INFERNAL BATTLEFIELD OF ACHERON
It is where ignorant armies clash by night.
It is the refuse-plane of a million failed rebellions.
It is a plane of enforced order, where conformity is more
important than good.
The hue and cry of battle is the first sound a soldier
hears when arriving on Acheron and the last sound a
refugee hears when leaving. That’s all there is on Acheron:
conflict, war, strife, and struggle. Many armies populate
Acheron, but leaders are scarce. Truly, rebels without a
cause are common on Acheron, whether they’re petitioners,
mortals, fiends, or celestials.
Acheron has four layers, each made of island- or even
continent-sized iron cubes floating in an airy void.
Sometimes the cubes collide, and echoes of past collisions
linger throughout the plane, mingling with the ring of
sword on sword as armies clash across the faces of the
Acheron hosts many deities, including Wee Jas, the
deity of death and magic; Gruumsh, the god of orcs;
Maglubiyet, the goblin deity; and Hextor, the deity of
tyranny and self-proclaimed champion of evil.
Acheron has the following traits.
- Objective Directional Gravity: The strength of gravity
is the same as on the Material Plane, but which way is
down depends on which face of the cube you’re on. Walking across edges between faces can be dizzying for
- Normal Time.
- Infinite Size: Each cube is finite, but the void the cubes
hang in is infinite.
- Divinely Morphic: Acheron changes at the whim of its
deities. Ordinary creatures must use spells and physical
effort to change the infernal battlefield.
- No Elemental or Energy Traits.
- Mildly Law-Aligned: Chaotic characters suffer a –2
penalty on all Charisma-based checks.
* Normal Magic.
As on all the lower planes, the River Styx flows through
the top layer of Acheron, called Avalas. The Styx flows on
many of Avalas’s cubes—welling up from a crater on one
cube to flow many miles, then leaking down into another
crater, and reappearing on another cube. Sometimes the
river takes a new course over a cube face, which can result
in entire cities being washed away in a tide of forgetfulness
Portals to other planes are fairly common. Usually, such
gates appear in the mouths of the many tunnels that riddle
most of Acheron’s cubes.
Renegade armies filled with every sort of creature wander the faces of Acheron
looking for enemy forces to fight. However, mutiny or madness soon brings down
even the strongest military leader, leaving most armies without a true objective
other than the destruction of other renegade armies. Sometimes armies of undead
or constructs last longer, because they are able to mindlessly fulfill their
last orders. Armies that have not gone completely mad may still seek a goal,
such as the defense of a realm, the procurement of provisions, the overthrow
of an impostor king, or any of a hundred other causes. Unfortunately, because
most of those causes were important on a plane far from Acheron, even the most
steadfast armies soon lose focus and go renegade. Achaierai, devils, imps, fomorians,
rakshasas, dragons, and yugoloths also inhabit Acheron. Rakshasa clans rule
several hidden cubes throughout Acheron, all cloaked by powerful illusions.
Clockwork creatures from Mechanus keep a few hidden mining colonies scattered
through the two lowest layers of Acheron.
Finally, Acheron holds enormous flocks of birds.
Ravens, vultures, gulls, bloodhawks, and swallows tumble
on the wind, sated on the carnage of the many battlefields.
Deserters and petitioners make up many of the renegade
armies on Acheron. If soldiers have killed others for a
cause they do not believe, and killed happily, they might
wind up as petitioners on Acheron. Particularly rabid
revolutionaries and terrorists slain on the Material Plane
also find their way to Acheron, often as leaders of the
roving armies. The renegade commanders cannot rest
until they are finally slain and their essence merges with
the plane itself.
Renegade commanders have the following special
Additional Immunities: Electricity, sonic.
Resistances: Cold 20, fire 20.
Other Special Qualities: Hearten.
Hearten (Ex): All members of a renegade army within a
1oo-foot radius of a petitioner commander receive a +2
morale bonus on saving throws against charm and fear
effects and a +1 morale bonus on attack and damage rolls.
MOVEMENT AND COMBAT
Movement on the Infernal Battlefield of Acheron is much
like movement on the Material Plane. Walking between
faces seems daunting to the uninitiated, but is relatively
easy. Moving between cubes requires some sort of flying
ability. Travelers in Avalas and Thuldanin must be wary of
collisions between the cubes, because everything between
the two cubes at impact is crushed into nothingness.
Cubes bound for collision are visible a day or two in
advance of impact, providing enough warning for evacuation.
The cubes that make up each of the four layers of Acheron are pitted and scarred
with cracks and dents from their many collisions and craters from their many
battles. On the orderly plane of Acheron, the cubes always rust or fracture
along straight lines and at right angles. Some of the cubes are only a few hundred
feet on a side, but others are big enough for whole cities and kingdoms. Geometric
shapes other than cubes exist, though they are rare (except on Tintibulus, the
third layer). Vision is normal on Acheron. The plane is lighted by a gray, fluctuating
illumination that varies slightly between bright moonlight and a dark, cloudy
day. Hearing is also normal, though the echo of colliding cubes and the ring
of battle is always in the background.
THE ORC-GOBLIN WAR AMONG THE CUBES
The realms of Clangor and Nishrek were once a single cube, but
the opposing deities of each realm finally managed to separate
their realms into two wholly separate cubes. Though they are
separated, enmity between the goblins of Clangor and the orcs of Nishrek is
still great. Though the rival deities can prevent an
entire cube face from being crushed by an opposing cube sent
hurling through the void, that doesn’t stop either side from
trying. Most battles are now fought when one side manages to
land an invasion force on an opposing cube.
The first layer of Acheron is also called the Battleplains,
for it contains the most cubes—and enough armies and
fortresses to populate them. The clash of distant cubes is
indistinguishable from the closer clash of a nearby
battlefield. The cubes vary from city-sized to continentsized.
The smallest cubes are usually the oldest, having
been reduced to their present size by eons of collisions.
Clangor: Clangor is a cube completely carved
and tunneled to house a single great set of barracks for the goblin nations
and their eternal war. It is also the seat of the goblin deity Maglubiyet. The
towers and walls of Clangor are arranged with deadly precision to inflict the
greatest damage on any attacking force. The air is cold and dry, and breath
fogs the air. What regions are not given over to goblin barracks hold wolf warrens
for elite goblin riders. Because most of the forces of Clangor are goblin and
hobgoblin petitioners, no great store of food is necessary. However, some heavily
guarded stores are available for mortals, wolves, and other creatures that also
reside on Clangor, brought from offplane at a hefty price through heavily guarded
Shetring: The fortress Shetring blends into
the rest of the metal-carved structure of the cube. The great River Lorfang
pierces the fortress, with five strong bridges providing access between the
two sides. The river wells up from a spring, travels a few miles, then plunges
into the cube again. Maglubiyet himself lives at the bottom of the plummeting
waterfall in a magnificently carved steel cavern dripping with moisture. The
goblins fling sacrifices from the top of the waterfall before mounting a great
offensive (usually against Nishrek, home of the orc pantheon).
Nishrek: This metallic cube houses the orc pantheon,
the head of which is Gruumsh, the one-eyed deity of the orcs. The mildly law-aligned
trait is negated on Nishrek. Like Clangor, Nishrek is heavily carved and tunneled
and houses great legions of orc troops. Unlike on Clangor, the barracks are
chaotically arranged, and the tunnels meander. Where Clangor seems gridlike
from a distance, Nishrek is swirled with winding streets and trenches, and blotchy
with haphazardly arranged strongholds. While the orcs under the command of lesser
orc deities such as Bahgtru and Ilneval are content to marshal their forces
against Clangor, Gruumsh pursues his long vendetta against a more distant foe:
Corellon Larethian. In ages past, Corellon Larethian put out Gruumsh’s left
eye, a debt that Gruumsh always seeks to repay. The fortress towns of Rotting
Eye, White Hand, and Three Fang all lie under Gruumsh’s direct dominion. He
has residences in each, moving between them in a random fashion. Bahgtru and
Ilneval control other, less fortified towns, while the hidden orc deity Luthic
is content to send forth her plagues from deep within the heart of the cube,
where her realm is said to lie.
Scourgehold: Hextor’s realm, Scourgehold, is
found on a particularly large cube where battle always rages. Hextor’s fortress
is a many-walled edifice of iron and stone, bristling with watchtowers and roving
siege engines. The innermost structure, The Great Coliseum, is a miles-wide,
many-leveled arena of beaten bronze and glass. Here, legions constantly train
in the arts of war. Hextor himself (or his avatar), in his visage as a grayskinned,
horrible six-armed being, often walks the training coliseum, his various weapons
awhirl. The mere sight of his symbol of hate and discord, six arrows facing
downward in a fan, sends his worshipers into a blood-mad battle frenzy.
The second layer of Acheron appears much like the first. However, Thuldanin’s
population is quite small. The cubes of this layer are riddled with pockets
and hollows. Surface pits lead down into labyrinthine spaces cluttered with
the refuse of every war that was ever fought. Broken scraps of a plethora of
devices are everywhere. Great ships that have burst asunder, toppled siege towers,
enormous weapons, steam-driven carriages, flying devices of every description,
and contraptions with even more obscure sources of power and purpose can be
found within these cubes. Most of the refuse is inoperative, petrified to stonelike
immobility by the “preservative” quality of the layer. Scavenging for intact
weapons is an occupation for many a team of salvagers and opportunists, because
many quality weapons and engines of war are scattered through the rubble on
Thuldanin. Persistent searchers can uncover items of fantastic power and intriguing
mechanisms, which they can use or at least copy. But wise salvagers don’t spend
too long on Thuldanin, because creatures can be petrified the same as objects.
RESISTING PRESERVATION ON THULDANIN
The same preservative quality that afflicts objects on Thuldanin
also afflicts living, undead, and petitioner alike. Any given object
or creature is 1% likely per 30 days spent on Thuldanin of
spontaneously petrifying into stone. Creatures, if potentially
affected, can avoid the effect with a successful Fortitude save
(DC 18). Objects or creatures petrified by the natural qualities of
Thuldanin cannot be returned to their previous state, except
with such high-level magic as a wish or miracle spell. Veteran
travelers make certain their stints on Thuldanin last no more
than 29 days without a respite elsewhere.
Unlike the other layers of Acheron, four-sided, five-sided, eight-sided, nine-sided,
twelve-sided, and other odd-sided solids outnumber six-sided cubes on TintibuIus.
The solids are made of gray volcanic stone, each coated with a layer of ashen
dust to a depth of several inches (and in some places several feet or more).
When collisions occur, the geometric solid fractures along its natural fault
lines, splitting into two smaller solids. The constant collisions create a ringing,
bell-like roar throughout the layer at all times. Few creatures live here, petitioners
or otherwise. The constant ringing on Tintibulus causes characters to suffer
a –4 circumstance penalty on Listen checks.
The fourth layer of Acheron is lightless but filled with fastflying,
razor-thin shards. Some shards are little more than
needles, while others are miles wide. The largest shards
have their own objective gravity like the cubes of the
upper layers, as well as a breathable if icy cold atmosphere.
The constant blizzard of bladelike shards makes acanthus
inimical to creatures and objects alike.
The shards are black ice, frozen into thin layers. Their
collisions break them into progressively smaller shards,
and eventually into needles and then dust. The shards all
originate from a single source: the night-black boundary of
acanthus, a sheet of infinite, magically charged black ice.
No one knows whether the ice sheet is a boundary or a
barrier between acanthus and some deeper, more sinister
layer. Some say that the ice is the source or destination of
the River Styx, and that every memory stolen by the river
still exists, frozen into the black ice. Whatever the truth,
the truth, the ice sheet has objective directional gravity,
and it is possible that it is simply a shard of black ice so
large that it is mistaken for acanthus’s boundary.
Cabal Macabre: Wee Jas, the Witch Goddess of
Death and Magic, keeps her realm on acanthus. Built on the surface of the boundary
ice is a crystalline castle of delicate yet horrifying architecture. It gleams
with a pale, heartless light all its own—the only point of light in this otherwise
pitch-black layer. On closer examination, a visitor notes that the translucent
outer walls of the ornate castle are crenellated with ice sculptures depicting
skeletons of every race in the multiverse. Inside Cabal Macabre, Wee Jas tests
spellcasters kidnapped from across the planes, though none ever pass her exams.
The penalty for failure is death at the Goddess’s hands, though many of her
worshipers consider this a great honor. Wee Jas spends much of her time away
from the castle, walking the boundary ice and mentally sifting it for memories
of lost magic and the memories of death. Within a quarter-mile of where she
walks, the continual bladestorm of acanthus is temporarily quelled.
SURVIVING AN OCANTHUS BLADESTORM
Creatures that are not protected by some supremely strong
artificial structure (which eventually is breached anyway) are
constantly vulnerable to shards slicing through the darkness like
knives. Creatures and objects are subject to the equivalent of a
greatsword attack (2d6 points of damage) every round at a +10
bonus on the attack roll. Damage reduction does not apply, but