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Monsters of Many Names
Wandering Monsters
By James Wyatt

D aemons and demodands? Yugoloths and gehreleths? Demons? These planar creatures have gone through some pretty significant name—and story—changes over the years. I think the names they carried in 2nd Edition (Planescape) days are the ones that carry the most weight, but we'll get to that in the polls. For now, that's what we'll call them: yugoloths and gehreleths.

Yugoloths

Yugoloths are fiends, like demons and devils. They're native to the plane midway between the devils' Nine Hells and the demons' Abyss, variously called the Gray Waste, Hades, or the Three Glooms. They also freely travel to the adjacent planes of Tartarus/Carceri and Gehenna. Caught in between the eternally warring extremes of lawful and chaotic evil, they have taken advantage of that position rather than let themselves be overwhelmed by it. They serve as mercenaries and information brokers in the Blood War.

Like demons and devils, yugoloths are evil by nature. Depending on the needs of the situation at hand, they tempt, lie, slaughter, and destroy without qualm or compunction. Also like demons and devils, the yugoloths acquired a tremendous number of spell-like abilities in their 2nd Edition incarnations, and my goal will be to narrow those down to what is most iconic and important to each particular monster.

Driven by greed, yugoloths are notoriously unreliable as mercenaries, all too often switching sides mid-battle when the other side offers a greater reward. They're not often summoned to the Material Plane, but when they are, they're equally fickle.

All yugoloths have certain features in common. They're resistant to acid, cold, fire, and lightning, and have magic resistance. They also have darkvision and the telepathic ability to communicate with any intelligent creature.

Mezzoloth. Mezzoloths are the rank and file of the mercenary armies of the lower planes. They are dim-witted (Intelligence about 6) and are easily cowed into the service of more powerful beings. They're found at medium levels. As foot soldiers, mezzoloths are most commonly found with heavy weapons (axes, flails, or swords) and shields if they use a one-handed weapon. Even if disarmed, they can attack savagely with their claws, backed up by their very high strength (comparable to an ogre's). They're Medium in size, about 7 feet tall.

So here's an embarrassing secret. If you're familiar with the 2nd Edition incarnation of mezzoloths, you might remember them depicted as upright, insectoid creatures with two arms and two legs. When they appeared in the 3rd Edition Manual of the Planes, they suddenly had four arms. What happened? Well, my theory is that the text description of these monsters, which included the words, "All four limbs have razor-sharp claws," threw the artist for a loop, and he read that is "all four arms." And they've had four arms ever since. Let us know in the polls—two arms or four?

In addition to its formidable physical strength, a mezzoloth can also exhale a cloud of poisonous gas. (This is a nod to its earlier ability to use cloudkill, as well as its 4th Edition incarnation.) It also has some ability to detect invisible creatures.

Nycaloth. Nycaloths act as elite "cavalry" in yugoloth forces—highly mobile on their great bat-like wings, they swoop down onto enemy forces and tear up troops on the flanks and rear before winging away once more. Though not commanders themselves, they are intelligent and can take control over lesser troops simply by virtue of their own power. Some nycaloths carry huge axes into battle, but they're just as likely to rely on their terrible claws. A nycaloth is Large, standing about 9 feet tall, and it is a high-level creature.

Amazingly, nycaloths also gained extra arms in 3rd Edition, since "All four limbs have razor-sharp claws."

Commensurate with their greater power and standing, nycaloths have a few more magical abilities than mezzoloths. First, the wounds caused by their claw attacks continue to bleed or otherwise drain the victim's vitality. In addition, they can become invisible, see invisible creatures, teleport short distances, and cause fear with a touch.

The Other 'Loths. The mezzoloth and nycaloth were the original yugoloths, first appearing in adventure D3, Vault of the Drow, and then reappearing in the 1st Edition Fiend Folio. Several more yugoloths ("daemons") appeared in the Monster Manual II, and they then proliferated in Planescape and subsequent products. Here's a quick overview.

Arcanaloth. Jackal-headed robed Medium humanoids of high level, these are (as their name suggests) the most magical of yugoloths, with actual spellcasting ability comparable to a high-level wizard. They rule petty baronies across the middle lower planes, building red-iron forts guarded by lesser yugoloths.

Charon and Charonaloth. In 1st Edition, Charon, the boatman of the River Styx, was presented as a unique yugoloth, with his servitor charonaloths or charonadaemons. All of them can be hired to provide passage along the River Styx, which connects all the lower planes together.

Dergholoth. Large (8 feet tall), strong, and stupid, these bizarre, five-armed and three-legged yugoloths are rank-and-file mercenaries that can befuddle opponents with the strange clacking of their insectile jaws.

Hydroloth. The only creatures known to be able to swim in the River Styx without losing all their memories, hydroloths resemble Large frog-like creatures easily confused with hezrous or slaads except for the winglike flaps that connect their arms to their legs. They can just as easily swim through lava as through water.

Piscoloth. This yugoloth actually looks a great deal like a Medium-sized chuul, with a fish tail, a body shaped like a lobster, birdlike talons, and a head that resembles a carrion crawler. Indeed, its tentacles carry a paralytic poison. Unlike chuuls, however, piscoloths are quite intelligent, acting as sergeants of mercenary yugoloth armies. Their terrible pincers deal hideous wounds, possibly including the severing of limbs.

Ultroloth. The shadowy ultroloths are the most powerful variety of yugoloth, sometimes ruling over others but just as often lurking in the remote reaches of the lower planes on mysterious missions. They are faceless, Medium-sized creatures with large eyes that resemble fire opals, and they have the ability to mesmerize creatures that meet their gaze.

Yagnoloth. Large, misshapen creatures with one oversized arm (with the strength of a storm giant) and one undersized (capable of wielding weapons but without the same great strength), yagnoloths are the feared nobles of yugoloth society. They can exhale acidic gas and have the ability to devour the life force of an unconscious victim.

Yugoloth Rulers. Besides Charon, D&D tradition names one unique yugoloth—Anthraxus, the oinodaemon (wine daemon?). In the 4th Edition Demonomicon, Anthraxus became Phraxus, largely because of earlier terrorist attacks involving anthrax spores (which had been in the news again right around the time the book was in its final editing stages). Appearing as a grotesquely deformed man with the head of a diseased ram, Anthraxus is the ruler of the yugoloths.

Gehreleths

Gehreleths actually have little in common with other fiends. They're not embodiments of evil or of a particular strain of evil—they're just horrid creatures that happen to live on the lower plane of Carceri, where they are simultaneously prisoners and wardens of the prison plane. Legend says they rise spontaneously from the corpses of beings that have traveled to the lower planes (or Carceri specifically) and died there. There are three varieties of gehreleths: the tar-dripping farastu, the slimy kelubar, and the shaggy shator.

Farastu. The most common type of gehreleth, the emaciated farastu drips with a black, tarry substance that sometimes adheres to attackers' weapons. They attack with their sharp claws and large, tooth-filled maws, flying into a rage during combat and fighting to the death.

Kelubar. Black and glistening with its slimy secretions, a kelubar is a squat fiend that reeks like a troglodyte. Its acidic slime deals acid damage in addition to the slicing and tearing of its claws and teeth.

Shator. The most powerful of the gehreleths, the shators are Large—10 feet tall and grossly obese, covered with folds of flesh. Like the kelubars, they glisten with slime, which acts as a paralytic poison when delivered through claw or bite. They can also fight with large weapons, but they prefer to use their spell-like abilities—ray of enfeeblement, cloudkill, and stinking cloud—while staying back out of danger.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of these lesser inhabitants of the lower planes?

  Daemon, yugoloth, or just make ’em demons?  
Daemon—stick with the classics.
Yugoloth—it worked for two editions, and it’ll work again.
Demon—the distinction is too subtle, and they’re awfully demonic.

  How many arms should a mezzoloth have?  
Two.
Four.
Other.

  How many arms should a nycaloth have?  
Two.
Four.
Other.

  Overall, how well does this description of the mezzoloth match with your sense of the iconic D&D creature?  
1—I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a mezzoloth/mezzodaemon.
2—It’s not really doing anything for me.
3—It’s getting there.
4—Yeah, I recognize that as a mezzoloth.
5—Eclavdra would be pleased to summon such a wonderful mezzoloth to her service.

  Overall, how well does this description of the nycaloth match with your sense of the iconic D&D creature?  
1—I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a nycaloth/nycadaemon.
2—It’s not really doing anything for me.
3—It’s getting there.
4—Yeah, I recognize that as a nycaloth.
5—Eclavdra would be pleased to summon such a wonderful nycaloth to her service.

  Anthraxus? Phraxas?  
Anthraxus makes me uncomfortable. Stick with Phraxas.
Anthraxus is an appropriately foul name. Stick with it.
Just call him the Oinoloth, a title that is held by different yugoloths at different times.
Get rid of him entirely, and go with the ultroloth “General of Gehenna” or some other figure as the leader of the yugoloths.

  Demodand? Gehreleth?  
Demodand—stick with the classics (and 3E!).
Gehreleth—it worked for Planescape, and it’ll work again.

  Overall, how well do these descriptions of gehreleths match with your sense of the iconic D&D creatures?  
1—I don’t know what they are, but they’re not gehreleths/demodands.
2—It’s not really doing anything for me.
3—It’s getting there.
4—Yeah, I recognize them as gehreleths.
5—With these awesome gehreleths there, I’m staying away from Carceri for sure!

Previous Poll Results

Were shadar-kai originally fey or human?
Fey, as in 3rd Edition. 385 31.2%
Human, as in 4th Edition. 444 36.0%
Let the art decide! 239 19.4%
I don't know or care. 166 13.5%
Total 1234 100.0%

What was the nature of the pact that defines the shadar-kai?
They appealed to Shadow to smite their enemies and were cursed as a result (3E, and the compromise I outlined above). 667 56.9%
They pleaded with Shadow to stave off their fear of death and were transformed as a result (4E) 506 43.1%
Total 1173 100.0%

What’s the relationship between the shadar-kai and the Plane of Shadow/Shadowfell?
They chose to migrate there (4E). 224 19.0%
Their curse pulls them there, which they resist (3E). 127 10.8%
Their curse pulls them there, and some have gone willingly and become servants of the power they bargained with (the compromise I outlined above). 827 70.2%
Total 1178 100.0%

Why do shadar-kai hurt themselves
To keep their souls attached to their bodies so they're not drawn to Shadow (3E). 245 20.9%
To stave off the despair and ennui of the Shadowfell (4E). 264 22.5%
Both (as in the compromise I outlined above). 664 56.6%
Total 1173 100.0%

How important is the shadar-kai ability to “shadow jaunt”—teleporting through shadow and emerging insubstantial?
Not important at all—it can go away or be relegated to leaders or witches. 368 32.2%
It's important that they can teleport through shadow, but not that they become insubstantial afterward. 267 23.3%
It's important that they can become shadowy and insubstantial, but not that they can teleport. 249 21.8%
They need this ability to make them shadar-kai. 260 22.7%
Total 1144 100.0%

How important is it to be able to play a shadar-kai character?
It should not be allowed. 98 8.1%
Let people do it if they want, but not in my campaign. 341 28.1%
Sure, I'd allow a shadar-kai character in my game. 716 59.0%
My campaign (or my character) can't go on without shadar-kai PCs. 59 4.9%
Total 1214 100.0%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
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I know a bit of time has passed on this subject, but as I recall when I owned the actual planescape boxed set, the liber malevolentiae described the gehreleths as being a separate race, not part of the yugoloths, though was common to see them fighting for one side or another in the bloodwar as mercenaries. but the descriptions of all 3 listed here used to all be what all gehreleths were. the story was something to the effect that used to be quite beautiful and had constructed a massive temple to honor their god. large enough that entire flocks of birds could fly down its massive corridors for days straight before reaching the other side. So grand was it that the deity had actually taken up residence inside it this of course made the other powers of the lower planes jealous of their accomplishments and thus sent their minions to erase them from planes and take the temple for their prize. they fought back but being grossly outnumbered, turned to their deity for help. The deity supp... (see all)
  
Posted By: drone06 (3/24/2014 3:45:32 AM)
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