Hordlings, sometimes spelled hordelings, were the marauding abominations that made up the uncountable hordes of Hades. Each hordling was unique in body and mind, a force of destruction of unpredictable nature.
Hordlings were a race of fiends that defied classification, their appearances, forms, and sizes varying so drastically that it was said that no two were exactly alike, although given their numbers it was impossible to be sure. The only traits their innumerable forms seemed to have in common were relative smallness—they were typically somewhere under 8 feet (2.4 meters) in height, but this wasn't a rule—and universal hideousness.
Fittingly for a race as visually distinct as theirs, hordlings were chaotic in behavior. They were rebellious, disorderly, erratic, undisciplined, and bickering, sometimes leaving certain creatures alone and at other times attacking without warning. To peer inside the mind of a hordling was to find cluttering clouds of perpetual anger, passionately burning hate, and truly vile pettiness. They were the ultimate expressions of evil without order, linked in mentality only by their penchant for bestial, rampaging destruction.
Not even this role, however, could hordlings be trusted to fulfill, since it didn't take much to make them desert. They had varying levels of intelligence, some being as mindlessly marauding as lemures and others displaying enough cunning to outfox humans. The only thing hordlings seemed to recognize as a group was weakness, and they pounced on anyone that demonstrated it.
Despite their general disposition, every hordling was an individual creature, and their seemingly indistinct hatred was an expression of independence. Behind the rage was a miserable creature in a state of inner torment, an entity that retained a warped sense of self by refusing to let go of their hates in a fierce struggle for individuality. Every hordling had their own form of loathing, fostered through their own means for their own ends, thus did their unique inner hatred create their distinctive outer selves.
It was said that three behavioral categories of hordlings existed in different parts of the Outer Planes. The hordlings of the Gray Wastes were insidious and disturbing, those from the Red Prison of Carceri brutal and thuggish, and those from the sanity-eroding plane of Pandemonium were murderous madmen, with the Abyss holding all types. Such differences were so slight, however, that they were only evident to the hordlings themselves.
The powers of the hordlings were as vast as the variety of their forms. For whatever reason, they could all become near-invisible for up to ten minutes, although this required a minute of preparation. There was also the fact that, despite having a host of unusual and sometimes supernatural powers, no hordling had spell-like abilities, separating them from most fiends.
Aside from that, there was no telling what an individual hordling could be capable of. Some had breath weapons, gaze attacks, phasing, sonic blasts, and could spit or shoot all manner of globs, bolts and beams. That wasn't to mention the mere physical harm they could do, as each was equipped with a random number of claws, fangs, hooves, tentacles, pincers, tusks, tails, spines, and wings to rend, bite, crush, grab, pierce, gore, slash, trip, and bludgeon. An element that one was immune to could be the crippling weakness or natural product of another, and their resistance to physical attacks, magic, and energy, to say nothing of their individual levels of regeneration, could all wildly vary.
Though their exact fighting style differed based on individual intelligence and abilities, hordlings were generally brutes, charging directly into combat and ripping into their enemies. They often made use of whatever extremity they were afforded at the time of their conception, though some with usable hands were known to wield weapons.
Individually, many hordlings could do little more than annoy with their random selection of traits, but it was when they gathered into their hordes that the race became truly dangerous. Their frenzied swarms flowed from target to target, dragging down their opposition like waves of flesh. Like a wave however, the flow of a hordling mob could be broken, either by a large enough effect causing them to scatter or due to individuals getting distracting and breaking away from the herd to do something else, such as lapping up a freshly spilt puddle of blood.
Hordlings had no purpose, organization or culture, producing nothing of value and giving only destruction. They often traveled in huge packs and could commonly be seen in groups of 2-6, tearing apart whatever they came across with little regard for boundaries of civilization. It was said they never attacked their own kind, although in a strange display of tribalism, a hordling's deepest hate was reserved for hordlings from different planes of existence. Regardless, the statement was simply untrue, for hordlings did as they pleased and would destroy the weak regardless of origin.
Sometimes a strong leader like a night hag or a yugoloth such as an arcanaloth, was able to maintain a retinue of a few hordlings, but rarely could they do so for very long. Attempts to press them into the Blood War by overeager fiends routinely ended in failure, even for the tanar'ri. The fact was that even by the abysmally low standards of demonkind, hordlings were infamously unruly, with most packs submitting only temporarily before self-terminating due to desertion, infighting, and mutiny, especially if weakness was spotted in their so-called commanders.
They were too undisciplined to take orders and too dauntless to be intimidated back into line, and ironically it was easier for the demons to simply use the less actively rebellious manes and mildly socially conscious (and therefore relatively reliable) dretches as cannon fodder instead. Rather than try to utilize them in warfare, except sometimes as ballistic missiles, most demons used the hordlings to amuse themselves, either in murderous demon games or just as food. This attitude extended to most powerful beings of the lower planes, who saw the infinite mass of relatively weak creatures as consequence-free food and entertainment.
Sometimes evil mages tried summoning hordlings to do their bidding, although doing so would require them to call one at a time. Simply trying to talk to a hordling however was an ordeal, primarily because most of them lacked a common form of communication. Abyssal was the most likely language that they knew, but one would be lucky to find one that spoke an understandable tongue at all.
The hordlings were said to be a result of the sheer malice contained in their home planes. The misshapen creatures made up the majority of Hades's population and were believed to exist in infinite number in the infinite Abyss, though nothing stopped them from spilling onto neighboring lower planes. They emerged from the toxic environment of the Abyss, spawned from the union of raw elemental matter and unfiltered evil. Despite not caring about the Blood War, they were more numerous in places where carnage had just occurred, for the Abyss recycled the raw material of corpses to create more of them.
Some rumors stated that hordlings were a form of evolved larva, primarily the petitioners of the Gray Wastes but sometimes found on other planes. If that were true, it would imply a frightening number of souls not only to devoted themselves to selfish wickedness but whose residing hatred was enough to resist the Gray Wastes and twist them into new forms. Since hordlings lacked their own form of promotion, they were generally stuck with whatever form they got for however long their typically short lives were.
Those hordlings that survived long enough often grew in size and power but not in shape or ability, but it was theorized, albeit with no reported records to back up the assertion, that a sufficiently long-lived hordling would evolve into a new kind of fiend such as a new variety of demon. One theory was that some night hags were evolved hordlings who had learned how to turn their hate into something constructive.
Hordlings could be male, female, both, or neither, and it was rumored that some hordling-descended tieflings existed, although if they did they were likely exceedingly rare given their fiendish progenitors complete lack of anything resembling parental instinct.
A few known artifacts were able to summon large groups of hordlings at the same time. One such device was known as the Bringer of Doom, an ancient item said to have been created shortly after the Abyss appeared in a time period known as the Age of Doom or Invoked Destruction. Made by an ancient culture whose scientific rigor and passion for magic overcame their sense, the Bringer of Doom took the form of a small wooden box with a circular, dark-red gemstone on top of it. When the gem was touched and depressed, the box would explode in a blinding flash of absolute annihilation, utterly destroying everything in 100 feet (30 meters). This also ripped a temporary portal to one of the lower planes from which 100-1000 hordlings would emerge, rarely accompanied by a greater fiend of some kind, before the box reformed somewhere else.
Another object was Arodnap's Box, a 10 lb (4.5 kg) magical artifact made by Wee Jas to contain a rift leading to Pandemonium. Even Wee Jas's godly powers however weren't enough to permanently contain the rift's power, and it had become fragile and rickety with time. Occasionally a hordling, or sometimes worse, slipped through the box, allowing numerous fiends to crawl through over time.
Rumors and Legends
It was rumored that within the Gray Wastes was a village of a few dozen hordlings that had managed to surpass their hate, build up a defense against the plane's despair, and were slowly purging themselves of evil. If true, it brought up interesting questions, such as if they'd stay the same, turn into soul larva, or regain their mortal forms, although the entire claim was questionable and possibly a night hag scheme to lure the curious into Hades.
- Phalse, a powerful hordling whose true form resembled that of a beholder with mouths at the end of the stalks instead of eyes. He considered the god of decay Moander to be his ancient adversary. He allied with the evil wizard Cassana in 1357 DR to use Finder Wyvernspur's designs to create a powerful and immortal construct weapon that later became the hero Alias.
- Robert J. Schwalb (December 2011). “Dungeon Master's Book”. In Tanis O'Connor, et al. eds. The Book of Vile Darkness (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-0-7869-5868-9.
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- Gary Gygax (August 1983). Monster Manual II 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), pp. 75–76. ISBN 0-88038-031-4.
- Colin McComb (September 1997). Faces of Evil: The Fiends. Edited by Ray Vallese. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 91. ISBN 0-7869-3430-1.
- Tim Eagon (December 2011). “Creature Incarnations: Hordelings”. Dungeon #197 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 1–6.
- Colin McComb, Dale Donovan (December 1995). “A Player's Guide to Conflict”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Conflict (TSR, Inc.), p. 30. ISBN 0-7869-0309-0.
- Gary Gygax (August 1983). Monster Manual II 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 50. ISBN 0-88038-031-4.
- Colin McComb (December 1995). “Liber Malevolentiae”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Conflict (TSR, Inc.), pp. 49–50. ISBN 0-7869-0309-0.
- Gary Gygax (August 1983). Monster Manual II 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 28. ISBN 0-88038-031-4.
- Allen Varney, ed. (June 1994). Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix. (TSR, Inc.), p. 100. ISBN 978-1560768623.
- Colin McComb (December 1995). “Liber Malevolentiae”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Conflict (TSR, Inc.), p. 4. ISBN 0-7869-0309-0.
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Achaierai • Barghest • Canomorph (Haraknin • Shadurakul) • Hell hound • Hordling • Howler • Larva • Maelephant • Marrashi • Night hag • Nightmare • Rakshasa • Succubus • Vargouille • Yeth hound
Fiendish creature • Half-fiend (Alu-fiend • Cambion • Draegloth • Durzagon) • Tiefling (Fey'ri • Maeluth • Tanarukk)