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

Monday, October 24, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Devils

Last week I concluded my This Old Dragon retrospective of the Devil and the Nine Hells as they appeared in Dragon Magazine. Today for Monstrous Monday I want to look at some books about devils and show how there is a direct line continuity from those Dragon articles in 1983 to the 3.5 Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells from 2006 and even the 4e The Plane  Above in 2010.

Devils 3e and 4e styles

Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (3.5)

Tyrants of the Nine Hells
PDF and Hardcover. 158 Pages. Color covers and interior art.

This book does for Devils what the Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss did for demons. Sadly there is no Fiendish Codex III. For this review I am considering my hardcover I bought back when it came out and the PDF on DriveThruRPG.

Preface: This might one of the more important bits of D&D fiction out there. Devils in D&D have always had a problem. No not from busy-body mothers and evangelicals looking to ban D&D because of devils and demons (they would find something else anyway), the issue is that the very nature of the devils in question tie them closely to the Abrahamic religions.  Asmodeus is a Jewish demon, Baalzebul comes to us from Beelzebub, another demon found in the Bible by way of Judaism. Mammon comes from the New Testament and Belial from the Old Testament.  Remove the Judeo-Christian origins who are these demons? This new(ish) preface gives us the new origins of these devils and how they fit into the D&D cosmology and the Blood War.

Introduction is just that, tells you what this book is about.

Chapter 1: All About Devils covers devils and hell. The only valuable things in Hell to the devils are souls.These are what they strive to collect, to barter, and bargain with.  Where demons are spit up from the nature of the Abyss itself, devils need souls to make more devils. This should imply there is a distinct dichotomy in the devilish hierarchy; devils that were raised up from souls to devils that fell. Speaking of hierarchy this chapter goes into that and how devils rise up from one form to the next. Also discussed are Demons and Devils and the Blood War. 

There is advice on running devilish encounters and how to deal with Faustian Pacts, devil worship and infernal alliances. Yeah, this in not 80s D&D.  Pretty much everything in this chapter can be used with any edition of D&D.

Chapter 2: The Hells. A detailed "guided tour" of Hell. We are going over some of the same ground back when Ed Greenwood took us here in 1983 in Dragon #75 and Dragon #76. There is more details here and some layers have changed a bit; Avernus comes to mind. Throughout the layers, we also get a listing of the various D&D Gods that live in the Hells. Something that I spent a lot of time covering in my series One Man's God.  There are updates not just from the AD&D 1st ed time of Ed Greenwood's article and the Blood War material of late 2nd Ed AD&D, but from 3.0 D&D as well. Phlegethos is now controlled by Fierna instead of jointly controlled by her and her father and Glasya in the newly anointed Lord of Malbolge having offed the Hag Countess. All great material and more than I'll ever use in a game.

Chapter 3: Game Rules. This cover the 3.5 D&D specific rules. There are Hellbred characters, new feats, and new Prestige Classes. Of special interest to me is the Hellfire Warlock. There are also plenty of new spells. 

Chapter 4: Devils are our new monster listings of devils. The Abishai are back, along with 16 other devils, some new and some updated.

Chapter 5: Lords of the Nine detail the Nine Archdukes. You can pretty much tell what version of D&D you are using by who the Archduke of Avernus is. In 3.5 it is Bel. Though I think he might have been it for late 2nd ed as well. All the Archdukes get a bit of a makeover from their 1st Ed days. Dispater has hair now, Mammon has a new cursed form, Levistus is the lord of Stygia, and Glasya gets the best upgrade and is now Lord of Sixth Layer Malbolge. Baalzebul still looks like a slug. Mephistopheles is still working on Hellfire. Only Asmodeus is constant. As he demands it. 

As its sister product, this is a great book on Devils and the Nine Hells for any edition of D&D.


The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (4e)

PDF and Hardcover. 160 Pages. Color covers and interior art. I am considering both my hardcover (one of the last D&D books I ever bought at Borders I believe) and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.

4e reordered the Cosmos and that is fine for me really. In 3e they explained that how one perceives the outer planes is largely based on how they believe they should perceive them. So Hell in 4e is both a "Lower Plane" and an "Upper Plane." No contradiction really.

This book has the same relationship to The Plane Below as the Fiendish Codices have to each other. 

Chapter 1: Astral Adventures cover adventuring on the Astral Sea. Again it is easy to see why Wizards of the Coast moved their version of Spelljammer to the Astral. The seeds for that are all here. Indeed Spelljammers are mentioned on page 19 as a means of siling the Astral Sea.

Chapter 2: Divine Dominions deal with the homes of the gods and the afterlives of mortals. Different sorts of creatures are detailed here; gods, angels, the exalted, and Outsiders. A few divine domains are also detailed. Arvandor is the home of elves and eladrin. Celestia the Seven Heavens. Chernoggar is a plane/world that essentially has the Lawful Evil Gods of War Bane and Gruumsh fighting it out for all of eternity. 

The Nine Hells get their own special sections. This repeats some of the details (but not copy-paste) from 3e about the fall of Asmodeus and the creation of Hell. [Aside: D&D really needs its own Silmarillion, Kalevala, or Enūma Eliš] There some small adventure encounters here too. A few more domains are also detailed.

Chapter 3: The Deep Astral Sea is very far removed from the normal lives of mortals. Here various new races are discussed like the familiar Githyanki, and the less familiar Maruts and Quom. Here there are also forgotten and "shattered" domains like Carceri and Pandemonium. 

Chapter 4: Astral Denizens cover our "monsters." Here are 44 new monster stat blocks including six new devils. Among these, there is the return of Bahgtru, Luthic, and Other Side favorite Vaprak

This book would make for a great trilogy of books with "The Plane Below" and "Manual of the Planes." With the PDFs from DriveThruRPG it would not be too difficult to print them out and rearrange as needed.  It would be a 480-page book, but it would also be the ultimate source of the planes knowledge in D&D 4e.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

This Old Dragon: Issue #76

Dragon Magazine #76
Last week I talked about Dragon Magazine #75 and how packed full of material it was. Today I breaking my own rule and going for the very next issue because it has Part 2 of the Devils article. But there is a lot more here than just that. So once again let's sit back, put on a copy of The Polie's "Synchronicity" and drift back to August 1983 for Issue #76 of This Old Dragon.

Ah. Not only do we have a Clyde Caldwell cover this issue, but it is one of my favorites. Sure the redhead is in boob-plate, but at least she is not wearing high heels. The wizard in the background would also be the visual I'd use for my NPC Magnus until it was replaced by another Caldwell piece.  

Letters covers the woes of computer programs, in particular trying to translate BASIC from one system to another. 

An interesting little bit about the Ares magazine appears on page 4. TSR had just bought SPI in 1982 and their magazine Ares. The plane was, in 1983 at least, to keep them separate with Dragon handling the fantasy content and Ares the SciFi. Readers here will know of course that was short-lived and by April of 1984 Ares became a section within Dragon.

Ed Greenwood and Roger E. Moore are up first with The Ecology of the Beholder. Maybe one of my favorite "Ecology of..." articles ever. The "Sage" of the article is doubtless Elminster, though he lacks his normal archaic form of speech. One of the true joys of doing these "This Old Dragons" has been the rediscovery of these Ecology articles. One day I need to track them all down and do a retrospective. One thing I love to do with them is to put them into my Monstrous Compendiums.

Ecology of the Beholder

Yeah, that might feel like blasphemy to cut up my old Dragons, but I have multiples of this one, and the one I cut up was water damaged anyway. On that Beholder mini? Yeah more on him later.

Ahh...speaking of Magnus. We have the late, great Len Lakofka and his masterpiece, For NPCs Only: The Death Master. Magnus was my NPC Death Master and damn was he great. I mean this was such a great class. There is just so much about this class that just hits right. I am so pleased I am doing this issue in October. 

Up early is the SF/Gaming Convention Calendar for August 1983. Gen Con 16 gets a mention. 

Here we go. The main event. 

Ed Greenwood is back with The Nine Hells, Part II. This one covers the next four layers Malbolge to Nessus. Also featured here are 21 new Devils including Other Side favorite Lilith as the consort to Moloch of all people. Once again Ed is dropping hints about witches here (they serve Lilith).In addition to all the new devils and information on the layers we get seven pages discussing how magic is changed in the Hells.

This would be enough for any other issue, but we are only to page 45.

Next, we have The Dragon Magazine index. A complete index of Dragon magazine issues #1 to #74 and all seven issues of the Strategic Review. It covers 8 pages and would have been fantastic to have. Today it is superseded by the DragonDex and even that doesn't cover everything.

Ads for the Palladium Role-Playing Game and The RPGA take out middle section. 

Carl Smith provides us with a Boot Hill article about the Army in Saved By the Cavalry! Boot Hill largely gets forgotten these days as people remember D&D, Gamma World, and Star Fronters rather fondly. 

Sage Advice answers questions about Baba Yaga, mithral and adamantite, why AD&D Rangers are not Tolkien Rangers. Oh and how to deal with pregnancy in game. I assume they mean characters and not players.

Page Advice covers questions on how to submit articles and get published. 

Off the Shelf gives us some reviews of what was hot in Sci-Fi and Fantasy in the summer of 1983. Of these, I remember reading Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster and Storm Season by Robert Lynn Asprin, the fourth book in the Thieve's World series.

There is a feature, not really a review, on the Gangbuster game in Expanding the genre of RPGs.

Long ad or review or feature on Eon Publications in Borderlands is Worth the Price. It is a type of fantasy wargame.  Reviews for Cities, Judge Dredd, and Federation Space also appear.  There is another review, a re-review of the Dragonmaster card game.

Nice big ad for AD&D books. Again featuring one of my favorite bits of D&D art.

Issue 76 page 75

Small ads are next, Wormy, Snarf Quest #2, and Phil and Dixie go to Sham Con V.

Nice ad in the back for Star Frontiers minis.

So once again we have a Dragon that hits so far out of the park that all you need is the first 45 pages. Yes the index was great for 1983 and everyone still loves the comics, but for $3.00 you could get a mini-rulebook here and that was something special.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

This Old Dragon: Issue #75

Dragon Magazine #75
Something special for the scariest of months this week. I normally grab a random Dragon magazine out of this old box and review it here. This (and next) I am doing something different.  This one actually sits on my shelves with a few other rare Dragons because I consult them often.  So let us go back to July 1983. I am 14 years old and playing AD&D pretty much all the time. The Police dominate the airwaves with "Every Breath You Take" from the wildly successful album Synchronicity (which also introduced me to the writings of Carl Jung) and "Return of the Jedi" the last of the Star Wars trilogy for decades is still running in my local theatre (I saw it 78 times).  On the shelves, it is Dragon Magazine #75 and this is This Old Dragon.

Anyone familiar with this issue will know why I am doing a One-Two punch of issues #75 and #76. Yes, it is because of the fantastic Devil and Nine Hells information included by the prolific Ed Greenwood.

But let's do this issue right. 

A day at the beach is this whimsical cover celebrating Summer. Looks like it was made by Jack Crane. I am not familiar with the name, but the style is familiar. 

Kim Mohan's Editorial covers just that, Summer.

Letters get into the problems with play-by-mail games and some observations about a recent review of Champions. There is praise for the Piercer article (praise I agree with) and some concerns about the Cavalier class. I am sure that will all be sorted out before long.

Nice big ad for the James Bond 007 game. I was at a game auction recently and there was a lot of James Bond material going for some really high prices. I have always enjoyed the Bond movies and consider myself a fan, but I have never played this.

Our first article from our issue MVP. Ecology of the Mimic covers these irritating creatures. It is just a page, but Ed manages to pack a punch into few words.  Since I have (had) multiple copies of this issue, the water-damaged one gets sacrificed and added to my Monstrous Compendium.

And that is how you trap a mimic

We get right to the meat here with Gary Gygax in the odd role of "opening act" to Ed Greenwood. New Denizens of Devildom is this month's From the Sorcerer's Scroll and it gives us a look into what sort of devils we will get for the Monster Manual II. Six pages with 13 new devils. These will all appear in the MMII, but having this as some sort of Monster Manual 1.5 is still pleasing to me. 

Up next is one of my all-time favorites. The Nine Hells, Part 1 by Ed Greenwood. It left such an impact on me that I have always set up my worlds with Demons more interested in Oerthand Greyhawk with devils more interested in Toril and the Forgotten Realms. I mean I am on the first page and Ed is hitting me with so much here. What are the Realms? How can I get a copy of Dragon #64 on a paperboy's pay? Even today they pact a punch.  How much? I went right to the text just now and completely failed to mention the fantastic Larry Elmore art for this! So do we get? Fifteen pages. Five layers of Hell, Avernus to Stygia. And a total of 23 new devils are listed by layer. Ed did his homework and there are many names familiar to anyone that has read old medieval demonologies. The trick as always is figuring out who is a demon, who is a devil and who is a god.  Bist for example seems to be related to Bast. Nergal was a Babylonian god,  Lilis is a riff on Lilith, and others are names that appear in demonologies. There are things written here that you can still find in D&D books printed in the last couple of years for the latest system. 

After that everything will seem a bit tame. Or will it?

Roger Moore gives us some new Gamma World monsters in Mutants, Men(?), and Machines. Gamma World 1st Ed monsters were close enough to Basic D&D to make conversion easy. Though the only one I ever recall using is the Hydragen, or the mutant diamond-backed rattlesnake, and the Nitrodjinn (cute).

Lew Pulsipher is up with Beyond the Rule Book which has style tips for good GMing. 10 Procedure tips (things you can do) and 10 style tips (how you do them). The advice is solid and can still be used today.

Nice ad for Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan miniatures. I would have freaked out to have seen today's 3D printers then.

The USS Protector

Before Dungeon Magazine Dragon would have adventures and sometimes adventure contests. Here is one that won first place by Bob Waldbauer. Can Seapoint Be Saved? is an adventure for 4 to 8 characters of 4th to 7th level. It is a sea port and ocean/sea based adventure. Which is cool because I lack adventures of this type. I never read it because it was a potential adventure to be used for a possible ocean-based adventure we were going to do but never got to 4th level. I still think about it every so often.  

Clyde Heaton is up with an article that always fills me with all sorts of curiosity and wonder. Even Orcish is Logical covers how to create an orcish language.  Ever since I read Lord of the Rings I have be fascinated with ConLangs or constructed languages. I have toyed with the idea in theory, but never in practice. I don't have those kinds of skills. This article makes me think I could at least do the basics. I remember reading this one and some of the words were familiar. 

The prolific Katherine Kerr is up next with our next language lesson, All Games Need Names. Hers is a much longer overview of languages and how they are made. Hers comes from the point of view of a novelist and storyteller, the same as Tolkien in purpose, but not exactly in practice.  Could I make a language with both of these articles? Maybe. I don't know enough about the process to even know what I don't know. But I would like to try. 

Great ad for some Atari 400/800 software. I always liked the Atari 400/800 computers, but it was the 1200 series that I really wanted. 

Figure Feature: Humanoids covers humans in words and pictures.

A bunch of reviews are up. Ken Rolston is back with a review on the Runequest Companion in Companion Fill the Glorantha GapVisit The Solomani Rim a review by Tony Watson covers Traveller supplement 10.

Mike Lowery treats us with Tales Stranger than Fantasy or reviews of Mazes and Monsters and Hobgoblin, two fairly notorious fiction books about the dangerous world of Fantasy Roleplaying games. I have been meaning to read them both someday but there is always something else, something better on my pile to read. 

UK Revisited: Games Fair 83 is a report from Gary Gygax.

SF/Gaming Convention Calendar covers the game convention scene of the summer of 1983 including a nice big ad for Gen Con XVI.

Two page ad for Asgard miniatures. 

Three pages of What's New! with Phil and Dixie. Three pages of Wormy.

And tucked away, hiding in the back is five pages of Snarf Quest #1.

Pardon the pun, but this is a HELL of an issue. Even ignoring the new content from Gary. And the material from Ed. We still have two fun sections on languages, an adventure, AND the very first Snarf Quest.

I mean really. This was PRIME Dragon Magazine years. 

Next week we go back to Hell.

Dragon Magazine issues #75 and #76


Thursday, October 28, 2021

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, Devils and the Nine Hells

It's the last full week of Halloween (October to you mundanes out there) so what better topic than the go over all of the Devils that have appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine. 

Dragons #75 and #76

This Retrospective could go on for a long time, so I think I am going to limit myself to mostly 1st Edition treatments.  Thanks to TSR bowing to the moral panic of the time we got exactly one article about Devils proper that I can find for the 2nd Ed days.  They pick back up for D&D 3rd Ed, but that is getting beyond the scope of "This Old Dragon."

dragon magazine 13 demons
"The Dragon" Days

These were some of the earliest discussions on the Devils and the Nine Hells. They typically coincide with the release of the AD&D 1st Edtion Monster Manual when we introduced devils to D&D for the first time. Demons had already been added in Eldritch Wizardry for OD&D and had become a staple as these articles show.  This also set the divide of Chaotic Evil Demons and Lawful Evil Devils that persists to this day.  But before we get to devils proper, let's have a look at some early articles on Demons.

The Dragon #13

This issue comes to us from April 1978.  This issue is notable in our discussions for two reasons. First is an ad in the back for the Monster Manual and secondly, there is the brief one-page article on Demon creation.  Ok, so not devils, but the same logic could apply. 

The Dragon #20

I covered this one in a proper This Old Dragon a little bit back. In this issue we have Demonology made easy; or, How To Deal With Orcus For Fun and Profit by Gregory Rihn.  This expands the above article and makes it more AD&D than OD&D.  Again these are demons, but the same rules can apply to devils.

The Dragon #23

This is the third attempt at a random demon system, this time from Gary himself. This one draws from the first two. Random Generation of Creatures from the Lower Planes is exactly what it says on the tin really.  We should make a note here. This is for creatures of the Lower Planes, not just demons.

The Politics of Hell

Dragon #28, or more specifically for me, The Best of Dragon Vol. II gave us a landmark article that is almost entirely fluff; The Politics of Hell by Alexander von Thorn. Mr. von Thorn's only other contribution to Dragon would be 10 issues later with some skill for Traveller. He continued working, mostly on GURPS, and is still active online.  

Politics of Hell

This was a landmark article that among other things it lets us know why Asmodeus, a lesser demon from the Tobit originally, was the ruler of Hell and where Satan was.  The mythology presented here is extremely Judeo-Christian, so that may or may not work for a lot of games and gamers.  It did however introduce me to Astaroth and by extension Astarte. 

Dragon #42 would make a good choice for a future This Old Dragon.  I'll have to see if I have it in my big old box of Dragons.  This is the October 1980 Halloween-themed issue and has a few articles on Devils and even features on of the most famous pictures of Orcus ever.

The article "Demons, Devils and Spirits" comes to us first from Tom Moldvay.  This one features four new spirits that are Lawful Good, Neutral, Chaotic Evil, and Lawful Evil. So a full house!  Ashleigh Parker is next with The Possessors, or demons that can possess others.  Lewis Pulsipher wraps it up with Patron Demons, a forerunner to what we will see in warlock pacts

The Nine Hells by Ed Greenwood

Not since Dragon #28's The Politics of Hell did Devils and Nine Hells get as much attention as they did in the pages of Dragons #75 and #76.  There is a faint hint of the Realms here, but not so much that I felt this was world-specific.  In fact, in the summer of 1983, we were still a couple more years away from the Forgotten Realms being a thing for the rest of us.

The Nine Hells, parts 1 and 2

These two articles cover every layer of the Nine Hells in descending order and discuss the Dukes that rule them, their consorts, their advisors, and even some of the other devils that can be found here.  There are shades of Dante's Inferno here but this is pure D&D.

This series casts such a long shadow that one would be forgiven if they forgot that Gary opened the series with the Devils that would appear in the upcoming Monster Manual II.  This includes the Abishai devils, which are the spawn of Tiamat.   Even though in my personal campaigns I have taken Tiamat out of Hell, the Abishai remain and are still her spawn. 

Combining these we can see there is a certain level of world-building that has gone on past the publications of books like the Deities & Demigods.  In particular, all non-Devil Gods have been kicked out of the Hells.  I took this a step further and even removed Tiamat and placed her on her own plane.

The articles are long and just filled with great information.  It would not be until the later AD&D 2nd Ed years that we would get this much detail on Devils.  

For Dragon #400, Wizards reprinted the entire series, with AD&D 1st ed stats.

Dragon #91

Greenwood (and Gygax) are back a little more than a year later.  Gary has a revised Goristro demon from Monster Manual II. But the big news is Ed has more Nine Hells with some details left out of the original series. It is quite a long one to be honest.  Of note for me there is a devil "Gargoth" that should replace "Astaroth" from the Politics of Hells article. We are told that Astaroth is a demon prince, but that is all.  Astaroth/Astarte just can't catch a break at all.

This is followed by Eight Devilish Questions, something of a FAQ about devils. 

Interestingly enough, this is also the issue that Ed gives us the sword that would change my campaign in very profound ways; Demonbane.

What the Hell is a Baatezu?

Dragon #223

It will be a little more than 10 years before we get anything else about Devils in the pages of Dragon.  This time it is a similar article to Politics of Hell but the new Lords of the Nine only have a little connection to old lords. Some are the same like Dis, others are related, like Fierana, and others still are new or so heavily disguised they might as well be new (Levistus and the Dark Lord respectively).

Honestly, it wasn't until Wizards of the Coast bought TSR that we ever got proper Devils back.  These lords though have been woven back into the history of the Devils since 3e.  Even in this article the term "Devil" to mean these fiends is never used. 

Final Thoughts

Doing a retrospective like this is mostly just time-filling fluff unless I want some takeaways from it all. 

Cosmic Chicken

There seems to be a game of cosmic chicken going on in the early depictions of devils. While there are some that are different in their mythological origins, Geryon from Dante's Inferno and the Erinyes from Roman Myth to name two, the vast majority of these creatures, especially the ones in Dragon, are from Judeo-Christian sources.  That is of course except for The Devil himself.  The authors are willing to pour through all the Medieval demonologies for names, but when it comes to Satan they blink. That is except for one article.  I get it.  There is a lot of baggage with "The Devil" both for religious and cultural reasons.  If you are going to mine "The Inferno" and "Paradise Lost" then why leave out one of the main characters?

Though I will admit I have also struggled in using the Big D in my games, only because it needs to be something special.

Worlds Apart

While a lot of "game rules" can be applied to both demons and devils equally, I am reminded in this retrospective that they are not, and should not be the same.  So while I was mentally looking over the differences and resorting (something that D&D 4e tried to do as well and met with some successes but most criticism from the fans) them into different categories, one category began to show itself in a surprising way.

Gary was better at creating demons and demon-like devils, Ed Greenwood was better at devils.  So for this reason I have decided that in my games demons take a larger interest in the world of Oerth (Greyhawk) and devils take more of an interest in the world of Toril (Forgotten Realms).  There are some exceptions of course.  Orcus has tried to make headway into the Realms many times.  But generally speaking in the games I have run and the D&D novels I have read, this seems to hold true.


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.