The Nine Hells has a rigid hierarchy that defines every aspect of its society. Asmodeus is the supreme ruler of all devils, and the only creature in the Nine Hells with the powers of a lesser god. In today’s excerpt, we examine one of the many lesser devils in his command: the bone devil.
The lesser devils include numerous strains of fiends, including imps, chain devils, spined devils, bearded devils, barbed devils, and bone devils.
Driven by hate, lust, and envy, bone devils act as the cruel taskmasters of the Nine Hells. They set weaker devils to work, taking special delight in seeing fiends that defy them demoted. At the same time, they long for promotion and are bitterly envious of their superiors, attempting to curry favor though it irks them to do so.
A bone devil appears as a humanoid husk, with dried skin stretched tight across its skeletal frame. It bears a fearsome skull-like head and the tail of a scorpion, and a foul odor of decay hangs in the air around it. Though they are devastating in combat with their claws, bone devils also wield hooked polearms made of bone, which they use to subdue enemies before striking with their venomous tails.
About the Artist
Filip Burburan created the artwork for the bone devil. He may also be familiar to Magic: the Gathering players as the artist for M15’s Scuttling Doom Engine and (wonderfully named) Carnivorous Moss-Beast.
A Brief Look Back
On a personal note, the bone devil has forever been one of my favorite creatures within the game. It may be their skeletal visage, strange hooked polearm, or scorpion tail—all worked together, it makes for a suitably horrid fiend!
The bone devil appeared in the 1st Edition Monster Manual, later becoming the osyluth in the 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums (when devils universally became “baatezu”). A bone devil also featured prominently in the PHB’s famous illo, A Paladin in Hell, itself becoming the inspiration for an epic 2nd Edition adventure. As written in the preface:
When the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook was first published in 1978, it included an illustration titled “A Paladin in Hell.” Most printings put the title of the piece at the bottom of the page.
For many people, this illustration defined the paladin character class. The image of a lone holy warrior fighting off a horde of fiends right there in the pit of Hell was both an evocative icon and a powerful ideal. It told us that a paladin would fight against any odds, never swerving in his devotion to the forces of good and justice and his opposition to evil and darkness.
Never mind the paladin—for me, the illustration was all about the bone devil!
The Monster Manual
The Monster Manual (releasing September 30) presents a horde of classic Dungeons & Dragons creatures, including dragons, giants, mind flayers, and beholders—a monstrous feast for Dungeon Masters ready to challenge their players and populate their adventures.