The devil’s in the detail
What are devils?
Devils are evil creatures that call the Nine Hells their home. They are friends of a lawful evil nature, happy to manipulate and murder, but with excessive organisation behind their efforts.
While devils are fiends like demons, their nature and origins are quite different. The original demons were eldritch beings from the far realm with most current demons being the creations of these creatures. Devils on the other hand, are generally believed to be descended from angels, adopting their lawful nature, if not their nature for goodness. For the devil’s, they were either angels fallen so far, that they have been transformed into devils and banished from Mount Celestia, or created from souls captured by devils into new creatures to add to the burgeoning armies of Hell.
Devils are in a state of constant war with the demons of the Abyss, but also consider mortals among their enemies (mainly because they do not help in the war to stop demons from overwhelming the other planes). However, devils would much rather manipulate and entrap mortals into evil deeds so that they can harvest their souls and progress within the devilish Hierarchy. Devils also harbour major grievances against the angels that exiled them from their former home.
Devils have a hierarchical structure. The weakest and least cunning devils are known as the least, above them are lesser devils, greater devils and finally, archdevils. The greatest of all the archdevils, and the defacto ruler of them is Asmodeus.
Devils primarily seek to increase in influence and power within this hierarchical structure. This usually involves amassing more souls which are used as a power source within their plane of existence. This is done by influencing mortals towards greater and greater evil deeds. When a creature that has performed acts of evil dies, its soul can be diverted towards Bephamat and tortured to obtain its energy. Once the soul has had all of its energy tortured away, the empty husk will itself form a new devil.
When a devil achieves promotion from a lesser status to a higher one, the stored genetic aspects of the higher devils transforms them into a new type of devil entirely. Most devils will hope to take on the form of a more cunning type of devil. As usually, the only way to be promoted is to occupy an empty position within devil Hierarchy, devils can often be sicophantic beings as loyalty is often rewarded above and beyond competence.
Broadly speaking, devils can be categorised into 4 different types:
- Least devils
- Lesser devils
- Greater devils
These devilish types form a hierarchy within devilish society, with archdevils ruling the 9 layers of hell and lowly least devils forming servants and cannon fodder in the blood war.
I’ve listed out all the official types of devils below in their hierarchical order though devilish creatures are as varied as the creatures found on the material plane so many more may exist:
Least devils are the lowest of the low, with little intellect (to the extent that they are unable to speak, simply babbling). These devils are known as lemures and are used as foot soldiers and cannon fodder in the wars and skirmishes of Hell.
Pitiful creatures and the lowest form of devil. Lemures are foot soldiers and cannon fodder in the armies of Hell. They are completely expendable.
Lesser devils are not rulers, but they also aren’t considered ‘cannon fodder’ being seen as useful creatures with capable intellect. Often they are employed in the soul trade, increasing the souls of hell.
Despite their physical weakness, imps are intelligent, wicked creatures often used as administrators and assistants in the devils’ nefarious schemes.
3. Spined devil
Small, winged devils, these creatures love to torture mortals. In order to facilitate this, they tend to travel in flocks to grant them strength in numbers.
4. Bearded devil (barbazu)
Also known as Barbazu, they are the second lowest, level of lesser devils, they have a barborous chin of natural weaponry with venomous tendrils.
5. Barbed devil (hamatula)
Also known as Hamatula, they are primarily tasked with protecting the layers of hell and its important locations. They have bodies covered in spikes, making them difficult opponents.
6. Chain devil
Horrifying beings with a humanoid appearance, but covered in savage chains that are used both as clothing and weaponry, these spiked weapons are used to lash enemies with impressive skill and brutality.
7. Bone devil (osyluth)
Also known as Osyluths, they are the interrogators and de-facto police of hell, with a desire to inflict pain upon their enemies, they are frightening creatures with bodies of wing and bone.
Greater devils operate as lesser leaders below the archdevils. They hold a degree of authority, though even within this level, there was a hierarchy to the types of devils and their particular station and influence wielded:
8. Horned devil (cornugon)
Also known as Cornugons are defensive troops of tremendous capabilities. They are ogre sized and roughly humanoid in appearance, but with great wings and (unsurprisingly) a pair of large horns.
The furies of the Nine Hells are often mistaken for being angelic due to their winged, human-like appearance, but appearances aren’t everything and they are capable of inflicting as much pain as most other devils. While some consider them lesser devils, the fact they report directly to the Lords of the Nine means in reality, they are greater devils.
10. Ice devil (gelugon)
Also known as Gelugons, they are heartless rulers among the devils that see all lesser devils as entirely expendable. They have an insectoid appearance and utilise ice abilities in combat.
11. Pit fiend
Pit fiends operate as the greatest of the greater devils. Leading the other devils in pure wickedness, they are fiercely aggressive beings filled with malice, having been cleansed by the powers of hell.
Archdevils are the rulers of the devils. They are extremely powerful beings with unique capabilities. Archdukes are the most superior archdevils, each being a ruler of a layer of hell. They are also known as the Lords of Nine. Beneath the Archdukes are dukes, generals and beaurocrats of various sorts that are also considered archdevils.
As with all other devils, there is a hierarchy to the Lord’s of Nine with the lowliest archdevil (Zariel) ruling the highest later of Hell and the greatest of the 9 (Asmodeus) ruling the bottom layer of Nessus. The hierarchy of the 9 Hells is a reversal of that of Mount Celestia where the layers go upwards to represent greater power.
The Lords of Nine are:
Zariel – Archdevil of Avernus
Zariel is a fallen angel and Lord of the First. She was appointed by Asmodeus himself as commander of the devilish armies in the blood war
Dispater – Archdevil of Dis
Dispater is a paranoid despot that spends most of his time locked up in his iron tower. He is the Lord of the Second.
Mammon – Archdevil of Minauros
The Lord of the Third is a creature of pure greed, inspiring this within his minions and those he holds influence over.
Fierna and Belial – Archdevil of Phlegethos
The only Archdevils allowed to hold joint rule, Fierna is the daughter of Belial; Fierna being the fiery, passionate leader with Belial offering experience and a steady hand in the shadows. They are the Lords of the Fourth.
Levistus – Archdevil of Stygia
The Lord of the fifth was imprisoned in a block of ice by Asmodeus for past crimes he’d committed. This forces him to rule telepathically while holding at bay his predecessor, Geryon, who continuously seeks to reclaim his position.
Glasya – Archdevil of Molbolge
Glasya is the daughter of Asmodeus himself and had been granted the position of Lord of the Sixth.
Baalzebul – Archdevil of Maladomini
As an angel, he was known as Triel, but after he’d fallen, he became the Lord of the Seventh, the Lord of lies.
Mephistopheles – Archdevil of Cania
Mephistopheles has aspirations to take Asmodeus’ place and is always plotting against him. He is the Lord of the Eighth.
Asmodeus – Archdevil of Nessus
The Lord of the Ninth is also the ruler of the Lords of the Nine and all of Hell. He is an extremely powerful being and a deity in his own right.
Using devils in your campaign
Devils are wonderfully tricky characters. They love to toy with mortals and are very much prepared to play the long game if it means obtaining a soul. Contracts commonplace as they bring order and legitimacy to a devil’s actions.
A great way to use devils is to have them forming deals. Perhaps a party’s situation is very desperate and they need the intervention of a powerful being, or maybe they can be tricked into servitude with a discreet contract engraved on a magic item in an unknown language.
Its always worth being careful when tricking parties into such servitude to maintain elements of choice. Be wary of taking away all options with a punishment too severe or by requiring acts too despicable.
Devils are clever and cunning and don’t need a contract to get what they want. If you want to avoid the pitfalls of contracts, consider simply having a devil manipulate the party to their own will instead. The manipulations do not need to be completely despicable either, just suspicious. Helping capture a criminal devil or eradicate a demonic insurgence may seem like good things. But these are devils were talking about so a twist is important. Perhaps the criminal’s crime is fighting against the hellish hierarchy or maybe destroying a demonic insurgence on the mortal plane gives the devils space to enter a portal and invade themselves.
Due to their more lawful nature, devils can even make uneasy allies at times. You could give players the opportunity to cooperate with a devil for missions related to the blood war against demon kind for instance. Perhaps a mission into the Nine Hells themselves could lead the party to need to cooperate with some devils.
However you choose to incorporate devils into your campaign, they make fantastic and untrustworthy antagonists for your campaign.