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It was Christopher Perkins who came up with the idea of telling “an Underdark story featuring not just one demon lord, but several of them. Maybe even all of them.”
The result of that notion was the new adventure Out of the Abyss and the rest of the Rage of Demons storyline season. D&D Alumni will be taking a look at the eight demon lords featured in that storyline, starting with the charismatic Graz’zt. Though he made just one major appearance in D&D adventures, the dark prince has been part of the game for years.
Graz’zt debuted in 1982’s The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, one of Gary Gygax’s later adventures for TSR. It included a “Monsters and Magical Items” appendix that gave Gygax the opportunity to preview many of the creatures that would soon appear in AD&D’s Monster Manual II (1983). A total of four unique demon lords were included in the book, including the “demon prince” Graz’zt.
In his first appearance, Graz’zt was described as the most handsome of the demon lords, a ruler of lamias, and the overlord of an entire level of the Abyss. How dangerous was he? He named both Demogorgon and Orcus among his foes.
Gygax didn’t make much use of Graz’zt before he left TSR, but he apparently liked the character because he expanded upon him in his Gord the Rogue novels (1985–1988). Not only did Graz’zt receive an extensive backstory, he also got his own race of demons—though none of that was canonical in the official TSR cosmology.
Due to his origins in The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, Graz’zt features heavily in Greyhawk lore, dating back to his capture by Iggwilv, the Witch Queen of Perrenland. Iggwilv turned the tables on the traditional notion of a demonic seducer, instead seducing Graz’zt in order to give birth to Iuz, one of the most notorious archvillains of Oerth. Thanks to this connection, Graz’zt made a somewhat understated appearance in the 1993 sourcebook Iuz the Evil, in which he attempted to use his son’s Oerthly empire for his own gain.
Graz’zt also appeared throughout the second edition AD&D Planescape line, from 1994 to 1998. In that incarnation, he was only ever a minor player, though his abyssal realm of Azzagrat received a complete description in Planes of Chaos (1994). A land of hidden evil and corruption, Azzagrat was expanded to encompass three distinct planes — the 45th through 47th layers of the Abyss.
Graz’zt’s spotlight appearance in the AD&D 2e era took place somewhat surprisingly in the Forgotten Realms adventure For Duty & Deity (1998). In response to Graz’zt absconding with Waukeen, the Faerûnian goddess of trade, the characters had the opportunity to invade the Abyss, tromp around the dark prince’s homeland, and foil his plans. It’s the only time Graz’zt was ever used in such a directly adversarial role—and it was a fine conclusion to his AD&D appearances.
SEDUCER AND SCHEMER
During the third edition D&D era of 2000 to 2008, Graz’zt made his major appearances in sourcebooks. The earliest was the original Book of Vile Darkness in 2002, which expanded on the demons and devils of the Monster Manual for a new generation of players. Graz’zt is one of five demon lords highlighted in that book, showing his continued importance to the D&D cosmology. Book of Vile Darkness mainly focused on Graz’zt’s role as a seducer and a conniver who wished to control the entire Abyss—ideas that remained important when he reappeared in Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (2006).
Graz’zt was also a favorite with the creative teams behind the D&D magazines during this time period. From 2003 to 2004, he lurked in the background of Dungeon’s “Shackled City” adventure path for third edition, and was also part of the backstory for “Fiend’s Embrace” from Dungeon 121 (December 2005), having skinned a pit fiend to make the adventure’s eponymous magic item.
Graz’zt received even greater attention in Dragon magazine. Issue 360 (October 2007) featured an extensive article about the demon lord in his third edition incarnation, as part of the “Demonomicon of Iggwilv” series. The article traced Graz’zt’s origins all the way back to the obyriths, and to ancient battles for the title “Prince of Demons.” Much of the material came from Fiendish Codex I, but an expanded presentation powered Graz’zt up from CR 22 to CR 32.
Graz’zt made his most interesting modern appearance in fourth edition D&D’s Manual of the Planes (2008), the book that introduced him to the 4e cosmology. There, Graz’zt was revealed to be a one-time devil, who turned against his own kind after successfully invading the Abyss and taking three of its planes for his own. Dragon 414 (August 2012) subsequently included a “History Check” article on “The Iggwilv–Graz’zt Affair,” providing even more details of their courtship. Whether any of this most recent lore will hold within the cosmology of fifth edition D&D remains to be seen.
In the Rage of Demons storyline, Graz’zt’s appearance in Out of the Abyss is minimal, making him one of the least influential of the eight demon lords in the book. However, with his long history, he has great potential to remain a foe even beyond the adventure, tempting new generations of player characters.
About the Author
Shannon Appelcline has been roleplaying since his dad taught him Basic D&D in the early ’80s. He’s the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons, a four-volume history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time.