Friday, February 5, 2016

Hell is for Geniuses

In working on my Blood & Treasure revision, I started thinking today about one of the aspects of monsters that often gets overlooked - intelligence. Starting in AD&D, monsters started getting intelligence ratings, and I think most referees note them and use them to help play a monster encounter, but I wonder whether they really take them into consideration.

Let's take Hell for an example.

Illustration by Thomas Theodor Heine
Many devils have a high intelligence rating, making them the equivalent of college graduates or even geniuses. A few are super geniuses - and we're not talking Wile E. Coyote super geniuses, but the real deal - folks smarter than Einstein, Elon Musk and Tony Stark put together. They're also lawful (evil, but lawful), which means they can work together. Imagine it - thousands of super geniuses working together to create a tech boom in the depths of Hell.

There is some literary precedence for this idea. Milton, in Paradise Lost, noted that the rebel angels used engines of war - possible cannon - in their battle against the Heavenly Host. This was probably an early version of casting "modern" warfare, with its noise and smoke and fire, to our typical vision of Hell, or a Hellish landscape.

We could go a step further, and let the devils in a campaign go full steampunk. What a surprise for high level adventurers, who are expecting the cover to a heavy metal album, and instead enter a nightmarish "World of Tomorrow" when they visit Hell - something more Kirby-esque than classical art. This would also mean that the allies of Hell on the Material Plane would have access to some interesting "magic items" - cannons of course, but also rocket packs, difference engines, steam-powered tanks, etc.

This could make for an interesting campaign, as Hell embraces sorcery and super-science and begins equipping mad wizards and anti-clerics with steam-era technology to conquer the Material Plane, with the adventurers left to discover what this stuff is, how it works, where it comes from and, ultimately, how to stop it. Maybe they'll need to engineer a rebellion in Hell - the low-order devils against their masters, like something from Metropolis. Or maybe they'll need to ascend the Seven Heavens and petition the solars and planetars for help in storming the Hellmouth - thousands of aasimars and elves and dwarves brightly arrayed against an undead army that looks like it might have crawled out of the trenches of the First World War!

It could be epic.

Illustration by Thomas Theodor Heine


  1. My first thought was Expedition to the Barrier Peaks just got a whole lot more interesting. I might just have to give my next infernal-pact witch a set of walkie-talkies.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. This could create a situation where high technology is indeed the work of the devil and goodly civilization(s) may have a considerable ludditic bend to them which may explain one reason why so many fantasy worlds have material cultures that remain so similar for thousands upon thousands of years as signifigant technological applications coould (failry logically) be seen as inherently evil.

    1. Or you could flip it the other way. Heaven loves technology, Hell wants to throw a monkey wrench into it.

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  4. Ken H. is about to begin the second round of his Monteport mega dungeon using Bloody Basic. Chris C. and I are excited to start.


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