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Asmodeus (pronounced: /æzmˈdʌsæz-mo-DAY-us[24] about this audio file listen or: /æzˈmdiʌsæz-MO-dee-us[24] about this audio file listen) or Asmodei in Infernal,[25] was the Faerûnian deity of indulgence[26] and a patron of oppression and power. The greatest devil[27] and ruler of all devilkind,[8] the Lord of the Ninth was overlord of all the Nine Hells.[27] From his throne at the bottom of Baator the Lord of Lies reigned over his kingdom of unyielding tyranny, ceaseless warfare and political intrigue and enacted his diabolical plans to become not only the Supreme Master of the Nine Hells, but of all existence.[28]

I am known by many names. The Lord of Nessus. The Raging Fiend. But you know me as―
— Asmodeus[29]

Description

Asmodeus - Eric Deschamps

Asmodeus, chief of the Lords of the Nine.

Asmodeus's true form was that of a scaled serpent hundreds of miles long, his acid-black blood, a substance beyond foul, exuding from eons-old wounds. His form's sheer size made it impossible for him to meet and enter into conversations with others, and so he created humanoid-looking avatars. He never showed himself except through avatars or highly advanced project image spells, both in humanoid forms.[30][31][32]

An avatar of Asmodeus was handsome, charismatic and captivating on the surface, appearing as a slim, red-skinned humanoid over 13 feet (4 meters) tall with a horned head, glowing red eyes and a perfectly trimmed beard. He wore red and black clothing valuable enough to cover the annual spending of any nation, but underneath these expensive garments his body was wracked with bleeding injuries he was seemingly unconcerned by.[32][8][33]

Personality

Asmodeus was a primal embodiment of lawful evil and a supreme strategist of unparalleled skill.[28][34] His sinister machinations could take centuries, if not millennia, to come to fruition, and his master plans extended across the entire multiverse. His labyrinthine, insidious intrigues could seem inexplicable to most outside observers, for Asmodeus let even his own servants stew in fear of his next move. With all the planes as his board, the Lord of Lies maneuvered the forces of evil like chess pieces in his grand designs, slowly and subtly manipulating everyone from deities to, when needed, lowly mortals.[30][35][36][37]

Just as Asmodeus was an unmatched schemer, he was an unrivaled orator,[28] a legendary political master of unquestionable prowess.[35][36] He was the most well-mannered of the archdevils,[14] soft-spoken and eloquent as he lured others into serving his ends. Even when wracked by constant pain, he managed to appear blithely unbothered, and seemed almost chillingly reasonable.[33] However, though he could seem generous, the quickly offered rewards of the archdevil were given to those willing to sign away their souls, after which they would suffer as a pawn in his dark designs.[38] Despite his charisma, Asmodeus was nonetheless a representative of ultimate evil, revealing his true nature at his will.[14]

In truth, Asmodeus was a tyrant, an authoritarian overlord who sought complete control over as many subjects as he could obtain[39] and nothing less than absolute dominion over all reality[40] to satiate his need for power.[41] Torture was his tool to break the wills of others and impose his own,[42] and knowledge of secrets and dealings his desired instrument to claim others as his.[43] The Prince of Evil was confident in his position as one of the multiverse's strongest beings,[33] and genuinely believed his rule was for the best. Under his rule, and only his rule, the multiverse would be pristine and perfect, with everyone in it having a place and a purpose to fulfill.[28]

In Asmodeus's mind, only he had the strength, insight, and charisma needed to guide all to an ideal utopia, or at least the infernal hierarchy that the Archfiend interpreted as such. His rivals were inferior minds lacking the skill to see his vision through.[28] The forces of the Abyss were loathsome opposition, their very existence a threat to his mastery of evil and their armies a direct threat to his supremacy.[28][30][37] The forces of good were foolish, sentimental beings too soft and weak to do what had to be done. This arrogance would have led to his destruction if he lacked the competence to back it up, yet Asmodeus had managed to thwart all conspiracies against him and survive Heaven with nothing but his wit.[28]

Law or Evil

I have heard it said evil is nothing more than good’s absence, as if evil was the darkness to good's light. A comforting thought, I imagine, for those seeking redemption, but, I tell you, put such thoughts from your mind. You need only peer into a demon’s eyes to know evil is not some vacuum waiting for virtue to come and fill its emptiness. Evil is a force. It is an influence in the cosmos, an agency equal to or perhaps even greater than its antithesis. There are two sides in this eternal struggle, one light and the other dark. You might find evil’s works reprehensible, yet to those whose hearts belong to corruption, good deeds are equally deplorable. Understand, there is no redemption, only treason against the side you were born to serve.
— Asmodeus[44]

According to legend, Asmodeus attributed his wicked deeds to necessity and the mandates of law, alluding to the rules of Hell in his defense and arguing that his contracts were never broken. He made the case that the souls he harvested served the ultimately noble end of protecting the cosmos, and noted the sanctity of law as what separated him from the demons of the Abyss.[28] Without him and his devils to defend it, he argued, the multiverse would be overrun by demonkind and ultimately destroyed, and in this, Asmodeus might technically be correct.[28][45]

Although one of the ultimate powers of law, Asmodeus did not uphold the rules out of respect. Despite arguing that his actions were necessary to prevent the rise of chaos and preserve the forces of good, this was mere camouflage to disguise his true intentions. In reality, Asmodeus saw the Abyss as a useful distraction,[28][4] and when prepared he planned to destroy the Upper Planes and perhaps even use demonkind to accomplish this dark goal.[33] Ironically, in the most extreme scenario, Asmodeus's plan would ultimately be to embrace chaos, to withhold the power of law from the world and let it collapse. With the multiverse broken down and him having survived its fall, he would remake reality as he desired.[35]

To the mind of Asmodeus, the law was merely a tool by which others could be bent to his will. Civilization, as he understood it, was a means of gaining power, the structures and technology created by society instruments to crush his enemies. Chaos made for easy conquest, and to conquer was to bring others under control.[46] Asmodeus would use tradition as his protection and wording as his weapon, appeal to the letter of the law, and frame his deeds as upholding the natural laws of the cosmos.[28] Even his masterfully crafted plans would obey universal laws, such as the Rule of Threes,[4] and he believed himself the multiverse's chosen protector.[28] More than any of these however, Asmodeus was dedicated to obtaining absolute authority for himself, and if necessary, was willing to break every law in existence to do it.[35]

Despite his cunning and charisma, Asmodeus was not intellectually invincible. Though he was not above pretending otherwise, he was capable of being surprised, feigning foreknowledge and acting as if all was going according to plan either way.[33] Despite his confidence, Asmodeus could feel threatened.[47] Even among mortals, there were figures whose powers and influence gave him pause.[48] And despite his manners, Asmodeus was capable of fury. If he forgot himself he could end up bursting into a rage, his mask of civility slipping to unveil the evil that lurked below.[14]

Powers

Sometimes we forget the power we wield.
— Asmodeus.[49]

Divine

The gods exist in multiplicity, but Asmodeus is unique.
— The famous proverb of Philogestes, accursed philosopher of evil.[50]

Asmodeus was technically a deity, but was exempt from many of the rules regarding divine beings, his actual status a matter of debate that had changed over time. At the very least the strongest archdevil,[23][31] weaker interpretations cast him as not even a full-fledged god[36][51] or possessed only of the powers of a lesser god. In others, (particularly more recently) he was believed to be a greater god,[51][41][52] and the most dangerous portrayals cast him as a primal embodiment of evil, aspect of some sort of metaphysical serpent concept,[36][53][54] or even an overgod similar in nature to the Lady of Pain.[55][56]

Asmodeus's strength neither waxed nor waned with the number of his worshipers and he had no ability to grant spells to his followers.[36] While this limitation could be circumvented if the worshiper became a disciple of darkness,[57] spells granted by this method were not done so through his own powers, but by acting as a conduit to channel the divine magic of Baator itself to the mortal cleric.[57]

There were no strictures on how granted power could be used for a disciple, but the mortal's soul was forfeit if his patron was not appeased with sentient sacrifices.[58] This changed after Asmodeus consumed Azuth and thus obtained true godhood, allowing him to grant spells to his followers and remove the vile rituals previously required to access such power.[51]

Another ability Asmodeus shared with greater deities even before his ascension was that he could create up to ten avatars, although his ability to do this was stunted. He could send only one avatar at a time to the Prime Material Plane, and doing this made it impossible for him to maintain any other avatar.[32][8][33]

Infernal

Please, child. You stand before the master of the Nine Hells. What a night hag can give you is like the light a star gives compared to the midday sun. Name your terms, I'll name my price.
— Asmodeus.[49]

Asmodeus had absolute control over the Nine Hells and with his mind he could change not only the landscape of any layer but the forms of his archdevils in any way he wanted whenever he wanted. For example, he changed Baalzebul's formerly (mostly) beautiful form into that of a giant slug. It was unclear if he could kill archdevils with a thought; some suspected that he could and did in the case of the Hag Countess's sudden death, and while seemingly involved, it was unclear how much of a part he played and to what degree one could say she had "died".[14][59][60][61][62]

Like any other devil of authority, Asmodeus had the ability to demote any officially subservient devil— any devil in his case—at his whim,[63] and was the only devil with the ability to promote a devil to archdevil status.[15] He was also the underlying power of infernal contracts, hence why breaking a contract with even the weakest devil could still consign the oathbreaker's soul to the Nine Hells.[64]

Avatar

Asmodeus's avatar could cast a wide plethora of spells, including: animate dead, blasphemy, charm monster, create greater undead, desecrate, detect magic, devil's ego, discern location, dominate monster, fiendish quickening, geas, greater dispelling, hellfire, hellfire storm, magic circle against good, major image, mass charm, project image, restoration, resurrection, suggestion,[8] symbol of hopelessness, symbol of pain, symbol of persuasion,[32] teleport without error, true seeing, unholy aura, unholy blight, unhallow, wall of ice, and wretched blight as often as he wanted, and any power word spell, symbol spell, meteor swarm, true resurrection, and wish once per day. He had also the spellcasting ability of a master cleric with the Diabolic and Evil domains.[37] This was assuming that the avatar wasn't in Hell, in which case he could cast essentially any spell he wanted by sheer will.[60]

Asmodeus was impossible to harm with spells below a certain level of power, as well as poison, paralysis, petrification, magic dealing with death, illusions, and attempts to influence his mind. Physically, it was impossible to hurt him with anything less than +4 enchanted weapons, [32] and even if injured the wounds immediately heal unless it was holy or otherwise blessed.[65]

Asmodeus's avatar radiated an 120 feet (37 meters) diameter awe effect that made it incredibly difficult to bring one's self to attack him unless attacked by him first.[32] His mere gaze (within a short range) acted as a combination slow and fear effect that sapped physical strength and reduced combat ability. His voice carried an irresistible suggestion that could make those without incredible willpower subservient to him for ten to a hundred days. Rather than kill his opponents, he preferred using these abilities to force would-be-foes to submit to him, or failing that flee for their lives. Should this not work, he would simply leave and allow his minions to deal with his enemies,[37] as he could summon a pit fiend or two specimens of any kind of devil every hour.[32]

Possessions

It’s a glorious blasphemy, a condemnation of all that is good and pure. Gods and demons have obliterated it many times, but like evil itself, the book always returns to enslave, corrupt, and destroy. It’s utterly marvelous.
— Asmodeus on the Book of Vile Darkness.[66]

Each of Asmodeus's avatars held a Ruby Rod of Asmodeus as a badge of office. It also served as the avatar's main weapon[32] and allowed attacks with elemental forces, forced enemies to cower in fear, or provided the holder with a field of healing and protection. In fact, in the rare events when he was faced with combat, an avatar of Asmodeus primarily relied on the powers of his Ruby Rod instead of his innate powers.[32][67] If the word of Shemeska the Marauder was to be believed, only Asmodeus was currently capable of controlling the darkness of the Ruby Rod.[68]

Asmodeus owned one of the original copies of the Pact Primeval. His utmost concern was to prevent anyone from taking it away from Baator, no matter the cost, as it was the basis on which he and the devils were allowed to damn mortals. To make transportation difficult, Asmodeus actually enclosed the document in a giant ruby weighing over 20 tons (18,000 kilograms).[69]

Asmodeus had a huge store of souls in his personal citadel, and these could be bought from him at an extremely high cost, rumored to be entire kingdoms for one soul.[14]

Divine Realm

Main article: Nessus
Don't you know you're not allowed here?
— A gelugon guard of the portal to Nessus.[70]

Asmodeus ruled the entire plane of the Nine Hells of Baator, but his seat of power was Nessus, the ninth layer. His serpentine body lay at the bottom of a rift called the Serpent's Coil, but not even the denizens knew this.[71] By devil law, only Asmodeus could issue letters of safe passage that covered travel not only within, but also between layers, though he never issued such things for Nessus.[72]

His personal palace was Malsheem, a giant fortress so large that it was considered unmappable.[71] Given the priority he placed on his own security and privacy, he usually remained within his fortress of Malsheem, using others to make his will clear,[28] though the other archdevils were annually called to there.[8]

Activities

My father's plans are ever delicate things, relying on a hundred thousand points to craft the whole. It would be... a shame, if one of those more critical points were to fail.
— Glasya[6]

First and foremost, Asmodeus sought to preserve the status quo of Baator, that being his station as supreme ruler of Hell.[37] Beyond this he sought to expand the power of lawful evil in the multiverse, tipping the cosmic scales in its favor.[37][33] All this went towards Asmodeus's ultimate goal, to heal the wounds he suffered from his ancient fall from grace (from whatever position he held), regain his full power, and instigate Armageddon. This apocalpytic conflict would, at the very least, be the end of the Great Wheel cosmology, and he could very well be ahead of his ancient schedule.[33][35]

This all raised the question of how Asmodeus could recover from his eons-old injuries, and the answer laid in souls.[33] Baator ran on a divine energy derived from the souls of the damned, a magical force that could be extracted through the merciless torture, destruction of identity, and overall breakdown of corrupt souls.[73] Much of this work was outsourced, including by Asmodeus himself, to the city of Jangling Hiter in Minauros[74] for later distribution, and Asmodeus used what divine power he could spare to heal from his wounds.[33]

As horrifying and diabolical as it was, Asmodeus had been toiling on his grand design in the depths of Hell since time immemorial and still was not done. He pursued his malevolent agenda on three primary fronts, his true motivations in each obscured to all and glimpsed by a very small few.[4]

The Blood War

The Abyss

Asmodeus leading an infernal force into the Abyss.

The Blood War, the eternal battle between the fiends of the lower planes, was often described as a kind of philosophical war over which form of evil would reign supreme. The origins of the war were lost to time, and contrary to popular opinion Asmodeus did not start it, although he played a significant part in its existence and development.[75] In truth, the Blood War was merely the continuation of an ancient conflict that perhaps predated even Asmodeus's own fall, a war of law and chaos that defined and nearly destroyed the young multiverse in an Age Before Ages.[76][77]

That war had long faded into ancient history, the greater conflict deescalating into an uneasy truce between opposing philosophies, but peace was not in the nature of all planar beings. As demonic and devilish forces reformed and left their plane to explore the wider multiverse, they inevitably made first contact with each other and broke out into instant battling over their differences. Various acts of retribution gradually gave rise to the modern Blood War, the origins of which were of less concern to either party as the timeless tradition of unending brutality.[75][77][78] Asmodeus had only exacerbated this by stealing a sliver of the shard of evil from the Abyss, as the Abyss wanted it back.[76][79]

Asmodeus came to the conclusion long ago that the Blood War was, from a military standpoint, an utterly senseless and wasteful enterprise that consumed a huge amount of resources and killed millions of fiends, sometimes daily.[75][80] However, he did have many uses for the conflict, not least of which the fact that it at least seemed important. Others commonly ascribed deeper meanings to it, and it provided an excellent justification for Hell's existence and scapegoat for his evils.[28][75] Furthermore it gave his own forces something to focus on, keeping his generals occupied, armies active, and soldiers grimly proud. With even the Dark Eight honestly convinced he saw value in it, Asmodeus distracted his enemies and allies alike with just a few days a year for prosecution conferences and some easy lies.[75][81]

Despite his generally dismissive attitude towards the Blood War, Asmodeus, unlike some other lawful deities, recognized that it was not an entirely trivial matter. He was well aware that if not kept occupied by the Blood War, demons would eventually overrun reality and kill all its occupants before finally self-terminating as a race.[82] More to the point, while he viewed them as nothing more than a nuisance,[75] he knew they stood a chance of overwhelming the Hells were they to be united.[79]

I literally sit beneath eight tiers of scheming ambitious entities that represent primal law suffused with evil. The path from this realm leads to an infinite pit of chaos and evil. Now, tell me again how you and your ilk are the victims in this eternal struggle?
— Asmodeus addressing the celestial jury in The Trial of Asmodeus[83]

Asmodeus also hated the gods of the upper planes for essentially leaving him to run the Blood War, he and his devils alone saddled with the dirty work of keeping them and the multiverse safe from the demons. Once returned to full strength, he intended to sue for peace with demonkind, a cease-fire which only needed to last long enough to twist the Blood War from a battle between different flavors of wickedness to a war between good and evil. Should all go as planned, the celestial realms of the gods who looked down upon the struggle would be ruined and their keepers made to suffer.[33][84]

This would not be the end of the Blood War however, nor the extent of Asmodeus's plans for demonkind. The Lord of the Ninth would not rest until the entire heart of the Abyss was in his possession, with which he would become strong enough to subjugate the entire demon race and overthrow all other deities.[79] He might very well choose to absorb the power of his aspect of law from the multiverse upon reaching his full power and cause the planes to collapse into cosmic chaos.[75] Once the Blood War was finally won once and for all, he would conquer all that remained of the lawful planes, crowning himself the undeniable sovereign of all reality.[84]

Even while many devils continually damned souls to expand Hell's infernal army,[64] Asmodeus exempted himself from the duty of each archduke to provide soldiers or other aid to fight the Blood War.[84] The Lord of the Ninth kept his own private army called the Nessian Guard, an elite force consisting of devils spawned from his own blood.[85] This army consisted and were truly loyal to him. Consisting of pit fiends and less commonly cornugons, the ranks of this ever-expanding, truly loyal force were kept in reserve in Malsheem. Were Asmodeus ever to heal his wounds, it would be this force that would follow him in his conquest of the cosmos.[71][86]

Infernal Politics

Does the god of sin know that his archdevils can’t be trusted? Yes, I suspect he might have an inkling.
— The sarcasm of the cambion Lorcan[87]

On the civil front, Asmodeus protected his reign by keeping his friends close and enemies closer, delegating most authority to those he knew sought to replace him.[15] Standing above the common devils were Hell's nobility, the archdevils, the highest of which were the archdukes who ruled the first eight layers of Hell. Below them were their own courts, filled with dukes, princes, counts, and various other nobles the least of which were the pit fiends.[35] These lords created intricate webs of political plots, intrigues, and deceptions, protecting themselves from ambitious minions below while aiming for the spots of those above, conspiring with and betraying one another and other powers of the planes in their quest for power and dominance.[35][88] And in this fierce rivalry, Asmodeus's servants spent most of their times fighting each other and not him.[35]

This system had several additional benefits, first of which was reinforcing the Blood War.[35] Despite being allowed to serve as generals, most archdukes found the Blood War a dreary necessity not nearly as interesting as corrupting societies or vying for power, and they kept an eye on the Dark Eight to ensure they remained focused on that task.[82] Association with the other archdevils also further obscured Asmodeus's enigmatic nature and activities, his greatest pawns acting as a kind of "public face" on which others based their expectations of him.[35]

Asmodeus had spies on every layer of the Nine Hells and plants in each of the courts, with none certain who amongst their ranks were truly loyal to Asmodeus, creating a climate of justified paranoia. He was at least aware of most, if not all plots hatched against him, and had watched the rise and fall of archdevils far craftier than his many contemporaries.[30] Given his access to ten avatars, Asmodeus could station one on each layer of Hell as needed, with a tenth leftover for extraplanar activity.[32]

Asmodeus's avatar was rarely seen on the Material Plane given his restrictions there, so he preferred to influence that plane through others.[36] As important as an influx of spirits was to his purposes, every damned soul in Hell was so condemned under his name and therefore beholden to him. Effectively exempt from the soul quota other devil lords had to meet, he concentrated his corrupting efforts on figures of cosmic significance such as angels or demigods, occasionally managing to lure such beings into contracts to add new unique devils to Hell's roster.[28]

Like with the Blood War however, Asmodeus could not become complacent in his position. A role such as his demanded he remain constantly wary of treachery within his ranks,[83] for not even he knew all that went on in the Hells[89] and such were its laws that whoever defeated the king became the king.[14] Furthermore, not even the King of Hell was above the law, as was made clear with the Phlegethos-based Diabolical Court, an independent institution filled with constant plots by various devils to introduce new rules or precedents. The court might ultimately answer only to Asmodeus, but its functions and decisions were entirely dependent on the impossibly complex, loophole-ridden legal code of the Nine Hells, and he had to acknowledge both when the law was broken and when, however technical, it was not.[83][90]

Spreading Disbelief

If you knew what every soul was bound to do, then there would be no reason for devils to tempt us.
— Farideh, Chosen of Asmodeus.[49]

Asmodeus always hungered for the soul energy of those who had lost faith, particularly those of the powerful.[35][91] The divine energy he received from the individuality-robbed souls sentenced to Hell could heal his wounds,[73] but that of unbelievers was for whatever reason especially enticing to him. To be specific, it was not mere atheists who he wanted, but those who believed in nothing, no form of divinity, afterlife, or even a reason to continue existing. Souls who died in this state did not become normal petitioners, instead reforming in Nessus regardless of alignment to be excruciatingly consumed by Asmodeus until, fully aware the whole time, every bit of their true essence was obliterated.[35][91]

It was not clear exactly why these souls were reborn in Nessus,[35] nor did this rule seem to apply in all cases. For example, before souls became proper petitioners in Toril's case, they arrived in Kelemvor's realm, and he took those of the truly faithless and incorporated them into the great wall around his city to undergo a similar painful process of dissolution.[92] It was also thought that the spirits of unbelievers, lacking the will to go on, might simply cease to exist upon the death of their body.[35] Furthermore, Asmodeus did not have to kill a disbelieving soul to feast on their energy,[91] the process taking centuries to finally render the victim non-existent.[35]

Regardless, perpetuating the idea that he merely wanted to bring souls into Hell was arguably Asmodeus's greatest triumph. The ultimate goal of the Lord of the Lies was to remake the multiverse in accordance to his vision, and it was the power of belief that maintained divinity and the configuration of the planes. So it was that unbelief was perhaps Asmodeus's greatest weapon, the means by which he undermined the gods and subverted the very role of Hell itself in the order of all things. Its furtherance was the primary means by which he empowered himself against his foes, with all his other machinations, from his bloody wars against his direct foes without to his battles of intrigue against his enemies within, mere diversions and delaying tactics to mask his true motives.[35]

One of Asmodeus's known favored tactics for the promotion of faithlessness did not involve him doing much at all. The King of Hell gave covert aid to the Athar of Sigil,[93] though they were later exiled and his continued level of involvement was not known.[94] This school of thought (one that came into being without Asmodeus's involvement but was ideal for his purposes regardless) rejected the divinity of gods, if not their existence, positing that they were just powerful beings of a level of strength that anyone could reach under the right circumstances. While not without belief entirely, rejecting divinity was a promising first step.[93]

A more active example of Asmodeus's influence was his propagation of false religions. He would provide cleric spells (for example by having other gods grant spells on his behalf in exchange for aid) to new cults his agents created on the Material Plane. The cult might be overtly diabolic or worship an invented deity tailored to appeal to a specific demographic. Cult leaders were granted divine power until the sect reached the pinnacle of its power, at which point spells were suddenly denied and declined. The more extreme members of the cult, rather than turn to a new religion, might reject the concept altogether, but the greatest success cases for this scheme in Asmodeus's eyes were when they became suicide cults, its members having lost the will to live.[93]

Aside from weakening the faith of mortals, Asmodeus also smeared the perceived greatness of the gods. Mortals often viewed their deities as too omnipotent to be deceived, but Asmodeus knew better. He had also seen firsthand how petty and vengeful gods could be, and had secretly instigated (and planned to instigate) several long-running feuds among the gods by slowly and subtly planting ideas in the heads of chosen divinities over the course of centuries. By provoking gods into fighting each other, preferably using their followers to act as representatives, he graphically illustrated their pettiness and sowed discontent among their followers.[95] He also enjoyed impersonating other gods, allowing him to further manipulate mortals into certain courses of action.[96] Those who rejected their original patrons could then be steered toward the Athar or some other cult of his design.[95]

Even after he became a true god, Asmodeus continued to subvert divinity through his own religion. In the wake of the Spellplague, when many were questioning if the gods were angry or had outright abandoned them, Asmodeus's faithful provided their own answers and a god to give them the absolution they sought. His faithful offered reprieve in the afterlife from the uncertain waiting in the Fugue Plane, a devil to keep them company as the fate of their mortal soul was decided. Shrines and temples were still incredibly rare, but many folks had taken to asking Asmodeus for reprieve and respite in the wait for a response after offending their god, and in the most extreme cases of transgression, for him to hide their sins from their patrons. He was known to provide the latter, and his priests said he would also do the former, if only a price was paid after death.[1]

Relationships

The arm of Asmodeus is long, longer than you think.
— A known saying[97]

Deities

Asmodeus's relationship with good-aligned deities was simple, that of opposition and hatred.[20][45][30] Despite the circumstances under which it was signed and who exactly did so being lost to ancient history, several primal deities of law signed a deal with Asmodeus known as the Pact Primeval.[50] Through the merciless exploitation of loopholes, the pact granted devils the right to punish lawful evil souls.[50][98]

More complicated and less obviously hostile were his relations with evil gods. Hell's minions would just as willingly turn a follower of theirs to the infernal path as they would one of good powers (even if the latter would be more enjoyable). Evil gods had made war against Hell innumerable times in the past, rarely with the scope of the Blood War or battles with benevolent forces only because of the mutual threat posed by the latter.[63] Even so, Asmodeus had strategic alliances with several powers of the lower planes, such as Set and Hecate (at least back when he needed assistance to grant spells),[93] and even a secret alliance with the demon lord Pazuzu. Both he and his vassals had forged dark pacts with various evil gods long ago, such as Bane, Gruumsh, and Vecna.[99]

Those deities who called Hell home gave him a great deal of respect[8] for even though their domains were fully outside Asmodeus's control, it was incredibly clear who was in charge of the Hells. Rumors of various deities of Hell allying to wrest Baator from Asmodeus occasionally emerged but never came to fruition. Even if not constrained by their own lawful natures not to upset the established order, they would never be able to decide on who would rule in the Overlord's stead.[100] Either way, neither those gods nor Asmodeus himself wanted an open war in Hell,[101] and indeed the thought of pantheons descending onto his plane and upsetting Hell's delicate power balance filled him with dread.[102]

Duergar Gods
Asmodeus confronted Laduguer. The Lord of the Nine laughed, joked, and cajoled with all his guile, but Laduguer remained grim and stoic, refusing to be affected even when the mightiest celestial might have admitted grudging amusement at the devil's antics.
— Felstak Goldgrief, Tyrant of Goethelskar[103]

In duergar legend, their god Laduguer triumphed against Asmodeus himself in his quest to earn their freedom. Asmodeus himself confronted Laduguer after the temptations and attacks of his minions prove fruitless, yet he remained unfazed in the face of even Asmodeus's charm. Nothing Asmodeus could do would change the countenance or demands of Laduguer, who would accept only the original deal, infernal aid in overthrowing the illithids oppressing his people in exchange for assistance against the demon queen Lolth in the Underdark, and grimly accepted it as nothing but his due when Asmodeus finally relented.[103] In general, Asmodeus impersonated the duergar gods to cultivate the evil within the hearts of the already corrupt, offering them guidance and vengeance while urging them to brutal deeds.[104]

Jazirian

The couatl deity Jazirian knew something of Asmodeus's true nature, having worked with the fellow being of law in some ancient deed. While fully capable of telling the gods of law and good this information, they preferred to stay quietly in the background, gathering information through their couatl children and personal efforts to decipher his plans. They had several theories, but knew nothing for certain, and while worried for what he might do, hoped he retained enough lawfulness within himself not to try and unmake the cosmos. Should he try however, they were prepared to confront him at their full capacity, believing strongly that the laws of reality were to be upheld rather than recast to suit those in power. On Asmodeus's part, he regarded his cooperation with Jazirian as a mistake not to be repeated.[93]

Devils

Bael, Geryon, Hutijin, Moloch - they are pawns. Even the lords of layers such as Zariel and Mammon are merely more powerful pieces. Archdevils may make dramatic moves, but it is Asmodeus who plays the game best.

Asmodeus was the father of devilkind, at the very least in spirit if not entirely literally. By some legends it was from his blood that the first baatezu were birthed,[106] while in others he led those who would become the first devils down the dark path into Hell.[50]

Every devil within Hell's hierarchy served Asmodeus, either directly or via a line of authority tracing back to him.[107] He was the default authority all who had reached greater status reported to when uncertain.[108] He was above the archdevils and commoners alike, a category of devil onto himself.[106] The Lords of the Nine derived their power from the fraction of his essence he invested in them,[109] and it was through the Lords (himself included) that all devilkind derived their divine magic.[108]

Lords of the Nine

The archdevils of Hell all sought Asmodeus's throne,[110] and while every one would gladly claim all he owned despite their sworn oaths of fealty and blatantly insincere displays of devotion,[111] none had the courage to move openly against him.[110] Asmodeus made his superiority publicly clear in an event called the Reckoning of Hell, where he demonstrated he could foil them all and emerge entirely unscathed. He annually called the archdevils to his court in Malsheem, a summons that none ever refused.[8]

When the position of an archduke needed to be filled, it was his right to choose who would do so, always selecting one of the unique devils in Hell's ranks.[8][108] However, Asmodeus could simply take powerful beings, even mortal ones, and first transform them into archdevils to add them to his roster before appointing them to archdukedom.[112] The archdevils of note who directly served Asmodeus were as follows:

Zariel-panels

The Saga of Zariel.

Zariel: Asmodeus welcomed Zariel in open arms after her defeated form was brought to him from beneath the giant hill of corpses she created in her crusade against Avernus.[113] He admired her passion for warfare and commended her battle prowess, as well as the strength of her convictions, offering her rulership of Avernus and thus a chance to fight directly against demonkind in the Blood War.[114][115] She accepted his terms, and through doing so became, in a sense, a jewel in Asmodeus's crown.[116]

Zariel has proven to be a prized possession.
— Asmodeus[117]

Even so she was not spared his manipulations, for it was theorized that he secretly masterminded her defeat at the hands of Bel and the Dark Eight,[118][119] later providing her covert aid in her struggle against Bel's draining torture[120] before reinstating her after Bel proved inadequate at driving the demons from Avernus.[121] According to one tale, he may very well have been responsible for inflaming her already potent rage before her descent, setting the groundwork for her eventual fall.[113] Many whispered Zariel's true agenda in the Hells was vengeance against Asmodeus and to drive him from the Pit entirely.[121]

Dispater: According to the commonly accepted Pact Primeval origin myth, Dispater was a member of Asmodeus's company before even his descent into Baator.[122] He was among the most loyal archdevils,[14] having recognized that he was lucky to remain a lord after the Reckoning when many other rulers were displaced and deformed, and would require incredibly persuasion to attempt treason again. Only Asmodeus's direct call could remove him from the safety of his iron tower, and he returned as soon as possible whenever ordered to leave.[123]

The insidious words of his advisor Titivilus had inflamed Dispater's paranoia, convincing him that Asmodeus himself conspired to remove him from power.[124] Perhaps the only thing that could prompt him to act against any other archduke was the possibility of discovering something great enough to tip the scales in his favor.[125]

Mammon: Mammon maintained his position as archduke through legendarily shameless sycophancy, humiliating and pathetic antics performed before the King of Hell. The moment Asmodeus proved victorious in the Reckoning Mammon immediately groveled before him, betraying his co-conspirators without a moment's hesitation. Asmodeus changed Mammon's form after this either as a punishment he decided or because Mammon suggested it as a way to signify he would change his ways and remain loyal.[123][126][127][128][129] Regardless, he hated the transformation and dreamed of the day he could cast off the curse and ascend to rule Hell with a certain someone at his feet, namely Asmodeus's daughter Glasya.[130]

It was unclear how exactly the relationship started, whether Asmodeus was using the unsavory Mammon to punish his daughter or if Glasya was using him to annoy her father (or even if there was some degree of twisted, genuine passion and romance), but at one point Glasya was the consort of Mammon. Asmodeus forcibly forbade the relationship with little resistance from Mammon after the Reckoning, though it was unclear if it had restarted once Glasya removed herself from Asmodeus's watchful eye.[127][131][132][133]

Belial and Fierna: Belial was an old devil who had long ruled Phlegethos,[134] and was responsible for overseeing the Diabolical Court even if all its judges answered only to Asmodeus.[135][136] After the Reckoning he formally stepped down from office in an attempt to escape Asmodeus's wrath. Although Asmodeus killed his consort Naome[137] (though even this might have been Glasya's doing)[119] he accepted Belial placing his daughter Fierna on the throne.[134]

Belial's plans for covert conquest of other layers were continually stalled when Asmodeus elevated his own daughter to archduchess of Malbolge, for he feared both retaliation from Asmodeus for attacking his daughter and from his own daughter for attacking against her "best friend".[138][139] After a period of uncertainty during which it wasn't clear who was really in charge of Phlegethos waived the normal principle regarding sharing archdukedom and dubbed both of them the rulers of the 4th Hell.[135][136][139]

Levistus: Levistus was rumored to be of similar age to ancient Dispater, having been granted Stygia back at Hell's founding for his charm and competence, and he was the first devil to attempt to betray the King of Hell. In his traitorous quest to usurp Asmodeus he performed acts so heinous that his punishment, being sealed in a giant block of ice, almost seemed like a mercy, and while later returned archdukedom he was not released from his tomb.[140][141][111] Having once prized himself on his mobility,[142] Levistus held a special spite in his heart for Asmodeus[143] and no gratitude for his reinstatement, blinded as he was by his need for vengeance and likely to undermine all Hell just to get it.[142] He remained brazenly arrogant, troublesome, and provocatory towards the King of Hell, behavior which was confusingly tolerated with seeming indifference.[144]

For Asmodeus's part, Levistus was in poor standing with him.[141] Asmodeus freed him annually only so he could sulk through the meetings with the other archdevils,[8] and it was said his soft laughter could be heard whenever Levistus's tomb moved in an unwanted direction.[145] He further punished Levistus by mandating he become a patron of survival, offering escape to those in danger.[136] It was speculated that his return was part of an ingenious diversion by Asmodeus, a theory Levistus came to accept despite hating its implications. It would mean that not only were his own schemes used to cloak Asmodeus's designs, but that he would need to watch his behavior going forward.[144] Some speculated his later struggle against Geryon was orchestrated by Asmodeus to either make them overcome their worst impulses or lay the foundation for a superior lord.[146]

Glasya 4e

Glasya, daughter of Asmodeus, standing in front of a picture of her father.

Glasya: Glasya was the daughter of Asmodeus, and regardless of speculation that he merely adopted her as his own, was treated as such.[113] The terms "father" and "daughter" might have been insufficient to describe the relationships between immortal beings of lawful evil,[147] but the two shared a similar view of the world. His daughter generally remained continually supportive[148] and Asmodeus was, at least by infernal standards, a doting father.[139]

Of course I love my father. Without him, whom would I have to strive against?
— Glasya[147]

Even so, their history was long and riddled with conflict, as Glasya remained willfully defiant and dissatisfied by his attempts to bring her under control and she brought him no small amount of grief before they came to an understanding.[131][149] Eventually he made her archduchess, although how much this was meant as a punishment, reward, and a pragmatic matter of keeping her ambitions in check was in question.[147][149] Exactly what Asmodeus ultimately wanted from Glasya, whether to consolidate his rule in Hell or expand his influence in the planes beyond, remained unclear,[111][150] but even she sought his throne and was not above using his name to get away with many of her ploys.[111][151]

Baalzebul: Baalzebul was originally an archon of Mount Celestia named Triel before his relentless and selfish pursuit of perfection got him thrown into the Nine Hells.[152][153] A persistent but unsubstantiated rumor claimed Triel had been one of Asmodeus's personal projects, his spiritual fall engineered in the form of a lovely but venomous flower,[154] whilst other reports claimed Asmodeus could empathize with Baalzebul's fall from grace.[152] Regardless of the reason, the soon-to-be-renamed Baalzebul became a favorite of Asmodeus, perhaps the closest thing he had to a true friend, quickly promoted to devilhood before swiftly ascending to rule the seventh hell.[152][153][111][155] However, the conspiratorial politics of Hell put the two at greater odds over time,[156] culminating in the Reckoning when his move to overthrow Asmodeus offended the Dark Lord and saw him suffer a series of cruel and unusual punishments, the worst being his transformation into a hideous, degenerate slug.[152][157][158][159]

Having fallen from Asmodeus's favor,[155] Baalzebul sought to prove again his usefulness and return to Asmodeus's good graces, primarily by making all his rivals look worse by comparison.[154][160] Yet the slug archduke still burned with undying ambition for Asmodeus's throne just as he did with undying anger towards Asmodeus himself.[153] He had a special hatred for Asmodeus, for his curse was not simply an impediment, but an intolerable humiliation. Though he did manage to return to a more desirable appearance, there was one thing he had sought even more than that during his transformation, and that was vengeance against Asmodeus for his defeat and shaming.[156][155] And yet, for reasons no archduke could fathom, Asmodeus occasionally showed favor to his fallen foe.[14]

Mephistopheles: Like Dispater, Mephistopheles was said to be one of Asmodeus's companions before they descended into Hell[122] and was his greatest ally. The Dark Lord seemed to trust his counsel when offered[14] and appointed Mephisto to safeguard his domain;[158] he was even something of a godfather to Glasya. That said, he was also Asmodeus's greatest enemy,[14] his chief, most dangerous rival,[161] and more than any of the other archdukes he was honest about this intention.[162] While willing to fawn if he had to,[161] he had openly and directly told Asmodeus of his ambition to usurp him with complete confidence.[162][163]

For some reason Asmodeus usually tolerated this brazen and arrogant covetousness, seemingly content to let Mephistopheles make his claims. Part of the reason he allowed it, and indeed why he ignored Baalzebul's own intrigues, was because the two were more focused on and openly antagonistic towards each other than himself.[162][163] Mephistopheles meanwhile maintained the gall to expect rewards from Asmodeus when others received them, exuding jealousy towards his peers despite his pre-eminent position.[152] In his mind, being King of Hell was his destiny,[162][163] although even he realized he could not depose Asmodeus as things were. So it was that Mephisto waited to see if Asmodeus made some catastrophic mistake exploitable enough to put them at actual odds.[14]

Other Archdevils

Bel: Bel was a military genius widely regarded as one of the greatest success stories in the Hells, his most legendary claim to fame being a deceptive maneuver known as the Four-Cross where he appeared to betray Asmodeus for the Abyss twice only so he could cripple the demons for a decade.[89][164] Eventually he seized control of all of Hell's armies and usurped the previous Lord of Avernus, but where he expected immediate assaults, Asmodeus supported him.[89]

Delighted that his treachery found favor with Asmodeus, he gladly accepted the terms laid out by his intermediary, support in exchange for continued Blood War prosecution. Only then did he realize he was an outcast amongst infernal nobility and had little time for anything but the Blood War.[89] In fact, Asmodeus may very well have planned out Bel's rebellion, informally replacing Zariel through the Dark Eight and raising up Bel as a puppet ruler beholden to their will.[119] It was commonly said Asmodeus permitted the coup so as to take a useful but conniving tactician and leave him too harried to scheme against his patron.[89][165]

With no allies in the hierarchy, Bel adopted the policy of supporting Asmodeus in the hopes of further advancement, feeding him information on the other lords through his spy network, efforts appreciated by Asmodeus if not always of actual use.[89] Asmodeus would decree that the other archdukes were required to fund his military endeavor on their behalf with souls and soldiers,[166] and he eventually had such resources at his command that he could likely march against any other archduke with some success. Yet at that point, in the wake of the temporary cooling of the Blood War at large, Bel was believed to have no desire to do such a thing, to have come to like his appointed position as sentry of the Hells and become loyal to Asmodeus first and himself later.[167]

Asmodeus would then replace Bel with the fallen angel Zariel. He managed to imprison her for a time before Asmodeus reinstated her again, declaring Bel's defensive tactics inadequate for fending off demonkind. He mandated Bel advise Zariel, and while Bel would not try to depose her since she seemed to have his favor, he would undermine her and encourage unwise behavior in the hopes his mutually hated rival seemed inept. He awaited the chance to permanently rid himself of her and retake his role as Warlord of Avernus.[121][168][169]

Tiamat: Tiamat held a special enmity for Asmoedeus, for she had been contractually bound to Avernus on terms known only by her and the archdevils.[14][170] At one point Asmodeus had granted her rulership over the layer, but she was so ineffective at keeping outcast devils from attempting regime-threatening coups that she was demoted, only going unpunished because Asmodeus's mind-probing revealed no actual disloyalty. Furthermore, she was focusing on building her own power and kingdom, which Asmodeus reasoned would lead her to fight outcasts and intruders more effectively then if given the task. He left her the formal duty of guarding the best-known passage way between Avernus and Dis, done by stationing an aspect there dedicated to guarding the way, but left her the notion she could return to rule with a satisfactory performance.[120]

While Tiamat's "true" self was in Avernus, another aspect maintained and shifted domains elsewhere, but during the Spellplague fell into the hands of an empowered Bane. Tiamat wisely decided not to directly confront the god of tyranny but serve him faithfully while learning and accurately relaying his secrets to Asmodeus, which greatly pleased him. Eventually she found her moment to strike and steal a great portion of Bane's divine power, passing any she didn't need to heal her enslaved form and link it with her other body to Asmodeus. Delighted by the gift, Asmodeus extended the offer of leadership to her once more, whereupon even he was surprised when Tiamat refused on the basis that she neither desired nor would suit such a position.[120]

Tiamat willingly offered to become Asmodeus's champion on Avernus and slay all who she knew plotted against him, suggesting Bel would prove a superior lord and one not to be spurned and made a foe. Touched by this, Asmodeus held a great ceremony formally titling Tiamat “Guardian to the Gate of the Second Layer", yet he betrayed her all the same. Turning his subordinates against each other, Asmodeus privately urged Tiamat to provide covert magical aid to an imprisoned Zariel while at the same time preparing Bel to mentally dominate her, imprisoning her in her Avernus kingdom in the name of keeping down any personal ambitions. Secretly enraged, Tiamat believed Asmodeus and the others saw her as a "mere monster" to be duped and exploited, and became determined to obtain some level of freedom from the King of Hell.[120]

Geryon: According to the Codex of Betrayal, Geryon was originally a celestial being who joined forces with Asmodeus because he promised to heal the mental wounds he suffered from a failed attempt to heal his broken body with the essence of his fallen comrades. He served as a trusted aide in matters of war and espionage, and was rewarded by having his fractured mind more fully merged. He continued to act as Asmodeus's assistant, slowly committing acts of evil more out of malice than rage or obedience, and was eventually made the Lord of Stygia to replace Levistus. Surprisingly for a Lord of Hell he desired no such authority, disliking the burdens of leadership, although he came to enjoy intrigue and maintained a stable if unremarkable reign up until the Reckoning.[10]

Join with me and mine, for I would welcome such power and such hatred. I can offer you power such as you have never known, a realm of possibilities undreamt of. You shall sit at my right hand, that none might gainsay you... I offer to make you whole.
— Asmodeus to Geryon in the Codex of Betrayal.[10]

Geryon served as a spy for Asmodeus during the Reckoning, seemingly siding with Mephistopheles only to blow his horn before the climatic clash and signal all the commanders to betray their leaders. Then, in a move that surprised everyone, Asmodeus punished his only loyal lord with exile, raising entombed Levistus back to the rank of archduke.[10][171] It was unclear where Geryon went or why Asmodeus forsook him. Theories ranged from the idea it was a punishment or perhaps Asmodeus's interpretation of a reward, a scheme of utility to manipulate him or other archdevils, a way of sending a secret message, or even done just to feast on his despair.[10][171][144][146][172] [91]

Whatever the case, Geryon eventually returned to Stygia and maintained a war against Levistus for it with the tacit permission of Asmodeus.[146] Though he hated Asmodeus for stripping him of his power, secretly raging and swearing vengeance against him, he was not certain of the why himself and not necessarily unwilling to comply depending on the reason.[146][172][10]

Moloch: Moloch was once Hell's greatest warrior, an archdevil granted rulership over Malbolge by Asmodeus eons ago as a reward for his constant service and unyielding hatred of Asmodeus's enemies. Technically he was not an archduke however, instead ruling Malbolge as viceroy of Baalzebul whom was also granted dominion over it. As was his habit, Asmodeus promoted Moloch not simply because he deserved it, but because his animosity towards the other archdevils, especially as he and Baalzebul conspired against each other for control, would keep the two well occupied.[111][173][174]

In the aftermath of the Reckoning, Moloch stood defiant against Asmodeus, convinced Lord of the Ninth would respect his strength as the others begged. Unbeknownst to him, this advice was fed to him as part of a vast conspiracy to dethrone him, and his refusal to bow before his king got him angrily demoted and banished by Asmodeus for his impertinence.[119][173][174] Moloch would later come to resent the ascension of Glasya to archduchess of his former realm, a clear act of favoritism by her father.[173]

Malagard: Malagard was the night hag consort of Moloch who prompted the previous Lord of the Sixth to rebuke Asmodeus, her poisoned words cementing his fall before elevating her to archduchess.[173][175] Having witnessed Asmodeus's power herself she had no desire to interfere with him or participate in Hell's politics, instead focusing on attaining divinity.[175] Her defeat was at least partially by Asmodeus's will, for she fell out of his favor and was struck down in a fit of pique,[14] her ritual to attain godhood failed for reasons not clear. As for why a night hag was made archduchess at all, many in Hell had come to suspect Asmodeus only raised her up as a vulnerable placeholder until such a time when he and Glasya could come to terms.[173][119][33][59]

Gargauth: Gargauth was once an archduke of Hell[176] and the second-most powerful figure next to Asmodeus himself before being exiled from Baator for reasons unknown.[97] Some sages claimed he challenged Asmodeus and lost, others said the destruction of his closest friend by Asmodeus drove him from the Hells, while others believed he left of his own volition,[97][176] sent by Asmodeus to the Material Plane as a pit fiend to corrupt mortals.[177] In any case, Gargauth maintained close ties with Asmodeus, and was on as friendly of terms with him as devils could be.[97]

Gargauth saw Asmodeus as the most capable archdevil, and reported on the loyalties of devils on the Material Plane. Despite being sought after by ambitious dukes for his great personal power, Gargauth never supported any attempt to unseat Asmodeus and any meeting made with that goal in mind inevitably resulted in Asmodeus knowing what happened. Even so, Gargauth viewed himself as above everyone in the Nine Hells,[97] and his own followers believed he ultimately planned to turn Faerun into his own 10th Hell.[178]

Graz'zt: The demon lord Graz'zt was believed by some to have once been an archdevil and a trusted advisor of Asmodeus. In the earlier days of the Blood War, he was tasked with retrieving the heart of the Abyss, and though initially successful was stalled after conquering three layers and forced to consolidate his holdings and rethink his strategy.[179][180] Some sages theorized he became dissatisfied with eternal subservience to Asmodeus and favored the Abyss, which offered greater freedom to the powerful than Baator where only one could claim absolute dominion.[181] Rejecting his heritage and status, he made his conquests his own kingdom of Azzagrat.[180][179]

Only Graz'zt could say if he had truly severed ties with Asmodeus or was secretly colluding with him and either answer didn't preclude him from changing his mind later.[180] By some rumors, Graz'zt was originally closer to Asmodeus then merely another devil in his court. If the hearsay was to be believed, based more upon personal biases and allegiances than actual evidence as it was, Asmodeus was Graz'zt's father, spawned by a terrible union between him and the obyrith lord Pale Night.[182]

Uprising

Asmodeus was so powerful that he feared no individual archdevil, but his position was not invincible. Even he dreaded the idea of a unified front against him,[183] for if they managed to overcome their differences, the archdukes might prove able to overpower him.[184]

Dispater was seemingly invulnerable within his Iron Tower[185][186] and had crafted an impenetrable suit of armor, the full features of which were known only to himself.[125] Mammon might very well be wealthier than Asmodeus and Fierna was his equal in terms of charisma.[135] Levistus's infamous deed, should the truth behind it be made clear, had the potential to utterly undermine Asmodeus's authority,[111] and his sly trickery had turned many former members of his own spy network against him.[141] Glasya may have managed to defy, subvert, and embarrass her father multiple times, and none could say how many of the Dark Eight he appointed to watch her would turn to her side if they went to war.[111][187][188]

Some suspected Asmodeus considered Baalzebul a worthy adversary,[14] and while he may have been the most clever,[173] cunning, and artful of the archdevils,[23] the Lord of the Flies may have been a superior intellect.[157][note 2] But it was Mephistopheles who was perhaps the one archdevil Asmodeus feared on his own,[183] whose magical might was whispered to be great enough that even his master was deterred from interfering with him.[189]

Furthermore, the exile Gargauth rivaled Asmodeus in posturing and wiliness, and through his stronger sense of humor surpassed him in self-control and strategy, such was his ability that he would prove dangerous competition if he ever desired Asmodeus's throne.[97] Were he to support Baalzebul, Mephistopheles, or even one of the lesser archdukes, the beneficiary could conceivably wrest control of the Nine Hells and oust Asmodeus.[7] Even Bel had the capacity to "become a problem" in Asmodeus's mind, were he to finish absorbing the powers of Zariel.[120]

To avoid the advent of this scenario, Asmodeus plied his skill in diplomacy and intrigue to carefully foster rivalry, distrust, and feuding across the Hells, always managing to seemingly align himself with the winning side in any conflict.[184][183] The power balance of Hell was a fragile thing,[111] and the fall of the wrong lord at the wrong time had the potential to unleash utter catastrophe throughout the Nine Hells and planes beyond.[68]

Vassals

The following beings were among the most notable subjects of Asmodeus on Nessus. The forces at their disposal are listed, where appropriate:

  • Adramalech: Chancellor of Hell, Keeper of Records[190]
  • Alastor: The Executioner of Nessus.[33] He was unwaveringly loyal to Asmodeus and believed to be the King of Hell's closest friend, confidant, and the one devil he would save were he only able to pick one.[191][192]
  • Baalberith: Major domo of Asmodeus's palace, responsible for the palace guard.[33]
  • Bensozia: Consort of Asmodeus and Queen of Hell (deceased).[190]
  • Buer: A commander of fifteen companies of pit fiends. His loyalty to Asmodeus had never been in question.[190]
  • Bune: A commander of thirty companies of cornugons. Though naturally defiant to everyone stronger than him, and so feared by him, he was the duke most careful and quickest in the obeying of Asmodeus's orders. He saw Asmodeus as the most powerful and therefore safest archdevil to follow and was content with his position, remaining unwilling to betray his master.[190]
  • Martinet: The Constable of Nessus.[33]
  • Morax: A commander of nine companies of pit fiends. He was loyal to Asmodeus and respected him for his great might.[190]
  • Phongor: Inquisitor of Hell. He was responsible for providing Asmodeus accurate information about the planes and was the most feared devil in Nessus besides Asmodeus himself.[190]
  • Rimmon: A commander of five companies of gelugons. Little liked in the Hells, he lacked personal pride and was loyal to Asmodeus.[190]
  • The Spark Hunters: Six hamatula rangers/mortal hunters who acted as Asmodeus's elite agents on the Material Plane.[131]
  • Zagum: A commander of thirty companies of hamatula.[190]

Worshipers

Disciple of Asmodeus

A disciple of Asmodeus.

Merciless lord of the Ninth Hell, keeper of all things forbidden and unknown, master of all you encounter, Asmodeus, I call on your dread name.
— Gilliard DeRosan[193]

Asmodeus had been varyingly described as having no need for worship[194] and desperately craving true divinity.[30] He simultaneously desired the souls of mortals and maintained a following among them,[33][30] yet rarely tempted them himself, knowing they would come to him.[195]

Indeed, Asmodeus was unquestionably the dominant figure in regards to those who knowingly worshiped devils. He was often the first choice of all civilized, prospective devil worshipers,[21] with those known as such almost always being his followers,[65] and had by far more cultists on the Material Plane than any other archdevil,[21] arguably even combined.[65][30] Furthermore his cult subsumed all others,[196] for technically every diabolic cult was simply a subdivision of his own and every leader of such a group was mandated to acknowledge his power and pledge allegiance to him.[196] Mortals who drew their power from infernal sources ultimately drew power from him,[30][109][108] and he was the final authority on what benefits an archduke was allowed and even mandated to provide.[90][197]

Asmodeus had followers of practically every race and influenced all levels of society even within the greatest bastions of good.[30] Most sects were based in the settlements of humans, halflings, dwarves, elves, and gnomes, although the cult did claim some monstrous adherents.[21] He courted influence among organized races of lawful evil humanoids, such as hobgoblins,[198] with many creatures of evil revering him as the patron of might and tyranny.[65]

Following this aspect, all Asmodeus's clerics aspired to wealth, prestige, and most of all, power,[65] and most cultists used his organization as a stepping stone to these goals.[21] In following him they saw their way to great power, a path providing access to the otherwise unattainable.[65][30] They were imperious figures whose great personal magnetism made them natural leaders and who already possessed much political power, such as merchants and wealthy nobles.[30][65] The cult functioned as a secret and sinister mutual-aid society whose members used their pre-existing influence and affluence to raise each other into higher positions of prominence. In societies devoted to him, all advancement whether political, social, or economic was tied to membership of the cult.[21][65]

In predominantly lawful evil societies, Asmodeus's temples dominated the landscape and typically operated openly. If allowed in societies predominantly of other alignments they openly followed him but kept their true natures and activities secret. In areas hostile to lawful evil, temples were hidden in subterranean complexes and the nature of their god hidden to unproven initiates.[21][65] All temples were full of his symbols; his ruby-tipped rod emblem was used for subtlety while his skull-gripping clawed fist was used in devil-dominated societies, but sometimes an inverted pentagram would suffice. All were well-appointed and protected through the financially empowering favor of Asmodeus.[65]

Having no soul quota of his own,[113] Asmodeus was no stranger to subcontracting cults to other figures and inventing fictional figures for devotion (such as in his schemes to inspire faithlessness)[93] and had an interesting relationship with the cults of his two most powerful rivals. In an arrangement that frustrated the narcissistic Mephistopheles to no end, he traditionally operated cults for Asmodeus. Often confused for his master, he did not exert much influence on the Material Plane (though his relatively recent discovery of hellfire helped him escape this somewhat). Meanwhile, members of Baalzebul's cults (the third most popular infernal cult) were often better insurgents than governors, and so occasionally he and Asmodeus swapped temples. A victorious church of Baalzebul would be taken over by Asmodeus and Baalzebul would gain a secret shrine to Asmodeus within an area in need of subversion.[3][199]

Asmodeus also maintained several unconventional mortal casters. In fact, the most common origin of warlocks in the Realms was infernal, and of all the archdevils, it was Asmodeus who maintained the most of such pacts, at least among those with fiendish blood. The great effort he spent in this endeavor served to grant him influence on different planes and solidify his supremacy, and only Mephistopheles rivaled his rate of creation and control.[198] There were also his domineering disciples of darkness, callous in their quest for unlimited power, ruthlessly striving for nothing less than world domination. The best were often already spellcasters, and the most powerful could draw some of Asmodeus's power into themselves.[193][200] The most worthy cult leaders, whether directly in his cult or not, were granted the power to drain the vitality of their allies, even doing so automatically when unconscious.[196]

After Divinity

Since attaining his divinity during the Spellplague, Asmodeus's mortal follower base had been ever-expanding.[38] His faith was still considered a form of devil worship,[51] for he was known to humans and demihumans alike as Lord of the Nine Hells,[201] but while his priests, called the mordai, were known to conduct vile rituals in his name, doing so was no longer actually necessary to channel his divinity, unlike with other lesser lords of Hell.[51]

In his capacity as a true god, Asmodeus had a very different appeal and sphere of influence than in his diabolic aspect. Great and quick rewards were offered to those willing to submit their souls to him and he fully allowed for indulgence in the pleasures of life, as well as offered special favors for those who tempted others into his service.[202][203] He was even willing, through authorized intermediaries, to send a priest to cast true resurrection on one who had died.[204] All these temptations however were merely lures on his hook that inevitably came at the cost of the signatory's soul, sentencing them to eternal damnation in the Nine Hells. The mordai preyed on greed and impatience, and all who they corrupted were bound just as they were to never falter in word or deed as they acknowledged Asmodeus as their true master, to be obeyed absolutely and served without stopping.[202][203]

Furthermore, in line with his motivations, Asmodeus's church subverted the divine order. In the aftermath of the events surrounding his ascension, charismatic individuals appeared with small followings offering a confused populace answers and absolution. To those without great ambition, alive or dead, they offered reprieve from the torturous wait for a god's response through delights, distractions and company and, if at a price after death, the possibility to hide their transgressions from divine eyes. After decades of struggling for acceptance, the church had made some inroads, for while shrines were still rare and temples practically unheard of, many had taken to asking Asmodeus for reprieve from their sins.[201]

To the more aspiring, mordai offered a chance at both power and pleasures immortal in the hierarchy of Hell, a path by which they could master their own fates and achieve their goals over eternity rather than serve at another deity's leisure.[201] In truth, even the powerful were not exempt from eternal service, although the greatest of his mortal servants could receive instant transformation into pit fiends upon death.[204]

Tieflings

After the Spellplague, Asmodeus and a coven of warlocks known as the Toril Thirteen completed a ritual where the Lord of the Nine marked all tieflings in the world as his descendants. Regardless of their true heritage, he cursed them to bear his "blood" thus changing them to better resemble him.[205] Even in modern times he was still willing to offer transformation into a tiefling with a direct infernal bloodline to himself, at the cost of the soul of whoever would seek such a thing.[204]

Contrary to some beliefs, Asmodeus's great ritual granted him no special control over the agency of his so-called children. Some actively rejected infernal politics and others aligned themselves with opposing fiendish factions (enough to lend some weight to the suspicion that they were all fiend worshipers). Other infernal bloodlines had also reemerged, though those bearing Asmodeus's mark were still by far the most numerous. Even so, many tieflings did choose to follow the Lord of the Nine,[205] the most frequent provider of warlock pacts to their kind.[198] The existence of the Ashmadai, an active and violent cult of Asmodeus in Neverwinter (where the largest tiefling population was found in North Faerûn) created an atmosphere of distrust towards all tieflings there.[205]

Others

A few shadar-kai of Netheril revered Asmodeus.[206]

Since Laduguer's death (and after his revival), Asmodeus was known to impersonate him and other duergar deities, convincing many duergar to swear oaths to the devils in this guise to heighten their desire for vengeance and tyranny.[207][208]

Chosen of Asmodeus

History

I'm sure you're terribly important, but I also know how to play the hierarchy. Digging up Asmodeus’s buried secrets is hardly the safest way to stay ahead.
— Shetai, paeliryon inquisitor of Glasya, upon being asked questions relevant to Asmodeus.[210]

Asmodeus was a figure long shrouded in mystery, surrounded by brutally repressed rumors suggesting there was more to him than he cared to admit.[31] He was certainly the oldest of the existing archdevils,[30] but perhaps outdated by the long forgotten Lucifer or the even more enigmatic Satan.[88] There stood comparisons to be made between him and Zaphkiel, the similarly inscrutable and ancient ruler of the archons and the Seven Heavens of Mount Celestia, one of the first mortal martyrs to die for the cause of lawful good.[211] In some legends Asmodeus was once a deity of the goodly realms himself, maybe even of greater status, exiled from Celestia or perhaps Elysium.[31]

If one asked other fiends, for all their word was worth, they were responsible for Asmodeus's existence. Daemon histories purported that the baatezu were born of larva after the General of Gehenna purged the lawfulness from his people and infused it into them. From the yugoloth homeland of Hades, they were driven away to Baator where they then developed into the baatezu, the Lords of the Nine being the yugoloth shepherds empowered by their awe.[212] The demonic tanar'ri however would say that they themselves were ultimately the source of devilkind, that their baatezu archenemies were simply corrupted versions of themselves, a root of chaos so twisted that it became law. This was arguably the only point the histories of the Abyss all agreed on and,[213] by some interpretations, could be argued correct.[50]

By some theories, Asmodeus was somehow fundamental to reality itself, his mere existence pulling the multiverse into its modern form.[31] He was perhaps older than the rule of belief in the planes,[4] to be counted amongst various other unfathomably old beings in the ranks of the Ancient Brethren. If such rumors were true, he would doubtlessly be connected to the baernaloths, yugoloths said to be born before the current configuration of the planes,[55] and were alleged to be responsible for the creation of incredibly old fiendish races.[214] Alternate versions of the yugoloth story had the Lords of the Nine originally appointed by the baernaloths or arise simply because the nature of the multiverse necessitated their existence.[212]

Then there was the matter of Asmodeus's true form. Not even other devils living in Nessus were certain of the story that the Serpent's Coil, where the true form rested, was formed by the spiraling body of a plummeted Asmodeus.[71] None who shared knowledge of its existence, both of the form itself and where it allegedly came from, lived for more than a day, although it was still recorded in ancient and difficult to reach libraries, such as Demogorgon's citadel of Abysm.[31] As for how the existence of this form would impact his origin stories, the fact he was currently of serpentine shape did not require that he was always this way. It was said that even devils were not exempt from the punishments of the realm of the damned, and Asmodeus too would have been physically warped by it,[215] or was perhaps cursed by his former superior.[216]

Regardless, in the majority of his origins, whether cast out of the celestial realms, banished from other fiendish ranks or rejected by timeless contemporaries, Asmodeus had fallen from grace.[31][217][218] From this disgraced and generally poorly understood position however he had begin to rise again, advancing plans uncountable eons in the making.[4] The most elaborated of these descents and ascents boiled down to three primary origin stories:

Origin Story: Serpent of Law

JazirianandAhriman

Jazirian and Ahriman forming the Outer Planes.

At the very dawn of the universe, reality was little more than swirling, primordial soup of infinite possibility, simultaneously everything and nothing. Forms, ranging from entire dimensions to god-like beings, would then coalesce out from the chaos via an unknown mechanism, some reveling in the preexisting reality and others rejected it, creating the faction of Law. The young multiverse would be defined by the conflict between these ancient groups of Chaos and Law, and among them were the Twin Cosmic Serpents, representations of the duality of Law: the feathered, goodly Jazirian and forked-tongued, evil Ahriman. So long as the two worked in concert they were invincible, the mightiest of Law's champions, and despite their difference, they were first and foremost agents of order.[71][217][71]

By forming an ouroboros, biting each others' tails and sending their coils out into the endless chaos, the Cosmic Serpents bounded the Outlands, the combined interaction of law, good, chaos, and evil creating a plane of true neutrality. All other alignment-based planes configured around it, creating the Great Ring, more commonly known as the Outer Planes. In creating this first ring, the Twin Serpents had established a fundamental planar principle, the Unity of Rings, instituting the importance of rings in the philosophy and geography of the planes. Then, in honor of their triple aspects of Law, Good, and Evil, they established the law of threes (more commonly called the Rule of Threes), decreeing the importance of the number in the multiverse.[71][217]

Given the prior rule, the Twin Serpents decided that a third law would be needed to complete the triumvirate, both agreeing to define a center of reality to remain coiled around. It was at this point, however, that the two disregarded the importance of law, unwilling to concede to the other in its best interests. Each pushed and agitated for Heaven or Hell, the planes of their favored aspects in law, to have such an honor, despite the existence of more neutral planes such as the Outlands. The two strained in opposite directions, rocking the foundations of reality before finally breaking the ouroboros and ripping off each other's tails. So it was that the unity of law was broken and there was no center of reality, the envisioned, bordered planes instead stretching on infinitely, and in doing so the two had effectively made the third law a concession to chaos.[71][217]

Winged Jazirian flew to Mount Celestia, scattering drops of blood that formed fully grown couatls as they landed, while Ahriman, lacking wings, suffered a long and direct fall into Baator, the embittered and injured serpent embracing his own dark offspring. Both were weakened by this struggle, having invested much of their power into defining the planes and their later battle. Though neither passed on, they were usurped by other god-like entities as the multiverse was populated by beings both mortal and immortal. The multiverse at large desired to forget them,[71][217] and few survived from the early days of creation to remember their identities. Ahriman took advantage of this, hiding his true nature, reinventing himself as the Lord of Baator and changing his name to Asmodeus, a position from which he would plot to regain his former glory.[4]

Origin Story: Pact Primeval

Read the fine print.
— Asmodeus, per the tale of the Pact Primeval[50]

The Pact Primeval myth was told throughout all worlds in the Material Plane, with countless cultural variants substituting the deities involved. Devils themselves told the story, and it was the most widely accepted version of the multiverse's creation. In this version too, arguably before the beginning of all things, there was chaos, and from it came its living manifestations in demonkind. Lacking time as a tool and possibly even as an abstract concept, the demons fought each other in an environment of endless disorder for an innumerable period.[50]

But this state was intolerable to reality, and so in this version too, forces of law arose from the chaos to combat it and its demons, early deities in gleaming armor of pure stability with weapons forged of ideal thought. The forces of law and chaos battled for eons, until the deities of law felt the need to track their progress and so created numbers for recording the slain foes and time to see how long victory would take. They gradually came to suspect however that demonkind was infinite and became weary of the conflict, seeking to move on to other projects like the creation of worlds and intelligent beings. So they created a beautiful and gloriously diverse array of winged warriors to wield their divine magic and do battle on their behalf, the angels, and the bravest, toughest, fiercest and most beautiful of these angels was Asmodeus.[50]

Asmodeus slew more demons than anyone, whether angel or deity, but as the eons wore on he and his company became ugly and fearsome, taking on demonic traits to better combat them[50] (thus in a way devils could be said to have come from demons).[218] Eventually their frightened celestial kin beseeched the gods to banish Asmodeus, and so a trial was held. Asmodeus himself had helped to carve the great tablets of law he read from, citing that the first duty of law was to destroy chaos and his excellence in this field to a god of war. He countered any displeasure taken with his unsightly appearance as a sacrifice made to keep others pure, refusing exile on account of his lawfulness. They could find no lawful counter against the dark angel who wielded their own clauses better than they, and over time their alarming aspects - forked tongues, fanged maws and bodies wreathed in fire - only became more dire.[50]

Without any lawful way to stop Asmodeus's host from entering even newly created works in their dominions, the distressed deities decided to focus on the creation of mortals and wonderful worlds to house them. Unfortunately, the bands of Asmodeus had to be called to these worlds to vanquish invading demonic hosts, and proved generally successful in doing so. Through their combined efforts barriers were created to keep demons away from the Material Plane through walls, mountains, icy wastes and vast oceans. Much like Asmodeus, the newly created worlds were scarred for the betterment of law. Then, to their horror, did the gods discover that mortals immediately set to subverting these barriers, allowing the demon host back inside to destroy their paradises.[50]

Asmodeus came to the gods to answer their lamentations, acknowledging that while the free will to choose obeying the law was important, mortals were curious and lured by demonic promises of freedom, and no matter how many times the process repeated would always follow the dangled liberty and realize too late it was merely anarchic destruction. He then answered their further wails of downcast despair with a solution, that voluntary obedience to whom they, as creations, should obey, had to have consequence if they did not. Asmodeus argued that the law meant nothing without Punishment. At their further questioning he unsheathed Punishment itself, at this time shaped like a mighty sword, an ultimate weapon of law Asmodeus allegedly invented himself.[50]

Asmodeus argued that criminals had to suffer as a warning to others, a few made to suffer so that the majority saw the consequences. As usual, no flaw could be found in Asmodeus's logic and indeed one godling's recognition and pronouncement of this instantly transformed him into a greater deity. Another revelation made that day by the gods was the recognition of the principles of good and evil, forces in the cosmos by which the gods could and did further separate themselves on the basis of. Those who favored evil offered Asmodeus's host further patronage while those who preferred good drew further away from them.[50]

The pleased gods had their intermediaries spread knowledge of the punishment for sins, truly believing no one would actually violate their laws, only for transgressors to arrive in their domain and Asmodeus, allegedly aided by Dispater, Mephistopheles and others, to enact their lawful punishment. Flayed, burned and otherwise tortured, the horrible screams of the damned filled the celestial realms and the flowers of their gardens dripped with blood. Unable to ignore the horrors, Asmodeus was once again charged, once again pointed out he was only enacting the rules they agreed on, once again was met with no counterargument, and once again proposed a solution. If the gods were unwilling to see the unpleasant side of the law, he would take his followers and create a perfect Hell in which to enact the torment without them having to see it, in the empty land that would later be Baator.[50]

The gods were eager to see Asmodeus gone and he was happy to oblige so long as they first made a pact. Drawing forth a ruby rod of power he produced a document alleged to ensure that he and his forces would carry out divine will, specifying the fate of the damned and allowing his forces to draw magic from the souls. At least one god was suspicious, but Asmodeus reassured them that it was for their own benefit, preventing them from becoming independent while still being able to fuel spells and powers away while away from them. The ancient deities of laws signed the pact that would determine Hell's boundaries and the rules of damnation, a deal known now as the Pact Primeval.[50]

Asmodeus and his erinyes cohorts descended to the bleak and featureless Baator and upon the bemoaning of his associates explained his plans. For many mortal years the gods of law and good reveled in their purified domains only to discover an alarming drop in incoming souls. Conference with their clergies revealed that the forces of Asmodeus, and this point called devils, were intentionally corrupting mortals, and a quickly formed divine delegation soon learned that Baator had been transformed into nine tiers of horror, the souls harvested for power and transformed into mindless monsters to build a devil army. Upon being told it was not meant to encourage sin, he merely pointed to the letter of the law with a smile.[50]

While many suspected Asmodeus got the better of his divine enemies with the Pact Primeval, no mortal had ever actually seen it.[77] As was often the case with legends, contradictions and sketchy details were abound, and alternate stories were acknowledged to exist despite its acceptance. Furthermore, the legend was not only influenced by devils, but as it was told seemed heavily biased towards Asmodeus, notably in one specific area.[50]

If the story as a whole was to be believed,[50] then Asmodeus's parting after signing the Pact Primeval was not as flawless and peaceful as portrayed. In truth, after committing himself to residing there he did not simply descend but was physically cast there by the gods. He plunged through the nascent layers he had already begun shaping (in some versions causing the plane to break and reform into nine layers) and continued to spiral violently even as the earth of Baator itself protested. He fell until he could literally fall no further, hitting the deepest part - The Pit; thereafter he laid and schemed even as his wounds still bled.[33]

Origin Story: He Who Was

The myth of He Who Was was known as such because the name of the god around which it revolved had been lost, even from the Codex of Betrayal written by their last remaining worshiper.[219] Asmodeus had used his magic and influence to erase all knowledge of the name from existence,[216] and so he was only known by titles such as He Who Was or He Who Once Lit Our Way.[219] Only a handful of mortal scholars remembered the name and it was whispered Asmodeus dispatched powerful devils to kill any mortal who spoke it aloud, fearing it even in modern times.[47]

He Who Was was once among the mightiest of gods and lord of the celestial realm of Baathion,[47] a dominion built on law, guided by morality, and bound to promote peace.[220] He was a god of kingship, the sky, wisdom,[47] arguably knowledge,[219] and stated in some circles to have been the creator of humanity.[221] Yet he was also suggested to have his share of negative qualities. On one hand he was claimed to have been a soft and inadequate leader, a god of peace unable to handle the harshness and brutality of war. On the other hand he was reported as self-righteous,[216] not unwilling to imbue and encourage cruelty and violence in his avenging angels,[222] and an obsessive control freak surveying every aspect of life in his realm from his high throne. There was debate on whether the latter behavior inspired Asmodeus's rebellion, and the few who subscribed to the theory held Asmodeus as a cautionary example of becoming what one hates.[223]

In any event, it was by the goodwill and kindness of He Who Was that he allowed his archangels to rise to nearly equal exarchs and demigods in power. It was through them that he intended to spread peace and justice throughout the multiverse,[220] and the most powerful of these warrior exarchs was Asmodeus.[216] Late into the ancient war between law and chaos, the Dawn War, after the fall of the Queen of Chaos and the removal of demons from play, Asmodeus was among the deific exemplars of chastity and virtue appointed to guard the prison of Tharizdun. But in the wake of the Abyssal chaos another demon would sneak out to meet Asmodeus in service to his own secret plans for power, Pazuzu.[76]

Pazuzu flattered Asmodeus, lamenting that his loyalty to the gods was rewarded with an eternal, thankless task. These words began to grow a seed of vanity, false pride, and eventually arrogance in Asmodeus, who soon came to believe himself more righteous than his sworn deity. Soon he head the whispers at the heart of the Abyss and,[76] according to theologians, the once shining star of his god was sent plummeting into darkness.[220]

Abandoning his duties,[76] Asmodeus plunged into the Blood Rift and survived long enough to do what no other had or did since; he found the Abyss's core in its incalculable depths. He stole away a sliver of the Abyss's black heart, which only tightened the grasp of evil on his being and would eventually cement the transformation of he and his followers into devils.[220][224] It was perhaps during this time of Abyss that the darkened angel was beckoned into the fold of Pale Night, if of course one believed the rumors that he was Graz'zt's father.[182][note 3]

The methods of the greatest general of He Who Was only became more brutal with time, more than once causing the deaths of innocents alongside enemies. A falling out between angel and god ensued, and despite Asmodeus's protestations and warnings, He Who Was stood by his decision to strip Asmodeus of his station. Rather than kill him, the merciful god left him broken in mind and body with his followers on the outskirts of his domain, perhaps believing Asmodeus would come to regret his disobedience and pride, but Asmodeus's pride outmatched any guilt he felt. He and his followers grew into their broken forms and the suffering angel plotted his revenge on all the gods who had idly forgotten the sacrifices he made in the war, including his master. Waiting until a grim point in the war where the gods seemed to be losing,[216] he launched a rebellion alongside his allies[220] and using the shard of the Abyss, forged into a Ruby Rod, slew his deity.[79][220]

Asmodeus's victory was short-lived however,[76] for the devil's prize soon twisted into a damnation by the will of He Who Was and his dying curse. Baathion, an idyllic, verdant, shining world of unequaled goodness and brightness was erased, its beautiful forests, oceans, and even the beloved garden of the god burned and boiled away by hellish flames until all that remained was the black rock, unending fire, death, and torment of Baator.[220][47][225] The traitor angels were not spared Hell's power; where they encamped while he was slain was where the curse was focused, submerging the traitors in intolerable flame.[226] All rebel angels were physically distorted[215] and eventually turned into devils[216] while those servants deceived into betraying He Who Was became the first hell knights.[227] Finally, the curse left Asmodeus and his company trapped in Baator and unable to claim the full divine power of his murdered god.[47]

The Old Kings

Contrary to its presentation in the popular "Pact Primeval" myth, Baator was not uninhabited when Asmodeus and his fallen company arrived.[122] Instead, as some sages suspected, the plane was populated by a race of much older, much stranger entities known only as the Ancient Baatorians.[228] Certain incalculably old texts purported that these were the creations of the baernaloths, but few outside daemon-dominated regions held to a belief in their truth.[214] Wherever they came from, the arrival of Asmodeus's kindred heralded their disappearance, to the point the only obvious sign of their presence were the nupperibos, young who naturally grew from the larva (who appeared even before mortals existed) of the plane. These were quickly changed into lemures to prevent the return of the ancients and to obscure the truth, which was perhaps known only by the Lords of the Nine and Dark Eight.[213][229]

As for what happened to the Ancient Baatorians, one of the most detailed, if not well-known, origins for the Elder Evil Zargon potentially held the answer. If this story was to be believed, the Invincible Tyrant was the father of the ancient baatorians and ruler of Baator in eons past, presiding over a malevolent kingdom of running ooze. In yet another war, Asmodeus and his allies massacred their progenitors and enslaving those who remained. Asmodeus killed most himself, but despite the destruction of all their lords, Zargon himself, even against one as mighty as Asmodeus, was resistant to the worst he could muster. So it was that Asmodeus, realizing Zargon's weakness, ripped his unbreakable horn from his head and flung it to the Material Plane, causing the elder evil to reform around it.[230][231]

Considering that not even Zargon remembered his past, it was possible this origin was untrue, but the Ancient Baatorians were real all the same.[232] Furthermore, even millennia later, there still existed some outside Asmodeus's control. The scattered and hidden subjects of whispered rumors, the Ancient Baatorians seeped through Baator's isolated regions, through planar substance and the minds of residents. Though they sometimes took material form, they otherwise manifested merely as the essences of beliefs and so their presence was virtually unknown and practically unknowable.[233] Even so, Asmodeus had unquestionably supplanted them and continually imposed their own order onto the race eons after the conquest.[213]

Leaving such timeless beings aside, there were rumors that Asmodeus was not the original ruler of the Nine Hells. Though he was the oldest remaining archdevil and his rule went as far back as recorded history, the once Lord of the Sixth Lucifer and a figure called Satan were allegedly lords of the Pit before him.[88][8]

Reign of Asmodeus

With his fall complete and dominance over Hell established, Asmodeus set into motion his innumerable plans and schemes for reality-spanning authority. Many were his dark deeds, both certain and alleged, in aid of this goal, ranging from the corruption of figures of legends to acts that changed entire worlds and the multiverse as a whole. An exact timeline for these events would therefore be nigh impossible to establish, although the following were all before the one failed and infamous coup made to seize his throne.[4][106][113][188]

Upon landing in the bottom of Hell, Asmodeus invented the Infernal language, or rather it formed spontaneously on his lips.[199] His blood would spawn many early devils,[106] although the baatezu at large believed they emerged from the plane itself, a not untrue statement at least later on.[213] Asmodeus established the infernal bureaucracy[189] and carved up Baator amongst his loyal servants, dividing the horrid domain into smaller realms and fiefdoms. He took Bensozia as his concubine,[111] partially as a prize, and either seeded through her or adopted his daughter Glasya.[113][131]

During this early period Asmodeus also thoroughly shaped the Nine Hells such that they were significantly different from their previous form[33] and in some ways unrecognizable from their more modern state. Avernus, for example, was originally created by Asmodeus as an obscenely beautiful paradise, a wonderland of infinite, alluring, enrapturing delights designed to tempt and ensnare mortals.[234] Stygia meanwhile was suspected, if never verified, to have originally been a Material Plane world before the inhabitants pledged their soul and home to Asmodeus for refuge from some world-ending catastrophe, a bargain kept that ended with it becoming another Hell.[188]

Asmodeus managed to stay on top in his established game of infernal politics, but it did not remain a static field.[30] One of the first lords to attempt to usurp him was Levistus,[111] who was cast down from his position and replaced with Geryon.[136] The new Lord of the Fifth initially hated this position before coming to appreciate it,[235] and the two would end up constantly vying for control of Stygia. This fight was ended just after Levistus's latest victory as a result of his heinous crime against Asmodeus.[136]

The official story was that Levistus slew Bensozia for rejecting his advances and offers to join his conspiracy,[236][144] but this was likely propaganda. The more likely, whispered version was that Bensozia, who deeply hated Asmodeus, entered a dark tryst of mutual exploitation with Levistus, who came to her seeking secrets to use against him. In this version her death came at the hands of Glasya, who had also been seduced by Levistus and entered a murderous rage upon seeing the truth. The constable Martinet covered up the crime lest Asmodeus lose face and Levistus was framed and sentenced to his icy prison.[111]

The fallen archon Triel, his spiritual rot allegedly engineered by Asmodeus himself,[154] quickly mastered diabolical politics such that he not only took Maladomini but erased all record of its original ruler.[237][154] Later he was rewarded with rule over Malbolge through Moloch for some past wicked deed[111] and brought to watch the downfall of the previous ruler and his fiercest rival at the time, Lucifer, ending in him and his consort being slain and their unsanctioned son being devoured by Asmodeus.[2] The death of Lucifer was speculated to have been the prompt for the self-imposed exile of Gargauth.[176]

Outside Hell

Asmodeus had also maintained projects beyond the purview of the Nine Hells. Per the origin of He Who Was, there were many gods who saw Asmodeus as one who had cunningly rid them of a failing leader, and thus willing to secretly bargain with him for aid in the Dawn War, as well as evil gods who were simply grateful of the removal of He Who Was. Even so, most cursed him as a traitor and overtly shunned him, for decades not trusting him enough to grant him release and thus his god's power. This was warranted, for he made secret overtures to both sides until settling with the gods, who had decided to forge a pact of alliance granting him the power of He Who Was "until the primordials were vanquished".[216]

Between this and other clauses and tricks of wording that the furious and desperate gods did not fully consider the ramifications of, Asmodeus granted himself the perpetual right to harvest souls. He had the foresight and economic savvy to create many pacts that seemed indiviually innocuous, but together, given the state of the cosmos, allowed him to avoid the diminished soul income of other realms and convert his master's domain into a torturous extractor of magical energy.[216][238] Even so, despite having access to his god's power, he had not truly become one himself,[38] and was as much just another prisoner of the Nine Hells as he was its king.[239]

While the yugoloths claimed to be responsible for the baatezu,[212] it was widely believed that Asmodeus was responsible for the creation of the yugoloths. He had commissioned the new race of fiends from a coven of Gehennan night hags in the hopes of creating an army not bound to the Hells as the devils were. This plan, if true, ultimately failed, when in their petty squabbles the night hags lost the four Books of Keeping, used to command loyalty from the yugoloths, allowing them to become independent mercenaries.[240] At one point the fallen solar Malkizid joined Asmodeus before later angering him and being banished from Baator, later becoming a yugoloth lord.[241]

On the note of gods and fiends, Asmodeus would later need to deal with the horn of Zargon he abandoned. After regenerating around the horn Zargon spent centuries climbing out from where he was buried, emerging in the city of Cynidicea. He terrorized the populace before becoming its tyrant, appeased through live sacrifices that eventually attracted the rage of a barbarian nation from which said sacrifices were being obtained. Zargon killed their champion and as an elder evil even several of their gods, until Asmodeus entered the field.[230][231]

Immune to his divinity-cancelling effects as an elder evil, Asmodeus defeated Zargon, encasing him in stone and burying his Cynidicean worshipers along with their city. He did this only out of concern for Zargon's escape rather than for the gods, and religious groups suppressed this alleged version of events, unwilling to let spread a tale where the gods were powerless and Asmodeus saved the day.[230][231]

The Blood War Begins

Maybe we should focus on killing Asmodeus.
That spineless thief? I will spill his brains with that scepter of his and take back what he stole from us!
What a splendid idea!
Platitudes! From you? Ha! You are trying to deceive me!
Really, Aameul, your paranoia will be our undoing.
My paranoia will be your undoing! I know your game!
— The twin heads of the Prince of Demons Demogorgon, Aameul and Hethradiah, debating Asmodeus's destruction.[242]

Throughout his rule in Hell, Asmodeus's longing for the power of the heart of the Abyss never wavered.[76][79] Many reasons, pragmatic, philosophical, and emotional had been cited and explored for why the Blood War occurred, and among them was the shard.[79][78] Even as Asmodeus hungered for the rest, the Abyss, and thus its demons craved the stolen piece's return, to punish the impudent thief and triumphantly return demonkind to its full power.[76][79]

Demonkind had been taken out of the original war between law and chaos since before Asmodeus's fall from grace, since which they had experienced a mass extinction event and complete political upheaval ending with the dominance of the tanar'ri.[76][182] At one point a party of baatezu explorers set out to discover the planes as they were and a tanar'ri party spontaneously decided to do likewise.[78]

Both groups eventually discovered the home plane of their ethical counterparts and upon meeting their denizens immediately burst into violent, rabid hatred, with some from each group returning home to share their experiences, knowledge of each other now established. The yugoloths, who had been isolating themselves for centuries, for the first time offered their mercenary aid and for the first time betrayed their employers. So did the Blood War truly begin.[78]

At first this newly ignited war between law and chaos was simply a series of raiding skirmishes between two sides before growing into army-level conflict. The balance of power swung dramatically, entire portions of neighboring planes sliding into the Hells or the Abyss before moving back.[78] Devils poured into the Abyss at an alarming rate, constructing fortresses nearby and within to enact their assault before the demons turned the tables and attacked the Hells in turn,[76][79] bringing bloody ruination to once pristine Avernus.[234]

The context of the war gradually changed over time as both sides came to better understand each other and reality at large. The true nature of soul larva and the utility of mortals and their spirits became apparent, allowing war to be waged with little concern for casualties, and the existence of gods and celestials became clear to both parties. In the former case, it was believed either the yugoloths or baatezu destroyed a chaos-aligned deity for its interference in the war. In the latter, the year-long effort of a millions-strong legion of aggrieved celestials ended in a week when both devils and demons united against them, leaving only a few thousand of the interlopers and encouraging caution in future moves against the fiends.[78][243]

The Trial of Asmodeus, a play based on real events according to its author the aasimar bard Anodius, allegedly chronicled one of Asmodeus's greatest accomplishments. In the olden days of the Blood War, per the chronicle, the angels of Mount Celestia accused Asmodeus of terrible crimes, prompting the Archfiend to unexpectedly protest and petition for his right to face his accusers and their charges in a court of law. After agreeing to hear his plea, Asmodeus suggested taking the matter to an impartial judge, the being of absolute law that was the modron power Primus. The angels, after carefully scrutinizing the contract he drafted, agreed.[28]

In Asmodeus's testimony he justified his actions in the Blood War as in accordance with the dictates of law and rules of Hell. He admittedly swayed mortals to evil, but attested neither he nor his minions breached contracts and always explained the terms, attributing the ambition of mortals dealers to their downfalls. Mortals who refused were left alone and contracts that were somehow turned against the devils were still upheld. Asmodeus also asserted that he was bound by the rules and traditions of Hells to traffic souls, and it was by upholding them that he was above the demons he fought against. The souls he harvested went to the greater good of repelling the demonic hordes that would destroy all law and good if left unchecked.[28]

For weeks Primus patiently weighed the testimony of angels against the words of Asmodeus before even his patience ran up to its limits and he announced that only a few of the remaining eager angels would be allowed to speak. Asmodeus looked on with a smirk as one angel, Zariel, pushed forward demanding to be heard and the forces of good broke into violent conflict. By the trial's end Primus had reached no definitive verdict on the lawfulness of Asmodeus. Though his evil was evident it was not what he was on trial for, and meanwhile his angelic accusers were rebuked for infighting. Asmodeus was, however, forced to carry his Ruby Rod with him at all times, guaranteeing he and his minions both the right to make contracts with mortals and an inescapable punishment if they breached those contracts, thus requiring him to make good on his supposed commitment to legality.[28]

The Reckoning of Hell

Main article: Reckoning of Hell

The Reckoning was a series of complicated power struggle within Hell, the culmination of millennia worth of warring and politicking that ended in an utter upheaval of the plane's rules, politics, and players.[139][244] This event seemingly coincided with the ploy of an increasingly combative Baalzebul[156] to smear Asmodeus's reputation as a competent leader by altering documents and interfering with the infernal bureaucracy, as well as an increasingly pressing Abyssal invasion that almost broke into Dis as a result of him husbanding his strength.[157]

Before the Reckoning, the archdevils were granted far more individual power and acted much more openly, personally commanding their legions to fight alarmingly regular wars against both each other and demonkind (resulting in impressive victories for the demons). During this faction two factions, led by Mephistopheles and Baalzebul, competed in the belief that eliminating each other was their key to the throne. After a long prosecution, the final battle ultimately took place in Baalzebul's Maladomini,[244] partially (allegedly) due to his refusal to submit to punishment for his uncovered conspiracy.[157]

Yet even as the participants in this civil war plotted over who would succeed Asmodeus, Asmodeus himself was already a step ahead.[244] Geryon and Levistus had long fought over control of Stygia, but just as the latter seized his latest victory it was undone for his actions regarding the death of Asmodeus's consort Bensozia.[90][111] Geryon, unbeknownst to all others, had remained loyal to Asmodeus and infiltrated the eight armies up to the highest level. On Geryon's signal, the pit fiend commanders turned on their archdevils and their armies were destroyed.[244]

Archdevils may be slain, but it's not easy to destroy us forever. The lord of Nessus must burn away some of his power to bring about such a doom. He's done it, yes — but only in punishment for the most deadly doing that could be launched against him: archdevil lying with archdevil to have offspring they hide from Asmodeus, to bring to Hell an archdevil the Lord Below knew not.
— The outcast archdevil Nergal.[2]

In the aftermath of their civil war, the legions of Hell had suffered horrendous casualties as millions of devils on both sides had died[244] and the center of Hell's bureaucracy and documentation was in utter ruin.[244][157] The terrified archdevils were then shown Asmodeus's unpredictability as well as his guile when he then reinstated the vast majority of the lords. In Asmodeus's mind the lords had already learned their lesson, and if he was going to deal with treacherous devil lords then better the devils he knew.[244]

On one end there were the archdevils who were given back their realms with no apparent consequence, his alleged old compatriots Dispater and Mephistopheles.[123][245] There were also the cases of Baalzebul and Mammon, who were cursed with forms they despised (among other punishments) but otherwise kept in charge.[130][157] In other cases he was more insidious, allowing Belial to nominally step down and put his daughter Fierna on the throne[137] while at the very least allowing Bel to overthrow the previous lord of Avernus.[89][119] Loyal Geryon and defiant Moloch however (Geryon having used his agents to deceive Moloch into offending Asmodeus) were exceptions and replaced with still-frozen Levistus and Moloch's consort Malagard.[173]

Other great changes were made to the Hells too, in particular the rise of the Dark Eight. The Dark Eight seemed to exist in some capacity before as the Dark Nine, led by the late Cantrum who was not replaced as doing so was seen as impossible.[246] Consisting of the turncoat pit fiend generals, the Dark Eight were rewarded for their loyalty to Asmodeus by being made the ministers of the baatezu with control over Hell's Blood War forces. This substantially shrunk the personal retinues of the lords,[244] who were required to pay them and the Lord of the First with troops and equipment in exchange for them conducting the war.[166] Despite substantially weakening them,[244] the Lords were actually glad to be freed from personally dealing with that dreary conflict.[166]

Glasya, who played a role somewhere between instigating the entire Reckoning as a move against her father and acting as his agent by exposing treachery and consolidating his power, was then forbidden from being Mammon's consort and forced to take on responsibilities to maintain her status. Namely she was crowned the Queen of the Erinyes and thus placed under the jurisdiction of the Dark Eight, effectively neutralizing her threat whilst, unrealized by her at the time, protecting her from angered archdevils.[111][119] Thus did Asmodeus prove himself the better of all who participated in the Reckoning, dramatically reminding his archdevils of their position,[91] depolarizing the Nine Hells, and creating more fear, but also more hostility, towards himself than ever before.[88]

Post-Reckoning

The Hag Countess Malagarde was still reigning in Malbolge by the Year of the Dragon, 1352 DR, her last known communication having taken place somewhere in the month of Kythorn. By the Year of the Arch, 1353 DR however she was slain,[49] at least partially by the will of Asmodeus,[49][247] and replaced by Glasya, who none of the other archdevils could challenge due to her position as Asmodeus's daughter, their reduced armies, and the fear of starting another Reckoning.[119][187] After eons the two had finally come to some sort of understanding and she had been granted authority over Malbolge as a result.[127][33]

Part of his decision to bestow her with a layer could be traced back to her starting the first crime syndicate in the Hells. Exploiting a legal technicality, Glasya forged currency by temporarily turning lead into gold, minting it into coins, and using them before they turned back, as the law only regulated their composition when being minted. Given that she did not break the law Asmodeus could not punish her, and so he instead chose to make her archdevil.[157] The promotion was as much a reward[127] and evidence of the boons of unconvicted criminality in Hell as it was an ironic punishment, method of discipline, and way of keeping her ambitions in check.[188][157]

The taming of his rebellious daughter earned Asmodeus a renewed sense of political supremacy and grip over the Hells like never before. The archdevils scrambled in reaction, fearful and anxious to please.[33] His seeming collusion in the easy felling of the Hag Countess heightened Dispater's paranoia,[247] while the ascension of his ex-lover frightened Mammon into a campaign of economic warfare.[248] Glasya's rise inspired Fierna to independence, worrying her father and disrupting his planned invasion of the lower realms,[139] whilst making Levistus fear he had been a mere pawn in Asmodeus's plan for her ascent.[144] All the while she had been authorized by her father to recruit from the ranks of other archdevils, poaching top servitors sidelined for excessive ambition.[127]

Meanwhile, another new devil was soon to change the face of the infernal landscape. The former solar Zariel, an alleged accuser in Asmodeus's trial, was originally tasked with observing and tracking the Blood War, but over time grew obsessed with the conflict. Time and time again she urged that fellow celestials of Mount Celestia should join in the fray, believing that they could wipe evil from the multiverse if they only did so.[28][note 4] Her breaking point was when Idyllglen, a village under her protection, was invaded by the gnoll demon lord Yeenoghu.[249]

During the Year of the Bow, 1354 DR a rogue Zariel and a force of mortals known as the Hellriders she amassed commenced an invasion into Avernus known as The Ride, which ended in her buried under the bodies of dead fiends and the remnants of her host retreating back through the portal from which they came. Asmodeus had her beaten form retrieved, allowed her to recover, and offered her Bel's position of archduke from which she could fight the Blood War herself. She accepted[114][28] only to be later imprisoned by the treacherous Bel some time after.[250]

Time of Troubles

On Toril, by the Year of Shadows, 1358 DR, Asmodeus had set into motion a plan to attain the divinity he had long sought through the warlock coven known as the Toril Thirteen. By transforming all tieflings into "descendants" of his, beings with his "mark" on their bloodline, he sought to become the racial deity of tieflings and thus possess enough followers to ascend to godhood.[251][252]

The Spellplague

He forgot what it was to be human. What it was to not wear the god's mantle. He forgot what it was to crave power. And so he was not there when her rivals came for his queen. Down, down, the wizard fell, from heights of the heavens to the depths of the Hells, the fabric of the very planes tearing as he passed. And perhaps, then, it was a fitting punishment, for the wizard who forgot what it was to want, that he landed broken at the feet of one who was nothing but want incarnate. He remembers now, too late, what it means, the perils and the potentials.
— Azuth ending his tale.[253]
Asmodeus symbol - Mike Schley

The holy symbol of Asmodeus on an amulet after the Spellplague.

When Dweomerheart collapsed in the wake of the Spellplague of 1385 DR, the wizard god Azuth fell into the Hells. Asmodeus, sensing his opportunity, devoured the lesser deity and became a god himself, finally reobtaining the divinity he had craved for untold millennia.[38] Although many believed Asmodeus killed Azuth when he consumed his divine essence,[38] in fact Asmodeus had fused with Azuth, and both gods coexisted in the same body.[254]

Most of the time, Asmodeus overpowered Azuth, using his divine powers while the God of Wizards was in a dormant state.[255] But on a rare few occasions, Azuth was able to gain control of their shared body, and because of his strange behavior many denizens of the Nine Hells believed Asmodeus had grown mad, resulting in unrest within the Hells.[256]

The ritual of the Toril Thirteen finished during this year as well, after which most tieflings living in the 15th century DR were of the Asmodean lineage and all possessed a similar devilish appearance.[252][49] His attempt to become their racial deity proved unsuccessful, although he had already obtained the divinity he was after at any rate.[251] Using the fear that the Blue Fire of the Spellplague was some form of divine punishment, he pitched himself thereafter as a deity able to hide or absolve sins.[201]

Asmodeus symbol - Lee Moyer

The holy symbol of Asmodeus on a ring after the Spellplague.

During this period Asmodeus also forced the Abyss to the depths of the Elemental Chaos with his new divine powers, thus doing the seemingly impossible and ending the Blood War.[38] In reality however, both sides of the Blood War were ready for a ceasefire, even if the truce was sullen and hostile. A new civil war was brewing in the Nine Hells and the constant power struggles between demon lords had become too great even for them, the endless loss finally becoming too high a toll to continue.[76][79]

The overt violence of the Blood War had merely transitioned into an intense rivalry of mortal corruption, and Asmodeus knew even that veneer of peace was a fragile one. Only a united demon front stood to overwhelm the Hells and the only thing that could draw the demons from their own ceaseless feuds and rivalries would be an outside invasion. Thus Asmodeus spent this period attempting to muster the strength of the Nine Hells, intent on ensuring that the war restarted under circumstances favorable to him.[79]

The Second Sundering

Are you so far from being a god?
— Bisera.[49]

By 1486 DR, Azuth had regained most of his strength and was able to choose Ilstan Nyaril as his Chosen.[257] While Asmodeus wasn't weakening, Azuth was gaining enough control that they were struggling over their shared body. This conflict threatened the fundamental change of their natures if they fused into one god and possible their very existence, thrusting the hierarchy of the Nine Hells into jeopardy[254][256] and potentially putting the multiverse at risk if a civil war in Hell spilt out into the planes. Ilstan and Farideh, one of the Chosen of Asmodeus, devised a plan to separate both gods and avoid a potential devil invasion of all the multiverse. [255]

Asmodeus Symbol-5e

The holy symbol of Asmodeus on a brand after the Second Sundering.

The two contacted the god Enlil through his Chosen, Kepeshkmolik Dumuzi, and made a deal with Asmodeus, who was fully aware that Azuth was bound to at least and escape and concocted innumerable schemes to ensure a new divine spark. In exchange for permission from Enlil to consume the Untherite god Nanna-Sin's divine spark, he agreed to release Azuth from his body and resurrect Nanna-Sin as a non-god immortal. Asmodeus thus became a god in his own right,[258] and on Hammer 10 of 1487 DR, in a ritual performed in Djerad Thymar amid the First Tymanther-Unther War, Ilstan sacrificed his life to allow Azuth to become an individual god once more.[259]

How funny you should ask that.
— Asmodeus[49]

At some point after the Second Sundering, Asmodeus made a few more changes to the hierarchy of the Hells. Asmodeus was still indisposed by the time the demons had mustered the forces to restart the conflict, which was soon manifesting via at least one proxy conflict in the Tymanther-Unther War.[260][261] By 1492 DR it was back in full swing, and Asmodeus demoted Bel and re-elevated Zariel to the position of archdevil of Avernus, ostensibly due to Bel's failure to muster a defense against the demon offensive.[14][121] He also made a ruling on the long-standing conflict between Belial and Fierna; in a system where only one could occupy the position of layer ruler, he decreed them a special case who would be allowed to reign as equals.[135]

Appendix

Notes

  1. Asmodeus's status as a greater deity is given on page 4 of Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus, but he is described on page 67 of the Monster Manual 5th edition as having the powers of a lesser deity.
  2. It is not clear if the term "superior intellect" is meant to say Baalzebul is more intelligent than Asmodeus or if Baalzebul is a superior intellect among his peers.
  3. Demonomicon describes Graz'zt as "a fallen angel who became a fallen devil, then became a demon" so for this version to be true he would have to have been born before Asmodeus became a devil.
  4. It is not clear if this is despite or without knowing of the results from the previous time the celestials tried this.

Background

Asmodeus is named for the Judeo-Christian demon Asmodai or Asmodeus originating from the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit and appearing in various legends and medieval demonology. A fallen angel of the same name also appears in John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Development

The non-canonical article "The Politics of Hell" in The Dragon #28 by Alexander von Thorn details the history and politics of Hell, giving a different history to that detailed above and connecting closely to real-world myth and history. It discusses older kings of Hell such as Lucifer or Satan whom Asmodeus deposed. This idea was never considered canonical, but an allusion to it resurfaced in a vague reference decades later in the Book of Vile Darkness, where it is stated that while Asmodeus is the oldest devil in the Nine Hells, he may not be the original ruler. However, Elder Evils later made the original ruler Zargon instead.

In 2nd edition's Guide to Hell, it is stated that Asmodeus was a Lawful Evil or corrupted Lawful Neutral serpentine entity who, along with his Lawful Good counterpart serpent Jazirian, was responsible for the current ring-shaped structure of the Outer Planes. Asmodeus fell as they struggled over the proper role of Law, eventually plummeting all the way to the Serpent's Coil in Baator. Guide to Hell claimed that his wish was to destroy all creation by making all sentient beings atheists, thus negating the belief energy holding the Outer Planes together, so that he might fill the void and create it entirely in his own image, without the help of any other deity. Few of these theories have appeared in subsequent books, or possessed a foundation in prior material, though the theme of Asmodeus as a fallen being of Law has remained.

Again in 2nd edition, Hellbound: The Blood War and Faces of Evil: The Fiends present another version of Baator and Asmodeus's history and origins. They state that the baatezu only supplanted the original natives of the plane, the Ancient Baatorians, and were themselves first created as the lawful spawn of the General of Gehenna's purification of the early yugoloths. The chronology of the Blood War in Hellbound also states that Baator's Lords of the Nine only appeared in their positions around or slightly after the Blood War began, but also before the existence of deities. Asmodeus himself is left intentionally dark and largely undefined, though his power is made clear, with more detail devoted to the history of his race and their conquered plane.

Harkening back to 2nd edition, Manual of the Planes 3rd edition mentions "brutally repressed rumors" that the form of Asmodeus seen by the other archdukes and visitors was merely a specter or aspect, and that his true form, that of a titanic, serpent-like devil, hundreds of miles long, resided at the bottom of the canyon known as Serpent's Coil, so named for the outline he made when he hit the surface of Nessus, still wounded from his fall out of the upper planes. No one who tells the story of the true form of Asmodeus survives more than 24 hours after the telling.

However, the origin myth which appears in v.3.5's Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells contradicts this, where Asmodeus is a fallen angel and the original founder of the current, baatezu-dominated Nine Hells during the signing of the Pact Primeval. However, this story is presented as mythology, and the Codex itself admits that it does not tell the whole truth. The names of the gods involved (deities of Oerth in the Greyhawk setting) seem unlikely, as they contradict their own histories. It instead implies that Serpent's Coil is shaped for the spiraling path Asmodeus fell, and that Malsheem sits at the bottom of that canyon.

In the 4th-edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, Asmodeus is established as an ancient deity who was relegated to the position of archdevil and toiled for untold millennia to regain his divinity.

Gallery

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Connections

The Lords of the Nine
Asmodeus
The Archdevils
BaalzebulBelialDispaterFiernaGlasyaLevistusMammonMephistophelesZariel
Other Unique Devils
BelGargauthGeryonMalagardMolochTiamat

Deities of the Post–Second Sundering Era
Ao the Overgod
Faerûnian Pantheon
Akadi | Amaunator | Asmodeus | Auril | Azuth | Bane | Beshaba | Bhaal | Chauntea | Cyric | Deneir | Eldath | Gond | Grumbar | Gwaeron | Helm | Hoar | Ilmater | Istishia | Jergal | Kelemvor | Kossuth | Lathander | Leira | Lliira | Loviatar | Malar | Mask | Mielikki | Milil | Myrkul | Mystra | Oghma | Red Knight | Savras | Selûne | Shar | Silvanus | Sune | Talona | Talos | Tempus | Torm | Tymora | Tyr | Umberlee | Valkur | Waukeen
The Morndinsamman
Abbathor | Berronar Truesilver | Clangeddin Silverbeard | Deep Duerra | Dugmaren Brightmantle | Dumathoin | Gorm Gulthyn | Haela Brightaxe | Laduguer | Marthammor Duin | Moradin | Sharindlar | Vergadain
The Seldarine
Aerdrie Faenya | Angharradh | Corellon | Deep Sashelas | Erevan | Fenmarel Mestarine | Hanali Celanil | Labelas Enoreth | Rillifane Rallathil | Sehanine Moonbow | Shevarash | Solonor Thelandira
The Dark Seldarine
Eilistraee | Kiaransalee | Lolth | Selvetarm | Vhaeraun
Yondalla's Children
Arvoreen | Brandobaris | Cyrrollalee | Sheela Peryroyl | Urogalan | Yondalla
Lords of the Golden Hills
Baervan Wildwanderer | Baravar Cloakshadow | Callarduran Smoothhands | Flandal Steelskin | Gaerdal Ironhand | Garl Glittergold | Nebelun | Segojan Earthcaller | Urdlen
Orc Pantheon
Bahgtru | Gruumsh | Ilneval | Luthic | Shargaas | Yurtrus
Mulhorandi pantheon
Anhur | Bast | Geb | Hathor | Horus | Isis | Nephthys | Osiris | Re | Sebek | Set | Thoth
Other gods of Faerûn
Bahamut | Enlil | Finder Wyvernspur | Ghaunadaur | Gilgeam | Lurue | Moander | Nobanion | Raven Queen | Tiamat



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