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Baator — Layer the Seventh

The Crumbling Majesty of Maladomini, the Nevercity, the Hell of Vanity

Themes of the Layer: There’s something profoundly ironic about Maladomini. It’s a layer built on the very concept of failed ambition and perpetual dissatisfaction. Baalzebul’s endless quest for perfection mirrors the mortal struggle for meaning in an indifferent multiverse. It’s a stark reminder that the vain pursuit of perfection can lead to one’s own undoing. Like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands, it slips through your fingers, leaving you with naught but frustration and ruin.

The Lay of the Land

Now Maladomini, the seventh layer of Baator, is a right ghastly place if ever there was one. If you think Baator’s bad, wait ’til you see the seventh layer. It’s the devil’s own junkyard, with vanity and corruption rotting the bones of what once was. Fancy a tour? Best you don’t cutter, but if you must, let an old tout give you the rundown of this crumbling catastrophe.

First, try to picture a plane made entirely of ruins, but not the romantic kind you might see in some Prime backwater. No, these ruins are built on other ruins, which are themselves propped up by the detritus of a thousand more failed attempts at grandeur. Maladomini’s a place where best-laid-plans are laid to rest, their rocky corpses piled atop each other in an endless architectural wasteland, where your every step crunches on shattered marble, broken glass or cracked tiles. Maladomini’s ruins are a patchwork of half-finished and abandoned structures, as Baalzebul, the lord of this realm, endlessly builds and tears down, his search for perfection driving him beyond barmy. It’s a ghastly mosaic, with toppled towers and beheaded statues that whisper of glories close but forever out-of-grasp.

Everywhere you look, Maladomini presents a landscape of decay—collapsing stone-walled aqueducts leading nowhere, canals filled with nightsoil, refuse or poisoned water, and quarries gouging the earth like festering wounds. The air? A toxic miasma thick with corrosive dust that clings to your lungs and makes every breath leave a bitter taste right down in your lungs. It’s thick with the stench of sulphur, decay, and the bitter bile of hopeless ambition. No wonder; the sky is blood-black and the rumble of distant storms blends with the noises of building and tormented builders.

The Burgs of Maladomini

A colossal statue looms over the City of Malagard

The main city here—if you can call it that—is Malagard, sprawling out for a thousand miles and stuffed to the brim with a million rooms, each more grandiose than the last. It’s a labyrinthine fortress of towers, walls, and dungeons, packed with treasures and ancient debris. As the newest burg of the layer, it’s also the most beautiful: Intricate black marble fountains of fire and water, graceful soaring arches, almost-perfect minarets. But nearly symmetrical or almost perfect won’t be good enough for Baalzebul, that’s a cert. While the baatezu forefiends and their long-suffering enslaved workers sweat blood and tears to meet their barmy Lord’s impossible standards, they know in their bones that sooner or later he will throw the mother of all tantrums and destroy the burg in a fit of rage…

One thousand leagues away, the city of Grenpoli offers a sliver of false hope. Ostensibly a place of refuge, imperfect but so-far overlooked by Baalzebul, it’s a burg riddled with political machinations and intrigue, but every deal you strike is sure to end badly. It’s a city where lies and deceit are the currency of the realm. No violence is allowed within its walls, enforced by the iron will of its ruler, the amnizu Mysdemn Wordtwister. But don’t let the appearance of peace fool you cutter—Grenpoli is a den of treachery, where deals are struck with smiles just as sharp as daggers. Here, politicians, merchants, and thieves (often these are one and the same) rub shoulders, all seeking to outwit each other in a constant dance of diplomacy and deception. If you’re cunning and silver-tongued, you might just make yourself a few friends—or enemies. The baatezu here are fond of luring mortals with promises of wealth and status, only to ensnare them in contracts that lead to their ultimate ruin. In fact it’s here that all the contracts of the baatezu are stored after being signed, in cavernous libraries built under the ruins of the surfac, guarded by the legions of the baatezu lord Fleuretty.

Folks who find themselves lost in Maladomini often end up Lost as well, becoming part of the layer’s detritus. Chant goes even the baatezu themselves don’t know the full extent of this place’s underbelly, and that long-forgotten ancient beings of Baator are starting to awaken, disturbed from their dark dreams by the constant din of construction.

The Lord of the Seventh

Baalzebul, vain slug Lord of the Seventh

The ruler of this dismal domain is Baalzebul who was, the chant goes, once a beautiful archon named Triel. Pride and vanity were his downfall, turning him from an angelic being into an obsidian-skinned, compound-eyed monstrosity. Now that didn’t happen right away; after his Fall from Mount Celestia, he became at first a beauty of terrifying wicked majesty they called Beelzebub. But then, like so many baatezu, he had to go and spoil it by being treacherous. His unwise choice was to betray the Dark Lord of the Ninth in the Reckoning, and as a result he lost both his name and his beauty, and now slithers about in the form of a giant, slimy slug—a punishment from Asmodeus himself.

It was a fitting penalty for a creature as vain as Baalzebul. It’s his obsession with perfection which drives him to continuously build and destroy, leaving Maladomini in its perpetual state of ruination. They say he’s trying to create the perfect city, but is unable to see past Asmodeus’ curse to the futility of his pursuit. Or perhaps agents of the Dark Lord are sabotaging the building work. Or perhaps Baalzebul really is just handicapped by insurmountable vanity.

Terrain of Maladomini

Grenpoli, the City of Guile

And what about the dangers of Maladomini? Where to start? The quarries and canals are riddled with eldritch traps and forgotten horrors. The landscape is infested with twisted plants, though calling them plants might be a stretch. They’re more like cruel jokes of nature, stunted and toxic. The air is thick with the stench of burning slag heaps and the acrid tang of sulphur from the strip mines and everywhere you go, there’s the ceaseless drone of flies, Baalzebul’s ever-present (and some say, all-seeing) minions.

Maladomini is also the sole source of sinstone, a prized but devilishly difficult material to work with. It’s resistant to heat and enchantments see, making it the foundation of most great structures in the Nine Hells. Extracting this rock, however, is a laborious and perilous task, often leading to horrific injuries or worse. Some baatezu taskmasters will even pay more for sinstone that’s been stained with the blood of the miners.

One of the most striking features of Maladomini is its architecture. Not just the grandiose ruins, but the sheer variety of styles and materials used and abused here. There are leaning towers made from sinstone, inscribed with infernal runes that glow with a malevolent light. There are unfinished castles of iron and glass, reflecting the flames of the lava canals. There are fortresses half-built from bone and unstable bridges of blackened wood carved with leering faces. The ground is littered with the remnants of abandoned, unfinished, and torn down structures, each one telling its own story of hubris. There are countless fires from burning slag heaps and piles of trash, and the pot-holed roads are littered with debris.

The Denizens of Maladomini

Travellers here need to be wary of the locals, a mixture of enslaved petitioners, baatezu, desperate mortals, oozes and other dwellers in filth. The devils, particularly the amnizu, paerilyon, and erinyes, are always on the lookout for new souls to corrupt or enslave. And don’t overlook the otyughs wandering Baalzebul’s palace, tolerated only because they eat the filth that Asmodeus’ curse brings.

Don’t think for a second that just because it’s Baator, there’s no wildlife. Maladomini is crawling with all sorts of unpleasant creatures. Hellwasps and horned flies buzz around in swarms, their stingers carrying lethal venoms. Hellrats the size of small dogs scurry through the ruins, and packs of shadow mastiffs prowl the outskirts of the cities, their howls echoing through the night. You might even encounter a leucrotta or two, their sinister laughter chilling you to the bone. Worst of all, the sludge rivers are home to abominable beasts, twisted by the toxic waste. In some particularly dreadful places, the noxious mud has become semi-sentient, and misshapen claws of muck rise from the ooze grabbing at the air, and unlucky passers-by. Woe betide any sod who gets dragged into that kind of morass.

Advice for Planewalkers

If you’re barmy enough to venture here, arm yourself with knowledge.

  • Bringing information about Baalzebul’s enemies, particularly Mephistopheles, can buy you clemency or even earn a bit of jink.
  • Remember, nothing here is without its price, and trust is a commodity as rare here as a breath of clean air. Keep your wits about you.  Always question motives and never take anything at face value.
  • The air and water are toxic to mortals, so a good filtration system or magical protection is a must. Avoid eating or drinking anything unless you’ve purified it yourself.
  • Don’t linger in one place too long. The longer you stay, the more likely you are to attract unwanted attention. Always have an escape plan. Know the locations of portals or safe havens where you can make a quick getaway if things go hellshaped.
  • Watch the Skies. Keep an eye out for flying patrols of baatezu. They’re always on the lookout for troublemakers and fresh souls to torment.

So, there you have it: Maladomini in all its wretched, decaying glory. A place where the pursuit of perfection has led to absolute ruin, where the sin of vanity has twist everything into a grotesque parody of what it might have been. Enter if you must, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

Locations of Maladomini

Older ruins of Maladomini
  • Eighth Gate, the (site)
  • Grenpoli, City of Guile (baatezu burg)
  • Maggotfields, the (site)
  • Malagard, the City of Black Spires(baatezu burg)
    • Carnival Eternal (site)
    • Palace of Filth(site)
    • Palace of Fulfilment (site)
  • Malagrasci (baatezu burg)
  • Malatanni (baatezu burg)
  • Neverwhole (realm of Gajasura)†
  • Offalion (site)
  • Ooze Pits (site)
  • Quarry Avad (site)
  • Road of Perdition, the (site)
  • Screamstone (site)
  • Shadow Sanctuary, the (site)
  • Talatala (realm of Maya)†
  • Undercity, the Tunnels of Maladomini (site)
  • Xibalba (shared realm of the Aztec powers)‡

Powers of Maladomini

  • Baalzebul (baatezu Lord of the Seventh)
  • Gajasura the Hellephant (asura rana of ruins, siege warfare, tactics)†
  • Gavidya the Numberless (asura rana of corruption)†
  • Maya (asura rana of sorcery and architecture)†

Noble Baatezu of Maladomini

  • Abigor, Duke (noble baatezu)
  • Baftis (first consort of Baalzebul)
  • Barbatos (noble baatezu) — now spends more time on Avernus
  • Bileth (pit fiend) — now the spymaster of Glasya on Malbolge
  • Dantalion, Duke (noble baatezu)
  • Fleuretty (lieutenant general of Maladomini)
  • Lenphant (pit fiend behind the throne of Grenpoli)
  • Lilith (second consort of Baalzebul)
  • Neabaz (Herald of Lies)
  • Mysdemn Wordtwister (Erinyes ruler of Grenpoli)
  • Purson (Great King of Hell)
  • Tartiamache (courtier of Maladomini)
  • Teurn (pit fiend bodyguard of Baalzebul)
  • Vashaak Ratoth Bruu (medusa monk)
  • Veris (baatezu noble of pain and suffering)
  • Wysturak (pit fiend bodyguard of Baalzebul)
  • Yaghoq (pit fiend bodyguard of Baalzebul)
  • Zepar (baatezu noble of abduction)

Canonical Sources

  • Book of Vile Darkness [3e]
  • Fiendish Codex II [3e]
  • Book of Vile Darkness [4e]
  • Dragon Magazine #233
  • Faces of Evil [2e]
  • A Guide to Hell [2e]
  • Hellbound: The Blood War [2e]
  • Manual of the Planes [1e, 3e, & 5e]
  • On Hallowed Ground [2e]
  • Planar Handbook [3e]
  • Planes of Law [2e]
  • Planescape Campaign Setting: DM’s Guide to the Planes [2e]

Canonwatch: Entries are from D&D canon unless otherwise marked, although when the canon is sparse I’ve got creative with the details; † adapted from a 3rd party publication; ‡ homebrew.

More details to follow!

Other Sources:

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