Table of Contents
Method of Traveling
The most secure method of venturing into the enigmatic Abyss is by invoking the spell of astral projection. This mystical incantation permits the caster and his fellow travelers to linger within the confines of the Material Plane, while their ethereal counterparts materialize on the Astral. Through the kaleidoscope of color pool portals, they may traverse to Pazunia, the initial stratum (layers of rocks) of the Abyss. Regrettably, the astral projection remains an elusive 9th-level spell, positioning it far beyond the grasp of the majority of those daring enough to embark on such an adventure.
Among the coveted 9th-level enchantments, the spell known as “gate” weaves a transient connection between two distinct planes, forging a pathway to be traversed with but a singular step. This spell functions with an unparalleled exactitude, although its efficacy may be thwarted by the formidable will of demon lords and deities dwelling within the Abyss, who hold dominion to close gates within their presence or personal realms. Notably, the application of “gate” is confined to interplanar journeys and cannot be employed to shift between two locations within a singular plane, even from one layer to another.
A method both more adaptable and accessible is the spell known as “plane shift,” a magical conduit enabling transition from one plane to another, or from layer to layer within a realm. Without possession of the precise material component—a forked rod, meticulously aligned to a specific layer—the application of “plane shift” to the Abyss consigns the caster to a location undetermined, leaving them adrift upon the Plain of Infinite Portals.
The intriguing quality of many outsiders, who wield the ability to invoke “plane shift” at will, renders them desirable candidates for spells such as “summon monster” and “planar ally.” Such a practice can be particularly advantageous for those intrepid souls yearning to navigate both to and within the mysterious, inexorable Abyss.
The subsequent planar conduits furnish a means of passage between the intricate layers of the realm.
The Abyssian Ocean
Nestled deep within the unfathomable Abyss, there lies an ocean unlike any other, a multilayered expanse that bridges realms, an uncharted and bottomless sea teeming with demonic existence. This Abyssian Ocean, a celestial body of water, merges with all the grand seas and oceans across the infinite plane, knitting them together in a dark tapestry.
Should a ragged caravel, bearing the menacing standard of the Curswallow’s Cannibal King, stray too far from Yeenoghu’s Realm on the 422nd layer of the Abyss, it might suddenly find itself adrift upon the crystalline waters of the Abyssian. There, waves of fiendish sailfish break upon the deck, flopping and writhing in breathless agony.
Within Demogorgon’s Gaping Maw on the 88th layer, a makeshift raft of mortals, stitched together and caught in a fierce sea storm, may wander the trackless seas of the Abyssian for endless weeks. They float aimlessly until ensnared by a colossal whirlpool, one that eventually deposits them upon the shores of Shendilavri, on the unforgiving 570th layer of the Abyss. The Abyssian Ocean is not merely water; it is a living entity, a chaotic force bridging the chasms between the realms.
No demon lord holds sway over the Abyssian Ocean, an enigmatic realm untouched by conventional governance. While aquatic sovereigns of dark renown, such as Dagon and Demogorgon, may sporadically traverse its shadowed waters under specially brokered compacts, none are audacious enough to enact political ambitions upon this Soulless Sea. For the depths of these waters are the exclusive domain of the wretched myrmyxicuses, immensely potent tanar’ri that elicit deference even from the most imperious balor.
These many-tentacled, many-horned leviathans rule from vast floating citadels, nightmarish constructs fashioned from millions of tons of fish skeletons, and razor-edged shells and coral. Within these twisted palaces, thousands of captives languish, crowding the sinuous hallways and submerged galleries. Each myrmyxicus, a grandmaster of enslavement, directs his subjugated subjects to battlefields, factories, and arenas that stretch across the Great Wheel.
Among the ranks of the enslaved, one might find hapless humans, snatched in raids from the Material Plane, or even audacious demon lords, who in their folly dared challenge the myrmyxicus’s dominion. The myrmyxicuses’ rule is unchallenged, their domain unassailable, a place of dark terror and absolute power, where ambition falters and only the ancient, inscrutable laws of the Abyss hold sway.
The Grand Abyss
In the shadowy annals of a time long past, during the elusive epoch known as the Age before Ages, a particular breed of demons known as the obyriths embarked upon an ambitious endeavor. Driven by an insatiable thirst for dominion, they sought to explore the unfathomable reaches of their home plane, the Abyss. It was an exploration wrought by brute force, as they tunneled deep into the surface of the Plain of Infinite Portals, an audacious attempt to pierce the very heart of their chaotic domain.
The result of their ancient experimentation was a bottomless chasm of terror and wonder. This yawning abyss unveiled a complex network of portals, leading ever deeper into the maddening layers of the Abyss. With a blend of cruel genius and meticulous precision, the obyriths fortified these gateways with imposing bridges and mighty stone fortresses, all intricately carved into the towering walls of the shaft.
Distinct from the various pits scarring Pazunia’s surface, the portals within this so-called “Grand Abyss” possess a peculiar quality: they permit travel in both directions. This unique characteristic renders the chasm a tantalizing destination for intrepid explorers and a prized target for ambitious demon lords, ever eager to claim uncharted Abyssal layers as their own.
The Grand Abyss, however, harbors secrets beyond mortal comprehension. If any soul has ever reached what might be termed the “bottom” of this seemingly endless chasm, they have not returned to regale the living with tales of their discoveries. Its depths, as far as anyone knows, are inexhaustible, defying both measurement and understanding.
This elusive quality has led the Fraternity of Order to classify the Grand Abyss as a full-fledged layer of the Abyss, a categorization that hints at its profound significance. The details of this ancient, eternal place are explored further in the pages that follow, but one truth remains unshaken: the Grand Abyss is a place of mystery, a place where ambition meets the unknown, and a place that continues to call to those who dare to explore the uncharted waters of existence.
In the Grand Abyss, the past and the present intertwine, whispers of ancient demons resonate, and the very fabric of chaos is laid bare, a testament to the unquenchable curiosity and relentless ambition that defines the very essence of the Abyss. It is a realm that defies definition, a timeless enigma that invites us all to ponder the infinite complexities of a universe still filled with undiscovered wonders.
The Infinite Staircase
In the ever-shifting realms of existence, where the boundaries of thought and matter blend and dissolve, lies a mysterious pathway known to wanderers as the Infinite Staircase. A marvel beyond comprehension, this enigmatic expanse links all worlds and planes, its pathways woven by the creative spirit of intelligent beings.
The Staircase stretches ever upward, ascending into an endless haze of obscurity, each step leading to countless landings. Each landing is adorned with a door or doors, gateways to places untold. Though no accurate map has been charted, experienced travelers may discern the nature of a door’s destination by the very essence of the landing itself. Cobwebs and shadows cloak the portals to realms of evil, while the passages to the Upper Planes gleam with cleanliness and resonate with the architecture of celestial abodes.
As one traverses this infinite maze, other staircases emerge into view, seemingly defying gravity, at odd angles or even upside down. All are part of the same enormous tapestry, curving and folding upon itself in ways that defy perception but are no less tangible for it.
The Abyss, that place of chaos and terror, touches the Infinite Staircase in multiple locations. Landing sites are often nestled in cities frequented by demonic artisans or mortal performers. From Graz’zt’s decadent cities of Zelatar and Samora to Zoragmelok, the seat of Fraz-Urb’luu, and Riven-heart, the sacred shrine of Malcanthet, the Staircase offers passage to the known and unknown.
Yet, the Infinite Staircase is not merely a benign thoroughfare. It harbors its dangers. Everyday encounters with wanderers pose risks, and hostile beings may lurk around a corner. A fall from the Staircase can lead to a crashing end on a lower landing.
But the most enigmatic peril—or perhaps allure—lies in a hidden stairway leading to a simple door that appears only to the solitary traveler. Behind this door lies the true heart’s desire, whatever that may be. The temptation to embrace this destiny requires a formidable will to resist. Once refused, the opportunity is lost forever.
Guidance is available for those who seek it. The resplendent lillends, caretakers of the Infinite Staircase, may provide direction in exchange for displays of creativity. Then there’s the Plane-walkers Guild, a collective of intrepid explorers offering camaraderie and wisdom at their tent city perched on a massive landing.
Traveling the Staircase is no simple feat. It demands time and endurance, testing both the physical and mental limits of those who tread its path. Flight and teleportation offer no shortcuts, for those who stray from the path risk being lost to folds in reality, ejected to a random plane.
The Infinite Staircase is a marvel of cosmological complexity, a bridge between the seen and unseen, known and unknown. It serves as a testament to the boundless imagination and longing that drive the hearts of explorers, forever inviting them to journey beyond the horizons of the ordinary into the extraordinary realms that lie just beyond a door, waiting to be opened. It is an eternal reminder that, in the multiverse, there is always another step to take, another door to open, and another world to discover.
The River of Styx
The ominous waters of the River Styx slither like dark tendrils through the tortured landscapes of the Lower Planes, connecting realms of despair and madness in a nightmarish web. Its touch grazes the uppermost layers of the Gray Waste, Carceri, Gehenna, Pandemonium, and the infernal Nine Hells of Baator, with arms stretching into the horrifying depths of the Abyss.
This is no ordinary river; it’s a monstrosity, alive with treacherous intent. Anyone foolish or unfortunate enough to taste or even touch its accursed waters is consumed by shadows, with the threat of total amnesia looming like a pallor over their existence (DC 17 saving throw or be affected by total amnesia). Those who fall prey to its dark whispers must clutch desperately at their sanity, their minds unraveling as if cursed by a Feeblemind spell. A scant few resist complete annihilation, left with a gaping void in their memory of the past 8 hours. Evil aquatic outsiders may traverse its depths unscathed, their wickedness in harmony with the river’s own malevolence.
The Styx does not merely flow; it writhes, a living serpent whose very character mutates from one cursed realm to another. On Pazunia, its waters are the sickly purple of festering wounds, laden with a sheen of oil. In the freezing grasp of Thanatos, the domain of Orcus, the surface shatters with shards of ice, resting on a chillingly clear abyss. The very transformation of its vile substance heralds the passage into a new realm of horror, a journey into the unknown, for the Styx refuses to be mapped, defying linearity and predictability, a twisted maze with neither beginning nor end.
Vessels daring to brave this terrible waterway are filled with fiends, petitioners, and the courageous or foolhardy souls of mortals, all at the mercy of the inscrutable marraenoloths. These skeletal figures, draped in rotting robes and grave wrappings, silently command their skiffs, requiring payment of at least 100 gold pieces per passenger. With a summoning spell, they appear, ready to ferry their passengers into oblivion, their telepathic minds connected in a dark communion.
Betray one, and you are shunned by all; for they serve the godlike yugoloth Charon, who knows the Styx as intimately as a spider knows its web. Though mostly indifferent, there lies a lurking chance that a yugoloth may succumb to fiendish nature, betraying its passengers (15% chance) to a wrong destination (85% chance) or, worse, into a carefully orchestrated ambush.
Travel on the River Styx is a descent into madness, a haunting journey that takes from 1 to 20 harrowing hours. Every hour, the river’s denizens may reveal themselves, each encounter a twisted reflection of the terror that binds this river to the very fabric of the multiverse. Those who choose to journey on a marraenoloth skiff are given brief respite, yet the ever-present dread of betrayal and the river’s ceaseless, insidious whispering promise that the Styx will never release its grip on their tormented souls.
Consider reading more about the Abyss: About the Abyss