Scholars Review #61: Dimension Book 10: Hades – Pits of Hell
Author: Carl Gleba
Release Date: August 2007
In the first of two Dimension Books that really lay out the two main parties to the Minion Wars, the demons of Hades and their horrific native realm are explored. The castes and internal politics of the denizens of Hades, as well as the geography, with details for cities and wilderness (along with copious random tables for weather and encounters) are covered in very good depth. Despite many of them showing up in various other publications, this book presents a consolidated raft of entries for the various demons, making this a veritable bestiary of demonic monsters. We certainly have an antagonist that most GMs will have little problem bringing into any campaign they may be fleshing out.
Hades – Home of Demons. I mean, yeah, right? Aside from reinforce the obvious, this section details the demon society, including the hierarchy from lowly slaves up to demon lord. After some thought on demon names and death of demon, we get into the meat of it – so to speak.
The Minion War. The war between Hades and Dyval has been accounted for eons. With Modeus in charge, the détente has been rent asunder, and the demons directly attacked the Dyval territories. Now all bets are off and conflict abounds across the Megaverse, with major offences in the Palladium World, Rifts Earth, Phase World, and the parallel universe Earth of Heroes Unlimited, at Century Station.
Demon War Machine. This is something I much appreciated, providing several examples of demon squads and non-demon troops to use as antagonists. This culminates in the Demon High Priest, an NPC Villain Class (think Witch hitched to one of the Hades pantheon).
Demons by Species. So now we get into the heart of the book, which is basically a bestiary of demons and other gribblies to throw against your PCs.
Sub-Demons. Basically, the Gargoyle entries that, for the most part, repeat information we’ve already seen elsewhere. Still, nice to have collated into a single reference.
Gargoylite. Small and pudgy versions of their bigger brethren. Still, as much MDC as a starting Dragon Hatchling. Vulnerability is underestimating their opponents and…greed.
Gurgoyle. The wingless Gargoyle that love a good scrap.
Gargoyle. Your bread-and-butter antagonist, but light previous entries, need leadership.
Gargoyle Mage. An independent, manipulative, free-spirit Gargoyle with Earth Warlock magic abilities. Ultimately out for themselves.
Gargoyle Lord. Bigger, meaner, stronger, and with a leadership complex and psionic abilities to back it up. Oh yeah, plus turn to living stone, for a cool extra 200 MDC.
The Fallen – Demon Outcasts
Taursis. Centaur-like creature with a martyr complex, taking it out on slaves and subordinates. Typically used as shock troop special forces, they are using the Minon War to elevate to Lesser Demon status. Has an interesting series of randomized charts to change the forms of each Taursis, making them great individual antagonist.
Death Demon. A scourge even among their own kind, they carry a disease making living and demonic creatures into undead (lots of rules for this), suffering an eternity of pain leading to insanity.
Demon Bats. After millennia of servitude to Belphegor, he elevated them from Fallen to Lesser Demon. Now they spy for him across Hades and the Megaverse. Aside from that, think man-sized MDC bat with a sonic screech.
Demon Fly. Cranky and aggressive, they enjoy spying as much as fighting and tattling on each other. The ‘Karens’ of Hades, they can shrink to the size of a normal dragonfly. Oddly enough, like real-life Karens, can’t accept looking at themselves in a mirror.
Alu, Demon Hound. Giant humanoid forms with wolf’s head that enjoys tracking, hunting and killing. Can also wear MDC armour.
Aquatic. A hideous, dim-witted creature with forward body like a fish of 12 feet, bottom like a 4-armed octopus adding another 9 feet in length. Has all Sensitive psionic powers.
Banshee. An impatient and eternally hungry PPE vampire with clairvoyant abilities to sense likelihood of death, but will *never* kill the victim. An ethereal creature that hovers and floats or teleports up to 2,000 miles (3,200 km).
Couril, Demon Fairie. Basically a voyeuristic, demonic version of a Fairie, they make excellent spies and trackers, informing and blackmailing other demons. Really cruel little buggers.
Ghouls and Nasu (female Ghouls). Gluttonous, cowardly, desiccated humanoids that prefer feeding on rotten flesh/garbage; basically a mobile garbage disposal that prefer not to fight unless with overwhelming numeric advantages or led by a Greater Demon. Has several specialist abilities and can be quasi-Vagabonds; yes, they choose skills…. Why?
Labassu. Very aggressive apparitions that seek to possess people (demonic possession); make great patrol guards and messengers, not much so as spies.
Lasae. Tiny humanoid insects (less than 2 feet tall) that work in packs; during the Minon War, sometimes in the thousands. Torturers, interrogators, assassins par excellence. Another that can select skills…. Again, why?
Mares/Nightmare. Often responsible for missing children or insanities, they sow fear and doubt, undermining the enemy morale. Can turn invisible, but the main ability doesn’t provide a range, which makes them rather dubious demon troops aside from an advisory role.
Shedim. Wingless humanoid with head of hawk, and bird-like talons (hands and feet). Savage warriors without fear numbering in the millions.
Succubus/Incubus. Beautiful and alluring, with a vile disposition that lure and seduce victims. Some can be taken as “pets,” but you’re delaying the inevitable.
Greater Demons. Several orders of magnitude more powerful than Lesser Demons, they sport prodigious amounts of MDC, natural abilities, magic and psionics.
Brek-Shall. Anti-social (for a demon?) once thought to be near-extinct, they are renowned for their berserker rage – even Baal-Rog get out of their way at that point. Powerful and loyal, they aren’t very bright. Currently in the employ of Modeus as guards and shock troop commanders. Berserker rules make sense, and then you read the vulnerabilities… massive damage from aioli sauce?
Soul Catcher. Large, apish brutes with massive teeth, these selfish and abusive beasts torment anything beneath them. Talk about a boss from hell, LOL. Works for Modeus as assassins and special forces. The Soul Stealing ability is really unique and works well with its other latent abilities; in addition, it’s very, well, demonic. Very much the black sheep of this caste of demons.
Baal-Rog. Legendary figure with natural leadership and tactical acumen serving as officers for demon armies. Massive, imposing figures of raw power. First Greater Demon that mentions wearing armour and using modern weapons (plasma rifles, really?). The eponymous image on the back of Conversion Book 1 really captures the image of this beast.
Demon Locust. Giant locust-shaped abominations with a scorpion tail and humanoid head. Cold, calculating schemers, they are symbols of death and destruction, leaders, and individual spies or assassins. Huge reserves of magic and can turn invisible at will. Yep, “McNasty” is in the house; with my insect aversion issues, I’d be hard pressed to pass that already difficult H.F.
Gallu, Demon Bull. Imagine a fire breathing minotaur. Aggressive warriors employed as junior officers or non-commissioned officer positions over Lesser Demons, or in groups as elite squads. What you see is what you get – big bruiser.
Jinn, Elemental Demons. Mischievous demons linked to the elements with the whole “3 wishes” thing intact, with guidance to twist the wisher’s desires against them for maximum grief and suffering. When not under someone’s power, these conceited demons are supposed to be smarter than the average demon, but the stat for I.Q. does *not* bear that out – odd. Remember: no wishing for more wishes allowed.
Magot. Giant beast with a gaping maw, their sheer power grants them their status. Rare outside Hades, but when found they are cantankerous and cruel, like massive tanks barreling down on the enemy. Avoid that bite!
Night Owl. Body and wings of an owl, head of a humanoid, they prey on Lesser and Fallen Demons. In the Minion War, act like a cell operator for a network of espionage operations. Manipulative and hateful, more of a behind-the-scenes schemer than a combat demon, reflected in magic and psionic abilities.
Raksasha. Rarest and most powerful of the Greater Demons (huh?). Political influencers extraordinaire, cunning and patient, they like to take credit and gain from their work. Shape changing and impersonation abilities are enhanced by remarkable magic and psionic capabilities (knows *ALL* powers).
Four Demon Beetles. Each a chaotic and intelligent demon intent on chaos and strife. Despite relatively low MDC, they have massively powerful and transformative bite effects. Otherwise, very little magic and no psionics.
Modeus (Lord of Hades). The absolute power of Hades. Commands the legions of Demon Locusts, knows the true names of all Greater Demons and Demon Lords. Entry gives a perspective on the war and Modeus’ intent.
A Panoply of Demon Lords. A series of entries for the various other demon lords gives the GM a good overview of the ‘political background’ that can be manipulated to create some interesting background for adventures.
Soulmancy. The dark magic possibly a distant cousin to Rune Magic, all rituals require souls to achieve their desired effect.
Demon Bone Weapons. A series of hand-to-hand weapons these being wield in battle.
Battlefield Artillery. I find it rather amusing they thought to create these types of weapons. That said, they do the work and deal the damage.
Demon Transport. A massive infantry fighting vehicle, if your crew and cargo was massive demons. I mean, it *is* over 1000 ft (300 m) long, designed to hold 1,000 Lesser and Greater Demons….
Notable Monsters and Netherbeasts. Whether indigenous or alien to the realm of Hades, “here be nasty gribblies.”
Ant Lion. Resembles the Sarlacc from Return of the Jedi.
Murmur’s Black Vultures. Predatory, plague-infested scavengers.
Psi-Hawk. Solitary, Burster-like birds of prey with loads of psionics.
Sand Worm. You’ve seen Dune? You’ve seen Sand Worms.
Netherbeasts. A series of large, semi-domesticated animals.
Customized. Using Desert Howler or Serpent Lion as a base, a number of options to make them more unique and menacing.
Desert Howler. Pitbull-iguana mix with bog teeth. Oh yeah, and a body the size of a cargo delivery truck.
Serpent Lion. The steed portrayed on the cover said to act in resemblance to cats. Here kitty-kitty.
Infernal Mastadon. Massive beast that can be harnessed for dozens of demons. A demon version of the Oliphaunts from Return of the King.
Pit Viper. Two-headed serpent the size of an 18-wheeler’s trailer. Relatively blind, surprisingly loyal to their master.
Worms of Taut. Various worms and snakes presumed indigenous to Hades.
Blow Worm. Largest and least common, with a penchant for spitting an incapacitating gob of mucous the size of a Penske truck.
Fire Worms. Fire breathing worms.
Nippers. Multi-legged salamanders that hunt around in packs.
Serpent Beasts. A real nasty piece of work that fights to the death. Sports a long serpentine body, four feet, and human head. No magic, no psionics, just bad attitude.
Tri-Fang. Three-headed (duh) snake creature the size of a Buick. Oh yeah, spits acid.
Tomb Worms. Tiny (in comparison) carnivorous scavengers that attack in swarms.
The Dimension of Hades. We finally get into describing the physical layout and features of this ancient plane, which seems as old as the Megaverse itself. Quirks of the elements are depicted, as well as a good overview of the various topographical features and weather patterns. This gives the GM a real sense of the atmosphere for Hades. Each segment comes with random weather/encounter tables.
Tartarus. The southern major continent.
Desert of Taut. A desert, with a balmy temperature averaging around 150F/65C. The five major cities are detailed: lots of demons, lots of slaves (human & non-human).
Eastern Fire Planes. A raised tableau overlooking surrounding regions and the single city of Magma.
Death Mire. Realm of Modeus, basically a giant swamp with trees that drip blood.
Thorn Forest. Covering the western half of Tartarus, these things are thirsty; fall asleep and wake up a pin cushion kind of thirsty.
Pit of the Damned. A giant gulag/work camp/death sentence for slaves.
Isles of the Dead. Thousands of monoliths over a km in height, occupied by Banshees and Entities. This is where demons return when killed in another dimension, so, not fond memories?
Demon Bridges. Massive suspension bridges connecting Tartarus and The Abyss.
The Abyss. The northern continent.
The Scorched Lands. Vast desert of buttes and bluffs, home to the Gargoyles.
Forest of Stone. Giant stone trees; home of Gurgoyles tribes, Gargoylites and Netherbeasts.
Northern Fire Bog. Giant swamp with a layer of humidity laying across the expanse, with the ruin of an Atlantean stone pyramid (what…?).
Forest of Pain. Sweltering jungle, pretty much abandoned less the Fallen Demons, which made it the perfect staging grounds for Dyval espionage network.
Fire Flats. The ‘third’ continent is a barren expanse under supervision of Magots. An army pledged to a Demon Lord with aspirations to rule Hades hides there, with support from Lord Splynncryth!
Hades Underground. Tunnels abound throughout Hades, mostly forgotten about except by Mictla, who reigns over a massive series of them.
Initial Assessment (8/10). The first of two Dimension Books laying out the foundation for the Minion Wars, the realm and minions of Hades paint a bleak picture. The dimension is hellish for sure, compounded by the absolute menace of the denizens. The millions of slaves are fodder, and the campaign only escalates the rate of their demise. This book is jam-packed with content; a fleshed-out dimension in terms of geography, a bestiary of monsters, and internal politics, all of which feeds into the dynamic of the Minion Wars. Not until the near end do we get an idea of the Dyval perspective, which is bleak. The sense is that the demons of Hades are more numerous, brutish, and combat focused than the Dyval. The artwork certainly supports the menacing images the text portrays. There is this odd pixelation quality to the images, which I’m not sure was intentional or a function of the scan/screen capture of the art. It distracts a little, but not overtly. The cover art by Zeleznik is spectacular, as always. Overall, this is one of the more complete feeling books I’ve read for Rifts, covering all the bases. The randomized tables in each of the realm entries gives the GM a solid place to start for any ‘alternate dimension’ wartime encounter as well, or simply refer to them when designing combat scenarios you may wish to present your Players. A solid entry into an expansive setting/dynamic that a GM can certainly leverage for ages.
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