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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Thanatos, the 113th layer of the Abyss

My Planescape group is going to be exploring this place, so I figured I should read up on it. This is a guide to Thanatos, the 113th layer of the Abyss that is ruled by Orcus, demon prince of undeath.
I’m going to go through each old product and pull out the essential information so that we can use it as a starting point whenever we need to use Thanatos in a campaign.

The Essential Information
  • This place is home to hordes of undead.
  • Mortals find that this place drains their essence and will kill them if they stay too long.
  • If you die here, you rise up as either a zombie or a bodak.
  • There are many cities here, full of demons and undead.
  • Kostchtchie, demon lord of giants once sent giants to attack Thanatos and were repelled.
  • A cult of Ahazu the Seier attacked Thanatos and were also repelled.
  • Kiaranselee, a drow goddess of undeath, actually killed/drove Orcus out for a time.
  • A section of this realm is known as The White Kingdom, home to Doresain, King of the Ghouls.
1st Edition Manual of the Planes

We learn a few things:
  • Orcus lives in a great palace made of bones.
  • His guards and servants are undead.
  • From his many halls, Orcus rules many layers of the Abyss and some "Prime Material planes."
Throne of Bloodstone

This adventure has piles and pile of information on the realm of Thanatos. In this module, Thanatos is referred to as layer number 333, but in later editions it is said to be layer 113. The Abyss is chaos so it’s pretty easy to explain – the abyss shifts around.

The Sky Changes: The sky is bright red, then dull crimson, then sickly green. It changes often, and the sky is something of a multicolored light show with roiling clouds.

Flying in Thanatos: Hordes of chasmes attack. There is a 10% chance that the demon lord Pazuzu shows up! He's being paid by Orcus to defend his skies

Creatures in Thanatos: Nabassu, Demiliches, sons of kyuss, spectres, ghouls, babaus, chasmes, shadow demons, dretches, rutterkins, vrocks, wights, mummies, ghosts, vampires, skeletons, and death knights.

Dying in Thanatos: If you die here, you rise up as a bodak. Only a wish spell brings you back to your former state, but a wish in the abyss must be granted by the nearest power.

Valley of the Crypt Things: This place is lined with ornate thrones. On each throne its a pale, solitary skeletal being wearing a brown, hooded robe. There are 24 of them in total. They rise and point fingers at PCs.

Skeletal Mountain: A mountain 4,000 feet high made of bone. It is alive! It forms into strange, skeletal shapes. It forms skeletal creatures that attack intruders every three rounds. The creatures include a giant skeletal fist, skeletal ettins, skeletal t. rexes, skeletal hands, skeletal dragons (!), and skeletal storm giants. I really like that, you could make a really cool adventure out of this mountain.

City of the Zombies: A city of 10,000 zombies, victims of the evil of Orcus who seek a true death. They are ruled by a zombie king - ordinary zombie on a throne. The zombies here would team up with the heroes to take down Orcus.

The Bridge: Two skulls stand guard at the edge of a bridge that spans a moat of fiery lava. The skulls declare: "Let the strongest among you best the champion, ere you may cross." They form a duplicate of the group's strongest fighter and stuff happens! Crazy.

City of the Liches: A great stone wall with a gate of iron. A silent, dead city. Magnificent, but cold. Ruled by “the Lich King.”

The City of Orcusgate: A chaotic metropolis ruled by Glyphimhor, demon lord of orcus gate. Glyphimhor wants the Wand of Orcus for himself. The city is full of dark houses, no sign of life. No light, sounds or smells. Being in the city drains levels! Every d4 hours you lose one.

NPCs in Thanatos:
  • Ter-soth, the Brigade commander, a balor.
  • The group is spied on by fire mephit named Dimwold in a plaid suit and a derby? Yes, a plaid suit.
  • The Trapped Solar: Tied to a burning stake is a solar with skin of molten copper. Ten demons have captured him. The flames can't kill him, but are painful. His magic bonds can only be cut by a magic item. Cutting the bond instantly destroys the sword. The solar’s name is Gabriel and he serves Bahamut. If the group rescues him, he summons a ki-rin to aid the heroes for the rest of the adventure.
  • Fyrillicus, the Abyssian Dragon: He is 100 feet long and can cast spells like dimension door. Fyrillicus is not smart.
The Castle of Orcus:
  • Bone Guns: The castle is guarded by magic bone cannons/guns operated by demons. They can fire an assortment of spells once per round: Dispel magic, lightning bolt, or magic missile.
  • Climbing the Walls: Don’t climb the walls. The walls can form claws or dragon heads that breathe red dragon fire.
  • The Moat: If you fall into this moat of lava, it means “instant and irrevocable death for anyone from the Material plane.” It is 5,000 feet deep and it exudes poison gas.
  • The Mazes: Inside the castle, you’ll need to navigate really, really complicated mazes. This adventure has diagrams and everything.
  • The Prison of Baphomet: This is an open platform. Orcus teamed up with Yeenoghu to capture Baphomet, demon lord of minotaurs. him. Once Baphomet slays a human, he can go home.
  • Library: Shelves of scrolls and tomes. All of them deal with Orcus - his conquests, his slaves, all doctored to make him look good.
  • Teleportation Room: Anyone exiting through a certain door teleports everyone outside to the bridge.
  • Battle Arena: Orcus will fight the heroes in this arena. There are special effects: Dispel magic and a chessboard floor that you fall through… 1000 feet to your doom. This arena is detailed again in 3rd edition, but it doesn’t have these fun details.
Planes of Chaos


This is a Planescape boxed set that is totally overloaded with ideas. There’s a section on layer 113: Thanatos, the Belly of Death.

Effects of the Realm: Undead regenerate 1 hp every hour in Thanatos. More powerful undead regenerate at faster rates (each round!). The thin air causes you to get exhausted quickly.

Orcus is Gone: In 2nd edition, due to the satanic panic, all demons and devils were downplayed. Orcus had “gone missing.” The story here is that he was slain by a drow goddess named Kiaranselee.

New Ruler: Kiaransalee, drow goddess of vengeance and the undead. She wears a cloak of rattling bones and rules Thanatos from Naratyr, city of the dead.

Naratyr: Cold realm on the surface of a frozen ocean. There are a lot of carpets of hair from former occupants. This city has vampire councilors and spectre generals. Her legions include babau, driders and armanites.

Lachrymosa, the Cauldron of Tears: This is a town around a citadel where rust-red geyser spew steam and water. It is home to undead zombies and ghouls. If you die here, you immediately become an undead servant or a mane/dretch/rutterkin. You can only be reverted back via raise dead/wish/resurrection polymorph.

Kiaranselee, drow goddess of undeath

Servants of Kiaranselee:

Rotting Jack: A babau who perpetually sheds his rotting skin which crawls with maggots. He loses an eye periodically and he wants Thanatos for himself.

Anista of the Eight Eyes: A drider who rules the summer palace. She wears a crown of eyes that gives her 360 degree vision and he can't be surprised. He is high strung and very jumpy.

Sleepless: A molydeus who marshals forces for the Blood War. He seems to be in many places at once (Sleepless is actually twins who pretend to be one person).

There are Dustman guides and visitors. Most undead ignore travelers accompanied by a Dustman.

Naratyr, City of the Dead: Hanged people and ghouls on lines the sides of the streets. This place is home to warring bands of vampires, banshees and spectres. Lots of factoids:
  • Ruler: Rauva Cormrael, drow priestess of Kiaranselee
  • Surrounded by a moat of River Styx
  • The city is silent, and cold. There are few taverns/shops/food.
  • The central castle of bone has interior walls of flesh and carpets of hair. This book has a thing for carpets of hair.
  • Militia: They are known as the Ivory Mace, a rag-tag gang of ghouls led by ghasts and wraiths. The captains are babaus wielding thighbone clubs who can sing a banshee-like death song once per day.
  • The Bottomless Well: An inn/tavern run by Crimson Mol, a constantly muttering wight. He clean mugs obsessively.
  • The Last Meal: The city's elite comes here. One frequent patron is Ladislas the Cruel, a bard framed for his spiked flute and sharpened lyre.
  • Ally of Kiaranselee: Qaletra, a priestess of Lolth (possibly a lich)who betrayed her goddess for Kiaranselee.
The Book of Lies: In the adventure book of this boxed set, there’s a short scenario about going to Thanatos and stealing a magic book. The Book of Lies is in a Dustman stronghold on Thanatos.

The Book of Lies lists every lie that was ever uttered in all of creation. It is four feet tall and three feet wide, with an infinite number of pages. You need a strength of 14 to carry it. To use it: Call out someone's name, and the book opens to a list of that person's lies in chronological order. It doesn't explain the circumstances, just the statements.

Portal: There is a portal to Thanatos in the graveyard of Sigil. It is in the inner doorframe of a mausoleum.

Dead Gods
This adventure is all about Orcus. It says that once, Orcus ruled multiple layers of the Abyss, all filled with teeming cities of undead and demons. He created a secret lair known as Tcian Sumere in case things went bad. It is in the negative material plane. The balor Glyphimhor is here! He’s dead! He’s some kind of shaft of light. Somehow he comes back to life in 3rd edition.

Faction War

We learn that when news broke that Orcus had somehow come back to life, Kiaranselee went "barmy" and closed off Thanatos, barring all traffic.

3e Manual of the Planes

Tombstones of every imaginable type dots the landscape

We are told that the drow deity has disappeared. Rumor has it that Orcus has returned! In Dead Gods, Orcus is a thing known a Tenebrous and at the end, his servant Quah Nomag doe a ritual on hi giant dead body. I guess this brought him back to life!

In later books, it is explained that Tenebrous and Orcus became two separate entities. Tenebrous is now a vestige in the Amber Temple of Curse of Strahd. Orcus was most recently seen in Out of the Abyss, sort of. I guess he was supposed to be in a novel but it never got released. The art from it shows that he was mingling with mind flayers, which is an odd combination.

Planar Handbook

There is a very cool section in this book detailing all sort of fun locales in the planes. One of them is:

The Mausoleum of Icy Fear: In Naratyr, there is a cemetery whose graves are carved into the surface of a frozen ocean. The heroes exploring this place may have to battle. It is home to vrocks, vampires, bodaks and spectres.

Fiendish Codex I

When Orcus was a nalfeshnee, he sat in the Court of Woe (layer 400 of the Abyss). During this era, the gith revolted against the mind flayers

Thanatos Details: We get tons of general information.
  • Ash-gray clouds fill the cold, black sky.
  • The immense, melancholic moon changes phases at random.
  • There are roving hordes of thousands of undead.
  • Living mortals take d6 damage per round!
  • If you die here, you rise up as a zombie in one hour.
  • Thin Air: Save every hour or become fatigued. Those who become exhausted immediately begin to suffocate.
  • The dustmen have an outpost in every city.
  • Leaders in the order of Orcus call themselves skull lords. Skull lords are tested. Those who fail become liches and are sent to Golmin Thur forever.
  • When a Skull King dies, it is reborn as a demon - either a vrock or a nalfeshnee.
  • Orcus can manifest himself from place to place throughout the layer at will.
  • Chief Diplomat of Orcus: Harthoon: Lich and an embalmer.
Eldanoth: When Kiaranselee took over Thanatos, a demon named Eldanoth fled and took over its own layer, known as the Arc of Eternity. It is a kingdom of snakes and manes with a copper fortress on a rocky plain. Eldanoth wants to be a god of crime and hatred, and he has many adherents on Thanatos. Eldanoth looks like a smiling male tiefling with snakes growing from his fingertips.

Glyphimhor: This powerful balor died shortly after the invasion of Kiaranselee. He was a column of light in Tcian Sumere. When Orcus returned, he brought him back to life. Glyphimhor rules the city of Lachrymosa, the capital. He is willing to betray Orcus.

City of Straight Curves: A frozen-over port city whose streets bend in extra-dimensional ways. It is ruled by a nabassu named Slursidyal, who loves using illusions to mess with visitors.

Everlost: A massive fortress of bones in a sprawling desert of bone meal called Oblivion's End.

The Valley of the Crypt Things: A bewildering maze of natural defiles and canyons that eventually dip below the surface of Thanatos and connect to the Endless maze of Baphomet.

Frozen Sea: Ancient citadels and shipwrecks frozen in ice. One vessel, the Shadow, is home to Kiaranselee-worshiping drow who want to humble Orcus.

Lachrymosa, the Cauldron of Tears: Rust red geysers that spew steam and water into the River Styx. It contains the Forbidden Citadel, once the seat of Kiaranselee's power. It looks like a bust of the goddess herself. Some believe Orcus doesn't have the power to destroy it. It may contain treasures tied to Kiaranselee's ultimate plan for the layer. Later in the book, it is revealed that an armageddon device is in the Forbidden Citadel - a vortex connected to the heart of the Plane of Positive Energy!! In order to use it, you must make a trip to the world of Guldor for an audience with the Banshee Queen's avatar before making a daring raid against the fortified capital.

Golmin Thur: I think this is the City of Liches from past products. A weeping city of narrow avenues and towering minarets. The liches here are known as the Disgraced. The sorcery of their creation prevents them from harming the skull lords, but they want to rebel.

Lash Embrar, the Flickering City: An enormous spinning helix of borealis-like magical energy dominates the sky about 350 feet above this crumbling metropolis. It may have been here that Orcus enslaved the layer of Thanatos to his will thousands of years ago. All skull lords must make a pilgrimage here. The ruler is skull king Quah Nomag, the cultist who appeared at the end of Dead Gods.

Naratyr: Carved into the Frozen Sea, protected by a frozen moat of the Styx, this is a city of dead vampires, banshees and spectres, as well as reanimated corpses of drow and driders formerly loyal to the Vengeful Banshee. There are also a lot of Quth-maren, skin-stripped corpses who were loyal to Kiaranselee.

Orcusgate: This is the dwelling of demons of Orcus. There is a gate of fire that connects Thanatos to the Pits of Pazunia. The demons here demons thwart visiting skull lords, delighting in the cruelty. Bulky white-skinned winged demons known as zovvuts pass for law-enforcement here. The rulers are the Council of the Riven Ram, a six-member cabal that dictates demonic policy. The council is comprised of balors and mariliths.

The Plains of Hunger: This area is home to countless hordes of undead seeking flesh to consume. Skeletons, zombies, ghouls, mohrgs, hullathoins and wights. Skull Lords come here and try to take control of a horde. Sometimes the Disgraced liches take control of a horde.

Crawling Heads: Long ago, Kostchtchie sent giants here. Orcus fed them to the hordes of the planes of hunger. These giants later reanimated as crawling heads. There is at least one in most hordes. They are brilliant undead behemoths that fall into a deep concentration that allows them to conduct strategic planning for Orcus.

Vadrian: This ruined city was once the stronghold of a balor who betrayed Orcus. The Dustman home is known as the Galendure citadel. Sherenve the Shrewd, half-elf wizard, commands the Thanatos sect of the fallen faction. She studies undead to learn about the multiverse. There is a burning metal tower here that is home to Buldinol, a palrethee who serves as Glyphimhor's eyes and ears.

NPCs: There is a Dustman named Eravamont Glask, a wizard and guide. The Ashen Triune is a trio of mute deathbringers who wander the planes looking for enemies of Orcus to kill.

Dungeon Magazine #147

The heroes are in the Abyss and come across a ship that is a clot of blood and meat made from the remains of 1,000 slaves stretched over a bony frame. A cage of dark iron containing an angel prisoner is in the center. This skiff is operated by two blood fiend agents of Orcus, who are transporting a prisoner who is pretending to be an angel. He is Azael, a spy who was supposed to monitor Demogorgon but got found out.

Dungeon Magazine #148

At one time, the cult of Ahazu the Seizer tried to attack Thanatos. They were repelled. Orcus sent his demons to the Wells of Darkness. They killed the entire cult and destroyed the fortress they lived in.

Dungeon Magazine #149

We learn that the city of Vadrian is all but abandoned aside from the Dustmen. Hiring a Dustman guide costs 4,000 gp per person.

Everlost: Most inhabitants are intelligent undead along with demons and bodaks. Two balors guard the entrance to the throne room, a place where mortals normally aren't allowed in. The balors wear black adamantine armbands that grants them immunity to negative energy.
  • The Halls of the Risen Grave: A short tunnel that leads to the center of the palace. The dome inside is the interior of a truly gargantuan skill. At the center is a pile of skulls with a throne of black stone inlaid with mithral. This is the throne of Orcus. Strange black tendrils writhe from the black stone.
  • The Throne of Orcus: Approaching the throne is difficult. It is a negative energy conduit that drains strength. The closer you come to it, the more you feel pressed down by an unseen weight. Once within 60 feet you must save each round or be forced to your knees.
  • The Arena: The champions include fiendish death giants Lestra and Orbenet and a crawling head named Lertyck Trumbel.
Dragon Magazine #358

Those who sail the Styx through Thanatos must navigate carefully. Bergs of ice and frozen bodies make navigating the Styx slow and treacherous.

Lachrymosa: The portmaster is a bloated zovvut named Sensiner. He has a huge goat eye in the center of his forehead. He must be bribed or their ship will be crippled.

4e Manual of the Planes

Skull lord and Doresain

Those that die in Thanatos rise up as undead abominations in moments.

The Plains of Hunger: Frost-rimed flatlands teeming with undead. Hundreds of skeletons, zombies and ghouls.

Lachrymosa: A balor named Glyphimhor governs the town. Glyph makes it through every edition!

Valley of the Crypts: Bewildering maze of defiles and canyons. This place connects to the endless maze of Baphomet.

E1 Death's Reach

Ghovran Akti: A lich dedicated to Orcus. He hopes to help an exarch of Orcus named Mauglurien to slay the Raven Queen. Ghovran wants to become an exarch of bitterest winter.

Shonvurru: An undead marilith, member of a cult of Orcus known as the Ashen Covenant. There may be a gate from Thanatos to death's reach, a weird realm right on the edge of the Material Plane.

E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls

Orcus has a sidekick – Doresain, king of the ghouls. Doresain rules a realm inside the realm of Thanatos. It is called The White Kingdom, home to thousands of ghouls. The main palace is situated in a lake of black blood.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for this! I'm running a game in Thanatos and this is super helpful!