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Friday, October 21, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to the Triple Realm of Azzagrat

In this guide, I am going to present an overview of the realms ruled by the demon lord Graz'zt, one of the major villains in the D&D multiverse. I'm going to give you my version of it, which combines material from all of the editions of D&D. This should give you a nice starting point to make your own version of Azzagrat for your campaign.

This material is drawn from:
If you only use one source, the Demonomicon actually has a really nice rundown of everything in the triple realm.

The Essential Information

  • Graz'zt rules the 45th, 46th, 47th layers of the Abyss.
  • The city of Zelatar actually exists on all three layers at the same time. Each of the three "districts" of Zelatar is different and has its own name: Fogtown, Gallenghast and Darkflame.
  • The layers of Azzagrat are connected by a river of salt.
The Layers of Azzagrat:
  • (45th) Rauwend: Home to Allagash, Zelatar (Fogtown), the River of Salt, and the Zrintor Forest. This place affects memory.
  • (46th) Barogund: Home to Tornbend, the salt swamp, and Zelatar (Gallenghast). On this layer, the ground projects light and shadows into the sky.
  • (47th) Voorz'zt: Home to Zelatar (Darkflame), the Bay of Choking Bile and Samora. This layer has a blue sun. Heat does cold damage and cold does fire damage. The blue sun makes it easy for people to disguise themselves.

Graz'zt: He is 9 feet tall and is "the perfect figure of untamed desire." To him, restriction is the only sin. He wields a greatsword called Angdrelve, the Wave of Sorrow.

Main Types of Creatures That Live in Azzagrat: Many of the demons and creatures who live here are handsome or beautiful:
  • Manes and dretches
  • Lamias
  • Mariliths
  • Vrocks 
  • Tieflings 
  • Succubi  
  • The Abat-Dolor: A race that looks like Graz'zt. Graz'zt's former wife, Elazalag, is an Abat-Dolor.
There are also a number of other creature types: Armanites, shadow demons, harpies, abyssal giants, lillitu, and alu-fiends.

Gates: All throughout Azzagrat are these "ovens" of green flame. Some of them are portals to other areas in the triple realm. Many of them are just flame geysers:
  • They appear at random. 1 in 3 is actually a portal.
  • They are 4-6 feet high. Peering through does not show the destination.
  • The green flame does normal fire damage: 2d6 fire.
Layer 45 - Rauwend

Viper Tree

Rauwend is best known for the vast Zrintor forest. The trees are creatures known as viper trees.

River of Salt: This river passes through all three layers and is quite deadly.
  • Getting within 10 feet of it might make you suffocate on dust from the grinding salt crystals.
  • If you fall in, you must stay "afloat" or else you will be reduced to red paste in d6+2 rounds.
  • Just reaching in to aid an ally does 2d12 damage to you.
Zrintor Forest: As you travel through this forest full of viper trees, you can spot plumes of dark grey smoke against the grey sky (Zelatar) and hear the tooting of a salt barge from the river of salt.

Viper trees catch fire easily. If a blaze breaks out, the trees hiss "Murderers! Flame Bringers!" Sometimes, Graz'zt enjoys watching them burn and suffer.

Allagash: This town was once part of a demon breeding program. An army of Orcus came and wiped the place out, and the weird demons here were reanimated. The invaders were repelled but nobody is sure what demons still lurk here.

Zelatar (Fogtown)

It rains a lot here. There are many merchants selling all sorts of things. The majority of the merchants are bariaur, gnomes, and arcane. Dretches and manes live in hovels here among slave gulags and rickety insane asylums.

The Roosting Wall: The city is surrounded by scythe-topped walls. 2,000 vrocks perch on the wall overlooking river of salt. This wall is smeared from decades of droppings. Just outside, farmers harvest colorless edible fungi.

Easy to Get Lost: There's a magical mental fog effect that makes details difficult to remember.

Lots of Parks: These are small, tree-lined walkways that meander among statuary stolen from many other planes. Some have displays of petrified plants - roses, daisies, daffodils, sunflowers and other stone flowers. Others have dangerous hanging plants, some with luscious red berries ("bloodthorn" that sucks your blood).

Gates: There are doors and arches that serve as gates to different layers. Many of them have long tongues that unfurl for you to walk on.

Viper Gate: This is a specific gate with two white, leafless tress on either side of it. The branches are topped with snake heads.

The Lich: There is an estate guarded by a lich loyal to Grazzt. The lich sits on a throne on a wall and strikes down any who enter. The lich holds one perfect white rose.

(Tavern) The Wandering Balor: This tavern has four elephant legs and it wanders Zelatar. To enter: Climb numerous snakeskin ropes dangling down.

(Tavern) The Whimpering Mortal: This dangerous place caters to drunk demons.

(Inn) Planewalker's Guild: This place also serves as a safehouse for the Planewalkers Guild, an organization of planar travelers. They use the Infinite Staircase, a planar connecting realm that connects to Azzagrat.

(Inn) Devil's Doom: An inn for out of town demons.

The Bonebreaker's Pit: This section of Fogtown is full of  punishment and butchery. Manes here are either food or they are turned into rutterkins to serve in the blood war. Manes will run up to heroes begging and pleading for mercy.

The Boulevard of Fortunetellers: This section is filled with tieflings, succubi and lamia fortune tellers/palm readers/hucksters. There is a pillar here made of 200 gypsy heads known as Grandmother Fortuna. It speaks only to Graz'zt and his favored consorts. Lamia spies keep an eye on it.

The Queen's Causeway: An undermarket that primarily sells gray chalky fungus in many flavors. There are wide stairs at the south end of the market lead to Gallenghast. This place is the hideout of Raxivort, formerly Graz'zt's slavemaster. He stole from Graz'zt and is in hiding.

Barogund, the 46th Layer

In this realm, sunlight shines up from the ground. The shadows are towers of darkness. The sky is dark during the day and grey at night. Visitors will go temporarily blind after 24 hours and they will be permanently blind within a few days.

Tornbend: This was once a trading outpost between demons and djinn who lived on an earthmote called Skyshrine. The earthmote has a chain that extends to the ground. The djinn vanished and Tornbend was abandoned. Skyshrine still hovers above it. Nobody knows what lurks up there, if anything.

Bloodseep demons now live in Tornbend. Bloodseep demons have translucent, cracked bodies that weep poison blood.

Salt Swamp: Home to Zhelamiss, night hag envoy of Cegilune. She runs a shabby wooden village. Spies in her coven of witches report to Graz'zt.

Zelatar (Gallenghast)

Gallenghast has a lot of villas of demonic nobles, markets, inns and lodging houses.

Outside of Gallenghast is a grass clearing. Monthly tournaments are held here which are known for their savagery and their extreme formality. Winning a death match can make you an instant celebrity.

(Inn) Sign of the Black Heart: This nn caters to the wealthy and powerful. Finding it is very difficult. It is built around a square central courtyard.
  • 50 gp/night
  • Security: Shadow demons and two vrocks. Rooms have alarm spells. 
  • Succubi frequently "visit" patrons.
  • Each room has an invisible quasit that spies for Graz'zt.
  • Menu: Fresh mane meat, larvae, blood pudding. Mortals are a delicacy.
  • Stables: 5 nightmares, 3 babau grooms. The nightmares are unhappy and don't want to be here.
The Wordsmith's Pit: Crowds gather around this pit and bet on gladiatorial combats that are often between a vrock and a captured devil. The master of the arena is Madjack Madarang.

The Running Market: Succubi and carnivorous demons buy mortals, larvae, and blood war prisoners here. Manes are cooked up and sold. Enslaved mortals, devils and yugoloths sold in pairs.
  • The demons like to let slaves escape and watch them get chased down.
  • Sentient creatures are sold as food.
  • Vrocks come here at night for scraps.
  • Demons often sample a slave - fingers, toes, an ear.
Chosen's Tabernacle: This is a profane cathedral of Graz'zt's cult. The high priestess, Lavendeth, is a favored consort of Graz'zt.

Voorz'zt, the 47th Layer

In this realm, a blue sun hangs in the sky. Fire does cold damage, and cold does fire damage.

The Bay of Choking Bile: The river of salt cascades off of cliffs into this alkaline body that mixes with the Blood Sea of the Abyss. Decomposing demon fish float and rot here. On the shores, Graz'zt keeps planar vessels and multiple Chaos Ships that can navigate the Abyss. His flagship is known as Waukeen's Tears.


Samora is a lawless den of vice and depraved dreams. Open sewers run down the center of the city's streets. The city is full of perfumed spires and pleasure pits.

Ruler: Maretta, Lady of the Counting House.

The Lady's Lancers: These are 13 alu-fiend guards who patrol Samora. They fly, wield lances and they usually work alone.

The Counting-House: A dungeon beneath the city.

(Boarding House) The Golden Opportunity: In the back room lurks Rule of Three, a wily old githzerai sage who reports to Graz'zt on his efforts to unite the fiends.

(Inn) Maretta's Beds: Owned by Maretta, luxurious and reasonably priced. The owner may pay nocturnal visits to attractive customers.

(Inn) The Sleeping Berk: There is an oven of green flame outside the inn. The gate takes you to the outskirts of Zelatar.

(Tavern) The Weeping Goddess: Lots of fiends, frequent bar brawls.

(Tavern) The Lord's Pawns: The clientele are servants of Lady Marretta's estates. Telepathic conversations can be "overheard" if you dare to get close enough.

(Tavern) The Sodden Solar: You can meet a guide here named Warwick Osseyes. He's a tiefling with black eyes and sharp nails. 

Drug Parlor: These places frequently sell a drug called lubix. You sprinkle the powder into a wound and bandage it. You will feel one minute of intense pain and then you will feel no pain for an extended period of time.

Slave Plaza: They sell humans, demihumans, humanoids, monsters, planar creatures. Elves and halflings are very popular.

Breweries: There are 3 of them. They make Malefic Mead, Baatezu Blood Wine and Deva's Bile. These are deadly to mortals. You can also buy Terran Brandy for 500 gp. It is alcohol distilled from the essence of dying fey.

Barracks: These places house blood war soldiers but are frequently unoccupied.

Stockyards: They keep herd animals from across the planes for eating. My list of creatures includes rothe, giant space hamsters, and unicorns. Wealthy demons consider unicorn horns to be a status symbol. They use them to pick their teeth after a meal.

Zelatar (Darkflame) 

This district is full of mazelike alleys and it a haven for those who do not wish to be found. This is a home to Graz'zt's deadliest assassins, who are shadow demons, succubi and alkiliths.

Zul's Hanging Garden: Hundreds of traitors hang above writhing carnivorous plants. Their piteous moans are like music to the plants who dine on their blood and bile.

The Great Green Oven: This oven/portal is the size of a small mansion. Supposedly it can move travelers to any point in the city. Nobody's sure if it teleports you or kills you. It doesn't seem to affect powerful demons.

The Argent Palace

This palace of white stone is where Graz'zt lives. It is in Zelatar and thus exists on all three layers of Azzagrat simultaneously. It is situated on a plateau 50 feet above the town. As you approach, you can hear screams as Graz'zt slowly tortures and kills sacrifices given to him by mortal supplicants.

Guards: It is guarded by 121 lamias, 66 succubi, 23 vrocks, and 23 priestesses of Graz'zt.

Approaching the Palace: This is known as Viper Tree Boulevard. There are 66 viper trees lining the path. Every third viper tree is a portal to elsewhere in the city. Demons and tieflings can see these portals clearly with no check required.

The Gate of Hands: A gate that is bone white and marked with thousands of fingers and hands.

Front Door: Huge gates of polished stone stand at the head of an avenue lined with statues of Grazzt. The legendary towers of the Argent Palace rise above them, piercing the gloom of the sky with harsh light. Demon guards stalk the broad courtyard in front of the gates.

  • It has 66 ivory towers.
  • It contains 100 cold, mirrored halls that are full of wandering bodaks.
  • There are portals to the Plain of Infinite Portals, Pandemonium, and Gehenna.
The Mirrored Halls: These halls are extremely cold and it is easy to get utterly lost in them. Bodaks wander these halls. I use the 5e bodak stats from right here, they worked great for me.

Don't Die: If you die here, you will turn into a bodak and you will wander his palace for all eternity

Each tower is different. There are exterior walkways high up that connect them. Many of those walkways are guarded by vrocks and balors. Here are some of them:

The Hundredfold Hall of Silver: This tower is lined with mirrors and guarded by a legion of simpering mirror mephits.

The Lady's Study: This is where Iggwilv the Witch-Queen stays when she visits.

The Spiral of Storms: Graz'zt collects storms and keeps them in magic rooms. He uses them as tests for guard recruits.

The Tower of Doors: This tower has numerous portals to different places:
  • A dragon's lair in Pandemonium.
  • An iron fortress on the Plain of 1,000 Portals ruled by Zryznian, an ultraloth slaver ally of Grazzt.
The Velvet Realm: This tower is swathed in black and scarlet, inhabited by Grazzt's personal pleasure slaves. Succubi, incubi, lamias, all sorts of creatures from all over the multiverse.

Weal of the Blooded: A cabal of 6 vampires loyal to Grazzt. This place resembles a blood-soaked eladrin temple.

Beneath the palace are tunnels that are somewhat forgotten.

Chasme Tunnels: A disused access point all but forgotten by all but the lowliest demons. One links to a guest room in the palace:

Guest Room: It has crystal chandeliers, golden candelabras, and walls with works of art: Graz'zt as lord of the abyss, a triple realm vista, portrait of his sister Rhyxali and his son Iuz, god of evil.
  • Magic Pool: This horseshoe-shaped pool heals you for a moment, then begins draining your hit points. Non-evil creatures must make a saving throw to exit the pool.
The Whispering Library: I'm not sure if this is in one of the towers or what. This place is lit by ghostly floating candles and it is full of tomes that literally groan with secrets. There are four agents of Vecna that return books to the shelves.

Important tomes stand open on stone pedestals in an enclosed central hall, but its entrance is guarded by four frog-like hezrous and a horrid molydeus.

If you whisper a secret into the stacks, you get a secret in return. You can end up trapped in this library if you do this.

The Throne Room: Graz'zt's throne room is loaded with items and NPCs:
  • Dancers: Dozens of lithe humanoid slaves caper and dance.
  • The Amber Choir: Succubi entombed in amber are in agony, singing alluring songs.
  • Dimensional Globe: This crystal sphere prevents the use of teleportation. 
  • Elemental Pools: These pools are normal water. Graz'zt can infuse them with elemental power causing them to do acid/cold/fire/poison damage.
  • The Ruby Stairs: When Graz'zt stands on these stairs, he crits on a 19-20.
  • Statue: A statue of Graz’zt with offerings at its feet. 
  • The Altar of Obedience: Graz'zt's allies do extra damage when they are near this.
  • Throne: An ornate throne studded with gems that allows Graz'zt to be undetectable by any means.
  • Guards: Two marilith guards, Unhath and Reluhantis.
  • Verin: A demon lord in his own right, he is a vain, pure white humanoid with no hair. He is Graz'zt's chief diplomat.

Forgotten Realms Wikia: Zelatar
Details on Verin, "The Voice of Graz'zt"

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons Podcast Reviews 10/20/16

I thought I'd try something new and review some D&D podcasts. I grabbed shows that had topics that interested me from the past few months and I've been listening to them while I do other stuff. If there is a podcast you think I should check out, let me know in the comments or email me and I'll try it.

Title: If you have a better name for this feature, let me know. I am sure that there's something good out there in the ether but I can't quite grasp it. Something about clairaudience? Here's a terrible one: "Podcast Mindblast." Maybe I should just use the most terrible name I can think of. 

I'm interested in D&D-focused podcasts for the most part, especially those that interview people who worked on products I like. I love to hear little factoids about that stuff.

Dragon Talk 9/8/16

You can listen to this here.

This is the official D&D podcast, hosted by Shelly Mazzanoble and Greg Tito who are really fun to listen to. They get along great and they just seem like really happy people. On this episode, they concocted a phrase that I want to work into my D&D lexicon: Lore insertion.

On this show, they interview two people from Twits and Crits. I really like that show. They interviewed Elyse (aka Grimo Rudefellow) and Dan (the Dungeon Master).

Crossover: I had no idea that this exists in the same campaign world as Heroes and Halfwits. The plan is for them to cross over at some point. That is really awesome. One crew in LA and the other is in Texas, so they're not sure how they're going to work it out.

I didn't know this. In that campaign world, there is an eclipse once a month, creating a "dark day." That's just an awesome idea. I really like the stuff that the Heroes and Halfwits DM comes up with.

We learn that Elyse is a muppet enthusiast and that she is pretty new to D&D. She's big on board games.

New to the Game: I didn't realize that the DM Dan was so new to the game. I think he's doing very well so far. It was interesting to hear him and Elise asking Greg and Shelly questions about the game.

Problem Player: Dan seemed to be concerned about the meta-gaming of the dude who plays Decker Rootkit and was wondering what to do about it. From what I saw on the show, the guy playing Decker is going out of his way to be difficult for some reason. 

I don't think the issue is that he's meta-gaming. It seems like a symptom of a larger problem. I think it could be one of two things:
  1. He's new and doesn't understand that he is behaving poorly.
  2. He knows he's causing problems and he doesn't care.
I'm pretty sure it is the latter. I could be wrong, but that's the vibe I get.

Elise was actually trying to rein him in on a few episodes and it did work to a degree, but I get the feeling that they're better off without him at the table. They have too many players as it is, anyway.

Dead Games Society - Zeb Cook interview

You can listen to this here.

This show has really good audio quality and the host has a good voice. This is a nice, long interview and Zeb is extremely humble and self-deprecating. This guy made so much awesome stuff. He wrote AD&D second edition! He created Planescape!

TSR Job Application: Zeb says that when he first applied to work at TSR in the '70's, he was sent a "test" in the mail made by Gary Gygax that tested Zeb's knowledge on obscure medieval topics. There was a big section on polearms. I swear that's what he said.

Zeb's "resume" included an adventure - Dwellers of the Forbidden City. Boggles my mind.

They flew Zeb out for an interview but they didn't buy him a hotel room and he had to buy his own plane ticket. He slept on Gary's couch.

Up until that point, Zeb was an english teacher and it wasn't working out. His job at TSR actually paid less than the teaching job.

We learn a ton of things:
  • Zeb feels that Against the Slave Lords was very formulaic and he cringes when he looks at it now.
  • He thinks his ideas for Planescape sometimes weren't so playable. 
  • Ascending AC in 2e: When making 2e, they actually wanted to have an ascending AC, but the company felt that would make all of the old product useless, and they still had a lot of books in their inventory.
  • They Didn't Use Their Own Rules: Back when they played D&D in the office, they never used weapon speed or casting times (!) in 1e! The host is really taken aback by this.
Gary Guarded Greyhawk: The writers proposed a lot of stuff for Greyhawk, but Gary wouldn't allow them to set anything there unless he got to review it and he didn't have the time to do so. So a lot of products were purposely set in a vague, generic realm.

Bunch of Hacks: Zeb says that they were a bunch of hack adventure writers churning out stuff for a deadline. He said that the "manufacturing" process was actually very beneficial, as he learned how to cut corners to get stuff done on time.

D&D in Space: Zeb says that Spelljammer never really took off like they wanted. He thinks that players didn't view it as a campaign setting, but more as a method for travel. So people would have a few spelljamming adventures and then go back to a planet.

All I can say is that we played tons of spelljammer and loved it. Some of the best campaigns I ever played in were Spelljammer.

He talks about a lot of other things, including Star Frontiers and more about Planescape. This is a great interview and well worth listening to!

The Tome Show 9/23/16 - Interview with Craig Campbell

You can listen to this here.

I definitely wanted to listen to this because Craig wrote a fantastic 4e version of Baba Yaga's Hut which, in my opinion, made the 1e version playable. I could not believe how much content in the 1e adventure was left up to you, the DM, to create.

Craig is awesome. He's very fun to listen to. He definitely has the gift of gab and he has a real strong personality/charm about him.

He started off in D&D by writing a Living Greyhawk adventure that he now thinks is bad. He got this gig because he was friends with Jason Buhlman, who ended up working for Paizo. So basically every time Buhlman got a job somewhere, he'd farm out work to Craig.

Craig loves Deadlands and he has apparently run a lot of it. I always wanted to run that game, but I never quite got it all together. It seems like you could do some really cool stuff with it. Mixing the supernatural and cowboys sounds weird, but I think they pulled it off really well.

Baba Yaga: There was a list of D&D projects to choose from. Craig decided to go big and he took on Baba Yaga for 4e. The adventure is huge and he had to keep asking Chris Perkins if they could make it bigger. It took him two weeks to plan it out and a month to write it. Writing this thing was a major ordeal but Craig takes pride in getting stuff done on time.

Murders & Acquisitions: Craig has spent the last three years making his new game - Murders and Acquisitions. The game is about killing your way up the corporate ladder. He says that the character sheet looks like a resume. That is hilarious.

He kickstarted that game and now he's working on another game about superheroes in the prohibition era.

Another great interview! Craig does a podcast called nerdburger and I think I definitely need to check that out.

Know Direction #140 - 10/19/16

You can listen to this here.

This podcast is all about Pathfinder. This episode has an interview with Erik Mona, who is one of the main guys at Paizo. I was hoping to hear about Golarion and lore about the NPCs, tidbits about the adventures that kind of thing. Erik was a huge Greyhawk guy in the Paizo Dungeon Magazine era and I was hoping to hear about that, too. But this podcast was focused more on product release schedules rather than lore.

Pathfinder 100: Erik talks about how when they did Pathfinder 100, he was shocked at the lack of a reaction. Apparently this issue has a ton of stuff and major reveals.

Issue 100 was a big deal to him because in the early days, things were so uncertain that he remembers asking the Paizo CEO to guarantee that they'd print up to issue 6  just so that the first path would be complete.

There was all sorts of special stuff in issue 100 and he says it felt like it went unnoticed. That's when he decided they needed to shake things up, and that led to their sci fi game Starfinder.

Iconic NPCs: Bestiary 6 (yes, they are making their 6th monster manual) is going have all of the archdevils in it. This book actually sounds awesome. It is going to detail a lot of major entities. This sounds like something I will buy.

Technology: Erik says that all of their Pathfinder products that integrate sci fi technology sell really well. That actually shocks me. I didn't realize people liked that kind of mixing so much.

Erik talks a lot about Starfinder. The heroes will have a spaceship and go on adventures. There will be outer planes as well.

Red Sonja: Then he talks a ton about Pathfinder Worldscape, a comic where the pathfinder iconics cross over with Red Sonja, John Carter of Mars and other pulp heroes. He is super excited about this thing.

On this show, the hosts just wind Erik up and let him go. He's fun to listen to, but I just didn't have a lot of interest in these topics.

Down With D&D 69 - What's New, UA Encounter Building, and Personal Tips Grab Bag

You can listen to this here.

This podcast is by two guys who write Adventurers League adventures. One of them is Shawn Merwin. He writes the first adventure of every season, which from what I can tell is the most important one.

Shawn sounds really run down. The poor guy is overworked or something. He mentions a problem player in his Curse of Strahd game, and I wish he would have said more about it. I am always interested in that stuff. The whole problem player thing needs to be nipped in the bud if we want the game to get bigger and stay that way.

Encounter Building: They start off talking about the problems with the encounter building rules and writing adventurers league stuff. They are saying that it is hard to scale encounters because the power levels between classes is too swingy.

They think that a good idea would be to have a section in each adventure that tells the DM how to modify each encounter based on the style of play.

Tips: They offer some tips to DMs. They talk about the dangers of handing out powerful magic items. One of them solves this by modifying them so that they have a drawback. For example, he gave out a sword that shoots a powerful beam that does tons of damage, but then it needs to be left in the sun for a year to recharge.

In my opinion, if you have a player who is trying to take advantage of things - that's the problem. Not the item. To me what that means is that you want a different style of game than your players and that you should work something out or separate.

This show is really short. Too short! It's a half hour and it flew by. It felt like they barely got any thoughts out and then it was over.

There you go! Let me know if there's any shows that you think I should check out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 26 - Curse of Strahd

Episode 26: The Greater Good
I usually wait about an hour after the show starts so I can watch the archived version and pause it as necessary. For some reason, this week I had a really hard time finding the archived version. I literally just sort of stumbled on it.

This week we have another special guest star: Liisa Lee, a voice actor. They do a really great job of picking people out for this show. Liisa was perfect and totally prepared.

The Party

(Liisa) Arabelle - Vistani
(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard 
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer 

Last Time: Paultin stayed at Van Richten's Tower with Dee. The rest of the group went to find a little girl named Arabelle. A guy in a rowboat was about to throw her into the lake...

The heroes are on the boat in the lake accosting the guy (his name is Bluto). Paultin comes riding on Valentina heading for Van Richten, who is on the shore. Paultin knows Van Richten killed his parents, but he doesn't know why. Paultin grabs him. Van Richten hits Paultin with his cane.. and rolls a 20. Paultin take a cool 11 points of damage.

Paultin rides off with Van Richten. I should note that we never find out what happened to Dee. Did he kill her? Did he knock her out and sneak past her? Did his shadow attack her?

Strix grabs the sack with the girl in it and gets back to the shore. Strix takes Arabelle out of the sack. Good god, Liisa does an awesome accent. Arabelle says she was playing the "hide and go seeking" and Bluto put her in a sack.

Strix uses thaumaturgy to shot at Paultin to stop. I swear I don't think I've ever seen anyone ever use thaumaturgy before. This loud noise attracts some mysterious person in the woods to come closer.

Bluto starts choking Diath and ends up in the lake, sinking. The group is pretty much fine with Bluto drowning.

Paultin casts suggestion on Van Richten, but he makes his save. Van Richten says he spared Paultin's life way back when. Paultin's family was responsible for the death of his son, Erasmus. Van Richten says that if the group defeats Strahd... "I will let you kill me." They shake on it.

The Mysterious Wizard: There's an elk off in the distance. Arabelle makes a check, rolls a natural 20! She knows that it's... the mad mage in a magical disguise! Wow... this should be awesome. Chris kind of dangled the mad mage in front of them a long time ago but the group didn't bite.

Van Richten vs. Paultin: Van Richten somehow lost the hag pin. A commentor reminded me that Diath took it last session.

Van Richten gives Paultin his journal so that he could read it and understand the full story of what happened with his parents. Didn't that journal burn up last time or am I confused?

You know.. Paultin could hand Van Richten over to Strahd. He is Strahd's spy and he would be rewarded greatly. Heck, he might be able to get Strahd to let the heroes out of Barovia in exchange for Van Richten.

Evelyn is suspicious and she decides to cast Zone of Truth on Paultin and Van Richten. Wow, smart! She is worried that Paultin is made of snow again (the group traveled with a simulacrum of Paultin for a while).

Van Richten explains that the group must use the hag pin on the little girl for the ritual to work. One prick of the hag's pin would kill her, just as it would Paultin. Good gawd. The group isn't too keen on killing Arabelle.

The more powerful the vistani, the more powerful the receptacle. Van Richten explains that the little girl has great power.

Evelyn accidentally walks into the zone of truth and blurts out that she love Paultin. The whole group goes "we know," even Van Richten.

Arabelle has had nightmares about Van Richten. She utters a curse to blind him. He makes his save. Van Richten almost stabs her, but backs off.

Waffles at Last: Arabelle says that her dad runs the vistani camp and he'll reward them with anything... including waffles! The group perks up. Will they finally get the waffles they've been questing so long for?

Diath points out that the group need chicken eggs for this ritual and that the vistani has the chickens.

Paultin tells the little girl she's being selfish for not wanting to be stabbed by the hag pin. She isn't happy about this and tries to pick his pocket. Evelyn is watching... Arabelle steals his spectacles - I think those are his eyes of charming. Evelyn calls her out and Paultin gets his item back.

We go through a pretty hilarious debate over whether to stab the kid with a pin. Evelyn insists that the group are heroes and they are not killing a kid. She says that they are not leaving Barovia until Strahd has been dealt with... even if the vistani could get them out.

The group heads toward the vistani camp. A dusk elf is in the woods and calls out to her. The dusk elf is part of her vistani camp.
Dusk elf

At the camp, Arabelle's dad, Luvash, is whipping a guy for losing her in the first place. Luvash is overjoyed to see his daughter alive. He rewards them with treasure. Chris does a great vistani accent, he makes Luvash a really fun character.

Vistani Treasure: Luvash has a big treasure hoard, divided up into boxes and containers. The group is allowed to take one container. The heroes convince him to give them two.

Strix assumes gaseous form and goes through each container. She goes into a rolled-up carpet but she can't make out what is in there. Chris described it as if there was a lump in it and indicated that there was something inside.

Luvash told them that one of the containers had a diamond in it (Diath needs one for his resurrection power) but Strix says there isn't one. Luvash gives a hearty laugh. He lied. He's so jolly about it that the group can't help but cut him some slack.

The group unrolls the carpet... that's where we stop.

If you want to know what all the treasure is, check out Curse of Strahd page 123. I think Evelyn will love the rug. Clearly, Chris has something up his sleeve here and is adding something new in.


There was a lot of funny stuff on this one and Liisa was really great. She was prepared, she knew everything she needed to know, and she did a fantastic voice for Arabelle. She fit right in and was really impressive.

Season 2: Chris mentions that a guy is making an animated opening for "season 2" of Dice, Camera, Action. He's putting Strix in it. I don't understand... what is season 2? Is it a new campaign? Or are they dividing up Curse of Strahd into two seasons?

Not enough happened on this episode for my liking. It was good, but it didn't really contain any major developments.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Planescape - The Abyssal Undersump

We had a really good session of planescape last night. Once again, we played at Jessie's place.

I'm planning on doing a whole blood war thing in this campaign, using the Hellbound boxed set and other stuff. I ordered the last 3 books of the Wrath of the Righteous adventure path on amazon and when I got them, I ended up reading all three of them that same day.

Usually I have a hard time reading adventures, but these were really cool. I think the fact that many pages are taken up by stat blocks makes the book much easier to breeze through.

I ended up immediately pulling out Wrath of the Righteous stuff to use in last night's session. Here's my quick thoughts on each book:
  • Book 4 - The Midnight Isles: This one is an adventure in the abyssal realm of Nocticula, the demon lord. It's awesome. So many great ideas. You can mine crystallized remains of slain demon lords, known as Nahyndrian crystals. These crystals are very dangerous but also very powerful.
  • Book 5 - Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth: This is an adventure set in the maze of Baphomet, demon lord of minotaurs! How great is that? It's by Wolfgang Baur, who has written some of my favorite D&D stuff of all time.
  • Book 6 - City of Locusts: I didn't like this one at all. This entire path culminates with a battle against Deskari, an insectoid demon lord. Deskari just doesn't do anything for me and the adventure feels like it isn't fleshed out enough. There's a section on the heroes defending a city against a demon invasion. It should be awesome, but it felt really flat.
The good thing about book 6 is that it is full of awesome NPCs, items, and all sorts of stuff. There's even a brothel devoted to Nocticula! I can plop that right in Sigil! And I am.

Tonight I started working that material into this campaign. I wanted to fit in Minagho, who is a daughter of Baphomet (!), but it didn't work out. I had too much stuff planned for this evening. The group really took the ball and ran with it.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Half-Dabus/Half-Elf Wizard
* NPCs: Fall-from-Grace (level 11 Succubus Paladin)

The heroes own a cluster of buildings known as "Deadbook Square."

Alluvius Ruskin

Last Time: The heroes found out that a devil brothel was profiting off of the likeness of one of their employees. Bidam ended up getting a solidarity band glued on his arm. This band allowed the bad guy devil to do damage to him from afar.

Bidam realized that the solidarity band had been affixed to him with sovereign glue. When I cooked this up, I hadn't realized that it was so rare. It's legendary! I seem to remember it being less rare in other editions.

The heroes asked around and were directed to a shop called Tivvum's Antiquities. This place sells portal keys and magic items.

I wanted to direct the group here so that I could make sure that they got a look at the owner, Alluvius Ruskin. Alluvius plays a very big role in Faction War, and I want to weave this stuff in now so it feels like everything matters.

If I were to run Faction War and the group didn't know who Alluvius was, then she's just some random villain-of-the-week. Laying the groundwork now will make what she does later have more impact.

I did not expect the group to be so sharp! They were all over this. They noticed that Alluvius ("'Lu," for short) wasn't breathing and just took it from there. Here's her deal:
  • Incantifier: She's an Incantifier, a magic-eater. She has " need to breathe, eat, or sleep; instead, she feeds on magic. Lu can absorb the effect of any spell thrown at her or drain every last drop of power from any magical item."
  • Old Faction: The Incantifiers were a powerful faction of wizards who mysteriously disappeared. Alluvius is the only one left.
  • Shadow Demon: Alluvius has this shadow demon named Ly'kritch that is searching for the mind of a specific wizard trapped in a gem. When she gets it in Faction War, it becomes a very big deal.
  • Wizard Souls: So far, the shadow demon is bringing her gems with other wizards trapped in them. They can be used as portal keys. Alluvius loves to give them out, because she thinks that the wizard souls are destroyed when the portal is activated.
  • Her Disguise: Alluvius plays up the fact that she is a little old lady, but the truth is that she is very powerful and extremely dangerous.
  • Megalomaniac: Ultimately, she wants to take over Sigil. She thinks that controlling Sigil means that you control the multiverse.

Universal Solvent: The group finds out that universal solvent can eradicate the glue, but universal solvent is legendary. It costs 50,000 gold or more. The heroes are rich, but they are are not that rich.

Alluvius told them she knew someone who could help, but that he was in the planes conducting a study. She sold them portal keys to where he was. The keys were two gems with swirling energy in them.

The group was really, really suspicious of Alluvius and started grilling her. I didn't think I'd ever hear someone ask the question "Why aren't you breathing!?" in a hostile tone. Alluvius ordered them to get out. Her bone golem got up, anticipating a fight.

The adventurers went out into the street and cast identify on the gems and realized that there were wizard souls in them.

The players are very intent on investigating this. It really threw me because it is possible that they are going to get involved with Faction War stuff that I don't want to use until the end of the campaign. In the end though, even if they figure out her plan, I'm not sure if they can stop her. She doesn't even have the gem that she needs, yet.

The Abyssal Undersump


The heroes needed to find Tripicus, another NPC from Uncaged: Faces of Sigil. Tripicus was in the Abyssal Undersump, a hilarious Pathfinder idea that I wanted to use ASAP. The Undersump is basically a demonic sewer system that runs under abyssal layers and connects them. Juiblex rules the Undersump. It is full of oozes.

Again, the group was really on the ball. They used a scroll of locate creature to find him. As they were wading through the abyssal muck, they spotted this yellow mold spore thing up ahead. The tunnel that they were in was round, so Bidam ran up the side of the wall to avoid the yellow mold spores. Theran cast misty step to bypass the spores.

A minute later, they saw that the gunk up ahead was black. George asked out loud, "Is it a black pudding?" I was shocked. No roll or anything. They started laughing. Yes, there indeed was a black pudding waiting in the muck to jump them as they walked on it.

Each of them ran up the side of the wall to avoid the pudding. The both rolled a DEX check to do so and rolled really high.

They met Tripicus, and he informed them of something I didn't know until I looked in the DMG - sovereign glue can be eradicated with an oil of etherealness.

He had some of that oil with him and sold it to them. In a few minutes, the glue was gone and the band came off. The group returned to Sigil.

Revenge on the Misfortune Devil

Symbol of Ardad Lili

I intended to just let the group have their way with the bad guys. These devils run a brothel where they try to get people to hand over their souls to their master, the "Whore Queen" Ardad Lili.

Last session, the heroes had promised to steal back the soul contract of a member of the Sign of One. The group enlisted the aid of the cranium rat swarm, Vermin Supreme. These rats have a singular hive mind and psychic powers.

The rats crept in to the brothel and gave the group the layout of the place. The contracts were in a chest that had the symbol of Ardad Lili on it.

The group went to the brothel. There was a troll bouncer at the door. Just like last week, Theran blew him up with a fireball. Then the heroes ran around back and busted through the back door.

The people inside:
  • Infirion: The misfortune devil in charge of the operation.
  • Succubus Employees: Cataclysmia, Bar Excellence ("Barrl Ek-say-lanssuh") and Vergania.
Bidam ran up to Infirion and punched him in the face. Theran started trying to bust into the back room where the chest was.

The misfortune devil is a 4e monster that can shift the damage it takes to other people. So I made this power a reaction in 5e terms - it can shift damage once per round. Bidam ran up, punched him, and then watched as Vergania dropped to the ground. The misfortune devil was unharmed.

Infirion ordered the ladies to subdue the heroes and he fearfully teleported outside.

Two of the ladies liked the heroes and didn't like what Infirion had just done. After a little bit of back and forth, all three ladies pretended that the heroes had beat them up and lied on the ground, "unconscious."

Theran got to the chest and once again, he was totally on the ball. He checked it for traps and detected one. He disarmed it with an arcana check. The group looted the contracts inside - there were four. The heroes fled the scene as Infirion watched them run off with the soul contracts, shaking his fist and telling them that they would rue this day.

I forgot to name the NPCs on the other soul contracts. We made up some terrible names on the spot:
  • Pil Pilton
  • Poland Rasper
  • Jape Citrus

The Devils: The heroes want to hire the devil ladies. Infirion has failed in his duties and he's going to be punished. I had planned on having it be revealed that there were serious code violations in the brothel that would cause it to be shut down anyway.

It looks like the group is going to hire some of the devil ladies to work for them.

Bidam also obtained the other solidarity band. I am guessing that the players will either forget they have them or they will do something hilarious with them.

The adventurers rested. The next day, Theran had to go to Iggilv's demiplane to do his apprentice stuff. Bidam had the day to himself in Sigil.

The Trap

Areelu Vorlesh

Enter: Areelu Vorlesh. In Wrath of the Righteous she is a major villain linked to Deskari, the bug demon lord. Since I'm not using that, I changed her so that she is a daughter of Graz'zt.

My plan was for three of Graz'zt's agents to show up over the next three sessions to try and find the portal to Burningwater.

Backstory, Real Quick: Burningwater is the 9th layer of the Abyss, and up until now there was no way to get in. When the heroes rescued Bechard, the ancient obyrith/demon lord whale, he brought the group there. The adventurers moved in their buddy, my homebrewed demon lord Bazuuma (demon lord of pride and positive energy).

Demon lords are always trying annex other abyssal realms. Graz'zt has three layers and he wants this as a fourth. He learned about this entire situation from Iggwilv's incubus who turned on her and sold the info to Graz'zt.

The group actually has two portals to Burningwater:
  1. In Bidam's bedroom. The key is his sword of sharpness
  2. Theran's cubic gate can take you to Burningwater with the press of a button.
Areelu's plan: She pretended to be on a mission from Rhyxali, demon lord of shadows. Areelu said that her job was to find portals in Sigil to every shadow-related place:  like the Shadowfell, the plane of negative energy, and a goofy world I made up: Neverdusk, the World of Eternal Shade. That place probably should have been called "Neverdawn."

Bidam is a ladies man. Jessie got one look at the awesome art of Areelu and decided to help Areelu out. Bidam knew who go to to find the info. Along the journey, they bumped into Ash Vodiran, the greatest thief of Sigil. The players hate this guy so much. He wears a red jacket with no shirt on underneath so he can show off his rippling abs.

A while back, I tried to just hand him over to the group so they can beat him up but it just never happened. I still keep trying, but for whatever reason he's still here.

Ash tried to show off for Areelu. He said: "This guy's barmy. You're not safe with him. He holds a grudge for an eternity." Bidam had some choice words for the rogue.

Bidam spotted an item for sale in the market - a bronze sphere. Suddenly, Bidam heard the mental whispers of Tenebrous (undead/dead Orcus). Bidam had made a dark pact with him a few sessions back. He realized that the bronze sphere would be perfect for a phylactery. Tenebrous had offered Bidam the ability to become a lich (...or something. A swordmage/lich? A wight? A death knight? I don't know yet). Bidam bought the sphere.

Full Time at Iggwilv's


Meanwhile, Theran was doing work for Iggwilv. She has three apprentices. I cooked up what they do all day:
  • Landerbold the Dandy (arcanaloth): He keeps tabs on Iggwilv's spy, Anna Greystockings, who is in Graz'zt's realm. Landerbold also keeps his eye on the demon lord Socothbenoth, who Iggwilv is hoping to take control of one day.
  • Selinza the Cat Lady: Her job is to question summoned demons. Iggwilv has control of 12 demon lords and it is a full time job keeping tabs on all of the schemes against them.
  • Theran: Research another demon lord: Codircuhn.
Theran dug through and translated ancient texts. Codricuhn was a giant demon who climbed up the wall of an infinite rift. There are 6 other wanna-be demon lords that rule mini-realms inside of spheres that hover around him.

One of these wanna-bes is a marilith called The Lady of Sorrows. She collects Codricuhn's tears and yearns for "the perfect love."

Iggwilv decided to have Theran contact her. He used Iggwilv's crystal ball of telepathy, which lets him see her, communicate with her, and even cast suggestion on her once per day.

Theran tried to befriend The Lady of Sorrows but it didn't go well. He couldn't figure out an angle, so I had him roll a charisma check. It was very low. Iggwilv was not happy and she warned him that in the future, he would be punished for failing her.

Back in Sigil, Areele seduced Bidam in his room in Deadbook Square. Then she used her fiendish charm on him (I gave her 5e cambion stats). Bidam failed his save. He was charmed for one day.

Honestly, I didn't expect any of this to happen. I tried to drop clues that something was off with her. The group had been so sharp tonight that I figured that there was no chance that this would happen.

Areelu asked him about the portal to Burningwater. Bidam had no choice. He told her everything. She took his sword of sharpness - the key to the portal. She apologized to him, but did not reveal that she lied about working for Rhyxali.

The Quasit Key: Areelu gave him an item from Wrath of the Righteous: A Quasit Key. It's a jar that has a quasit floating in embalming fluid. This weird item allows you to teleport to a specific abyssal realm.

She told Bidam to use it to come visit her sometime. This was another trick. It would actually take you right to Graz'zt's throne room.

Theran came home. He had a bad day at work. Bidam told him what happened. The group grabbed Fall From Grace and went to confer with Bazuuma. The group decided to use the quasit key to go to "Rhyxali's Realm." Bazuuma figured that her positive energy would destroy the shadows, so there was nothing to fear.

So the group held hands and used the quasit key. They appeared before Graz'zt!

We stopped there. The next session should be epic.

The Stats of Graz'zt: Looking at Graz'zt's stats in Out of the Abyss, he has this madness aura. Each character will need to make a DC 23 WIS save.. so, yeah. I'm sure it doesn't apply to Bazuuma, a demon lord herself. The heroes are definitely surprised, so Graz'zt's mariliths will have a round to grab Bidam to stop him from planeshifting the group back out.

I actually looked over the stats to see if Graz'zt could fight them, not to the death, but in a skirmish of some sort. In my opinion, the heroes wouldn't stand a chance. He is really, really powerful.

Alliance: The thing about this scenario is that Graz'zt doesn't want to kill them - he wants to woo Bazuuma. He wants to annex her realm, so why not just get married? Graz'zt will sell it to her in a way to suggest that her positive energy might make him a better person.

Next session will probably come down to a choice:
  • If Bidam will commit to marrying Bazuuma, then she'll reject Graz'zt's offer.
  • If he doesn't, she'll go ahead and marry Graz'zt.
Mayor Theran: The group will be offered things to help spice up the deal. I'm thinking they'll each be offered a town to run in Azzagrat. Not sure yet, I need to go over my notes. I did tons and tons of preparation back when I ran the heroes through Azzagrat. 

Iggwilv is the X factor: Remember that Iggwilv has at last one spy in Graz'zt's realm. It won't be long before her apprentice Landerbold the Dandy finds out what is going on. Pretty early on, Theran is going to have Iggwilv in his head. She not only wants Burningwater for herself, she is also extremely jealous and won't want Graz'zt marrying Bazuuma. She knows the entire layout of Graz'zt's palace and can be extremely helpful.

I get the feeling that next week will be a classic session. Completely unexpected! We didn't even get to half the stuff I had planned for tonight, but that's D&D.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Guide to Nocticula, Demon Lord of Assassins, Darkness and Lust

Today I'm switching it up a little bit. I'm doing a guide to a Pathfinder entity - sort of. I'm going to try to give you an outline to work from if you want to use her in your campaign at some point in the future.

I am not too familiar with Pathfinder. If I missed something, please let me know and I'll add it in.

Warning: Pathfinder is a little more "adult." There's a lot of explicit and disturbing stuff in this one, so click away if you think it might bother you.

I'm using material from
The Essential Information

  • Nocticula is meant to be the replacement for Malcanthet in the Pathfinder multiverse.
  • She kills other demon lords.
  • In her abyssal realm, there is an island for each major entity she has assassinated. There are currently 30 islands.
  • Her brother is Socothbenoth, demon lord of perversion.
  • She is also a demigod and she has a plan to become a full-fledged god.
  • Shadows and shadow demons serve her. She killed their master.
  • She has a number of consorts, including Juiblex.
  • Nocticula has been mentioned in numerous D&D products, including the AD&D Monster Manual 2.
The Real Life Origin of Nocticula

AD&D Monster Manual II
There were a lot of demon lords that were named in D&D products but never fully developed. Nocticula began as a name on a list in the AD&D Monster Manual II, as far as I can tell. Her name apparently is taken from some real life source.

The Origin of Paizo: If you are newer to D&D, you might not know this. Paizo is the company that makes Pathfinder. Originally, Paizo were in charge of making Dungeon and Dragon Magazine during the 3rd edition era. I regard the Paizo issues as the best in the history of either publication. They used the lore well, added new creations and packed each issue with stuff that was actually useful.

Eventually, the companies parted ways. Paizo took advantage of the 3rd edition OGL, an arrangement that allowed other companies to make D&D products if they paid a licensing fee. A lot of D&D concepts are usable in the OGL, including many of the demon lords.

Paizo decided to start a new monthly product called Pathfinder and it has been a massive success that continues to this day.

Pathfinder fleshed out some of the demon lords, Nocticula being one of the big ones.

D&D 3rd edition Fiendish Codex

There's an old thread on the paizo forums where someone tries to merge the Pathfinder and D&D versions of the abyss. James Jacobs chimed in. James is the guy who wrote the classic 3e Demonomicon of Iggwilv articles and he does a lot of stuff for Pathfinder.

He shed some light on all of the real life thinking that went into Nocticula. Here's some quotes that I thought were interesting:

Nocticula and Malcanthet: "The only thing I'd adjust is to say that Nocticula is in fact the same as Malcanthet... or at the very least, they're very close allies or very bitter enemies."

"Malcanthet was created by Rob Kuntz in Dungeon #112's "Maure Castle," and I did the majority of the work developing her character in Savage Tide, the Demonomicon, FC1, and Rob developed her more in the Maure Castle sequels in Dungeon. All of that was under WotC, alas, so she's closed content. Since she's not based on a real-world myth, she's not public domain either (as is the case of Demogorgon, Orcus, Pazuzu, and many other demon lords).

Which is the primary reason we turned Nocticula into the queen of the succubi in Golarion, rather than continue using Malcanthet."

He elaborated a lot more in this ENWorld thread.

Nocticula and the Real World: "...meaning, there's not a lot of overlap, but there is some details on demon lords from that old MM2 table whose names come from real-world mythology... particularly Abraxas, Nocticula, and Socothbenoth, but also a few other mythological demons that never appeared on the MM2 list like Lamashtu and Haagenti.

Nocticula's really the only one that does pose a few difficulties between various editions of the game, but that IS because there are certain "gaps" that we had to fill in Pathfinder that we couldn't use from traditional D&D due to the fact that a few key demon lord niches (particularly those filled by Graz'zt and Malcanthet... despite the fact Malcanthet was pretty much completely developed in the pages of Dungeon Magazine and the Fiendish Codex by me, based on some original ideas from Rob Kuntz).

I went with Nocticula as being Paizo's succubus queen because I wanted to use a name from mythology, first and foremost. She has no real ties to canon D&D, so it's only Erik's work from the Green Ronin book that gets into conflict there. Frankly, I kinda think that Erik's version of Nocticula from Armies of the Abyss is kinda too friendly and nice to be a demon lord, so for Nocticula's incarnation into Golarion, I made her a lot meaner.

Nocticula and Shadow Demons: "We also couldn't use Rhyxali at all either, so when it came to figuring out who ruled the shadow demons in Pathfinder's setting, I gave that to Nocticula as well (she stole that from a previous demon lord, though)."

Succubus War: "Personally, I think that Nocticula and Malcanthet are different enough that they COULD exist side-by-side in the same setting. Heck, in canon D&D, we've already got Lynkhab, Malcanthet, Shami-Aumorae, and a couple other powerful succubus types vying for total control, so what's one more to the mix?"

I just want to point out that in 5e, it has been revealed that Shami-Amourae is done for. She's now just a vestige in the Amber Temple in Curse of Strahd . I think she was last seen in the Wells of Darkness in the Savage Tide adventure path. I don't know how she died.

Malcanthet Talks, Nocticula Walks: "In any case, while Nocticula is very much our "replacement Malcanthet," I did try to give her a different spin. Whereas Malcanthet's more about political manipulations and the like, Nocticula's more about solving those types of problems with assassinations. Nocticula's more of a combat focused succubus than Malcanthet, in other words. If the two of them teamed up to go adventuring, they'd probably compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses quite well."

Using Them All Together: "The fact that I wrote a lot of the 3rd edition demon content AND that I wrote all of the Pathfinder demon content also means there's similarities. You can see similar similarities in Dagon, Lamashtu, Mazmezz/Lolth, Kabriri/Yeenoghu, Socothbenoth/Graz'zt, and a few others.

Had Wizards of the Coast made all of the demons in the Abyss open content, I would have been more than happy for those demons to be the same ones in Golarion/Pathfinder. That's not the case, so I do the next best thing—I expand and develop along similar, parallel routes so that even though I can't talk about Malcanthet and Graz'zt and Lynkhab and all the rest in print, in anyone's home Pathfinder game (including mine, if I so choose), including closed-content material from D&D is a relatively simple task."

Note About Age: " a general rule... the more humanoid a demon lord looks, the younger he/she is."

The D&D Nocticula

 4e Demonomicon - she's gone
They mentioned Nocticula in 3rd edition, but from what I can tell she is conspicuously absent in 4e and on. I think it would be really cool if both companies left spaces like this so DMs like me can merge them without any issues.

I can find almost nothing on the D&D Nocticula. I read that she's in Eldritch Wizardry from the white box days, but I don't own that. I read that she has some details in the Fiendish Codex, but all I could find was her name on a list.

She is Nocticula "The Undeniable," Demon Lord of Night. She rules Layer 72 of the Abyss: Darklight.

The Pathfinder Nocticula

She is Nocticula, "Our Lady in Shadow," Demon Lord of Assassins, Darkness and Lust. Her eyes have no pupils and "..her feet end in stony hooves that weep molten iron." Her wings are covered in runes and she has three tails ending in stingers.

She is an assassin, as in.. she kills other demon lords. Her victims include:
  • Vyriavaxus, Demon Lord of Shadows
  • Nahyndri: Gems, prisons and slavery
  • Tharvool: Ashes, magical energy, whispers.
  • Deluria: Frostbite, hunger, winter
  • Vaetuu: Deathtraps, gears, possessed machinery
Nocticula is the first succubus and is actually a demigod in addition to being a demon lord. Her brother is Socothbenoth, demon lord of perversions, who she has a relationship with. She wants to take the next step to become a god. James Jacobs has said that there will be more material about that in the future.

Her Plan: Some think she is seeking redemption for her demonic nature. Others think it is a ruse so that a god will take her under their wing. Then she can literally stab that god in the back.

Shadowkiss: Nocticula has a magic crossbow that creates its own ammunition and can hit intangible creatures. The bolts are poison  - they can paralyze and even permanently blind targets.

Followers: Nocticula has cults spread out in a number of locations. Her worshipers include assassins, drow, shadow-using creatures, succubi, prostitutes and.. rapists. Welp. Her followers ingest psychedelic plants and engage in sex acts that involve a pint of blood. Egad.

Her Minions: Bats, carnivorous plants, seraptis demons (I'll talk about them below), shadow demons, and shadows.

Boons: Nocticula grants 3 different types of boons:
  1. Charm person, darkness or suggestion a few times per day.
  2. Cast blindness 3 times per day
  3. Once per day you can dominate a monster.
She Lives Life to the Fullest: "Whispers persist that somewhere in demon lord Juiblex maintains a dwelling somewhere in the deepest parts of the city, as do even softer-spoken rumors that Nocticula sometimes visits the odious lord of slime for pleasures better left not imagined."

She is Powerful: In The Midnight Isles adventure, the demon lord Baphomet actually runs away when she shows up.

The Midnight Isles

In Pathfinder, her abyssal realm is called the Midnight Isles. It does look suspiciously like it was lit by a blacklight.

The realm consists of dozens of islands on an immense sea of still black water. There is a disturbingly large moon in the sky and the days are 16 hours long - 8 hours of moonlight, 8 hours of darkness. Shadow spells are enhanced here.

The Islands: Each of the Midnight Isles represents an entity that she assassinated. The islands are actually made up of or linked to the remaining essence of each of those slain entities. Each of the islands is ruled by a unique succubus or incubus with special abilities.

The main island is Alinythia, Nocticula's personal realm of pleasure and decadence. On it are a number of settlements, including the massive city of Alushinyria.

Alushinyria: A city where demons and mortals live. Ruled by Shamira, a succubus and nascent demon lord. There is an arena called Battlebliss.
    • Main Export: Slaves
    • The House of Silken Shadows: The palace of Nocticula
    • The sewers connect to the "Abyssal Undersump." I guess that's the sewer of the Abyss. What a funny idea. 

    Shamira: Shamira, ruler of Alushinyria, is a succubus with wings of fire and might have once been affiliated with Sarenrae, a goddess of good. In fact, she might be Saarnrae's daughter.

    Other Islands: Wrath of the Righteous chapter 4 lists all three islands, but only gives details on a couple more:
    • Vazglar: Mostly abandoned, forged from the remains of a demon lord of jealousy. There are spires of black rock and hordes of flying creatures.
    • Colyphyr: A jungle where everything is poisonous. There are lots of vrocks in the sky having spasms and discharging lightning. Colyphyr was a demon lord who had been impaled by a runestone that had been floating in the astral plane.
    Seraptis Demon

    These depressing-but-cool monsters serve Nocticula and a few other demon lords. They are extremely powerful. In Pathfinder terms, they are CR 15.

    Seraptis demons are 7 feet tall and they have four arms that have cuts on them that open like mouths, displaying rows of sharp teeth.

    Suicide Demons?! In life, they were people who committed suicide and left behind a lot of ruin. An example given: "Suicide by detonating a necklace of fireballs in the middle of a wedding.."

    They are bodyguards and champions. Some rule subdomains in Abyssal Realms. Any blood in their body is from other people. Here are their powers:
    • Dominate
    • Gaze of Despair: All within 30 feet make a save or are filled with overwhelming despair. I guess in 5e terms they are frightened (?) for d6 rounds. The despair can get so bad that the creature might attempt suicide.
    • Ravenous Embrace: She grabs you and the mouths on he arms tear into the victim, draining their blood and strength. From that point on, as long as the victim is within 30 feet, their blood flows out of their body writhes through the air into the mouths. The blood heals her!
    I love the idea of Nocticula running around, slitting the throats of demon lords. You can do tons of cool stuff with her and her islands.


    Nocticula in the Pathfinder wiki
    Seraptis Demon Stats for Pathfinder
    Midnight Isles wiki

    Friday, October 14, 2016

    Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to the Codex of the Infinite Planes

    I was planning out my Planescape campaign and I decided to work in an incomplete fan-made adventure about the Codex of the Infinite Planes (it is free and really nice). I read up on everything I could find about the codex and I'm going to compile it all right here. This should be a nice starting point for you if you want to use this item in your campaign.

    Here's the weirdest thing about this magic item. The best material by far was made by a fan and is not official. But you should definitely check it out because it is awesome and fits the lore perfectly. I'll include that info at the bottom of this guide.

    The Essential Information

    Here's the basic information you should know about the Codex of the Infinite Planes:
    • It is as big as a bookcase and very heavy.
    • It has an infinite number of pages. 
    • It has the ability to take you to any plane.
    • It gives you spell-like powers.
    • Just opening the codex can kill you and reading it can make you go insane. Every time you read a new page, there is a cumulative chance that you are hit by some kind of disaster.
    • The Codex is sentient and reaches out to people in their dreams.
    • The Codex is older than seemingly everyone. Even the gods don't understand it.
    • In most editions, it is up to you to pick what spells it can give the reader as powers. In most editions, the codex offers transportation spells and summoning/banishment magic.
    AD&D 1st Edition
    The codex actually first appeared in one of the white box supplements and thus is one of the oldest items in the game. Here in the 1e DMG, we get basic details. It is heavily tied to Greyhawk lore. 

    We learn that it is sometimes known as "Yagrax's tome" and that an archmage named Tzunk got his hands on it. The Codex caused the destruction of the isles of woe. Other factoids:
    • A High Wizard priest of the Isles of Woe used it to dominate the region.
    • It has "99 damned pages."
    • If you read it, you have a 99% chance of meeting a terrible fate. Not a lot of wiggle room there.
    • The pages each take you to a different plane or alternate universe.
    • "The work will instantly destroy any character under 11th level of experience who touch it..."
    • If you're 11th level or higher, you need to make a saving throw to use the powers of the codex.
    Like most of the items in the 1e DMG, it is up to you to pick the spells and powers inside the codex. It has 16 spells total, the highest of which are level 6.

    AD&D 2nd Edition

    There's not a lot of codex art out there

    The Codex is detailed in the book of artifacts. The codex gets a full page and more details are added:
    • It is so big that two strong men can barely lift it.
    • The cover is obsidian and the pages are thin lead.
    • There is a lot of writing in unknown languages. "No matter how many pages are turned, there is always one more."
    • The powers of the codex are triggered by reading it.
    • It can open a portal to any plane or world.
    • It has no table of contents/index.
    • Once per month, it can summon a greater fiend to serve you for 24 hours.
    Pick Your Powers: Once again, the powers of the codex are up to you. In this book, there is a massive section full of types of magic item powers. They are really great. For the codex, you choose four minor powers and four major powers off of the lists.

    Curse: Every page read, whether useful or not, has a 1% cumulative chance of triggering an awful fate such as madness or a "10-mile radius clouds of deadly poison (no saving throw)". We also learn that "No character can read more than 99 page before doom befalls them."

    They give a few possible ways to destroy it:
    • Every page of the infinite pages of the codex must be read.
    • One page of the book opens a portal onto the book itself, wiping it out of existence.
    Iuz the Evil

    In Iuz the Evil, we learn a little more about Archmage Tzunk, who was mentioned in the 1e DMG. It says here that his body was sundered into a hundred parts to thwart attempts at resurrection. Did the fire genies do this? In Greyhawk, there is a guarded tomb that contains only the hands of Tzunk!
    • The tomb is guarded by "great golems with special powers such as paralysis, petrification and worse..."
    • The place is guarded with magical traps.
    • The hands will animate and serve whoever frees them from the tomb. The hands will want to go find the rest of Tzunk's body.
    Dragon Magazine - The Plane of Truth

    This was a collection of articles in issues 203 and 204. I think it was meant to hype up Planescape. It mentions the codex a bit in story form. This article gives an entire new element to the codex. It reaches out to people in their dreams and siphons the life out of them. Their life force keeps the codex powerful.

    Short version: The codex reaches out in your dreams and for the next few days you are compelled to write down the encrypted image. One guy kept waking up new tattoos on his flesh. After a few weeks of this, you become a lifeless husk.

    In the story, a guy named Fallendor gets sucked in, but he is able to escape somehow by taking over the body of the next guy to get sucked in. That second guy, Ambran the Seeker, mentions that he knows he is going to teleport to "Hruggek's Realm" once he finishes his transcription, but he can't stop.

    Hruggek's Skulls: I decided to look up Hruggek in Monster Mythology. He's a bugbear god. He lives in pandemonium and is surrounded by the severed heads of his conquered opponents. The heads have magic powers and the book talks about them:

    "How this has come to be is hard to explain; it would need magical powers well beyond Hruggek's capacity to create such artifacts. This suggests that some deity with major wizardly powers has some form of agreement with Hruggek, although the nature of this - and who the other deity might be, and what that deity has to gain - is entirely unknown."

    I don't know if the codex is involved with Hruggek, but I figured I'd throw it in there.

    Secrets of the Lamp

    There are a few paragraphs about Tzunk. Tzunk tried to conquer the City of Brass using the codex. He was defeated by four million fire genies and he was brought before the sultan. The area of the city that he destroyed became a race course during his attack.

    D&D 3rd Edition

    The codex is in the Epic Level Handbook. Here's some new developments:
    • "Anyone opening the codex for the first time is utterly annihilated with a destruction spell..."
    • When you spend a day studying the codex, you can learn one of its powers. You must also make a save or go mad.
    They finally list some powers! Each of them can be cast at will:
    • Astral projection
    • Banishment
    • Elemental swarm
    • Gate
    • Greater planar ally
    • Greater planar binding
    • Plane shift
    • Soul bind
    When you activate a power, you need to make a check or else you must roll on the catastrophe chart. It's pretty insane. You might get hit with an earthquake or summon 1d3+1 balors.

    The Adventure: There is actually an adventure in this book that deals with the codex. The adventurers need to go to a wizard's tower in the plane of fire.

    There's a group called the Gleaners who have long sought the codex of the infinite planes. We learn that the codex was stolen by a "retriever" named Regalid. Regalid stole it from Schaethreth, an infernal. Schaethraeth has owned the codex for 100 years and can actually sense it when he is near it.

    Regalid is hiding out in a wizard's tower near the city of brass. The codex "stands on the floor along one wall, nearly filling the area of a normal bookcase."

    Living Greyhawk

    Living Greyhawk was an "adventurers league" kind of thing that was set in Greyhawk. I'm not sure whether or not some of the stuff "counts," but if it's cool or useful, it "counts" to me.

    They had a series of linked adventures called "Ether Threat." It is actually set in the area where the Isles of Woe were, which is the place mentioned in the 1e DMG. Here are the adventures an brief highlights of what they're about.

    Isles of Woe:
    • We learn that the wizard-priest who destroyed the isles of woe was named Alcanix.
    • Alcanix used the codex to summon the Ethers, creatures that devour everything and leave just rock and dust behind.
    • The Ethers were sent to the Ethereal Plane by a band of brave mage-priests.
    • When Vecna was a mortal, he might have lived on the Isles of Woe.
    Into the Dying Lands: The heroes go to a shrine of the mage-priests and the group learns about Tzunk's life and exploits.

    Return to the Isles: The group goes to one of the Isles of Woe to find a sword that will lead them to the mysterious Yagrax.
    • It was Yagrax who killed Alcanix for summoning the Ethers.
    • Yagrax went insane and declared himself the ruler of the last isle.
    • The sword Malthindor was made specifically to slay Yagrax.
    Sepulcher of the Wizard King: The heroes go to Yagrax's Tomb to summon his spirit. The group needed his spirit, because only Yagrax could use the codex without going insane

    Endgame: Yagrax possesses the body of an NPC and leads the group to the planes to banish the Ethers for good. Then Iuz shows up and steals the codex.

    Iuz: In a later Living Greyhawk adventure, Iuz used the Codex to become a lesser deity. It is hard to find info on the later adventure series that involved the codex.

    D&D 4th edition

    In Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium, we get the 4e version of the codex. We get a few little nuggets:
    • It is the size of a small table.
    • The symbols in the book use the language of creation, the same language runepriests use.
    • It was used in eons past to transport armies from one plane to another.
    • Apparently somebody once used the codex to accidentally summon "Garniax, the Indestructible fiend" and then they had to use the codex to send the demon back to the Abyss.
    Powers: Once per day you can choose a location.. anywhere.. and you and your group appear there. You could even just say you want to go to "a king's treasure room" and it will take you there.
    It can return creatures back to their plane of origin.

    Maldin's Version of the Codex

    This site has a giant entry on the codex that is really good. The author is Denis Tetreault, who wrote dragon magazine articles and apparently was very heavily involved in Living Greyhawk. This site greatly fleshes out the codex and is, in my opinion, the best resource for those looking to use the codex. Some stuff we learn:
    • If the book is left open for a time, it will close and latch itself when nobody is looking.
    • The cover might be comprised of the same material that crystal spheres from Spelljammer are made of.
    • The metal pages cannot be written on in any way.
    • The codex is older than any of the known gods.
    • It is sentient, but it is so alien that nobody can grasp it.
    • It reaches out to people in their dreams and slowly drains their life force. This fuels the incredible power of the codex.
    Dangers of the Codex: When you open the book, you must make a saving throw. Fail means you lose up to 11 character levels! Success means that you are attuned to the book. Then you make a second save. Fail this and you go insane.

    As you read through the codex, you will trigger various curses. You'll also drain energy sources nearby - fires go out, the temperature drops, etc.

    The Great List of Names: Pages that list every person that has ever attuned to the book. There have been only 12 people to do so in the last 3,000 years.  It lists their truename and how they are remembered by history. If you open it, you will find your name at the bottom of the list.

    This site actually lists the last 12 names. It includes Yagraz, Tzunk and Zagig! Further down, he goes into detail about each one.

    He made his own version of the codex with a set of powers. The powers are all travel, knowledge and banishment type stuff. Here's some of the special things it can do:
    • Summon and bind planar creatures.
    • Create portals.
    • You can actually break off pieces of the planes.
    • Communicate directly with Gods and demon lords.
    • Create extradimensional spaces.
    To me, it's not even close. This is the best, most useful version of the codex by a million miles.

    The Codex Adventure

    That brings us to the Codex of the Infinite Planes adventure!

    The adventure is meant to span from 1st level all the way up to around 20th. I'm going to run a condensed version of it, just hitting the main plot points. The author took all of the lore and combined it, and added all sorts of Planescape stuff. What he's done so far is really cool.

    It is unfinished as of now. The whole back half is full of stats and it has a complete 5e version of the codex. It is basically a compilation of all the best ideas of the older versions.

    If nothing else, you could get this for the tons of 5e stats and converted magic items. It's free so if you have any interest at all you should download it.


    Maldin's Greyhawk version of the Codex
    The Codex of Infinite Planes adventure
    More details on the Ether Threat series of adventures