Last time: I blab in excruciating detail about each of D&D’s current fiends and how they fail to tell the story they set out to accomplish.
This time: I expound on my story needs and find a home for the beasties.
I have the Iron City of Dis as a single entity under its prince, Asmodeus. As a result, I surely have Asmodeus’ support staff of fiends: the Pit Fiend enforcers, the Imp messengers, the bone and barbed and horned and spined devils. I can just drop the bearded devil because I don’t like or need it; there may be such a creature as a gelugon but you shan’t see them here. I do need more (pun intended) clerical staff amongst these fiends, since we don’t have a strong spellcaster flavor here, but that’s the game’s fault for not providing them, really.
On that note, Asmodeus is probably an ascended horned devil, cornugon or malebranche. As presented, they look most like as he ends up getting drawn. He could be a pit fiend++, but they seem to hit the gym more, and look clumsier overall. Since I need a clerical type anyway, perhaps this is a way in: the horned devil has a +3 charisma bonus (save DC 15), so I could absolutely give them an innate gift for magic, with a few spells cadged from the cambion stat block: at will alter self, command, detect magic. This in no way matches their spells from previous editions, but I’m not too saddened.
Since my bone devils are revelators and envoys to humanity, they need a few more spells too. The Osyluth is a styxian psychopomp; in previous editions they had a slew of spells; at will fly, teleport, invisibility (and as a bonus action!), major image and even (somewhat off-target) wall of ice. I’m inclined to weaken that down to just the ability to go ethereal as an action (per the succubus) and the ability to major image at will, even while ethereal. That changes them from a straight up bruiser to a bruiser who is likely to run away, and who can manipulate the party with illusory traps, and thereafter revert to type.
I could do with more monsters of these types that were job roles. The low challenge of the barbed devil and its medium size leaves it well placed to receive such charges: perhaps the “barbed” is a misnomer, and the hamatula is really a “skin devil”; I could be smart and come up with other skins for other jobs, but it seems likely it could wear corpses to animate them at a minimum.
The kyton probably belongs here too. They’re torture devils. They can look like the dead and animate chains. How could I not stick them somewhere close to the Lord of Tyranny?
Of course there’s a whole hierarchy of dukes and duchesses and potentates and ministers beneath him; there’s way too many to enumerate here.
They’re opposed by the Mandate of Heaven, the religious sponsor of the Thranish state. I want more angelic creatures, but aasimar, deva, planetars and solars give me enough to work with. Guardinals and Archons in the D&D sense don’t fit, and I’m already squeezing the eladrin into my fey vales. Enough.
My stolen not-very-nice war deity Vorn can absolutely have the erinyes as his valkyrie. I might say that he’s got kyton too, since they have the metal-based thing going for them, but I like them hellish. So Vorn just has the poisonous assassin-angels.
I had originally wanted to use Demons as my remnants of an elder order, the sort of giants-in-the-earth that naturally occur and are “chaotic evil” because, dammit, they liked it better when the sky was on fire. But I just don’t think they can sustain that; they work better as a negative faction when cast against the much tighter thematics of the City of Hell. So a Demon is just a fiend which is not a devil, and a devil is a fiend of the City of Hell. I like using their demon lords as rallying points: there is this guy Graz’zt, and he’s got this following of fiends. There’s this other one, Malcanthet, and Dagon, and Orcus, and Demogorgon, and Yeenoghu. They’re Abyssal in the sense that their domains lie somewhere in dangerous regions of the Azoth, and in that they represent fragments of an elder order, but there is no unified political group of The Demons: Graz’zt has a complex and personal relationship with Dis, while the twin heads of Demogorgon are much more self-involved.
This gives me some freedom: I have no need whatsoever of going back through my hastily assembled list of fiends and figuring out which are good little demons, and which are not. I only need to decide, Lord by Lord, who their servitors are. Juiblex has oozes, slime, and fungi; maybe a yochlol or two; but I don’t need to try to squeeze the balor in at all.
So while I do still need a race of beings to globally represent “tools of an elder order”, it’s no longer demons. Demons are naturally occurring organizations of Azoth, often in the form of a demon lord and their retinue, but occasionally into strange one-off nightmare forms. They have no unifying characteristics or requirements, it’s a category like “enemy” or “fire-loving”, though many are fiends.
I think my Elder Order will have to be aberrations. Just as well, really.
I do have a need, soon, of figuring out the servitors of a few of the demon lords; Yeenoghu, for instance. As the lord of gnolls (my gnolls are wolfish
and ghouls, it doesn’t seem at all hard for me to say wolves (dire, too), werewolves, gnolls, jackalweres, ghouls, ghasts, “abyssal ghasts” (in the form of a Hezrou, drawn differently), druids, cultists.
Just by saying Yeenoghu, I summon up the shades of Doresain (the demonic underling who is the lord of ghouls), and therefore Orcus (Doresain’s liege); he also loathes Malcanthet (queen of the succubi) and Baphomet (chief of minotaurs). And I know that Doresain will have the ghouls, ghasts, and abyssal ghasts; I know that Orcus will have all undead and perhaps the vrock as a disease spirit; I know that Malcanthet will have succubi, and Baphomet minotaurs and goristro. Is that enough? It may have to be.