Prelude: Making deals with the devil

The Nine Hells are no place for the mortal soul. Those who willingly walk into the most infamous dens of iniquity and horror are sure to return home with stories, treasures, and... more
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Shurijo
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Prelude: Making deals with the devil

Post by Shurijo » Mon Dec 23, 2019 5:04 pm

I wanted to post some context, so everyone can get a feel for the game. No need to get started now. We need to figure out your deals with the devil first.


The Nine Hells are no place for the mortal soul. Indeed, heroic beings are usually destined for far loftier calls from the heavens, while the fiery infernos and the bone-chilling wastes are reserved for the toughest and most deadly of creatures within the multiverse: the devils.

Of course, the occasional unfortunate soul might find themselves on the wrong side of a contract, written in all good faith but by the most slippery of minds. And let us not forget those who would peddle such dark powers, forming pacts on moonless nights: warlocks and cultists.

The plane known as the Outlands is a neutral territory that connects to all other planes. It is home to the city Ribcage (named so for the rib like protrusions of rock that surround the city) that somehow connects to Avernus--the first layer of hell where Tiamat resides and Zariel, the fallen angel, rules over an ashy, dust covered wasteland. However, this connection is not reliably predictable, with some travelers needing to wait weeks in Ribcage before the city finds itself in Hell. On the other hand, almost any devil can simply bring a willing creature to hell with them.

With the exception of using gates to get in and out, it can be hard to leave hell, especially some of the lower levels. Since you can’t teleport directly out of hell, adventurers require an exit strategy before beginning their journey. Aside from proper preparations, gates, or riding the memory-sapping river Styx into an even worse fate, one can make a deal with any devil to be taken out of hell.

Those who manage to arrive in Ribcage are often drawn to the flashing signs of bright, vibrantly colored lights. These planar travelers from all reaches of the multiverse bustle and cajole through the sprawling markets making their way to the unavoidable tavern.

The tavern is wreathed in dozens of colorful lanterns and awnings that support a massive banner that reads: “The Highway.” The name comes from an ancient proverb by forgotten bards relating to its proximity to the nine hells.
The first floor is a wide-open space is crowded with tables. Three horseshoe-shaped bars jut from three corners of the room. A spiral staircase in the last corner leads up to the second floor.

Hanging from the stone walls are hundreds of worthless items from around the multiverse: gears from the great machines of Mechanus, flasks of eternal fire from the City of Brass, a broken wagon wheel from the demiplane of dread, Barovia.

The second and third floors of the tavern are well appointed and exceedingly comfortable for mortal visitors. Each room comes with three beds covered in thin, supple leather blankets – servers suggest that guests do not ask to the origin of the leather.

There are also three trunks with locks, a dresser, a washroom with a half-barrel shaped tub, and a silver mirror which can be used for scrying. Each suite also has a magic circle carved into the floor and ceiling that prevent fiends from entering. The tavern offers a guarantee to any mortals staying in his establishment: no fiend will ever harm them while inside one of his rooms.

There is never a dearth of incredible entertainment opportunities at The Highway. Many mortal entertainers reach an unnatural level of success by bartering service or portions of their soul to the devils of the Nine Hells.
The tavern is renowned for paying off entertainers' debts to other devils in order to have them perform. More than a few such entertainers have several years, if not lifetimes, of service before their contract is fulfilled. Even still, the owner is seen as a much more doting patron than many other, crueler devils.

In addition to food and drink, the tavern offers a wide array of spellcasting services.

The stones that make up the ‘ribcage’ for which the outlands town is named casts a long shadow across all the buildings. Including a few that stand out against the otherwise dreary village:

Nearby stands a one-story stuccoed building with stained-glass windows and clay roof tiles. Ten-foot-tall walls enclose a large courtyard outside the southeast corner of the building. The locked, closed wooden doors to the courtyard are engraved with images of smiling nymphs dancing and frolicking in water. The bathhouse is open from dawn to midnight.

The building located across the street from The Highway tavern bares a sign called “The Dark Museum.” Its doors are sealed and windows are shuttered closed. Three infernal symbols are etched into the stone doors, one that you might recognize as the sigil of Tubidu.

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Shurijo
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Prelude: Making deals with the devil

Post by Shurijo » Mon Dec 23, 2019 5:07 pm

The doors of infamous The Highway tavern seemingly pulls you towards it and as you enter you see a narrow-faced female cambion taking the stage wearing large, circular, lavender colored spectacles. She speaks in a shockingly sweet voice reciting poetry from across the multiverse as well as her own, morbid writings:
Bard’s poem wrote: He was the sort of fool not at all rare
Who when hearing of adventure or dare
Beamed as his chest got the swells
And that is why
His bones now lie
Somewhere deep in the hotter districts of the Nine Hells
As you take a seat, you notice one door in particular in the back of the tavern. The door has a large infernal symbol etched into the wooden door--you may recognize this symbol as the sigil of Tubidu. A tiefling exits the room and fish-like humanoid, called Locathah also known as fish-men, enters the room and closes the door behind him.

The braziers, food, and alcohol cannot lift the dark atmosphere inside the tavern. The smell of smoke and exotic food fills the area near the kitchen. The other patrons drink and eat their food in silence or low voices muttering to each other. You can't help but feel a strong sense of despair and the feeling that everyone is unhappy and miserable. Maybe, like you, they are here because of a choice, exile, or a debt to be repaid.

A tiefling wearing strange clothing walks around the tavern taking orders for food and drink. As he walks, a strong unpleasant, funk smell from his pipe's smoke lingers at each table and his route.
Image
Breakfast is served in concert with the Prime Material Plane's sunrise, a novelty beloved by some. Mortals enjoy gargantuan portions of guaranteed edible and sometimes rare foodstuffs. Fiends partake in similarly large portions of larval foods and fermented chunks of various humanoids, a perfect way to start the day.
  • Sinner's Biting Custard, Burnt Jaw of a Liar, Flapcakes and Char, Double Fried Hog and Gravy
Dinner draws quite a lot of attention from mortals and fiends alike. Humanoids can dine on decadent meals that are fried, spiced with firefungus, or comprised of layers upon layers of food some would call unbearably excessive. Fiends, likewise, feast on similarly ludicrous affair: mostly living, delicate, and hard-to-find items from around the multiverse.
  • Ash Curry, Gologassaq, Firebomb Chili with Sunrises, Black Cheese Stuffed Cluck
Work Meals are available for creatures on the go who still need to eat. They offer a wide variety of “workday meals” that are prepared ahead of time, stored in collectible tins, and prepared in such a way as to be easily eaten while on the move.
  • Sour Sinner's Rind, Thief's Instrument Delight, Fried Fire Bites, Cheese Dripped BBQ Fries
Dessert is often preposterously decadent and populated with vittles from several places in the multiverse. The lines begin to blur between mortal and fiend sustenance, as ingredients eaten by both are used to influence the overall dish. Everything is, of course, guaranteed survivable to ingest, though there are no refunds should the taste be lacking.
  • Angel Cake, Sweetbreads, Drowned Maple Eggies, Spice Cream Scream
Alcohol
  • Wisp ale, Firebrandy brandy, Omen potato spirit, Blacktide Backbone wine

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Prelude: Making deals with the devil

Post by ManWithDoor » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:29 am

A large half-orc enters The Highway, an imposing figure even in a place like this. His full-plate armor is covered in devilish iconography and unholy symbols, although his left and right pauldrons are wrapped in black cloth, obscuring what might be displayed underneath. The shield he holds in one hand is fashioned from infernal iron and traced with veins of hellfire, shedding a dim light around his form. The sword strapped to his side has the general size and shape of a longsword, but its oddities cannot be hidden. In place of a smooth cutting edge, it has a toothy row of jagged barbs. Old blood mixed with dark grease covers the length, threatening to ooze and drip off onto the floor.

He places his shield in the exact middle of a table, claiming it as his for all to see. He waves over the tiefling server, and has a round of drinks brought to the table. He sits down at it, looking at the door expectantly.
Rule Number 12: "A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head."

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Prelude: Making deals with the devil

Post by Shurijo » Fri Feb 14, 2020 1:39 pm

The server places three opaque white bottles of Wisp ale on the table. As the half-orc removes the cork, he smells a flavorful ale with a faint scent of white peaches. The pale colored drink has a slightly sweet and grain-forward taste.

Along with the bottles, the tiefling server places a basket of Sweetbreads and a bucket of Fried Fire Bits on the table. The basket of sweetbread is served with edible spoons made from charred bone. The Sweetbreads are made from raw thymus glands and pancreas and basted with a sweet, spiced vinegar. The Fired Fire Bits bucket contains chunks of abyssal chicken stuffed with white cheese and deep fried firefungus.

As the server places the snacks on the table, he says, "These are on the house and compliments of the chef." With a final gaze looking over the half-orc's shield and infernal symbols etched over his armor, the tiefling turns and leaves.
In case you don't know what abyssal chicken is:
https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Abyssal_chicken
Don't worry, it tastes just like chicken

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Prelude: Making deals with the devil

Post by Shurijo » Fri Feb 14, 2020 1:48 pm

After a few moments, the narrow-faced female cambion poet on the stage clears her voice and continues.
bard's poem wrote: In chains they dragged him down a trail
with scorching pits on either side
where captives raised their tortured wail
and endlessly for mercy cried.

“What have you brought?” the devil hissed.
His captors laughed and made him kneel.
“Another fool who won’t be missed.”
He thought, Wake up! This can’t be real!

The devil called forth a giant beast
who grabbed the chain around his throat,
and yanked him close—as heat increased—
then stripped and ate his ragged coat.

Nine demons snatched his naked form;
he screamed as fangs and claws sank in.
But from the shredding by the swarm
no blood flowed out, just streams of sin.

From snaky gaping orifice
shot forth a flashing ball of fire.
He sank engulfed in flame’s abyss—
his own inverted self-fed pyre.

As devil laughed, the demons danced
and circled, jeering, round the pit,
where one more soul enhanced
Hell’s vicious blaze by fueling it.

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Prelude: Making deals with the devil

Post by RorytheRomulan » Sat Feb 15, 2020 6:35 pm

At the end of the song, the tavern receives a new patron, a dusky half-elf donning hardened leather of a low luster that seems to conjure to mind a kind of material produced from congealed shadows, and the hilt of a stowed rapier poking over his shoulder. After closing the door shut behind him, he pulls back his dark jade hood and takes stock of the interior of the Highway, with eyes that glow red. His eyes lock with the deadly-looking half-orc, and after a short pause that feels as though he'd been tossed a gauntlet, he strides over.

"Hey, you look like you're expecting company, and, something tells me that we're here for similar work. Why don't you let me join you." He puts his hand on the back of a chair and eyes one of the ale bottles before looking up at the warrior for a reply.
You'll just have to imagine the eyes are different.
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Prelude: Making deals with the devil

Post by Othniel » Sat Feb 15, 2020 10:36 pm

Not far behind the half-elf enters a full-blooded elf, a wood elf by the look of her. She has fair skin and stark white hair. Her almond-shaped hazel eyes take in the room slowly before she strides forward with purpose. Her sinuous form is clad in rich black leather, though she wears no armor, and a cloak of varying hue hangs about her shoulders with the hood thrown back. For gear of war, she bears a longbow strapped to her back and carries a quarterstaff in hand. A curious chained weapon is wound about her waist - one end a small metal ball about the size of a fist and the other a curved sickle. The clink of metal accompanies her and if one looks close, one might see several sets of manacles hanging from her belt.

The wood elf passes by the half-orc and half-elf, pausing to consider them, but she continues on and chooses a small table for herself not far off where she might keep her back to the wall.

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Prelude: Making deals with the devil

Post by Shurijo » Tue Feb 18, 2020 3:13 pm

As the half-elf enters the tavern and takes a seat alongside the half-orc, the tiefling servers takes note and then walks to the table where the wood elf takes a seat. Offering a menu, the tiefling asks, "Would you care for a drink or food?"

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Prelude: Making deals with the devil

Post by ManWithDoor » Tue Feb 18, 2020 7:08 pm

The paladin gestures broadly at the claimed table. "Welcome, welcome. You are expected indeed. As others are as well." He offers a strong handshake, and invites the half-elf to make himself comfortable. "The archdevil Tubidu has asked that I gather his invitees, then escort them to the meeting place."
Rule Number 12: "A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head."

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Prelude: Making deals with the devil

Post by Othniel » Wed Feb 19, 2020 3:55 am

"Ash curry, whatever sweetbread you've got today, and a bottle of firebrandy," the elf answers quietly. Her eyes flash to the conversation at the other table, but she shows no other sign of interest.

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