"Hell" is the general name for a large set of connected domains that form the infernal panoply. At Hell’s heart burns the Hellfire Font, a mystic artifact responsible for keeping the fires of Hell burning. The infernal world is then separated into nine major provinces (and numerous smaller and insignificant provinces and sub-provinces), each of which is under the control of a separate ruler or lord. These rulers in turn owe their allegiance to an overlord called the “First Seated of the Infernal Dominion” that holds the title Dominus (or Domina, if female). Above them all is the Grand Overlord of the Nine Hells.
The first circle of Hell was also the "topmost" because Astral travelers would emerge from color pools on this layer and reach the next circle required descending to the lower depths to breach a barrier to Dis. This layer is also connected by portal to Acheron, Gehenna
, and Concordant Opposition. Travelers on the Astral Sea who did not follow the Styx likely found themselves falling out of the sky above Avernus to a fiery death.
By all accounts, Avernus was a desolate wasteland with rocky terrain, sparse, twisted vegetation, concealed snake pits, caves and warrens, volcanoes, and rivers of magma. The sky was starless, full of choking smoke, and glowed a dark red due to balls of flammable gas that floated about or streaked across the atmosphere, randomly exploding as a fireball.
Avernus is where souls await damnation and entry into the layers. A portion of Purgatory
Along a tendril of the river Styx that leads to Acheron and the realm of Tirithor, is Balgashang. Agrik typically dwells in the great fortress along the river among his attendant V’hir
. Somewhere within the castle is Ak-Syt, the dreaded chamber of tortures. The Demon Pameshlu the Insatiable lives here.
The second circle of Hell, when described as its own layer, was a flat barren plane containing little more than black, stagnant rivers, stretching for thousands of miles/kilometers until it reached some rolling hills. The sky was a cloudy dull green shot through with lightning. In the center of this plane rose the Iron City of Dis, several miles in height and hundreds of miles wide. The foul rivers radiated from a moat big enough to be called a lake surrounding the Iron City. The walls of the buildings and the stones of the streets glowed the dull red of hot iron; more than brief skin contact resulted in severe burns. Prisoners of war, tormented underlings, criminals, and kidnap victims were kept in underground dungeons where their wails of woe could be heard filtering up through small vents in the iron walls. Above it all rose the Iron Tower where Dispater sat and schemed, untouchable.
Found here in the Iron City is Err, the home to the theological ministries that guide Hell.
Minauros as a layer was described as an endless bog of vile pollution, decaying bodies, and rotting marsh, repeatedly drenched by rain, sleet, and hail storms. The soggy, bone-strewn, disease-ridden swampland made movement very difficult and was only broken occasionally by serpentine ridges of volcanic rock. Nameless creatures even the devils feared inhabited the swamp. Minauros as a realm was depicted as a broad but low-vaulted cavern connected to Dis. An oily water percolated through the roof of the cave and rained down upon swamps, deserts of mud and oozing black soil, pockmarked by bubbling fumaroles and mud geysers.
Minauros was also the name of the city built of black stone by Mammon on the treacherous surface of this place. Only the ceaseless efforts of thousands of minions and slaves prevent the city from sinking and being consumed by the bog. The city of Jangling Hiter, also known as the City of Chains, hung by massive links of chain above the noisome fen and was ruled by kytons.
Deep below Minauros is Hell’s prison, for those inhabitants that break Hell’s own laws or who are deemed simply too dangerous to wander the face of damnation “free”.
The fourth circle was the Hell that most resembled the stereotype of a fiery world of eternal damnation, filled with active volcanoes, rivers of liquid fire, molten rock, ash hills, smoking pits, unbearable heat, all wracked by tremors and earthquakes. Even the air seemed aflame and thus Phlegethos was considered to be fire-dominant. The city of Abriymoch was the seat of power in this realm, built of hardened magma, obsidian, and crystal in the caldera of an extinct volcano which provided visitors some protection from the elemental environment found throughout the rest of the plane.
Within the beautiful city of Abriymoch is Hell’s cultural and propaganda ministries.
The complete opposite of Phlegethos, Stygia is a bottomless ocean covered by an ice sheet up to three miles thick The river Styx cuts across the ice forming a channel. A few floating islands were the only non-frozen ground in Stygia, their peaks wreathed in lightning arcing from the coal-black sky. Where lightning struck, a strange phenomenon called "cold fire" erupted: white flames of extreme cold that "burned" for a short time and then disappeared without a trace. The great city of Tantlin was built upon one of these islands, in the curve of the swampy Styx, or perhaps on a giant ice floe. Due to the proximity of the Styx, Tantlin was a cross-planar trading post for those brave enough to attempt navigating the treacherous river.
Deep under the ice is said to be Hell's militaries waiting to be called upon, frozen until needed.
Malbolge is a gargantuan tumble of angular black stone blocks, each block ranging in size from a small city to a large metropolis, that formed a pile hundreds of miles thick. The randomly tilted and ill-fitting blocks were honeycombed with angular passages and caverns causing non-flying travelers to frequently need mountaineering skills and risk avalanches. Stinking clouds of vapor rise up from the depths and light the sky with the color of blood, causing cosmologists to speculate that the blocks of Malbolge may have rested on an infinite sea of lava. Corroborating reports have been heard of flammable materials left on the ground spontaneously combusting. Most habitations in Malbolge were copper-clad fortresses built from black stone.
A fortress in a sea of lava housing Hell’s various ministerial and administrative headquarters.
The seventh circle is Hell described as having vapor-polluted skies similar to Malbolge but the surface was solid. The seventh Hell is filled with ruins of old cities, stagnant rivers, exhausted and abandoned quarries and strip mines, stone aqueducts and lava canals, decaying fortresses, swarms of biting flies, and black pools of ichor that erupted from the ground. The Lord of the Seventh was never satisfied with the construction of his capital and repeatedly built and abandoned city after city. The largest and most beautiful was Malagard, a sprawling metropolis/palace/fortress/arcology with myriad black towers linked by a tangled web of bridges and walkways. Malagard was rumored to contain a million rooms and to cap an equally complex dungeon labyrinth.
Within each city stood Gull, the marketplace of Hell, the domain’s mercantile center.
Cania is a bitterly cold-dominant realm of solid ice mountains, titanic, unnaturally fast-moving glaciers, and nearly continuous snowfall that made Stygia seem balmy by comparison. Unprotected travelers are exposed to temperatures of -60 F but on the positive side there were few creatures that hunted in the icy wastes. The great citadel Mephistar resides here, constructed of iron. The tower has a heated, luxurious interior and sat atop a gargantuan glacier called Nargus whose speed and movement were under the control of Mephistopheles himself.
An iron tower held within which is what passes for Hell’s industrial sector.
The ninth and deepest Hell was a land of extremes: regions cold as Cania, volcanoes like Phlegethos, a lake of ice, a flaming forest, sheer cliffs, firewinds, and a citadel even larger than Khin-Oin in Hades. It is said that the citadel, Malsheem, could hold millions of devils within its mountainous edifice, from the lowest warrens deep in the trench to the soaring spires miles above the tortured plane. A progression of rifts, pits, and chasms lead down and down, forming a vertical maze hundreds of miles deep that contains great cities, fiendish armies, and the mighty fortress of the Overlord Asmodeus.
The true authority and administrator of hell is seated in Pandemonia, the seat of Hell’s throne and home to the ruling caste of demons. All of these creatures owe allegiance to Asmodeus whom gives force to the essence of the Hells.
Life in the Hells
There is a dimensional waste called the Selvage, which is the buffer between the provinces of Hell. The Selvage resists and hinders the use of magic.
All of the denizens of Hell are loosely referred to as demons, but not all demons are equal. The inhabitants of Hell are rigidly stratified into a brutal hierarchy that begins with the First Seated, then the Archfiends beneath the First Seated that either rule a province or perform some other important function or are simply too powerful in their own right to bow to any lesser demons. Below them are the Fiends, the middle management so to speak, who do the actual managing and administrative work, as well as perform the important missions for the Archfiends. Next are the demons, the countless numbers that swell the common crowds in Hell. The lowest rung on the ladder is filled by the damned, the souls condemned over the millennia to suffer for their sins in the fires of hell—the damned rank so low that the raw materials of Hell from which everything is built or constructed are actually rendered from their essences. Answering directly to the ruling caste are a number of groups filled by Demons and Fiends whose functions support the everyday running of the domain: the Necro-Mages who monitor magical activity in Hell, the Exegesis Guild that controls the Renderers (machines that transform the damned into building material) and Forges (mechanical constructs that patrol Hell looking for anything that doesn’t belong), and the Howlers and Rhymers (the elite of Hell’s enforcers and soldiers).
Blaze and her brother Lord Satanus, once the rulers of the province of Purgatory, eventually led a rebellion against Neron’s rule, upsetting the delicate balance of Hell’s (truly) byzantine power structure. This culminated in Lord Satanus taking Neron’s throne only to have a last-minute betrayal by Blaze result in her becoming the Domina, the new First Seated of the Infernal Dominion.