Warmth is the first to go. The traveller is overcome by a chill; not the bone-freezing cold of a winter wind, but the sickening quivering cold that presages the onset of illness. Then, color is leeched from the traveller’s perceptions; everything is reduced to shades of black and grey. Sound is muted too; voices are reduced to whispers. Press on into the dark, and meaning itself is stripped away. Ennui and apathy become almost inevitable. The traveller is reduced to a nothing amid nothingness. If by some miracle the traveller has the will to continue, he reaches the uttermost abyss, the end of all things, the End of All Worlds.
There is nothing beyond that point.
Of course, all this description assumes that the traveller is protected by a death ward or similar spell. Without such protections, the traveller’s life will be drained away faster than his body heat.
Getting there... and BackEdit
Natural portals to the Negative Energy Plane, also known as the Unholy Energy Plane, are either exceedingly rare or uncomfortably common. Actual doorways that lead to the Dark Realm are few and far between, and are built only by powerful liches or necromancers. However, every sentient undead creature is suffused with unholy energy, and has a direct connection to the Dark Realm. From a certain perspective, each undead being is an inky blot of darkness, a tentacle from the Negative Energy Plane reaching for the Material Plane. Draw back from that perspective, and the terrible truth is visible: the more undead exist, the closer the Negative Energy Plane can drag itself to the Material Realm. This is why the Ethereal Plane runs thick with ghosts, and why the Plane of Shadow is ruled by nightshades. Like some terrible beast, the Negative Energy Plane is slowly coming to feast on the Material Plane.
A traveller who cares little about some remote eschatological events and wishes to get to the Dark Realm without leaping into a wraith’s embrace should use caution – as usual, plane shift can deposit a character into an especially dangerous area. Careful travel via a gate, ethereal travel, or even shadow walking to a darkreach are better options.
Survival on the Plane of Negative EnergyEdit
In the more pleasant and balmy regions of the Negative Plane, a character is dealt 1d6 points of damage per round, every round. The deeper regions force travellers to make Fortitude saves (DC 25) every round or gain a negative level. Compared to such hostility, minor problems such as a lack of air or gravity are trivial. A death ward spell can protect a traveller from the draining effects of the plane, but only for a short time. Travellers expecting to spend a long time on the plane usually carry items that constantly renew the death ward. However, the native creatures of the Negative Energy Plane are well aware of the precautions travellers must take to survive and will attempt to negate these protections. A traveller will be targeted with dispel magic spells and wraiths will grapple to wrestle the warding item from a traveller.
Features & PropertiesEdit
|Life||0||Hostile to life|
|... to Material||9||Coterminous|
|... to Air/Earth/Fire/Water Planes||11||Coterminous|
|... to Ethereal||14||Coexistent|
|... to Astral||7||Coterminous|
|... to Shadow||18||Merging|
Like its Positive twin, the Negative Plane is divided into two regions, inner and outer. The outer region, known as the Borders of Void, is co-existent with the Ethereal Plane and has only the Negative-Aspected trait. The inner region, the Uttermost Abyss, is Negative-Dominated and unutterably hostile.
The Borders of VoidEdit
The Borders of Void are a great darkness, a pall of blackness broken by the occasional elemental pocket that has drifted in from a bordering elemental plane. The negative energy breaks down elemental matter and energy just as it saps life; water turns to brine, salt, or even unholy water, while air become fouled or even vacuous; earth turns to dust and ruin, and fire turns to ash or corpse-light. As these pockets float through the Borders, they slowly decay. A pocket of elemental earth might seem to be a perfectly solid boulder or continental plate, but it will be eaten away by negative energy until it has no more substance than a cobweb.
The border region is utterly lightless, and the illumination given by torches and other light sources is halved. The temperature hovers around freezing. Flares from the Uttermost Abyss can make the borderlands extremely dangerous. While there are shelters such as the Spires of Woe, they are often sabotaged or ruined by hostile undead.
The Uttermost AbyssEdit
This is the inner region of the Negative Energy Plane. Light and warmth are impossible here – the strongest light spell will illuminate nothing. Arcane sight allows a traveller to see auras, but not the objects casting them. True seeing or, alarmingly, deathwatch allow a traveller to view the Abyss ‘normally.’ Matter cannot endure here, unless it is protected by a death ward. Unprotected characters or objects quickly disintegrate – objects become dust, creatures become wraiths.
No-one save the dead know what is within the Uttermost Abyss. No scrying spell or divination can penetrate its darkness, and sending true seeing scouts into the darkness is sheer folly; there are uncountable wraiths and worse things in the abyss. There could be literally anything in that black hole at the end of the worlds; another set of inner planes or aborted, qlippothic universes linked through the black gate, an undead god of surpassing power, a city of all souls… anything. Or, more likely, Nothing.
Spires of WoeEdit
The Spires of Woe are strange towers of ancient design that reach from their foundations on the Elemental Planes deep into the Borders of Void. Unlike the Towers of the Earth that are found on the edges of the Positive Energy Plane, the Spires of Woe are all of like design. Each tower is an obsidian spike some one hundred and thirteen feet high. These towers are linked by narrow (two feet wide) arching walkways, although the vast majority have collapsed over the aeons.
Every thirty-third tower is a much larger citadel, containing at its heart a strange temple to some forgotten entity. Statues depict a female being with eight tentacles sprouting from its back and a mass of almost tendril-like hair flowing from its head. Some of these temples also contain a huge black or maroon gemstone or sphere. Sometimes, pulses of negative energy flood along the walkways, and these gems sing an eldritch chorus. These towers can be found all along the infinite border of the Negative Energy Plane, and more than five score citadels have been counted. Many of these towers have been claimed by powerful undead who wish to bask in the unholy flow of the plane while still holding onto their possessions. Liches are especially common, as are vampires. The interior of a Spire of Woe is protected from the negative energy of the plane, so travellers are safe from the draining effects of the plane.
Banegates are the unholy equivalent of the holygates used by various good-aligned deities. They are protected by fiends immune to the draining effects of the plane, or by mercenary legions of wraiths. Most banegates are floating temples of black steel and congealed shadow. Especially powerful necromancers on other planes sometimes construct their own petty imitations of banegates. These are simply permanently-active portals to the holdings of the necromancer, although most are guarded by constructs armed with ghost touch weapons to prevent unwanted wraiths and pesky spirits slipping through the banegate into the necromancer’s sanctum.
A flare occurs when the shadows darken and the more intense energies of the Abyss rise into the Borders of Void. In rare cases, this can expand into a starc, but usually the flare is restricted to the Borders. The leading edge of a flare is a flickering wall of deeper darkness, moving at 1d6 x 50 feet per round. Inside, the Unholy rait of the plane decreases by -1 every three rounds, to a maximum of -9. The area will quickly become Unholy-dominant.
Ash Storms (CR4)Edit
Creatures who fall prey to the energy draining effects of the Borders disintegrate into ash. Ash storms are the result of whole armies or cities dying in the darkness. An ash storm can manifest suddenly, howl through a section of the plane, and then vanish in a few moments. Thousands of screaming faces can be seen in the ashes, the visages of those who died and were reduced to ash. An ash storm has the same statistics as a hurricane, but also reduces visibility to 1d4 x 5 feet and forces all travellers to make a Fortitude save (DC 14) every round or begin to choke on the ash. Ash storms last 1d100 rounds.
Whispering Haunts (CR8)Edit
A whispering haunt exists on the Negative Energy Plane where a large number of the undead are gathered on the Material Plane. Each undead creature has its own link to the Dark Realm. Under normal circumstances this link is almost imperceptible as each of the undead is connected to the vast swathe of the Negative Energy Plane. However, when many undead are close to each other, their connections are compressed until they are visible, like silver cords on the Astral Plane. A whispering haunt looks like a forest of floating black strands, each quivering slightly in some unseen wind. Each strand whispers with the inner thoughts of each undead horror.
If one of these cords is severed (which requires a holy weapon; a strand has AC 20 and hit points equal to half those of the attached undead), the undead attached to it is temporarily destroyed – it will reform in 2d10 minutes as long as its body is intact (for material undead) or in 2d10 days for incorporeal undead. Finding which cord belongs to a particular undead creature requires divination magic such as augury.
The danger of whispering haunts is that the strands are extremely sensitive, and when disturbed they send out waves of negative energy. A strand has an effective Listen skill of 30 + the Hit Dice of the undead it is attached to. If the strand ‘hears’ anything, it emits a pulse (1d6 points of negative energy damage per HD of the undead). Wraiths and other denizens of the Negative Energy Plane are attracted to these pulses.
Vortices only occur in the Abyss, and only affect living characters. The victim of a vortex is suddenly dragged 5d100 miles deeper into the Abyss and struck by an effect similar to a dimensional anchor cast by a 20th level sorcerer (save DC 22). Most vortices carry off whole groups, but the plane is malicious and has been known to scatter travellers all over the Abyss.
The city of the wraiths exists on the edge of the Abyss. Indeed, it is constantly on the verge of slipping over that edge and tumbling into the void. One side of the city projects out into the Abyss; the other is a mountainous counterweight holding it in place. As matter is reduced to dust by the negative energy, the lords of the city have developed the art of smelting souls into imperishable stone. Wraiths and lesser undead are punished by being petrified and used as building material for the vast counterweight.
The Necropolis is therefore a constantly hungry city – as it grows, it needs more and more wraiths to hold it in place. Hunting parties of spectres range through the plane, corralling spirits. As the smelting technique is even more effective when used on the living, mortal travellers are especially prized as building materials. The Aeon Dock is on the opposite side of the Necropolis from the counterweight. Here, ghost ships and necrospheres are lowered into the abyss, to consult with the Greatdead or seek out new deaths and atrocities in the depths of the Negative Plane.
These are thirteen skeletons that float in a circle above the heart of the Abyss. They are all of different shapes and sizes; three are the size of titans, but others are human, elven, monstrous, or even broken into shards. They may once have been liches or other powerful undead creatures, but they have transcended this state. Their bones hang in space, while their dark minds work ceaselessly, whispering to each other in languages of dust and decay.
The least of the Greatdead is at least a 30th level mage, and most are far more powerful than that. More alarmingly, their endless spell-weaving centers on ways to draw on the infinite power of the Negative Energy Plane and the linked, hateful minds of the undead. Some day, the dead whisper, they will all be united in a terrible dirge-spell that will bring all reality into the embrace of the grave…
The End is a pit some fifteen feet wide at the base of the bottomless Abyss. It is empty, like a newly dug grave. Two figures, one a female carrying a scythe, the other a male with a shovel, watch over the pit. Spheres of annihilation orbit the pit like little dark worlds. The pit is never filled, no matter what is placed within it. One day, the dead say, everything will be put in the pit, and the gravedigger will put up no marker, only then will it truly be the End.
If the undead call a plane home, it is this one. Wraiths swarm through the plane more thickly than flies in summer. Allips and spectres also throng the dark places, as well as the occasional shadow or ghost who wanders down from the Ethereal or the Plane of Shadows. Nightshades and liches are also found in the Dark Realm. There are a few sickly and bizarre creatures, the negative counterparts to alien outsiders such as the ravids, but such beings have mostly been destroyed by the hosts of undead.