~ A devil . . . thought the adventurer. Now there is a fitting foe! Moreover, his lands would not be safe until it was no more, and so he set about tracking it.
And a little later . . . There are more where that one came from, he thought to himself, standing over its smoldering remains.
“They could well come again,” he said aloud.
“Yes,” agreed the paladin who had fought at his side. “You have joined an endless battle, my lord. But if you weary of fighting it here, amid that which you hold dear, then come with me—I ride on
the hells tomorrow.” ~
The paragraph above is a short blurb found in Dragon Magazine #75. It served as the introduction to an article about the Nine Hells. I remember coming across this magazine and article back in the late 80’s when I was first getting into Dungeons & Dragons. I, like the adventurer in the story, also thought that there was no villain more worthy of eliminating than a devil. After all, what’s more evil and terrifying than “the Devil”. This article kindled my interest in the mythology of D&D devils and the realm in which they inhabit. Sadly, TSR (and later WotC) started downsizing the inclusion of these types of creatures in their products after the “Satanic panic” craze of the 1980’s. So, just as I became interested in D&D, finding current materials on these types of fiends became rather difficult. Sure, there was 2E Planescape, but much of the material concerning devils and the Nine Hells was extremely watered down in that product (so as not to offend the mass public). For many years, DMs and players had to turn to third-party products or old out-of-date books if they wanted to run an adventure that really captured all of the atmosphere that a crusade into the infernal planes should provide. Thankfully, fifth edition D&D has loosened the reins a bit. But still, creating and publishing an entire book about nothing but devils is a pretty tall order. Nevertheless, WotC did just that…. sort of. Chains of Asmodeus is a sourcebook and adventure all about the Nine Hells. But, unlike most other official D&D products, you won’t find this book on store shelves. Instead, WotC decided to publish this book on their DM’s Guild website – a place normally reserved for independant or amatuer creations. Originally available as a digital PDF only, Chains of Asmodeus sold well enough that it is now available in print on-demand. So, since it’s an official product that is also now available in a physical format, I decided it was time to review it.
The main purpose of this book is to provide an adventure in which a party of characters explore the Nine Hells in attempt to rescue damned souls. Being that the story takes places in the Hells, the adventure is made for a party of characters levels 11-20. In 5th Edition, this is considered extremely high-level play. Unless you have a long-running campaign, it’s unlikely that most tables are going to have players with characters of this level. Thankfully, this book does provide some tips on rolling new characters that start at level 11.
The book is split into several several parts. The first serves as a brief introduction to the adventure itself as well as tips on what to expect when adventuring in the Nine Hells. The next twelve chapters make up the actual playable adventure. But, it is also important to note that these chapters contains A TON of information on the various layers of the Nine Hells. In this regard, the contents also serve as excellent reference material for DMs. Each layer of Hell is outlined in great detail and includes encounters unique to that layer.
Next up are several pages that actually provide stat blocks for the Lords of the Nine. This is a pretty big deal because it is the first time D&D fans have seen official 5E stats for these legendary bad guys. Yes, all of the current Lords are present here; Asmodeus, Dispater, Mammon, etc. Older players might not recognize a few of the fiends detailed here as the politics of Hell have changed slightly since the old days. A handful of the original D&D Lords of Hell have either been exiled or slain. For this reason, fiends like Geryon no longer exist in the current D&D timeline. Still, it’s fantastic to finally have official stats for the current roster of fiends.
Finally, the book closes out with a handful of new fiendish monsters, NPCs, and magical items.
The adventure included in this book is both unique and detailed. It includes a number of really cool ideas that are specific to this type of module (a temptation and corruption mechanic, for example). The story will take players on a trip through all nine layers of Hell and both the challenges and encounters that come with that sort of journey are going to be things that the players are going to remember forever. A campaign that takes place in other planes of existence is always challenging. But this adventure is very well written and does a pretty good job of giving the DM everything they need to be successful at such a daunting task.
Looking beyond the adventure itself, the resources included in this book on the Hells is worth its weight in gold alone. As a DM who enjoys lore and worldbuilding, this book is a fantastic resource. Combine the contents of this release with the recent Planescape boxed set and the third-party Book of Fiends – and you have enough material for several years of fiendish campaigning. If you’re a DM who is planning on running this module, I high recommend ordering a physical copy of the book. Not only does this save you from having to fumble around with an iPad or laptop at your table, but it also lets WotC know that there is a demand for this type of content. I love the old school dungeon crawls and eldritch horror that was frequent during the days of 1E. Introducing modern players to concepts like venturing into Hell to rescue souls or crossing swords with evil planar powers is exactly what this hobby needs today.
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