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Baator — Layer the Sixth

The Hell of Sloth

Themes of the Layer: The Hell of Sloth, where petitioners are punished for laziness in their past lives, and baatezu who are caught breaking rules are imprisoned. Malbolge has been submerged under the gory remains of its former Lord, now splattered across the layer in rotting, semi-alive, and fully ravenous, chunks. Themes of body horror, constant struggle to avoid being consumed, and perpetual vigilance to avoid being crushed.

The Devils Make Work for Idle Hands

An unidentifiable glob of semi-sentient flesh rearing up

Ah Malbolge, the most twisted and tumultuous layer of Baator, where the very ground quakes with pustulant torment and the sky drips with bilious malice. Formerly ruled by the Hag Countess Malagarde—and before her, the baatezu lord Moloch, Malbolge now lies under the dominion of Glasya, the daughter of Asmodeus.

Imagine a landscape of perpetual slopes, where every the air hangs heavy with the stench of decay and despair, and the land itself seems to writhe in agony. The sky, boiling and seething, casts an ominous hue over the jagged peaks and twisted valleys that make up this accursed realm. It’s a scene chopped straight out of a nightmare, where the ground quivers and twists as you take a step, as if it were alive. And that’s because it is, cutter—Malbolge is a realm shaped from the twisted remnants of the Hag Countess herself.

A Brief History of the Hell of Sloth

The tangled history of Malbolge is a tale as twisted as the layer itself. Once a desolate wasteland, this infernal realm has seen its fair share of rulers and upheavals throughout the ages.

Once upon a time, Malbolge was but a rocky expanse, mostly devoid of life and purpose. It existed as a largely forgotten corner of Baator, ruled by the archdevil Moloch, who obsessed about power and gathered armies to enforce his ambitions. Malbolge itself was a desolate wasteland, a rocky expanse devoid of life or purpose, where the main danger was the constant threat of boulders that rolled at terrifying speeds down the tilted terrain. Petitioners ended up here for the sin of slothfulness, and were tormented for their former laziness by a need to be constantly vigilant and on-the-move, lest they were crushed to a paste by a fast-moving rock.

A river of bloody bile

Then Moloch took the Hag Countess Malagarde as a lover, thinking he could use her to do his dirty work, and gain power without having to work for it. Of course, the cunning hag used his laziness against him, tricking him into trusting her a little too much, and then betraying him. Of course, she has been chosen for this task by none other than Asmodeus, and as a reward he appointed her to rule over this forsaken realm. Her appointment caused quite the stir among the denizens of Baator, for it was unusual for a non-baatezu to hold such a position of authority in the hierarchy of Hell. But rule she did, for a time, bringing a measure of stability to Malbolge, even as her methods and motives remained shrouded in mystery. Some whispered that she was but a pawn in Asmodeus’s grand long game, while others feared her dark powers and cunning intellect. The whispers of discontent grew louder as time passed, and there were those among the devils of Baator who coveted her position and plotted her downfall.

And so it was that Malbolge found itself plunged into chaos once more, as Malagarde tried to enact her scheme to skip the tedious step of being worshipped by enough mortals, and find a shortcut to godhood. Whether she failed due to her own negligence, or whether she was tricked by a rival seeking to unseat her, is dark. In any case, the awful ritual of apotheosis that she attempted to snatch divinity without working for it went horribly awry. Her corrupted body became bloated and expanded to a terrifying size, before being torn asunder by forces beyond mortal comprehension. The formerly barren and rocky layer became a disgusting hellscape of body parts and gore.

In Malargarde’s place rose Glasya, the daughter of Asmodeus and a figure of beauty and cruelty. Asmodeus himself selected her to rule the Hell of Sloth, despite, or perhaps because, she had never lifted a finger herself to deserve this power. 

And so it is that Glasya now rules over Malbolge, her iron grip tightening with each passing cycle as she consolidates her power and asserts her dominance to reshape the layer. But who can say what the future holds for this accursed realm, or who may rise to challenge her rule in the future? Chant goes that Moloch still has eyes on the layer, and is regrouping his armies to try and recapture it for him. Only time will tell.

The Lay of the Land

When the Hag Countess met her grisly end, her foul remains became the new canvas upon which, and with which, the new landscape of Malbolge was painted. The vile magics that Malagarde enacted caused her bones stretching and distend, forming jagged mountain ranges that now encircle the layer like a cage. Her skull, swollen to monstrous proportions, became a fortress of bone at the very heart of the realm, a grim reminder of her former power.

Archduchess Glasya, Lord of the Sixth

But it wasn’t just her bones that reshaped the landscape. Oh no, her flesh and organs played their part too. Lakes of bubbling bile and stinking viscera splattered the slopes, while her fingers rose up like twisted towers, casting long shadows across the barren fleshy plains. And then there were her hair and teeth, transformed into grotesque greasy trees and rotten ivory spires that dotted the landscape like macabre monuments to her reign. Her warts became oozing hills, and her pointed nose formed an enormous mountain. Her veins and guys became rivers and horrible tunnels below the surface. Even the maggots from her skin transformed into terrifying colossal worms which burrow through the fleshy landscape.

But it’s not just the sights and smells that assail the senses in Malbolge; it’s the sounds as well. The gurgling screams of the damned echo through the air, mingling with the rumble of blodclot-boulders which now roll down the slopes, and the howling winds of hot rancid breath that sweep across the vile fleshscape. And amidst it all, the mocking laughter of Glasya herself, as she surveys her domain with cold, calculating eyes.

The most terrifying aspect of Malbolge’s landscape is the constant shifting and upheaval. The very ground seems to convulse and quake with malevolent energy, as if it were alive and hungry for destruction. Travellers beware, for in Malbolge, the layer itself is your enemy, constantly seeking to swallow you whole and add your bones to its twisted  panorama of horror. The very ground is alive with the tortured souls of the damned, who have been absorbed into the twisted landscape and forced to endure an eternity of suffering.

Here, the petitioners of Baator and baatezu who are caught red-handed, are judged and punished for their crimes. Some of the guilty are placed in doorless cages that hang precariously from the fleshy mountainsides. Despite the ease with which they might escape, they are forced to remain absolutely motionless, for any movement will cause their cages to topple over and tip the unlucky berk into lakes of bubbling acid, or cause a deadly avalanche of ripped flesh, or a fall off sheer cliffs to certain death below. Others are cast out into the terrain of the Malbolge itself, but these sods are perhaps even more unfortunate, for they need to keep moving constantly, lest they sink into the fleshy ground like quicksand, or get crushed by bloodclots the size of boulders which rain down continuously. The bodies of any who ‘die’ in the layer are sucked dry of all nutrients by the ravenous flesh of the layer, leaving only undying dessicated husks behind in eternal agony. In these ways, Malbolge continues to punish the slothful. 

Glasya herself languishes on a throne of silk pillows in Ossiea, the bone fortress at the centre of Malbolge. With her sharp wit and insatiable appetite for power, she rules over this twisted realm with a callous gaze, her every whim enforced by the legions of baatezu that serve her.

Locations of Malbolge

A crawling bronze citadel of Malbolge
  • Birthing Pit, the (site)
  • Bronze Citadels (site)
  • Dwimmerstrath, the Bowge of Sorcerers (site)‡
  • Garden of Delights (site)
  • Hag’s Innards (site)
  • Hair Forest (site)
  • Lakes of Bile (site)
  • Library of Infernal Law (site)
  • Maggoth Thyg (site)
  • Ossiea, the Bone Fortress (realm)
  • Ribcage Mountains (site)
  • Tower of Pain (site)

Powers of Malbolge

  • Glasya, Archduchess Lord of the Sixth

Noble Baatezu of Malbolge

The nobles of the Court of Malagarde were destroyed or exiled when their vile mistress died. This has left a power vacuum on the layer, which over-ambitious baatezu are striving to fill. Here follows a list of some of the contenders, who will generally do anything to get ahead. Wise bloods may be able to use this to their advantage…

  • Axacrusis — paeliryon former chancellor of Malbolge, currently being tortured by the new Lord
  • Baratum, Diorum, Metris and Novolar — erinyes, elite hunters working for Glasya
  • Bloodcurdle — the favourite nightmare of Malagarde, currently being punished in the Tower of Pain
  • Tartach — a true baatezu noble who abandoned Baalzebul to serve Glasya

Canonical Sources

  • Book of Vile Darkness [3e] fleshes out the layer in the context of Lord Malagarde
  • Fiendish Codex II [3e] — describes the ascendency of Glasya
  • 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:

  • Jon Winter-Holt
  • Atlas of the Planes — Malbolge

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