Marbas or Barbas is a demon described in the Ars Goetia. He is described as the Great President of Hell governing thirty-six legions of demons. He answers truly on hidden or secret things, causes and heals diseases, gives wisdom and knowledge in mechanical arts, and can change men into other shapes. He is depicted as a great lion that, under the conjurer’s request, changes shape into a man.
Orginally from The Book of Fiends
Designed By Aaron Loeb, Erik Mona, Chris Pramas, and Robert J. Schwalb
Master of Fetid Change
Layer: The Soaking Canyon of Malignancy Areas of Concern: Disease, mutation, tumors, the deformed
Domains: Change, Chaos, Disease, Evil
Favored Weapon: Quarterstaff
Strip away the artificial strictures of civilization, challenge the laws of nature, cast off the limitations of mortal imagination that force all things into easily understood categories, and you reveal glorious chaos. The only true universal constant, chaos gives animating force to life, determines the fates of all living things, and guides the progression of time.
According to the teachings of Marbas, Master of Fetid Change, that which openly proclaims its allegiance to chaos is closer to universal truth, unfettered by restrictions and free to float effortlessly and painlessly upon the undulating surface of fate. The deformed, diseased, and ugly, being variations of the norm, are the ultimate mortal representatives of chaos and should be honored as the harbingers of a new era in which chaos reigns eternal. In certain texts, Marbas is referred to as Barbas.
The Master of Fetid Change appears as an evershifting mass of tumorous flesh covered in crooked horns and misshapen mouths. Foul odors spew from numerous sphincters positioned randomly about its body, and enormous orifices and powerful internal organs allow Marbas to process what it has eaten (usually enemies) in an instant, spewing the remains upon itself in a torrent of bile.
Planar scholars know Marbas’s personal layer as the Soaking Canyon of Malignancy, a ghastly series of rifts and gulches composed of walls of constantly growing mutated tissue. Cancerous ichor seeps slowly from countless crevasses at which different types of flesh conjoin, pooling upon the canyon floor to form coagulating streams of reeking fluids. Oozes and molds dominate the layer’s moist corners, while ravenous chaos beasts roam on rare islands of solid ground.
Marbas itself dwells in a confounding series of caverns known as the Dripping Darkness, a catacomb of oozing filth and digestive juices that can be harvested and used as the basis for potent magical elixirs. The odious demon lord Merihim stands guard at the gates of this unusual underworld, smothering would-be interlopers with his fleshy appendage tubes, which spew forth a multitude of disease-inducing vapors.
It’s difficult to guess what exactly attracts adherents to the Cult of Putrid Virtue, as Marbas’s worship is known, but all who swear allegiance to the prince share an appreciation for the uglier things in life. Many bear the scars of infection or suffer from some birth-related deformity, so perhaps the acceptance and honor they find within the cult makes up for the years of mistreatment by their ‘normal’ fellows in society at large.
Regardless of their motives for joining, most cultists display a level of fervor best described as fanatical. They will go to any lengths to locate and obtain information on new diseases (the more grisly and disgusting the symptoms the better) and to kidnap deformed children to be raised as exemplars of the Marbasian way of life. Many such children die, at which point followers of Marbas get surgical, grafting dead ‘freak flesh’ to their own in an attempt to further deviate from the accepted norm.
Devotees of Marbas view themselves as protectors of the defenseless ugly and diseased, celebrating the unsightly aspects of life that others would see healed, fixed, or eradicated. They know well the resentment and fear felt toward them by those who do not share their afflictions, and hope that by spreading disease and mutation they will in turn spread a greater understanding of their own plight.
Each morning, thaumaturges in service to the Master of Fetid Change spend an hour in ritual self-scarring and body modification, often grafting the dead skin of their enemies to their own. Normally, such skin becomes gangrenous within a few days, but if taken from a deformed or diseased victim, it remains healthy so long as the thaumaturge tends to it at least once a week during the obedience ritual. While such modifications never provide a physical benefit (such as gaining an additional attack by grafting an extra ‘ugly’ arm), they do much to enhance the thaumaturge’s unsettling presence. At the end of the ceremony, the thaumaturge’s daily spell allotment is replenished.