Pathfinder Chronicles: Book of the Damned—Volume 1: Princes of Darkness (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Chronicles: Book of the Damned—Volume 1: Princes of Darkness (PFRPG)
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Abandon All Hope...

From the origin of the gods to the inhabitants of the darkest infernal pit, Princes of Darkness: Book of the Damned Volume 1 is an unflinching look at the methods, motivations, and goals of Asmodeus, the archdevils, and the entire hierarchy of Hell. Whether you’re planning to storm the gates of Avernus or trade in the exotic and immoral markets of Dis, or simply want to add a splash of diabolical flavor to a standard campaign, this 64-page book is full of delicious temptations worthy of Faust himself.

    Princes of Darkness includes:
  • A layer-by-layer description of Hell and its rulers
  • The hierarchy of Hell, and how devils are promoted
  • The role and duties of each kind of devil, including the infernal dukes and the herald of Asmodeus
  • Guidelines for infernal contracts
  • Devil talismans, true names, and their uses
  • New Hell-themed spells, magic items, and artifacts
  • The diabolist prestige class, complete with imp companion
  • Five new kinds of devils, from the blaspheming apostate devil to the relentless levaloch

This stand-alone book can also complement the material found in the Council of Thieves Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Chronicles: The Great Beyond, and Pathfinder Companion: Cheliax, Empire of Devils.

By F. Wesley Schneider

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-189-3

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscription.

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Devilishly Good

5/5

In the cosmology of the official Pathfinder campaign setting of Golarion, the infernal planes are divided by alignment and the type of fiends that reside there: Hell (occupied by Lawful Evil devils); Abaddon (occupied by Neutral Evil daemons); and the Abyss (occupied by Chaotic evil demons). The first entry in the three-volume "Book of the Damned" series, Princes of Darkness, is devoted to the devils of Hell. Devils in Pathfinder value order, hierarchy, and gaining new mortal souls through trickery and temptation in the form of infernal contracts. This 64-page book contains a wealth of information on Hell, including sections on each of its 9 layers, its capital, the various types of devils, and a new prestige class for devil-worshipping diabolists. I've never dabbled much with this aspect of D&D-based RPGs, but I thought this book was really well done and definitely value for the money. I suppose the weird thing with this review is that I'm writing it *after* the Book of the Damned hardcover has been released, and that book collects and updates the material in Princes of Darkness. But I have this book and not that one, and I'm a completist. So, here we go.

In terms of artwork, you can judge the front cover for yourself--I think it's very cool and has the right feel. The interior art is also great, with one or two exceptions. Page layout and design is top-notch, with well-placed sidebars and little illustrations here and there that fit the theme. Particularly well-done are the pages from the in-universe "Book of the Damned" (which I'll explained in a minute), as they're in script on a parchment-style background. Very cool.

The interior front cover lists the symbols of the various archdevils of Hell, and I'm sorry to say they look a bit amateurish to me. The interior back cover lists the things a devil-worshipping cleric would need to know, including the domains, areas of concern, and favored weapons of the various denizens of Hell. It's quite detailed, with Asmodeus, the eight archdevils, the four "Whore Queens", twenty-eight "infernal dukes", and twelve "malbranche". The book itself is divided into four main sections: Hell and the Archdevils (descriptions of the various layers and their lords), Devilkind (explaining the different types of devils), Diabolatry (devil worship), and Diablerie (a bestiary of new devils).

Between these sections are two-page long inserts presented as if they were real extracts from the in-universe Book of the Damned, a catalog of the infernal planes written by an angel named Tabris (who, himself, has a fantastic story developed in later books!). Three of these extracts ("Before", "Order", and "Exodus") talk about the origins of Hell, a story which at first is too vague and a bit boring until you realize how directly the ruler of Hell (Asmodeus) is tied into the creation of the universe itself. Other extracts briefly discuss Dis (the greatest of Hell's cities) and the internal organization of Hell (briefly describing the various lesser, but still important, players in Hell).

The first main section, "Hell and the Archdevils" (20 pages) takes up about a third of the book. There's a very brief introduction that covers some of the features of Hell, like Hellfire, Hellmouths, and the River Styx. Each of the nine layers of Hell is then covered, with one page devoted to the layer itself and one page devoted to its ruler. I'm tempted to go layer-by-layer, but that would make for a very long review so I'll just mention a few things. Each of the nine layers revolves around a different concept--for example, the third level (Mammon) is the treasure vaults of Hell and home to those mortal souls who were dominated by greed, while Stygia, the fifth level, is the source of blasphemy, heresy, and corrupted faiths. There's definitely some echoes of Dante's Inferno here. I especially like how the rulers of each layer are far more than just embodiments of particular sins--they have unique personalities and backstories. The writing is top-notch and quite impressive for a sole-authored book. I suppose that if I had to be picky, I would single out the artwork of Geryon (lord of Stygia) as being kinda silly and state that Nessus (the 9th layer of Hell) is kind of bland. I might even note that Asmodeus' throne is, visually, much cooler than he is! But really, this is the heart of the book and it's great.

"Devilkind", the second main section (8 pages) clearly explains how the various denizens of Hell are sorted by power level with themes of authority and submission respected throughout. Advancement is possible, but sometimes only through self-administered torture! The main creatures discussed are imps, barbazus, erinyes, osyluths, hamatulas, gelugons, cornugons, and pit fiends. Most of these were new to me, and the book did a really good job explaining their various roles in Hell. Devil-summoners will be pleased to note that there are suggestions on how to make fiends more amenable to negotiations (such as telling osyluths secret vices of mortal rulers to gain a +2 bonus on Charisma checks). The "infernal nobility" of Hell receive a few paragraphs of description each: Infernal Dukes (who rule particular sections of each layer under the supervision of the archdevils), the Whore Queens (fallen angels who operate schemes throughout Hell), and the Malebranche (the generals of Hell's armies).

"Diabolatry" (14 pages) is the third section. It has information on infernal contracts (in which a mortal agrees to trade their soul for a boon) and includes tips on how a GM should handle them in-game. The little sample contract is a good template. New magic items called "devil talismans" are introduced, and they're quite powerful, providing the ability to draw on the powers of devils bound within them. Next, there's information on the importance of and how to discover the true names of devils. Perhaps of most interest to players in this book is the Diabolist prestige class; it looks quite flavourful (gaining an imp companion and bonuses to negotiting with summoned devils), and I like the "Damned" class feature: when the diabolist is killed, her soul is instantly sent to Hell and raising that character from the dead requires a high caster level check. Five new spells appear in this section as well, and they're really fun to read even though I've never seen any of them in a game. Perhaps a curious omission is how little reference there is to Golarion and whether/where there are specific concentrations of devil-worshippers in particular areas. I know about Cheliax, for example, but to a new reader this could appear as a setting-neutral book.

The final chapter is "Diablierie" (10 pages). Four creatures get two-page spreads with stat blocks, descriptions, and artwork: Apostate Devils (specialists in turning mortals away from their faiths), Heresy Devils (specialists in undermining established religions through corruption and heresy); Host Devils (hunters of souls that have evaded capture in Hell), and Warmonger Devils (construct-like war machines). The artwork is especially good in this section and each of the new creatures is interesting and well-described.

There's a *lot* to like about Princes of Darkness, and I would definitely recommend it for anyone planning to introduce devils or Hell into their campaign. It's very much a GM book, with only occasional bits of potential interest to players. One disappointment I do have in the book is that it's still really hard for me to picture what adventures or even encounters in Hell would look like. Something like a "Running Games in Hell" sidebar (with suggested Average Party Level for different types of stories) would be really useful in trying to conceptualize adventures there. Overall though, this is a great book and well-worth a purchase whether in PDF from Paizo or in hard copy from a used book seller.


5/5


Everyman Product Reviews: Book of the Damned

5/5

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 5/5 Stars
Flavor: 5/5 Stars
Texture: 4.5/5 Stars
Final Score: 14.5/5 Stars, or 4.75 Stars/5, rounded up for its flavor.

Individually, the three volumes of the Book of the Damned are amazing, excellent reads. The fact that the series managed to hold the same level of quality throughout several years of printing and a slew of authors is a testament to Paizo’s mastery over the evil realms. These planes are ripe for use in adventures of all sorts, and I am pleased to have such a thorough, encompassing guide on the topic. I would highly recommend all three volumes to any GM’s toolbox: they will meet your needs and exceed them a hundred times over.

For the full review, head to the Everyman Gaming blog.

(Note: This review is for all three volumes of the Book of the Damned combined. Not that it matters much; this score applies to all three books equally.)


Will we burn in heaven, like we do down here?

5/5

Disclaimer: I write for Paizo and I know Wes Schneider, and he’s the Editor-In-Chief. That may completely disqualify this review. If you can get past that, what I have to say may help you decide whether you want to buy this book or post your own review.

“Is misery made beautiful right before our eyes
Will mercy be revealed or blind us where we stand?”

-Sarah McLachlan, Witness

I have owned this book for approximately four years. During that time, I have referred to it, referenced it, but never just sat down and read it from cover to cover. You know? Like prose instead of an encyclopedia. Recently I was given an assignment that required some insight into the matter of Hell and devils and I grabbed this book. Something in me said, “Why don’t you just read the entire thing, with an eye towards enjoyment rather than just select paragraphs. Take it all in.”

I was glad I did. At this risk of being a suck-up, this is a magnificent piece of work. Allow me to articulate why. Mr. Schneider is not only a skilled editor, the man can write. This is not a book of interesting facts, it borders on poetry. Each sentence is lovingly crafted and considered. Every word is rich and evocative and he spares no imagery to communicate his vision of Hell, it’s denizens, his concepts, and plot hooks and adventure seeds. I imagine he paced the floor after writing each paragraph in order to scrutinize how it might be made better, or he wrote this while high and drunk during a raging thunderstorm. It is poetic without being poetry. What exactly do I mean? The imagery is savage, hideous, and monstrous and yet somehow beautiful.

Let me give you an example of the language:

The pristine halls and lavish sanctuaries of Baalzebul’s court are dedicated to his profane glory, perverted visions of a grand cathedral that hide shrines filled with fly-ridden sacrifices and cesspit-like chevets. Within the heights of Betzebbul’s central spire lies the throne room of the archfiend. Here, more than half dead, hangs the suspended and shackled corpse of the forgotten god Azhia, endlessly fed upon by the innumerable flies that make up Baalzebul’s verminous form.

Or…

Within the deepest pits of Hell, profane smiths rip ingenious blasphemies from the minds of the damned and sculpt soulflesh into creations of unparalleled malignancy. Several diabolical masterworks, creations of exceptional depravity, appear through accounts of history’s darkest annals, leaving wakes of ruin and damnation in their heinous paths.

The entire book is that lavish and evocative, save perhaps certain sections of game mechanics which would not be well served by it anyway.

I give this book an easy five stars. I also offer a bucket of tears that Wes’s duties only permit him to write the occasional sourcebook. Would should be so lucky and fortunate if he would, one day, captain a Bastardhall project.

In addition to fantastic prose, there is a generous helping of actual game mechanics (spells, items, artifacts), all of which appear balanced—including a prestige class and 5 new demons. There is something for everyone. Let me stress, it’s cool just to read it.

I would love to see a hellmouth creature someday. It would be weird without a standard movement, but I love the idea of a “living” portal with eyes and other features.

That concludes my review, but I have a few remarks I am going to put behind spoiler tags.

Wes avoids something I have seen in other books and I double down on my praise of him for not following suit. What follows is editorial.

Spoiler:
I am not a fan of a certain sentence structure that goes like this:

“Scholars and sages whisper about this interesting thing but nobody can tell you anything else about it.”

Or..

“Only the Gods know how Groetus was transformed into cheese and on this topic they will neither speak or nor answer.”

I’m somewhat sick of “X” alluding to something cool and but then the author shuts the topic back down. I enjoyed the Great Beyond, but at times I wanted to hurl that book across the room for this reason.

Let me be clear. Wes never does this in this book. I award him a 6th Special Devil Star for that reason. I understand what is happening when authors do that. Bless their hearts they’re trying to add a little bitty plot hook to the setting and let the GM run with it, or see if anybody gets excited by it. That is a laudable goal. My issue is that it gets repetitive, fast, to the degree it has become a pet peeve of mine. Rather I would have authors introduce a little tidbit to the setting and just let the reader draw their own conclusion. Wes does this well in this book with the Ihyssige, in the Hell Realm of Stygia. That is a mystery which Wes does not explain and it works beautifully. When other authors have all these scholars, sages, mad hermits, and gods who introduce topics and then refuse to elaborate, what the author is communicating to me (the reader) is “Hey, I am being intentionally vague here.” Trust me buddy, I figured that out on my own.

In, Princes of Darkness, Wes takes responsibility for writing about Hell, Asmodeus, and the whole infernal gang and does so with authority. When he wants to leave a plot hook open for the GM to explore, he does so without an awkward declaration of that intent. If the Gods want to point something out and refuse to discuss it further—they may do so one single time per 64 page sourcebook. In Princes of Darkness, it never happens. Kudos.

Here is some constructive feedback. It in no way warrants the loss of a star. It is minor stuff (and no not grammar and punctuation).

Spoiler:

There are a couple contradictions within certain sections.

One example is “Escaping an Infernal Contract”. The second paragraph goes to some length to explain that devils are loathe to renegotiate an infernal contract and explains why. The next paragraph goes on to suggest that devils have no issue with renegotiating infernal contracts and explains why. I was left asking, “Well, which is it? They hate it or they’re fine with it?”

I get what Wes is trying to say here. In principal, obtaining a better soul is always good business. Yet, devils are cautious because mortals inevitably try to change the terms in their favor. This happens to the point of being predictable—and it is seldom worth their consideration.

Another example exists in “True Names and Infernal Sigils”. I was left confused by the first section which suggested it was easier to discover a devil’s sigil because it is used in Hell and must appear on infernal contracts. To discover a true name is harder, because you have to actually hear it and the sigil doesn’t automatically translate to the name. That makes sense, though I noted it would be rough to learn a true name in that case. The next section on “Discovering True Names and Infernal Sigils” contradicts that by providing a means of how true name can be discovered through academic research.

This not a big deal. I actually prefer there is a means to learn the true names through research. I’m just pointing out the small contradiction.

I went looking for summon hellmouth. When I googled it I saw that it has been brought to Wes’s attention already. I won’t belabor it. This review was written WITHOUT reading the forums or consolation of previous reviews. I read the whole book so I reviewed it all by myself.

Bottom line, I think this is one of the best sourcebooks I ever read, and these are the only issues that I felt worthy to mention in a 64 page book written by a single author. That’s outstanding. I only mention them because I feel one honors the author/creator by taking the time to offer whatever stuff you can to improve their craft; to offer a meaningful and constructive critique rather than just empty praise. That was the best I had because this book already sets the bar high from the start.

I strongly recommend this book for purchase.


With Both Parts Hell Has Never Been so Fun

5/5

If you're going to buy this product, do yourself a favor and pick up the second half. Together these supplements are one of the best supplement products created for the campaign setting. They give you a clear view of hell and the agenda and politics within. They go over each of the lords of hell in detail and will actually make you want a campaign there.


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Is there some sort of Easter egg in this book? I was browsing through it (at least I think it was this book, although I went through Volume 2: Lords of Chaos at about the same time) and there was a passing reference to an otherwise unmarked obelisk with an inscription something like "IHYSSEPW" which I assume expands into a phrase or sentence, along the lines of "IYWIMAITYD."

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

James Jacobs wrote:
I would LOVE to do a giant book about devils and demons and all the other fiend races.

I'll second that.

Until then, I'll make do with:

And of course the ELH.

I also use Fiendish Codex I (Hordes of the Abyss) and Fiendish Codes II (Tyrants of the Nine Hells), but I just treat those entries as aspects of the actual lords/princes rather than the actual stats.

Not that I really expect my players to take down any but the weakest of the rulers of the Nine Hells. With so many more entities in the Abyss, of course, they're more likely to be fair game. And I love Paizo's interpretation of the Abyss - you can bet that my players will have to deal with some unpleasant abyssal horrors, that's for sure.

If you're looking for really out there challenges, take a look at Craig Cochrane's Immortals Handbook - Epic Bestiary: Volume One (available as a hardcover from Troll & Toad). The CRs of creatures in that book (NOT advanced versions of creatures, just the plain old creatures themselves) run from the CR10 small quintessence elemental (the elder is CR53) to the CR182 seraphim (angel), and adults of the new dragon types range from the CR50 adult timber dragon to CR536 adult nexus dragon. Golems as presented there are similarly crazed, ranging from the CR6 diamond guardian to the CR9721 neutronium golem.


Damon Griffin wrote:
Is there some sort of Easter egg in this book? I was browsing through it (at least I think it was this book, although I went through Volume 2: Lords of Chaos at about the same time) and there was a passing reference to an otherwise unmarked obelisk with an inscription something like "IHYSSEPW" which I assume expands into a phrase or sentence, along the lines of "IYWIMAITYD."

Okay, it was “I-H-Y-S-S-I-G-E.”


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I have a question regarding the imp companion. The book states the following:

Princes of Darkness, p.45 wrote:
Class Level: This is the diabolist’s class level plus her highest caster level. This does not stack with class levels that grant an animal companion.

This reads like the class level is actually figured into the level for the companion twice, as it is included in the "highest caster level". For example, say a character is wizard 5/diabolist 5. That means that his caster level for wizard spells is 10 due to the fact that it is increased with each diabolist level. So, taking the book literally would mean, that the imp was calculated as if his class level was 15. This gets problematic once the total passes 20, as the table does not go that high. A wizard 10/diabolist 10 would have an imp at class level 30 in theory.

I am assuming that by "highest caster level" the book actually means "highest caster level in other classes than diabolist". Then it would make sense.

Am I correct or have I overlooked something here?

Contributor

You are correct, it should just be the diabolist's caster level. I've noted it in my master copy to be fixed if we do a reprint. Thank you!


Damon Griffin wrote:
Damon Griffin wrote:
Is there some sort of Easter egg in this book? I was browsing through it (at least I think it was this book, although I went through Volume 2: Lords of Chaos at about the same time) and there was a passing reference to an otherwise unmarked obelisk with an inscription something like "IHYSSEPW" which I assume expands into a phrase or sentence, along the lines of "IYWIMAITYD."
Okay, it was “I-H-Y-S-S-I-G-E.”

If you read Volume 1 closely you find that Ihys was Asmodeus' brother.


Zaister wrote:

I have a question regarding the imp companion. The book states the following:

Princes of Darkness, p.45 wrote:
Class Level: This is the diabolist’s class level plus her highest caster level. This does not stack with class levels that grant an animal companion.

This reads like the class level is actually figured into the level for the companion twice, as it is included in the "highest caster level". For example, say a character is wizard 5/diabolist 5. That means that his caster level for wizard spells is 10 due to the fact that it is increased with each diabolist level. So, taking the book literally would mean, that the imp was calculated as if his class level was 15. This gets problematic once the total passes 20, as the table does not go that high. A wizard 10/diabolist 10 would have an imp at class level 30 in theory.

I am assuming that by "highest caster level" the book actually means "highest caster level in other classes than diabolist". Then it would make sense.

Am I correct or have I overlooked something here?

My friend and I were discussing this same ability with the same sort of confusion. My friend took a look and noticed a different wording in the "Spells per day" class ability of the Diabolist as opposed to other Prestige Classes. It seems that the ability doesn't mention an increase in caster level along with the spells per day.

This seems to imply that while the Diabolist gets increased spells per day as if they had leveled up, their spells don't benefit from a higher caster level (and thus are less powerful). This would make it so the Imp's "Class Level" being Diabolist + highest caster level would actually be just right...

But that seems like a strange thing to do for an otherwise Caster PrC.


are red and black the heraldic colours of the hell or only the patriotics colours of cheliax?

Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.
javi ballesteros wrote:
are red and black the heraldic colours of the hell or only the patriotics colours of cheliax?

That's pretty much a Cheliax thing. Hell doesn't so much care about how mortals dress up their damnation, just so long as the job gets done.

That said, Asmodeus's favorite colors are virgin-despair and self-betrayal.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Society Subscriber

So, the Diabolist add only spells per day and not spells known at each level. That's no fun for a spontaneous caster.


A strict reading of the imp companion's statistics implies they get 3/4 BAB, but because they are adding outsider hit dice they should be getting full BAB as far as I can see. Is this a deliberate choice or was it intended for the imp to get full BAB?

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

After four years, I have read and reviewed! Fantastic!


Does the diabolist's imp companion have any of the devil/lawful/evil/extraplanar subtypes?

If so, do they get any of the subtype traits? e.g. energy resistance/immunity, see in darkness, etc.

Is their poison attack really supposed to be 1/round for 5 minutes? shouldn't that be more like 5 rounds?

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