|“||Moloch obsesses over power he lost rather than power he could gain elsewhere in the planes. What a pity he so wastes his potential.||”|
Standing over 14.5 ft (4.42 m) tall, Moloch had a powerful, almost square physique. His short arms and legs were especially thick and ended in enormous hands and feet that were both cubic and clawed. He had reddish orange skin and a bestial visage, his huge, horned head hosting fiery, slanting, unblinking eyes and a salivating, gaped mouth filled with shark-like teeth.
As a soldier, Moloch was a dauntless foe that struck fear into the hearts of tanar'ri hordes with just a mention of his name. He was known for his unending hatred of his opposition and his malice wasn't halted by his rise to power nor tempered by the nature of his victims. Gleefully, he tortured and disfigured other devils in a variety of creative ways with cruelty rivaling that of Baalzebul. Being deposed did nothing to stem his ambition and the prideful devil had no qualms about using deception and confusion to return to power.
Moloch was a devil of incredibly physical strength that grabbed and crushed his enemies with his massive hands, if he didn't rend them to pieces with hellfire-swathed claws, before viciously biting into them. He also possessed regenerative abilities and was difficult to permanently harm without using silver or good-aligned weapons or radiant energy. Every so often, typically used to even odds when he was outnumbered, he could exhale in a 30 ft (9.1 m) wide area, causing almost every being within it to be gripped with such devastating despair and panic that they immediately dropped their weapons and fled as fast as they could until Moloch was out of sight.
Moloch was a wide retinue of spell-like abilities for a variety of purposes some for negotiation and others for combat, often using tactics he learned from the demonic menace. Though he lacked wealth he could use spells like permanent or major image to conjure the appearance of riches, and could disguise himself, even to look substantially smaller, using alter self. Spells like suggestion could be used to compel people to work for him and he could otherwise manipulate minds with spells like confusion and geas. He was believed to have the ability to speak all languages and could use magic to understand written word.
On the offensive side, he also had many fire-based spell-like abilities such as pyrotechnics, produce flame and a powerful version of burning hands. He was known to create walls of fire to cut off his foes before blasting them with a greater fireburst when they got close, and he also could produce a flame strike once per day. Similar he could also use a symbol of stunning and blasphemy once per day, the unholy word being something he normally used to deal with weaker adversaries. Other nefarious powers of his included the spell-like abilities of fly, animate dead, greater teleport, detect magic and stinking cloud, the natural generation of electric discharges, and the power, even after being exiled, to summon a small group of cornugons.
Though Moloch was eventually left with few physical possessions, he did still possess his scourge, a six-tailed whip composed of an alloy known as dajavva, a flexible, light green-grey substance forged from a combination of iron and a metal exclusive to Hell called arjale. Moloch could deliver shocking strikes through the whip, although the whip itself had no power, and he could decide how powerful each strike was, fully recharging his power every minute that passed. Moloch's scourge was greatly feared by weaker devils since ordinarily devils had little to no resistance against electricity.
Moloch was also known to have another scourge that ended in four pliable strands of metals and which burst into pale blue flames when swung.
Technically speaking, Moloch's realm of Malbolge was ruled over by Baalzebul, the Archduke of Maladomini, during the time of his reign. Moloch was an archdevil only in the sense that he ruled a layer of Hell, but did so as a representative of the Lord of the Flies. Asmodeus had allowed Baalzebul to rule both planes but had him do so through the Grand Duke, knowing that the two aspiring conspirators would keep each other busy trying to maintain personal control over Malbolge.
This raised the question of why either of them wanted Malbolge, since under Moloch's control it was a lifeless wasteland, an ashy pile of broken black crags hundreds of miles thick as if angular, city-sized building blocks had collapsed into a shifting heap. Because it was steep and unstable, it was easy to misstep and fall into holes filled with obsidian shards while climbing and descending the surface. On the other hand, there were also huge caves and caverns, as well as twisting tunnels and sharp-cornered passages due to the plane essentially being a giant mound of debris.
The wreckage was filled with volcanically active pits that brimming with fire and floated on an infinite sea of bubbling lava that expelled smoke and stinking clouds of toxic green-gray gases. The sky was filled with blood-red steam clouds and the expulsions from below filled the hot, choking air above with the stench of burning. Despite being the only thing protecting travelers from the magma deep below, the ground was still scorching hot, igniting anything flammable if it stayed on the ground for a few minutes or got on and off of it so quickly, such as the soles of shoes, that it made no difference.
During Moloch's reign he had no permanent home, a mandate of Baalzebul to keep him from resting undisturbed, but he dwelt within the great Copper Fortresses that laid across the realm. Though there may have been more, at least thirteen grand citadels of bronze were kept in Malbolge, each used for Moloch to keep prisoners and indulge his vices and each dedicated to a different kind of wickedness. For example, one stronghold contained vats of molten gold in which Moloch would dip his victims before setting them in niches, allowing him to later look upon the hundreds of agonized expressions in a great gallery of preserved pain.
However, most of the citadels were plundered and ruined during the Reckoning and went through worse with the rise of the other Lords of the Sixth. The remaining structures fell into disrepair under the Hag Countess's dominion, the constant rocky avalanches creating stresses in the bronze and her surprise inspections more than once ending in the inhabitants being killed and the stronghold being razed. Under Glasya's reign, only one fortress, the half-melted, gold-dipping facility now known as Slag, remained standing as a monument to what she overcame, and the future denizens of Malbolge were left to reside in the crumbling remnants of Moloch's authority.
That wasn't to say however that Moloch's authority was particularly appreciated. During Moloch's reign Malbolge was a noisy realm inhabited by ceaselessly moving armies of hell hounds and devils, particularly lemures and cornugons although spinagons, osyluths and amnizus were occasionally present. Horned devils constantly patrolled in pairs and they always brought intruders to the greatest available authority figure, sometimes Baalzebul during his visits, for torture and interrogation, with few escaping and fewer living for very long. If the cornugons failed, they were likely to be tormented in the place of the intruders, and thus laid a key element of Moloch's reign, the utter hatred a majority of his servants held for him. The combined abuse of Baalzebul and Moloch was felt by all denizens of Malbolge to the point where at least 40% of the lesser devils were disabled in some way, such as by missing a limb, and over half of the lesser devil population would be in support of active rebellion if it seemed likely to succeed.
Stripped of his title, robbed of power, and bereft of most possessions, Moloch had repeatedly failed to retake his throne yet still spent most of his time plotting ways to regain his lost power. Eventually he was cursed so that he would be demoted into an imp upon entering Hell and only return to normal after leaving, so he was occasionally found scheming in his home plane and otherwise wandered the planes trying to find some magical method to return to his former glory. It was said that he was trying once again to rebuild an army, this time by recruiting yugoloths he found in Sigil, but since he was destitute he offered knowledge of the multiverse to mortals he encountered in exchange for material wealth, something he would need ludicrous quantities of to deal with daemons and enact his plan.
The cruel Moloch had few friends amongst the archdevils while in power and had been surrounded by rivals in the adjacent Hells and beyond. Above Moloch was Geryon, the Lord of Stygia who hated him with a passion, a feeling the Grand Duke reciprocated, and if not for the protection of Baalzebul the two would openly war with Moloch likely standing on the losing end. Baalzebul himself, wisely, had little faith in his viceroy and constantly tried to watch him and keep him busy while Moloch schemed to obtain unchallenged control over Malbolge.
Further outwards, Belial, the Lord of Phlegethos, hated Moloch almost as much as Geryon did despite being allies with his master, while Mephistopheles, Lord of Cania, would be delighted if Geryon could destroy Baalzebul's duke. Asmodeus himself promoted Moloch primarily because he knew the devious schemer would help keep his fellows in check but angrily had him exiled when he mocked the Lord of Nessus after being squarely defeated in the Reckoning. The vengeful Moloch also had problems with Asmodeus's daughter, Glasya, seeing her ascension as the new Archduchess of Malbolge as clear nepotism on the part of his former master.
Moloch's status as a despised archdevil didn't stop at his minions or his peers for he was also hated by his dukes, if they could be called that. Baalzebul had loaned several servants to Moloch, mostly with the intention of keeping him in line, such as the tribune Bileth, a large, crimson-skinned figure in gilded armor with horns, hooves and bat-like wings that acted as Baalzebul's justicar and ensured that Moloch followed orders. Orders were delivered by Baalzebul's herald, Neabaz, and while Moloch couldn't disobey Bileth he did try to undermine him by spreading rumors that he was crazy. Meanwhile, defense was left to the pit fiends Bethage and Herobaal, the former of which led the cornugons of the plane, specifically nine companies worth, while Herobaal led sixteen companies of osyluths.
There was also Tartach, a fallen celestial and cruel deputy of Moloch, and Lilith, a seductive patron of mortal witches who served as his assigned consort, a transparent bribe and an attempt to keep the Grand Duke's mind distracted. That wasn't to say that Moloch didn't have his own personal servants, like his chosen consort, the night hag Malagard or Beleth, the Prince of Imps, who served as his spymaster, although only because he had likely already infiltrated Moloch's court.
Though Moloch once had some base of worshipers, apparently having inspired fanatical loyalty in at least some of them, it crumbled away after his defeat. Many of them fled to the service of other archdevils after their master's long absence and the few fractured cults that remained were small and its members were incapable of casting spells over 3rd level. Still, a few glorifying statues of the duke with faint remnants of power existed deep in ancient dungeons that attracted new, monstrous followers, although the crystal eyes could also attract treasure-seeking explorers.
Malbolge was granted to Moloch and Baalzebul eons ago; it was previously ruled by an archdevil known as Beherit that was obliterated for breaking rules on devilish promotion. It was given to Moloch for being a mighty warrior of constant service who helped drive the endless demonic hordes out of the Nine Hells, supposedly during the time when Asmodeus was leading the dark angels against the Abyss, and to Baalzebul for some other despicable deed. All according to Asmodeus's plans the two replacements schemed against each other and their peers for millenia, until the political upheaval that was the Reckoning.
As the archdevils began to take sides in a huge war to determine who would challenge Asmodeus for dominion over Hell, Moloch was convinced to take part by the cunning night hag Malagard. While bathing in a putrescent pus pool contained in one of his domains against the ambient sounds of tormented screams, apparently being coated by the consort in grease from the fiery tombs of blasphemers and heretics, Moloch was seduced by Malagard and compelled to take action. She convinced him to stand by Baalzebul and assist him in taking down Mephistopheles and then Asmodeus, arguing that once they were beaten that Moloch could then take the throne and become King of Hell himself. Given Moloch's personality, he needed little encouragement to play his part with gusto.
|“||Moloch, these Hells offer themselves to those with the might and will to take them.||”|
|— The venomous whispers of Malagard|
Unbeknownst to Moloch however, he would soon suffer one of the greatest betrayals in the Nine Hells, for his treacherous lover had actually been conspiring against him. Firstly, Malagard had been unfaithful to Moloch and was both laying and scheming with his archnemesis Geryon, having felt the Wild Beast had greater station and that helping him could boost her own status. The advice to join the war was delivered at his request and the night hag had arranged for his mistreated forces betray him at the war's climax. She had also been working with the devil that would be both of their banes, Glasya, in her plot to kickstart the Reckoning, and fed Moloch false information that Mephistopheles was going to invade to instigate a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As for the other members of Moloch's court, they failed to prove particularly more loyal. Beleth, who had been given to Moloch and only had dominion over a small domain, had been gradually growing in power and eventually accepted into Moloch's court, but hit a roadblock when Moloch no longer wished to afford him more power. His attempts to keep the spymaster from spying on him backfired and Beleth assisted Malagard in her plan by using his imp spies to send her vital information. Baalzebul's own subjects hadn't served much better at preventing the scheming of Moloch's forces.
While Lilith had felt powerless under Moloch's regime, being moved at Baalzebul's whim between fortresses, she didn't actively take part in the rebellion, instead allowing the rival consort to succeed simply by failing to be proactive in stopping her influence. Tartach on the other hand was far more intentional in Moloch's fall, already having been willing to support, or at least not move to stop, any scheme by another archdevil to depose Moloch. Loyal only in word, he had been resentfully dispatched to Moloch shortly after his fall, and so not only took no part in stopping Malagard, but fully joined the conspiracy.
After the archdevils were defeated, Geryon urged Malagard to give Moloch another poor recommendation; to stand defiant against Asmodeus in the face of defeat. Moloch foolishly went along with Malagard's plan, having been convinced that by remaining stalwart the Lord of Nessus would respect his strength, going so far as to practically spit in his master's face. This led to Moloch being promptly and angrily disowned by Asmodeus for his impertinence, although despite being totally loyal Geryon was also abandoned, and to Malagard being raised in his place and becoming the Hag Countess. Malagard's first act as the Hag Countess was to exile her lover to the Material Plane, a place he despised, in a ball of fire, although it was said he was supposed to have been killed and that he only escaped with quick use of a planar portal.
Moloch spent the next few centuries creating a massive army of monsters, mortal followers and sympathetic devilish soldiers until he amassed a force powerful enough to totally devastate the Hag Countess. Unfortunately, he left his legions to make final preparations while he obtained a powerful artifact to ensure victory, but became trapped when the item he planned to use to re-enter Hell, the Stone of Corbinet, was taken from him. Without their leader, his forces were crushed by Malagard and Moloch had failed once more. Even without his influence, Malagarde eventually fell, much to Moloch's glee, although Glasya still rose in his place and it was rumored that at some point he was captured and tortured within Slag.
Eventually Moloch managed to work his way back to Baator through several vile acts and bargains, although he couldn't seem to leave afterwards, and became one of the notable outcast dukes of Avernus referred to as "the rabble of devilkin". From there, he led a group of subversive exiles and plotted to build a new army, take vengeance and conquer Hell. However, it seemed his schemes didn't bear fruit since after his latest failure he was rendered politically, monetarily and physically powerless. Still, Moloch continued his mission to reclaim his status, whether it meant getting himself back into the good graces of Asmodeus or dealing with the daemons to take Malbolge back by force.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Robert J. Schwalb (December 2011). “Codex of Betrayal: Glasya”. In Steve Winter ed. Dungeon #197 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 3–8.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 Ed Greenwood (August 1983). “The Nine Hells, Part II”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #76 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 22–23.
- ↑ 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 Gary Gygax (August 1983). Monster Manual II 1st edition. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-88038-031-4.
- ↑ 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (May 29, 2018). Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Edited by Kim Mohan, Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 176–177, 193–194. ISBN 978-0786966240.
- ↑ 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 5.25 5.26 5.27 5.28 Robert J. Schwalb (October 2007). “Infernal Aristocracy: The Dukes of Hell”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #360 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 41–43.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Brian R. James (November 2007). “Infernal Aristocracy: The Dukes of Hell, Part II”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #361 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 32–35.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Ed Greenwood (November 1984). “Nine Hells revisited”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #91 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 26–27, 29–30, 32.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Jeff Grubb (July 1987). Manual of the Planes 1st edition. (TSR), pp. 109, 111. ISBN 0880383992.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Chris Pramas (1999). Guide to Hell. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 33–34, 42–44. ISBN 978-0786914319.
- ↑ Colin McComb (November 1995). “The Lords of the Nine”. In Pierce Watters ed. Dragon #223 (TSR, Inc.), p. 16.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins, James Wyatt (2014). Dungeon Master's Guide 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 65. ISBN 978-0786965622.
- ↑ Monte Cook (Oct 2002). Book of Vile Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 157. ISBN 0-7869-0672-3.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Ari Marmell (July 2008). “Codex of Betrayal: Beleth, the Witch's Viscount”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #365 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 37–38.