Terra Incognita

This article originally appeared in Pyramid #7

The Bottomless Pit

by Scott Paul Maykrantz

The Bottomless Pit is a hellish hole, an eternal landmark of evil. It exists in all of mankind's myths, with a variety of names (the Abyss, the Soul-Well, etc.). Only a privileged few, largely cultists and supernatural creatures, know that it actually exists.

Legends of its creation conflict. Some say it was the invention of a Great Beast, some say it was constructed by a ghastly race from a malevolent plane, and some say it existed before the hands of eternity's clock began to swing. The stewards of the Pit (if any) is another subject of debate. It is known, however, that the Pit has great supernatural, evil significance.

It is cylindrical, approximately five hundred yards in diameter, and infinite in length. There is no bottom; the Pit extends endlessly through the non-space between worlds. It stretches directly down, in perfect alignment with gravity's pull.

It is filled with the smell of ash and decay. A cacophony of screams echo throughout its length. It is hot and damp. An ominous glow comes from below, bright enough to make out the immediate surroundings, but too dim to allow a visitor to see clearly to the opposite side.

The upper portion of the Pit is located on Earth. The top -- the mouth -- is located approximately one quarter of a mile beneath London proper. Getting to the mouth from the surface is an adventure in itself; it is said that a few cults, guilds, and supernatural creatures know the way, but this information is hard to come by.

At the mouth is a cobbled ledge several yards wide; the stones are laid in a strange pattern of interlocked shapes, like a puzzle. The shapes recall primeval fears from their slumber in the subconscious mind of the viewer. Any character who looks at the stones must make a Fright Check at a cumulative -1 for every ten consecutive seconds he looks.

The infinite wall of the Pit is a myriad of tightly-packed faces. Living faces. Faces that howl and gibber and gnash their teeth. They resemble human faces -- they have noses, eyes, and mouths -- but they are not the faces of known humanity. They seem to be part of a unique, foul order of man, blasphemous mockeries of primal anguish and rage.

Although there are an infinite number of faces, and all are grotesquely malformed, visitors inevitably recognize a dead relative or friend staring from the wall. Attempts to communicate with the faces are futile. Telepathic approaches always result in a Mental Stun to the telepath, and a Fright Check at -10 -- the telepath's mind will be filled with a trillion primal screams, and will shut down almost immediately as a survival reaction. Any fool who attempts to climb the wall will be howled at and bitten.

The wall also features a number of scattered ledges, flesh-covered outcroppings, and holes. One of each can found every few thousand yards. The holes range in size from several square inches to gaping cavities over ten feet wide (smaller holes are much more numerous). The smaller holes lead to the nests of vermin, serpents, and other creatures. The greater orifices (man-sized or larger) are the mouths of treacherous, impossibly long tunnels that weave their way through the earth. One can only guess where these tunnels might lead.

The Pit has a few denizens, each unique. All are wicked and feral -- a pale and gaunt humanoid babbling on a ledge, an oversized spider with an infant's face, a translucent snake several hundred feet long, etc. The refuse from these creatures can also be found scattered on the ledges and walls, including webs, bones, carrion, and clutter from parallel nightmares.

Anyone who falls into the Pit will surely die. Early in the descent, the faller will be rendered deaf by the roar of air rushing past. The individual will plummet until, after bouncing off the walls, he has disintegrated from the impact and the tearing wind.

In the Campaign

The Bottomless Pit can be used in at least five ways in a horror campaign.

The quick pass. The characters fall through the Pit while enroute to another plane. Or, the Pit is part of a nightmare. Either way, it serves as a frightening vision, but it is never actually visited.

The brief event. The characters visit the Pit for only a moment. They are there long enough to take in the sights and smells, and then they are suddenly removed. This could occur if the characters are being chased, or if they are captured by cultists or creatures moments after discovering the Pit.

The rescue. The characters visit and explore the Pit, but only long enough to recover an item, to save a comrade, to pry up cobblestones in the mouth for spell components, or to find some desperately needed information that cannot be found anywhere else. This also includes a sacrifice mission -- perhaps the PCs themselves are cultists, and they must travel to the Pit to throw someone in!

Exploration. The characters spend time exploring the mouth, examining the walls, and looking for large holes and outcroppings. If they visit twice or more, the Pit becomes a campaign landmark. Of course, you don't want the possibility of visits to be casual; they should dread the idea of coming here.

The campaign climax. The Bottomless Pit can be the setting of the PCs' final battle with evil forces, or the final gateway to the ultimate adventure. They will hear legends of the Pit before they arrive, and the visit will be a singular, dramatic event.

Article publication date: June 1, 1994

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