Friday, November 17, 2017

Demons in Early D&D, Part 2

The Arch-devil Asmodeus, from the AD&D Monster Manual
See Part 1, here.

Dungeons & Dragons "Holmes Basic" Set (July, 1977): There were only a few passing references to demons in this edition. I assume this was largely because they were too powerful and complicated to feature in an introductory treatment designed to take player characters only through 3rd level.

AD&D Monster Manual (December, 1977): The first AD&D book fleshed out, so to speak, the nine demonic types presented in Eldritch Wizardry and added three more to their number including Manes, Juiblex (The Faceless Lord) and, oddly perhaps, Yeenoghu, who we are told is "Demon Lord of Gnolls." The numbered Types I to V are also given additional names, and the Balrog is renamed "Balor." Interestingly, two of the types - Type IV (Nalfeshnee, etc.) and Type V (Marilith, etc.) feature illustrations that appear to be fairly close copies (though in mirror image) of their initial illustrations in Eldritch Wizardry, twenty months before. (Both sets were drawn by David Sutherland.) As far as I know, this is the only case where the Monster Manual made obvious use of previous art.

Type V Demon (Marilith) from (L to R) Eldritch Wizardry and the Monster Manual

EDIT: R. Nelson Bailey pointed out to me that the Monster Manual illustrations of the sahuagin and umber hulk appear to be exactly the same as those originally found in Blackmoor

As in Eldritch Wizardry, the Monster Manual suggests that
If the name of a particularly powerful demon is spoken, there is a chance that he will hear and turn his attention to the speaker. A base 5% chance is recommended to the referee. Unless prepared to avoid such attention - or to control the demon - the demon will whereupon immediately kill, by whatever means are most expeditious, the one pronouncing his name (p. 16).
One wonders in how many campaigns a referee invoked this rule when the players were joking around.

The Monster Manual tells us that "Demons are able to move from their own plane into those of Tarterus, Hades, or Pandemonium or roam the astral plane" (p. 16).
But what is their own plane? It's not very clearly presented, but the careful reader can figure it out: If the amulet of a demon prince is destroyed, it will "Thus condemn the prince to abyssment for one year." As well, Manes are described as "Those dead which go to the 666 layers of the demonic abyss" (p. 17).

The Monster Manual also introduces devils for the first time. These are primarily distinguished from demons in that devils are lawful evil in alignment whereas demons are chaotic evil. There are eleven types of them, led by the "Arch-Devil" Asmodeus, who are the "inhabitants and rulers of the planes of hell." I actually remember these entities much better than their demonic rivals, perhaps because the illustrations are more evocative and appear to be of a higher quality, and also because of their more memorable and resonant names.

In addition, various creatures are listed outside of the "Demons" and "Devils" sections - imps, larva, night hags, quasists, etc. - who are either "minor" demons or devils, are related to or associate with demons or devils in some way or who, like demons and devils, largely inhabit the lower planes. Curiously, the rakshasa is listed as a "devil" (not a demon as in Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes) in the Index but that fact is not mentioned in its description.

AD&D Players Handbook (June, 1978): As demons and devils were now official monsters, the second AD&D volume contained a number of references to them, just as it did for other creatures. As one might expect, many of these references were in descriptions of relevant spells such as Protection from Evil and so on. But demons had also apparently now reached a status in the canon where they could be used to stress the imaginative and epic proportions of Dungeons & Dragons:
This game lets all of your fantasies come true. This is a world where monsters, dragons, good and evil high priests, fierce demons, and even the gods themselves may enter your character's life. Enjoy, for this game is what dreams are made of! (p. 7).
In the Players Handbook it is revealed that clerics might be able to turn or control some demons and devils, just as they turn undead. Though players would have to wait until the Dungeon Masters Guide (August, 1979) or the preview of it in The Dragon (No. 22, February, 1979) for charts on this.

I think two other things stand out in the Handbook. First, we see perhaps the first sustained reference to player-characters voluntarily interacting with the demonic in a detailed and explicit way. It's in the description for the 7th level Magic-User spell, Cacodemon:
Explanation/Description: This perilous exercise in dweomercraeft summons up a powerful demon of type IV, V, or VI, depending upon the demon's name being known to the magic-user...The spell caster must be within a circle of protection (or a thaumaturgic triangle with protection from evil) and the demon confined within a pentagram (circled pentacle) if he or she is to avoid being slain or carried off by the summoned cacodemon...
By tribute of fresh human blood and the promise of 1 or more human sacrifices, the summoner can bargain with the demon for willing service...
The components of this spell are 5 flaming black candles; a brazier of hot coals upon which must be burned sulphur, bat hairs, lard, soot, mercuricnitric acid crystals, mandrake root, alcohol, and a piece of parchment with the demon's name inscribed in runes inside a pentacle; and a dish of blood from some mammal (preferably a human, of course) placed inside the area where the cacodemon is to be held (pp. 86-7).
Of course it would be easy to pull this "out of context" to argue that AD&D was attempting to make occult practices attractive to children or whatever. In truth, I didn't even remember the spell, and was only reminded of it when researching this post, even though, at the time, I played AD&D exclusively and thought of the Players Handbook as the defining D&D tome. I suspect I'm not alone in this. Among other things, Cacodemon was a high-level spell and I doubt that many campaigns got that far. As always, I could be wrong.

The second thing to note is that it was in Appendix IV of the Handbook that all of the planes were finally explicitly named and their nature and relation at least somewhat described or explained (using a list, a two-dimensional representation and a three dimensional representation!). So, as for evil places where demonic entities might dwell, we are introduced to:
17. The Planes of Pandemonium of chaotic evil neutrals.
18. The 666 layers of the Abyss of absolute chaotic evil.
19. The planes of Tarterus of evil chaotic neutrals.
20. Hades' "Three Glooms" of absolute (neutral) evil.
21. The furnaces of Gehenna of lawful evil neutrals.
22. The Nine Hells of absolute lawful evil.
23. The nether planes of Acheron of lawful evil neutrals (p. 120).
That demons hailed from the Abyss and devils lived in the Nine Hells wasn't mentioned in the Players Handbook, but the Monster Manual had made that sort of clear, and of course there was also that early chart in The Strategic Review.

Next (Part 3): the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, The Dragon and the first modules.


  1. And of course gaming lore has it that Yeenoghu was so named by Gygax to mess with players who tried to avoid mentioning demon lords by name and instead saying "you know who…" à la Voldemort.

    1. Interesting. I didn't know that. I always disliked AD&D gnolls. Yeenoghu just added insult to injury.