NINE HELLS OF BAATOR
It is Hell, where sympathy withers and malice blooms.
It is home to devils.
It is the plane where the rule of law reveals evil’s heart.
The Nine Hells of Baator, sometimes simply called Baator or even Hell, best
satisfy the imagination of travelers, the greed of treasure-seekers, and the
battle-fury of paladins. It is the ultimate plane of law and evil, the epitome
of premeditated, crafted cruelty. The devils of the Nine Hells all obey a higher
law than themselves, but all that really means is that they chafe and rebel
in their caste. Most undertake any plot or action, no matter how foul, to advance
themselves. At the very top of the hierarchy is Asmodeus, who has yet to be
bested. That is the law of the Nine Hells. The Nine Hells compete with any other
lower plane for their sheer diversity of vileness. The devils are more cunning,
more subtle, and more dangerous than other fiends—or so say the devils. A demon
revels in slavering, insane, evil power, but a devil always has an agenda, a
plan of attack, and a carefully conceived plot for retribution if necessary.
Baator consists of nine layers, each lower than the next, like ledges stepping
down into an ever-deeper pit. Each layer descended gives a traveler a better
view of the Nine Hells as a whole; the layers fit together like puzzle pieces,
and each new descent allows a traveler greater understanding of how the puzzle
comes together. It is an evil enticement. The Nine Hells are home to minor,
major, and noble devils, as well as true deities of evil (such as Kunulmak of
the kobolds and Sekolah of the sahuagin). The Dark Eight are eight powerful
pit fiends who control the primary devil armies engaged in the Blood War. Worse
still are the Lords of the Nine: Each lord controls one layer of the Nine Hells,
hovering in status somewhere between scion pit fiend and demideiry. Of course,
all the lords ultimately answer to Asmodeus, the Lord of the Nine, who rules
from Nessus, the bottom layer of the Nine Hells.
NINE HELLS TRAITS
The Nine Hells have the following traits.
- Normal Gravity.
- Normal Time.
- Infinite Size: The ledge-layer extends outward infinitely, but the circumference
of each inner ledge (which opens onto the Pit and the next lower ledgelayer)
- Divinely Morphic: Entities of at least lesser deity status can alter the
Nine Hells. Ordinary creatures find the Nine Hells as alterable as the Material
- No Elemental or Energy Traits: Elemental and energy influences are balanced,
except on the layer of Phlegethos (which has the fire-dominant trait). On the
layer of Cania, cold is king, and a special “cold-dominant” trait applies there.
- Mildly Law-Aligned and Mildly Evil-Aligned: Chaotic characters in the Nine
Hells suffer a –2 penalty on all Charisma-based checks, as do good characters.
Chaotic good characters suffer a –4 penalty on all Charisma-based checks.
- Normal Magic.
NINE HELLS LINKS
The River Styx flows through the uppermost layer of the Nine Hells, Avernus,
just as it does all the lower planes. Offshoots and waterfalls of the Styx can
be found on every layer of the Nine Hells. Portals to other planes are fairly
common. Usually, such gates appear as free-standing hoops of reddish light.
A well-known gate is in the town of Ribcage located in the Outlands. Travelers
usually must have an invitation from a Lord of the Nine to pass the Cursed Gate,
though Paracs the gatekeeper, a devil, can be bribed. Also, a landing of the
Infinite Staircase provides access to the third layer of the Nine Hells, Minauros,
somewhere within the suspended dry of Jangling Hiter.
NINE HELLS INHABITANTS
The largest population of the Nine Hells is made up of
various devils: barbazu, cornugons, erinyes, gelugons,
hamatula, narzugons, osyluths, pit fiends, spinagons, and
countless others in the devilish hierarchy. Devils of every
son delight in making complex deals with travelers and
with mortals on the Material Plane. Those dealing with a
devil often live to regret it, even if they only live for a little
while. Devils always seek ways to increase their own
power and thus gain promotion into a higher form of
Besides devils, such creatures as hellcats, hell hounds,
imps, kytons, nightmares, and even rakshasas call the
Nine Hells home. A few hardy mortals have set up
permanent homes in the Nine Hells, living in mighty
fortresses defended by lesser devils lawfully bound to
NINE HELLS PETITIONERS
Several kinds of petitioners are found in the Nine Hells.
Evil, proud, ambitious souls unconcerned with others and
bereft of empathy find their way there. Most of those souls
take the form of ghost-white shades, shells of their mortal
forms, which devils cruelly mold and shape into twisted,
agonized forms of horror. Only when the soul is so twisted
and molded that it is truly, finally slain does its essence
merge with that of the Nine Hells itself. Often, devils or
deities of a particular hellish realm molds petitioners in
their realm to conform to a specific, macabre aesthetic.
These average hellish petitioners, sometimes called soul
shells, have the following special petitioner qualities:
Additional Immunities: None.
Resistances: Cold 20, fire 20.
Other Special Qualities: Powerful devils have an
innate power to warp and mold soul shells, usually into
shapes that are inherently painful and degrading.
Particularly vile petitioners become lemures. Only the
most evil of mortals can achieve status as lemures, and
they usually end up here regardless of the deity they
worshiped in life. Lemures, of course, are despised by all
other devils, and they serve the most base duties in any
devilish group they are part of. In any initial Blood War
confrontation, the lemures are the shock troops that draw
the enemy’s fire.
Lemures appear as revolting blobs of molten flesh, with
vaguely humanoid torsos and heads. Hints of the
petitioner’s former mortal features are visible when they
are not too twisted by anguish. Lemures are mindless,
though they are sensitive to telepathic messages from
other devils and obey their mental commands, doing the
bidding of the strongest devil in the closest proximity.
Lemures have the following special petitioner qualities:
Additional Immunities: Fire, poison.
Resistances: Cold 20, acid 20.
Other Special Qualities: Mindless, damage reduction
5/silver, spell resistance 5, no planar commitment.
Mindless (Ex): Lemures are immune to all mindinfluencing
effects, and unless commanded, act as if
No planar Commitment (Ex): Unlike most other petitioners,
lemures can leave their home plane.
MOVEMENT AND COMBAT
Movement in the Nine Hells is much like movement on
the Material Plane. Even moving between layers is fairly
The connecting points between two layers are always
found at the lowest point of the higher layer and at the
highest point on the next layer down. If there is a
mountain, hellish fortress spire, or other high structure
along the ledge on the lower layer, then the traveler can
climb down. Otherwise, simply stepping off the lowest,
ledge-like projection on the upper layer sends a traveler
plummeting into the lower layer. The distance fallen is
subjective, but seems to be at least a half-mile. Creatures
without some way to slow their fall take 20d6 points of
damage when they impact the lower layer.
FEATURES OF THE NINE HELLS
The layers of Baator are nine, and each layer has its own
ruler. All other rulers answer to the lowest, Asmodeus, in
the Pit. Each of the nine layers has its own unique
environment, but they’re all inhospitable and possibly outright deadly. Travelers to the Nine Hells had best know
how to get back out, lest they are waylaid by a devilish
press gang bound for the Blood War. But even a small
chance of survival in battle would be preferable to
enslavement in the Nine Hells for eternity.
The politics of the Nine Hells have rocked back and
forth over the millennia, often accomplished by artful
rhetoric or subtle poison, but sometimes accomplished by
outright conflict involving armies of devils warring
against each other. The city of Dis on the second layer has
withstood siege more than once at the hands of aggressive
However, in all the time that Asmodeus has ruled from
below, no revolt has ever succeeded in replacing the lord
of the ninth layer with a different devil, despite a ploy
designed by Asmodeus that once allowed his rivals to
think he had been dethroned.
Though the Nine Hells is governed by devils, some
sages believe that the devils commandeered the Nine
Hells from a far older, stranger race now simply called
ancient baatorians. It’s possible that remnants of this
mysterious race still inhabit isolated portions of the Nine
THE DARK EIGHT
The Dark Eight are the generals of the Blood War; these eight pit fiends hold
council every sixty-six days. The Dark Eight hold immense power, but they still
answer to the Lords of the Nine, who each control a layer of the Nine Hells,
and ultimately they answer to Asmodeus. The pit fiends that make up the Dark
Eight are called Baalzephon, Corin, Dagos, Furcas, Pearza, Zapan, Zaebos, and
Zimmimar. These eight rule the devils beneath them, meeting in the fortress
of Malsheem in Nessus, the ninth layer. In addition to planning the next Blood
War offensive, they also have a hand in determining which devils get promoted.
On the rare occasions when they are not leading their armies, they reside in
Nessus. When away on some hellish errand, they often appear in malefic human
The first layer of Baator is a wasteland of charred, rubblestrewn
plains, with mountains and talus-sided foothills
breaking up the monotony. Legions of mail-clad devils are
on perpetual watch here, always assembling for some new
cross-planar Blood War sortie. Blood-red light suffuses the
air, and fiery balls flit randomly across the sky, sometimes
detonating to terrible effect. Travelers not protected by
artificial structures or caves are 10% likely per day to find
themselves at ground center of a fireball dealing 6d6 points
of fire damage (as if cast by a 6th-level spellcaster).
Runnels of blood flow in streams across Avernus, finally
joining the River Styx. The origin of the blood is
unknown, though the devils say it is likely the blood of all
Avernus’s past victims.
Bronze Citadel: What may have once been a citadel
constructed of bronze is now a brutish, unimaginative city covering dozens of
square miles and featuring twelve concentric ring walls, each bristling with
war machines. The city is filled with petitioners, both lemures and soul shells,
and hundreds of thousands of lesser devils of all types bound for the Blood
War. Because Avernus is the likeliest beachhead for any massed demonic arrack,
fortifications are always being added to the Bronze Citadel. Work gangs of soul
shells, lemures, and imps constantly expand the city. The construction is so
pervasive that bone scaffolding is as likely to be supporting a given wall as
Pillar of Skulls: This massive landmark of actual
skulls represents devilish trophies taken in the Blood War. Most of the trophies
are twisted, demonic skulls, varying in size from minuscule to the size of a
house. The pillar rises to a height of more than a mile. The Pillar stands near
the part of the ledge where access to the next lower layer is an easy walk down
a particularly tall metal spire of the city Dis reaching up through the haze
between layers. This spire sees quite a bit of devil and petitioner traffic
on its spiral stairwell—and quite a few accidental and not-so-accidental falls.
However, a massive cave mouth near the base of the pillar of Skulls holds a
particularly terrible sentinel of the ledge: Tiamat.
Tiamat: The Chromatic Dragon, Tiamat, is revered
by evil dragons, and her five heads each bear the color of one kind of evil
dragon. She enjoys such wretched pastimes as torture, bickering, and destruction.
Tiamat guards the access between Avernus and Dis near the pillar of Skulls,
but she usually stirs forth only to counter demonic incursions. Five consorts,
powerful male great wyrms of red, black, green, blue, and white varieties, attend
her at all limes. The hoard of Tiamat, hidden deep in her cavern, is said to
equal the treasuries of a hundred worlds.
The second layer of the Nine Hells is a burning city of
iron. The red glow of infernal heat burns within the
scorched iron walls, and a pall of smoke rises up to form a
general dark haze over the entire layer. For the city is the
layer and the layer is the city, Dis. Some claim that a traveler
who walks far enough can leave the city behind,
concealed within a great ring of mountains.
Ranks of red, glowing buildings extend to every horizon,
rising and falling according to the hidden terrain. Palatial mansions of particularly important devils and
officers of the Blood War break the cityscape here and
there. Every iron wall glows with heat, and casual contact
with the walls deals 1d6 points of fire damage.
Even the iron cobblestones glow with heat. Without
iron-shod boots, visitors soon writhe and burn in the
streets. Screaming petitioners, captives from the Blood
War, and mortals kidnapped from the Material Plane fill
subterranean prisons beneath the streets. The sound of
their agonized lament is usually audible from small vents
in the city walls.
Some sections of the city host markets and bazaars
where creatures from a variety of different planes meet.
Most seek to buy or sell questionable wares, or hire a
bloodthirsty band of mercenaries for work that only a
devil could love.
Crowds fill the streets. Parades of devilish nobility
attended by lemures and horribly sculpted soul shells vie
with countless work gangs who constantly sally forth to
repair, extend, or remodel the city at the behest of
Dispater, Lord of the Second.
Iron Tower: The Iron Tower is visible from every
part of Dis, for it reaches high above the city, piercing the haze of the layer.
The tower’s form seems to constantly shimmer and change textures and architectural
styles. The Iron Tower is Dispater’s personal redoubt. Within its walls, he
enjoys a +20 bonus to his Armor Class, spell resistance, and all saving throws.
He is almost invulnerable there, so he rarely ventures forth, preferring to
lead through erinyes messengers.
The third layer of the Nine Hells is a fetid swamp of mire
and pollution. Acidic rain, bitter winds, and flesh-slicing
hail rule the bog. The waters of the marsh are so cold in
some places that they have iced over. In others, the dank
water boils and steams with infernal heat.
Terrible creatures with no names swim the murky
waters, and even devils fear to stray too far from their
various cities. Where the layer is lowest, a constant dribble of slimy water sluices into a long fall down to the
fourth layer. Many a lost traveler and petitioner has
accidentally been caught up in that long, lethal fall to
The City of Minauros: This metropolis of devils
gives its name to the plane. Minauros is also called The Sinking, because the
stony weight of the city is forever slipping beneath the cesspool waters. Only
the eternal effort of a stream of petitioners and slaves keeps it from finally
succumbing to the swamp, but still, the city sinks a little farther into the
mud every year. Ruins below the city are said to contain vast riches. It’s possible
that the ruins below represent a town pulled from the outlands millennia ago.
The City of Jangling Hiter: The City of Chains
hangs suspended above the bog of Minauros from thick metal links. The city is
ruled by kytons. The lowest portions of the city just graze the roiling swamp,
but the strength of the chains keeps the mire from drawing Jangling Hiter down
where so many other cities have drowned. No one knows to what structure the
suspending chains are finally connected, though a good bet is that they somehow
pierce the layer boundary and connect to the underside of Dis above. The hail-laden
clouds hide the truth of the matter.
Though kytons generally consider each other equal,
they often defer to a particularly clever kyton named
Quimath. He resides in Panos Qytel, a cathedral-like,
triple-towered structure in the heart of Jangling Hiter.
The fourth layer of the
Nine Hells is a place of fire
and pain much like the
Elemental plane of Fire.
Rivers of liquid fire rule
the land, and the air is
consumed with dancing
flames—in fact, the layer
of Phlegethos has the firedominant
without fire resistance or
immunity are soon
Abriymoch: This city of hardened magma, obsidian,
and crystal squats in the caldera of an almost extinct volcano. Abriymoch’s
foundation is said to be the grave of a deity slain by Asmodeus. The city offers
some protection from the fiery environment of the rest of Phlegethos, but even
so, certain quarters are open to the raging flame. A legion of more than five
thousand hamatula devils resides here, a force kept in reserve should a demonic
attack pierce this far into the Nine Hells. A pit fiend named Gazra commands
the hamatula devils, but he directly answers to the Lords of the Fourth, Fierana
and Belial. They also reside in Abriymoch in a palace of jagged obsidian built
on one lip of the caldera.
The fifth layer of the Nine Hells is a realm of cold and ice.
Most of the plane is drowned in a sea of crushing ice floes
and icebergs. The only open water is the rushing River
Styx, though icebergs and fiendish sharks make navigating
it quite dangerous. Lightning constantly rips through the
sky, so flying creatures are particularly rate except for
those that are immune to electricity.
Ice floes serve as the foundation for many devilish cities
Tantlin: Called the City of Ice, Tantlin is
the largest city of the layer. Like the smaller cities, it is built on an ice
floe, but it has a “harbor” bordering on one side of the nearby River Styx.
The city is ruled by a pit fiend, though she rarely stirs from her citadel.
This “hands-off” approach leaves the streets to various gangs interested in
dispensing their own law at the expense of each other. The gangs are a motley
assortment of devils, though a few planar mortals of evil disposition also run
with the packs. Despite the disarray in the streets, Tantlin actually serves
as a crossplanar trading stop, due to its location on the Styx. The residents
of Tantlin can’t long forget the ruler of the layer, Levistus, because he is
frozen deep within the heart of an iceberg (Levistus’s Tomb) that floats in
the middle of the harbor. Despite his immobility, Levistus is fully aware of
the events occurring on his layer, and he is able to telepathically communicate
with the other devils of Phlegethos at will within a ten-mile radius.
Sheyruushk: This underwater realm is accessible
from a crack between two icebergs not too far from Tantlin. The icy waters are
dark, but that does not bother the sharklike sahuagin who live here. The sea
devils cavort in the court of their deity, Sekolah. Awful rites pay homage to
the brutal shark deity in which captive devils feature prominently as sacrifices.
Sharks of every size and every type constantly roam the waters of Sheyruushk,
though both the sharks and sahuagin often swim up into the River Styx. They
love to sink River Styx boatmen and merchant craft; Sekolah’s blessing is sufficient
to render the raiders immune to the influence of the waters of Styx for a short
The sixth layer of the Nine Hells is an endless rocky slope.
Cascades of boulders are frequent, pulping anything in
their path. Above, the sky boils with leprous colors. The
devils on this layer take shelter in copper-clad fortresses,
designed to channel and deflect the frequent rock-flows.
However, nothing can withstand the worst of the
The rocky slopes of Malbolge are like Gehenna’s, and a
Climb check is required to move around on Malbolge’s
surface. See Falling on Gehenna, earlier in this chapter, for
a list of Climb DCs and the consequences of failure.
Maggoth Thyg: Rumors describe ancient places built
underneath the slopes of Malbolge. Below the hellish rock
and stone, creatures older than the devils themselves—the
ancient baatorians—might still roam.
A certain hard-to-find defile leads to a cavern whose
walls glow with a brain-numbing, grayish light. Boulder
falls often clog the defile, but somehow the cavern is
reopened time and again. Devils sent by the Lord of the
Sixth to investigate have never returned.
Terrible cries sometimes issue forth from the cavern,
echoing across Malbolge’s slopes. Strangely, petitioners on
this level cannot hear the cries. But devils can, and the
sound is innately terrifying to them.
The seventh layer of the Nine Hells is dotted with ruined,
abandoned cities. Under the blood-black sky, petitioners
quarry, carve, and build new cities for the Lord of the
Seventh. Mine pits, slag heaps, and brackish canals cover
the land like sores. Newer cities are built upon the backs
of older ruins. As each city is finished, the Lord’s
dissatisfaction forces his subjects to begin anew. The abandoned cities are not empty. They serve as home
for petitioners who’ve fled their devilish tormentors,
beasts from other planes who’ve become especially lost,
and lost planar travelers who don’t want to be found.
Malagard: The current city under construction
is called Malagard, and it serves as home for the Lord of the Seventh, Baalzebul.
It is a beautiful city of perfectly straight boulevards, fountains of delicate
yet terrible visage, and towers that reach straight as an arrow into the blood-black
sky. It is the greatest city yet seen in Maladomini, but no one doubts that
it, too, will soon be abandoned, as Baalzebul strives for hellish perfection
in all things.
Grenpoli: Grenpoli, the City of Diplomacy, is
domed, and access is granted only through one of four gates on the city’s exterior.
Entrance to the city comes after a thorough search during which all weapons
are taken for the duration of a visitor’s stay. Strife and open displays of
magical aggression are against the law, and those who break the law are slain
immediately. The Political School of the Nine Hells, in Grenpoli, is where enterprising
devilish nobility come to learn about treachery and deception. An erinyes named
Mysdemn Wordtwister rules Grenpoli.
The eighth layer of The Nine Hells is another realm of
cold, but Cania’s cold is so bitterly penetrating that it is
like a living thing. Glaciers moving as fast as a running
man grind and crash against each other, sending avalanches
of snow down upon any creature unfortunate
enough to be caught between the battling ice titans.
The frigid cold penetrates even the warmest natural
clothing. Characters take 3d10 points of cold damage every round they are in an unsheltered area in Cania.
Moving glaciers often reveal thousand-year-old corpses,
past victims of the merciless chill.
Mephistar: A blue-white jewel fashioned of ice,
this mighty citadel perches upon an equally impressive glacier named Nargus.
Clouds of vapor constantly roll off the sides of the icy spike. The glacier’s
movement is controlled by the Lord of the Citadel, Mephistopheles, and Nargus
has flowed over and obliterated many a lesser glacier, as well as its share
of rival fiendish armies caught unaware in Cania. The interior of Mephistar
is heated. In fact, lavish heated baths, scented fires, and hell-bright tapestries
are everywhere. Gelugon nobles abide in the warm sanctuary of Mephistar, waiting
on the whims of their lord Mephistopheles, who is the Lord of the Eighth. Shapes
in the Ice: Some glaciers in Cania entomb alien shapes frozen in the heart of
the ice. The frosted glacier distorts vision, so it’s difficult to make out
exactly what’s buried in such an icy prison. From time to time, enterprising
mortals melt exploratory shahs toward particularly intriguing blots. Some of
the blots are apparently devas and archons frozen in place fighting spined creatures
of unknown origin. Other shapes are abandoned cities of prosaic or alien design.
The Pit: Mighty glaciers form a ledge surrounding
a dark pit several hundred feet in diameter. The utterly dark Pit is the primary
access down to the lowest layer of the Nine Hells. One devil-guarded stairway
cuts back and forth down one glacier’s face, and on each landing sits a guard
tower bristling with gelugons. Of course, one could forgo the stairs and plunge
directly into the Pit. However, a supernaturally strong downdraft makes any
type of flying a chancy proposition. Fliers must make a Reflex save (DC 30)
when they first enter the downdraft or be dashed into the icy side of the pit for 20d6
points of damage. If they succeed, they’ve managed to find
a stable tunnel of air within the swirling wind and can
descend to Nessus normally.
The ninth layer is the deepest realm of the Nine Hells, a
plain shattered by rifts deeper than the deepest ocean
trench. Many of the ravines and canyons here teach
thousands of miles into undifferentiated, dead stone. Most
of the trenches seem natural, but some appear as if they
were cut or blasted into the land. Rumor has it that an
offshoot of the Styx flows here and there, dropping into
trenches and trickling its way across the layer. Few know
how to reach this tributary, if it exists at all.
Malsheem: A rift of incredible depth and width
lies immediately below the layer boundary between Cania and Nessus (the Pit
up in Cania leads to Malsheem in Nessus). Malsheem, the Citadel of Hell, rises
in its dark, elegant, fiendish beauty from the trench. The stronghold is monstrously
large, rising miles above the plain. But like an iceberg above water, its visible
spires and fortifications are small compared to the vast halls contained within
the trench. Malsheem is the largest known citadel in the Outer Planes. It is
big enough to house millions of devils, an army larger than any fielded in the
Blood War. Asmodeus, master of Malsheem, Lord of the Ninth, and undisputed King
of the Nine Hells, holds these hordes in reserve for a cataclysmic battle he
foresees that will dwarf the “petty” maneuverings of the Blood War. The citadel
is so vast that it is nigh unmappable; Malsheem’s secrets are known only to
Serpent’s Coil: Brutally repressed rumors suggest
that there is more to Asmodeus than he admits. The story goes that the true
form of Asmodeus actually resides in the deepest rift of Nessus called the Serpent’s
Coil. The shape seen by all the other devils of the Nine Hells in the fortress
of Malsheem is actually a highly advanced use of the project image spell or
an avatar of some sort. The secret rift, formed by Asmodeus’s plummeting body
when he first arrived in the Nine Hells, spirals inward over the course of hundreds
of miles. His titanic, mileslong form still rests here—and his wounds have yet
to heal. His acid-black blood pools in the hollows of the rift, a substance
fouler than foul.
From where fell Asmodeus? Was he once a greater deity
cast down from Elysium or Celestia, or is he older yet, as
the rumor hints? Perhaps he represents some fundamental
entity whose mere existence pulls the multiverse into its
Nobody who tells the story of Asmodeus’s “true” form
lives more than 24 hours after repeating it aloud. But dusty
scrolls in hard-to-reach libraries (such as Demogorgon’s
citadel in the Abyss) yet record this knowledge. Unless it
is pure fancy, of course.