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Asmodeus is an Arch-Devil of Hell (Baator in 2nd Edition; also in early 3rd edition but increasingly referred to as "the Nine Hells" in 3.5 products), and the Overlord of the Dukes of Hell.
Despite it being stated that the other arch-devils make numerous attempts to overthrow him, Asmodeus retained his position all through the Reckoning of Hell, unlike many of the other arch-devils. Asmodeus is lord of Nessus, the Ninth Layer of Hell, though he is generally recognized as lord of all Baator.
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. 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 the drops of his blood which touch the ground grow into powerful devils, normally Pit Fiends that are mad with rage and the desire to kill (in 3.0 and 3.5, the blood produces unique devils). Secondly blood from these Pit Fiends that hits the ground grows into lesser devils.
Asmodeus is never seen without his Ruby Rod (also referred to as The Rod of Asmodeus in Fiendish Codex II), a glowing rod of pure ruby that serves as a badge of office as well as having several powerful offensive and defensive powers. 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. The Rod has the names of several good-aligned deities spelled backwards upon it.
Like the other Archdevils of Baator, Asmodeus has the ability to cast many spells at will, and is nearly impossible to hurt without the use of very powerful holy magic weapons. Asmodeus' Ruby Rod allows him to use several powerful offensive and defensive spells at will. In addition, Asmodeus has the power to alter the form of lesser devils, including the other lords of Baator. He transformed Mammon into a humanoid/serpent hybrid, and cursed Baalzebul with the form of a gigantic slug with tiny, useless arms. He can also summon up lesser devils, normally his favored Hell Hounds.
In Dragon # 28, the article "The Politics of Hell" by Alexander von Thorn details the history and politics of Hell in the AD&D universe. This gives a different history to that detailed below, and includes statistics for Satan, Belial and Astaroth. Satan is more powerful than any other Devil, but lacks support, having been exiled from hell by Baalzebub following a revolution. Baalzebub (meaning Lord of the Arch Devils) was later himself overthrown by Asmodeus and is forever after known as Baalzebul (Lord of the Flies).
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. However, the origin myth which appears in Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells contradicts this. Though it is important to remember the books specifically states this story is a myth and its accuracy is unverified, as such from an ingame point-of-view different regions and kingdoms could have different stories in relation to Asmodeus.
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, hundreds of miles long. 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.
In the Elder Evils handbook, Asmodeus wrested control of the 9 Hells from Zargon, who was apparently the ruler from the begining of time.
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, 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).
The cult of Asmodeus
- Brunner, Frank. "Strike on the Rabid Dawn." Dungeon #111 (Paizo Publishing, 2004).
- Larme, John. Dangerous Games? Censorship and "Child Protection"  (2000).
- Laws, Robin D, and Robert J Schwalb. Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (Wizards of the Coast, 2006).
- Pramas, Chris. Guide to Hell (TSR, 1999).
- Von Thorn, Alexander. "The Politics of Hell." Dragon # 28. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1979.
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