Sunday 29 March 2020

Encounters in the Iron City of Dis

Dis is the capital of the Layer of the Same Name in Baator, which is better known as the Nine Hells. It's become entangled across various settings, but the concept is the same: a very big, very horrible city in the depths of Hell. 

I always feel like Dis has ended up as being just 'the part of Baator you can visit', which, i feel, defeats the point. No part of Baator should be the 'part you can visit.' 

Dis has a great setup for paranoia and sort of 'social surveillance horror'. Have Imps watch the party wherever they go. Street corners are plastered with posters calling for the invasion of their home plane. Shady merchants greet them by name, and exact age, in shops they've never been to. Baatezu list (notorious) sins they've committed as a form of greeting. 

So, here's 1d8 Encounters to spring on your players as they stalk the streets of the Iron City:

1.     One of Dispater's Courier Imps, flying along as if in a hurry. If the Imp fails to deliver its message, the Infernal war machine will suffer a setback: perhaps pointless (odds on a d6) or perhaps crippling (evens on a d6). If you choose to interrupt the Imp on its way, you will strike a blow for goodness in the multiverse - but get yourself in trouble at the same time.

2.     An Osyluth (Bone Devil). It's swooping low over the rooftops, looking for fools to pressgang into the Blood War. This particular Osyluth has a shameful addiction: it likes to help people. Every so often, for the perverse thrill of it. The Osyluth might attempt to exercise its 'vice' with the party, but if they bring attention to this bizarre hobby it will become aggressive. 

3.     First, a single hot, orange droplet. A Hamatula (Barbed Devil) looks up to the sky and grumbles. Tieflings run for cover, and all the tormented souls begin to moan in horror, in a unified chorus that can be heard all across this district of Dis. Above, the grey-black clouds glow with a baleful orange light. 1d6 Rounds later, it begins to rain molten iron. 

Any character who's in the open takes 4d6 Fire Damage a round. Combine this with fights or other encounters to really give a sense that Dis is inimical to mortal life.  

4.     The party wander through Dis' shifting streets onto the Street of Small Gods, which contains myriad temples to hundreds of evil godlings. The clergy here are protected somewhat from the predations of the Baatezu. 

 Here, the party might find a religiously motivated street-brawl. (have two Gods with opposing portfolios, perhaps Violence and Subterfuge. Make the Gods and the Clergy like, comically, laughably evil.) 

 They might find Clergy willing to work against the Baatezu, in order to subvert the hated Asmodeus and ensure their own particular godling's ascension.

 They just might find a secret temple to a god of good, and its beleaguered cleric. But are they truly uncorrupt..? 

5.     A group of Soul-Shells (Baatorian Petitioners, sent here for acts the Gods judged as sinful) are undergoing the painful process of being converted into Lemures, larval proto-Baatezu. While these people were probably the worst of tyrants, assassins and serial decievers in life, do they deserve this horrible fate? Which is the lesser of two evils? Besides, if the party rescue them without enraging the authorities, they might make good hirelings. 

6.     A bridge over a canal of molten iron, occupied by a small group of off-duty Baatezu. There's five of them, each from a different kind of Baatezu, and they're demanding exorbitant 'official tolls' from travellers. Their secret trap is that the bridge can be opened, dunking everyone on it into the molten iron. The baatezu, immune to the effects of heat, will be unharmed, but unless the people they're harassing are fleet of foot, they may find themselves incinerated. 

    The bridge's trap can be detected with a Perception Check of medium difficulty, or simply described to a player with a high Passive Perception. 

7.     Two Cornugons (Horned Devils), powerful foes that are not to be trifled with, escorting a Paladin of a good deity to some grim fate: presumably possession, torture, or, if the Devils are feeling merciful, execution. Will your players let this good soul walk to their doom, to avoid trouble with the authorities? 

8.     Hand two of your players a note saying 'You hear a whisper in your mind: One of your companions is not who they seem'. Make sure they don't tell anyone, unless it's in character. If your players enjoy RP, this will breed immediate suspicion and paranoia. Of course, nothing is wrong, everyone is themselves. It's just a routine psychic broadcast. 


  1. Love this. "The City of Iron" also gives me ideas of an Art Deco Hell.

    1. Art Deco hell is actually a great aesthetic idea!

  2. I absolutely love the presentation of Dis as "surveillance horror" - it's rare for a game to have the PCs constantly, unavoidably *observed*, but I think it would cause lots of really interesting changes in player behavior.