cast. Even so, demotion is not as common as mortals might think.
Demons prefer that everyone hates everyone equally. Smart demons try not to paint targets on their backs. Because of the relentless, mindless violence in the Abyss, intelligence is key to maintaining demonic authority. Armor class, hit-dice, magic resistance and potential damage output all tie for second place. These are the basic factors forming the rough hierarchy of the chart.
While Transmogrifying down (unmaking) costs nothing, Transmogrifying up (making [or] remaking) costs larvae.
To Transmogrify a larva into a manes requires 1.6 larvae (as indicated on the chart).
The demon doing the Transmogrification secures one larva and slices another approximately in half. After savoring the creature’s anguish, it tosses the remaining portion in its sack for later. Like worms, larvae survive such divisions despite their suffering, but never regenerate the missing part.
To Transmogrify a Chasme into a Type II Demon, 7.8 larvae are needed. The cost for the higher form is listed on the chart. But wealthy demons may skip steps, brute forcing the Transmogrification with numbers of Larvae—though all intermediary costs must be paid.
Example: Transmogrifying a Quasit into a Vrock requires 58.2 larvae (the equivalent of 17,460 GP). To elevate a larva into a succubus requires 114.2 larvae (or 34,260 GP!). That’s a lot of damned souls! So when your succubus girlfriend says she contains multitudes, she’s being real.
Demons thusly elevated understand both who elevated them and how easy it is to be unmade. Therefore, ever fearful of losing what they have, demons are obliged to gather reluctantly under the protections of their creators. The creators meanwhile are of course loathe to unmake their creations since this represents an enormous loss of resources. Thus, unmaking generally only happens during times of great wrath.
Of the Major Demons, only SOME have the power of Transmogrification. Goristro are too stupid. Nabassu are hated outcasts, not entrusted by the Princes with such power.
Therefore, only Succubi, Type V; VI; VII and the “specials” may Transmogrify. Further they may only make or unmake Sub and Minor Demons.
In order to make (or unmake) a Major Demon, the initiator must be a Lordling, Lord, or Prince. Lordlings, Lords and Princes are themselves self-made (typically rising out of the “specials” category) and thereafter immune to further Transmogrification. Not even Fraz-Urb’luu can unmake Vaprak.
Succubi are notably weak for Major Demons, but their ability to call a Prince clearly places them in the category. As one of the only creatures in the Abyss with physical beauty they are simultaneously envied and despised. What makes them masters might seem to be their 19+ INT or their psionic ability that surpasses a Balor. But it is the power of Transmogrificaiton that causes all lower demonkind to tremble before them.
What happens, you might ask, when a Major Demon goes ham? Unmaking others as fast as it can speak? Each demon unmade represents a blow to whomever made it. Not only is the wealth gone, but the “servant” created from the wealth is gone. Ergo, the maker’s influence is instantly diminished. Demons obey their creators and band together under Lords and Princes ONLY because they know this and count on their maker’s protection. They serve not out of loyalty but out of fear of unmaking. And while all demons will claim they have no master, a demon whose maker has been destroyed is unquestionably vulnerable because there is no longer a reason NOT to unmake them. Without threat of a maker’s retribution, a demon is often unmade just for fun.
So to answer the question: what happens when a Major Demon goes ham? All demons have telepathy; therefore word spreads at the speed of thought. A Lord or Prince typically shows up swiftly to expunge the renegade, often while the renegade’s creator watches with disgust. This is called Suicide by Prince.
A certain amount of unmaking is tolerated, of course. Especially if the unmade was roundly hated. But should a PREFERRED servant be unmade, especially a Prince’s favorite succubus (by a rival Lord for example)...these are the events that have touched off legendary demonic wars, where unmaking runs unchecked until there is scarcely a demon left and the survivors hastily collect the larvae while their masters retreat.
So, to offer one more example, the Vrock is unmade by the angry Succubus. She demotes him as far as she can, all the way down to larva. This renders the Vrock helpless. But if the Succubus is well and truly pissed, she can go a step further and squash the larva. This might be one path to true demonic death…or not as we will see below.
DEMONIC DEATH AND AMULETS
Mortals believe that a demon slain in the Abyss is forever dead. This notion is bolstered by the fact that when Minor, Major and Greater Demons die outside the Abyss, their physical forms immolate (dissolving into acrid soot and sulfurous smoke). Within a few minutes, however, the demon is reformed in the Abyss, whole and healthy (albeit with some limitations we will discuss later.
But when demons (including Sub-Demons) are slain in the Abyss, their bodies do not immolate. They simply lie there, like corpses generally do.
Demons have stated truthfully under divination and torture that death for them is permanent in the Abyss. But they are relinquishing only half the truth.
The full facts are thus: Any demon without an amulet, slain in the Abyss is forever dead. And, since a great many demons do not have amulets…most who die there are dead forever.
Example: Larvae and Manes do not have amulets (unless the Larva or Manes in question was previously a demon with an amulet) therefore, under most cases, killing any Sub-Demon is permanent.
Most Minor Demons also do not possess amulets. These Demons will never have an amulet unless they were unmade from a form that possessed one.
The following Minor Demons have a 40% chance of having an amulet:
The remaining Minor Demons always have amulets (unless their amulet has been destroyed).
Major Demons, Lordlings, Lords and Princes always have amulets and if theirs is destroyed, they craft another as soon as they are able.
Crafting an amulet requires a vessel (eyeball, bone, gem, feather, etc.) and 1 larva per HD of the demon. The demon must then soak the vessel in the fluids of the murdered larvae along with roughly a gallon of the demon’s own blood. While the vessel soaks, the demon must focus all their psychic energy on it for a period of six hours. When this is done, the demon must eat and sleep. Upon awakening, the vessel will be a functioning amulet.
Demonic amulets are kept secret by their owners and usually take the form of mundane items. They cannot be detected as amulets by any means. Rather, discovery of an amulet must be ferreted out. Use of amulets by mortals is detailed in the Monster Manual (see p16). Examples of forms that amulets of Minor Demons might take are:
jug of whiskey containing a pickled viper
vial of red sand
small ivory box
a mummified quasit
a black candle
manes or quasit skull
small mirror, etc.
Possession of an Amulet allows the bearer to control the demon it belongs to for up to 24 hours after issuance of the first command, at which time the demon is free. Demons will neither obey self-destructive orders (including suicidal combat against insurmountable odds) nor notify their tormentors of the 24 hour time limit (or when it expires!) Once time runs out, the demon is free but often pretends to remain under the bearer’s control, readying for the perfect moment to seize and convey them off to the Abyss—where vengeance is swift. Other demons that realize a mortal has an amulet will almost always attack until slain.
But how do demons use their own amulets?
Minor Demons usually have no secure lair and must therefore carry their amulets with them. Major Demons occasionally carry their amulets, but more often leave them well hidden in the stronghold of their maker: typically a Prince or Lord.
Lords and Princes keep their amulets with the highest secrecy, under magical protection, inaccessible and undiscoverable (they hope). These amulets are often objects of great, strange, and upsetting beauty, for the Lords are both vain and arrogant.
If a Demon possesses an amulet, the way to kill it follows:
The demon must be slain in the Abyss (or on its Home Plane in the case of Lords and Princes)
After which the amulet must be destroyed.
If the amulet is not destroyed, the demon’s essence enters it and gestates. At the end of gestation, the demon re-emerges, destroying the amulet in the process and assuming the form it held when the amulet was created.
Example: A Vrock is unmade by a Succubus into a Dretch. She allows the Dretch to go on its way. The Dretch is enraged by this demotion but still has its amulet (a nondescript pebble). It considers suicide, but this would imprison it in the amulet—who knows what might happen while trapped there? Some days later the Dretch is ambushed by Quasits who steal everything it has, torture it for several days and then let it go. They do not know the Dretch was once a Vrock and think little of the pebble. It is discarded randomly in the wastes. The Dretch cannot find it and curses its life. A few days later, the Dretch is murdered by Hordlings who roast it on a spit and devour even its bones. The Dretch’s essence, however, returns unerringly to the lost pebble and gestates for one year. At the end of this period the pebble shatters and the Demon re-emerges—as a Vrock, who will likely seek out the quasits and eat them whole before deliberating on whether to track down the Hordlings as well!
Gestation is essentially imprisonment and if the amulet is destroyed during this time, the demon is also snuffed out. Gestation times follow:
Minor Demon: 1 Year
Major Demon: 3 Years
Lordling: 5 Years
Lord: 7 Years
Prince: 9 Years
Demonic Amulets Summary:
Possession allows control of the Demon in question for up to 24 hours
Owning an amulet doubles the chances of drawing attention from demons
All Demons NOT controlled by the amulet attack the holder immediately
After 24 hours of servitude the Demon is free and must be given the amulet [or]
If the Amulet is destroyed, the Demon is condemned to abyssment for 1 year
If the Amulet leaves the hand of the possessor, the Demon will immediately attempt to slay
Payment in sacrifices, slaves, magic and so on *may* allow the amulet user to escape a grudge
Once the demon is reborn, a new amulet can be made.
Consider this story about a proud fighter lord with a curio on his mantle. The curio is a conversation piece and trophy from the Abyss. He has no idea it is an amulet. At some point the demon it belongs to is slain in the Abyss and its essence returns to inhabit the object on the fighter lord’s mantle—on the Prime Material Plane! Time passes. The lord returns home one day to find all his servants dead and his castle looted. While he was gone, the demon emerged, glutted itself, took all the treasure it could carry and returned to the Abyss with the lord’s son over its shoulder. The only clue to what happened? The charred and broken curio on the mantle.
Destroying an amulet without slaying the demon to which it belongs, condemns the demon to abyssment for ONE year (banishing it instantly) after which it can leave the Abyss only if summoned.
Slaying a Demon outside the Abyss produces a similar result. Note that dying outside the Abyss does not trigger a demon’s amulet. Instead, the Demon is made whole again but unable to leave the Abyss for one year, after which it can only leave if summoned…or (as in the example above) it is slain while its amulet is on another plane.
DEMONS GATING DEMONS
Demons cannot open a gate to the Prime Material for a demon currently serving a term of abyssment.
Demons do not use Gate as a last resort. Rather, most demons decide whether to gate based on the following:
Can I easily slay this creature and keep its body and treasure all for myself?
If yes, do not Gate.
If no, let’s party.
Gate is a special ability that demons possess, and it cannot be interrupted or dispelled. Gates open instantly and the gated demon immediately steps through. The gate then closes. Gates are one-way trips and nothing but the gated demon can pass through the gate while it is open.
Order of Operations:
Roll % dice to see if the gate opens: Failure = the demon must wait 24 hours before attempting to gate again
Success = determine what sort of demon appears
Demonic Telepathy means gated demons arrive fully informed of whatever “fun” is going down.
Gated Demons may attack the same round they were gated ONLY if their conjurer won initiative.
Gated Demons may gate in more demons.
Demons may continue gating every round until they fail.
Now that we know just how terrifying Gate is, let’s talk about mortals summoning demons.
Summoning a demon is surprisingly easy. Safety while doing so is the difficult part. Reference PHB p86—87. Although spells exist, Name Speaking is the easiest (and most reckless) method. If a demon’s True Name is known and spoken aloud there is a base 5% chance +10% per level of the speaker that the demon will hearken. Thereafter, the demon may choose to accept the summons and appear or, if it fears the speaker, ignore the utterance.
To force a demon to appear, requires Cacodemon or similar magic and if the demon has been condemned to abyssment, not even summoning spells can draw it forth until the year has passed.
Note that demons summoned through Name Speaking are unconstrained and may immediately attack, slay, devour or convey the speaker to the abyss.
The one advantage of knowing a demon’s True Name is that IF the demon agrees to a pact or bargain and its True Name is used, then the demon is bound to its word—though it may still try to pervert the intent.
Most Name Speakers, however, are stupid and therefore quickly slain (or carried off). Rarely, though, humans conveyed back to the Abyss are kept as pets or slaves until the demon inevitably grows bored. Which brings us to Demonic Abduction.
If a demon wishes, it may attempt to convey a mortal back to the Abyss with it.
Demons do not relish returning to the Abyss
If facing bitter odds, the demon may flee to the Abyss for safety and take a prisoner when it departs
Demons typically select the fattest mortal in the vicinity for this purpose.
However, if a Demon fancies a mortal or is amused by it, the Demon may select it for enslavement instead
To abduct a mortal the demon must
Grapple the target (hitting at a -2 penalty)
If this is accomplished, the demon simply holds onto the target for the remainder of the round.
If the victim still has an attack available it may attempt to break free by hitting the demon at -4 penalty
At the beginning of the next round, the target is allowed a single to-hit roll against the demon at -4 penalty
If this hit succeeds the victim escapes and the demon returns to the Abyss
If this hit misses, the victim and the demon instantly vanish to the Abyss
Only very powerful demons can ensure the protection of a mortal in the Abyss. This is because a living mortal is more valuable than a dead one and other demons will generally try to kill it, thus reducing its value out of envy or spite. Mortals kept for amusement usually die quickly—though there are rare tales of pets kept by Lords or Princes for many years.
Far more likely, however, is the fate of a human with meat on its bones. It will be tortured to death for fun and then sliced up into choice cuts of bacon; traded off as fresh cutlets to a Prince’s minions; or used to make larvae. Lords and Princes always have underlings prowling the wastes, looking to capture or buy mortal bodies (living and dead) to fill their larders and treasuries with valuable fat.
*****end sample WIP*****
I have not yet finished my "Perils of the Pit" (which includes wind, snow, rain, vapor, quakes and burn weed that make *travailing* through the Abyss so "fun". I do have a list of the effects of "damnation" for travelers in the abyss: details concerning clerical limitations, etherealness, and so on. And of course a brief look at demonic scripture and demonic gear. All this just so I can run the adventure!
Welp, that was as long a post as I like to make.
Until next time, Peace
and happy gaming.