Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A is For Abyss

In Dungeons and Dragons, the Abyss is an plane with endless lairs. The majority of creatures that make there home there, fall under the Demon category. These creatures are 'Outsiders', not-native to the Prime Material Plane.

The Abyss has a long history in Dungeons and Dragons. It made huge waves in 2nd edition. TSR had many campaign settings in that era, and one of those was Planescape. Here something called the 'Blood War' raged. In that war, on one side were limitless numbers of demons against a strict military hierarchy of devils from the Nine Hells. The Blood War made a great backdrop to other aspects of the Planescape campaign and could be dropped in and made a prime part or the entirety of the campaign, or something that the players only heard of.

One of the nice things about 3rd edition, was the the OGL and d20 license, allowed third parties to take a whack at the whole of the Dungeons and Dragons cosmology. One of those companies was Green Ronin and one of the books that came out, and was eventually updated, was the Book of Fiends.

One of the nifty things about the Book of Fiends is it brought a new type of Outsider to the Abyss, obyrith. These were the original rulers of the Abyss. The original 'proto-demons' if you will. Their reign did not last the eternity they thought it would. The great thing the author did though, was he insured that there were still a few of them left, and still a few unique ones left. This allows the Game Master to spring something fresh and new against the players when they least expect it.

The Abyss though, is so much more than the things that inhabit it. Don't let official products like the 3.5 book, Hordes of the Abyss fool you!

Because it is limitless, there only limitations that a Game Master has, is what he decides a particular plane is.

While mainly the Abyss has been used to detail the horrors that live there, there's nothing stopping the Game Master from having the players stranded in the Abyss, trying to return home. Perhaps every step they take brings them to a plane that they think is a Prime Material Plane, but is actually a warped version of it. Think Sliders or Fringe but with much heavier doses of the worst of the Twilight Zone or other series.

What if the players are located on a layer of the Abyss that is being destroyed? What if they discover something actually eating the plane one layer at a time? Some primordial creature that is eating it's way out of some other prison and cannot be freed until it eats the Abyss. How does one eat the infinite?

The Abyss is a great potential setting and can be used for low level characters who must dash out as soon as possible, to higher level characters launching attacks against the likes of Orcus or Demogoron as was done in the Paizo directed Adventure Path, Savage Tide, published for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5.