Vexpa's Layer (5e Environment)

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Vexpa's Layer[edit]

This layer of the Abyss was created by Vexpa, the Swarm Lord. While the total number of layers is unknown, and some constructs by the demon lords are known to mobilize between layers, it is believed Vexpa's is slightly closer to the outermost layers due to the environment. To the fiends, it is simply known sometimes as the Hive, and Vexpa often exercises her power beyond it, sending her spies and scouts towards the territories of other lords.


Within the hive, life seemingly flourishes, making it unlike the elemental dominant realms of Dagon or Garyx. It is more similar to the chaotic and lively layers controlled by Demogorgon, teeming with life. Lush greenery bears plump fruits and obscuring foliage, many of which are poisonous or even malevolent. A lot of the climate is humid and warm all the time to sustain this growth. The area is dotted with magical plants such as shrinking violets, growth fruits, time flowers, and other magical flora.

Dotting the jungle landscape are the hive-like structures which are cities for Vexpa's swarms of servants. Only a small handful are bred from Vexpa's personal brood. Most of her swarm in recent times consists of imported non-demons, usually the results of kidnapping. Using her potent venom, Vexpa cultivates slaves and prisoners into her ideal servants, warping their minds and bodies over time into insectoid beings. The dynastin are an example of such, having been made into powerful guards for her nests.


Vexpa's generals are each given portions of her realm to rule and watch over. They rule a variety of different terrain and regions across this layer, both above and underground. Denizens within their realm are not always followers, but they revere them as feudal lords essentially. Based on the size of their areas, the generals have a hierarchy of power, but they are largely scattered and do not interact very much. Vexpa is telepathically linked with each of them

Aboveground Regions[edit]

For the most part, Vexpa's layer is always warm. The temperature is unbearable in some parts, creating what are the deserts. Much of her layer is jungle terrain, but there are also swamps and bogs. Coniferous areas, like Barya Wood or Huitaro's Forest also flourish here, housing a host of predators. The edge of the layer is a magical border, where usually her flying drones and soldiers keep watch. The two weakest points in the barrier is where foreigners spawn into her realm, often wandering in by accident. A good deal of her layer is also actually underground, with complex mazes and even subterranean cities. Most of her nests are also hidden underground.

Otilo Wastes[edit]

The wastes are a strip of land on the layer border, along the barrier which keeps this layer distinct from other layers of the Abyss. Otilo is one of Vexpa's generals, and considered the least of her circle. His lair actually lies below the surface in Otilo's Underground Forest, the entrance of which is in a crag located at the northern section of the wastes.
Otilo's form is rarely seen above ground. He is actually a purple worm, and prefers burrowing below ground, popping up only to ambush trespassers. It is therefore only appropriate that most of the wastes are dubbed the Land of Worms. Creatures like grimworms and sandworms populate his land, which has loose, dry ground, and little water for miles.

Coruscan Plains[edit]

The Coruscan Plains is a long stretch of land surrounding the town of Corusca, which is a sort of beachfront. The plains are covered with dry grasses that can easily be caught aflame. The height of the grasses is rather moderate and reaches the waste of an average human, providing stealthy cover for those who are prone despite the flat terrain. The arid climate however provides ample comfort for fireball flies and they are extremely dangerous. When attacked, they can easily combust and set the plain aflame in a matter of seconds.


Corusca is a small and quaint town inhabited by bug-faced creatures like insectoids. They function as civilians and are rather hostile to those who do not appear insect-like in the least. They are loyal to Vexpa and her swarm armies. Most speak as though in a looped trance due to the nature of Vexpa's influence on their mind. In Corusca, many of them owe their allegiance to the nearby general Brachys, who tends to the beach before the layer's border. They eat from tropical trees that grow in controlled farms, as well as cultivated cacti.

G'Naayen Desert[edit]

On the other side from the plains is an arid desert. It is very flat and made only of sand sheets, save for the dunes. Here is where non-insect creatures may have ended up, like dust mephits. The area is very hot and for three hours around noon, it is considered a terrain of Extreme Heat[1]. There are also pits left by ant lions among the sand, which make for difficult terrain.

City of Zagaath

The city of Zagaath are inhabited by the typical insect-like beings spawned of Vexpa's brood. Their variety here is that of a fire-resistant variant that deals well with the heat of the desert. Every month, they made a big trip to the Zagat Oasis, which is their main source of water. Sometimes there are arroyos which appear, but those fade fast in the unforgiving sands. The people of Zagaath pay tribute to a large ziggurat-like temple in the center of their city, dedicated to the general Zagaath. He is one of the smallest generals in Vexpa's circle, mainly because he is a rather small creature compared to most of the other generals. Zagaath is a burly stag-beetle creature with the stats of a shield guardian. The real danger is the fact that he has a pet sandwurm.

Saltfire Coast[edit]

The northwestern edge of Vexpa's lair is largely a salt field, just south of Otilo's territory. There is no water in the area, any water which falls on the ground instantly causes the ground to combust and ignite due to the volatile salt compounds. If any water spills onto the sand, any creatures within a 5 foot radius of the spill must succeed a Dexterity saving throw of DC15 or take 2d4 fire and 2d4 acid damage. The area is void of most life save that of giant bombardier beetles[2], which eat the salt and spray their acidic juices at any trespassers who approach.

Brachyus Beach[edit]

The stretch of normal sand is called a beach since it is one of the edges skirting a space of neighboring waters. If one sails off from its shores, they will reach a wastrilith environment after some hours, leaving Vexpa's Lair. One the shores though, the great crab known as Brachys stalks about. He is perhaps the stupidest of Vexpa's generals, being led constantly by his gut rather than his tiny brain. However, he is a force to be reckoned with, and the people of Corusca pay dear tribute to him whenever they venture for water on his beach. He is a hammerclaw crab.

Brachys' Cave

When it is high tide, Brachys secludes himself among the hidden coves a bit south of where palms grow on his beach. There, he has a secret cave entrance to his underground hold, where he likes to rest and eat.

Bog of Daibosch[edit]

The bog is the only part of the middle-eastern wilderness in the layer with a known name. Land there is very moist and soft and the air is thick with dampness, almost like swamp land. The trees around the bog area have cage-like roots and branches, perfect for lurking organisms and their nests. Creatures like sutureflies[3] infest the air in the deepest part near the heart of the bog, where Daibosch lives just under the surface of his slimy lake. The air here is stagnant and quiet. Daibosch is a deposed general of Vexpa's court and is bitter towards all the current generals. He is not insect-like compared to the others, and resembles a large fish creature, but with insect legs that allow him to move on land coming from his belly. He has the statistics of a colossal catfish and is usually very food-driven and easily duped for treasure. For the right price, he might be willing to give travelers valuable insight into the weakness of the Hive Queen's court, or even about the land itself.

City of Rynnh

The city if Rynnh used to be one of the larger settlements in the layer. However, after Daibosch was deposed, their prosperity has dwindled. The land nearby makes it hard for non-aquatic creatures to adjust. Their houses are usually made of swamp moss, wood and straw. Most inhabitants here are varieties of insects like water striders and mosquito-folk.

Jireer's Peninsula[edit]

This southwestern peninsula is a bit further from the central body of Vexpa's hive. The inhabitants on the peninsula are slightly more insular against the lair's identity under Vexpa. The forest is where Jireer dwells is dense and thick, believed to have once been a section of Vexpa's jungle. He is a powerful ghostwalk spider[4] who supposedly has been planning a revolt against Vexpa for a while. His previous coup failed but the Queen allowed him to run away and keep his life, plotting on the peninsula forever. He is a possible ally to the players against the Hive Queen, but he is also a coward who is a liable turncoat.


Since Jireer's initial betrayal, the people of Urdssht have fallen into abject poverty. They make their living harvesting sugars from the plants nearby in the Hexan Swamp and Spinner's Strait. Most of the residents are sugar ants.

Arach's Coast[edit]

Arach's coast makes up most of the middle eastern portion of the lair. Lying east of Vexpa's Jungle, it is composed mainly of Arach's Wood and Arach's Hunting Ground, along with the surrounding areas, including the landmark lakes of ringworm and spider. This region is rather wild and has little to no organized civilization. Various creatures like giant stags, centipedes, and dragonflies. Arach herself is a drider-like creature with the stat block of the chaos witch. She commands hordes of spider creatures and travels through her coast, striking fear into the wilderness there. Under her are daedras which in turn summon spiderlings in turn, making her a massive army. Arach is believed to have been Jireer's replacement, and he holds a grudge against her.

Spider Lake

This lake is a common watering hole for Arach's forces. It is guarded by a fiend spider named Bartros, who is extremely loyal to Arach, but not Vexpa.

Ringworm Lake

This lake is deceptively calm, with an odd island in the middle. At the very center of that island is a way down to Subrach's Lake. The water of this and the Spider Lake is actually magically cycled in swirling columns to and from Subrach's lake.

Million Eye Hermit

The hermit is a brain collector[5] who has been collecting the brains of trespassers on his land for research. He is interested in non-insects now since he's tired of having researched so much. He does not owe alliance to Vexpa and is technically an illegal presence here. If exposed, his life would be in danger. Having collected so many brains, he has a vast amount of knowledge about the lair and its ways in and out.

Vexpa's Jungle[edit]

Vexpa's jungle is a melting pot of insect monsters. As opposed to its name as a jungle, the area is not necessarily densely populated by trees at all. There are large, uncharted swaths of open land where the ground is not rooted with plants. These are areas one would take care to traverse, as ankhegs hide underfoot. Marching through the wooded areas are neogi, who see themselves as a lower caste to Vexpa, their owner. But they have been given authority to make slaves of prey they catch, and this includes players. Hellwasps and other swarms of deadly bugs hover in the moist atmosphere just above the lowest level of leaves. Down on the ground, creatures like beeblezugs crawl. The jungle is ultimately a wild area of survival.

This jungle used to encompass much more of the layer. It has since disconnected from peripheral areas, forming the forests of Jireer and Barya, for example. These forests retain a similar composition in inhabitants to the main jungle, albeit with some unique creatures like cloud spiders, which favor the cooler temperatures of the coniferous forests.

Interestingly, Vexpa did have some non-insect creatures ported into her forest. Some are mere fodder for her swarms, like aurochs. Others are symbiotic with her lair, like catoblepas, chuul, thri-keen, umber hulks, and the insectoid ice devils. They work to make her layer all the more dangerous, to those who take her lightly. Her jungle is a place of anarchy, with no ruling general. That is both a strength and a possible weakness.

Hive Tree

The large tree by the center of the jungle is a gigantic, towering tree that looks like an enlarged baobab. The tree is partially hollow and has a bunch of comb-like structures inside. It is, as the name implies, a hive for many bee and wasp warriors who flock out of the canopy opening to hunt and police around as they please. The hive wax in the tree makes it actually resistant to being burned down, and many of the roots are clustered with guardian swarms of these bugs.

Faerys Wood

This small cluster of woods is home to a group of evil pixies plucked from the Feywild. Unlike normal pixies, they are all but good. They were exiled from their original place in the Seelie Court due to their sinister intentions of bargaining with demons. They made a deal with Vexpa and now live here, with protection from the nearby dangers thanks to the details of their deal. They will often appear to help travelers, going as far as lying about being imprisoned here in this lair. But their true natures come forth when visitors let their guard down. They usually drug them and then toss them out to be eaten or collected by Vexpa soldiers.

Faeryn Lake
The pixie king and his court flutter around this lake as their main lobby, lighting it up with their sparkles. They like to lead visitors here to quench their thirsts and wash. The lake water here is enchanted with magic to put any creature other than fey types to sleep almost immediately, knocking them unconscious for 1 hour. It tastes, smells and looks inconspicuous, and the pixies are able to drink it to allay suspicions. Creatures with fey ancestry like elves, or creatures with poison resistance/immunity, are resistant to this effect, but experience negative side effects nonetheless. If they drink from this lake, they had disadvantage on attack rolls and have their speed reduced to 20 feet for 1 hour.

Swarm Range[edit]

The swarm range is a mountainous region primarily, though some say it includes the Antlion's Jaws, Mantis Isle, and even parts of the Desert of Zzrk. So it is a U-shaped region around the south of the central jungle. It appears uninhabited and plain at first, but on closer inspection, one can see the many holes which lead into the complex tunnels of the swarm army that Vexpa commands. This labyrinthine nest spans incredible lengths and is constructed of the most powerful biological materials from the bodies of the swarm, living and dead. The interior of these tunnels is connected to the Drone Hives.

Antlion's Jaws

The sandy area by the northwest mountainous region has hard bedrock under the sandy desert surface. Several holes dot this area, appearing like caved-in sites at the foot of dunes. This area is rife with giant antlions, who lurk often at the bottom of these holes. If anything passes by, even one of their own, they immediately erupt in an attempt to ambush the prey and drag them back into their burrow to feed. At the very center of this desert are a pair of gigantic mandibles that reach up towards the sky. They are said to be from the deceased general Anterus, father of all the antlions. The Antlion's Jaws were named thusly in his honor.

Mantis Isle

This sickle shaped isle is aptly named for the ferocious giant mantises that roam its coarse earth. They have long cleared out most of the isle's original inhabitants. They would resort to eating each other if not for Vexpa's forces regularly dropping prisoners and society's unwanted to them for food. The strongest of these mantises are usually taken off the isle to become mounts for Vexpa's soldiers. The majority of the mantises that remain are forbidden from flying off the isle, and the air patrol in this area is fierce.

Dunes of Zzrk[edit]

Exile's Lands[edit]

These arid and barren lands are littered with broken husks and dried carapaces of large insects who were disposed of for treachery or as food for the Vexpa soldiers. Small caves carved into hard rock dot the many mesas in the area. All the mesas face a large crag in the land, where the most dangerous of criminals against the Hive were killed and tossed in to rot. There is a decent amount of undead which are in that pit, as a result. Few have ever climbed out of the chasm, and even they are helpless but to roam the unforgiving wasteland. There are large bestial insects scattered in the Exile's Lands, supposedly driven mad by Vexpa and left here to serve as guard dogs. The elevation here is uneven but for the most part, there is no water unless one can dig 100 feet into the ground. Portions of the lands are cooler than others. The cold regions are inhabited by remorhazs, while the warmer areas have wild tlincalli, mad umber hulks, and even vicious carrion crawlers.

Some of the undead who have survived in these lands have all but lost hope to stand against Vexpa. They may be hiding in the caves from the vile kruthik hive which is given reign over this area. These vicious creatures are kept in check by the nearby armies bordering the Exile's Lands. But even Vexpa is wary of these monstrosities, who have been known to turn on their masters in the past. The kruthik hive heart is located down near the southern edge of the Exile's Lands, but they have tunnels running far north as well. Their primary hive lord chamber and food storage is also located with the heart.

Subterranean Regions[edit]

Vexpa's layer is split into two divergent regions that are connected at a few points. The subterranean areas are full of tunnels and treacherous mazes burrowed into stone, soil, and much bedrock. Many trespassers unsurprisingly die within these labyrinthine ways. Despite the fact it is underground, a decent amount of lifeforms and diverse biomes do flourish here, aside from Vexpa's hidden hordes.

Barya Post[edit]

A massive tower breaches the surface, leading up to the Barya Wood, one of the entryways underground. A series of crystalline-looking structures dot the terrain here, and along the tower, with a strange and unnerving pattern, especially if you have trypophobia. These crystals can be discerned to actually be very hard eggs with a DC 25 Investigation check. Sleeping deep within these eggs are larval geode spiders. Grown adult versions roam this area as guards of the entrance, as well as these crystalline eggs. If players want to break the eggs, they have an AC of 13 and 5 hit points.

Otilo's Underground Forest[edit]

Otilo's true home lies here, where he spends most of his day. The "forest" part of this area comprises various plants that grow from the ceiling more so than the underground floor, making it one of the more fertile areas in the subterranean landscape. This is because, in his various excursions up and down from the surface, Otilo accrued a lot of plant matter on his body that he eventually dispersed onto the underground. Great mounds here build up as a result of his turbulent movement and burrowing, with some reaching as high as the ceiling. This place is also spotted with huge holes left by Otilo. Other than plants, this forest lacks additional fauna save smaller worms that are dwarfed by Otilo. They nonetheless can pose dangers to travelers. Antlions also lurk within the holes left by Otilo, using them as hunting spots.


The ruined city of Sor'Kshh is a remnant of an underground domain formerly held by the deceased general Barya, for whom the post and wood above ground were named. The ruined city consists of abandoned buildings modeled out of earth and an old mucus, looking somewhat like termite nests but with a slight box shape. Many of them are usually crumbling due to the passage of time. The civilians have since scattered either to the upper level or to the other subterranean cities along the many tunnels. Swarms of scavenging bugs, with the stat block of drones, are the main creatures that inhabit these ruins. They behave like little more than detritivores, swarming around scraps of food within the ruins.

Brachys' Hold[edit]

Located under Brachyus Beach, the great crab Brachys burrows here, to his true lair, to escape pursuers above ground. The many porous coves that dot the beach above form a series of mazes that worm their way down to the underground here, connecting to a large, underwater cavern that houses Brachys and his treasures stolen from sunken ships. This portion of the subterranean region is very wet and moist, with deep pools of water gathering along the tunnel floors and dripping stalactites. Creatures like cave fishers prowl these areas, preying on small fish and shrimp. The water here is large salt, so it is not potable untreated. At the inner sanctum, where Brachys hides, are mounds of corals and sea debris, from bones to old shipwrecks.

Faer's Systems[edit]

Lying west of Drenn'il, Faer's systems are a vast and complicated network of narrow tunnels that exit the realm. It is no easy way out, however, as these tunnelways are flooded often with very still waters. These waters have a fetid quality and feel the hive growths that go all along the walls of these tunnels. These hives are home to varieties of flying insects, not limited to but including wasps, stirges, and many types of small worms that infest the waters, as well as leeches. Faer is the name of the hivemind of mega leeches that lie deep within the tunnels. These are not ordinary leeches and can coordinate with deadly accuracy to suck prey dry. Most other insects will avoid this area due to the hunger of the leeches, which owes no particular allegiance even to Vexpa.

Nonmagical fire, including torches, burns for only 1 minute within the damp tunnels. It is recommended that the DM take full advantage of the hives along the walls, which can be a nuisance to deal with, as the insects within are considered to have ¾ cover while being able to attack passing players.


Lying between Subrach's Lake and Faer's Systems, Drenn'il is considered the megapolis of the underground, excluding Vexpa's Lair. It hosts a large settlement of insect and general arthropod denizens in a cell-like structure of a city, with closely adhered quarters. At the eastern sector is a large castle that is actually Subrach's personal dwelling when he isn't overseeing his lake. Subrach keeps a closer look over his lake than he does Drenn'il, as he finds watching citizenry to be too tedious. For that reason, he has disseminated trusted spies among the populace to keep the peace for him, named the Rach Corp. These spies have the stat block of a joroguro. They have an unsavory way of torturing prisoners and suspects of espionage, implanting them with liver leeches. Sometimes, these leeches are released into Faer's Systems.

Drygg Cross[edit]

This junction encompasses the primary crossing between the north and south portions of this underground. It is considered a safer option to trying to brace Subrach's lake. The other side of the crossing is covered within tough, crusted bedrock that even the giant termites cannot burrow in. Drygg Cross is next to the Sauga River, which is a route often used by illicit agents in the realm. The cross itself is a large gateway patrolled by Vexpa's vanguards of stag beetle warriors, tlincalli, and spider trolls...

Subrach's Lake[edit]

Subrach is one of Vexpa's highest generals. He is a spider lord who is Arach's older brother. He reigns over this massive underground lake. The surface of the water is thinly laden with spider silk which is almost impossible to see without passing a DC20 Perception check. Using this layer of webbing, Subrach can travel as though walking on the water's surface, and he surveys the entire lake by the vibrations along this network. The walls and ceiling are also taped up with similar webs, with baby spiderlings clustered in swarms around the ceiling stalactites.
The lake itself is deceptively pristine and calm, with pale blue color and a cloudy mist, and no creatures that live under its surface. Few creatures will drink from it for fear of being ensnared. Subrach, being extremely crafty, designed the webs to not only trap prey, but also possibly drown them if they are not careful. If a creature touches the surface of the water, they must pass a DC21 Dexterity save or become restrained by this webbing. If they fail with a roll of 10 or less, the web reacts with springiness and yanks the victim under the surface of the lake before closing back up. The victim is then held underwater, still restrained. To escape this webbing, a creature can use an action to attempt the save again on their turn. This web snare does not affect creatures who are arachnid with the web walker trait. Creatures under the effects of the spider climb spell are able to walk across the web as if it is difficult terrain and also do not have to make the save.
At the center of the lake, there is the funnel which connects the upper lake with the underground one. Creatures with swimming speeds can travel up and down the column of water, treating it as difficult terrain.

Fractured Isles[edit]

These isles are at the very eastern edge of the lair, and floating just on the edge of Subrach's Lake. His trusted advisor, Rudg, is a leng spider who keeps watch there for stragglers along the walls. Rudg is a schizophrenic, unpredictable creature only scared of Subrach or Vexpa. Despite this, his abilities as an aberration lend themselves to his sadistic methods of mind control.

Drone Hives[edit]

The drone hives are where the underground eastern region of the Swarm Range lies. They are also directly below the Dunes of Zzrk

Vexpa's Lair[edit]

Prisoner's Keep[edit]
Spawn Area[edit]

Vexpa's Lair[edit]

In the center of the Arch of the Swarm Range is Vexpa's lair. All ways throughout her Abyss layer and cities lead back to her personal area, where she exchanges fluids with drones to distribute to her placated populace. There are many secret passages accessible only by flight as well as subterranean tunnels which lead to her nest of eggs and larvae, as well as dungeons where transforming prisoners are kept. Vexpa rarely leaves her lair, as it allows her to access most of her most powerful abilities.


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  3. Tome of Beasts. Copyright 2016, Open Design; Authors Chris Harris, Dan Dillon, Rodrigo Garcia Carmona, and Wolfgang Baur
  4. Tome of Beasts. Copyright 2016, Open Design; Authors Chris Harris, Dan Dillon, Rodrigo Garcia Carmona, and Wolfgang Baur
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