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Serpent = Asmodeus?


D&D 3.5/d20/OGL


Well, is he or not? Answers please; and, if not, then who is it?

Liberty's Edge

That depends on which books you use.

The references to the Serpent in Vecna Reborn and Die Vecna Die are thoroughly obscure, and suggest the Serpent is more of a primal aspect of magic itself.

The reference in Guide to Hell is very clear, and says the Serpent is the "true" identity of Asmodeus.

I expect Fiendish Codex II will have the deciding vote on the matter.


For what its worth, I hope that we resolve that he is not. I liked the Serpent more mysterious and primal, and not as a dualistic Overdeity that is masquerading as an archdevil.

Not to mention that the whole "Serpent=Asmodeus" thing then contradicts older lore that actually states that Asmodeus had deposed another ruler of Hell to gain his position.

Contributor

There was never any suggestion that Asmodeus was 'The Serpent' of the Vecna modules etc. That was just some speculation/confusion by some fans who made a connection from that name and the fact that Asmodeus was portrayed as a giant snake in 'Guide to Hell'. In fact the latter source there doesn't ever call him 'The Serpent' or insinuate him having any connection to magic or anything else the Vecna modules might have suggested [GtH just had him as a primal LN being corrupted by the expanding influence of evil in the primordial multiverse as the cardinal alignments began to mix].

I didn't care for the take in GtH, mostly because it does its best to ignore the earlier material on the prehistory of Baator and tries to replace it wholesale with a virtually straight up copy of Zoarastrianism. And well, a black and white Good/Evil duality doesn't work in the four alignment axis of D&D.

However, that said, if we go with the material in Fiendish Codex I that confirms (but puts a different twist upon) the unified Baernaloth creation myth of the lower planes, the earliest inhabitants of Baator, the Ancient Baatorians, were originally 'loth creations and later were displaced by the Baatezu. The original version of the myth (which can be assumed to be a mix of lies based on an original truth) had the 'loths creating the Baatezu who then displaced the ancients. Out of nowhere, this was directly contradicted by the claims in GtH that Asmodeus or his blood created the first Baatezu (who don't spawn directly from the raw essence of Baator even now, they require petitioners).

The reinterpretation of the Heart of Darkness mythos conceivably allows us to reconcile the two myths, with the Baernaloths/Yugoloths creating the Ancient Baatorians, who in turn might later be displaced by the Baatezu who spawn from a fallen Asmodeus after he was tainted by the same source of evil whose creations his would then displace.

At least that reconciliation is possible. I still don't care overly much for the GtH material though, and it's probably best to just drop it and leave the true nature of Asmodeus (and the first Lords of the 9) as a mystery with multiple claims of what the truth might be. They might have been the most powerful of the first Baatezu, they might have been lingering Ancient Baatorians, they might be living manifestations of the will of their respective layers of Baator, they might be a combination of several of those ideas.

And FWIW, there was never any suggestion of Asmodeus having displaced an earlier holder of the position as Lord of the 9th. There was something in the article 'Politics of Hell' but that was never to be considered canonical (and it said as much), and the BoVD had a tongue in cheek reference to that, but wasn't a serious suggestion. As far as the histories of the lower planes go, the Lords of the 9 only appeared after the Baatezu invasion of Baator, and Baatezu history is a muck of politically motivated revisionism, so it's difficult to tell if any of their own tales, at least as it applies to themselves, hold truth. There's no mention of Asmo being the first to hold his title, nor anyone before him. We can make assumptions, but the reverse is also just as likely.

In any event, here's hoping the authors of FC:II hold to and expand upon the established material from the various Planescape sources, 3e books that tap on the subject like FC:I, and even what little material from 1e (such as the Greenwood articles) that isn't already expanded upon and fleshed out in the later work that could be used.

Liberty's Edge

Todd Stewart wrote:

There was never any suggestion that Asmodeus was 'The Serpent' of the Vecna modules etc. That was just some speculation/confusion by some fans who made a connection from that name and the fact that Asmodeus was portrayed as a giant snake in 'Guide to Hell'. In fact the latter source there doesn't ever call him 'The Serpent' or insinuate him having any connection to magic or anything else the Vecna modules might have suggested [GtH just had him as a primal LN being corrupted by the expanding influence of evil in the primordial multiverse as the cardinal alignments began to mix].

I didn't care for the take in GtH, mostly because it does its best to ignore the earlier material on the prehistory of Baator and tries to replace it wholesale with a virtually straight up copy of Zoarastrianism. And well, a black and white Good/Evil duality doesn't work in the four alignment axis of D&D.

For the first, I disagree slightly.

The term "Serpent" is used repeatedly, from "the Twin Serpents" to "the Serpent's Coil" to "The fall was long and hard and deposited the great serpent on the lowest level of the Pit."
So while tenuous, I think there is a bit more to it than casual misidentification with a snake.

That being said, I more than agree with the second. The only good thing I could possibly say about it is that GtH didn't have the PS logo on it, so it can't be held against that setting.

As for the rest, FC I hints at the Baernoloth creation myth, so I think you might be on to something. I would certainly take that over GtH!

Contributor

Samuel Weiss wrote:

For the first, I disagree slightly.

The term "Serpent" is used repeatedly, from "the Twin Serpents" to "the Serpent's Coil" to "The fall was long and hard and deposited the great serpent on the lowest level of the Pit."
So while tenuous, I think there is a bit more to it than casual misidentification with a snake.

Understandably I suppose, but Vecna's 'Serpent' is different in almost every way besides the snake motif given to Asmo in GtH. Honestly I think it's just a common snake motif and otherwise no connection between the two.

If on some prime material world there was a dragon termed 'the night dragon' because of a propensity for attacking at night and for being a black dragon, there isn't necessarily any connection between him and Falazure, despite them both sharing the nickname 'The Night Dragon'. If you've got an archfiend and you're asserting that he has the form of a giant snake, there's really only so many terms you can use to describe him and things associated with him. You'd have to go pretty awkwardly out of your way to avoid using the term 'serpent' at some point.

I just don't see enough to warrant a connection between them outside of coincidence in form. That said however, I wouldn't be averse to what Vecna called 'The Serpent' in fact being some planar power manipulating him, or others, but I would simply have them claiming to be something other than what they truly were. They wouldn't in fact have any primal connection to all magic, though they might masquerade as such to accomplish other goals.

Samuel Weiss wrote:


As for the rest, FC I hints at the Baernoloth creation myth, so I think you might be on to something. I would certainly take that over GtH!

I suppose we'll see what direction the authors of FC:II take here in about two months. Hopefully they do a good job with respecting the PS material, the FC:I twists upon it, and perhaps attempt to reconcile (or just dismiss) some of the more abberant GtH material (though everything else in the book outside of the Asmo stuff stands on its own and deserves inclusion).

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Since this thread hasn't seen any activity for three days, I'd like to expand the scope of the discussion by offering a few comments about the Twin Serpents, Asmodeus, the Lady of Pain, and the Language Primeval.

First observation: According to what I can remember from the GTH, the Serpants started the rule of three and the great ring by circling around what later became the huge mountain on the Outlands, ie, the base of Sigil. This event happened before the multiverse as we know it (or knew it, thank you 3rd edition) existed and was performed by beings of immense power. After fighting, the two separated, the male going to Baator and the female to Celestia. Accoding to the GTH, Asmodeus is the male serpent and has been biding his time to recover and gather the necesserary power to "correct" the multiverse, ie, Lawful Evil for everyone!.

Second observation: The Language Primeval is supposed to be the language of the universe, or some such thing, so that a person fluent in it can alter the universe. We've seen hints of this in Epic Spellcasting, the good and evil "Words of []" feats, and the true name system (both in 2nd edition and 3.5). All such references hint (or flate out state that the language is pretty dang old.

Third Observation: In Die Vecna Die, it describes the Serpant and the Lady of Pain as "contemporaries", with the Lady of Pain being able to use the Language Primeval to shore up the loopholes in Sigil's ban on deities. Also, Vecna crafted a tablet powerful enough to steal a god's powers under the tutelage of his mysterious benefactor, who also taught him how to become a God!

Fourth Observation: In Sigil (at least 2nd edition) we have a two organization that're pretty well tied to Asmodues. The Athar believe there are no deities, and under the GTH, such people are drawn directly to him upon death and serve to heal him. (Can we say "food source"). The second organization has a winged serpent for its symbol (sound familiar) and in the Factol's Manifesto, the head of that faction has a dream about arresting (and punishing) the Lady of Pain.

Fifth Observation: The Lady of Pain's main form of punishment is to confine you to a maze for the rest of your life. You're well taken of care of while you stay there by her servants and there is always one way out if you cn find it. Doesn't sound so evil to me. Also, this contemporary of Vecna's Serpent, who speaks the Language Primeval, who is the target of someone who's listening to a winged serpent in her dreams, rules the city built at the location where the Twin Serpents formed the multiverse and as far as everyone can tell always has.

Conclusion: Asmodues and the Lady of Pain are the Twin Serpents.

Flaws: I don't know some of these references to "earlier sources". I only started playig D&D in the early/mid 90's, so I don't have access to a lot of the older material. As such, I can't include them in this analysis.

Please feel free to critique, argue, critize, etc. After all, it's only a theory.

Contributor

Forgottenprince wrote:
First observation: According to what I can remember from the GTH, the Serpants started the rule of three and the great ring by circling around what later became the huge mountain on the Outlands, ie, the base of Sigil. This event happened before the multiverse as we know it (or knew it, thank you 3rd edition) existed and was performed by beings of immense power.

The problem with the GtH mythology (among other things) is that much of its planar prehistory contradicts the other sources, and it really only presents the matter from a perspective of Law, almost to the exclusion of the other alignments/planes. Hence why (if we accept any of it as factual) it should be taken with a grain of salt and a recognition of the source bias.

Quote:
Fourth Observation: In Sigil (at least 2nd edition) we have a two organization that're pretty well tied to Asmodues. The Athar believe there are no deities, and under the GTH, such people are drawn directly to him upon death and serve to heal him. (Can we say "food source"). The second organization has a winged serpent for its symbol (sound familiar) and in the Factol's Manifesto, the head of that...

Two things:

1) GtH claims anyone who doesn't worship a deity or believe in an afterlife goes directly to him and gets eaten, regardless of alignment or anything else. Of course this violates everything we already knew about petitioners and where they go, and there's plenty of precident that GtH is trying to toss out the window in this particular instance. Plus, with the Athar, their 'Great Unknown' has some potential links to things believed in, in different capacities, by other factions, and those factions aren't linked to disbelief in the gods is lack of faith etc. [See the 'Source' of the Godsmen, etc].

The Athar don't believe there aren't deities, they just think that the so-called deities are just powerful entities that aren't worthy of mortal worship. The Athar have faith, they just don't believe in the true divinity of the commonly accepted gods. Many of the Athar believe in, and worship, something they feel transcends the so-called gods. GtH claiming that they lack faith really does them a disservice, and on the other hand I can't see why lack of faith would be a trait that should pull a soul towards Baator. It's not inherently LE, I'd suggest it's more apt for Carceri or the Waste, self-entrapment/despair/etc.

2) The Mercykiller symbol does have a big green serpent on it, however... it's not Asmodeus in his GtH form. The Mercykiller symbol is a representation of the so-called Mercykiller Wyrm, a specially bred type of wyvern that the group uses as its figure-head and as a method of public execution at the Tower of the Wyrm located next to the Prison in Sigil.

Also, Nilesia is insane. Happily bonkers, and that's what makes her a fun character. :) When you're nuts and obsessed with a warped idea of justice, you're going to naturally gun for the largest figure of power you can think of. I wouldn't read too much into that. In fact I wouldn't read too much into any links between books prior to GtH and GtH, at least so far as planar history and Asmo goes, because it goes off on such a tangent compared to them. I wouldn't claim retroactive postcognition on the part of the earlier books, trying to find justification for the GtH mythos.

Again, it's not without means to redeem itself, nor is all of it worthy of just being junked, it's just weighted down by the contradictions to other sources it presents. Assume it was written as a glorious piece of Baatezu propaganda though, but with some warped truths buried in there somewhere, and it's possible to rewrite it and mesh it with the rest of commonly accepted planar orthodoxy, such as it is.

Liberty's Edge

It's hard to dissent when I fundamentally agree with you Todd.
I really despised the Asmodeus = the Serpent concept, but . . . there it was, however tenuous. Sure, maybe it was just a poor choice of words, but what if it was deliberate and someone made a big issue of it later? Best to at least take note of it.
Of course, that didn't mean I had to refer to it prominently, or even subtly, for the Vecna article, and I think the reference there is suitably obscure.
So in no way will I be the least bit disappointed if FC II makes it clear that Asmodeus is not the Serpent of Vecna Reborn and Die Vecna Die. I'd really prefer that, especially in regards to Vecna's background.


Well, a nice theory Forgottenprince, but your conclusion contains some flaws.

Forgottenprince wrote:
In Die Vecna Die, it describes the Serpant and the Lady of Pain as "contemporaries", with the Lady of Pain being able to use the Language Primeval to shore up the loopholes in Sigil's ban on deities. Also, Vecna crafted a tablet powerful enough to steal a god's powers under the tutelage of his mysterious benefactor, who also taught him how to become a God!

What DVD said about the Serpent was vastly different from what GtH said about the serpent true form of Asmodeus. DVD portrait the Serpent as something entirely different than the powers as we know them. Yet GtH clearly said what the Twin Serpents were: Two greater gods, nothing more, nothing less.

Note that DVD also didn't say that the Lady is one of the same kind of beings than the Serpent. DVD only said that "maybe" she was.

That she was able to speak to words is no prove. Other deities (Tenebrous) were able to speak them too. Even that she reordered the multiverse doesn't prove anything beside that Sigil is the place to stand at if want to do it, since Vecna (at this time a greater god) would have reordered the multiverse too had he been the winner (and he was a greater power).

All in all even the Lady did nothing in PS that annother greater god couldn't have done as well.

Forgottenprince wrote:
In Sigil (at least 2nd edition) we have a two organization that're pretty well tied to Asmodues. The Athar believe there are no deities, and under the GTH, such people are drawn directly to him upon death and serve to heal him. (Can we say "food source"). The second organization has a winged serpent for its symbol (sound familiar) and in the Factol's Manifesto, the head of that...

First: This didn't ty the Athar to Asmodeus

Second: This statement in GtH actually contradicted everything that has been stated about the fate of faithless souls in all other supplements.
Third: There are many serpent related deities, many of them winged serpens. It could just as easily refer to Merrshault as to Asmodeus

Forgottenprince wrote:
Conclusion: Asmodues and the Lady of Pain are the Twin Serpents.

GtH tells us whoe the Twin Serpents are: One is Asmodeus, the other ist the couatl deity Jazirian, and the Lady isn't Jazirian

About the origin of the serpent: Originally it was not supposed to be any real entity but simply a delusion of Vecna's madness. However fans liked the idea of the serpent and eventually other authors started to add own tibits about the serpent, so it has grown beyond what the original author (IIRC it was Monte Cook) intended it to be.

Contributor

Samuel Weiss wrote:

It's hard to dissent when I fundamentally agree with you Todd.

I really despised the Asmodeus = the Serpent concept, but . . . there it was, however tenuous. Sure, maybe it was just a poor choice of words, but what if it was deliberate and someone made a big issue of it later? Best to at least take note of it.

Oh it's understandable. Even if you don't necessarily care for it, it was a section full of other rumors and speculation, so worthy of a mention at least. I mean you worked in a reference from the Vecna comic book IIRC, and obscure rumors, even red herrings, can make for inspiration for readers.

Liberty's Edge

Todd Stewart wrote:
Oh it's understandable. Even if you don't necessarily care for it, it was a section full of other rumors and speculation, so worthy of a mention at least. I mean you worked in a reference from the Vecna comic book IIRC, and obscure rumors, even red herrings, can make for inspiration for readers.

And there is a LOT of that to use in those three adventures. Especially all the minor PS threads that can be dragged in from Die Vecna Die. Ely Cromlich is just so much fun, although I wish the PHB II had made it out a month earlier so I could have made him a Duskblade to really drive everyone crazy. :)


For what it's worth, back in 1st edition there was a write-up of Satan... Yes, THAT Satan, I believe in a Dragon magazine.
Now I realize that this is 1st edition, but with others bringing in 2nd edition references, it's not entirely out of place.
The bigger issue is that in 3.X, the demon and devil lords aren't capable of granting spells. Instead, they serve as proxies, passing spells from a true diety onto their followers, which helps the demon/devil in question by allowing them to give their cultists spells and helps the diety that they are serving as proxy for by giving them worshippers, even though the worshippers may not be aware of it. That being said, if you insert a serpent, as in a Satan figure, then you are almost conceding that there are two "over-powers", and that being the case, then the serpent would be capable of granting divine spells.
Just my take, but I figured I'd throw it out there.

Contributor

Sparrow wrote:

For what it's worth, back in 1st edition there was a write-up of Satan... Yes, THAT Satan, I believe in a Dragon magazine.

Now I realize that this is 1st edition, but with others bringing in 2nd edition references, it's not entirely out of place.

Aye, 'The Politics of Hell' in an early early issue of the magazine. It was also something of a joke article, with Moloch (IIRC) being ambassador to the United States, and other such stuff. I don't have a copy on hand, but the article was just a one-off thing, and actually declared itself not to be considered canonical for the topics involved.

Even beyond that statement, being so early in the evolution of the planes in D&D, things have so dramatically developed and diverged since then that it'd be virtually impossible to mesh with subsequent material.

It's probably best to avoid the inclusion of 'The Devil' in DnD, because it then would shaft the Abyss and the 'loths by virtue of its weight in the 'boo, I'm evil' department, and the fact that the inclusion of the associated mythos really doesn't mesh with the alignment system in DnD. Inspiration and parallels sure, go for it, a decent chunk of the archfiends stole their names from various historical fiends anyways even if they have absolutely no connection otherwise to the original, etc. But the inclusion of a single Satan/Lucifer/Morningstar etc just wouldn't fit IMHO. Baator of D&D has become a creature all its own over the decades.


Well, FWIW (not much), I like the thought of Asmodeus appearing to Vecna and teaching him magic, claiming to be some fundamental force of the universe, when in fact, he is just an egocentric archdevil. That's the "truth" in my campaigns. And I wouldn't have come up with it without the Core Beliefs article on Vecna, so thank you very much! :)

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