Yugoloths: Do They Have an Identity Beyond the Blood War?

Hexmage-EN

Explorer
Demons and Devils are some of the most popular foes in D&D. These two factions seek to enact wicked plans in the Multiverse under the leadership of Archdevils and Demon Lords. The two groups of fiends butt heads in the endless Blood War, an altercation that also involves an obscure third group of fiends: the Yugoloths.

The Yugoloths were first known as the Daemons but, along with Demons and Devils, received a name change as a means to defend against bad press during the Satanic Panic of the 80's. Though the Demons and Devils eventually reclaimed their original names, the Daemons retained the Yugoloth identity. It was during this time that the Yugoloths also became known as mercenaries in the Blood War between Demons and Devils.

Little attention was paid towards Yugoloths in 3E, and 4E went so far as to fold them in with Demons (save for the Arcanaloths, which were given the name Raavasta). 5E made the Yugoloths distinct again, but also changed their lore to have been created by Night Hags at the request of Asmodeus only for them to have eventually become mercenaries for both sides of the Blood War.

The most recent 5E publication, Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, opens with a message from the most famous of the Yugoloths, the Arcanaloth known as Shemeska the Marauder. Several Yugoloths are also statted-up in the book, and their role in the Blood War is mentioned. However, the book also devotes much, much more space to detailing Demons and Devils than it does their hired mercenaries, and the Yugoloth leaders are omitted in favor of Archdevils and Demon Lords.

With all this in mind I ask if there's really much of a point to the Yugoloths, at least as they are presented. Why are the Neutral Evil fiends just mercenaries in a certain conflict for the more popular and well-known Demons and Devils? Even the now independent Succubi at least have a reason to interact with PCs independent of Demons and Devils, but Yugoloths have little identity beyond their role in the Blood War.

Personally I feel like the Sorrowsworn detailed in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes fit better as a Neutral Evil race of fiends. They are embodiments of pointless suffering, which, in my opinion, feels more appropriate to the alignment than a group that is just a third-wheel in the Blood War.

Thoughts?
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Thoughts?
Daemons were mildly interesting and at least had an identity.

Yugosloths are like Yugoslavia; an artificial construction that is pleasing to no one.

They are the unsharpened pencil of D&D monsters; what's the point?
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
Yugoloths suck, but they don't suck quite as bad as demodands/gehreleths.

In my own game, the line between dark fae and demons is already blurred (fae look humanoid, and demons look monstrous), and one-off unique yugoloths like Shemeska fit right into that. Strict and distinct categorizations may be aesthetically pleasing to some, but I prefer my evil extradimensional monsters to be mysterious.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
If memory serves me correctly, there was a bit more detail about the Yugoloths in the 3e Manual of the Planes. But yeah, they’re mostly just “demons from a plane that’s not the Abyss.”

Still kinda bummed the wicked Tol-Kendar “bodywrecker” polearm didn’t make a return in Mordenkainen’s. I remember that being vicious fun to throw at PCs.
 

flametitan

Explorer
You have to really look for reasons to include yugoloths, but they're there, though usually from the Mortal's end. Almost everything a Yugoloth is good for in the Blood War has some form of application in the Prime Material, though obviously a villain able to afford to command such creatures is no mere cultist.
 

Eltab

Villager
Maybe Yugoloths get short shrift because there aren't many / any "known name" IRL examples of NE behavior?
Or just (besides Charon who is rather passive and waits for you to die of old age) no in-lore personalities to learn to love to hate and yet respect, while fighting to prevent its desires from coming to pass?
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
They were the evil puppet masters of the entire Multiverse in Planescape. I can't remember what book it was, but it stated they did in fact start Armageddon in the distant mythical past where they united all the fiends and nearly wiped out the Upper Planes. But the Demons and Devils turned on each other and started the Blood War so the Upper Planes were saved. The Yugoloths are the ones who eventually want to unite both sides of the Blood War again, so they can bring about Armageddon a second time and win. Though they're interested is having the Blood War continue because it ensures that the Fiendish forces get stronger and stronger, through constant training.

The elders of the Yugoloths the Baernoloths (whose ranks include Anthraxus and the General of Gehenna) are ancient evils who aim to bring more evil and misery across the planes, and are playing a very long game... Remember they come from the Gray Waste of Hades a plane that drains colour and emotions like caring away, and can spread like a disease.

Another thing is you should totally trust the friendly Arcanoloth Akin, who's a shopkeeper in Sigil, he's a much nicer guy than Shemeshka ever was...
 
It seems like if there were a summon fiendish mercenary spell (you get the yugoloth for a day, no concentration, but you can't end the spell [except by killing the yugoloth] early, and if someone makes it a better deal during the day*, you are hosed), then I think there would be more interest in them. I get that they are there mostly to supplement any fiendish encounter (devils or demons or any other fiend have a good in-story reason to have a yugoloth with them), but it seems like cosmic mercenaries plus PC's with a lot of gp's are a natural match.

Honestly, something like that seems more appropriate for wizards then summoning demons....

* And you can be sure they will try to get a better deal if they encounter anything with an int of 3 or more and some gold in its pockets.
 

Hexmage-EN

Explorer
They were the evil puppet masters of the entire Multiverse in Planescape. I can't remember what book it was, but it stated they did in fact start Armageddon in the distant mythical past where they united all the fiends and nearly wiped out the Upper Planes. But the Demons and Devils turned on each other and started the Blood War so the Upper Planes were saved. The Yugoloths are the ones who eventually want to unite both sides of the Blood War again, so they can bring about Armageddon a second time and win. Though they're interested is having the Blood War continue because it ensures that the Fiendish forces get stronger and stronger, through constant training.

The elders of the Yugoloths the Baernoloths (whose ranks include Anthraxus and the General of Gehenna) are ancient evils who aim to bring more evil and misery across the planes, and are playing a very long game... Remember they come from the Gray Waste of Hades a plane that drains colour and emotions like caring away, and can spread like a disease.

Another thing is you should totally trust the friendly Arcanoloth Akin, who's a shopkeeper in Sigil, he's a much nicer guy than Shemeshka ever was...
I figured there was probably more to them in Planescape, but what about other settings?

Plus, 5E separated Yugoloths from Demons again, but also made them merely the rogue product of Asmodeus' commission to the Night Hags, so they don't even have their Planescape hook anymore. Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes also presents Oinoloths as just another kind of Yugoloth rather than a title.
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
The 'loths had a massive amount of detail and in-game history fleshed out during 2e, and late 3.x played with a lot of that planar prehistory in which the 'loths created the other original fiend races (the obyriths and ancient baatorians). Unfortunately 4e nuked them as a fiendish race entirely, and 5e when it has given them attention has virtually ignored their earlier, highly detailed material presented in Planescape (or outright contradicted it, such as the MM suggesting that they were created by Asmodeus and night hags, when in Planescape the 'loths vastly predate both of those) in favor of a mix of 1e and watered down 4e content.

I hope that things improve and that rich lore is taken into consideration, but for the moment it's not being touched. MToF for instance at first reading from me doesn't appear to specifically reference any history from Planescape for any of the fiend races, 'loths, demons, devils, etc. The Oinoloth is also reduced from the unique, godlike ruler of Khin-Oin to a CR12 generic yugoloth, and the book doubles down on 'all tieflings are only devil-blooded like in 4e'. I'm puzzled and disappointed to say the least that while 5e has seemed to want to make an outreach to prior settings, at least for Planescape it has mostly ignored or contradicted that setting's lore. There's ways to rectify that obviously, but the design focus thus far for the 5e planes has very much not favored Planescape content.

Personally I'd present the planar content in MToF as a mixture of Mordenkainen having been wrong as a mortal regarding the history of the planes, or since the book was in-game stolen and presented by Shemeshka the Marauder, Sigil's best yugoloth had every incentive to joyously lie and fabricate false content that botched actual history and utterly downplayed the yugoloths. That's what I'd go with, otherwise you'd have to assume that the original Planescape sources just weren't considered.

And if you have the time to read a few thousand pages of fiction, my storyhour here on Enworld since 2003 or so is focused on yugoloth politics with a heavy dose of planar prehistory. A number of unique yugoloths, high rank arcanaloths, ultroloths, and specific baernaloths comprise the primary villains from the campaign.
 
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Satyrn

Villager
They were the evil puppet masters of the entire Multiverse in Planescape. I can't remember what book it was, but it stated they did in fact start Armageddon in the distant mythical past where they united all the fiends and nearly wiped out the Upper Planes. But the Demons and Devils turned on each other and started the Blood War so the Upper Planes were saved. The Yugoloths are the ones who eventually want to unite both sides of the Blood War again, so they can bring about Armageddon a second time and win. Though they're interested is having the Blood War continue because it ensures that the Fiendish forces get stronger and stronger, through constant training.

The elders of the Yugoloths the Baernoloths (whose ranks include Anthraxus and the General of Gehenna) are ancient evils who aim to bring more evil and misery across the planes, and are playing a very long game... Remember they come from the Gray Waste of Hades a plane that drains colour and emotions like caring away, and can spread like a disease.

Another thing is you should totally trust the friendly Arcanoloth Akin, who's a shopkeeper in Sigil, he's a much nicer guy than Shemeshka ever was...
Well.

Now I have a better understanding why the demons and devils in my megadungeon are fighting an endless game of King of the Castle just beneath the city: A Yugoloth organized it.

Thank you.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I generally follow the Planescape lore that was already mentioned (and because I'm running a Planescape game right now) and usually treat them as mercenary types who will work for anyone willing to pay what they want. In my current campaign, there's a recurring mezzoloth NPC with a vicious trident for hire named Forkheet. "Forkheet" is also the only word it knows and is its answer to any question. If the PCs need extra muscle for a mission, Forkheet is up for it, but it only accepts payment in the form of children's teeth (which are kind of hard to obtain).
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
The elders of the Yugoloths the Baernoloths (whose ranks include Anthraxus and the General of Gehenna) are ancient evils who aim to bring more evil and misery across the planes, and are playing a very long game... Remember they come from the Gray Waste of Hades a plane that drains colour and emotions like caring away, and can spread like a disease.
Just to clarify, Anthraxus and the General of Gehenna aren't baernaloths. Anthraxus was originally an arcanaloth who became a unique being via a bargain with a cabal of night hags, and once free of his contractual servitude to them he eventually rose to become Oinoloth (and was changed even more by obtaining that position/title). The General of Gehenna is more or less a mystery, though the one fact that seems solid is that they may have been the first yugoloth to obtain the rank of ultroloth.

The baernaloths themselves aren't necessarily actually yugoloths. They're the oldest fiend race in existence, having formed from the raw substance of primal Evil before the Waste was touched/contaminated by either Law or Chaos. They created the yugoloths as servitors (telling them that they were their chosen children, when honestly they're most likely just disposable puppets with delusions of grandeur), and later instructed them in the process that purged them of Law and Chaos and led to the creation of the obyriths and ancient baatorians who they seeded into the nascent Abyss and Baator (and arguably created those two planes in the process). Prior to creating the other fiend races, one of the baernaloths (or a fusion of three of them) known as Apomps the Triple Aspected split from his siblings and created the gehreleths/demodands (the 'loths claim he did so in flawed imitation of them, and the demodands claim the 'loths were in imitation of them). Apomps was exiled for this and the plane of Carceri formed around him and his creations.

Only three baernaloths have been named in print: Apomps the Triple Aspected, Daru Ib Shamiq, and Harishek Ap Thulkesh the Blind Clockmaker (the last one I wrote).

2e provided stats for the baern, though it stated that most of the baern had eventually succumbed to the spiritual wasting of their own native plane and fallen largely into a state of torpor where they no longer cared to do much of anything and abandoned their creations and their original plans for reality. However a group of "mad baernaloths" known as The Demented avoided this and continued to act as multiversal puppetmasters, acting as "advisors" wanted or otherwise, to the various unique yugoloths. Only Harishek Ap Thulkesh is named as a member of this group, though I'd probably include Daru as well. Based on the flavor text the 2e baern stats don't really apply and they're probably godlike in nature.

They're mentioned in late 3.x as well in text that confirms their nature as having created the obyriths. 4e made them bodyguards for the Oinoloth, which I can't understand where that was coming from (and of note it was not the intention of the author of the 4e text in question to have presented them as such, but development changes, etc). 5e I haven't noticed them so far, but given the content in MToF I don't expect continuity with their 2e and 3.x content.
 
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jaelis

Explorer
Maybe someone should write up a series of short texts, that abstracts information about yugoloths from all the different monster and planar books out there. That would make a nice reference.

We could call it Yugoloths! The Abridged Series.
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
Just to clarify, Anthraxus and the General of Gehenna aren't baernaloths. Anthraxus was originally an arcanaloth who became a unique being via a bargain with a cabal of night hags, and once free of his contractual servitude to them he eventually rose to become Oinoloth (and was changed even more by obtaining that position/title). The General of Gehenna is more or less a mystery, though the one fact that seems solid is that they may have been the first yugoloth to obtain the rank of ultroloth.
Yeah I remember the details are fuzzy since it been years. And then there was that article about "Altroloths" as well.

Of course when one finds themselves in Sigil, make sure you talk to Akin first. He's the trustworthy one...
 

dave2008

Adventurer
I figured there was probably more to them in Planescape, but what about other settings?

Plus, 5E separated Yugoloths from Demons again, but also made them merely the rogue product of Asmodeus' commission to the Night Hags, so they don't even have their Planescape hook anymore. Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes also presents Oinoloths as just another kind of Yugoloth rather than a title.
I would be careful assuming that bit about Asmo and the Hags is canon. I don't recall how it was written in 5e, but 4e was pretty good about saying something to the effect of: "this is one version of the story." By doing so they left themselves some wiggle room.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Just to clarify, Anthraxus and the General of Gehenna aren't baernaloths. Anthraxus was originally an arcanaloth who became a unique being via a bargain with a cabal of night hags, and once free of his contractual servitude to them he eventually rose to become Oinoloth (and was changed even more by obtaining that position/title). The General of Gehenna is more or less a mystery, though the one fact that seems solid is that they may have been the first yugoloth to obtain the rank of ultroloth.
Stop your 2e and GoG propganda! There is: "...but a single daemon master and lord of the Middle Planes. Known by the title of oinodaemon, he is a unique individual of great power. The present oinodaemon is Anthraxus the Decayed, and it is to him that all daemons (in theory) pay homage." ;)
 

Hexmage-EN

Explorer
I have to wonder why the 5E designers brought back the Yugoloths as a distinct fiend race if they don't intend to utilize the pre-4E lore for them or give them something new to do.
 

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