Layer 1 – Pazunia
Layer 1 – Pazunia

Layer 1 – Pazunia


The Abyss — Layer the First

Also known as: The Plain of Infinite Portals, The Plain of Yawning Pits, The Palace of 1,001 Closets, The Howling Threshold, Jhaat.

The Nature of Evil: Drink deep from the cup of wickedness, and do not fear to try something new and forbidden. Live out your imaginings, for there’s an evil pasture just for you if you search long enough. 

Ruler: Pazuzu (contested) / Eblitis

Layer 1 – Pazunia, the Plain of Infinite Portals

Description: The Plain of Infinite Portals is a barren wasteland, scorched by blistering winds and the blaze of a crimson sun that might be hot but will still make your blood run cold. The tanar’ri name this forsaken expanse Pazunia, as if it’s the dominion of the crafty Prince of the Lower Aerial Kingdoms himself, Pazuzu. But don’t think for a moment that his grip on this place ain’t shaky; there’s a hidden civil war brewing, a clash of contenders gnashing their teeth for the throne.

A rotten vista of a Pazunian battlefield

They call it the Plain of Yawning Pits, the Wasteland of Gates, or even the Palace of 1,001 Closets (no idea where they got that last one cutter, those primes are drinking something strong). But words can’t disguise the feeling of dread that oozes from every pore of this pock-marked realm. Swarming with demons, the Plain of Infinite Portals is a realm that chews up the unwary and spits ’em out as mere playthings for the abyssal horde. It’s a seemingly infinite wasteland of blood-red deserts and badlands, sheer canyons and even-worse-lands, all cracked with the ever-baking heat from a furious sun. You’ll find angry-looking spikes of black rock, glass as sharp as a tiefling’s tongue, crumbling sandstones containing the fossils of strange and sinister creatures that you’ll be grateful are long gone.

Looming above the cracked sands float impossible earthmotes, vast rocks the size of fortresses, just hanging there in the red skies. Many of these have been carved into fortress citadels that are held in place by thick iron chains to prevent them being stolen or blown away in a storm. Speaking of which, If the weather seems like it’s out to get you then that’s because it is. Malevolent storm clouds sweep across the big skies, bringing thunder that sounds like rumbling words of ancient evil, lightning that seemingly attracted to flesh rather than metal, and storm rains of blood or venomous beetles or maggots or shards of sharp metal or broken glass; anything but water. There are no plants here of course, at least not ones you’d recognise. You’ll find living rocks, that will jump up on spidery legs and run away (if you’re lucky) or run towards you (if you’re not). There are forests of dead trees and cacti, but appearing dead is often just a disguise to fool the unwary, because these things can move when they sense prey and grab a poor sod with spiky tendril tentacles or shoot out poisoned barbs.

Despite all this travellers still come here, drawn like moths to a flickering flame. They mostly seek the pits and sinkholes that riddle the cracked earth, openings to the very heart of the Abyss. The powers only know why; for arrogance, power, and jink I presume. Some of these infernal doorways were drilled by the ancient demons who first dared to explore this chaos. Some of the pits are naturally occurring, well as natural as an unfathomably awful place like this could be. The Grand Abyss, the biggest of ’em all, they say it’s a layer of its own; a wicked maw with no bottom just waiting to devour the foolish. And the most dangerous pits, well, they say that those were dug out from below, as if something in the Deep Dark managed to escape.

But don’t think these pits are all paths to another layer. No, no. The Abyss laughs in the face of predictability. Some of those pits are passages sure, gates leading to who-knows-where. Two-way trips or one-way plunges into the Abyssal unknown, who’s to say? I hope you’re up to date on your prayers to Tymora, your divination magic is up to snuff, or that map you picked up in Broken Reach wasn’t a peel. Others, well, they’re just huge creatures with gaping jaws that’ll swallow you up for dinner. Chaos is the name of the game, cutter.

It’s hard to tell where a gate is going to lead before a berk’s been sucked down deeper into the layer itself. Magics like shift sense can help, as does divination. The rest of us just have to cross our talons and pray. And really hard too; it’s a long way to where any helpful powers live. Sometimes a kind planewalker’s left a clue or two behind; the occasional sign near a pit might state the gate’s destination. Just don’t count on it being true, because even a green planewalker knows that tanar’ri are more full of lies than, well, just about anything…

A rift valley of Pazunia

This mimir contains the most up-to-date darks on which pits lead to which plane (well, some of them anyway, the chant goes there are at least 83 layers accessible by a Pazunian pit if you know the right blood to garnish), and which of these have been catalogued by the Fraternity of Order, who have helpfully numbered the layers. Some layers are marked ‘interdicted’ which means Fraternity members are prohibited from travelling to these layers as the risk (to themselves and the reputation of the faction) is deemed too great. Even if you’re not a Guvner you’d do well to heed the warnings. However the Abyss is unpredictable and no guarantees are given that these darks will still be correct by the time you need them. Caveat planewalker!

While the graybeards are still arguing about how many layers of the Abyss there actually are, and which order they should be numbered — a fool’s question if you ask me, because the ever-fluid Abyss just isn’t organised in a way that makes sense to mortal minds — one thing that they do agree on is that Pazunia is the top layer. The evidence of this comes from the Astral Plane; colour pools from the Astral usually dump a traveller into one of the bad parts of the plane. Just joking cutter, there are only bad parts here!

Pazunia’s got its hooks in the Outlands too, tenuously linked to it through the ominous gate-town of Plague-Mort. And that twisted, bruise-purple River Styx, it also winds its way through this hellscape, its foul polluted branches diving into and out of the pits like desperate serpents. Even the waters are madness here, with reverse waterfalls spewing up from some pits, feeding the river’s cursed current. A one-way ride to Pandemonium or the Gray Wastes of Hades awaits the daring or the foolish. Chant goes that only the marraenoloth are able to navigate safely to lower layers of the Abyss using the Styx, for others it’s surely a one-way voyage to dead-book island.

Petitioner manes (the word’s plural and singular, berk), weak and pitiful, are hunted for food by their stronger kin or tossed like spoiled meat into the Abyssal maws. They’re the lowest form of tanar’ri, but don’t feel too sorry for them; they’re formed from the spirits of mortals who were awful in life and are getting their just desserts in afterlife. Molydei gangs prowl the badlands, stalking tanar’ri who are trying to dodge the gore-soaked Blood War. And blood, oh, there’s plenty of it spilled on these grounds. Iron fortresses, the twisted remnants of that endless war, teeter on the edge of Abyssal chasms. They serve as palaces for lesser demons who clawed their way into power, and safe havens for greater tanar’ri to keep their bodies when they’re travelling the planes. These citadels are built for defence and dominion, protecting the likes of mariliths, succubi, and other foul spawn of the Abyss, and letting them watch over the nearby pit gates or whatever other horrid things they value in this accursed place. And if you think the iron fortresses could be safe havens for planewalkers, think again. Tanar’ri armies often besiege these bastions, clawing at each other for power in the ceaseless dance of chaos. And that’s without reckoning on the fiends who’re inside the fortresses! 

The hand that holds
the portals is the hand
that rules the plane

– Ancient Pazunian proverb

But cutter, beware, lest you cross paths with archdemons or tanar’ri lords like Aldinach, Ahazu, Baltazo, or Laraie. These bloods are all vying for power over this place, carving out their own little jealous empires of pride. Even dread Pazuzu himself, already ruler of another Abyssal layer called Torremor, is hungry for more land and trying to cement control of this layer too. He’s got so many fiends calling it Pazunia already that most bashers finger he’s the ruler of the layer, but that contested question is not yet settled. The Blood War may frequently spill into Pazunia — there are plenty of parts of the layer rendered cruel by past atrocities — but most of the fighting is infighting between the tanar’ri of the Iron Fortresses, trying to grab more terrain, or defend it, or fight back monsters that have crawled out of a pit, or… you get the picture. 

So, there you have it, a glimpse into the dark heart of Pazunia, the Plain of Infinite Portals and strife and struggle. A place where even the brave should watch their step, where the only rule is that there are no rules, and the only constant is the Abyssal hunger that devours all in its path.


The Pit-Gates of Pazunia

Long ago, an ancient and thoroughly evil and chaotic entity discovered the Abyss. It wanted to explore every layer, but traveling between them was proving too time-consuming. Instead, it punched holes in the fabric of Pazunia’s reality, creating interdimensional holes. These holes led to different layers of the Abyss, serving as crude portals. Ultimately, the strain of creating these pathways was too much for the unnamed entity, who apparently perished. Its influence lives on, however, and the pit gates and caves still remain, scattered throughout the layer. Not all Abyssal layers are connected to Pazunia, but all the major ones and many of the smaller ones are. Many of them have been sealed with abjuration magics, after things that even the tanar’ri feared crawled out. Of those that remain, many pits are two-way, allowing those who survive them to escape by climbing back out. However, others are only one-way. Therefore, jumping into a pit gate can be dangerous, as you might get stranded in an inhospitable layer with no means of egress.

The Legend of A’othorh

This desert of pits, of yawning maws that links the Abyss to realms far beyond, has seen more wars than the Bleakers serve mugs of soup. Blood and ichor stained its sands in the Dawn War, when the first powers battled for supremacy, in the Cleansing Wars where the upstart tanar’ri crushed the ancient obyrith, and in the endless torrents of the Blood War, where demons and devils perform the most brutal and pointless dance of all. From demon lords to petty fiends, ancient obyrith to spider queens — and everything in between — they’ve all converged upon this barren expanse to spill their malice and madness.

A’othorh, harbinger of destiny

The Plain’s history is etched by this rhythm of conflict. But those who can read between the lines of the shifting sands, who understand the patterns in the currents of time, they glimpse more than just unending strife. Once every thousand years, as the dying star flickers on the Abyss’s rim, an elemental earthmote named A’othorh eclipses that cursed sun, casting Pazunia into a twilight darkness.

In those moments, when the veil of night shrouds the Plain, Pazuzu, the wily Prince of the Lower Aerial Kingdoms, steps aside. The Queen of Chaos takes centre stage, crawling up from the Steaming Fen of the 14th Abyssal layer. At the Great Ziggurat of Oth-Magurloth, by the Blood River’s coursing heart, the Queen convenes with the remaining obyrith lords, the ancient horrors who slumber in the Deep Down Dark.

A’othorh, the harbinger of destiny, heralds the end of one cycle and the dawn of the next. And in this rare twilight, the chaos lurches, and the Queen’s dominion is absolute. The very fate of Pazunia hangs in the balance as the Queen’s chaotic court convenes. Seers and oracles whisper in the winds, their voices laden with prophecy. They speak of the Queen of Chaos claiming the Rod of Seven Parts, a harbinger of cataclysm that beckons the Wind Dukes of Aaqa to enter the fray.

The next Chaos War, they say, is on the horizon, like the faint outline of A’othorh on the desert’s edge. The denizens of Pazunia, even Pazuzu’s cunning flock, can feel the unease stirring in the air. The shifting sands of destiny have thrown the die, and as the twilight wanes the Abyssal chorus grows louder, singing dirges of chaos and conflict that echoes across the layers.

So, brace yourself, cutter. The history of the Abyss, the twisted tale of Pazunia, it’s an endless loop of battles and bloodshed, a cacophony of power and madness, a dance that even the mightiest demons can’t escape. And as the stars turn, so does the fate of this forsaken realm, marching towards a future known only to those who dare to read the runes of chaos itself.

Locations of Note

Powers of Pazunia

There are no powers foolhardy enough to build realms on the Plain of Infinite Portals. The number of marauding fiends, Blood War incursions, planewalkers tramping all over the place, and barefaced land-grabs by bickering tanar’ri high-ups seem to have put them all off.

Cutters of Note

There are few actual Abyssal Lords living on Pazunia; the city-states and fortresses are generally run by powerful lesser tanar’ri on the make. The rulers of each burg can change with the winds, it seems, so the list below may contain inaccuracies. Assassination and treachery are as common here as on any layer of the Abyss, and amongst most tanar’ri being the king of a burg is a short-lived pleasure at best. Many view it as a punishment, apparently.

Canonical References

Recommended reading for Pazunia lore:

  • Dead Gods (2e) p72-74 (journey through Pazunia), 86-87 (journey back again)
  • Planes of Chaos: Player’s Guide to Chaos, & the Book of Chaos (2e) p23, 25 (Broken Reach & Red Shroud)
  • Well of Worlds (2e) p34-45 (Adventure: Love Letter)
  • In the Abyss (2e) p10-21.

Passing mentions of Pazunia, may be useful background reading:

  • Dragon Magazine #329 (3e) p58 (Pazuzu stats, goals, realms, lore, Pazunia mention)
  • Dragon Magazine #349 (3e) p31 (Dagon stats, goals, realms, lore, Pazunia mention)
  • Dragon Magazine #353 (3e) p27 (Malcanthet stats, goals, realm, lore, Pazunia mention)
  • Dragon Magazine #357 (3e) p30,68,70 (Demogorgon, Cabiri, Pazunia mention)
  • Dragon Magazine #358 (3e) 65-66 (River Styx)
  • Dungeon Magazine #060 (2e) 40-41,56 (Adventure: Nemesis)
  • Dungeon Magazine #148 (3e) p55-62 (55) (Adventure Savage Tide, Wells of Darkness, map)
  • Dungeon Magazine #149 (3e) p70, 80-83 (Adventure Savage Tide, Bagromar’s camp)
  • Planes of Law: Mount Celestia (2e) p24 (Panzunian citadel as target of crusade)

Source: Jon Winter-Holt,

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