The Archdevils of the Nine Hells! Most of the D&D background stuff I’ve read I can take or leave, but these guys have really stuck with me.
From the top:
Bel, Archdevil of Avernus. Military man, latest in a long line of Pit Fiends promoted to serve as Hell’s battle commander. Good with strategy, hopeless at politics. Ambitious, with a bad temper.
Dispater, Archdevil of Dis. Real paranoid, seldom leaves his tower. Obsessively builds Iron golems and spinning blade traps. Never forgets an insult.
Mammon, Archdevil of Minauros. Lives underground on a big pile of wealth. Looks more like a big snake with every passing year. Generally regarded as insane.
Belial and Fierna, Archdevils of Phlegethos. Married couple. Fight all the time and cheat on each other with strings of disposable partners, otherwise oddly devoted to one another. Their lavish parties are worth a visit, as long as you remember the complex etiquette.
Levistus, Archdevil of Stygia. Handsome rogue, always up for a good time. Passes for human, rumoured to have started that way. Currently entombed inside a giant iceberg, but still conscious, and very angry.
Glasya, newly installed Archdevil of Malboge. Rumoured to be Asmodeus’ daughter by an unknown mother. Highly efficient and devoted to her job. Invites gifted, evil people from all planes to serve as her lieutenants. Only behind closed doors does she reveal her true taste for terrible cruelty.
Baalzebuul, Archdevil of Maladomini. Once a great Angel of the High Heavens, his fall from divine grace was followed by an even greater fall after Asmodeus cursed him with the form of a giant, hideous slug. Now he weeps with self-pity in a palace made of his own slime.
Mephistopheles, Archdevil of Cania. Even other Devils start to feel uncomfortable after too long in a room with him. Doesn’t talk much, but everyone thinks of him as a marginal ally. Collects interesting scientists, artists and wizards from all known worlds, and puts them to work on mysterious projects, hidden from view.
Asmodeus, Archdevil of Nessus, and ruler of the Nine Hells. When people talk about ‘The Devil’, they mean this guy. As powerful as a God, with the attitude to match. Though he is still bleeding and bruised after being cast down from Heaven in ages past, his voice is like a thread of warm honey in the ear, filling the listener with assurance- and absolute obedience.
Our second two-page spread monster in a row! And hoo-boy is it a doozy.
There are lots of things claiming to be gods out there. Some are actual deities. Others are demon lords, archdevils, or Great
Old Ones powerful enough that to mortal worshipper the difference is
academic. (Particularly in Pathfinder,
where these beings grant spells and domain powers and everything. In 3.5 and D&D in general this wasn’t
always the case, but that’s too complicated a subject to get into tonight.)
But that still leaves plenty of charlatans, false gods,
fallen idols, and upstart spirits powerful enough to demand worship. If one of these spirits—or even a mortal
man—collects enough worshippers, they become something more than themselves and
yet far short of the divine. And Hell
waits for them, molding these souls into advodazas, the nemesis devils.
I dig this notion—it really offers a nice combination comeuppance/promotion
to all the false prophets and dragon lords and other cult leaders adventurers
have to deal with on a regular basis.
(Hell, the first nemesis devil a party faces could easily be the new
shape of someone they once vanquished.)
But it’s the trappings and details that really sell this devil. Enough false divinity to get domain
spell-like abilities. The ability to
bestow an infernal mark through which to grant boons and punishments. Armor made from the devil’s own “fallen idols
and ornaments of devotion”?!? That’s
killer stuff. Fighting a devil is one
thing, but fighting a devil covered in fake holy symbols, fetishes, and Easter
Island statues? Whose devil-marked
cultists have tormented the PCs for months?
And who it turns out the PCs may have already killed once? That’s a whole different kind of battle.
Dragons are especially
prone to becoming nemesis devils.
Unwilling to cede any more souls to the aeries of Hell, the Great Dragon
sometimes tasks his rare human followers to root out dragon cults before they
spread. Destroying a dragon-born nemesis
devil’s Material Plane form is one of the highest callings of the faith, and
permanently killing one in Hell itself may earn an adventurer an apotheosis
into dragon form.
Magr Toth’s appetite
for idols in his image finally starved his faith to death, as farming,
fishing, and even foraging ceased to feed his demand for sculptors,
woodcarvers, and laborers. But the
sacrifice of his people only made his demonic form more terrifying. Not only is his idol armor particularly
strong, but he begins every combat by tossing a giant stone moai like a caber
right into his opponents.
Sent by Congress
to investigate charges that the tornado rail barons are practicing slavery, a
band of adventurers returns to the Wild West they’d sworn they’d seen the last
of. What they find is horror and misery
just within the letter of the law. They
also discover something else: So many men, dwarves, and hobgoblins have died in
the tornado rail’s construction that the surviving workers have begun to regard
the train and its network of wind spires as a kind of angry deity. Worse yet, some even begin praying to the
rail…and Hell itself is listening. At
the ceremony celebrating the erection of Utah’s final wind spire, the lead ventimotive
explodes, revealing the metallic form of the nemesis devil who has been
answering all the suffering workers’ prayers.