Asmodeus (Dungeons & Dragons)

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Asmodeus
Asmodeus (Dungeons & Dragons).JPG
Game background
Title(s) King of Hell, Lord of the Ninth, Prince of Nessus
Home plane Baator, the Nine Hells
Power level Greater Deity
Alignment Lawful Evil
Portfolio Sin (all), Tyranny (4th edition)
Superior None
Design details

Asmodeus (/æzmɵˈdəs/ az-mo-DAY-əs or /æzˈmdiəs/ az-MOH-dee-əs)[1] is a fictional character from the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. His exact nature varies from publication to publication; he is alternately presented as an evil god or a powerful devil.

In all publication appearances, he is the Lord of Hell/Baator and the Overlord of the lesser Dukes of Hell.

Publication history[edit]

Creative origins[edit]

Asmodeus is named after a Judeo-Christian demon of the same name, from the Book of Tobit, and for a fallen angel of the same name who appears in John Milton's "Paradise Lost."[2][3]

His physical appearance is based on popular modern and medieval conceptions of Satan.[citation needed]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977–1988)[edit]

Asmodeus first appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977).[3][4]

Baator and Asmodeus' place in it were further detailed in Ed Greenwood's "The Nine Hells Part II" in Dragon #76 (1983).[5]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989–1999)[edit]

Owing to a moral panic regarding Dungeons & Dragons, Asmodeus did not initially appear in the 2nd edition.

In the Planescape line of game products, the lord of the lowest circle of hell was initially unnamed. Eventually, the Lord of the Ninth was revealed to be Asmodeus, in Guide to Hell (1999).[6]

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (2000–2007)[edit]

Asmodeus appeared along with the other lords of the Nine Hells in the Book of Vile Darkness (2002).[7] He was further described in Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (2006).[8]

Conflicting stories of Asmodeus' power and origins are given throughout both books, ostensibly as an in-universe foil to those wishing to learn more about him.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008-)[edit]

Asmodeus appears as an evil god in the Dungeon Masters Guide (2008).[9] His backstory for this edition is expanded in the supplements Manual of the Planes, The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea, and Demonomicon. His origins are explicitly defined as the leader of a rebellion.

Setting-specific versions of Asmodeus are described in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide and the Eberron Campaign Guide. The Realms Asmodeus differs from the core character: He has only recently been made a full god, while the core version has been a god for millennia. Much of this information was presented as a retcon to justify changes from previous editions' settings.[10]

It is unclear whether the Eberron Asmodeus is meant to be a literal god, since that setting generally does not contain interested deities. His character is consistent with the generic presentation; he is still the undisputed master of the Nine Hells.[11]

Other publishers[edit]

Similar characters have appeared in products by publishers other than TSR or Wizards of the coast (copyright holders for Dungeons & Dragons material). The character is Wizards' intellectual property. However, because Asmodeus (the original mythical being) is in the public domain, the name and associated demonic characteristics may be used without infringing Wizards' copyright.

Asmodeus became an official part of the Judge's Guild City-state of the Invisible Overlord setting with the publication of The Azurerain Pirates.[12]

Green Ronin's The Book of Fiends series mentions Asmodeus. This series is published under the OGL.[13][14]

Another OGL product was Asmodeus's Den of Deception, part of the Devilish Dens series.[15]

Asmodeus features prominently in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game setting.

Reception[edit]

His appearance in Dungeons & Dragons was cited as evidence for Satanism in the game by Pat Pulling and Kathy Cawthon in their 1989 book The Devil's Web.[16]

The inclusion of Asmodeus and other Judeo-Christian devils in Dungeons & Dragons is discussed in the pages of Pegasus magazine as well.[17]

Powers, abilities, and resources[edit]

Asmodeus is the most powerful of infernal beings. Like the other Archdevils, he is impervious to mundane attacks and requires powerful magics to slay. A powerful aura of submission surrounds him, making most who approach him slaves to his will.

As the master of Hell, he has complete power over lesser devils, including other lords of Baator. Several times he has permanently changed their physical forms at a whim. He transformed Mammon into a humanoid/serpent hybrid, and cursed Baalzebul with the form of a gigantic slug with tiny, useless arms.

Asmodeus carries a powerful unique artifact, the Ruby Rod, that allows him to use several powerful offensive and defensive spells. The Rod allows Asmodeus to attack with elemental forces, force his enemies to cower in fear, or cover himself with a field which heals and protects him. It is also a powerful melee weapon that can cause grievous wounds with the merest touch. In the default 4th edition setting, the Ruby Rod is a fragment of the shard of pure evil that created the Abyss, but this origin is not suggested in earlier editions.

In addition to the Ruby Rod, Asmodeus possesses material wealth greater than entire mortal worlds. His clothing is so valuable that a single garment worn by Asmodeus is worth more than an average nation will spend on food in a year.

Finally, Asmodeus is an ancient schemer and deadly manipulator, orchestrator of the most Machiavellian of schemes. He lays plans millennia in advance, patiently biding his time until his machinations come to fruition.

Description[edit]

Through all four editions of Dungeons & Dragons, Asmodeus is depicted as the strongest, most cunning, and most handsome of all devils. He is typically described as appearing as a giant human, over 13 feet tall, with dark skin and hair, red eyes, handsome features, and small horns on his forehead. He dresses in regal finery of unimaginable expense; a single article of clothing worn by Asmodeus is worth more money than an average nation will spend on food in a year. Beneath his clothing, Asmodeus' body is covered in bloody wounds which he sustained when he fell from the Upper Planes. His wounds ooze blood daily, and any drop of blood which touches the ground grows into a powerful devil.

He is described in the Book of Vile Darkness as a "calm, chillingly reasonable" being with a modest appearance that hides his true power.

Fictional character biography[edit]

In Dragon # 28, the article "The Politics of Hell" presents a different version of Asmodeus where he is the latest in a series of hellish rulers. Asmodeus overthrows Beelzebul, who in turn overthrew Satan. This early biography differs from later presentations.

In the Book of Vile Darkness, it is stated that while Asmodeus is the oldest devil in the Nine Hells, he may not be the original ruler.

Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells offers its own internally inconsistent accounts of Asmodeus' origins. It is suggested that, within the fictional settings of Dungeons & Dragons, these accounts may be differing interpretations of an underlying monomyth.

According to the Codex, Asmodeus began as a servant of the lawful gods. Asmodeus is described in some versions of the myth as an "angel" (though this is self-contradictory given the time period this would have occurred during). He was "the bravest, toughest, fiercest and most beautiful of angels." He and the other angels were created to fight the demons of the Abyss, so that the gods could concern themselves with creating worlds and sentient beings.

After eons of fighting the creatures from the abyss, Asmodeus and some of his fellows began to change. They grew similar in appearance and methods to the demons which they fought. Afraid of his power and of the changes he had undergone, the gods put Asmodeus on trial and demanded that he be cast out of the Upper Planes. However, he argued effectively (and correctly) that he and his fellows had not violated the law. Asmodeus and his followers successfully sued for access to the Upper Planes and the honors to which they were entitled.

Once the gods created worlds and sentient beings, the demons attacked these, too. The gods created mountains, oceans, and wastelands to seal up the gates to the Abyss, but their creations defied their orders and explored their worlds, accidentally unsealing the gates. The gods could not understand why their creations did not follow their instructions, until Asmodeus explained to them that their system did not work because it relied solely upon voluntary compliance. Asmodeus explained that the only way to ensure obedience was to threaten mortals with a disincentive; hence, Asmodeus invented the concept of punishment.

Asmodeus convinced the gods to sign a contract called the Pact Primeval. This contract allowed Asmodeus and his fellow devils to take up residence in the abandoned realm of Baator, to punish the souls of wicked mortals, and to extract magical energy from the souls under their care in order to fuel their powers. Otherwise, Asmodeus reasoned, they would have to be granted the powers of godhood in order to do their job, which the current gods would surely find unacceptable.

In the myth that Asmodeus created Baator (from the Codex) it states that Asmodeus tortured souls in a far off section of the upper planes and that when their screams filled heaven the gods once again tried to remove Asmodeus from the upper planes, but by the Pact Primeval Asmodeus was allowed to torture the souls in heaven. Asmodeus offered the gods an alternative; give him the power to create his own plane of existence from which to torture the souls that broke heavenly law. The gods agreed and Asmodeus and his devils left and created the Nine Layers of Hell.

In both myths, the gods found the arrangement agreeable, at first. However, they eventually realized that fewer and fewer mortal souls were ascending to the Upper Planes, and Asmodeus was deliberately tempting mortals to damnation. When they arrived in Baator, the gods found that Asmodeus had turned it into a nightmarish world of endless suffering, filled with countless new devils. When called to account for his actions, Asmodeus uttered the famous words, "Read the fine print."

This story is presented as mythology, and the Codex itself admits that it does not tell the whole truth. For example, it is known that Asmodeus did not depart from the Upper Planes under amicable circumstances: He was cast out, and literally fell into the Lower Planes, sustaining serious wounds which have never healed. Part of Asmodeus' long-term plans includes using the magical energy harvested from souls in order to heal his wounds, and ultimately, the complete destruction of the Upper Planes, as well as to one day achieve godhood.

The names of the "gods" involved seem to change depending on what world and source the myth is told on, and some aspects and versions of the origin myth contradict others. For example, the version told in the Fiendish Codex II states that St. Cuthbert became a distinct deity when he agreed with Asmodeus that "Retribution is the basis of all law," while the Deities & Demigods sourcebook states that he is a mortal who ascended to godhood.

The Manual of the Planes suggests a similar but different story. According to the section about the Nine Hells, Asmodeus' true form is that of a giant serpent. He was cast out of the Upper Planes before the creation of the current gods, and his fall created the 8th and 9th planes of Hell. He is currently still recovering from his wounds in the pits of the 9th level, and his devil form is just an avatar of the real Asmodeus. No one who tells the story of the true form of Asmodeus survives more than 24 hours after the telling. These stories are always connected with the name Ahriman of couatl history.

This story first appeared in the AD&D supplement Guide to Hell: Asmodeus is described as Ahriman, the twin brother of Jazirian the god of the couatls. In this story Jazirian and Ahriman were responsible for the establishment of the current arrangement of the planes but fought eventually because of their perspectives of the law (LG versus LE). Asmodeus is said to be a greater power without any need of worship in the guide. As the Forgotten Realms supplement Serpent Kingdoms, as well as the 2e supplement Monster Mythology, tells Jazirian is/was the lawful good aspect of the now-dead overpower the World Serpent, Asmodeus should be the lawful evil one. This interpretation puts Asmodeus as a more supreme evil than other equally official D&D canon, as he was in this material set up as the co-equal first cause of creation and the evil principle therein, rather than a reactionary segment and of evils potentially interpreted as lesser evil due to being meant to combat the demons of the abyss only having gone overboard, as in subsequent explanations of his origin.[6]

In Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells, Asmodeus is described as one of the primal forces of evil in the D&D universe, and had a hand in creating Baator in order to punish sinners for their crimes. After being granted the power to do so, Asmodeus and his followers began consuming souls for power. Despite the horror of the good gods who'd established the Hells as a punishment, they didn't also expect its existence to help fuel evil in the world. As the devils consumed the essences of souls, they began to mutate into the devils that now populate the D&D universe.[8]

Elder Evils names the original ruler of Hell as Zargon, a creature originally described in Dungeon Module B4: The Lost City, by Tom Moldvay.[18]

The core setting of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition offers yet another origin for Asmodeus, identifying him as a former angel in service to a god only known as He Who Was. Asmodeus, as one of the greatest of the angels, was entrusted with leading angelic hosts in battle against the enemies of the gods. Though he served He Who Was loyally, Asmodeus believed that his deific master was far too forgiving and unwilling to use force. After the conflict, which came to be known as the Dawn War, Asmodeus was assigned to guard the entrance to the prison of the god Tharizdun which was located in the Abyss. The demon lord Pazuzu appeared to Asmodeus, as detailed in Demonomicon, and encouraged the angel to act on his thoughts of rebellion against He Who Was. When Asmodeus was ready to rise up, Pazuzu aided him in obtaining a small piece of the shard of evil at the heart of the Abyss, which Asmodeus used to create his infamous Ruby Rod. Asmodeus returned to Baathion, the realm of He Who Was, gathered those angels who would join his side, and instigated a rebellion that ended with his former master's death. With his last moments of life, He Who Was cursed Asmodeus and all the angels who had followed him. The angels were transformed into the first devils, and the beautiful astral dominion of Baathion was transformed into a prison realm known as the Nine Hells of Baator. Asmodeus assumed the divine might of the fallen deity and became a god himself, albeit one trapped inside his own dominion.

During the Dawn War he worked with Bane; although they hated each other personally they were disciplined enough to work well together. After the war, Bane anticipated the eventual angelic rebellion Asmodeus would launch, and alone of the Gods he was not surprised when it finally happened. Bane wanted to help, but both he and Asmodeus wanted to avoid bringing the other Gods into the fight, and feared that any open collaboration between the two of them would cause exactly that; to avoid notice, instead of soldiers Bane sent aid in the form of advisors and strategy experts. Whether or not this made any difference is unknown, but the devils will deal (slightly) more honestly with followers of Bane than worshippers of other Gods, and Bane`s followers are more likely than others to summon and employ devils.

Asmodeus has few allies amongst the other Gods, and is on especially bad terms with Moradin and Avandra. He has a cordial relationship with Erathis, who regards tyranny as just another form that civilization can take. Asmodeus and Bane still maintain a facade of friendship, at least until one is powerful and confident enough to actually overthrow the other.

It is said that Asmodeus owes Pazuzu a favor for his help in the war, and has not yet repaid him.

Dogma[edit]

Asmodeus is devoted to oppression and might through subversive action. He imposes strict rules and harsh punishments on his followers. The cult of Asmodeus urges its adherents to seek power over others, to repay evil with further evil (an eye for an eye), to exploit kindness for personal gain, and to show no compassion for the weak and downtrodden. All done in the most legal possible manner of course, and never overtly.

Typical rhetoric from worshippers of Asmodeus will discuss "promoting personal excellence and independence," "taking care of one's own affairs" and "ridding oneself of weakness". Sometimes one will hear of "ascending to godhood", or "no gods, no masters". When harming innocents, their actions are discussed as "providing motivation to succeed". Most often, ritual practices are deeply secretive and not publicly discussed. Most followers will not publicly admit their worship of Asmodeus, as that would compromise their potential bargaining position for greater power over non-followers.

Worshippers[edit]

Though Asmodeus's faith is by far the largest of the diabolic cults, few of Asmodeus' followers are known by name. A notable exception is Christophe Jean Markosian, "The Devil Behind Thrones," a hierarch of the Horned Society. Most of Asmodeus's worshippers are based in the towns and cities of humans and demihumans, though Asmodeus has some monstrous followers as well. His cultists use his faith as a stepping stone to wealth and power. They form secret alliances, using their wealth and connections to bring status and power to other members of the society.

According to the Guide to Hell, though he has worshipers and does on occasion grant them clerical powers, his true identity as Ahriman makes him loath to expand his cult. This is because his true motivation is to spread atheism through the multiverse and make all believe that "gods" are not divine at all, but beings who have achieved great power. In his plan, when belief fails, the outer planes will cease to exist. As Ahriman the evil lawmaker of the whole of the cosmos and unfettered by belief himself, he can then remold the multiverse perfectly according to his desires, and this time not having to share in its creation with Jazirian: the good creator of the multiverse's orderly structure. There will be no remnant of chaos as a result, or any missing rules in this future outer ring of planes, which will be the exclusive domain of Asmodeus.[6]

Temples[edit]

In most lands, temples to Asmodeus are hidden subterranean complexes, though in places dominated by lawful evil, they may dominate the landscape. If a cult of Baalzebul overthrows the local government, cultists of Asmodeus typically assume control of their headquarters to bring the local diabolism into its "establishment phase."

Related characters[edit]

Family[edit]

Asmodeus' chief consort, before her death, was a devil named Bensozia. Together they had a daughter named Glasya, who now rules over the sixth layer of Baator.

Vassals[edit]

The following beings are 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 (DR76).
  • Alastor the Grim, pit fiend — Executioner.
  • Baalberith (/ˈblbərɪθ/ BAYL-bər-ith[1]), pit fiend — Major domo.
  • Bensozia — Consort of Asmodeus, Queen of Hell (Deceased) (DR76).
  • Buer — 15 companies of pit fiends (DR76).
  • Bune — 30 companies of cornugons (DR76).
  • Glasya - Daughter of Asmodeus and Bensozia, former Mistress of the Erinyes, now Lord of the Sixth (DR76).
  • Martinet, pit fiend — Constable.
  • Morax — 9 companies of pit fiends (DR76).
  • Phongor — Inquisitor of Hell (DR76).
  • Rimmon — 5 companies of gelugons (DR76).
  • The Spark Hunters - Lord Asmodeus's personal guard of 13 hamatula rangers/mortal hunters who capture and/or slay mortals who draw their master's ire.
  • Zagum — 30 companies of hamatula (DR76).

Enemies[edit]

Though he schemes against all the arch-devils, Asmodeus has a special hatred for Levistus.

As the Lord of Hell, Asmodeus oversees the Blood War against the chaotic demons and their demon prince leaders.

Other publishers[edit]

Asmodeus appeared in Paizo Publishing's book Book of the Damned, Vol. 1: Princes of Darkness (2009), on page 23.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Mentzer, Frank. "Ay pronunseeAY shun gyd" Dragon #93 (TSR, 1985)
  2. ^ DeVarque, Aardy. "Literary Sources of D&D". Archived from the original on 2007-07-21. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  3. ^ a b Larme, John. Dangerous Games? Censorship and "Child Protection" (2000).
  4. ^ Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual (TSR, 1977)
  5. ^ Greenwood, Ed. "The Nine Hells Part II." Dragon #76 (TSR, 1983)
  6. ^ a b c Pramas, Chris. Guide to Hell (TSR, 1999)
  7. ^ Cook, Monte. Book of Vile Darkness (Wizards of the Coast, 2002)
  8. ^ a b Laws, Robin D, and Robert J Schwalb. Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (Wizards of the Coast, 2006)
  9. ^ James Wyatt. Dungeon Masters Guide (Wizards of the Coast, 2008).
  10. ^ Cordell, Bruce R., Ed Greenwood, and Chris Sims. Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
  11. ^ Wyatt, James, and Keith Baker. Eberron Campaign Guide. (Wizards of the Coast, 2009)
  12. ^ Baier, R. J. The Azurerain Pirates: City State Campaign Installment Pegasus #6 (Judges Guild, 1981)
  13. ^ Pramas, Chris. Legions of Hell, (Green Ronin Publishing, 2001)
  14. ^ Loeb, Aaron., Mona, Erik., Pramas, Chris and Schwalb, Robert. Book of Fiends, (Green Ronin Publishing, 2003)
  15. ^ Brown, Anne., Melka, Kevin and Ward, James M. Devilish Dens, (Fast Forward Entertainment, 2002)
  16. ^ Pulling, Pat; Cawthon, Kathy (1989). The Devil's Web: Who Is Stalking Your Children for Satan?. Huntington House. p. 90. ISBN 0910311595. 
  17. ^ Ravitts, Joseph R. (1981). "Monotheism in Fantasy". Pegasus (Judges Guild) (4). 
  18. ^ Schwalb, Robert J. Elder Evils. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2007
  19. ^ Schneider, F. Wesley. Book of the Damned, Vol. 1: Princes of Darkness (Paizo, 2009)

Additional reading[edit]

  • Brunner, Frank. "Strike on the Rabid Dawn." Dungeon #111 (Paizo Publishing, 2004).
  • Larme, John. Dangerous Games? Censorship and "Child Protection" [1] (2000).
  • Von Thorn, Alexander. "The Politics of Hell." Dragon # 28. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1979.