I've seen it happen too many times. A berk finds out how much damage it takes to kill a fiend and figures that's all he needs. Then he heads off to the Lower Planes—and is never heard from again. When will these leatherheads learn? The fiends aren't just lists of numbers. They're creatures that think, eat, dream, breed, struggle, and evolve—in short, creatures that live. They're part of a larger society of political treachery and desperate survival, a culture of disturbing aesthetics and violent beliefs. And only a blood who studies it all has a hope of ducking the fiends, defeating them—or just understanding them.
This 96-page Planescape accessory, written for players and DMs of all levels, is the ultimate guide to the fiends of the Lower Planes—the malevolent monsters that wage the Blood War, terrorize mortals, and befoul the multiverse. But whereas other guides focus on statistics and combat, Faces of Evil delves into the physiology of the fiends, exploring the dark forces that shape every detail of their lives. How are they born? What do they eat? How do they deal with others? And just what makes them so—well fiendish?
Faces of Evil is a must for any AD&D campaign that features these vile creatures of death and destruction.
Faces of Evil: The Fiends (1997) is a Planescape supplement written by Colin McComb. This is a superb book that would probably never get made in the same format in today's game publishing environment.
Colin: "I want to write a 96-page book about all the creatures of the Lower Planes, full of plot hooks, secrets, culture, lower planar locations, and fantastic cartography."
Management: "Sold! How soon can you get starte—"
Colin: "Oh, and there are no new monsters or monster stats anywhere in the book. It's all flavor and plot."
Management: "No new rules? Err..." Twitch. Twitch.
And yet, this is a brilliant supplement that's as useful today as it was when it was published in 1997. Okay, not quite as useful, because Planescape isn't an active campaign setting, but this book is ideal for any DM whose heroes invade the lower planes. The supplement's very nature as an information and plot hook-heavy sourcebook, instead of a rules sourcebook, means that it ages beautifully.
Four Fiendish Races, No Waiting. After an introduction that touches on some basic considerations about fiends – What's the nature of evil? How do you summon a fiend? – the book is split between four main chapters. The baatezu (i.e., devils of the Nine Hells), the tanar'ri (demons of the Abyss), the yugoloths (once called daemons, such as the mezzodaemon or nycadaemon, they're true fiends that don't arise from the souls of dead mortals), and the gehreleths (natives of Tarterus, originally introduced as demodands.) It's a virtual catalog of the different flavors of evil, from brutal rampaging to sly and insinuating hatred.
Instead of talking about the combat capabilities of each race and sub-type, the book focuses on where fiends came from and what they want. How do they advance, what do they seek, and how do they go about getting it? Knowing that is key to crafting insidious and memorable adventures. You'll learn about the philosophies that drive each race, how they handle betrayal and loyalty, and how they deal with mortals. There is also discussion of their cities, their society, their lords and princes, and their physiology.
A fifth chapter covers the other fiendish races: bodaks, hordlings, imps, night hags, and the like. Each is dealt with in less detail, giving enough information and secrets to understand the race.
Can't Cant. My only complaint about this book is a small one: For extra flavor and possibly a deliberately biased perspective, each of the chapters is written in the voice of a fictional adventurer or sage. That rarely becomes annoying or intrusive, but if you're particularly sensitive to the occasional appearance of planar cant, it's worth mentioning that you'll catch a bit of it here.
Overall? I can't believe how well this book has aged, and it remains useful and a delight to read. If you're dabbling in the planes, you'll enjoy it.
About the Creators. Colin McComb is the creative lead on inXile's Kickstarted RPG Torment: Tides of Numenera, which uses Monte Cook's upcoming sci-fi/fantasy game Numenera as its setting and follows in the creative vision of Planescape: Torment. The award-winning designer has written dozens of games and adventures for TSR and Paizo Publishing.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.