D&D General Demons, Devils, and Officiality in D&D

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
So in Dragon Magazine #163 (November 1990) the editorial staff decided to print a handful of letters they thought were humorous and responded to them in a glib and off-hand way (while kindly maintaining the anonymity of the letter writers to save their dignity), which I stumbled upon in my ongoing browsing of my collection of mags from back in the day. One example in particular stood out to me:

letter.jpg

What struck me about this letter and its response, is that the editor decided to leverage the removal of demons and devils from AD&D with the advent of the second edition (a removal that would end up being temporary, since within a year or so they'd be put back in with different names) as a simultaneously joking and "official" response. Of course, this has the effect of completely dismissing the potentially discomforting subject the letter writer is inquiring about for guidance, which I guess I can understand (but then why publish it except to lightly mock someone for making use of what had been an "official" part of the game only a year or so earlier - and would be again in less than a year). The entry for Alu-Demon in the 1E Monster Manual II explicitly says it is the product of a mortal human and a succubus. And while the succubus entry does not specifically list seduction as a tactic for corruption, their description as tall beautiful woman, with the drawing of a one being totally naked and voluptuous, and the general legends of what succubi do, does reinforce a sense of how they can be put to use in a campaign. (On the other hand, stopping dungeon exploration to sleep with a random demon woman, regardless of the rules' suggestions, seems like an odd choice).

Anyway, his got me thinking about the letter writer and many D&D players' need for an official rule or response for the questions that come up in their games and the dissonance that occurs between what is happening at a particular table and how the game evolves and changes in printed materials and various editions, and the sense that the "official" game should cater to what is already happening. It also got me thinking about the opposite position, that old stuff should be dropped as the new iterations come to be the "standard" way of playing.

The main reason why this is fascinating to me is that for a long time now "officiality," whether it be about some silly or puerile edge case that comes up or some core rule or inclusion of some feature or monster, has not been a concern of mine as a D&D player or DM. For example, I never cared if TSR officially had demons and devils in the game or what they were called. If I wanted them in my game, they were in there (and honestly, how often did demons and devils come up? Personally, I can think of fewer than five times such creatures have appeared in my games in 39 years of playing - though obviously my game is not everyone else's game and in some they appear a lot more frequently.

But, I am a firm believer that what is published by whatever company happens to own the D&D license is just one iteration of a much larger hobby and tradition called Dungeons & Dragons.

Anyway, I am not so sure I have a specific question about this, but thought it might be interesting to discuss (sans edition warring) how 5E and/or previous editions encourages (or not) this desire for officiality and what your personal take on such questions might be. (Plus I just wanted to share a funny letter)
 
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Jer

Legend
Supporter
Anyway, I am not so sure I have a specific question about this, but thought it might be interesting to discuss (sans edition warring) how 5E and/or previous editions encourages (or not) this desire for officiality and what your personal take on such questions might be. (Plus I just wanted to share a funny letter)

My take on "official" rulings is that I find them interesting to see what the company who makes D&D thinks the rules are/should be, but they're not necessarily binding. I think the most down the rabbit hole I ever went with official rulings was with 4e, where since I was using the online tools I'd get all of the errata incorporated whether I really wanted it or not. Prior to 3e I think my relationship to things like Sage Advice was mostly humorous interest - what kind of weird corner case would someone write in to ask about - it gave an interesting glimpse into how other folks played the game.

With 5e I know some folks will follow the official Twitter accounts for rulings but I just don't see the need. Much like with BECMI the rules are what they are and we'll figure out what they mean for our table as problems come up. If we're reading them "wrong" but having fun it doesn't matter. (And the 5e core game is more consistent than the BECMI core was, so it's easier to just make up a ruling on the fly based on what I think it should be and have it turn out to be the way it "works" anyway once we look it up or someone asks about it).
 


Voadam

Legend
I am a bit annoyed with the succubus.

OD&D they are chaotic and evil demons.

1e, 2e, 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder they are Chaotic Evil demons. (2e they are Chaotic Evil Tanari).

4e they are Evil devils.

Later 4e they are Evil devils some of whom accompany the Archdevil Grazz't into the Abyss and become demons along with him.

5e they are Neutral Evil fiends of indeterminate sort.

I'd prefer if their demon type had stayed the same throughout.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
I can think of two types that seem to need official answers.
I think that's a bit unfair - many of the writers into Sage Advice back in the day were often DMs (like the one quoted above) who for whatever reason wanted someone else to make the decision for them. Maybe because they didn't care and wanted a neutral ruling, maybe to reinforce their own argument against a player, or maybe just because they really didn't understand the rules and wanted clarification.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I remember that letter! I hadn't subscribed when it came out, but a friend's mother had a bunch of old Dragon issues that her husband was throwing out, and I was quite happy to snatch them up. I still have them on my shelves to this day.

I can think of two types that seem to need official answers.
You forgot to list "people who enjoy simulationism, and want an authoritative answer as to how the game world works."
 

payn

Legend
I think that's a bit unfair - many of the writers into Sage Advice back in the day were often DMs (like the one quoted above) who for whatever reason wanted someone else to make the decision for them. Maybe because they didn't care and wanted a neutral ruling, maybe to reinforce their own argument against a player, or maybe just because they really didn't understand the rules and wanted clarification

You forgot to list "people who enjoy simulationism, and want an authoritative answer as to how the game world works."
I never said there were only two types.
 




Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I am a bit annoyed with the succubus.

OD&D they are chaotic and evil demons.

1e, 2e, 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder they are Chaotic Evil demons. (2e they are Chaotic Evil Tanari).

4e they are Evil devils.

Later 4e they are Evil devils some of whom accompany the Archdevil Grazz't into the Abyss and become demons along with him.

5e they are Neutral Evil fiends of indeterminate sort.

I'd prefer if their demon type had stayed the same throughout.
I hadn't looked at the 5e version yet. Now that I have and see what you are talking about, they are definitely demons in my 5e game.
 

Wyckedemus

Explorer
I am a bit annoyed with the succubus.

OD&D they are chaotic and evil demons.

1e, 2e, 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder they are Chaotic Evil demons. (2e they are Chaotic Evil Tanari).

4e they are Evil devils.

Later 4e they are Evil devils some of whom accompany the Archdevil Grazz't into the Abyss and become demons along with him.

5e they are Neutral Evil fiends of indeterminate sort.

I'd prefer if their demon type had stayed the same throughout.

I prefer how Succubi/Incubi are portrayed in 5e (including being gender-fluid based so they can adapt to who they want to tempt/corrupt), and I use them as [Any] Evil fiends that can be from any lower plane. Temptation and corruption can be levied from any alignment perspective. I like when players can't be comfortable assuming the motivation of such a creature. If the creatures are set in an alignment, it's too easy to predict. For example "The incubus is a devil, and we know devils want to make deals, so we can estimate their angle or what they value and we can work with that", or "The succubus is a demon, which means they only want to destroy, and we don't need to consider what they offer"
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I prefer how Succubi/Incubi are portrayed in 5e (including being gender-fluid based so they can adapt to who they want to tempt/corrupt), and I use them as [Any] Evil fiends that can be from any lower plane. Temptation and corruption can be levied from any alignment perspective.
That idea always makes me shake my head, because temptation/corruption was never the succubus's goal; people got that from the whole "sexy + woman + evil = temptress" idea.

Succubi, in older editions of D&D, have always been black widows [insert ScarJo quip here]. They're not trying to tempt you into anything, except a secluded place where they can drain your life force without interruption and then kip off before someone finds your body. That's why they have enchantment powers, since otherwise you might say no. Corrupting your morals is someone else's job.
 

Voadam

Legend
That idea always makes me shake my head, because temptation/corruption was never the succubus's goal; people got that from the whole "sexy + woman + evil = temptress" idea.

Succubi, in older editions of D&D, have always been black widows [insert ScarJo quip here]. They're not trying to tempt you into anything, except a secluded place where they can drain your life force without interruption and then kip off before someone finds your body. That's why they have enchantment powers, since otherwise you might say no. Corrupting your morals is someone else's job.
It has varied. :) 2e talks about them as temptresses.

2e's Monstrous Compendium Appendix 8 Outer Planes says "Beautiful and seductive, the succubi are the temptresses of mortals. While the glabrezu (q.v.) are the subtle tempters of men of power, the succubi are temptresses of men of passion and energy."

"Habitat/Society The temptresses of the lower planes are subtle and slow. It is their way to cause mortals to succumb to their charms and beauty, ultimately bringing about the mortals' deaths. They often have passionate encounters with mortal men, only to later destroy them and take their life forces to the Abyss"
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
It has varied. :) 2e talks about them as temptresses.
Sure, in terms of tempting you into letting your guard down, not to change your alignment. I'd bold a different part of that last paragraph.
"Habitat/Society The temptresses of the lower planes are subtle and slow. It is their way to cause mortals to succumb to their charms and beauty, ultimately bringing about the mortals' deaths. They often have passionate encounters with mortal men, only to later destroy them and take their life forces to the Abyss"
 

cbwjm

Legend
What struck me about that letter is that people have been asking for official answers to weird questions all the way back in 1e. I'm not actually surprised, it's just funny to see these questions back in dragon magazine, small wonder they waited for an issue to do a joke response for that one.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Seems strange to introduce a monster that is specifically the result of a human sleeping with a succubus and then claim she is not supposed to be a seductress at least in part.

Anyway, arguing about succubi is not what I imagined this thread would b about. :unsure:
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
1e, 2e, 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder they are Chaotic Evil demons. (2e they are Chaotic Evil Tanari).

4e they are Evil devils.

Later 4e they are Evil devils some of whom accompany the Archdevil Grazz't into the Abyss and become demons along with him.

5e they are Neutral Evil fiends of indeterminate sort.
Maybe a 4e player can confirm this, but I heard that in 4e they got rid of the erinyes and combined some aspects of it to the succubus. Perhaps part of that remained in 5e, even though they did restore the erinyes?
 

RoughCoronet0

Dragon Lover
Maybe a 4e player can confirm this, but I heard that in 4e they got rid of the erinyes and combined some aspects of it to the succubus. Perhaps part of that remained in 5e, even though they did restore the erinyes?
They didn’t get rid of the Erinyes in 4e, they just weren’t released officially until the second monster manual for the edition came out.

They were also more inspired from the Furies of Greek myth then being devil versions of succubus.
 


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