The lawful evil badguys from another dimension, in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition. Formerly known as devils in the earlier editions, living in what was once called The Nine Hells. This change was because of one-time CEO of TSR Lorraine Williams, due to the events of the Satanic Panic. The term Baatezu is a trademark of Wizards Of The Coast, so you won't find them mentioned in any Open License products like the d20 SRD nor Pathfinder. Their home is now called "Baator", but each of the nine levels still has the same names from Dante's Inferno.
Baatezu represent the lawful side of evil: the concept that cruelty and malice should be distributed in an orderly and efficient fashion. Backstabbers, vicious politicians and cruel warlords can opt to become petitioners in the "nine hells". They fight the Blood War against the Tanar'ri at behest of Asmodeus, the ruler of Baator.
Baatezu are not born as mortals are. While only the most powerful of devils can breed at all, most opt not to do so because a child is a dangerous rival and a potent tool for their enemies. Instead new devils are made from the tortured souls of the damned, who are reprocessed after an extensive period of torture to strip them of their individuality. These soul shells are then reprocessed and turned into Lemures, starting their new existence as Baatezu. Lemures who please their dark lords enough - through a combination of gathering corrupted souls, guile, defeating their enemies and their master's enemies - may be promoted to a Spinagon, a grotesque, spiny gargoyle-esque monster. From stage to stage, devils begin looking more and more like their horrible masters, with the process being detailed more just below.
The Hierarchy of Hell
Baatezu are Lawful to a fault. They are masters of forming contracts that give themselves as many loopholes to exploit as possible, while bringing those for the other party down to zero. If a devil turns out to be clever, powerful, deceitful, lucky and sycophantic enough they may be promoted in an agonising ritual that grows a miniature fetal version of the new form inside of the devil, eventually bursting out in a grotesque and agonizing display. If a subject however fails its master, is betrayed in some way or if the master needs the energy that is released when doing so, a baatezu can be demoted back into a lesser form - which is a great humilitation for a devil.
All the various forms are part of a ranked hierarchy: the higher up the more powerful a devil is. Devils can only be promoted and demoted by their direct superiors, so it is not possible for rival devils to demote all of their rivals' servants or promote themselves to increase in power. As mentioned before, there is only so much power around to promote devils, gathered from souls. If a "drought" of sorts were to befall an area, high-ranking devils would be more stringent with their promotions or even demote their followers to reallocate resources: the latter is a powerful motivator for all devils to keep corrupting souls.
|3||Spined Devil||Black Abishai|
|Lesser Devils||4||Bearded Devil||Green Abishai|
|6||Steel Devil||Red Abishai|
|8|| Harvester Devil
|Greater Devils||10|| Bone Devil
|13||Horned Devil||Pleasure Devil|
A few of the forms in the hierarchy are not part of the regular advancement. The wretched Nupperibo is the result of a demotion of a higher-ranking devil (from 3.5 onwards at least, see below), though it still outranks the lowly Lemures. However, it is skipped in the regular progrssion and is a form used as punishment, as are the Malebranche and the Xerfilstyx.
The Erinyes are an unusual group. Instead of being created from soul shells they are either fallen angels turned into their current form or born from another Erinyes. The most powerful of the Erinyes can be promoted to the rank of Brachina, or Pleasure Devil. These creatures are alluring seductresses and are ruthless in their searches for advancing to the highest ranks of devilkind. But because the step between Erinyes and Brachina is so big, only the most accomplished of Erinyes can be promoted to this rank.
Finally there are the Abishai. They are beholden to Tiamat, who lives on the first layer of Baator.
The Devils' Many Forms
As they progress through the ranks Baatezu change into new forms: stronger, cleverer, more magical and so on. While some details might differ a higher ranking Devil is always more dangerous than its last form in some way or shape. Baatezu is the name the devils use for themselves: to make it more confusing it is also a creature subtype. All Baatezu devils have the following abilities: immunity to fire, immunity to poison, cold resist 20, acid resist 20, can see in total darkness including magical darkness, telepathic communication 100ft.
Inside the Hierarchy
- A Lemure is a small, pitiable creature standing at a mere 5' tall. Whenever a devil of any authority needs cannon fodder, they gather up some Maggots (the form that the petitioners of all Lower Planes take) and promote them into Lemures. Lemures are mindless and cannot speak, though they can understand telepathic commands. They are cruel and try to claw apart whatever they can as a way to get revenge on the multiverse. Promotions from Lemures are often made as a matter of convenience for a higher ranking fiend: they promote a batch of them into forms like Imps if they need spies or Bearded Devils if they need more shock troops for their armies.
- A Spined Devil, also known as the Spinagon is a small gargoyle-like creature covered in spines. They are sometimes used as spies by high-ranking devils, but because of their low intelligence their reports are not always dependable and tend to miss the finer nuances of what they had observed. They are cruel beings, but because of their low standing a single Spinagon is only a threat to Lemures and Nupperibos, on whom they vent their frustration and cruelty.
- Barbazu (Bearded Devils) are often employed as shock troops for powerful fiends. Bearded Devils are aggressive and revel in fighting, where they swing their powerful glaives with skill. So much in fact that if they land a hit the wound will fester until attended to by either a skilled healer or a powerful healing spell is used, and even then the wound is difficult to treat. A Barbazu's beard can inflict a powerful disease upon a foe, infecting them with Devil Chills which saps away their strength. The disease has a short incubation period and lasts a lifetime when untreated, however short or long that may be. Bearded Devils can also burst into fits of frenzy, cutting through enemies in a way much like a raging Barbarian would.
- Imps are less physically imposing than their other forms, but they pose a new kind of threat. Instead of fighting they prefer to try and tempt people into evil, laying claim to their souls if they manage to do so. Imps are cowardly and stay away from fights but they are willing to sting with their tails if the opportunity to do so arises.
- Steel Devils are powerful warriors, fighting on the front lines of the wars of Hell: either in the Blood Wars or against the armies of fellow devils. These Bueroza take the shapes of humanoids in heavy steel armor, covered in cobwebs and dust. While they can strike with enough force to send an enemy reeling, their strength comes from them gaining bonuses from fighting in ranks with their fellow Bueroza, becoming swifter and more durable as they fight. Their most potent ability is their chanting: a horrible shrieking that debilitates enemy casters and makes it more difficult for them to cast spells, making them easy prey for the Steel Devils.
- Chain Devils resemble tall humanoids dressed in nothing but chain. They can swing these around in deadly fashion, tearing at their prey in horrible ways. They can take control of chains in their range and have them attack anyone at will, and while it is possible to break a Kyton's control of a chain they will not let anyone just do this whenever they want. Chain Devils can also change their visage to resemble that of someone's loved ones or hated enemies, stunning a target. They can also regenerate parts of their bodies that were cut off and are adept at metalworking. Chain Devils are sometimes charged with torture, something they relish. This has caused them to grow a rivalry with the Pain Devils.
- Harvester Devils are often found in the material planes where they offer mortals contracts of power, wealth and other such things in exchange for their souls. They lurk in sewers, at crossroads at midnight, in back rooms of corrupt businesses or serving as courtiers to nobility. Any who approach them can ask for an infernal pact: anything they want for the price of their undying soul. They are not powerful combatants; while they carry blades that will instill a curse upon anyone that forces them to strike a good creature. Instead they will try to escape when entering combat, trying to find someone else to tempt with their contracts. But they cannot be killed unless the devil starts the fight: for some strange reason the Falxugon are protected by powerful magic that remains in place unless they strike someone first. They look like mostly humanoid beings but with horns, tails and hooves, and tend to go dressed in expensive clothing.
- Pain Devils are masters of torture. Because they are hated by all other Baatezu and will be destroyed when not beholden to a lord they offer themselves to the service of powerful devils as torturers. They are very good at this, inflicting untold pain upon anyone unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. They torture the soul shells entering Hell and whoever has failed their masters, making for a powerful motivation to not fail. The Excruciarchs carry great spiked chains which they can imbue with powerful agonizing energy or swing around to hit all standing close to them. They can also inflict wounds upon non-Baatezu by just standing nearby, gain more power from inflicting wounds and can study an enemy to negate any damage reduction it might have.
- The Amnizus are the bureaucrats of hell. They record the soul shells that enter Baator, stand guard at the portals to and from the plane and record all who go through, often extorting them out of their valuables. Amnizu are particularly ambitious and try their best to improve their lot in life, working their way up the ranks through politics, intrigue and assassination. They are also tasked with hunting down fugitives, something they take much pleasure in. When facing an enemy that they cannot defeat on their own without any significant risk to them they will send their minions to deal with the target. When they can fight, an Amnizu prefers to take wing and strike targets with their intelligence-damaging touch.
- Bone Devils police the Nine Hells, observing the activities of other Baatezu and reporting on them. They are tall and strong and possess some magical ability. The Osyluth, as they are sometimes called, are freakishly thin and have large stingers with which they can inject targets with potent poisons. They will ruthlessly attack anyone who opposes them.
- Orthons are powerful soldiers in the front lines of the Blood War, specialized in killing demons. They use a combination of their bladed spears that are usable in both long and short range and magical crossbows that shoot powerful blasts of energy. Orthon are large, covered in metal plates bolted directly onto their bodies, possesses large tusks and has a pained look on its face. Orthons are skilled in fighting in formation, increasing their power and durability. They also possess the ability to stop all interdimensional movement in a 20' radius. When an Orhton is slain maggots burst from its body, who try to devour anything near the slain host before expiring themselves. Because of the nature of their armor Orthons are in constant pain, and only battle takes their mind off of this. They are very loyal though, and will not plot against their masters.
- Barbed Devils serve as the guards and bodyguards of Hell. They are tall and covered in spikes, hitting all that come too close to them. Fighting a Hamatula in close range will always result in the devil using its many spikes to stab or even impale an enemy that comes too close to them. They possess some magical ability, being able to cast Hold Person so they can use their impale attacks at their leisure.
- Ice Devils, also called Gelugons, are commanders of the armed forces of hell. They prefer to avoid direct battle if possible. They are quite tall and look something like white devilish ants, often carrying large spears. Striking with its spear will cause a powerful numbing effect on a target, making it an easy prey for either the Ice Devil itself or one of its servants. They can cast several spells as well, most of which are ice-based.
- Horned Devils are powerful creatures, serving as the elite soldiers of Baator. It is a large scaled fiend with huge wings, often carrying spiked chains. They can use these weapons to deliver blows powerful enough to stun a target, and they can use their tails to cause dangerous persistent wounds. The Cornugon also possess magical abilities and can regenerate.
- Assassin Devils are widely feared and distrusted. They are vaguely humanoid with featureless faces aside from their mouths, lined with sharp teeth. They can meld into shadows with ease and cast clouds of fog to hide themselves, striking when they feel the time is right. The original Assassin Devils were natives to Baator, melted down and reformed into the Dogai. The most experienced of the bunch often have levels in the assassin prestige class.
- A Corruption Devil is an information broker, trading knowledge for hefty sums of money, souls or other information. They are putrid creatures who dwell in comfort, opulence and excess, often bathing in disgusting pools and eating the finest of foods. They are some of the most powerful creatures in Baator, and not just because of its personal power. A Corruption Devil, also known as a Paeliryon or That Fucking Guy, has a lot of information about a vast number of beings and can use this information to manipulate or blackmail them in a way that is profitable for themselves. These devils are very vain, and will use their claws to disfigure their opponents in combat and belittle them as they do battle.
- The Pit Fiends are the nobility of hell. They are immensely powerful, can use many kinds of magic, have teeth that transmit Devil Chills, poisoned claws, can strangle enemies to death with their bare hands and are pretty big. At this level the intrigues of hell are the most dangerous and cutthroat, with enemies on all sides trying to get the upper hand over any given devil. From this position Pit Fiends can be promoted to the rank of duke. From there one can be promoted to an unique devil with their own gender, powers and personalities, but this is seldom done because of the huge threat such a being poses to the Archdukes of hell. If this sounds familiar, good job. The highest ranking demon, called the Balor, is almost exactly the same thing - giant humanoid winged infernal monsters at the almost-top-except-uniques part of their hierarchy. The main difference, aside from the Law/Chaos thing, is that Pit Fiends are usually shown to be a bit more reptilian and don't get giant flaming whips. This makes them also almost the same thing as a Bloodthirster.
Other Promotions within the Hierarchy
- Nupperibo are bloated, ugly creatures used as base servitors in Hell. Used as a punishment for low-ranking devils, Nupperibo are slow, blind, deaf, and unthreatening compared to other devils and fight without any kind of finesse. Yet they are used for frontline warfare in the Blood War, as cannon fodder. As such they are rarely promoted back to their former form because of the high mortality rate. Nupperibo are possibly more useful to the rivals of their superiors than to their superiors themselves. By stealing one of these fiends from its master and changing it back the devil might have important information about its master, and might even help its new master get revenge on the old one.
- At least, that's what they are from 3.5 onwards. Prior to that, they weren't even Baatezu. See normally, a Maggot just stays a Maggot until some devil either needs a Lemure or gets hungnry. But sometimes, one of them would randomly evolve into a Nupperibo. The Baatezu would herd these things and demote them back into Maggots so as to immediately promote them into Lemures, since in those editions nupperibos were the Lemure-equivalent rank of entities called "True Baatorans," which were the inhabiants of Baator before Asmodeus came to power. The idea of these things returning scares the piss out of every last baatezu. Some sources said that the baatezu were so thorough that no nupperibo ever evolved further, but other sources said there were tales of a scant few being lucky enough to do so, taking on strange forms resembling ones imprisoned in the ice of Stygia.
- The form of the Malebranche are used to punish fiends, yet allow them to keep fighting for their masters. They are deadly in combat and use their massive ranseurs to strike with great force.
- Xerfilstyx are some of the most pitiable creatures in Hell. Shaped like bloated slug-devils they live in the depths of the river Styx, stripping them of all their memories. The constant exposure to the Styx has driven them insane, with the creatures finding only some solace in the memories of the lost that gather at the bottom of the river. It is nearly impossible for a Xerfilstyx to be promoted back to a higher rank because of its insanity and it being bound to the Styx.
- Based on the Furies of Greek myth, the Erinyes originate from the angels that left heaven alongside Asmodeus when Baator was being established. Others joined their ranks in later eons, all of them fallen angels. While most of them are female in form there are a few males amongst their number, with no difference being made between them. The gorgeous Erinyes stand apart from their fellow devils, their corrupted angelic arrogance making them see the souls of the damned as being beneath them. In turn the other Baatezu see the Erinyes as stuck up pretenders and usurpers of the title of devil. Still they are respected for their strength, cruelty and intelligence. Unique to the Erinyes, their promoted forms and unique female devils they are capable of becoming pregnant. Their children will always be Erinyes, and are raised in secret and well-guarded compounds. Because of their arrogance Erinyes often forego promotion to higher forms, instead opting to stay in their current, less powerful form.
- A Pleasure Devil is an improved form of the Erinyes. Even more beautiful, seductive and powerful than their previous forms, the Pleasure Devils do intend to advance to the rank of Pit Fiend. They are conniving and plotting as the other devils of their ranks, and will use their considerable skills to advance themselves. Brachina as they are sometimes called are sent to tempt those of particular virtue and goodness to the side of evil, using their wiles, bodies and spellcasting to get their way. Because of their unearthly beauty they are popular playthings amongst the highest ranking devils, discarded as quickly as selected. Because of this and the ambition of the Brachina they tend to spend a lot of time on the material plane so that they are in command, and not some other fiend.
- Abishai are the cruel servants of Tiamat. They are arrogant, even for draconic creatures; they consider themselves far above the rank of Tiamat's other servants, including full-blooded dragons and the dragonspawn. They exist in several colors are very cruel, hate everyone not of their own kind. Souls that enter the Nine Hells under her control still become Lemures, but after that become Abishai, dragon-looking devils who tempt mortals to enter pacts with them, only to torture the mortal to the limit of their suffering. After the rank of Red Abishai they can continue to promote as normal, starting with becoming a Chain Devil, but almost all Abishai stop advancing at the rank of the Red Abishai.
The various layers of hell are ruled by a group of unique devils of immense power; whether or not these Archdukes are the same thing as Archdevils seems to vary depending on which sourcebook you have access to. Each of them is a force to be reckoned with, commanding vast resources and armies of Baator. They all carry the blessing of Asmodeus in some way, which is very important: Asmodeus can withdraw his support at will and without explanation, as poor Moloch can attest. While the various lords have to deal with the machinations of their servants like all devils do, their greatest foes are their fellow lords, plotting and scheming against one another. In their high positions there are only two ways to gain a promotion: either by defeating one of their rivals and usurping their territories or overthrowing the Overlord of Hell himself, Asmodeus. Hence why Asmodeus never leaves the place that instantly kills anyone he doesn't want to be there, ignoring all defenses.
Dungeons & Dragons 4E
As with a lot of things, the Baatezu of Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition have in some ways changed dramatically and in other ways haven't changed at all. For starters, because this is now years after the Satanic Panic died down, the term "Baatezu" is no longer used; Devils are Devils, and the game even uses traditional AD&D names for the distinct races.
Their origins in this edition have changed, since 4e's cosmology no longer uses alignment as the end-all justification for anything's existence. 4e's devils are Fallen Angels - which is an entirely separate thing to being Evil Angels, as angels in this edition are Unaligned and serve all deities equally, benevolent or malevolent. What this means is that devils are not merely "Angels who are Evil", it means that they are Angels who betrayed their patron deity and were cursed by it, corrupted into twisted reflections of what they once were.
The story is long and the threads differ depending on the source, but the ultimate tapestry remains the same; Asmodeus was once an Archangel serving under a benevolent deity, until he chose to betray his master. Maybe because of pride, maybe because of the manipulations of Pazuzu, maybe because he meant well and saw his master failing in his efforts to contribute to the Dawn War. The end result was the same: Asmodeus descended into the newly created Abyss and achieved something that even the Demon Princes had failed at - he found the Seed of Evil, the crystalized remains of the obyriths' dead universe that had created the Abyss. Breaking off just a sliver of the Seed, also known as the Heart of the Abyss, he fashioned it into his Ruby Rod and used its power to become a god.
Incidentally, this is why the Blood War is fought in 4e; the demons are outraged that Asmodeus stole some of the Heart, whilst Asmodeus regrets not stealing even more and wants to get back down there to take some more. After all, if this tiny sliver made him so powerful, what would a larger hunk do?
Anyway, now brimming with power, Asmodeus manipulated most of his fellow angels into joining him as he murdered their former ruler. As the god died, though, he cursed them all, which had three effects. Firstly, it devastated the Dominion that Asmodeus had sought to claim, burning it into the blasted realm of Baator. Secondly, it wracked the Fallen Angels, corrupting them into hideously deformed mockeries of their former selves. Finally, it bound them all to Baator, rendering them prisoners in the wasteland that was they had sought to conquer.
This is why Asmodeus and his minions are so interested in claiming mortal souls. Beyond the fact they need souls to propagate themselves - unlike demons, who spontaneously arise from the stuff of the Abyss - it is through torturing the damned that they extract the magical energies they need to slowly wear away at the bindings that imprison them as a whole in Baator. Plus, getting summoned is, for many devils, their only chance of leaving Baator. As a result, devils compete with each other fiercely for who can accumulate the most souls for Hell, but all are united in accumulating souls and denying the gods their petitioners.
Who was the god they betrayed? Nobody knows anymore; Asmodeus has done his level best over the eons to erase all knowledge of that god, fearful that if somebody discovered his name, they could resurrect him, and he would be pissed with his former minions. He's only ever referred to as "He-Who-Was", and some suspect he might have been humanity's creator god. Like Zarus, but not evil.
- Imp level 3 lurker
- Legion Devils compose Hell's armies, level 6-21 minions
- Spined Devil or Spinagon, level 6 skirmisher
- Succubus are devils in 4E not demons, level 9 controller
- Chain Devil or Kyton, level 11 skirmisher
- Bearded Devil or Barbazu, level 13 soldier
- Bone Devil or Osyluth, level 17 controller/leader
- Ice Devil or Gelugon, level 20 soldier
- War Devil or Malebranche, level 22 brute/leader
- Pit Fiend level 26 elite soldier/leader
Dungeons & Dragons 5E
|Least Devils||1|| Lemure |
|4|| Bearded Devil |
|5||Barbed Devil||White Abishai|
|6||Chain Devil||Black Abishai|
|Greater Devils||8|| Horned Devil |
|10|| Ice Devil
| Green Abishai |
|11|| Pit Fiend
|Archdevils||12||Duke or Duchess|
|13||Archduke or Archduchess|
In 5e the Hierarchy changed for the Devils.
In Pathfinder the devils perform pretty much the same duty as in D&D. The difference is that they aren't called Baatezu or live in Baator, since those names are excluded by the Open Gaming License. Instead they're just devils who live in capital-H Hell. There are 20 different kinds of devils mentioned in the six Bestiaries that are released so far, ranging the whole garmut from CR1 to CR20. All the devils from the OGL like the Pit Fiend are included as well, though the Chain Devil has been given its own subspecies, because... well, bluntly, because someone over there is getting off on extreme body mod/BDSM stuff, have you seen Zon-Kuthon?
Bestiary 6 also lists the eight Archdevils of Hell. They are Mythic level monsters with a CR in the 26-30 range. Aside from getting a whole slew of spell-like abilities, the use of the Miracle spell as befits their portfolio and +10 on Sense Motive checks, many of them also possess artifacts that are nigh impossible to destroy. I mean, the artifact of the weakest Archdevil can only be destroyed by exposing it to a truth spoken by an immortal which has only ever spoken lies, then cast into a magic portal with no entrance or destination. Many of the names of these Archdevils overlap with those of Baator with matching layers to rule, with a few calling back to earlier Lords of the Nine.
|The Fiends of Pathfinder|
|Lawful:||Asuras - Devils - Kytons - Rakshasas|
|Neutral:||Daemons - Divs - Sahkils|
|Chaotic:||Demodands - Demons - Qlippoth|
|Lords:||Archdevils - Four Horsemen - Ahriman - Demon Princes|
|The inhabitants of the Planes of Planescape|
|Upper Planes:||Aasimon - Angels - Animal Lords - Archons - Asuras - Eladrin - Guardinals - Lillend|
|Middle Planes:||Formians - Githzerai - Inevitables - Marut - Modrons - Rilmani - Slaadi|
|Lower Planes:|| Alu-Fiends - Baatezu - Bladelings - Cambions - Demodands - Erinyes - Hags |
Hordlings - Imps - Kytons - Marilith - Obyrith - Succubi - Tanar'ri - Yugoloth
|Transitive Planes:||Astral Dreadnought - Githyanki|
|Inner Planes:||Azers - Elementals - Genies - Grues - Mephit - Salamanders - Sylphs|
|Sigil:||Dabus - Cranium Rats|
|High-ups:||Archangels - Archdevils - Archfey - Archomentals - Demon Princes|