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Arcana Mystara: Demonology

by Kit Navarro

"Gehenna. Baator. Acheron. It's all extremely interesting this, what do you call it, Planescape theory of yours. But you see, theory may not be truth. What you know may not be real, and what is real, you may not know." -Master Bernabie Thrum, Master of Planar Magic at the Great School of Magic in Glantri

What Do Mystarans Know About Demons?

Mystarans know them as demons or fiends. They are evil and chaos creatures from the Planes, who often act in the service of the dark Immortals from the Sphere of Entropy.

Immortals and Fiends

The place of fiends in Immortal hierarchy is clearly stated (WotI). They are exalted (near Immortal) creatures from the Planes who serve the Immortals from the Sphere of Entropy.*

Two such Immortals of Entropy, Orcus (The Goat, Master of the Dead, Lord of Darkness, The Black Prince) and Demogorgon (The Child, Bane of Souls, The Lizard King, The Dark Lady, and in AD&D, Prince of Demons), are considered Demon Rulers, first because they are fiends themselves, and second because they are deeply involved with the affairs of fiends. Their single-minded focus with demonic matters-to the exclusion of other matters of the Sphere of Entropy-is probably the reason why neither of them has become the Hierarch of Entropy.

In contrast, there is the Immortal Alphaks (The Destroyer, The Elegant, The Roaring Demon) who is both an Immortal and a Demon, but remains as involved in Entropic affairs on the Prime, as say, the Hierarchs Thanatos and Nyx.

(It could be argued though that his demonic temperament will prevent him from become a full Hierarch of Entropy any time soon!)

*An article from Dragon Magazine #75 "The Nine Hells" by Ed Greenwood raises the question of how evil deities such as Gruumsh, Set, and Bane interact with the denizens, particularly the ruling Dukes of Hell, in the evil planes. The issue was resolved by reassigning such non-devil deities to Acheron, Gehenna, and planes other than the Nine Hells, the home plane of devils.

Actually, in Mystara, such an issue will not apply, since Immortals are not the all-powerful beings that gods are, and the role of the fiends and the Immortals of Entropy are clearly stated.

Whatever Happened to.

That cool jelly thing with eyes and mouths spewing yucky mush from MM1?

(Juiblex the Faceless Lord) Or that demon gnoll with the flail (Yeenoghu, Demon Lord of Gnolls) or those less cool demons featured in MM2? (Baphomet, Lord of Minotaurs; Fraz-Urb'luu, Prince of Deception; Graz'zt, Demon Prince; Kostichtchie, Demon Lord; Pazuzu, Prince of the Lower Aerial Kingdoms) Do they exist in Mystara?

The answer is maybe.

In the case of Yeenoghu, he is not just a demon lord, but has become the full-fledged Immortal Ranivorus, Patron of Gnolls. He is still known as Yeenoghu by some (GAZ 10 "Orcs of Thar", WotI).

Baphomet is probably replaced by Minoides, the Immortal Ruler of Minotaurs.

(Like Yeenoghu, Baphomet may be a variant name.) In other cases, the demons may be demoted to servants or lieutenants of certain Immortals of Entropy.

"By all that is sacred, child, do not speak those words with such familiarity! Call them fiends or demons or grey deceivers, but by the Immortals, do not use those unholy names, lest you wish to summon their presence and dire wrath!"

The Issue of Names

Why are there so many confusing names? How do we reconcile them?

There was a simpler time, when demons were demons and devils were devils.

(It was simple enough to create the new creatures, the daemons and demodands, who had clear names, although arguably confusing concepts.) Then there came a move to sanitise, nay, exorcise theses names, hence the neologisms of "tanar'ri" and "baatezu" and the generic term of fiends.

Recently, the veil of sanitation has worn off, just when the new names have begun to stuck.

Mystara vs. AD&D vs. Planescape

The Mystara system (D&D Eldritch Wizardry, WotI) has the simplest system of names for the fiends, mainly because it only includes the demons. Still, the names are clear in their descriptions and associations.

The AD&D system (MM1, MM2, FF) expanded the system, to include devils and those bizarre (IMO superfluous) daemons and demodands, but fails to categorise them logically. It became worse when the sanitised neologisms were introduced.

The Planescape system (PS MC1 and 2, PS Faces of Evil, Guide to Hell) is the most encompassing and most organized, completing and correcting the inconsistencies of AD&D. It may not reflect Mystara exactly, but it is easily reconcilable.

A Demon By Any Name

So how are they reconciled? The same way Mystara MC reconciles the "aerial servant vs. haoou" and "invisible stalker vs. sshai" nomenclature.

Mystarans commonly refer to demons by their Mystaran labels, while the demons call themselves by their PS names, presumably derived from their weird demonic tongues).*

Planar Name | Common Mystaran Name | Other Labels Tanar'ri | Demons | Lesser Fiends

Vrock | Screaming demon | Air fiend, winged fury Hezrou | Croaking demon | Swamp fiend, gobbler Glabrezu | Howling demon | Fiery fiend, four-armed horror Nalfeshnee | Groaning demon | Forest fiend, biter Marilith | Hissing demon | Water fiend, destroyer Balor | Roaring demon | Mountain fiend, manslayer Succubus/Incubus** | Whispering demon | Charmer, grey deceiver

Of course, Mystarans who study and encounter such creatures, will know to call them by their proper planar names.

*The irony of this is that the sanitised neologisms will now become demonic than human/mortal.

**The Mystaran whispering demon can be both male and female, and thus are known as a succubus or incubus. Some say they are separate sexes, some say t hey can change sex at will.

What About the Other Demons?

Do bar-lgura (leaping demon), chasme (fly demon, or as I prefer, buzzing demon), babau (one-horned horror, ebony death), nabassu (death stealers), wastrilith (water lord), rutterkins, dretches, and manes exist in the Mystara setting?

The answer is the same as with Juiblex: Maybe.

If they do exist, most probably, Mystarans have not had significant encounters with them.

If Mystarans will encounter such things, they will probably be known by their more common labels, rather than by their proper demonic names.

That being said, the more obscure demons introduced in the PS settings (alkilith, bulzau, maurezhi) are probably so rare, they don't exist in the Mystara setting.

The Existence of Half-Demons

One most debated topic among Mystarans is the existence of the half-elf.

Some say they don't exist, and mixed unions produce offspring of one race or another.* Some say they do exist, and thus mixed unions produce offspring of a mixed breed.

The same argument can be applied to the existence of half-demons. Do alu-demons, cambions, and tieflings exists? Some say yes, matings of demons and non-demons produce such half-demons. Some say no, matings with demons (probably incubi and succubi) will produce demons.* *If this were so, as with dryads and satyrs (PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk), medusae and minotaurs, matings with succubi will only birth daughters, who will be succubi, and incubi will sire only sons, who will be incubi.

Spheres of Power vs. Axes of Alignments In most other settings, the axes of alignment (Good vs. Evil, Lawful vs. Chaotic) dictates cosmology, and thus the geography of the planes, producing the 19 Outer Planes system.

In Mystara, the 5 Spheres of Power supersede alignments. And even within the axes of alignments, the Law-Chaos axis comes first before the Good-Evil axis.* The 19 Outer Planes system would thus not be applicable to the Mystaran setting.

How would this impact the nature of the Mystaran fiends? Fiends are thus foremost, servants of Entropy (Sphere of Power), second, agents of Chaos (Law vs. Chaos), and only third, creatures of evil (Good vs. Evil). This would explain why Mystaran fiends are all demons (Chaotic Evil in AD&D terms), rather than devils or demons.

This would raise two questions: First, what is the home plane of demons in the Mystara setting? Second, where (in Hell?) are the devils and other fiends?

*This came about when the D&D Known World was translated into the AD&D Mystara.

The Pyts and The Abyss

It is stated (WotI) that Pyts is the Home Plane of many Immortals of Entropy, and that native beings to this plane include all the demons (Lesser Fiends). It makes more sense however that the many different, bickering, rival, chaotic Immortals of Entropy have Home Planes that are within or can be reached from the Plane of Pyts. That being said, it also makes sense that the demons have their own Home Planes within Pyts, probably called The Abyss.*

In a related article on the Outer Planes by James Mishler, Orcus is assigned to a Home Plane called Ossia. I suggest that this plane is located within, or at least connected to, Pyts and the Abyss. Demogorgon is not mentioned; he may have a parallel Home Plane, also connected to Pyts and The Abyss (but not directly to Ossia!), or he may in fact have made taken over The Abyss and made it his own Home Plane! (Did he win its rulership from Orcus? Or did Orcus destroy Demogorgon's original Home Plane, thus stranding Demogorgon among the masses of demons who make The Abyss their home?)

*The only reference I have to such a name is from the D&D "Tower of Doom" and "Shadow Over Mystara" arcade game, where the fighter curses, "By the Abyss," when he is struck.

"In the centuries of wandering of our people before Landfall, our ancestors saw many planes and dimensions with nightmarish things too diabolic to even speak of!"

Where in Hell are the Devils?

After all that has been said about the Mystara setting (Mystaraverse) and the Spheres of Power, here are the possible answers to this question of the missing devils:

Devils do not exist.

This is the simplest answer (but a waste of a lot of cool ideas).

An explanation for this would be, because the Sphere of Entropy embodies evil and death, and is associated with the Chaotic alignment, it would be difficult for there to be an embodiment of both evil and Lawfulness-at least within the influence of the Spheres of Power.

This would suggest the next answer.

Devils do not exist in the Mystaraverse, but do exist in other Dimensions.

The Dimension of Myth is the first place that comes to mind and it is easy to imagine that devils walk on Laterre, in Averoigne. The original CAS stories do mention devils and demons.

An implication of this is that the Immortal Nyx, whose ancient origins lead all the way back to Laterre may have some devilish (not demonic) connections. Personality wise, she/he does fit the bill.

The Dimension of Nightmares is another place where devils may exist. This would explain why the Diaboli are so similar to devils in appearance. In fact, the role of Immortals in the Dimension of Nightmares may in fact be served by the Devil rulers! (This could lead to very powerful, cross-dimensional conflicts between Immortals and the Devils. or Nightmare Immortals!)

The Vortex Dimension may also be a place where devils exist, but as with all things related to the Old Ones, it is a total mystery. The only thing clear is that if devil are on that side of the Vortex, the Old Ones are not letting the Immortals, much less the Mystarans, know about it!

And of course, there are the other Dimensions, where they can exist.

Forgotten Realms, Planescape, Greyhawk, etc. But if they do exist there, they why are they not here?

Devils are not in the Mystaraverse (and demons are) because of the Blood War.

Here are three scenarios along this theme:

The demons came to the Mystaraverse to escape their impending defeat in the Blood Wars. Orcus, Demogorgon, and their demonic followers found a unique dimension where there is little or no devilish power (due to the Sphere of Entropy). Furthermore, in this dimension, they will join the ranks of the ruling powers, the Immortals, and not be mere pawns of the gods.

Another scenario is that Orcus and Demogorgon did not come to the Mystaraverse intentionally. Perhaps because of some act of supreme betrayal (which may have cost them the war!), they were cast out of their dimension, and they ended up together in Mystara! (What diabolical irony!) Of course, the mysterious Old Ones may have had a hand in leading them here.

A third scenario: The demons won the Blood War and have vanquished the devils (at least out of this multiverse)! Orcus and Demogorgon may have been the mastermind behind this coup. One of them found a way of vanquishing the devils, but in doing so, needing to sacrifice all the demons as well, which is ok since they're rivals anyway-unfortunately, the archrival managed to avoid destruction, and the two are stuck again for eternity!

WotI Wrath of the Immortals
MM Monster Manual
FF Fiend Folio
PS Planescape
MC Monstrous Compendium