In today's Plane Above
excerpt, we continue to explore the Nine Hells. This first encounter of a 3-encounter adventure, is typical of what characters might face upon arriving in the Nine Hells.
After crashing to Avernus, the characters are quickly assaulted by devilish slavers serving their archdevil mistress, an exiled chain devil princess named Baelzra. The adventure ends in Baelzra’s camp, where the characters face the devil princess and her servitors, either as slaves or as liberators of the souls she has captured.
Avernus, the Burning Wastes
Consisting of the entire blasted surface of Baator, the first layer of the Nine Hells is the largest and the first place most visitors ever see—and sometimes the last. Many have mistaken the surface realm for the softest of the Nine, but it is the most dangerous in many ways.
Much of the surface layer of the Hells is watched by vast camps of legion devil armies under the strict control of Bel and the Dark Eight. No invasion of hell by demons or angels has ever made it past Avernus, though vast stretches of badlands are drenched in the blood and gore of thousands of years of near-constant conflict. The Blood War (Manual of the Planes, p.89) between devils and demons might have ended or gone dormant, but the forces of Avernus haven’t relaxed.
The soul harvesters do excellent work in Avernus, since those souls condemned to the Nine Hells most often materialize on the top layer. The damned souls fall into the Lake of Despond (Manual of the Planes, p.99) or streak flaming out of the sky to break craters in the blackened ground. The "crater makers" are the fortunate ones. If their bodies are not found by the bearded devils and spinagons who hunt constantly for errant souls, they might return to life through the magic of the dominion before they can be captured and taken below to spend the rest of their lives and deaths in torment. Escape is unlikely, but a few last moments of painful freedom are beyond value.
Encounter 1: Fiery Descent
When the characters cross the color veil into the Nine Hells, read:
The smoke parts, and you hang weightless among the storm clouds for a moment before falling toward the ground. As you descend into the fire and lightning, half a dozen humanoid forms—lurching, emaciated things burning with white flame—latch on to the vessel seemingly out of nowhere. They are just below the railing, tearing at it and jabbering madly with agony and hatred.
Three bulky spined devils land before you, their claws clicking on the deck. "Fleshy, fleshy, in peril now, it is," says the first. "Going down to join the damned? Give us a taste, fleshies!"