Adventure Hooks: It Came From the Abyss!

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 1, 2014

a-to-z-2014-aIn D&D the Abyss is the place where Demons dwell. Some of the most fearsome, powerful, and iconic monsters in D&D call the Abyss home – Orcus, Demogorgon, and Lolth, for example (coincidentally all depicted on the covers of the 4e Monster Manuals). But for every named entity who’s managed to carve out a piece of the Abyss for themselves there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lesser beings that make up the vast majority of denizens.

Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. This year we’ve decided that every article will provide our readers with new adventure hooks. Today’s “A” article features adventure hooks that tie in to the Abyss.

Traditionally all Demons in D&D originate from somewhere in the Abyss. Some are lowly 1 hit point minions while others, like Balors and Meriliths, are among the toughest epic level monsters PCs will ever face. When a DM needs a monster or two to fill out an encounter he can easily find a monster of suitable power from the Abyss to challenge the PCs, regardless of what level they happen to be. Finding a suitable creature from the Abyss isn’t usually difficult; but explaining how it got in front of the heroes and why it’s there when they encounter it can be hard.

When a creature from the Abyss becomes a part of any campaign or random encounter, a good adventure hook can help the DM either provide a reason for the creature’s appearance or skirt the question entirely.

It Came From the Abyss!

  1. A PC finds an intelligent magical item. The item takes a liking to the PC and agrees to bestow its magic upon him (initially in the form of an enchantment bonus +1, +2, etc.). As the PCs uses the item he continues to receive magical powers at opportune times including healing, detecting invisible creatures, bypassing a trap, etc. During a critical point in a combat encounter when the PC tries to call upon a special power the item asks the PCs to perform a service in exchange for the benefit. If the PC refuses, the beneficial magic stops and the equivalent negative enchantment comes into effect (-1, -2, etc.). As soon as the PC agrees the item returns to its beneficial state.

[The item was forged in the Abyss and a Demon was trapped inside it. If the PC agrees to do what the Demon asks the oath is binding. When the PC performs the task, the Demon is freed. In exchange for granting the Demon its freedom it won’t attack the PC who helped it; however it has no such qualms about attacking the rest of the party, especially if they attack first. Should the helpful PC attack the Demon it will fight back.]

  1. When the party arrives in a small village they learn that three people have recently gone missing. Evidence suggests they wandered into the nearby woods before vanishing. Locals explain that similar disappearances have happened in other nearby communities too. The town’s Bard, a staple of the community for her whole life, recently returned from one of the other villages and confirms the rumours.

[The Bard was dominated by a Demon over a year ago when she tried casting spells beyond her abilities and inadvertently summoned the fiend. Since then the Demon has used the Bard as a puppet. During performances the Bard hypnotizes or charms people in the audience so they’ll wander off later that night. The hungry Demon ambushes anyone wandering alone in the woods. The Bard has no memory of the Demon or any unscrupulous acts it’s made her do. She’s actually very concerned and tries to help the party solve the mystery.]

  1. A scholar with a solid reputation issues a test of knowledge that none of his current students can solve. Believing that fresh minds may bring unorthodox and unanticipated methods for solving problems to this test, the scholar has offered a generous reward for a solution. The test involves completing a maze; but it’s not an ordinary maze. Prospective problem solvers are magically transported into a real-life version of the maze for brief periods as they try to find their way through it. So far none have found the exit.

[The scholar is transporting unknowing participants into the Endless Maze of Baphomet on the Abyss and mapping their progress. He’s looking for a secret exit that will allow him to pilfer treasures from the maze without a trace. So far no one has run into any creatures but the scholar knows it’s just a matter of time.]

  1. An aspiring entrepreneur recently resolved his town’s garbage problem. He agreed to collect and remove all of the town’s trash at a fraction of the cost they expected they’d have to pay. In a few short months the town has become cleaner than it’s ever been. Despite the entrepreneur’s obvious lack of magical ability, the townsfolk believe he’s destroying the garbage magically since he never carts anything away.

[The entrepreneur found a magical mirror in an old building. By blind luck he opened a portal to an uninhabited section of the Abyss (not that he realizes that’s where it leads). He’s been dumping all the trash there. Recently a garrison of Abyssal troops found the trash heap and will soon discover the portal.]

  1. The PCs are hired to deal with a tribe of Giants who attacked the town one too many times. They Giants dwell in a small fort in the mountains. When the PCs arrive they do not face any resistance. As they wander the first level of the fort they encounter no Giants, but evidence suggests at least 20 live there. The PCs hear sounds coming behind a door in the lower level. The door is barred from the inside. If they try to communicate through the door the only responses they hear are “Help” and “Run.”

[The Giants were preparing to go to war with another tribe. They’ve been pillaging the nearby towns to gather the supplies they needed and to get battle-ready for the fight to come. The tribe was only days away from leaving when the Shaman decided to beef up their ranks by summoning warrior demons from the Abyss to assist them. The first demon summoned was a general who easily broke through the Shaman’s protective wards. The general killed the Shaman and then summoned more of his elite troops. Most of the Giants were slaughtered; the rest barricaded themselves in the basement. The Demon general and his troops continue hunting in the nearby countryside and may return at any moment.]

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1 Tamara Grantham April 1, 2014 at 11:44 am

This is all great research for my book, about a therapist who counsels people who’ve traveled to Fairy World. Some of their symptoms include a liking for games such as these. While I don’t play these types of games, I still find them fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

2 Justin April 1, 2014 at 12:24 pm

These are some cool hooks. I remember falling in love with the Abyss when I first read the Planescape boxed set back when I started playing D&D.

3 Timothy Brannan April 1, 2014 at 2:28 pm

The Abyss. The ultimate in mega-dungeons!

Great post, looking forward to more.

Timothy S. Brannan
The Other Side, April Blog Challenge: The A to Z of Witches

4 Brian Criswell April 1, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Now that we are into the real titles for the blog posts, I am liking the bite that these have, and they provide good fodder for a future campaign.

5 Ryan April 2, 2014 at 2:54 pm

These are A for amazing! I love the hooks, and can’t wait for an entire month filled with them!! My players think I’m diabolical….but these are truly stupendous. Keep up the good work! 🙂

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