The Burning River

THE BURNING RIVER

KNOWLEDGE (THE PLANES) DC: 15

It was well that we had one of the lava children along to guide us, for although the Burning River is not particularly large, the ever changing borders of the dragons’ and devils’ domains made travel most treacherous.

Still, despite our lava child guide and our utmost caution, by the time we reached the edge of the Spiral Staircase three of our party were dead and we had given up most of our magic items as tolls and bribes.

The Spiral Staircase was a rough pit some fifty or so feet across with rough stairs cut into its inner wall from which issued gusts of shimmering hot air so powerful that they caused the earth to tremble as they burst forth. Our ever-smiling guide looked as dubiously at us as was possible for him, and I must confess that I was not feeling too confident myself. Nevertheless, the journal claimed that this was the place where Jerotha descended back to the Material Plane, and so we seized what remained of our courage and began our descent down the stairs.

-Excerpt from “Oh, The Things I’ve Done” by Mara Deepdelver

This giant ring-shaped demiplane is made of rocks and lava thrown forth from a great volcano near the center of the Elemental Plane of Fire that erupted many millennia ago.

According to the legends, the great volcano spewed forth lava and superheated rocks far into the sky where a powerful deity of fire and destruction took the materials and shaped them into a giant hollow ring. Into this ring he dug a deep trench with his hands and filled it with fire and molten lava, commanding that the resulting “river of fire” would forever burn.

The deity populated this newly formed demiplane with his children – fire elementals and lava weirds (see Inhabitants, below) – and set it adrift in the flaming mass of the Elemental Plane of Fire.

As so often happens, the deity moved on to other things. And though the deity eventually forgot about his creation, lesser beings did not. Powerful wizards and devils searching for a place to pursue their research, hide their treasure, or carve out their own dominions, forced open portals to the demiplane.

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In time, a giant flight of red dragons moved to the demiplane in search of treasure, driving away all before them and bringing with them their lava children (see Inhabitants below). These were tasked with hollowing out great caverns in the rocky ring in search of valuable metals and treasure.

Although the dragons quickly became the dominant species upon the demiplane, they did not fully drive out the other creatures. And, as over the course of millennia the strongest among the dragons drove out the weaker, a balance of sorts was reached upon the demiplane.

Today, the Burning River remains home to all the aforementioned creatures as well as receiving the occasional visitor. Several powerful red dragons and a handful of mighty devils have carved out ever-shifting domains along the Burning River’s banks where they plot against each other and lord it over the demiplane’s lesser creatures (the lava weirds, elementals, lava children, and any visitors). Thanks to these inhabitants and the inhospitable conditions upon the demiplane, the Burning River is a very dangerous place for visitors.

TRAITS OF THE BURNING RIVER

The traits of the Burning River are:

• Objective Directional Gravity: The strength of gravity is the same as on the Material Plane. The direction of “down” is toward the interior surface of the demiplane; effectively, the entire interior of the demiplane is the “ground”. Thus a character can begin at one point (the “floor”) and walk “up” the demiplane’s inner curve (the “wall”) until she finds herself standing upside down above the place she started at (the “ceiling”). • Flowing Time: On the Burning River, time moves faster than on the Material Plane. One may travel to this demiplane, spend a week here, and then return to the Material Plane only to find that a single day has passed. Everything on the Material Plane is only a day older but for the traveler returning from the Burning River, and the items, spells, and effects working on him, that week away was entirely real.

• Self-Contained Shape: The Burning River is a hollow, ring-shaped demiplane. The river itself flows in a deep trench along the interior of the ring and the horizon curves upward and far above the river completing the circle on the other side. The Burning River itself is 3 miles wide; walking from the “floor” up the “walls” over the “ceiling” and back to the “floor” again causes a character to cover 15 miles. Walking the entire interior of the ring (starting at one point and continuing in the same direction along the long axis until returning to the same point) causes a character to cover 150 miles.

• Alterable Morphic: Objects on the Burning River remain where they are (and what they are) unless affected by physical force or magic. The immediate environment of the Burning River can be changed as a result of tangible effort. • Fire-Dominant: The environment of the Burning River demiplane is extremely hostile to Material Plane creatures and those without resistance or immunity to fire are swiftly immolated. The demiplane’s air and barren, rocky banks, heated by the flaming river and punctuated by pools of fire, are agonizingly hot and impossible for unprotected creatures to survive for long. Unprotected wood, paper, cloth, and other flammable materials catch fire almost immediately upon their introduction to the demiplane and those wearing unprotected flammable clothing catch on fire as swiftly. In addition, unprotected individuals take 3d10 points of fire damage every round they are on this demiplane from the intense heat. Creatures of the water subtype are extremely uncomfortable on fire-dominant planes. Those that are made of water take double damage each round.

Any creature foolish enough to actually enter the river or a lava pool itself takes 20d10 points of damage from the magically reinforced flames.

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ARMOR OF FLAMING DESTRUCTION

The armor of flaming destruction is a minor artifact forged on the Elemental Plane of Fire shortly after the creation of the Burning River. It is said that Moloch, a powerful arch-devil, oversaw the creation of this magical suit of chainmail and that he presented it as a gift to Belthazaea, a loyal fiendish general in his army of devils.

After centuries of carrying out Moloch’s will, during which the general rose to a level of power unrivaled among the mortal servants of Moloch, Belthazaea was slain in battle with a hundred celestial knights and his body scattered across all of the good- aligned planes and demiplanes. The armor, resistant to the celestial forces, was cast into the Negative Energy Plane where it was left to float, forever lost in the void. But the creator of the Burning River had other ideas.

It is said that shortly after the armor of flaming destruction was lost in the Negative Energy Plane, the god of the Burning River retrieved it and hid it within a cave on his newly created demiplane for some long-lost purpose. Legends hold that the armor is still

on, or within, the Burning River, safely hidden inside a cave and guarded by the fire elementals and lava weirds that inhabit the realm.

Upon command, the wearer of the armor of flaming destruction is continuously sheathed in a magical fire whose heat deals 2d4 points of fire damage to creatures within 10 feet and 1d4 points of fire damage to those past 10 feet but within 20 feet. Anyone grappling with or otherwise coming into significant bodily contact with the armor suffers 2d6+20 points of fire damage from the flames (touch attacks are not considered significant bodily contact for this purpose, although the touching creature is still subject to the fire damage from its proximity to the armor).

In addition, the armor’s wearer has total immunity to fire (both mundane and magical), gains fast healing 5 as an extraordinary ability, and is able to summon a fire storm (at 20th caster level) one time per day.

Strong evocation [Fire]; CL 20th; Weight 20 lbs.

• Mildly Neutral-Aligned. • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities that use or create water (including spells of the Water domain and spells that summon water elementals or outsiders with the water subtype) are impeded. To cast an impeded spell, the caster must make a Spellcraft check (DC 20 + the level of the spell). If the check fails, the spell does not function but is still lost as a prepared spell or spell slot. If the check succeeds, the spell functions normally. LINKS TO AND FROM THE BURNING RIVER

There are more portals that open onto this demiplane than there are those that lead from it, and only one portal operates in both directions.

Any active volcano on a Material Plane world serves as a portal to this demiplane. Those that hurl themselves into an active volcano, while chanting a prayer to a deity of fire and holding a circlet of lava rocks, are dropped from the sky above the Burning River and fall, 100 feet, to the river’s stone banks.

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Another link to the Burning River is found on only one Material Plane world. There, a long- forgotten mountain tribe, masters of the fire- walking ceremony, have erected a gate over a path of sacred coals. When the sacred coals are alight and the entire tribe is chanting and playing drums, one who walks the hot coals and passes through the gate finds himself in a random location on the banks of the Burning River.

Rumors abound of gates scattered across Infernum (see Book of the Planes) and it is said that devils living on that Evil plane use the Burning River as a portal to other realms of existence.

To leave this demiplane a traveler can climb the exterior portion of the interior curve of the ring and make his way to the Spiral Staircase (see Features below). This staircase descends impossibly deep into the ring – a distance greater than the ring is thick – until it opens in the back alley of a metropolis on a Material Plane world. Those who try to return to the Burning Ring by ascending this staircase from the alley-side find the stairs lead only to the roof of a building.

The Flaming Well (see Features below) is the only portal on the demiplane that functions in both directions. To enter the Burning River through the Flaming Well a traveler must find any stone door on a Material Plane world and knock five times on the door. By then casting any [Fire] spell on the door and immediately opening it (in the next round) the doorway magically transforms into a gateway through which the traveler steps and reappears at the edge of the Flaming Well. This portal remains open for five minutes and, during that time, allows travelers may go through it in either direction. The portal can be opened from the demiplane side by casting any [Fire] spell into the well, the portal opening into a random closet on a random Material Plane world and remaining open for 30 minutes, during which time it may be passed through in either direction.

FEATURES OF THE BURNING RIVER

The intense heat of this demiplane makes the realm dangerous to most visitors, yet accommodations have been made for those that do make it there.

The more powerful lords of the demiplane are quite capable of shielding favored visitors to their domains, usually through magic items that they loan to such guests, against the demiplane’s heat. Of course, such items are crafted so that the host can withdraw the item’s protection at any time with but a word or thought and more than one unfortunate soul has met his end in this manner after having displeased his host.

Some lava children will transport visitors to the demiplane on magical boats of stone that are ensorcelled to protect non-fire resistant visitors from the effects of the demiplane’s constantly burning fires. Visitors suffer no damage as long as they remain on one of these boats (how they get on these boats is another matter). The lava children charge a traveler a single ruby of 500 gp value or greater for a ride that can take the visitor completely around the ring-shaped demiplane.

The only light source on the demiplane is the constantly burning fire of the river and the frequent pools of flame that give everything a reddish color. So strong and numerous are these flames that they provide the demiplane with light equivalent to mid-morning on a Material Plane.

Caves

The stone interior of the ring is peppered with thousands of caves of all sizes that serve many different purposes. Some are abandoned mines, others serve as the homes of lava children, and still others are the strongholds of devils and dragons. Underground passageways to other caves connect many of these caves and entire communities are often formed. Still others connect directly to the Burning River and are often at least partially filled with molten lava.

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Flaming Well

On one side of the river, up the steep stone bank, is a smooth area that has been worked into a path leading up to a circular well about 10 feet across.

The walls of the well are made of shaped lava rocks and a guardrail made of adamantine, magically hovering about three feet above the well, encircles three-quarters of the well. Flames burn constantly within this well and, at times, bits of burning rock are hurled forth much like stones shot from an active volcano. Anyone struck by such a rock suffers 2d6 points of bludgeoning damage and 1d6 points of fire damage and is at risk of having his or her equipment catch fire (of course, anyone that makes it this far is bound to be protected against fire, but you never know).

The well itself is at least a mile deep (no one has ever gone deeper) and is filled with flames. The flames within the well are hot even for this plane and cause 20d12 points of damage to any unprotected creature foolish enough to enter them.

Pillar of Stairs

Almost like a twisted, inverted copy of the spiral staircase, this standing rock juts out from the interior floor of the ring like a giant gnarled finger. At the top of the pillar are etched arcane runes; anyone casting a summoning spell while at the top of the pillar does so as if she were 1d6 levels higher than she actually is.

Pools of Flame

Adding to the tortuous heat of this demiplane, pools of flame are anywhere from 5 to 100 feet in diameter (1d20 x 5 feet) and vary in depth from 5 to 500 feet (1d100 x 5 feet). Most pools are freestanding, while others connect through underground tunnels to the Burning River itself or to the numerous caves that dot this demiplane. Entering a pool of flame unprotected causes 20d10 points of damage to any creature foolish enough to do so. Naturally, many of the demiplane’s denizens enjoy bathing and swimming in such wonderfully temperate environs.

Spiral Staircase

On the reverse side of the Burning River, along the outer interior edge of the ring, is the Spiral Staircase, an open pit 50 feet across with stairs spiraling down along its interior for almost 40 miles.

Tornado-force blasts of hot air constantly issue from the pit making levitation and flight within the pit or near its opening impossible (and very dangerous for any creature of less than Gargantuan size); the only way to descend the pit safely is via the staircase, which does not suffer the effect of the wind.

The stairs are uneven and treacherous requiring a Climb check (DC 15) every 30 minutes with failure resulting in the traveler losing his footing and falling from the staircase, only to be caught up by the windblast and dashed to pieces along the pit walls, taking 6d6 points of damage for 1d100 rounds before being tossed from the pit and dropping 10d20 feet to the ground. Note that the same fate befalls every creature but the most gigantic that tries to brave the interior of the pit away from the safety of the staircase.

INHABITANTS OF THE BURNING RIVER

The Burning River is swarming with fire elementals and lava weirds (see below) while the stone banks of the river are home to numerous lava children (see below) and their dragon and devil masters. Other inhabitants that may be encountered in this demiplane include:

• Intelligent fire-based races that have carved out a home for themselves in the demiplane or are the subjects of a powerful dragon or devil. • Other fire type monsters that have made themselves a home on the rocky banks of the river. • Slaves, servants, and unfortunate visitors of every stripe that have somehow managed to make their way, or were taken to, to this demiplane. • Adventurers in search of hidden treasure or the armor of flaming destruction (see box), a minor artifact rumored to lie at the bottom of the Burning River. 37

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Lava Children

Medium Humanoid (Fire) Hit Dice: 4d8+4 (22 hp) Initiative: +4 Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares) Armor Class: 16 (+6 natural), touch 10, flat

footed 16 Base Attack/Grapple: +3/+4 Attack: Claw +4 melee (1d6+1) Full Attack: 2 Claws +4 melee (1d6+1), bite -1

melee (1d8) Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft. Special Attacks: Improved grab, tear Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., earth

magic immunity, fire subtype, metal immunity, vulnerabilities Saves: Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +1 Abilities: Str 13, Dex 11, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 11

Skills: Climb +5, Hide +4, Listen +5, Spot +5 Feats: Alertness, Improved Initiative Environment: Any warm underground

Organization: Gang (3-6), band (7-15 plus 50% noncombatants plus 1 5th level fighter, 1 5th level wizard, and 1 5th level cleric)

Challenge Rating: 3 Treasure: Standard Alignment: Usually neutral

Advancement: By character class Level Adjustment: —

Lava children dwell underground or in volcanic regions of the world. They appear as broadly built humanoids about 5 feet tall with black, sooty hair and green eyes. Their faces have a curious, child-like appearance, with a permanent smile. Their skin is pinkish-white and rough to the touch. Lava children speak their own gibberish-like tongue and Common.

Combat

Lava children attack using their clawed hands and vicious bite. They direct their attacks against the most heavily armored foe (as their attacks can pass through armor) in an attempt to weaken the attacking party.

Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, a lava child must hit a Medium or small creature with a claw attack. A lava child has a grapple bonus of +4.

Earth Magic Immunity (Ex): Lava children are immune to all spells with the Earth descriptor.

Metal Immunity (Ex): Lava children are completely immune to any metal object and its effects (i.e. swords, armor, doors, walls); metal simply passes through lava children as though they did not exist. All attacks made against metal-armored foes are considered melee touch attacks as the lava child’s attacks simply pass through the metal armor. Metal items are not destroyed, just ignored.

Vulnerabilities (Ex): Lava children take one extra point of damage per caster level from spells of the Air or Water subtype.

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Lava Weird

Large Elemental (Earth, Fire, Extraplanar) Hit Dice: 8d8+16 (52 hp) Initiative: +7 Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares) Armor Class: 19 (-1size, +3 Dex, +7 natural),

touch 12, flat-footed 16 Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+15 Attack: Bite +11 melee (1d8+7 plus 1d8 fire) Full Attack: Bite +11 melee (1d8+7 plus 1d8

fire) Space/Reach: 10 ft./5 ft. Special Attacks: Control elemental, fire,

improved grab, drown, lava pool

Special Qualities: Damage reduction 10/bludgeoning, elemental traits, fire subtype, reform, transparency

Saves: Fort +4, Ref +9, Will +3 Abilities: Str 21, Dex 17, Con 15, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 16 Skills: Hide +3, Listen +11, Move Silently +12, Spot +11 Feats: Alertness, Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus (bite) Environment: Any fire-based plane or demi

plane Organization: Solitary or pack (2-4) Challenge Rating: 8 Treasure: Standard Alignment: Always chaotic evil Advancement: 9-15 HD (Large); 16-24 HD

(Huge) Level Adjustment: —

Lava weirds are serpent-like creatures formed of elemental magma. They are rarely encountered outside of the Elemental Plane of Fire or the Plane of Molten Skies where they spend their time swimming in pools of liquid fire. Sometimes though, a lava weird slips through a portal into the Material Plane and takes up residency there, always in a pool of lava

or magma - whether man-made or naturally occurring. Lava weirds on the Material Plane are bound by their chosen pool and cannot leave it while on the Material Plane. High-level spell- casters sometimes employ lava weirds as guardians.

A lava weird appears as a 10-foot long serpent formed of elemental fire. Closer examination reveals liquid rock in scale-like patterns across its body, growing darker across its back. Two small flickers of white fire located on its head serve as eyes.

Lava weirds speak Ignan and Terran. Some can also speak Common, but rarely ever bother to do so.

Combat

A lava weird prefers to hide in its lava pool until victims come within range. Once a target is close to its lava pool, the weird quickly lashes out and snatches the victim, biting it and coiling around it. It then attempts to pull the victim into its lava pool. Lava weirds are highly aggressive and prone to attack just about any creature that wanders too close to their pool.

Control Elemental (Ex): Lava weirds can attempt to command any elemental with the “Earth” or “Fire” subtype that is within 50 feet. The Will save to avoid controls has a DC of 21. The save DC is Charisma-based and includes a +4 racial bonus.

The effect is similar to the dominate monster spell. The elemental receives a Will save to avoid being commanded. If the save succeeds, that elemental is immune to the control elemental ability of that lava weird for one day. If the save fails, the elemental falls under the control of the lava weird and obeys it to the best of its ability until either it or the weird dies. There is no limit to the number of HD of elementals a lava weird can control using this ability. The range is unlimited though both the lava weird and the elemental must be on the same plane of

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existence; otherwise, the weird loses control of the elemental. Lava weirds cannot control other lava weirds using this ability.

Fire (Ex): Lava weirds are living creature of elemental magma; any successful melee hit deals fire damage and the victim must make a successful Reflex save (DC 16) or catch on fire (see Catching on Fire in the DMG). The save DC is Constitution-based. Creatures attacking a lava weird unarmed or with natural weapons take fire damage and must make a successful Reflex save to avoid catching on fire just as if the lava weird had hit with its attack.

Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, a lava weird must hit an opponent with its bite attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can attempt to drag the grabbed foe into its lava pool on its next turn.

Drown (Ex): If a lava weird pins a grabbed foe, it fully immerses its victim in its lava pool. A victim completely immersed takes fire damage (see Lava Pool below) and must hold its breath or drown (see Drowning in the DMG).

Lava Pool: A lava weird’s pool is a bubbling, churning, morass of molten rock mixed with elemental fire. Flammable materials that contact the lava automatically catch fire on the round contact is made. Creatures touching the pool take 2d8 points of fire damage per round of contact. Damage from the lava pool continues for 1d3 rounds after the contact ceases, but this extra damage is only half of that dealt during contact (1d8 points of fire damage). Creatures immune to fire are unaffected by the lava weird’s pool and take no damage, though they can still drown if completely immersed.

Reform (Ex): When reduced to 0 hit points or less, a lava weird collapses back into its pool. Four rounds later, it reforms at full strength minus any damage taken from cold-based effects or attacks.

Transparency (Ex): A lava weird is effectively invisible in its lava pool until it attacks.

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