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D&D General The Role and Purpose of Evil Gods

pukunui

Legend
Hi all,

I've been doing some preliminary work on converting an older edition adventure to 5e. I am planning on setting it in a homebrew world of my own devising, which has religions / spiritual traditions borrowed from such sources as Game of Thrones and Dragon Age, both of which borrow from real world traditions, of course.

While in the process of doing some of this work, I came across an evil NPC who is written up as a cleric of Erythnul, the Greyhawk god of "hate, envy, malice, panic, ugliness, and slaughter" (to quote one source Google found for me).

That got me thinking: what is the purpose / role of evil gods in D&D? Why do we have gods of (un)death, murder, strife, disease, tyranny, slaughter, etc? Especially when you consider that D&D also has demons, devils and other foul entities that embody and promote all of those things. Why the overlap?

Looking at the real world pantheons included in the 5e PHB, the evil gods are primarily gods of trickery, gods of magic (which, in the real world, has historically had sinister connotations), gods of war/battle, gods of predators like crocodiles and serpents, gods of the elements like storms and the sea (which can be viewed as "uncaring to the point of cruelty"), and gods who serve as judges of the dead/keepers of the underworld. These gods all make sense to me in one way or another.

What doesn't make sense is having gods who fulfill basically the same function as demons and devils and Lovecraftian Far Realm entities. Why have a god of tyranny like Bane, when you also have archdevils like Asmodeus and Levistus who promote tyranny? What does Bane have to offer someone that Asmodeus et al can't also offer? Why have a god of chaos and murder like Bhaal when you've got demons that are all about that sort of thing? Why have a god of death/undeath like Myrkul when you've got a "demon prince of undeath" in the form of Orcus? What sets Tharizdun apart from Cthulhu and Hadar and their ilk?

For my setting, I am taking the same approach as Eberron and making it so no one knows for sure if the gods and god-like beings exist. I am now also considering getting rid of any gods that overlap with the demon princes and archdevils and Great Old Ones and the like. Instead of a cleric of Erythnul, I might make the aforementioned NPC a fiend-pact warlock.

In my setting, I might also make it so the gods are all about salvation -- that is, saving their followers from the damnation that comes with selling their souls to the fiends and other evil entities. Instead of good gods/entities vs evil gods/entities, the spiritual conflict of the setting would be gods vs fiends. Evil is seductive, so the fiends can be like "The gods are the ones who want to enslave you; we just want to give you your freedom -- the freedom to do whatever you want, without having to obey some stuffy god's rules". Plenty of room for nuance still. There just wouldn't be any clerics of death and murder and that sort of thing. They'd all be cultists, and if any of them have magic, it would most likely be of the warlock pact variety (with the more fighter-ish types being paladins of conquest).

Thoughts?
 
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Redwizard007

Explorer
You are definitely on to something. Evil gods of "because evil" suck. God's of murder and such are esentially useless, not to mention hard to justify outside of a Dragonlance style balance system. I'd suggest keeping a few evil deities with reasonable portfolios. A war god or God of dark magic works just fine when evil and still justifies worship, or at least appeasement. Using demon lord's or arch devils for the classic rpg evil portfolios just makes sense.
 


MGibster

Legend
That got me thinking: what is the purpose / role of evil gods in D&D? Why do we have gods of (un)death, murder, strife, disease, tyranny, slaughter, etc? Especially when you consider that D&D also has demons, devils and other foul entities that embody and promote all of those things. Why the overlap?
Like with all such questions, it depends on the campaign I suppose. But I will point out that in real life, some religions included many, many relatively minor gods of very specific things. The Romans had Janus who was the god of doors, gates, and transitions! The Greeks had Morpheus the god of dreams and Hypnos the god of sleep. Do we really need both? So what's the purpose of evil gods in D&D?

1. They adds little flavor to the setting and it fits the fantasy genre.
2. Evil gods provide us with ready made villainous organizations dedicated to nefarious causes. (Oh, these dudes worship Krog Mandoon the god of Elevator Music. These are bad dudes we're dealing with.)
3. Evil gods are powerful recurring forces that the PCs typically won't engage in and can't defeat in a direct fight. (Devils, demons, and other foul entities can presumably be defeated directly at some point.)

What doesn't make sense is having gods who fulfill basically the same function as demons and devils and Lovecraftian Far Realm entities. Why have a god of tyranny like Bane, when you also have archdevils like Asmodeus and Levistus who promote tyranny? What does Bane have to offer someone that Asmodeus et al can't also offer? Why have a god of chaos and murder like Bhaal when you've got demons that are all about that sort of thing? Why have a god of death/undeath like Myrkul when you've got a "demon prince of undeath" in the form of Orcus? What sets Tharizdun apart from Cthulhu and Hadar and their ilk?

Do they fulfill the same function though? If you worship a demon do they grant you access to spell domains? Drat, I suppose these days clerics don't have to worship gods either. But that wasn't the case back in the day when they set this whole system up.

For my setting, I am taking the same approach as Eberron and making it so no one knows for sure if the gods and god-like beings exist. I am now also considering getting rid of any gods that overlap with the demon princes and archdevils and Great Old Ones and the like. Instead of a cleric of Erythnul, I might make the aforementioned NPC a fiend-pact warlock.
Your system sounds fine to me. For my setting, I included a few evil gods in the pantheon who were still worshipped by good people. Most of the clerics of the evil storm god were more dedicated to placating him and hopefully sparing their people from his wrath. Though there are some clerics drunk with power who relish in wallowing in his destructiveness.
 


TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
Yes, you have stumbled onto something.

Name level demons and devils can, and have, pretty much done everything evil gods have in game. In my own homebrew, I usually have just a few fallen gods that are distant beings, with the demons and devils doing most of the dirty work.

There is an element of game history here, and semantics. Evil gods, including say Hecate but also Cthulhu, were brought in into the game from other sources. At this time evil non-human gods were also created, I think almost as an afterthought, and then became fairly popular.

This brings us to semantics. Lloth was promoted to demon "goddess" to let her cover more ground. Some evil gods might not fit into the various tribes., but aren't really a bigger deal then say Orcus. Or take the non-evil gods. In Greyhawk, many of these are really like glorified adventurers, not like, say, Zeus. EGG never took them too seriously.

In certain mythologies, gods sit on one side, demons on the other. Its not a bad approach.
 

pukunui

Legend
Do they fulfill the same function though? If you worship a demon do they grant you access to spell domains? Drat, I suppose these days clerics don't have to worship gods either. But that wasn't the case back in the day when they set this whole system up.
I was wondering if this might have been the thinking behind it early on - that is, since the demon princes and archdevils aren't gods, they can't provide spells to their priests/cultists. Think about how priests of the various elemental cults in Princes of the Apocalypse are statted up as sorcerers rather than clerics.

That said, warlocks and their pact magic weren't really a thing in older editions of D&D, so if you wanted evil spellcasting priests and didn't want to make them wizards, you didn't have much choice other than to make them evil clerics.

But now I feel like the warlock does a good job representing evil cultists / priests who can use magic granted by their patrons, meaning there isn't as much of a need for bona fide clerics of evil deities.

Also, 5e only really has one the "evil" cleric domain (Death, which is relegated to the DMG) anyway. The tempest and trickery domains in the PHB aren't for evil deities only. Contrast that with 3.5e, which had clerics domains of chaos, death, destruction, evil, and goodness knows what else. So in some respects, you can't even really have proper clerics of evil deities in 5e anyway. Bhaal can only offer the Death domain (which isn't necessarily that good of a fit), while Bane can only offer the War domain. Clerics of Shar are stuck with either Death or Trickery, neither of which really fit that well with her darkness theme mechanically.
 
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pukunui

Legend
Because your definition of 'evil' doesnt need to be the same as everyone else, and Demons/Devils of the highest level, do not need to be (or imo should not be) Gods.
For the record, I wasn't suggesting promoting the demon princes or archdevils to gods. I am suggesting removing the evil gods whose portfolios overlap with those of the demon princes and archdevils and such.

You can ask the same questions about Good and Neutral Gods. They exist in the settings and tend to represent negative aspects of the world.
The difference is that D&D doesn't really have good or neutral equivalents of the demon princes and such. There aren't really any archangels who rule sections of the heavens, for instance. (There might very well be some, but they're not anywhere near as well known as their evil counterparts are.) The gods are the rulers of the various heavens, whether they are good or evil. But the evil ones do pretty much the same things as demons and devils, whereas the good and neutral gods don't have "famous" underlings with whom they overlap in abilities and such. Do you get the distinction there?

Name level demons and devils can, and have, pretty much done everything evil gods have in game. In my own homebrew, I usually have just a few fallen gods that are distant beings, with the demons and devils doing most of the dirty work.
Yeah, so as an example, the main religion in my setting is more or less a carbon copy of the Faith of the Seven from Game of Thrones. While the majority of the "gods" are goodly, there's the creepy and somewhat sinister "Stranger" who oversees the transition from life to death. Their role is closer to that of Anubis or Hades than Bhaal or Myrkul, however.

I will also have a miscellaneous collection of "Old Gods" who will include gods of storms and the sea and that sort of thing. Gods who embody the capricious, cruel, chaotic aspects of the natural world. But not gods dedicated to "civilized" concepts such as murder and tyranny.

I am also going to have a Lord of Light-esque religion that's very focused on "Good vs Evil" with one god that is good and is the creator/protector of life and the world and such. That god is opposed to a single god-like entity who is evil and is the creator/patron of fiends and other evil creatures. The night is dark and full of terrors and all that! ;)

In certain mythologies, gods sit on one side, demons on the other. Its not a bad approach.
Exactly!
 
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AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
. . . I don't know why these gods exist "historically", per se, and I can't say how the world and game-designers of these Gods in the earlier editions of D&D were thinking, but I do think that there's a reason for this.

The main one, to me, is that Demons, Devils, and other Fiends are distinct from Deities, at least historically. Demons and Devils are pure embodiments of their alignments, which makes them trend towards different behaviors, while Deities in D&D have more or less been on a "Made-God-Through-Worship" basis. Demons and Devils exist whether or not you believe they do. If you don't believe in a Demon, it's still going exist, and it's still going to murder you and everyone you love. Gods, on the other hand, work differently. Gods in D&D need prayers badly. If they don't have worshippers, they're not gods, and if they have more worshippers than other gods, they're more powerful because of it. Asmodeus will exist as the Lord of Nessus whether or not you believe or worship in him. His divinity, on the other hand, does rely on mortal worshippers, and that's where Archfiends and Deities diverge in-world in Dungeons and Dragons.

Some Archfiends in D&D have been explicitly stated to be Gods, such as Lolth and Asmodeus. Others haven't been (Baphomet, Orcus, Demogorgon, Levistus, Zariel, etc), and thus aren't Gods. There is overlap, in both what a god is and what their role is in the setting. Game designers in the earlier editions of D&D didn't really care at all about redundancy. That's why we have a ton of tricksy, typically evil Small monsters that come from basically the same roots in the folklore (Goblins, Kobolds, Xvarts, Boggles, etc). Redundancy wasn't really considred a problem back then, and got us into the place we are now for a lot of the "why do these things even exist" discussions/arguments that happen online about D&D. They exist because they originally served different defined-purposes and the creators of early D&D didn't care a smidge about redundancy.



That said, I can definitely get on-board with getting rid of some of these redundancies in the game. In your homebrew world, you can just have your God of Chaotic Evil (Raids/Pillaging) War be a Demon Lord (Baphomet, Yeenoghu, or Demogorgon), and your God of Lawful Evil War (Conquest) be an Archdevil (Asmodeus). You can have your Archangels and Celestial Paragons be the Good gods (in my world, the redeemed Zariel is the Goddess of Justice), instead of having two different caste-systems for the exact same purpose. In my world, I have a God of Life/Souls (the Vistaesh), a God of Death/the Afterlife (the Raven Queen), and a God of Undeath/Necromancy (Vecna), and that's it. No race-specific gods of those portfolios, no redundant gods, archfiends, or archliches of the same concepts, and no nonsensical redundancies for the differences between a God and just super-powerful-entity. My gods are well-defined and observed to exist, but their divinity and right to be worshipped definitely isn't (who wants to worship a god of Undeath in the first place?!?! Vecna's trying to destroy the world!). (Also, in my world, there's different ways to maintain your godhood. The most common way is good-old worship and prayers, and enough of it can create gods, but there are other ways, like how Vecna maintains his divinity by feeding his Mega-Phylactery thousands of souls a day, and the sustenance of nature fuelling Ubtao as the God of Nature.)

So, yeah, there's really no purpose in having both Archfiends and Evil Gods if they're going to fulfill the same purpose in your world, and most worlds are better off without the redundancy, IMO. No need to have two things for the same purpose. It just makes it twice as hard to remember all their names and lore.
 
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MonsterEnvy

Adventurer
The difference is that D&D doesn't really have good or neutral equivalents of the demon princes and such. There aren't really any archangels who rule sections of the heavens, for instance. (There might very well be some, but they're not anywhere near as well known as their evil counterparts are.) The gods are the rulers of the various heavens, whether they are good or evil. But the evil ones do pretty much the same things as demons and devils, whereas the good and neutral gods don't have "famous" underlings with whom they overlap in abilities and such. Do you get the distinction there?
There are however. They are just not as notable as the villains, cause the villains are the ones that will be used in games most of the time.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
There are however. They are just not as notable as the villains, cause the villains are the ones that will be used in games most of the time.

Exactly. If you look at various editions, there are tons of hierarchies of Archons, for example, not mentioning Devas and the Planetars and Solars. And if you look at Planescape (best setting ever IMHO), you have descriptions that start with "Mount Celestia is largely the domains of the Archons", which is the exact counterpart of the Devils in Hell.

After that, in addition to the creatures who are the embodiment of the qualities of a plane, you have which deity have their domains where, and whether these deities need worship or not, so many potential combinations

As I love Planescape, the variety of the races, deities, planes, interactions, I like to keep everything, but you are of course absolutely to have a more streamlined cosmology if you wish it.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I think gods should all be Unaligned personally. Every deity should have aspects that their worshippers would consider good, and other parts that were not. They are above mortal judgement, so who gets to say that one is "good" and one is "evil"?

Now for those players who still go with the Gygaxian idea that good, evil, law and chaos are manifestible ideals, the need for everyone to have a distinct alignment might be very important. I, however, find that to be a game concept I no longer wish to continue with.
 
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pukunui

Legend
There are however. They are just not as notable as the villains, cause the villains are the ones that will be used in games most of the time.
Exactly. If you look at various editions, there are tons of hierarchies of Archons, for example, not mentioning Devas and the Planetars and Solars. And if you look at Planescape (best setting ever IMHO), you have descriptions that start with "Mount Celestia is largely the domains of the Archons", which is the exact counterpart of the Devils in Hell.
But are there named "archangels" that would be the goodly counterparts to the demon princes and archdevils? The devas, planetars, etc are more like the counterparts to balors, pit fiends, etc. If there are any named "angel princes" or the like that aren't the gods, they don't get any exposure really.

As I love Planescape, the variety of the races, deities, planes, interactions, I like to keep everything, but you are of course absolutely to have a more streamlined cosmology if you wish it.
Not a big fan of Planescape or the Great Wheel comsology. I much prefer the 4e cosmology. I like Dragon Age's cosmology even better.

I think God's should all be Unaligned personally. Every deity should have aspects that their worshippers would consider good, and other parts that were not. They are above mortal judgement, so who gets to say that one is "good" and one is "evil"?
That would certainly help address some of those complaints that good deities can't really be all that good if they tolerate all the various evil deities and such.
 

MonsterEnvy

Adventurer
But are there named "archangels" that would be the goodly counterparts to the demon princes and archdevils? The devas, planetars, etc are more like the counterparts to balors, pit fiends, etc. If there are any named "angel princes" or the like that aren't the gods, they don't get any exposure really.
Yes
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
But are there named "archangels" that would be the goodly counterparts to the demon princes and archdevils? The devas, planetars, etc are more like the counterparts to balors, pit fiends, etc. If there are any named "angel princes" or the like that aren't the gods, they don't get any exposure really.

Well, you have at least one named in 5e history, Zariel... ;)

Not a big fan of Planescape or the Great Wheel comsology. I much prefer the 4e cosmology. I like Dragon Age's cosmology even better.

Personal preferences are fine, as for me I was raised on the Great Wheel, and I love its intricacies and capabilities for intrigue.

That would certainly help address some of those complaints that good deities can't really be all that good if they tolerate all the various evil deities and such.

Although it's a possibility, you don't need it in the Great Wheel and similar cosmologies since it's just that the evil deities are just as powerful as the good ones, so it's not a question of tolerating them but of having to deal with them on an equal footing.
 

pukunui

Legend
Well, you have at least one named in 5e history, Zariel... ;)
According to both Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes and Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus, she was a "mighty angel" but that doesn't make her the equal/counterpart of Orcus or Levistus. I would probably put her on the same level as a pit fiend. After she fell, she was then elevated to the position of an archdevil when she took over Avernus.

Nevertheless, I feel my point stands: even if D&D has had archangels / angelic princes in the past, they are virtually unheard of today. They don't play a big part in the grand scheme of the multiverse, like the demon princes and archdevils (and even the princes of elemental evil) do.

I think the closest thing we've had in recent times were 4e's exarchs, some of whom were classed as lesser deities or demigods in previous editions. All of them were servants of the gods, however, and I'd be willing to bet that any other named archangels / angelic princes in D&D's history are as well. I would therefore not class them as being on an equal footing to the demon princes and archdevils, none of whom explicitly serve any of the evil deities. In the FR cosmology, Juiblex isn't a servant of Moander any more than Orcus is a servant of Myrkul.

In fact, gods like Myrkul and Bhaal and Bane are just as likely to have angels / archons / celestials as servants as the good gods are.

So there's still more doubling up of the bad guys really.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
According to both Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes and Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus, she was a "mighty angel" but that doesn't make her the equal/counterpart of Orcus or Levistus. I would probably put her on the same level as a pit fiend.

And I would disagree. She was not a deva. planetar or solar, (which you said "The devas, planetars, etc are more like the counterparts to balors, pit fiends, etc.").

Nevertheless, I feel my point stands: even if D&D has had archangels / angelic princes in the past, they are virtually unheard of today. They don't play a big part in the grand scheme of the multiverse, like the demon princes and archdevils (and even the princes of elemental evil) do.

Well I would say that she played as big a part as the Archdevils and Demon Princes, responded in kind to Yeenoghu's invasion of the Prime for example, which clearly puts her at the same level as a Demon Prince. It's just that they are more discreet about it and are less likely to become adversaries of the PC, in addition to in general respecting the happiness and free will of people of the Prime.

I think the closest thing we've had in recent times were 4e's exarchs, some of whom were classed as lesser deities or demigods in previous editions. All of them were servants of the gods, however, and I'd be willing to bet that any other named archangels / angelic princes in D&D's history are as well. I would therefore not class them as being on an equal footing to the demon princes and archdevils, none of whom explicitly serve any of the evil deities.

Actually they do, Asmodeus is considered a god in many cosmologies for example, so the parallel is obvious.

In the FR cosmology, Juiblex isn't a servant of Moander any more than Orcus is a servant of Myrkul.

And they don't have to be.

In fact, gods like Myrkul and Bhaal and Bane are just as likely to have angels / archons / celestials as servants as the good gods are.

No, for alignment reasons, all of these only serve good deities, but they have their own cohorts which I think can be specific as well as creatures corrupted/wrenched from the closest alignment planes.

So there's still more doubling up of the bad guys really.

And again, not really, Good deities often have their own cohorts as well. I'm not exactly sure why you insist on a cosmic unbalance there, you can build a cosmology that way, but the creatures and designs also support a kind of balanced mirror hierarchies.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
So there's actually a few layers to your question that I'll try and break down a little bit in my answer!

1) Historically Evil Gods
Largely didn't exist. They either weren't earnestly considered "Evil" in general, but as having done terrible things, or they weren't actually considered to be -gods- until some other (Very Western, Very Roman) culture rolled up and tried to quantify their beliefs under the same framework of their own belief system.

Take Set, for example. He was the god of storms, disorder, violence, the red desert, and foreigners. But he was also a hero who traveled with Ra who is Horus of the Twin Horizons on the solar barque each day to do battle with Apep, the Fire Serpent of the Underworld. While he killed his own brother and spent decades cheating at competitions to decide who would be the new Osiris, he still got Ra to bend over for him to have some rumpy pumpy time... and then got hilariously poisoned with Ra's seed spread on his salad. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

Set was a deity of Storms and Red Clay, but that didn't make him -evil-. That just made him the deity of uncontrollable nature and wastelands. It wasn't until his portfolio included Foreigners and then Foreigners spent hundreds of years doing crappy things to Egypt that he got black marked as "Evil". And only because he protected Foreigners who did TERRIBLE THINGS to Egypt. But he still hopped on that barque every evening as the sun set in the west to help his nephew fight Apep and return to the sky each morning.

2) Gods in D&D
Because of how very Western D&D is, we have this continual idea that somehow Gods are removed from other things. They are external, eternal, and all-seeing (or near to it). They move through avatars and priests and you can only meet them if you planestravel or they come to the planet on a rare and specific occasion, usually for some massive knock down drag out with another deity and the playspace is a deific battleground so they don't mess up their own planes of existence too much.

Similarly, only Gods (And also Ideals for some reason) are capable of offering Divine Magic because it helps to define them -as- Gods separate from everything else. A God of Good is therefore needed to make Good Priests and a God of Evil is therefore needed to make Evil Priests. It's a ridiculous stipulation based entirely in very modern ideas of deific power and divine nature heavily influenced by monotheism and a monotheistic perspective of non-abrahamic religions and mythology. (Trying to be as nonspecific as possible, here)

3) Demons in D&D and Reality
Historically speaking demons in real world religious beliefs fall into two specific categories:

1: Monstrous Entities which fulfill a very specific, very limited, narrative role. Apep, for example, or one of the many Zoroastrian "Bad Thoughts". While these things largely started out as a fairly neutral concept, even though they were largely antagonistic, they largely became "Evil" through humanity's unending facility to create pointless and false dichotomies... again, largely because of very Western views on faith and belief where antagonism must be considered evil and protagonism must be considered good. The word Demon, after all, comes from the Greek "Daimon" meaning "Spiritual Entity" which largely referred to a person's different emotional and psychological aspects given spiritual significance....

2: Fallen Gods. Chemosh and Baalzebul, for example, were deities in ancient times who were considered superior to some other deities and lesser to others. Throw in a little Holy War which destroys or conquers (through bloodshed or theology) the lesser religion and the iconography and writing about that deity becomes twisted into a mockery of what it once was in order to appease the new status quo. D&D's Demon Lord of Flies and Filth is directly based on propaganda meant to unseat Baalzebul from his position of religious prominence.

And, because humans fall easily into a pack structure with a central hierarchical understanding of "Position", Demons wind up in their Hierarchies of Archdemons and Everything else. Because even the most Chaotic entities have to have a pecking order of power level for players to kick butt all the way up the roster, with some stopping point of "The Most Powerful Demons in the Multiverse" so we can sit on top of our hill of Demon Corpses and be proud of our many accomplishments.

4) Putting it All Together
Powerful Demons can't grant spells except to Warlocks by D&D's rules, therefor we need Evil Gods to do so in order to have evil clerics. Demons still exist as a hierarchical structure of enemies we can physically battle before Epic Levels which are a stand-in for actual Deities, even the Arch-Demons who cover the exact same domain. Thrown in with a hint of "Most DMs don't wanna RP Evil Gods for their players to slaughter and then have to redefine their campaign world around evil priests all losing power 'cause their god died".

Personal Note: Thank you for making me think about this, and what it should mean to the setting I'm working on. That is a massive help and it's going to make the setting just that little bit more different from standard D&D game settings. I do, deeply, appreciate it. I had previously decided that "Gods" in the setting would range from "Are they even real?" entities that exist outside of mortal experience in the whole Western Religious style as well as D&D Demons, Angels, and Elementals as Local Gods that can be physically defeated in the world. But now I'm going to be playing with the idea of a non-hierarchical demonry and angelry. Where a demon, no matter how "Weak", is just always an equal threat to the players, gaining "Levels" right along side them. Level 20 Imps and Lemures and Manes and Mariliths because there really shouldn't be a Hierarchy of Outsiders. Just powerful inhuman entities.
 
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pukunui

Legend
And I would disagree. She was not a deva. planetar or solar, (which you said "The devas, planetars, etc are more like the counterparts to balors, pit fiends, etc.").
We don't have stats for her as an angel, so we don't really know what she was before becoming an archdevil. That said, she's not identified as "Zariel, Angel Prince of Mt Celestia" or anything like that. She's just "Zariel, an angel". Sometimes a "mighty angel", sometimes just "an angel". I would not put her angelic form on even footing with Orcus or Levistus.

Actually they do, Asmodeus is considered a god in many cosmologies for example, so the parallel is obvious.
He stole his divinity during the 4e upheavals (at least in FR). He's certainly a bit of an exception to the rule, as it were.

No, for alignment reasons, all of these only serve good deities, but they have their own cohorts which I think can be specific as well as creatures corrupted/wrenched from the closest alignment planes.
I guess I'm still thinking in terms of the 4e cosmology, where angels weren't necessarily good, and all gods had angelic servants.

And again, not really, Good deities often have their own cohorts as well. I'm not exactly sure why you insist on a cosmic unbalance there, you can build a cosmology that way, but the creatures and designs also support a kind of balanced mirror hierarchies.
I'm not really pushing for "cosmic imbalance" so much as I'm proclaiming gods of murder and tyranny to be both nonsensical and redundant and therefore unnecessary. I think my question of why they exist in D&D has primarily been answered, though, and I shall feel no qualms about expunging them from my own homebrew cosmology.

4) Putting it All Together
Powerful Demons can't grant spells except to Warlocks by D&D's rules, therefor we need Evil Gods to do so in order to have evil clerics. Demons still exist as a hierarchical structure of enemies we can physically battle before Epic Levels which are a stand-in for actual Deities, even the Arch-Demons who cover the exact same domain. Thrown in with a hint of "Most DMs don't wanna RP Evil Gods for their players to slaughter and then have to redefine their campaign world around evil priests all losing power 'cause their god died".
Thanks for confirming my suspicion that the irredeemably evil deities of murder and tyranny and the like in D&D are largely there to fill a gap in the mechanics, as it were, and aren't really supported by (m)any real world belief systems.

Personal Note: Thank you for making me think about this, and what it should mean to the setting I'm working on. That is a massive help and it's going to make the setting just that little bit more different from standard D&D game settings. I do, deeply, appreciate it. I had previously decided that "Gods" in the setting would range from "Are they even real?" entities that exist outside of mortal experience in the whole Western Religious style as well as D&D Demons, Angels, and Elementals as Local Gods that can be physically defeated in the world. But now I'm going to be playing with the idea of a non-hierarchical demonry and angelry. Where a demon, no matter how "Weak", is just always an equal threat to the players, gaining "Levels" right along side them. Level 20 Imps and Lemures and Manes and Mariliths because there really shouldn't be a Hierarchy of Outsiders. Just powerful inhuman entities.
You're welcome!
 

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