Hi Iím Socratov. I like the classics (have read about Odysseus and the like at the age of 8). Recently I got into DnD. While I browsed the classes I stumbled upon warlock, which led me to Hellfire warlock, which ultimately led me to Fiendish Codex 2. I loved the reference to Divina Commedia by Dante, but didnít exactly happy with the description of the river Styx. One thing led to another in a discussion on the forums of Giant in the Playground and I got an idea to write my adaptation of the Nine hells. Having only started playing DnD recently I have no idea of balance, or to put it more precisely: the numbers. Please donít take the numbers for absolute, but try to use your own adaptation for the numbers. If you really like my work, leave me a message at the Giant in the Playground forums, and post (or message) your own adaptations to this material. Please note that I used materials from the classical Greece myths, Wizards of the Coastís supplement: Fiendish Codex II, and various other works.
All I want to do is to make the description of the Nine Hells more along the lines of those classical works it was based upon (even by proxy).
Have fun gaming, reading and using this material.
SoÖ Whatís wrong then?
Not that much, but in comparison with Hadesí realm, which had 5 rivers, each assigned to a specific task, in Fiendish Codex II (henceforth FCII) uses the Styx for just about any task necessary.
In relation to this FCII uses the the riverís names for areaís but then doesnít use the corresponding mythical connection in the description of said area. I will introduce the classical references by adapting layer by layer to classical ancient Greece and Danteís Divina Commedia.
I wonít rewrite the whole section, just supplement it, like some kind of errata.
Layer 1: Avernus
Avernus is all about fire, blood, and general nastyness. So here we want to create an environment to deal the first shock of the whole ďOh c*ck, Iím really in hell now!Ē kind of feeling. Avernus is also the home to violent people in Hell
First we will start here with one meaning of the river Phlegethon. This river was a river with 2 shapes in Hadesí realm. 1 appearance was a river sticky with blood and gore(by Dante), and another was a river ablaze with never dying flames(classical Greece). This riverís purpose was to keep the prisoners at this level. The Greek myth states that this river flowed along the Styx as a result of the godess Styx dying to the flames of Phlegethon.
On this level of hell we will see two rivers, they will encircle either side of the layer. They will be separated by 2 heavily guarded gates leading to both the planar gate to the material plane, and on the other end the flight of stairs going down to the second level of Hell. Against all odds the rivers seems to flow upwards along the stairs. You seem to get notion that these rivers appear sentient.
The river Phlegethon consists of small flames running along. The consistency of the river is a bit like lava, but then instead of molten rock, boiling blood, filth and bile. Anything getting caught up in it seems to burn horrid and unable to escape (DC 25 str check to escape, +1 DC for every round youíre stuck beyond the first, and each failed escape check will add +2 to the DC. Ropes, other people, branches provide a +2 bonus to the escapecheck each). You get 2 Hellfire damage every round you are stuck (fort half, DC25). This pool traps both corporeal and incorporeal beings. I t seems the river consumes endlessly and unrelentlessly. Without so much as a notion of what or who is stuck in the unholy mix of blood, bile, and hellfire. It seems the power of this river has faded a bit as it seems to get stronger going to the second level. The amounts of blood and bile that flow in the river seem to be consistent with the amount of bodies lying around after the many and extremely violent fights.
The river Styx is a river themed with hate and violence. The river is black as night and the souls of murderers. The river is boiling by low temperatures releasing toxic gases into the near vicinity. These toxic fumes seem not only to attack the lungs, but the skin too. It even seems to attack the very soul. In a 30í radius from any point of the river (except for the gates, which are magically warded against itís effects) people will need to take a fort save first, pass the fortsave and you will gain a +2 on saves caused by the river styx. Fail the save and you will take 3d6 acid dmg per hour with stacking +1 bonus acid dmg per hour. You can only make this save once. Itís a test to see how your body handles the toxic fumes. Only after leveling and gaining a bonus (class wise or abilitywise) on your fortitude save will you be albe to take the save again. After the fort saves you will make willsaves against DC15 (+1 per 3í nearing the river). succes means you act normally, failure will make you move 5' per round towards the river, this does not count against your movement per round. When people actually reach the river, touching the water will need you to take a save against DC 35. Failing the save will put a mind affecting rage on you unable to identify friend or foe, you will attack the person nearest to you. Pass the save however, you are safeguarded for 6 minutes. Immunity to mindaffect will not grant immunity against this effect, but will provide a bonus of +5 to the check. Any way of preventing the fumes to reach your lungs will provide a total bonus of +2 on the check. Agains this effect affects both corporeal and incorporeal beings. As you get close to the river Styx more fights seem to break out and the beings fighting more furious and less exhausted. The souls of these creatures seem to be tainted. As the mist draws near you feel nauseated and an influence trying to gain control. AS much as you want leave this place, you feel oddly attracted to the black oozing waters of the river.
Layer 2: Dis
The layer of Dis is where paranoya rules. Dispater is the ruler here and suspect treachery at every corner.
Acoording to Dante the city of Dis was the place where heretics ended up. However, in the realm of DnD where so many gods are present, heresy would be too difficult to describe, So on this one I will be staying closer to the description of FCII. However, to environmentally support the paranoia, I will use the river Styx in a slightly different way than on Avernus. The fact that the river Styx will present a role on multiple layers is consistent with Classical Greek descriptions of the river Styx. It was clamied the Styx flowed through all of Tartaros, and with a godess representing the river, it is possible to attribute multiple attributes to her, and thus the river. At east it will stay within the scope of the main theme: hate.
The City looks grim and slightly misty. When you enter the city at the base of the stairs, you see the river flowing into the sewer system. But instead of the pure hate and violence you sensed on the previous layer, you feel slightly unsettled. You get the feeling your companions share this feeling. The longer you stay, the more this feeling grows.
Basically you will need to make willsaves against DC25 (DC35 for actually touching the styx in the sewer). The bonus from the river Styx from Avernus will still apply here. If you havenít already had one on Avernus, you will not get one here. Since the Styx was heated up on Avernus it released violent fumes. However, since the Styx isnít heated up on this layer, you wonít get the fortitude save. The Paranoya score start at 0, If at any time your paranoia exceeds you classlevel+HD you succumb to the influence of the styx and attack you party. When making the save you get either paranoia damage, paranoia healing, or nothing (see table 1).
|Adjustment to paranoia
fail by 5 or more | +2*
fail by less then 5 | +1
pass by less then 5 | 0
pass by 5 or more | -1**
Nat 1 | Adjustment+1
Nat 20 | Adjustment-1
*+1 for every 5 below the DC
** an additional -1 for every 5 above the DC
for critical failure/success, the bonuses are respectively increased/decreased by 1
Restoration and greater restoration will restore paranoia of half the casterlevel (full casterlevel for greaster restoration), rounded down, to a minimum of 0. Immunity to mind affecting and confusion effects will grant you a +2 circumstance bonus, as well reduce any penalties by 1. The save must be made every hour not sleeping or meditating (starting 1 hour after sleeping/meditating), and again if at any time you get targeted by a mind affect spell or SLA. Leaving the layer lifts the paranoia, as long as you arenít in the layer for 24 hours, and you make a DC30 willsave, else your paranoia score will remain, until you leave the layer again, (no willsave bonuses against specific effects count, general bonuses do count).
When a player turns on the party he can be cured from his paranoia by beÔng pinned down and treated with a casting of restoration or greater restoration to reduce his paranoia score until his paranoia score drops below the classlevel+other HD threshold). Since the paranoia effect is magic in nature, an Anti-magic field will protect from the paranoia effect
The mist comes rolling in, you feel unnerved. Any moment now your partner may turn against you, especially that filthy rogue. You guess you will need to take precautions against ambushes. The mist does seem confined to the inner city, the outskirts and suburbs seem not to be bothered by the mist.
Sidebar: when making hourly saves, you could crop the saves together like this:
DM: After traveling 4 hours you reach a city, you feel uneasy traveling through this plane *have the players roll 4 saves*
Player: i rolled a 20, 25, 32 and a nat 20(35)
DM: your paranoiascore will decrease by 1, minimum 0
It will speed up play, especially when everyone has low paranoiascores. Only when someone gets a high paranoiascore (i.e. close to his threshold) you will have to take the saves one by one.
Layer 3: Minauros
ďthey say that when you cry, your tears eventually run out, that is when you literally cry for your life as your life essence gets substituted for tearsÖĒ
Minauros is a place where it constantly rains and where the ground is covered by filth. It seems a sorrowful environment. Fortunately ancient Greece and Dante back me up here. Danteís turn will come up ahead, but this is the place for ancient Greece to shine.
In ancient Greece the river Cocytus meant Ďriver of the wailingí. The rain falling from the sky, horrific creatures around, black sludge on the ground rotting, withered, eyeless corpses. One of the Pools of Mnemosyne flows out from the lethe. The lethe ends in a waterfall from high above in the last of Mnemosyne pools. This last pool contains all the memories tied to regret in the world. The pool flows over to mix with the corpses and black sludge on the ground.
Once you enter this layer you feel remorseful. Your conscience gets heavier and if you have any burdens to bear (any shameful thing) you will only feel more remorse. Once you enter the layer you will start making checks you will start with making willsaves to remember your regrets. The DC starts at 12, every hour the DC increases by 2. This willsave is to resist remembering your regrets. Once you fail a save the DC resets, and you get a burden. Burdens could be considered as tokens A natural 1 counts as a critical burden, giving you 2 tokens, a natural 20 however resets the DC without giving out a burden. For each burden you receive you will make a willsave to not start crying, the DC is 15+3 for every burden, each burden received resets the will save to 12. Failing this save will make you cry (see effects in table 2).
|Fort save DC
fail by 5 or more|20+1*
fail by less then 5|22
pass by less then 5|20
pass by more then 5|20-2**
Nat 20|No fort save necessary, -1 burden
*for every 5 you failed the DC by
**for every 5 you passed the DC by
When you are crying you will have tosee what will happen to you. This will be determined by rolling a d6. The damage done to you (table 3, penalties cumulative).
1|Save result Ė 2 on 1 mental stat (random)
2| -2 con (drain)
3| -2 str (drain)
4|10 HP drain
*recuperation: you can clear 1 ability score of penalties tied to burdens, or lose 5 burdens.
To lose burdens you can either roll really well, wait outside of Baator (recovering a burden per week outside of Baator), or rub water of the lethe (2 drops per burden) on the back of your neck (as if you were bearing a yoke or beam like workhorses and donkeys wear when dragging a plow). Since the burden (and crying) effect is magic in nature, an Anti-magic field will protect from these threats.
You enter a mass of black sludge, rain and corpses. You notice the corpses have withered and lost their eyes. A wave of sadness waves over you and you start to feel a little depressed. Memories start to come back. While you wade through the corpses and sludge, you notice the sludge becomes less thick. In the background a sound of rushing water lifts the sense of urgency of you. You actually donít want to go furtherÖ
Sidebar: If an Antimagicfield is not present in the party you could present the party with an Antimagic artefact. When switched on it presents the partymembers with an antimagicfield, when off it will instantly force a save on the party (no more then 1 per hour). A fun way to present the party with this is having the party find a devil with the artifact, so they can obtain the artefact through killing the devil or making a pact or agreement.
Layer 4: Phlegethos
In FCII Phlegetos is a fiery and flaming place. So naturally, the Phlegethon is back. Even better, I will make this layer into a delta for the Phlegethon. Here the heat will be unbearable
While there is no such are of Phlegethos, there is ofcourse the river Phlegethon. So here you will encounter the Phlegethon delta, some end in pools, some join the main river again upwards to other layers.
No errata hereÖ FCII has already a great way of making it hard on the players entering here. Though I would say that jumping into the Phlegethos would give you 10d6 fire dmg per round, but then again, you would have to be really stupid to jump into a flaming river.
Layer 5: Stygia
According to FCII Stygia is some king of tundra/ice sea. The lord of Stygia is Levistus, treachery incarnate. Levistus is frozen ehre in ice, and no matter what devils hack away, the ice that was chipped away grows back instantly.
Sorry, no cold places in Hadesí realm. In Danteís Divinia Commedia the last sircle of Hell is Cocytus. We have already seen Cocytus before where we used the river in the ancient greek sense of wailing and remorse. Now we will use Danteís version of Cocytus which is a plane with ice, a place fit for the traitors.
Instead of severe exposure the cold version of the fire dmg in Phlegethos, but with d8ís instead of d6ís. However I would include the spring of the cocytus where the drifting traitors drift away in de river Cocytus mourning their lack of loyalty. On this layer of hell the effect of the Cocytus as burdening you with regret isnít as strong yet. However, if a character with betrayal in their history comes here they will take double damage from the layerís cold effect.
Layer 6: Malbolge
IN FCII Malbolge is a plane with acid lakes. So why not keep them in here?
Nothing in classical literature mentions lakes of acid and the like.
Not gonna touch this with a 10 foot pole. Only an effect like on Phegethon and Stugia, where you take acid damage from the acid fumes in the air. Comparable with the previous layers, and d10ís for dmg size.
Layer 7: Maladomini
On this plane filth reigns supreme.
It is already nice, but Iíd like to make a few additions: you will not be able to eat here. You will become sickened once you enter and any attempt to consume anything will lead to uncontrolled barfing. Any wounds you get will have to be healed with a DC 20 heal check before you can actually start healing. You will have to make that healcheck for every 10 points of damage from slashing or piercing weapons, with every 10 points of damage gotten this way the DC increases with 2. A failed healcheck will drain 1 con as the wound festers and gangrene sets in. 2 failed saves in a row will incur a disease, determined at random. The river styx comes through here too, when you draw near the Styx you feel the sudden urge to backstab your partymembers, or to trade your partymembers for a place in Levistus court. You wonít be able to join the court, but you have a feeling you will be able to make a deal with levistus in exchange for your partymembers. Dreams of riches overwhelm your conscience. In game mechanics this will translate to all aforementioned effects taking hold of you caused by the river styx, which one is up to the DM, tailor as needed.
Layer 8: Cania
The layer of Mephistoteles, lord of hellfire. Mephistoteles lives in a wasteland of ice, except for the springs of the Phlegethos. Mephistoteles make hellfire here by drawing out heat energy from all around him encasing the whole layer except for a few parts in icy cold.
None worth mentioning.
Ongoing effects are already taken care of. When you draw near the spring of the Phlegethos you get overwhelmed by warmth, and when coming closer overwhelming heat (see Phlegethos, but double the dice). The Phlegethon rises from a hellfire spring, made by Mephistoteles.
Layer 9: Nessus
This is already a great piece of work. Not gonna tinker with it too much.
Normally this would be Satanís Citadel, but Iím gonna stick the FCII version of it.
The last pool of Mnemosyne is here, collecting all the forgotten knowledge, see the previous pools, but double the dmg effects, and raise the DCís to taste.
Congratulations you are not yet bored by reading this document. You see clearly that Hell gets worse the further you go in. first I want to make clear that the numbers in this document are not conclusive, they are guidelines which should tell you that how bad this layer is, the next is going to be worse anyway. The later layers were sadly not that well supported in classical literature, but the earlier layers were fantastic! I had a lot of fun thinking up concepts for the earlier layers envisioning a lot of pain, suffering and flying books. Sure itís not easy, but then again, itís supposed to be Hell. Itís meant to be unbearable, unforgiving and the like. Iíd rate this documentís challenge starting epic. Some stuff wonít be survivable by low lvl characters and on top of that there is the stuff brought in by WotC themselves. Have fun and kick those devil butts!