Out With the Old
Carceri — a shattered, godless realm that is now a prison realm for Abominations, titans, and traitors
During the Dawn War, the gods severed Carceri from the already-cracking Lattice of Heaven and twisted it into a nightmare realm. From this realm were born Abominations, nightmarish war machines designed to slay even immortal beings such as gods and primordials. By the time the war was complete, the gods had learned that they could not fully control the Abominations, nor could they heal the wounded realm that continued to birth them.
So instead they sealed the plane, further isolating it from the Lattice of Heaven and severing its connections to the outside realms. Since then, Carceri has also become a planar prison of a more general sort, a site of exile for traitors and usurpers, those who have transgressed most mightily against the gods. But not all of the inhabitants of The Red Prison are inmates; hidden among them are agents of the gods, put in place to ensure that the captives here never escape.
The layers of Carceri are wrapped around one another like the layers of an onion. Only the outermost layer, Orthrys, has any connection at all to the world outside. With that singular exception, each layer of Carceri connects only to the layers above and below them (if any). Each layer of Carceri is an endless expanse of massive planet-like orbs floating in an airy void. From a distance, these orbs seem to shine like moons, but the terrain of each orb is identical to that of its neighbors; all orbs of Orthrys are bogs and all of the orbs in Minethys are sand. In each later the orbs are fewer and further between, and the light one can see by is less.
Optional Rule: Prison Plane
One cannot easily leave Carceri. Magical attempts to leave via any means short of a Wish spell simply fail. Portals into the plane are one-way. Secret exits to the plane exist, but are hidden and guarded by traps and deadly monsters. While distributaries of the River Styx run into and through this plane, it rarely if ever runs out again. Escape attempts from Carceri, regardless of their intended destination, almost always land the escapee in the Hunting Grounds in Arvandor.
Orthrys is an endless bog. The River Styx runs through this plane and the water spills out throughout the marsh. The soil is always soft and moist, with the only stable, dry land being the rocky slopes that sweep up into rugged mountains populated by giants and titans. One of the few structures on this layer is the Basion of Last Hope, a fortress of black igneous rock quarried from the bodies of fallen elemental titans and mortared with their blood. It is nominally ruled by the stone titan King Karsos, but his guard of elemental giants only offer him token loyalty, and the fortress has become a shelter for the anarchists and revolutionaries who have been exiled here over the centuries. The light of Orthrys is just beginning to fade, as if it were an overcast day.
Optional Rule: The Muddy Waters of Orthrys
Movement through each foot of the sludge and much of Orthrys costs 2 feet of movement. In addition to this, much of the water here comes from the Styx, meaning that anyone who touches it is affected as if by a Feeblemind spell with a save DC of 15. Pits of quicksand (see DMG p.110) abound as well.
Cathrys is a realm of fetid jungles and fields of scarlet grass. The jungles reek of decay, and the plants ooze caustic digestive secretions. Those who are not properly protected are soon rendered down into fertilizer. The plains are more habitable; the greatest threat there are stands of razorvine weaving itself in among the native foliage, and sometimes heavy winds. A tall tree fort rises above the caustic fortress, made of native wood that is resistant to the caustic juices. Known as The Apothecary of Sin, the glabrezu Sinmaker dwells here, selling drugs, poisons, and acidic distillations it refines from jungle flora. Sinmaker is an exarch of Graz’zt and was imprisoned here by Pelor. A fallen angel named Uru Thalz has woven several of the living trees together to form a fortress called The Palace of Branches from which she rules a band of exile devils and rebel angels. The light of Cathrys is dying, like a sky just after sunset.
Optional Rule: The Jungles of Cathrys
Each foot of movement through the jungle costs 2 feet of speed. A creature must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw for each full minute it spends in the jungles of Cathrys. The creature takes 2(1d4) acid damage on a failed saving throw or half as much damage on a successful saving throw.
Denser parts of the jungle cost three feet of speed per foot traveled and deal 5(2d4) acid damage per minute, and extremely overgrown portions cost four feet of speed per foot traveled and deal 7(3d4) acid damage. Worse, some parts of the jungle are exceptionally caustic; replace the d4s with d6s or d8s.
Minethys is a realm of dry, coarse stand. Wind blows constantly across the dunes, stirring up dust devils and blowing stinging grit everywhere. Tornados and severe sandstorms are common on Minethys, forcing the inhabitants of this plane to dwell in miserable pits they dig out in the sand, which require constant maintenance. The only known sturdy structures in the realm are found in The Sand Tombs of Payratheon, the sand-choked ruins of a city that was cast here when its inhabitants somehow angered their god. Payratheon is now said to be home to all sorts of horrors — dust brides, “sand gorgons” who swim through the dust like water, and the petrified remnants of the town’s original inhabitants and previous interlopers, who reanimate as undead beings and claw their way out of the sand to attack more recent intruders. The light of Cathrys is faint, like a moonlit night.
Optional Rule: The Winds of Minethys
Every 1d10 minutes, the winds of Minethys kick up again, blowing a strong wind for 1d10 minutes. During this time, the winds and flying dirt impose disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight or hearingas well as on ranged weapon attacks. The wind extinguishes all open flames and disperses fog and other clouds. A flying creature in the wind must land at the end of its turn or fall.
Anyone not wearing protective gear must also make a DC 10 Dexterity save for each minute it is exposed to the winds. On a failure, the creature is blinded for the duration of the wind and for one minute thereafter. Once the character is protected from the wind, it may attempt a DC 10 Constitution saving throw at the end of each of its turns to end this effect on itself. Creatures adapted to desert environments have advantage on this saving throw. The winds disperse clouds and fog, and extinguish open flame.
Every hour, there is a 10% chance of one or more tornadoes manifesting in the area in addition to the aforementioned winds; each tornado lasts around 10(1d20) minutes, but often they have done their damage to the area and left long before they actually dissipate. Each takes the form of a 50’ wide column of wind moving across the landscape with a speed of 60. The tornado’s space and the area within 20 feet of it is heavily obscured by flying dust and debris. Whenever the tornado’s space crosses that of a creature or object, that target must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw. On a failure, the creature takes 16(3d10) bludgeoning damage and and is flung 2d20 feet in a random direction and then falls prone. On a successful saving throw, the creature only takes half damage, is not flung, and does not fall prone. Unattended objects are immediately flung, doing similar damage (or less or more, depending on how dangerous the object is).
If thrown against a solid object such as a wall or another person, the target takes an additional 3(1d6) bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it as thrown. If flung at another creature, that creature must make a DC 15 Dexterity save to avoid taking the same damage and being knocked prone.
Colothys is a realm composed entirely of jagged mountains and steep rocky ravines. Rickety rope bridges connect peaks and tunnels, forming the only reliable travel network throughout the layer. One of the more visible orbs of Colothys is overgrown by lush foliage. This growth, known as The Garden of Malice is all a single organism, and is all that remains of an exceptionally verdant Primordial who was imprisoned here. The Garden’s plants are animate and bloodthirsty, and the garden is now haunted by the Court of Blood, a coterie of eladrin vampires who were exiled here by Corellon Larethian. The light of Colothys is dim, like a starry night.
The Walls of Colothys
Scaling the sheer sides of the mountains and cliffs of Colothys is slow going. Without a Climb speed it takes 2 feet of speed to move 1 foot horizontally, and 3 feet of speed to move 1 foot vertically. Each turn of movement also requires a Strength (Athletics) check against a DC of 15.
Porphatys is a frigid, watery realm. The surface of each of Porphatys’ sandy orbs is covered by water mildly acidic, salty water. The water is deep for most swimmers, but remarkably shallow as oceans go; travel is accomplished either on broad, shallow-keeled barges or small gondolas that are at the mercy of foul weather. The lack of stable foundations makes construction rare and short-lived. as do occasional floods, storms, and tsunamis. The prisoners of this layer often stand atop waterlogged sandbars and reefs, begging passersby on any sort of stable craft to take them in. The kindly may offer succor, but the cautious remember that most of the prisoners of Porphatys were condemned for mutiny, treachery, and the basest of betrayals. Porphatys is frigid and what little land there is, is dusted by black, caustic snow, which is also a problem for many vessels. Floes of equally caustic black ice float across the water’s surface.
Abominations have overrun several of the orbs on this layer, clashing in epic battle whenever they meet. Because of the limitations on vision in this murky realm, these battles are not so much seen as heard and felt, filling the whole layer with an awful din, sometimes even shaking the orbs themselves.
An astral ship known as The White Caravel sails the seas of Porphatys, drifting from orb to orb without reason or rhyme, apparently piloting itself and picking up stranded souls and travelers brave or desperate enough to accept passage. This ghost-white ship is also known as the Ship of One Hundred because the lower deck and hold are filled with exactly 100 unadorned stone sarcophagi, the contents of which are completely unknown. The ship will frequently be found occupied by travelers or long-term passengers, all of whom “know better” than to open a sarcophagus. Other times, it will be completely empty; many refer to the mass-disappearance of such passengers as “purges,” and believe that they are provoked when someone dares to open one of the sarcophagi; others believe that once the ship reaches its quota, the denizens of those vaults emerge to feed, throwing whatever is left overboard.
Optional Rule: The Black Waters of Porphatys
Anyone caught out of doors in Porphatys must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw each hour or gain 1 level of exhaustion. Creatures who are adapted to cold-weather environments or who are dressed in cold-weather gear have advantage on this saving throw, and creatures with resistance or immunity to cold automatically succeed on this saving throw. The frigid waters of Porphatys are even worse; anyone immersed in the water for more than a number of minutes equal to its Constitution score must make a saving throw every minute thereafter instead of every hour, and most cold-weather gear provides no advantage.
Worse still the waters of Porphatys — the sea, the snow, the rain, the fog — are all mildly caustic. Anyone or anything exposed takes 3 (1d6) acid damage every 10 minutes from incidental exposure such as sea spray or a snow, or 3 (1d6) acid damage every minute from partial or full immersion such as swimming in the water or falling into a snowdrift. Anyone who has the misfortune of having their head or face immersed in the water must also make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw for each round of immersion or be blinded for 1d10 minutes. The creature can repeat this saving throw every minute to end this effect on itself; a lesser restoration
Optional Rule: Walking On Icebergs
Slippery ice is difficult terrain; each foot moved across the ice costs 2 feet of movement. When a creature moves on slippery ice for the first time in a turn, it must make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check or fall prone. On a small piece of ice such as an ice floe, or any size ice chunk on choppy water, a character will have disadvantage on this check, and falling prone may result in falling into the water.
Thin ice has a weight tolerance of 3d10x10 pounds per 10 ft square area. If the total weight on an area of thin ice exceeds its tolerance, the ice in that area breaks. All creatures in that area fall through. In the case of fragile ice floes, this usually means falling into the water.
Agathys is a lonely, dark realm. There is only one orb here, a massive sphere of black ice shot through with red streaks. There is no light in Agathys. The cavernous depths of this moon-sized orb are the wombs in which the Abomination war-machines are birthed. They emerge on this realm and often tear into one another, littering the surface with obscene corpses and dismembered pieces, all of which are quickly covered over by the ice. Those who prevail (or at least survive) eventually find some method of travel to Porphatys, and from there they begin their eternal effort to claw their way into the multiverse, a journey which typically ends at the Hunting Grounds of Arvandor if not before.
Optional Rule: The Ice of Agathys
Anyone caught out of doors in Agathys must make a DC 20 Constitution saving throw each hour or gain 1 level of exhaustion and takes 3(1d6) cold damage. Creatures who are adapted to cold-weather environments or who are dressed in cold-weather gear have advantage on this saving throw, and creatures with resistance or immunity to cold automatically succeed on this saving throw.
Slippery ice is difficult terrain; each foot moved across the ice costs 2 feet of movement. When a creature moves on slippery ice for the first time in a turn, it must make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check or fall prone. Thin ice has a weight tolerance of 3d10x10 pounds per 10 ft square area. If the total weight on an area of thin ice exceeds its tolerance, the ice in that area breaks. All creatures in that area fall through.
The Watchtowers: the Border Islands of Carceri
Carceri is home to no true divinities, and so no outsiders appear on the frigid, marshy motes of earth and ice that drift through the color sea of the Red Prison. But it still bustles with activity. Fortified towers and temples to every known god (as well as some forgotten) are erected on the planar real estate surrounding Carceri. Warrior angels fly in formation over these fortresses, and the servants of every known divinity, from exalted dragons of both Bahamut and Tiamat, as well as the Raven Queen’s “sorrowsworn” and some devils and genies, all maintain defensive formations around Carceri. Many of these guardians warn travelers away from the plane (though some of the less friendly ones simply attack on sight) but while they try to keep as many travelers as possible from entering Carceri, their real purpose is to keep things from getting out.
The nightmare scenario is that the abominations begin to spawn more rapidly than they can destroy one another — or worse, begin to organize — and begin taking over layer after layer, eventually growing powerful or cunning enough to circumvent Carceri’s many defenses and and boiling out of the Sea of Rust to plague all of the Planes Above.