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The Flavor of Hell in Pathfinder


Pathfinder Campaign Setting General Discussion


I think that the LE alignment is underused in D&D settings. A lot of potential for conflict. I am curious though .... Something that has tickled my mind since the days of 1E, so I thought I would toss out a question: should devils have a different visual theme than demons?

I am sure that I am missing something, but it seems that on first appearance LE outsiders should have a different look and feel than CE outsiders. Think of Tolkien's "look fair, but feel foul" rule of thumb for LE compared to "look foul and feel foul" for CE.

However, it seems that most of the graphic images in the Bestiaries show grotesque LE creatures that look little differently, thematically, than their CE counterparts.

I'm sure that it comes down to a personal preference and 'whatever works for your game' but I am curious to hear what others think.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter 2013, Champion Voter 2014, Marathon Voter 2015

Rancid pineapple with a hint of salty pustulence

I am not a fan of the devil art either. I like when they look like fallen angels with the good looks, but something seems off...


Pathfinder has to deal a lot with D&D traditional creatures and look, so gelugons are going to be ice insects and pit fiends scaled, fireball tossing winged humsnoids. That shouldn't really stop you from reskinning your fiends, but I don't think that a major change would happen in a world that is aimed at typical player of the game, as most probably DO have certain expectations on fiend looks.


You could make it a chain of command thing. It's the chain they beat you with because they are in command and the higher up on the chain they are the fairer they look.


What I find most odd is that the Lords of Hell all have incredibly unique looks about them, and even when they're "devilish" in appearance, they still look... diplomatic, while the minions of hell (as presented in the Beastiary) look like things you'd never want to make a deal with.

But in general, I agree OP. I think Devils should have a unique look to them (lest we find ourselves with the Succubus/Erinyes debacles again!)


To add, I think "sticking to the previous" is simply a bad decision, because even the previous D&D couldn't seem to get things right.
(Kytons are or aren't devils? Succubi are devils or demons? Etc etc etc...)


The fact whether they were or weren't devils didn't have much influence on the fact that kytons are chain-clad humans or that the succubi are bat-winged women.

I could see devils having ways to change appereance when needed. Well, most of them can hide behind a conveniently placed curtain or bush and interact with whomever they want via puppet (all created by major or persistent image spell-like ability most of the higher devils have).

A good reason to have a hat of disguise in the game as well ;)


Regardless of the look, most Devils have good Diplomacy scores (the Bearded Devil being a reasonable exception based upon its role and the Imp being an odd one). Perhaps the inhabitants of Golarion are less biased by appearance than we are since they live in a world that has all manner of fantastic creatures.

Shadow Lodge

Kytons aren't devils, but I want to give them more of a Silent Hill design motif. The art in Bestiary 3 takes it part of the way there, not far enough in my opinion. A augur's cage should be smaller, and a bit more open, blades clearly both on the inside and out.


Adding disguise self as a spell-like ability seems like an easy fix.

Liberty's Edge

The way I play it tends toward the original suggestion. The Devils are monstrous, but in more of a dark, twisted way. Also, Devils seem to hide in human form quite often, and there's no reason to think their normal form should not be twisted and vile. In Golarion, I see the Devils as much closer and more dependant on the mortal races for their purposes, and thus should be closer in shape to them. The higher ones may indeed have that fallen look, while the lower ones might be more horrendous - but most of them have good disguises and quick tongues, so you only see the true evil form AFTER you've doomed yourself - reality hurts.

The Demons don't care. They are ravening, murderous dimension-corruption monsters that like to cause destruction and pain. The more powerful, the more twisted. They will eat you, end of discussion.

I think Pathfinder actually did a pretty good job with giving them distinctions. The Pit Fiend DOES look more civilized and calculating then the Balor, who is classical in its horrible, fire spewing destructo-form. The Devils almost look like monstrous mockeries of the finer points of society and authoritarianism. I again restate, it is done pretty well.


I've long felt that devils should have a Gothic grotesque sensibility in their design, like the guardians of some really dogmatic fire-and-brimstone style church. Demons, conversely, ought to be universally monstrous, and maybe with some kind of animal traits incorporated into their design.

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One thing that's important to understand is that the traditional D&D devils are heavily influenced by historical takes on Hell, including Dante's Inferno, the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (by way of the Goetia, probably), and the like. Visually speaking, a lot of devils got their look from the surreal 15th century hellscapes of Hieronymus Bosch (a Google search will be most inspiring) and similar painters.

Check out this 15th Century "Hours of Catherine of Cleves" image.

Specifically, the devil in the upper left-hand corner of the big creature's jaw. I detect the origin of the Ice Devil. The barbed and horned (malbranche) devils are certainly inspired by these sources, to the point at which I strongly suspect that Dave Trampier, the artist who did the entire devil section in the original Monster Manual, had a book with some nice hellscapes in it.

These images depict devils as they appear _in Hell_. My assumption since the early days is that devils cloak themselves in illusion to deal directly with mortals, likely tailoring their appearances to better corrupt their prey. But if you show up on their turf, when they're not pretending to be something they aren't, their appearance mirrors their soul: UGLY.


I'm not going to suggest that is not a good fix (it is, in fact, a very good fix) but the issue remains that it is a "fix."

The issue is that the artwork of the real world, or the descriptions of demons or devils or what-have-you... In the real world, there is no real distinction between demons and devils. In fact, Demon is just another word for devil (when not used to describe Satan anyway.)

However, in D&D/Pathfinder, there's a HUGE distinction between demons and devils, and between hell and the abyss. And it is herein where the issue lies when determining how each "type" should appear. And then when you throw in Daemons (real world synonym for Demon... which itself is a synonym for devil... see where I'm going?), it gets even more flustered up.

Don't know how much rambling that was, so tl;dr -
In the real world, Daemon is just another spelling of Demon, and they're both just different words to describe (non-Satan) devils.
In Pathfinder, Daemons, Demons, and Devils are distinctly different things, and as such, should have distinctly different appearances. However, as of right now, their differences are very minimal (compare Quasit to Imp, Succubus to Erinyes, or even Gelugons to any other devil.)


I can only suggest reskinning for whatever game you run at home.

If there is to be a change, then there would have to be a massive response for this idea... and that doesn't seem to be happening.

Shadow Lodge

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Erik Mona wrote:

These images depict devils as they appear _in Hell_. My assumption since the early days is that devils cloak themselves in illusion to deal directly with mortals, likely tailoring their appearances to better corrupt their prey. But if you show up on their turf, when they're not pretending to be something they aren't, their appearance mirrors their soul: UGLY.

I charge thee to return and change thy shape;

Thou art too ugly to attend on me.
Go and return an old Franciscan friar;
That holy shape becomes a devil best.

---Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Liberty's Edge

Actually, 'Daemon' simply means 'genius', and was used to describe someones higher soul or divine consciousness. In the real world, a daemon would be closer to a guardian angel than a demonic entity. Demon is derived from that word.


That is definition #1, yes.
Definition #2 is "demon."

According to Websters anyway.


Thanks to everyone for their thoughts. Thanks to Erik for his detailed response, especially the references. The idea that the pictures are what the devils look like in hell is probably how I would run it.

It still goes to show that LE takes a lot of thought to run.

Is it my imagination but didn't Orcs used to be LE in 1st edition?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Cards Subscriber

I feel the aesthetics of devils should, above all else, follow two guidelines:
1. Reverence for the humanoid form, as they are vain and know whence they came.
2. Characterized by function and duty, their very bodies being completely dominated by those higher in the hierarchy of power.

This is how I have rationalized the variety of infernal forms while still accepting their coherence. Insectoid and primitive forms are lower in the hierarchy. Horned and angelic shapes are higher in the hierarchy. Devils meant for battle will have their shapes consciously altered to meet the needs of the armies of hell, making for brutal shock troops. Carried weapons and worn equipment are emphasized across the spectrum, for as lawful beings devils are tool users. Contrast this with the wild and primitive shapes of demons and other Abyssal ilk.

The road of Infernal evolution is the road of law and civilization. More tools, more sophistication, more cunning and more deceptive forms. More wings and limbs as well, to demonstrate strength and grandeur.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hell, like the Abyss, takes in mortal souls from an entire universe. Their aesthetics barely acknowledge one particular physical form out of untold trillions of species.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Cards Subscriber

Unfortunately, that is unsupported by the currently printed devils, who seem to favor the two-arms, two-legs, occasionally add wings phenotype. There is a distinct preference for the humanoid shape already revealed. This may perhaps be sample bias resulting from Golarion being better fleshed out than other planets or our fantasy tropes being defined by the human-centric world, but nonetheless hell is presently the least 'alien' of the evil planes. Hell is evil with purpose, after all.


InVinoVeritas wrote:
Kytons aren't devils, but I want to give them more of a Silent Hill design motif. The art in Bestiary 3 takes it part of the way there, not far enough in my opinion. A augur's cage should be smaller, and a bit more open, blades clearly both on the inside and out.

Interesting approach. I went the obvious route and view Kytons as being the Pathfinder version of the Cenobites from the Hellraiser franchise. Even before the new ones appeared in Bestiary III, I described each Kyton as being unique in appearance, with all sorts of flavorful mutilations.

The N'gathau from the Tome of Horrors serve as decent cenobite surrogates as well.

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