The original Book of Fiends was released under the 3.5 d20 license for use with Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition. It collected the 3rd edition resources Legions of Hell and Armies of the Abyss, and incorporated material that was primitively going to be published as a third bible, the Hordes of Gehenna. Hordes of Gehenna was primarily designed by Robert Schwalb, a name you may have hear of in advanced RPG circles, both for working on 5th edition D & D, arsenic well as his own RPG, Shadow of the Demon Lord. Schwalb is besides the primary coil graphic designer on this version of the book .
This review is based on the PDF translation of The Book of Fiends, which is 256 pages. This includes a full moon page OGL statement, a two-page index, a full-page bibliography, a credits page, and a table of contents.
While the initial beta version of the record had format that looked very similar to former 5e offerings from Green Ronin, the final book has much more artwork, ampere well as its own clear-cut format. The major headers have “ torn away ” chapter headers with big, bold white letters on a bolshevik battlefield. There are chain-like borders, and crimson “ slashes ” of letters for bomber headers. The stat blocks for respective creatures look like pages made of pulp .
The artwork is stun, but a lot of it does run towards the agitate, which is a good time to conversion to. . .
Right up front, we get a nice message warn, mentioning that nothing in the book should be introduced into a campaign if any players at the table are uncomfortable with the contentedness, and I greatly appreciate that. nowadays, having said that, I think it ’ south still deserving looking at some of the potential issues that come up in this intersection .
- Right up front, there is a lot of discussion of bodily functions and byproducts. This comes up more often in the sections on the Abyss and Gehenna, but these topics come up often.
- There are many instances where children are mentioned, in context of fiends putting them in danger, attempting to corrupt them, or ending their lives. In some instances, some of these fiends are described as attempting to possess or control children, which could cause direct conflict with children.
- Gehenna, specifically, is largely its own creation, because Yugoloths and the concept of Gehenna in D&D are very specific to D&D. Since the theme of Gehenna in this book are focused around the Seven Deadly Sins, that means a lot of what is “good” and “evil” is partially defined by a medieval version of Christianity. This isn’t overtly stated, but still bleeds over into the narrative just by the association with the concept.
- Many fiends pull on some BDSM concepts. While it’s never overtly stated, since the only representation of BDSM imagery is being associated with fiends, it’s easy to lean on kink-shaming tropes.
- When sex comes up, while there aren’t granular details, there are lots of places where non-consensual sex is heavily implied. In addition to the implied actions of some creature’s portfolios, there are some issues with consent that may not even seem to be the case on their surface, such as fiends that can do psychic damage due to triggering pleasure centers.
The contentedness admonitory is capital, and says precisely what it needs to say, but I would have in truth liked a deeper discussion on how GMs can include some of these themes and contented without falling into harmful tropes. I think it ’ sulfur significant not alone to have players with the ability to veto content that makes them feel insecure, but I besides think GMs need permission and context to know when it ’ s not deserving doing to work to try and use material .
The Changing Face of Evil
For anyone that was familiar with the 3.5 translation of The Book of Fiends, I wanted to touch basis on what got translated, what didn ’ thymine catch translated, and what is newly. The original Book of Fiends was about 224 pages, versus the new Book of Fiends ’ page count of 256 pages .
several creatures get renamed, but assuming I didn ’ thymine miss any equivalent creatures, about 10 of the creatures from the 3.5 volume didn ’ thyroxine get an update in this edition, and about 48 modern creatures appear in this volume. Each of the rings of Gehenna gets a newly animal in the form of the souls that are trapped in that ring, based on their primary sin. In summation, several of the ranks of Daemons got more representatives to flesh out the number of mercenaries, whisperers, and watchers each encircle had previously. There are a few other fresh creatures spread out over the three planes covered in the script .
While the 3.5 Book of Fiends was organized by plane, this reserve has a cosmopolitan section on each plane, then organizes entries by wide creature types, then ends with player and GM confront rules for a campaign. That means that even if a creature is normally found in Hell, for exercise, if it ’ s not a devil, it ’ mho going to be in the section with the cosmopolitan fiends .
The original Book of Fiends introduced prestige classes for Balan ’ sulfur Jackals, The Mountebank, and the Plaguelord, and introduced the core class of the Unholy Warrior. Since 5e is structured a morsel differently, and prestige classes aren ’ t a matter, we alternatively get the Path of the Infernal Hunt for Barbarians, The Deceiver and The Plaguelord as Otherworldly Patrons for Warlocks, and the Oath of Eternal Darkness for Paladins .
There were two cities detailed in the standard 3.5 layout for city stats in the back of The Book of Fiends. The city located in Gehenna is not mentioned in the 5e Book of Fiends, and the Abyssal city gets renamed and doesn ’ t have a formal stat obstruct or format in the same manner as the 3.5 presentation .
The Spine of The Book of Fiends
This reserve is largely a book of modern creatures, which presents some of the trickier issues with reviewing monster books that I have mentioned before, for example, not being able to give all the creatures a upstanding evaluation even after reading the book from front to back. however, while this is primarily a bestiary of the lower planes, it is besides a sourcebook of the lower planes, its leaders, and musician options that interact with demonic and lower planar themes .
The book is organized in the succeed manner :
- Planes of Perdition
- The Abyss
- The Fiends
- Fallen Angels
- Unspeakable Evil
- In Service to Evil
- Character Options
Most of the time spent on the Abyss describes The Howling Threshold, the first layer of the Abyss, where damned souls foremost appear. In summation to discussing the inhabitants and the Harvest Gates ( portals to deeper layers of the Abyss ), there is a mention of a relatively safe space for planar travelers to dwell. I like having that likely semi-safe adventurer ’ south base in a home like the Abyss. In addition to this detail, The Book of Fiends adds a few details, such as the more cosmic-horror tailor master inhabitants of the Abyss, the qlippoths, and the history of twist constructs that helped the demons drive out the soldiers of the upper planes .
Gehenna is the most divergent from what D & D players may be familiar with. rather of an everlastingly sloping volcanic mountain-scape, the interpretation of Gehenna that is presented has seven circles, each one encompassing one of the seven baneful sins. This version of Gehenna receives the shadow of all mortals, through which the daemons can both watch and tempt mortals as they commit sins that are related to their lap. While there is inactive an element of Gehenna mercenaries fighting for both sides in the war between Hell and they Abyss, temptation and corruption of mortals is more of a theme than the manipulative long game that the Yugoloths seem to play in the “ standard ” D & D cosmology .
Hell is another location that is slightly different, but recognizable when reconciled with the D & D version of the plane. This is probably because the original Legions of Hell was written by Chris Pramas, who besides worked on the AD & D adaptation of hell during 2nd edition. There are a few archdevils in charge of layers that don ’ triiodothyronine lineage up with the stream 5e rulers, but you ’ ll however recognize part of the hierarchy, such as Mephistopheles being the irregular in command to Asmodeus .
The devil princes and lords, archdevils, and exarch of the Deamons are described in this section. Many of the “ named ” archfiends that already appear in D & D don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate get much information provided for them, but there are references to entities like Demogorgon, Orcus, Belial, Mephistopheles, and Asmodeus .
The beings that are detail aren ’ triiodothyronine given full stat blocks. In the former section, where giant details are provided, there are less mighty lords and dukes, but the “ top tier ” are presented more in terms of their cosmic goals and their retentive term plans .
Because Gehenna is largely redefine, we learn that, not unlike the default hierarchy of Hell in D & D, not everyone in the hierarchy is a native fanatic from that plane of universe. One of the exarch of the daemons is actually a sleep, exiled hellion, and another is a dracolich that has become character of the hierarchy of the plane .
In general, even if you are using the standard D & D cosmology and its rulers, many of these rulers can be slotted into the default cosmology. merely the characters at the very highest echelons of exponent tend to be inappropriate between versions of the plane. Gehenna, however, feels like it ’ s probably better used either with the nonpayment D & D version, or substituting this translation of the plane, with all of the complect themes .
If It Has Stats, We Can Kill It
The adjacent section of the book includes all the creatures that are presented with stat blocks. These are broken up chiefly by creature “ sub-types. ” Many of these creatures are fiends, but they are subdivided and split between the versatile factions in these planes. The daemons are even more subdivide and organized under which of the circles of sin to which the devil belongs .
- Because of the highly thematic nature of daemons and how they are presented, there are also sub-categories of creatures as well. Each circle of Gehenna has specific stat blocks for the souls that are trapped there. Each of the circles has its own thralls, as well as mercenaries (troops that serve as the rank and file, and that are also loaned out to Hell and the Abyss), watchers (daemons that peer through the mortal’s shadow to witness sins, and may have specific conditions under which they take action), whisperers (daemons that whisper through the mortal’s shadow to tempt them), and servitors (the “court” of deamons that serves the exarch).
- All the demon entries include a summoning variant rule, and in addition to presenting a variety of demons representing different styles of chaos and evil, there is also an underlying theme about a specific council of demons trying to enforce their own conspiracy across the infinite layers, complete with their own enforcers. There is the demonic equivalent of rakshasas, demons infused with entropy, alternate demonic familiars, and horde demons. Horde demons are almost a throwback to the random demon generator in the 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, where there are least, lesser, and full horde demons with varying appearances and base statblocks.
- Many of the devils presented are specialized beings serving a particular duke or archdevil. In some cases, they are servants of dukes presented in this volume, such as Balan, the master of the Infernal Hunt, and his mount, or the shapechanging agents of Hadriel, a duchess establishing a secret society on the prime material plane. There are assassins that work for Mephistopheles, and sentinels that are native to Avernus. There are also several stat blocks for various lesser dukes that can be used for campaign villains.
- Fallen Angels are a tricky designation. They are all celestials, but due to some technicality, they are exiled from the upper planes, and have not become fiends. In some cases, this is because they were exiled before Hell even existed. There is a specific fallen angel stat block, as well as some “famous” fallen angels from across time and the cosmos.
- Qlippoths are strange inhabitants of the Abyss that are currently hiding and plotting against the demons that took over the plane later. They are the original inhabitants, and they have elements both of demons and of cosmic horrors, often with mutable forms and the ability to vary the patterns on their skin to fascinate other creatures.
- The Unspeakable Evil section is kind of the “grab bag” of monsters. They are all creatures that live on the lower planes of varying types that aren’t part of the species previously listed in the book. This includes singular creatures like the Armageddon Beast, dragons, constructs, fallen titans, not-quite demigods, predatory beasts adapted to the lower planes, and the undead shades of angels. This includes one of my favorites, oubliettes, constructs made to decapitate paragons of good to keep their head alive, witnessing Hell’s atrocities until they finally give in to despair (and keeping them alive to be rescued by adventurers).
Reading this whole department reminds me how much not merely the monsters, but the structure of the D & D planes is influenced by Abrahamic religions. I ’ thousand curious what it would look like if evil creatures not native to the survive world from other cultures were given their own spaces to shape the overall narrative of a plane, alternatively of being put into a corner of something that looks like a chivalric christian concept of Hell .
If you are looking for a wide-eyed scope of monsters that your players aren ’ t probably to recognize, these monsters work for that. But most of them have an attached mailboat of lore that makes them full to build a narrative around. Some of these monsters foreshadow other infernal powers that might be in meet. Others might be the reservoir of diverse local curses or afflictions. Throwing a concept into an meet that has a history as an impossibly honest-to-god war machine adds more gravitas over a well-recognized automaton .
I barely wanted to note a few recurring elements in the design of these monsters. There are several “ powerhouse ” monsters that have a feature that lets them roll their weapon wrong three times on a critical alternatively of two. There are besides several Legendary creatures that give the animal the option to cast a spell, which isn ’ triiodothyronine limited by level, unlike some of the stream design behind spellcasting legendary creatures in the core, official rules .
Some creatures bestow corruption, which interacts with the rules that come up late in the book. In addition to inflicting corruption, many of these creatures that bestow putrescence have mechanics that do more damage to corrupted creatures, or that enforce disadvantage on saves versus sealed abilities if corruption is in fun.
There are several character options introduced in this section. This includes two barbarian paths, three cleric domains, a champion hallowed oath, and three warlock nonnatural patrons. The disavowal at the begin of the chapter reiterates that you should make certain the stallion group is comfortable with characters using these options before introducing them into a political campaign, and it notes that most of them will have a hard time being used in a standard heroic campaign .
The first peasant way is the Path of Hatred, which plays with generating hatred tokens while raging, and assigning them to versatile foes to do excess damage or to grant advantage. finally this besides causes opponents to save versus fear, and you may be able to burst out of bonds or generate tokens when you take damage. I kind of like the estimate of playing with rules around generating and spending these tokens, and while the estimate is that the barbarian has an unhealthy hate for anything that opposes them, this is one of the options that feels the least disruptive to include in a campaign .
The Path of the Infernal Hunt is a lot less ambiguous about embracing evil, specially if you read the sidebar on the knowledgeability ceremony. This way plays with transforming to gain extra benefits in combat, gaining wildshape, telepathic communication with animals, and the ability to summon hell hounds. honestly, if it weren ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate for the initiation sidebar and the sin hounds, this could be adapted to a reasonably standard shapeshifting savage original .
The cleric domains are Fear, Pain, and Ruin. Because cleric abilities tend to be kind of rigid in their presentation, there international relations and security network ’ t a draw to say here. Pain clerics can incapacitate with their distribution channel deity, arsenic well as gaining resistor to damage. At 17th level they can create a field of vulnerability. Fear clerics get the heavy armor boost, cause fear ( who could have seen that coming ), and possibly make opponents even more afraid and devolve stuff. They can impose disadvantage when they are attacked, and their capstone world ability is that they are immune to fear and saves against their fear is at disadvantage. Ruin clerics can create difficult terrain and use their reaction to do psychic damage to opponents that miss them in fight. Their domain finishing touch is an earthquake effect .
honestly, fear international relations and security network ’ t that interesting to me, and the only ability I actually like out of the Fear knowledge domain is imposing disadvantage as a flash “ mini-fear ” consequence. I couldn ’ triiodothyronine aid but think of how a cleric of Ilmater ( the true good god of suffering from the Forgotten Realms ) could use the pain domain, and I think it would work, but the world enchantment exquisite pain does feel like a short more than “ go around the pain to those that cause pain. ” I besides think it would be easy to reflavor a Ruin cleric as a non-evil cleric of a deity that just knows when and how the world is going to end. Yes, I played a cleric of Jergal. I would give this a whirl .
The Oath of Eternal Darkness does not, unfortunately, give you access to the best video crippled ever produced. It does, however, give you abilities like causing fear, corrupting your weapon to count ampere charming, creating an aura of dark, and seeing through darkness. Your finishing touch ability transforms you into a shadow animal that gives you a vulnerability to necrotic damage, but makes you tolerant to bunches of things, immunity to necrotic and poison price, the ability to hide in dim fall, and the ability to do extra necrotic damage.The Oath includes Despair, Hatred, and Relentlessness as tenants, and between that and the general themes you are playing with, yeah, this one credibly stays on the villain english of things in most campaigns .
The warlock patrons are all basically specialize versions of The Fiend nonnatural patron, tailored to specific types of fiends. The deceiver allows you to gain a per rest reroll because of your diagram and schemes, make saves with advantage, transfer damage to early creatures nearby, cause creatures that hear you to gain corruption, and you get a superintendent capture effect. The plaguelord warlock can poison in a radius around them, use a reaction to attack discredited creatures, grow insect wings, and finally get the ability to do disease damage when you hit with an attack, doing poison wrong that besides lowers maximal hit points. The monster lord warlock is detected as if they are a demon for effects that do so. It gives you a pool of cube to grant allies to aid your attacks, which cause psychic damage if they miss. later, it grants temp hit points, and the ability to make charisma checks with demons at advantage. finally you do damage in an area around the spot where you summon a monster .
Since most warlocks already play with the subject of “ can I do heroic things with a creepy patron, ” I don ’ triiodothyronine think having an evil patron is a non-starter. however, having an ability that expressly causes corruption would nix that in most campaigns, and while I like the thematic of “ I ’ megabyte giving you a boon that will harm you if you don ’ thyroxine succeed, ” I ’ m not sure that helps build party cohesion, so I can see that one being reserved for very specific campaigns as well. I besides wonder why poison is the prefer damage for the plaguelord warlock alternatively of necrotic .
I ’ m used to the concept of corruption from Shadow of the Demon Lord, and I actually like tracking corruption more than micromanaging alliance. That said, one of the effects is an alliance change, so it ’ s not the best way to wholly replace alignments in a campaign. If you have played Shadow of the Demon Lord, the corruption track probably does feel at least a little familiar. You go from gaining a flaw, to rolling for a lesser corruptness, changing conjunction, rolling for a greater corruption, and last, rolling your death saves at disadvantage because the fiends want to bring you home. Lesser corruptions are only negative, while greater corruptions give you a bonus and a punishment to different activities .
I would much quite the corruption defect be determined by the player, as a minus interpretation of something that is already true about their quality. I besides dislike that several of the corruptions are physical debilities. When things are completely alien to human appearance, like having fire in your eyes, growing horns, or gaining spine ridges, that ’ s ticket. I don ’ thyroxine like the idea of weight reach or a disabled peg being signs of evil .
All the feats presented are ability boost + profit manner feats. They all revolve around being the favored of one of the Exarchs of Gehenna, meaning that a quality is an exemplar of one of the seven deadly sins when they take these. Unlike most rules in D & D 5e, these all have an alignment prerequisite of evil. Most of these give you an excess ability, such as wrath giving you the ability to use a reaction to attack person nearby when you take damage .
The spells have a mix of summoning effects that target specific monsters from this book, or damaging effects that have secondary effects, like breaking bones in a manner that besides paralyzes the victim. There is besides a go that involuntarily causes intimate pleasure that I would X card right out of good about any bet on I was in .
Rule In Hell
This reserve has so many fib hooks in it. In some ways, all good monster books provide those, but these are some bass, interconnect plot elements that you could build a campaign around. even when you don ’ t want to dive that deep, it gives you lots of great variations on archetypes that are fun to swap in for anything that might feel a bite more mundane, equally long as it makes sense to introduce a touch of the lower planes. The sections on the lower planar leaders is fair rife with campaign material. I ’ megabyte very happy that the content admonitory goes beyond just disclaiming province for bad actors or saying the material international relations and security network ’ t for everyone, but rather discusses consent, safety, and the active practice of safety tools in the game .
Hell in a Handbook
I wouldn ’ t say there is anything in this book that isn ’ metric ton equip for any campaign, but there is a not insignificant sum of material that isn ’ thyroxine going to work for a fortune of campaigns. While its fine for a GM to ask players what is and international relations and security network ’ triiodothyronine okay to introduce, this besides means that a GM should take concern engaging with the material to begin with. I know reading this cover to cover to do a review had a heavy impact on me than if I were just to read bits and pieces for a crusade. additionally, if you have an affinity for D & D ’ s native Gehenna and yugoloths, it could be cumbersome to reconcile this substantial with the default cosmology .
Qualified Recommendation–A product with lots of positive aspects, but buyers may want to understand the context of the product and what it contains before moving it ahead of other purchases.
This script is obviously well crafted. There are so many details and plat hooks, and such a variety show of horrid opposition for campaigns. That said, because it deals with a lot of disturbing topics, some of which may have questionable practice for most game tables, person buy this very needs to weigh that factor vitamin a well .
If you are uncoerced to wade through the material with caution and critical thought, there are so many gems in this book. This topic, examined with this level of detail, was never going to be for everyone, but it ’ second authoritative to remember in our enthusiasm for good game material that there may be some items that barely fall outside of our comfort zone .
I put together this spreadsheet of the monsters included in this book, which can be sorted by type, subtype, and challenge fink, and includes the pages where the stat blocks are located.
The Book of Fiends 5e Monsters by CR