Planehammer: Faces of Evil pt. 2

Still talking about Faces of Evil, but I'll spare you further blow-by-blow action from the Baatzu bits. I don't see it serving any purpose beyond being grumpy. Instead I'll tell you what they are and what they should be.

The baatzu as presented are a rope in a tug of war match between every TSR writer that's got their hands on it. They all had ideas on what they were, ideas of varying quality and compatibility that all got piled in and presented to us. Bunches of surface deep Faustian devil stories with a side of half-arsed fictional biology and lazy made up cultural info. The later is especially annoying, since the concept of talking about Baatzu art and literature sounds fun, easy to make interesting. And yet it's just another regurgitation of the party line "it is lawful and evil, lacking imagination". Oh good, like everything else.

That alignment system was poison for intelligent writing in Planescape. It puts a cap on the depth of examination, causing everything to come down to "well they're evil & lawful!".  What does that even mean? What is lawful? What is evil? The baatzu are diminished by the declaration that they "want to spread evil". Why? Why do they want that? This book and all others TSR wrote about people or cultures suffer from severe shallowness, stick to their geographical work, much better.

So what should they be? Easy: Nazis. They are a nation of meritocratic ubermensch who live or die by their effectiveness and are united by a national desire to wipe out a race they see as destructive. Easy peasy. With that description you instantly know what to do with them, how they can be something other than evil just cos shutup.

  • They have limited forms/ranks, but they develop new forms sometimes. They strive for racial perfection.
  • They are the initiators of the Blood War, no one else. The Tanari are just a big punch bag, neither side will win. This was as intended?
  • The lowest, shittiest Baatzu has been doing this for hundreds of years, progressing in a hyper competitive environment. You will not beat them at their own game. They are smarter and more competitive than you.
  • They are not automatically hostile, they are not random encounter beaties. Each of them view every situation in terms of 1: How can I benefit from this? and 2: How can my race benefit from this? If the answer to both is "not at all" then they aren't interested.
  • What we call betrayal, they call healthy competition. They don't screw each other over out of spite or compulsion (usually), they do it as a wonky Darwinian battle royal to weed out the weak. If a lackey were to get lucky and replace their boss they would soon get superseded by a candidate of raw competence. All baatzu are promoted because they are good at what they do. There is no such thing as an incompetent devil.
  • They do not view themselves as evil. The tanari are evil and they are, if anything, performing a valuable service that you should be grateful for.
  • Baatzu are sent and use expeditionary companies in the Blood War. Groups of other races that are convinced by the baatzu propaganda or have been "protected" from tanari oppression. Why not?

Planehammer: Faces of Evil pt.1

A refutation of the Baatzu as presented by Faces of Evil: the fiends

Firstly, some general points: why have multiple "contributors" to this found-text style book if they all speak the same and with a Sigil accent? Why are they all uniformly urban and colloquial? Also, stop saying "some folks/scholars/whatever believe", I mean, fuck, this is supposed to be a book by demon experts, act like it. On the flip side though, these guys know way too much. Why do they know the identities of the Dark Eight? The ins and outs of the political structure? You can't be simultaneously a blabbering idiot and omniscient with regards to this impenetrably Byzantine (but apparently entirely simple and single page illustrationable) society. This book would be 1/3 the size if you cut out all the waffling, but then that's the 90s for you.

A Nupperibo

Origin of the Species

Nope, none of this chapter, all flimflam. The Baatzu are a self shaping race. The Nupperibo (effectively, along with the Lemures, the Baatzu peasantry) are the only natural form, springing up from the body of the plane. Before the fiends knew how to drag themselves up to godhood by their bootstraps, this was it. A flat hell full of angry little fat men and Gods.

The Lemures represent the first steps of malleability. Just look at them.

Station to Station

There are not just 13 kinds of Baatzu. Each of the eight ministries have their own progression of form and function. The 13 as presented by this book and others represents only the Ministry of War, though there is much crossover.

The hierarchy adheres to a totally alien logic, is inconceivably convoluted, and above all is not understood by non-Baatzu except in the most vague and general terms.

The Process of Promotion

This chapter has some of the best bits in the book. It explains how each promotion/transformation has a specific method to it. For instance, a lemure chosen to become a spinagon fights in a big battle royale until one is left. The winner is carted off and skinned, whereby the foetally forming spinagon inside is revealed. Hoorah!

Most interestingly is the one where kocrachons rearrange the fiends bones to form the new shape, adding another syllable to his name which is written on his bones that are made of not-bone. I propose to finish this idea the book almost had:


The baatzu don't have bones in the sense we know them. Theirs are angular and metallic, obviously man-formed and hammered. On every surface is writing which, if arranged and read correctly, will spell the fiends true name. Short of getting them to tell you this is pretty much the only way of learning it, but arranging a few hundred bones in the correct order isn't easy.

As the fiend ages and changes form their frame is enlarged and complicated. This is less a matter of bigger is better and more a practical result of just having more bones in their bodies on which to hold their ever lengthening name.

Baatzu green-steel? That's demon bones, forged into weapons. THAT'S why you never see it sold, and why it hurts demons, and is cool. Also, demon weapons like in Warhammer are now a thing. Trap the spirit of a big powerful demon in a bunch of weapons.

Bodily Form and Function

Another gumpfy chapter. Who took the time to figure out a Baatzu's pineal glad is big? Or their long to short muscle ratio is different, explaining their endurance? And further more, who cares?

They don't have genders, though if they did they would be closer to being males than not. Even the physically female Erinyes can and will fuck you and make little tieflings together.

Baatzu don't make babies, they harvest nupperibo.


I'm going to skip this chapter altogether since it dedicates hundreds of words to describing ""Colder Gellugons" (they shoot ice!) and balancing "assassin" variants of demons.

More later.