The Gray Waste of Hades is an Outer Plane in the Great Wheel cosmology model. Home of the daemons, it is located at the midpoint of the Lower Planes, a plane of evil balanced between Law and Chaos. The three layers of Hades are called glooms for good reason; they are realms devoid of emotion, hope, and peace. Gray land and gray sky throughout, with no sun, moon or seasons to break the monotony. Any color other than shades of gray would be obvious against the background but would fade to gray in a week or two. And like bright colors, beings would begin to fade also. At first they would feel the drain of emotions leaving only sadness, ennui, and defeatism. In a tenday or two they would be trapped in Hades and their existence would begin to fade until finally they became larvae.
Hades is a unique plane, as described by the Great Wheel cosmology model, because it is not only joined to adjacent planes in the Great Wheel, it also holds the foundation of Mount Olympus and the roots of Yggdrasil the World Ash. These two planar artifacts connected Hades to Olympus, in the first layer of Arborea, and Ysgard respectively, allowing travel between Hades, the Upper planes, and Alternate Prime Material Planes without going through the Astral Plane (much like the World Tree in the Faeruninan cosmology).
- The first layer of Hades is Oinos, a land of disease with stunted and withered plants amid gray rocky terrain. The river Styx flows through this layer and there are portals to Tarterus, Gehenna, and the Concordant Opposition that look like huge spinning metal coins, visible for miles and often guarded by iron fortresses. Anyone walking this land or floating on the river Styx had a chance of contracting a major disease.
- Compared to Oinos, the terrain in Niflheim, the second layer, is rougher featuring foothills with cooler temperatures, healthier vegetation and no pervasive disease. Everything is cloaked in a dreary, misty fog, limiting vision to about a hundred feet. Yggdrasil’s roots reached Niflheim, connecting it to Asgard in Gladsheim.
- Pluton, the lowest level of Hades contained the base of Mount Olympus, a direct conduit through the Astral Plane to the plane of Arborea. The gray motif continued throughout this layer but most of the vegetation was black willow trees and dry, dying poplars.
“Woe to you, wicked souls! Do not hope to ever see Paradise!”
For your campaign
Passing through Hades is very challenging to most adventurers; surviving it can a life-changing experience. Its bleakness can take a permanent toll in any soul, but in clerics it can also affect their faith. When this happens, cleric can effectively change their domain choice.
New divine domain variant: Planar Death
The Planar Death domain works just as the Death Domain in the DungeonMaster’s Guide (p.96) with the following exceptions:
- Bonus Proficiency: You algo gain proficiency with the scythe. The scythe deals 2d4 slashing, weights 4 lb. and has the heavy and two-handed properties.
- Planar Anchor: When casting plane shift, you don’t need a material component to select Hades as your destination. If you use it against a non-willing target, it also imposes on it a level of exhaustion.
- Improved Reaper: Starting at 17th level, when you deal necrotic damage with a spell, you can instead have it deal half the damage and a level of exhaustion. If the spell already imposes a level of exhaustion, it doesn’t impose an additional one.
Keep in mind that dying in Hades turns the subject into larvae, and from that point they can’t leave the plane anymore.
Have you rescued a soul in despair before, ust as Orpheus did? Were you successful? As a DM, did you create special rules for such a bleak challenge? Tell us everything!