Showing posts with label Hell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hell. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

I'm Going To Hell!

Well.  Not actually, but I am considering completely redoing all the Outer Planes in my D&D-like games, and the lower planes in particular.

My goal here is to restructure it is such a way that it works better for me and what I am doing in my games, and yet still be compatible enough with other iterations of the game, de that original game, OSR, or other OGL sources, that I can grab something off the shelf and make it work.  

Devil

Over the years I have talked about Hell, the Abyss, and other places such as XibalbaTartarus, and Tehom.  Pathfinder has added some of these realms into OGC, or rather have made SRD connections to Public Domain names (like Abaddon). 

I would also like to work in places like Sheol as well and homes for all the demon species I have been working on. 

Hell

Hell of the D&D universe is much more akin to the ideas of Hell from Greek myths, Dante, and Milton than it is from Judeo-Christian sources.  There are some ideas here from other myths as well.  

According to Dante, the main named devil in Hell is Lucifer/Satan.  He also mentions Geryon and names 12 individual Malebranche devils ("evil-claws") on Hell's eighth level, called here Malbolge.

According to Milton, the main devils are Beelzebub, Belial, Mammon, Moloch, and Satan. But on his way to Hell, possibly when he passes through Night and Chaos, are Orcus, Demogorgon, and Hades.

One of the first things I need to do is at least come up with some names for the Nine Circles / Nine Layers of Hell.  At least most people agree on nine.

Layer Name (D&D) Name (Pathfinder) Name (Dante)* Deadly Sin (Dante)
1 Avernus Avernus Limbo Virtuous Pagans
2 Dis Dis
Lust
3 Minauros Erebus
Gluttony
4 Phlegethos Phlegethon
Greed
5 Stygia Stygia City of Dis Wrath
6 Malebolge Malebolge
Heresy
7 Maladomini Cocytus
Violence
8 Caina Caina Malebolge Fraud
9 Nessus Nessus Pandæmonium* Treachery

I can't use the "D&D Column" with an OGL/OGC book, but the "Pathfinder" one is fine.  Well. It is fine, but lacks something for me. For now though I am going to use these.

*City of Pandæmonium

From Milton (Not Dante). This is the great city in the lowest circle of Hell. I am certainly going to use this.

Once I get my layers worked out I'll need to figure out who rules them.  The current (and some former) rulers are here.  Using D&D layer names.

Layer Name Archdevil Deadly Sin (Mine)
1 Avernus Druaga/Tiamat/Bel/Zariel
2 Dis Dispater Envy
3 Minauros Mammon Greed
4 Phlegethos Belial/Fierna Sloth
5 Stygia Geryon/Levistus Wrath
6 Malbolge Beherit/Moloch/Malagard/Glasya Lust
7 Maladomini Baalzebul/Beelzebub Gluttony
8 Cainia Mephistopheles Pride
9 Nessus Asmodeus *

I do like the idea of aligning Lord/Layer with a Deadly Sin. 

Now, not all of these Archdevils are OGC, and frankly I would rather use one of the Ars Goetia demons as the rulers.  In other cases, I am making changes.  Tiamat is a Chaotic Evil "Eodemon" in my games. Geryon is also now a "rage demon."  Druaga, or maybe now just Druj, will also be something else. 

At the moment I have about 650 demons and devils detailed for my Basic Bestiary II but none are sorted or detailed beyond basic descriptions. I need to start figuring out who "lives" where.

Links

Monday, February 15, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Buer, The Great President of Hell

Today is President's Day. Since we just got rid of the President from Hell, let's talk about a President of Hell. One of the things that I always found interesting reading demonology texts was the term President of Hell. One, in particular, is the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, The False Monarchy of Demons.  

One of the first Presidents mentioned was Buer.  Here is what is said about him.

Buer is a great president, and is seene in this signe [*]; he absolutelie teacheth philosophie morall and naturall, and also logicke, and the vertue of herbes: he giveth the best familiars, he can heale all diseases, speciallie of men, and reigneth over fiftie legions.

Kind of cool really. In this case, a President is someone that runs a government. The Pseudomonarchia Daemonum lists 14 such Presidents. How they fit into the Gygaxian vision of the Nine Hells and the Archdukes remains to be figured out; likely two presidents per layer of hell. 

Buer also appears as a President in the Ars Goetia of The Lesser Key of Solomon.  

Buer then would be classified as a devil in the Gygaxian taxonomy. 

Buer

Buer a Great President of Hell
President of Hell
Large Fiend (Diabolic)

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Lawful Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Centuar: 180' (60') [18"]
  Spirit: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 15d8***+45 (113 hp)
  HD (Large): 15d10***+45 (128 hp)
Attacks: trample, bite, spells
Damage: 1d6+2 x5, 1d8+2
Special: Devil abilities, spell casting
Size: Large
Save: Monster 16
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: XXI [B] x3
XP: 4,200 (OSE) 4,350 (LL)

Buer is a great President of Hell. He controls fifty legions of demons (a legion is 6,000 demons).  He will appear to mortals as a great red centaur. His true form is that of a lion's head with five goat legs radiating from this central head.  His whole body is aflame.  

Buer can cast spells as if he was a 13th level magic-user.  He can cast any spell dealing with fire (produce flame, fireball, etc) twice per day with additional memorization needed. 

He is a great patron of witches and warlocks, in particular warlocks.  The familiars he grants can heal their warlocks once per day for 1d6+ hp of damage and cure disease once per week. 

The Great Seal of Buer

Buer is summoned by demonologists and malefic witches for his knowledge on logic, moral philosophy, and the sciences, of which he is particularly knowledgeable on.  He can grant a familiar to those that summon him.  These will be imps but can appear as a natural animal.  These familiars will work to bring their master to greater and great acts of evil.  If the magic-user (or witch or warlock) dies while they have this familiar their souls will be sent to Hell where the familiar becomes the new Master and tortures the former magic-user for eternity

--

So a few things I have to consider.  Buer is a President, one of 14. I need to figure out which ones go where.  I am still thinking two per levels 2 to 8, with none for the 1st and 9th levels.  I also want to come up with new names for the levels and the rulers, more or less.

Now I know that Buer was featured in Dragon Magazine's famous "The Nine Hells Revisited, Part 1 and 2" and there is some written about him there. While it is all good stuff, I want to reorganize these as I like. 

I am certainly going to do a lot more with thses.

Monday, June 4, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 1

Then were they known to men by various Names,
And various Idols through the Heathen World.
- Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1

For this posting of One Man's God, I thought it best to go back where it all began for me.

The Babylonian myths in the Deities and Demigods are one of the most interesting collections of characters in the book really.  I was fascinated by them and when I got to college I jumped at the chance to take a mythology class and learn more.  There Professor Joan O'Brien (yes I remember her 30 years later, she was that good) told the story of Gilgamesh and Marduk and many others in the Enûma Eliš, or When On High.   So I am likely to spend a couple of posts on this topic just because it is so rich.

Now I want to clear about one thing.  I am not here to dismiss or deride the research done by James M. Ward and Robert J. Kuntz.  They did what they did without the benefit of computers, the internet and the collected archeological knowledge I have access too since 1980.  For example, there were some pretty significant finds in 1984 and published in 1992 that would have changed some things.  Plus they were not writing for historical, archeological, or mythological scholarship.  They were writing first and foremost for the AD&D game.  So let's keep that all in mind when digging through the rubble of ages.

Alas, Babylon
The myths of the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Babylonians represent some of the oldest myths and stories mankind has intact.  Dating back to 3500 BCE these are quite old. Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon (the Empire, not just the city) roughly share the same area between the  Tigris–Euphrates rivers, they also shared related languages; Sumerian, but mostly Akkadian.  They used the same cuneiform writing and they recorded them on clay tablets. They shared gods and they shared a culture.  While there is more time (more than twice the time really) between the rise of the Sumerian city-states and the fall of the last Babylonian empire than there is between Babylon and now, we tend to view them as related.
Because of this I am more likely to treat the Babylonian Mythos and the Sumerian Mythos of the D&DG as being one and not two.

Druaga
Let's start with what can only be called the Poster Boy for this series.  Druaga, Ruler of the Devil World.   We really don't know much about this guy other than he is a real monster.  We know he never appears to anyone the same way twice, yet he has a true form that frightens others.  He is Lawful evil and can summon devils (except Archdevils) and can turn victims of his mace attacks into devils.

Is it me or does his mace remind you of Asmodeus' Ruby Rod?



I have a lot of issues with Druaga here.

If you thought he doesn't really seem to fit the Babylonian gods then you are right.  He doesn't appear to be one of their gods at all.  There is a connection to "Druj" which is an Avestan (proto-Iranian) spirit of corruption.  But that concept comes from later and further away than Babylon.  He appears to be made up whole cloth for this book.  The only other reference to him in anything like this form is from a 1984 video game and later anime; Doruāga no Tō or The Tower of Druaga.  The game features Gilgamesh and Ki, who seems to be based on the Sumerian Goddess Ki (yeah I have some issues with her too...).  Druaga even looks similar to the D&DG version.


There is also the issue that despite his obvious power there is no place for him in the devils' hierarchy.  He is more powerful than Asmodeus and can create new devils besides.  So what gives?

In my own games, I took Druaga and I put him on the first layer of Hell in place of Tiamat (more on her in a bit).  First, I figured he was a better fit since I wanted Tiamat to be Chaotic Evil and he had the look.  I had already started dividing my devils into the ruling and serving classes.  The rulers were the fallen angels or everyone from a pitfiend up.  The servers were the less human looking devils (Eventually called "Shedim" or Demons of Rage in my games)  Druaga was their leader.
To steal from the greats I had made my Hell already filled with some creatures.  Some the Fallen took over and others they kicked out.  I also made my first level of Hell the place where the pagans go, ala Dante's Inferno.

Over the years we have gotten a number of Rulers of Avernus; Tiamat, Bel and now Zariel.  Maybe Druaga was there first.

Looking at his stats he is pretty powerful.  Strength at 24, Intelligence at 18, Dexterity at 23, Constitution at 25, and a Charisma of -4.  Only his 13 Wisdom fails to be godly.
He is listed as a 15th level fighter, 15th level magic-user, and 15 level assassin.  If we give him 15 HD and maximum hp (d8+7 for Con) then that gives us 225 hp.  Not far off from his 230.
He has 75% magic resistance as well as being immune to breath-weapons.

So why is he not ruling hell?

If we go with the Politics of Hell article as a guide, Druaga was the ruler but was deposed when the Angels fell and became Devils.

For starters, I am happy with 15 HD, though higher is also nicer.  The 1e AD&D Monster Manual sets the Pit Fiend at 13 HD, so 15 HD for a former ruler, reduced in power works for me.

Druaga, Former Ruler of Hell
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -2
MOVE:  12"/24"
HIT DICE:  15 (230 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  95%
TREASURE  TYPE:  J,  R
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  6-15/6-15 (1d10+5)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  See  below
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +3  or  better
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  65%
INTELLIGENCE:  Exceptional
ALIGNMENT:  Lawful  Evil
SIZE:  L  (9' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

When the Angels fell after the War in Heaven, Druaga was already there.  When faced with the legions of the Fallen, Druaga surrendered his ruby mace to the leader of the Fallen.  Eventually, it came into the possession of the Arch Duke Asmodeus.

Druaga still holds considerable power.  He lives in a giant ziggurat temple on Avernus where the souls of the damned still perform service to him.   He can summon any devil of Pit Fiend status or lower to his aid once a day in numbers from 2-20.
Druaga has all the same immunities as do other Devils, he is also 100% immune to the effects of all breath weapons.

Next time we will talk dragons.

You can read Part 2 here.
You can read Part 3 here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Satan

I have talked a lot about demons this month and about Hell prior to this.  The one thing I have not talked much about is the Big D himself, The Devil aka Satan.


Here are two things you likely didn't know about Satan in RPGS and D&D in particular.
First, he usually doesn't appear in them.  In fact, there are no official stats for Satan/Lucifer in D&D in any edition.  Plenty of stats in third party products, but none for the guy himself.
Secondly, I never use Satan in my games.  Not because I don't want too or have any fear of it, simply put there is no way he could ever live up to the expectation of the players.
One lucky roll and all my carefully laid plans become, oh hey we just killed the Source of All Evil.  How many XP do we get?  There is just no way that stats on paper can match up with the expectations of the players.  With a character like Dracula, it is easier.  He can be just as evil, just as much of a threat to the characters, but we know something else about Dracula. It's the same as Smaug, or Voldermort, or Vader or Sauron.  These evils can and were defeated.  Satan is, or at least should be, an unstoppable dreadnaught of evil. He is not the Monster of the Week, he is not even the Big Bad.  He is the Biggest Bad EVER.

Despite the lurid tales from the 80's (check out Asshat Paladin's review of "Playing with Fire") or Pat Robertson's claims, D&D players are not Satanists.  Sure, maybe some are. But no more or no less than say the general population (which is much smaller than people generally think).

Lucifer as Satan has appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine and in the various Tome of Horrors books.

Satan made his appearance in Dragon #28 from 1979 in the infamous Politics of Hell article.  Here are the stats he had then:

Satan
FREQUENCY Very rare
NO. APPEARING 1
ARMOR CLASS -8
MOVE Whatever desired
HIT DICE 333 hit points
% IN LAIR 5%
TREASURE TYPE H(*2), l(*2), U(*2)
NO. ATTACKS 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK 10-100
SPECIAL ATTACKS +3 or better weapon and purity of heart required to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE 95%
INTELLIGENCE Godlike
ALIGNMENT Lawful evil
SIZE Variable
PSIONIC ABILITY Special
Attack/Defense Modes Special

and his more recent S&W stats:
(Satan from the Tome of Horrors Complete, Copyright 2011, Necromancer Games, Inc., published and distributed by Frog God Games; Authors Scott Greene.)

Satan

Hit Dice: 25 (150 hp)
Armor Class: -6 [25]
Attack: Rod of Infernus (3d6), bite (2d4 plus poison) or 2 claws (2d8), bite (2d4 plus poison), tail sting 1d8 plus poison)
Saving Throw: 3
Special: Gaze weapons, spells, summon devils, +3 or better weapon to hit, immunity to fire and poison, regeneration (4 hp/round), magic resistance (90%), see in darkness, telepathy 100 ft.
Move: 21/30 (flying)
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 40/10400

The Pathfinder stats are even more powerful.
EVEN then there is some character out there that could take this guy.  Maybe not many, but they are out there.


Lucifer and Satan have appeared as separate entities in the old Death's Edge Games Inferno games.
Which got me thinking, what if "Satan" isn't a person, but a title.  Not "Satan" but "the Satan", similar to what I did for Demongorgon.  The idea is not really an original one, Piers Anthony covered it in his Incarnations of Immortality series and it was covered well in the Charmed series with their Source of All Evil concept.
So the idea here is take a demon, already powerful, and juice him up on all the power of evil, or Evil, and he becomes the ruler of all demons.  Take a page from Lexx and His Divine Shadow and make it so that the new host of this evil power, the new Satan, has all the memories of all the previous Satans AND the knowledge of the new host.  That is a very dangerous foe.

So lets combine this idea with Dante's Inferno and some from the the D&D game itself.  In D&D there is a god of Evil, Tharizdun (who I'll talk about more tomorrow) that is roughly the same as Lucifer/Satan.
Tharizdun is trapped in a prison where his jailer was Asmodeus.  Asmodeus is now the leader of Hell and Tharisdun is forgotten.  There are a lot of clues to his whereabouts and even Gygax himself featured him in his Gord the Rogue books.  So my solution is to split "Satan" up into a couple of beings.  Part of him is the imprisoned Beast and another part in actually part of AAsmodeus


Another part...well I have not figured that one out yet.

The real question that in a world FULL of demons, devils and all sorts of monsters what purpose does Satan serve? What does he do?

The recent Kelley Armstrong book "Thirteen" finally features Lucifer.  He is very different than what is typically expected.  Two of my favorite versions was Peter Cook's in Bedazzled and Viggo Mortensen in The Prophecy for different reasons.  Maybe I should do that for my next October Movie marathon, only watch movies that feature the Devil/Satan as a character.

I also have something to say about RPGs and their role in the Satanic Panic of the 80s.  But that needs to be for another day.

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Geryon

Every D&D player from the late 70s and 80s knows about the Arch Devil Geryon.  He never really seemed to fit well with the other Arch Devils/Dukes of Hell.  For example, most devils have horns, Geryon did not.  The other devils were fallen angels or appeared in various Christian demonologies.  Not so for Geryon.
He was described as "The Wild Beast" which I took as being a reference to the Great Beast, but still he wasn't more or less beastly than some of the other devils.

Geyron is based on the character from Dante's Inferno who lives between the Seventh and Eighth Circle of Hell.  He bares no resemblance to the mythical Geryon of the Twelve Labors of Heracles.

In later Planescape-related D&D Geryon gets kicked out of Hell, though he is still around.  In my campaign from the late 90s, A Sojourn in Hell, (which merged my old 80s D&D game with my more modern horror ones) Geryon was killed outright.  In the official treatments he was exiled because he thinks that there is some task he needs to do so terrible that he could not perform it as an Arch Devil. I have to admit I kinda like that.

Maybe it was the classic Clash of the Titans, but I have always thought Geyron needs a huge bow.  Play up his hunter-like qualities.

Despite my previous use of him I think I might take him back to his hunter-like role.  He haunts the wilds of the Seventh Circle of Hell

In my update Geyron is no longer a devil or Baalseraph, but he is the archetypical rage demon or a Shedim.

NAME: Geryon
Alignment: Chaotic (Evil)
Movement: 90'/120' (flying)
Armor Class: -2
Hit Points (Hit Dice): 150 hp (20 HD)
Attacks: claws (2), tail sting or bow
Damage: 1d10/1d10/1d8+poison or 2d8+posin
Special: Fear gaze, spells, bull’s horn, summon shedim, +2 or better weapon to hit, immunity to fire and poison, regeneration (3 hp/round), see in darkness, magic resistance (65%), telepathy 100 ft.
Save: F20
MORALE: 11
XP: 10,000

Geryon is a massive beast. He towers over most creatures at 15' tall. His head is massive, nearly three times as wide as a human's with features of both human, lion and ape.  His head can rotate 180 degrees around, so he can see directly behind himself. He is barrel chested, with massive arms that resemble that of a gorilla ending in lion-like claws.  His 40' long body ends in a snake like tail tipped with a poisonous tip like that of a scorpion.  His massive bat-like wings gives him the overall impression of wyvern.
His eyes burn with intelligence and hate.

Geryon patrols his lands in search of prey to hunt. Normally he hunts the wild kine of the hells, his favorite prey of course is human.  He can attack with his massive claws (he has the strength of a cloud giant) and his tail sting.  The poison of the sting does no additional damage, but the victim must save vs. poison or die in agony.  He prefers to hunt with his bow.  The arrows from this massive bow do more damage than mortal weapons and the arrows are also often tipped with the same poison found in his tail.  The bow itself is so huge that a normal human can not use it and it would require a Strength of 24 to use.

Geryon can be pressed into service by occultists that know the secret means to do so.
Geryon himself can summon other, lesser Shedim to aid him.  He rarely does this though as he sees himself as superior to all around him (save for maybe the Baalseraph Dukes).  Because of his renown as a hunter in the Hells he is often sought after by Baalseraph and Calabim Lords as an assassin.

OGL Section 15.

Geryon from the Tome of Horrors Complete, Copyright 2011, Necromancer Games, Inc., published and distributed by Frog God Games; Authors Scott Greene and Clark Peterson, based on original material by
Gary Gygax.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh Hell!

There are some new posts over at The Land of Nod about Hell:
Going to #&!!
Ruminations on the Netherworld

I like what he has so far.
I have been going on a similar path myself:
Going (Up) to Hell? Cosmology
Post 666

Let's be honest here.  Hell is interesting.  It is the ultimate mega dungeon  Everything there can be killed and not only that, it is a good thing to do!

What I have been struggling with though is cosmology.
IF there is a multiverse in my game (and there is) then does each world have it's own Hell?  Or do all Hells connect to each other.
Obviously one answer is that in the core of my world there is my Hell and in the core of the Land of Nod there is another Hell and so on...  Another is they are all the same place, just different points of view and different access points.

The other issue I still have is how to get Hell and the Abyss to work together.  Sur eI could make the same place and have the demons be the thralls of the devils, but that robs them of some of their chaotic power.

I should figure this out soon.  The Dragonslayers are about to get a copy of the Demonomicon and I want to do an whole arc where they fight Orcus.

Could the Antechamber of Hell/Limbo also be the Abyss?  Is it big enough to support all the demons I need? The Earth currently is home to almost 7 billion people.  How many demons then are there?   According to many of the myths of the time there is anywhere from 6,666 to 133 million demons, with up to 72 demonic leaders.

According to the 4th ed Manual of the Planes Hell is a planet that is 7,000 in diameter. If my world is roughly the same size as Earth then Hell can be inside the Earth with 460 some odd miles between the the two surfaces.   The deepest part of the Earth is under 7 miles deep and I recall reading somewhere that the deepest we have ever dug is 2 miles.  So plenty of room for demons, devils and all sorts of beasties.
Even if the Underdark is 10 miles deep that is still a lot of room.


So I think I have enough room.  Now where to put them all.

Other useful links:
http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/dra/400ninehells
http://kotgl.blogspot.com/2010/01/kill-planes-abyss.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inferno_(Dante)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise_Lost
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Post 666

I have reached a momentous milestone here at the Other Side.  This is my 666th post.  I feel compelled (by the Power of Satan!) to post about something devilish.

I have talked about Hell before and some of it's inhabitants and some potential inhabitants.  If I follow this logic then devils would be the ultimate foe for the elves.  Not that I don't mind this idea at all. But I think I might focus it a bit more.   Combine the story of Dante's Inferno, Milton's Paradise Lost and Lolth's shunning/betrayal and I can paint a pretty detailed idea of what Hell is in my world.

Hell is the ultimate prison for the fallen.  Gods, Angels and other powers are cast out and into hell.

Let's start with a couple of Goddess that give me some problems.

Tiamat is a Goddess and Queen of all evil dragons.  She has always been listed as having a domain on the first level of Hell.  I have never really liked that to be honest.  Tiamat is in Babylonian myth primal Chaos.  If anything she should be in the Abyss.  Using the new 4e cosmology that would place her in the Elemental Chaos, which is really the perfect place for her.  In Dragonlance her home was always called "the Abyss".  In my games I always called her realm Tehom, which means Abyss in Hebrew and is associated with the mythical Tiamat.  So she really has no place in Hell.  Who should replace her?

Lolth on the other hand is better fit.  Her story is more in line with the casting out of the Angels into Hell.  Though I am not sure I want her in Hell proper, maybe more of the Ante-chamber to Hell, near the Underdark. This would be similar to the first level of Hell that Dante claimed the Pagans went too.  So I am trading a giant dragon for a giant spider.   For a bit of tongue in cheek continuity I would make Tiamat and Lolth allies.  They have different goals and motivations, but I see them as felling they have a common history so if it benefits them to share an alliance, then they would. Lolth's realm is still called the Demonweb and she still has a number of demons in her employ.

Devils in my Game
Demons are easy.  They are evil, chaotic outsiders bent on destruction of everything.  Devils are much more complicated.  I say in my game Devils are only Fallen Angels.  That means there are a finite number of them and once they are gone, that is it.  There are a lot of creatures that are called devils, but most of them are demons pressed into service.  Since they have been forced into service by the Devils they have changed, they can evolve into greater forms.  Pit Fiends are those fiends that have reason up in ranks.  The True Devils still look down on them.

Since I started this post, Dreams of the Lich House posted a bit about using Satan/The Tempter in your games.  It is a good read.  It also ties in nicely with the Milton/Dante-ish cosmology I want to use for Hell.  I would keep the 9 layers.  The top most being the "Ante-Chamber of Hell" and the rest each ruled by an Arch Duke.  Also each Arch Duke is responsible for one of the Seven Deadly sins.

Layer Name Arch-Duke Deadly Sin
1 Avernus none na
2 Dis Dispater Envy
3 Minauros Mammon Greed
4 Phlegethos Belial Sloth
5 Stygia Geryon Wrath
6 Malbolge Glayssa Lust
7 Maladomini Baalzebul/Beelzebub Gluttony
8 Cania Mephistopheles Pride
9 Nessus Asmodeus *

Glayssa was given Lust, Asmodeus' old sin since he is now in charge.  His though is the sin of betrayal.
In the 4e cosmology Asmodeus was the angel guarding the prison that Tharizdun was held in.  Tharizdûn corrupted him and Asmodues and his angels all fell.  I have decided that Tharizdun is still chained, but the greatest deceit is that he is not where all the gods think he is.  He is in fact buried deep in Hell where Asmodeus taps his power. This is how he has been elevated to near Godhood.  Of course this might be Tharizdun plan to to trap Asmodeus in his thrall even more.


Chances are good that the Dragonslayers will run into the cult of Tharizdun sometime soon.  I just need something to do with them.

I am not planning on the Dragonslayers going to Hell anytime soon, so this all might be for nothing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Going (Up) to Hell? Cosmology


I was reading a very interesting post by Mike Mearls the other day about dropping the structure of the planes in favor of something more local. Read his post here, http://kotgl.blogspot.com/2010/01/kill-planes-abyss.html.

Ok? good.

I think his reasons of course are sound and fit nicely with something I have wanted to do forever. When I first picked up that 1st Ed copy of Deities and Demigods I loved the Planes. It had so many interesting places and so many things to do. I got very attached to the Great Wheel cosmology that I began to evaluate fantasy and later horror on how closely it fit that model. Then I began to get lazy. Not in the sense that would not write, quite the opposite, I would come up with elaborate schemes to make things fit the model or not. Whether it needed to or not. Even in my AD&D Grand Opus Adventure the characters went to Hell to confront the evils that invaded their world there was still the Great Wheel. It worked, then, but now I feel it's limitations. Well along came 3rd Edition and suddenly the planes are mutable, changing and even expected to be different depending on how you look at them; 4E changes this even more.

Mike Mearls mentions in his blog that one of the issues of the planes being "out there" that they lose some of their value. History tells us that demons, devils and other bad things came from under-ground, or beyond that mountain or from across the sea; here there be monsters. Monsters come from "beyond the sky" in Lovecraft related fiction, which is fine for tentacle horrors, but devils at least are concerned with the same things humans are. Devils need to be close. They need to be something the common man, woman and child fears. Not just because they are evil, but because they are nearby.

Mike says move the Abyss to your world, I say move Hell.




Hell in 4e now seems to be a planet floating somewhere in the Astral Sea. This puts it on par with everything else, even Heaven. Now I am not a religious person, but doesn't Hell lose some of what makes it Hell if it just a planet with bad environmental conditions? They describe it as planet some 7,000 miles in diameter with the "layers" lower and lower subterranean continent sized caverns. Like Mearls, I say take all that and shove it inside your world. Drill down a few hundred miles and there is the entry way to Hell. Just like Dante described. What keeps the devils in? Same thing that keeps them there now, gates. Like the roach motel it is, it is easy to get, impossible to get out. Or nearly such. Of course the point between the Underdark and Abyss sharing a nature is sound, I think I can get the same thing with the Nine Hells really. In fact I might even make Lolth more like a devil (she is more devil like than demon like anyway) given her status as former Goddess, cast out and down. Sound familiar? It certainly fits with what Hell is supposed to be better, an underground dungeon for the damned. The Abyss is a maelstrom of evil and chaos, it fits better in the planes.
Of course this is not without issues. First, and the one that concerns multi-versal games the most, is that Hell inside a planet means that for every copy/twin/multiverse that planet is in there is a corresponding Hell. This might be fine really. I don't care for some of the changes made to some of the Arch Dukes in the last few books (3 & 4), but I can write that off as that is just the way things are in that universe. Which is something we all do anyway, I am just making it explicit. Of course the new 4e cosmology also gives us the Shadowfell and the Feywild, which I like, but if they are dark and twisted reflections of our own world then what about the Hell for those worlds? I say that their Hells are ours. That if you drill down in the Shadowfell you end up in the same Hell as if you did it in the Feywild or the campaign world.
Back in the day there was a great series of Dragon articles about the various Arch Dukes and Dukes of Hell. The article began with a bit of fiction about a Paladin (a holy warrior for good) marching on to Hell to defeat evil at the source. This scene works better today than it even did then with Devils now generally evil rather than exclusively "Lawful Evil". And it works better if the Paladin is marching to Hell, not paying a wizard for an Astral Projection spell.

Sure *where* it is physically located might mean little to PCs and DMs with access to magical means of travel, but the world should make sense to normal people too. What is there to fear about a creature, evil and immortal or not, if it takes a great amount of magic to get them here.

Gygax was a reader of Dante, Milton and of Ovid. These authors, as much as anything and maybe more so, shaped what we think of when we think of Hell. "Planet Hell" inside the Earth/World then fits very well with all these writers. More than a plane "out there" somewhere. Which does bring up an interesting point. Here is a quote from Milton's "Paradise Lost",

"Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name Of Demogorgon."
— John Milton, Paradise Lost II. 966.

So. Lucifer is cast out of Heaven and down into Hell, he meets up with these demons in some…what, ante-chamber of Hell, a place where Chaos rules with Night. Sounds like the Abyss, but where is that again? I have often wanted to merge Hell and they Abyss into one place where demons are the masses of creatures and devil are the upper-class. If I put Hell inside my world (or the Abyss like Mearls) then do I have room for both? Do I need both? Are they the same thing with different names? Then there are other issues I have avoided because of the aforementioned laziness. Tiamat is described in myth as "chaos" and her body is destroyed to make the firmament of the Earth. But then she gets tossed into Hell? Sure, it fits the outcast god model, but Tiamat is chaos. Lilith is also cast out, but she wants order, her own order, but order all the same; at least that is how I read it. Grazzt looks like a Devil, but is a Demon or maybe he is not. And there is the bit from Milton. So what is a world builder to do? And where is this antechamber of Hell were Demogorgon and Orcus act as the Welcome Wagon for Lucifer and the cast out Angels, now Devils? Hell has the River Styx, where the souls of the dead are ferried across, but now the souls of the dead move through the Shadowfell. This makes me want to break out the WitchCraft RPG seprioths and see if I can't make it all work.


Well here is my stab at it. The Antechamber is of course the Underdark. It is hundreds of miles below the surface of the planet. Here in the deepest pit was where the fallen angels were cast. It is here that they meet the demons. There is a great battle, Orcus (then a dark god) is killed only to come back from the dead, Demogorgon has his head cleaved in half (to regrow as two heads) and Ades…well that was the last anyone heard of him. The devils (as they are now known) take the realm once controlled by demons. Once there though the devils discover that Hell is not the home of the demons, it was only the realm they could control this close to the world. The devils seal the opening to the Abyss, place Tiamat there to guard against demonic entry and the devils themselves descend lower into Hell. Physically the Abyss and Hell (and Tarterus and Pluton and Gehenna) are all the same place locked deep within the Earth in a area were the Prime Material, Shadowfell and Feywild all intersect. The nine layers controlled by the Arch Dukes and Devils is known as Hell. Everything else is simply "The Underworld". The conditions are, well Hellish, it is inside a planet afterall, but great and powerful magics keep the denizens alive, though it warps other magic and prevents them from escaping. The areas known as the Abyss are open and there is much fighting, the area known as Hell is gated. It is supposed to be a prison after all.

At the bottom there is a dark chasm who feeds into the elemental chaos. I like the description of the Abyss in the new Manual of the Planes, it makes it sound like a black hole in the Astral.

It needs some work to be sure. Demons, like Demogorgon, Orcus, Pazuzu and others have more interest in human affairs than the mindless hoards of demons because they are more devil like, and thus, more human like. Older demons such as Dagon are more elemental chaos. Even Tiamat now is more demonic than diabolic. This helps explain the Bloodwar a bit better, explains the similarity between demons and devils and why in popular parlance (in the world) they are often confused. It also helps explain why some seem to switch sides every now and then. Or simply put, devils are the cast out immortals of good that betrayed or otherwise became evil. Demons always were evil.

Of course I could keep the Abyss as is in 4th Ed. There are plenty of good reasons to keep it in the elemental chaos in the Astral. Demons are more elemental, more chaotic obviously and more alien. Of "demon" can just be a term to refer to anything that is evil that is not a devil. If I go that route then "Devils" would refer only to the Fallen and things like Ice Devils, Malebranche and the like are demons, just a different kind. After all, Succubi were demons and now they are devils, so it's not like there isn't precedent.
What does removing the demons and devils from the "outer planes" rob us of in D&D? Well, Planescape to a large degree would need to be rethought. To a lesser extent the nature of Tieflings will need to be changed, though maybe not. Typically to get to those outer planes takes characters of some power, so there is the build up to go to their home turf and fight that is now gone; ie. anyone can find the opening to Hell and stumble in.

OR maybe demons come the "Hells" of the Shadowfell and Feywild.

Of course there is one huge advantage of reshaping the planes. I can shape them in a way to work with either my 4th Ed game or my OSR/Basic game or even something like Ghosts of Albion.

That is the fun thing about fantasy cosmology, it can be a mutable as I need it to be.