GRAY WASTE OF HADES
It is where evil springs eternal.
It is a plane of endless apathy and despair.
It is the great battlefield of the Blood War.
Hades sits at the nadir of the lower planes, halfway between two races of fiends
each bent on the other’s annihilation. Thus, it often sees its gray plains darkened
by vast armies of demons battling equally vast armies of devils who neither
ask nor give quarter. If any plane defines the nature of true evil, it is the
Gray Waste. In the Gray Waste of Hades, pure undiluted evil acts as a powerful
spiritual force that drags all creatures down. Here, even the consuming rage
of the Abyss and the devious plotting of the Nine Hells are subjugated to hopelessness.
Apathy and despair seep into everything at the pole of evil. Hades slowly kills
a visitor’s dreams and desires, leaving the withered husk of what used to be
a fiery sprit. Spend enough time in Hades, and visitors give up on things that
used to matter, eventually giving in to total apathy. Hades has three layers
called “glooms.” Uncaring malevolence that slowly crushes the spirit permeates
Hades has the following traits.
- Normal Gravity.
- Normal Time.
- Infinite Size: Hades may extend infinitely, but its realms are finitely
- Divinely Morphic: Entities of at least lesser deity status can alter Hades,
though few deities deign to reign in Hades. The Gray Waste has the alterable
morphic trait for less powerful creatures; Hades responds normally to spells
and physical effort.
- No Elemental or Energy Traits.
- Strongly Evil-Aligned: Nonevil characters in Hades suffer a –2 penalty on
all Charisma-, Wisdom-, and Intelligence-based checks.
- Entrapping: This is a special trait unique to Hades, although Elysium has
a similar entrapping trait. A nonoutsider in Hades experiences increasing apathy
and despair while there. Colors become grayer and less vivid, sounds duller,
and even the demeanor of companions seems to be more hateful. At the conclusion
of every week spent in Hades, any nonoutsider must make a will saving throw
(DC 10 + the number of consecutive weeks in Hades). Failure indicates that the
individual has fallen entirely under the control of the plane, becoming a petitioner
of Hades. Travelers entrapped by the inherent evil of Hades cannot leave the
plane of their own volition and have no desire to do so. Memories of any previous
life fade into nothingness, and it takes a wish or miracle spell to return such
characters to normal.
- Normal Magic.
The River Styx flows through the uppermost layer of Hades, and a few of its
small tributaries may lead deeper into the plane. As with everywhere else along
the Styx, sinister ferrymen ply its length, granting passage to other planes.
Portals to other planes are fairly common, at least on the uppermost gloom,
Oinos. Portals usually appear as great spinning coins of color. Golden coins
lead to Carceri, silver ones lead to the Outlands, coppers go to Gehenna, and
rare platinum ones connect to the Astral Plane. Because everything else in the
Gray Waste is leached of color, the coin-portals glitter for miles.
Foul creatures of every sort can be found in the Gray Waste. Because this is
the battleground of the lower planes, demons, devils, slaadi, formians, and
even the occasional deva can be found here, spying for the war effort or deserting
their unit. Of course, yugoloths also abound, despite the fact that most of
the race has moved from this plane, their original home, to the neighboring
plane of Gehenna. Night hags are also thick in Hades. They constantly seek special
petitioners called larvae, which they use as a special form of spiritual currency
in their dark dealings with evil beings and deities. Besides Blood War detritus,
night hags, and petitioners, Hades hosts herds of fiery nightmares.
Petitioners in Hades are mostly grayish ghosts, spirits so depleted by the
Waste that they lack solidity. They rarely speak, instead crowding around visitors
like moths around a candle, seeking the warmth of emotion and hope that living
beings possess. Spirits of particularly selfish and malicious mortals that come
to Hades become a special form of petitioner called a larva. Larvae appear as
Medium-size worms with heads that resemble the heads on their mortal bodies.
Larvae serve as the currency of the Lower Planes, especially among night hags,
liches, demons, devils, and yugoloths. Most are as likely to be used as food
as to power a spell. The rare “lucky” larva is sometimes promoted to a lower
form of fiend.
Normal petitioners in Hades gain only one special petitioner quality: incorporeality.
But larvae have the following special petitioner qualities:
Additional Immunities: Cold, fire. Resistances:
Electricity 20, acid 20.
Other Special Qualities: Wounding, disease, no planar commitment.
Wounding (Ex): Every time a larva deals damage, the wound automatically bleeds
for 1 additional point of damage every round until a Heal check (DC 15) is made
or magical healing is applied.
Disease (Ex): Following a battle with larvae during which the larvae dealt
any damage, wounded characters must make a Fortitude save (DC 17) or contract
devil chills (see Disease in Chapter 3 of the DUNGEON MASTER’s Guide, for the
effects of devil chills).
No Planar Commitment (Ex): Unlike most other petitioners, larvae can be removed
from Hades. Often, they are taken elsewhere to serve as food, barter, and basic
“soulstuff” for fiendish projects, both demonic and devilish, that require such
an esoteric component.
MOVEMENT AND COMBAT
Movement and combat in Hades are much like movement on the Material Plane.
The hateful nature of the plane makes combatants less likely to flee, even if
gravely wounded. Most fights here are to the death.
The glooms of the Gray Waste are just that: dull gray lands. The earth is gray,
the sky is gray, and the petitioners are gray. Color is foreign here, as if
vision itself is subverted. When visitors step into the plane, everything goes
from color to white, black, or gray. There is no sun, no moon, and no stars
above—just a bleak gray radiance emanating from the sky. This grayness affects
more than vision; it is a spiritual grayness. It reaches into the hearts of
all who spend time in Hades. Those who spend more time here than they should,
such as all the petitioners, are devoid of feeling. They don’t laugh, don’t
cry, and just don’t care. All they do is despair, their hope gone and never
to return. Both the entrapping trait of Hades and the spiritual sickness called
“the grays” are manifestations of the grayness of Hades.
The first gloom of Hades is a land of stunted trees, roving fiends, and virulent
disease. But more than anything else, it is a plane ravaged by war. This is
the central battlefield of the Blood War. Fiends, warrior-slaves, trained beasts,
and hired mercenaries gather here to wage horrific battles on an epic scale.
These battles despoil the already bleak terrain. The sounds of rending claws,
clashing weapons, and screams echo across the entire layer.
Khin-Oin the Wasting Tower: A twenty-mile-high
tower, Khin-Oin looks like nothing so much as a freestanding spinal column.
Some say that’s exactly what it is: the backbone of a deity slain by yugoloths.
Khin-Oin plunges as deep into Oinos’s gray soil as it ascends into the air,
so the tower’s sublevels tunnel twenty miles deep. The Wasting Tower is ruled
by an ultraloth prince named Mydianchlarus. In fact, some stories hint that
the entire yugoloth race was birthed here, arising in a pit at the absolute
bottom of Khin-Oin. None but yugoloths have ever held the tower, despite the
constant array of fiendish armies outside. The rooms and the floors of the tower
seem to have no end. Spawning vats, magical laboratories, and meditation chambers
can be found here, as can orreries, suites of rooms for yugoloths, and floors
that are themselves battlegrounds and drill fields. Mydianchlarus rules from
the tower’s zenith, and the token of his rulership is the Siege Malicious. Whoever
rules the Wasting Tower is often referred to as the oinoloth. Any creature that
can successfully invade the Wasting Tower and make it to the top chamber has
the opportunity to claim the title for himself. Claiming the title involves
defeating the current ruler, then sitting on the Siege Malicious. The Siege
Malicious is a throne of artifact-level power, and as such, it may grant powers
over the layer of Oinos.
The Siege Malicious: The Siege Malicious is
a major artifact. It is a gargantuan, immovable throne carved from the stone
of the Wasting Tower itself. The throne is inlaid with tarnished silver, base
copper, and brass. A circular crown of rubies adorns the top of the high seat,
which is just large enough to sit a Huge creature. (Many Mediumsize creatures
would look ridiculous sitting on the Siege Malicious with their legs dangling
several feet off the floor.)
Creating or Modifying a Disease: The oinoloth
may conceive of or modify a disease at will as a free action (though coming
up with just the right name is an exercise of intellect that could take longer).
The important parameters for creating or modifying a disease are infection,
DC, incubation, and damage; for more information, see Disease in Chapter 3 of
the DUNGEON MASTER’s Guide. Generally, new or modified diseases must possess
a standard infection type, have a DC no higher than 20, have an incubation time
of no less than one day, and have damage not greater than 1d8 temporary points
of any ability score damage except Constitution (1d6 if the disease deals permanent
ability drain). Secondary visual effects of a new disease are up to the oinoloth.
Secondary effects can include deafness, blindness, muteness, and other sensory
deprivations (one per disease), on a second failed saving throw against the
initial disease DC.
Infecting: Once a disease is created or modified,
the oinoloth can set it loose. The oinoloth can infect a living target within
300 feet as a standard action, and the target gets no saving throw to avoid
Powers of the Throne: In order to operate the
Siege Malicious, a character sitting on the throne must have defeated the previous
oinoloth. If the previous oinoloth yet lives, the sitter suffers 3d6+6 points
of permanent Charisma drain, as a consequence of being infected with a particularly
virulent strain of the disease called gray wasting. Characters immune to disease
don’t take damage, but the Siege Malicious seems powerless to them. If the character
sitting on the throne has defeated the previous oinoloth, then the powers of
the siege malicious are his. But the throne forever changes those who sit on
it. The Siege Malicious deals 1d4 points of permanent Charisma drain as part
of the sitter’s skin sloughs off in a rather grotesque manner. This disfigurement
is the mark of the oinoloth and may not be magically healed without forsaking
the title of oinoloth. But with the disfigurement comes absolute control of
disease on the layer of Oinos. The new oinoloth (whether yugoloth or not) commands
the diseases of Oinos, creating, modifying, or nullifying diseases as he sees
fit. New or modified diseases could potentially spread beyond the layer of Oinos,
but the oinoloth only has this power while in Hades. The oinoloth has power
over disease whether sitting in the Siege Malicious or not.
Gray wasting, in its normal form, is quite dangerous and visually unappealing,
as the victim’s skin wastes away into so much mucus and rotting flesh. It has
the following characteristics: Infection: Contact. Fortitude Save DC: 20. Incubation:
1 day. Damage: 1d4 points of permanent Charisma drain.
A spiritual poison affects any creature (including outsiders) in Hades that
does not possess spell resistance of 10 or more. Creatures without spell resistance
10 must make a Will save (DC 13) every twenty-four hours they spend in Hades.
A failed save deals 1 point of temporary Wisdom damage to the victim. A victim
can be drained to a minimum Wisdom of 1 in this fashion. Unlike most ability
score damage, Wisdom damage dealt by “the grays” does not heal until the victim
has left Hades behind. Each point of Wisdom damage dealt in this fashion represents
growing apathy, hopelessness, and despair. This effect is concurrent with the
entrapping trait of Hades. Wisdom damage taken from the grays makes it harder
to make the weekly saving throws to resist the loss of all hope that the entrapping
The second gloom of Hades is a layer of gray mists that constantly twist and
swirl among sickly trees and ominous bluffs. The thin fog limits vision to 100
feet at best, muffles sound, and eventually saturates everything with dampness.
Niflheim is not as war-ravaged as Oinos, probably because the mist hinders combat.
Many predators prowl the lands, hidden amid the mist, including fiendish dire
wolves and trolls. Vision (including darkvision) is limited to 100 feet in Niflheim,
and Listen checks suffer a –4 circumstance penalty due to the muffling nature
of the fog.
Death of Innocence: A small town tucked away
in the misty pines, Death of Innocence is constructed of hewn pine taken from
the surrounding forest. The town holds more than 5,000 mortals and (nonlarva)
petitioners, though they mostly remain inside their dwellings, giving the city
a vacant feel. Strangely, those who live behind the protection of the town’s
walls sometimes strive to improve their lot and break out of apathy. Great wooden
gates bar entry to Death of Innocence, and both the gates and the outer wall
bristle with spikes. Inside, a broad avenue leads to the town’s center, where
a gray marble fountain stands. The wood of the buildings and gates oozes blood,
as if sap, confirming the belief that petitioners are trapped within the wood.
Neither the grays nor the entrapping trait of Hades can penetrate the walls
of Death of Innocence.
The third gloom of Hades is a layer of dying willows, shriveled olive trees,
and night-black poplars. It is a realm where no one wants to be and no one can
remember why they came. Of course, petitioners have no choice in the matter.
Usually, the Blood War does not reach this lowest gloom, though some raids have
occurred when one side or the other wished to retrieve the spirit of a fallen
mortal captain who possessed particularly sharp tactical skills.
Underworld: The Underworld is contained within
walls of gray marble that stretch for hundreds of miles and are visible for
thousands of miles beyond that. A single double gate pierces the marble walls
of the realm. Constructed of beaten bronze, the gates are dented and scarred
by heroes intent on getting past. However, the gates are also guarded by a terrible
fiendish beast, a Gargantuan three-headed hound made from the squirming, decaying
bodies of hundreds of petitioners. Beyond the gate, the inside of the realm
appears much like the outside. Blackened trees, stunted bushes, and wasted ground
dominate the landscape. Larvae are everywhere, writhing in the dust, as are
gray, wraithlike petitioners who are on the verge of being sucked completely
dry of all emotion by the spiritual decay of the plane. When they lose the last
shred of emotion, their remaining essence becomes one with the gloom of Pluton.
Sometimes, great heroes or desperate lovers from the Material Plane travel to
this layer via a tributary of the River Styx or portals hidden in great volcanic
fissures. They come to the Underworld because they believe that they can find
the spirit of a friend or loved one and extricate that spirit from a hopeless
eternity. Besides larvae, faded petitioners, and the occasional foolish mortals,
demons, yugoloths, and devils roam the land, looking for choice morsels.