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The Abyssal Plane of Tempest
Posted on Thu, July 01, 2004 by Farcluun
Kirt writes "Looking for a little sand, sun, and surf? The Abyssal Plane of Tempest is NOT the place for a beach vacation!

The Abyssal Plane of Tempest
By: Kirt
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author. Tempest

Few intentionally travel to Tempest, for this layer of the Abyss has many ways in but only one way out. All gates and portals to Tempest from other abyssal planes act in one direction only. Tempest is a plane of cast-a-ways [1], with most creatures marooned and stranded there until they die.

Effects on magic are typical for an abyssal plane, with summoning magic ineffective, divanation magic not completely accurate, and evocative and alteration magic likely to produce unexpected effects. A condition particular to the plane is that no magic involving flight, levitation, or telekinesis is possible. In general, creatures are bound to the sand islands unless they can travel on or under the water. Mechanical (winged) flight is possible for creatures that fly naturally, even fantastic creatures such as vrocks and dragons, but purely magical flight (e.g., djinn, flying carpets) is not.

The plane itself is a vast, shallow ocean with extensive coral reefs. The water and air are tropical in warmth throughout the plane, but there are transient patches of polar cold and ice. These patches are not fixed in location, but drift slowly about the plane. There is no sun, moon, or stars, but the sky has cycles of “day” and “night” that last 2d12 hours each. The lack of heavenly bodies makes navigation nearly impossible, and no maps of the plane are known to exist. Those who bring a compass will find that the plane also lacks a magnetic field.

There is no tide, but the ocean’s surface is in constant motion, and wave swells of two to five feet are typical. These waves break and crash on the reefs continuously, and the roar of the surf is omnipresent in the plane, even under the water where it is a muffled groan. If a creature spends more than 24 hours on the plane, this roar becomes distracting and partially deafening, making all spells with a verbal component at -15% chance to succeed. Those who manage to escape from the plane find that this roaring, and its effects, persist in their heads for about twice as long as they spent on the plane itself.

The constant wave action slowly grinds down the coral reefs, so that many sand bars and even small sand islands lie on high points, particularly when protected by atolls. However, there is no terrestrial life (plant or animal) native to the plane, no soil, and no fresh water. There are no clouds and no true rain.

Below the ocean’s surface life abounds. The colorful and varied corals and reef fishes are spectacular, beautiful even by prime planar standards and certainly unexpected in an abyssal plane. Most of the fishes have spines or quills, like the scorpion fish of Oerth. The flesh of all the sea life is poisonous to any prime plane native, but apparently edible to lower planar creatures. Brightly colored anemones and urchins are also abundant. They are equally inedible.

Few demons are found on the plane, mostly exiles and those in hiding. There are a fair number of piscodaemons. Whether they actually favor the plane, or are the form of life that can survive there the longest after being stranded, is unknown. Some of the larger sand-islands have native sea hags, who live in huts fashioned from thousands of interlaced fish bones.

Beneath the waves he plane is dominated by ixitxachitl, which are everywhere in small groups, living in caves in the coral. High HD individuals are twice as common in these groups as on the prime plane, except for the vampiric types. These are only encountered singly, and are avoided by the normal ixitxachitl, for they feed primarily on their own kind.

Somewhere on the plane is a great underwater coral palace. There dwells a demonic, vampiric, ixitxachitl with 20 HD and the powers of a 15th level priestess, 10th level water elementalist, and demon lord on its home plane. She is the de facto ruler of the plane and may be the power who grants spells to prime planar ixitxachitl clerics. However, she is largely unconcerned with events beyond her immediate hunting area, and she usually deals with visitors to the plane by eating them only if they get too close. It is unknown whether she can affect the structure or nature of the plane, but she has never been recorded to do so.

In her palace also live her six consorts (all 10 HD ixitxachitl with the abilities of 10th level priests) and her innumerable brood. The labyrinthine passageways of the palace are filled with eggs. When eggs hatch, the young must find their way out of the palace before they are found and eaten by their mother. The palace creeps slowly through the plane, much like the regions of polar coldness.

Deep valleys free of reefs occupy vast stretches of the plane. There the water is hundreds or even thousands of feet deep. These seas hold shipwrecks of apparently prime-planar origin, but of many different worlds and times, from reed rafts to steel oceanliners, huskcraft to polysynth cruisers, and dugout catamarans to plasma destroyers. Many of these ships are merchant vessels with valuable treasures. Those from exotic worlds have strange goods and, sometimes, powerful weapons. Almost all of these vessels are inhabited by crews of Drowned Ones [2] and ruled by masters like dragon turtles, kraken, and aquatic vampire lords. The Drowned Ones have retained their sea-craftiness in their undeath, and are capable sailors. When the chaotic shiftings of the plane raise these depths to the surface, the Drowned Ones work to repair their ships. One can find damaged, but repaired and seaworthy vessels sailing the deeper seas of the plane. Visitors are cautioned not to attract the attention of these ships in hope of rescue, for they are invariably crewed by these undead.

The plane does not support bacterial or fungal life, so there is no rot or decay [3]. Drowned Ones and their ships may be hundreds or even thousands of years old, with the passage of time marked only by the abrasion of the waves.

Recent arrivals to the plane find it surprisingly unhostile for an abyssal locale, and falsely assume that their primary concern is preserving their supply of food and fresh water while they search for sunken treasure or an exit. In actuality, the entire plane is hostile to prime planar life, but in a way that builds slowly before it strikes. 2d4 days after any sentient prime-planar native arrives, it becomes the focus of the plane’s attention. Or, possibly, the plane knew of its arrival from the first moment, but required 2d4 days to establish a link back to its home plane (see below). In any event, over the next several hours the waves in a half-mile radius of the visitor will build to a storm surge of 5-10 feet. Native dwellers of the plane will leave the area soon after this and avoid the visitor(s). A driving “rain” will form, but it is a salt spray tossed up from the sea and driven by unnatural winds. Visibility is reduced to twenty feet or so, and first-time visitors will likely be unprepared by the next manifestation of the fury of the plane.

D4 hours after the start of the storm, a tidal wave of fully 50 feet high will swell from the water, break, and crash down on the visitor and all nearby. This will do 3d4 of crushing and drowning damage [4] to creatures in the open ocean, or 5d4 to these near reefs, land, ships, or any other large solid objects against which they can be dashed. This wave will be followed in 2d6 minutes by a wave of 100 feet (damage 5d4 / 10d4), and finally 2d4 minutes later by a towering wall of water of 200 feet (damage 10d4 / 20d4). After the last wave, the storm will slowly abate. If any sentient prime planar creature remains alive, however, the storm will re-form and strike again in 2d12 hours. This will continue until the visitors have been killed or have left the plane.

Prime planar sentients who are killed by the storm (or in any other way while on the plane) immediately lose their soul or spirit. Their body is animated as a Drowned One in d4 hours. If a being is killed by wave damage, all possessions must save vs. crushing blow or be destroyed. Any unsecured possessions (items in hand, necklaces, etc.), are automatically lost to the depths.

It is rumored that the souls and spirits of those slain on the plane are transported to the palace of the ixitxachitl queen. There they become tiny phosphorescent shrimp trapped inside glass sponges [5]. Recovering the shrimp and placing it in the mouth of its former body is said to allow raise dead or resurrection to function if cast. How comrades of the deceased are supposed to find the palace, avoid or overcome the queen and her consorts, navigate the maze of tunnels, and find the correct shrimp among the thousands of imprisoned souls is unknown. For that matter, how they are supposed to control the animated body without damaging it is also unclear, though a Hold Undead spell or physical restraint would suffice.

While the storm is the most dangerous thing visitors are likely to face, it is their only means of egress from the plane. As the storm gathers, it is forming a connection between Tempest and the prime planar world of the visitor. The visitor is the focus of this effect. In the lull between the second and third wave, a two-way gate opens between Tempest and the prime plane. The other end of the gate is always located in the center of a terrible storm on some ocean of that world. Whether Tempest is actually the cause of that storm or merely uses it as a focus is unknown. On Tempest, the gate is located in the air, about 250 feet above sea level, or 50 feet over the crest of the last wave. The gate is huge and easy to pass through, appearing as a pulsing blue-green sphere shot through with veins of red lightning. Given the low visibility in the storm, however, it cannot be seen until observers are practically on top of it. The gate opens one minute after the second wave strikes and lasts until 2d10 minutes after the third wave. During the time that the gate is open magic can link to the prime plane, so spells not normally allowed in the Abyss or on Tempest will function within 500 feet of the gate. This will allow devices of flying to function temporarily and to transport their owners to the gate, although they will likely be unaware of this.

Emerging on the other side of the gate, escapees will appear at the surface of the water in a storm-swept ocean. They are 90% likely to see a ship near them foundering in the storm, then see it drawn into the gate. These ships emerge in Tempest and plummet the 250 feet into the ocean there, usually sinking immediately. While every storm on Tempest connects it briefly to the prime, it seems like the abyssal plane only pulls in a ship after creatures have actually escaped out the gate. Thus, for every group of prime planar natives that manage to leave Tempest, the plane claims another ship full of victims. Those who make it through the gate have been returned to their home world, but they still must survive the natural storm and may be hundreds or thousands of miles from shore, anywhere in their world.

Visitors to Tempest who don’t know the secret to escape may try to avoid the storms. It is possible to fly above the storm, but remember that only mechanical flight is possible. The winds and spray from the storm extend to 500 feet above ocean level. Flying creatures in this range are buffeted and blinded by winds and spray. Gaining altitude is twice as difficult in the storm and animals and animal-powered craft must make a Fortitude save (DC 10) each turn, with failure indicating a crash [6]. Above the storm, flight is unhindered, but the storm center will move with the visitor until it abates. The sky extends without limit, though it rapidly loses oxygen above 5000 feet

A surer way to avoid the storm is to go below it in deep water. Down to 50 feet there is no protection, as the upwelling of each wave will pull anything unsecured up and into the wave. From 50 feet to a depth equal to the height of each wave, the upwelling will pull things up at a rate of 30 feet per round, independent of their own motion. At depths below the height of each wave, the upwelling is notable but not significant.

Characters who enter the plane without prior knowledge are unlikely to discover by themselves how to leave. The secret of egress may be sold to them by a sea hag in exchange for magic items or gems. The sea hag may also attempt to sell them a necklace of adaptation, cube of force, or other magical item to protect them from the storm. Such items are invariably fakes.

More than one passenger on the Ship of Fools has reported passing through Tempest on the voyage. Apparently the Master Fool uses the plane as a source of Drowned Ones to crew his ship. While the Ship sometimes stops at large islands and allows passengers to frolic on the beach, they are strongly advised to return to the Ship before it sails off. To leave Tempest, the Ship reportedly sails straight up the third wave of a storm, and then continues another 50 feet in the air to pass through the gate.


[1] In fact, it is inspired by the movie Castaway. Of course, it is a more violent place, but I wanted the overwhelming feeling to be one of abandonment and hopelessness rather than physical threat. There should be at least one Lower Plane for every negative emotion or sentiment.

The other inspiration for this work is the running forum post about abyssal planes. My thanks go all those who posted their ideas there. Tempest started as a post for that forum, but kept growing until I decided to submit it as an article.

[2] Also known as Sea Zombies. See Greyhawk Adventures Hardcover, pp. 33, 34. The Drowned Ones of this plane do not have any connection with Nerull, but seem to be animated by the plane itself.

[3] Drowned Ones on Tempest do not produce the debilitating stench of putrid decay that they do on the prime.

[4] Creatures who do not have to breathe treat any 4’s rolled for damage as 3’s.

[5] Real world biology fact: Glass sponges, or hyaline sponges, are living sponges that have their spicules made from silicon dioxide rather than the usual calcium carbonate. These spicules form a mesh that bars passage to large creatures but allows tiny creatures in or out. Some species of shrimp enter the sponges for protection when they are small but grow so large that they cannot leave. These shrimp are not phosphorescent, but neither are they captured souls.

[6] In 1E or 2E, Save vs. Death Ray.
"
 
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Re: The Abyssal Plane of Tempest (Score: 1)
by IvorMac on Tue, July 06, 2004
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I like this abyssal plane. It is quite interesting and different. I am planning a water based plane in may campaign and this gives me some interesting perspectives to take into consideration. I think I might throw some of players into the Tempest just for fun.



Re: The Abyssal Plane of Tempest (Score: 1)
by cwslyclgh on Thu, July 08, 2004
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awesome abyssal layer Kirt! great job. Tempest is a plane to be avioded to be sure... I like the link to burmuda triangle type ship vaniushing as well. great job.



Re: The Abyssal Plane of Tempest (Score: 1)
by greyshadow on Sat, July 17, 2004
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Well done Kirt. This is an interesting change of pace for a plane of the Abyss. I think it will surprise quite a few players.




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