Diabolical threats lurk everywhere in the world of the AD&D game. Heroes who fight evil on the Prime Material Plane may contend with forces whose power rises from the depths of Hell. Adventurers who travel to Hell meet devildom on its own terms and risk not only their lives, but also their everlasting souls.
Guide to Hell is a comprehensive look at the nature of devils, ways for heroes to battle them, and the twisted geography and politics of the Nine Layers in the AD&D game. The decision to "go to Hell" should never be made lightly—but once it is made, this book will give the DM everything he or she needs to make the experience memorable for all the heroes... at least, those who survive.
- Four new PC kits: the Devil Slayer, the Thaumaturgist, the Inquisitor, and the Hellblade
- A devil-fighting organization adaptable for any campaign
- New spells and magical items with a diabolical twist
- Advice for DMs on integrating the infernal into their campaigns
- Full statistics on the Lords of the Nine, the rulers of the Nine Hells
- The secret history of Hell and the Dark Lord of Nessus, Asmodeus
- Statistics for all major devil types, plus a new devil created especially for this book
Guide to Hell, by Chris Pramas, is a sourcebook on all things diabolic for AD&D 2e. It was published in November 1999.
After Planescape. In 1999, Wizards was trying to deal with what AD&D Brand Manager Keith Strohm called "the overfactionalization of our core audience": TSR had created too many settings, and players were divided among them. As a result, they ended the Planescape line and instead began publishing Planescape-like books that could more obviously be used with any setting. They originally tested the idea out while Planescape was still running, with "A Paladin in Hell" (1998). Three more books followed the end of the Planescape line: Warriors of Heaven (1999), Guide to Hell, and The Vortex of Madness and Other Planar Perils (2000). Guide to Hell was offered as a partner to Warriors of Heaven; Wizards even issued a promotional poster showing "Heaven" above and "Hell" below.
In the post-Planescape landscape, Wizards authors were able to move away from some aspects of the Planescape setting that they felt might be discouraging new players. For example, the Planescape idiom (or "cant") was no longer used starting in Warriors of Heaven.
Other terminology changed as well: Guide to Hell followed in the footsteps of "A Paladin in Hell" by using the words "Hell" and "devils" in the book. Throughout the 90s, TSR had avoided these terms (as well as "daemons," "demons," and even "angels") because they were afraid of what "angry mothers" might think of their games. Instead, Hell was called Baator and devils were called baatezu. These 2e terms are actually still used as the primary names in Guide to Hell, but here they're used interchangeably with Hell and devils. In fact, Pramas, the author, tries to explain it all in-game, stating, "Devils are by nature deceptive. One of the most common ways in which they muddy the waters of scholarship is by the use of several different names."
Though AD&D was moving away from Planescape, its influence is still obvious in Guide to Hell. On page 3, there's a map of "The Great Ring of the Outer Planes" that shows the Outlands and other Planescape-era locales, while the Blood War is referenced as an important plot element in the Nine Hells.
Kits, Kits, Kits. Character kits were very popular in the 2e era. Though most of these showed up in the PHBR (1989-95) and CGR (1992-94) series, they infiltrated many other 2e books as well. Case in point: Guide to Hell has four new kits, from the "Devil Slayer" to the "Hellblade."
Expanding the Outer Realms. Ed Greenwood's treatise "The Nine Hells," which ran in Dragon #75 (July 1983) and Dragon #76 (August 1983), is still considered one of the great articles from Dragon and one of the best descriptions of Hell. It was reprinted in Dragon #400 (June 2011) in recognition of this fact.
Several Planescape products have also touched upon Hell in more recent years.
- Hellbound: The Blood War (1996) talked about its original inhabitants;
- Fires of Dis (1995) provided details on Dispater and the City of Dis; and
- Faces of Evil: The Fiends (1997) highlighted the "baatezu" themselves.
- The non-Planescape "Paladin in Hell" added its own spin on things by talking about the politics of Hell.
In other words, there was already a lot of detail on the Nine Hells before the publication of Guide to Hell, although that detail was scattered. Guide to Hell added tremendously to the existing body of "hell lore," by describing all nine levels of Hell and their rulers. It was the first book to reveal Asmodeus as the ruler of the Ninth Level and also the one that disclosed his past as the fallen brother of Jazirian, the god of couatls. Finally, Guide to Hell also detailed the Reckoning of Hell, a civil war that in part gave a reason for the differences in Hell between AD&D 1e and AD&D 2e.
Guide to Hell also introducesd the "devilkin" race, which seems pretty similar to tieflings, who made their first appearance in Planescape Campaign Setting (1994). The big difference between the two seems to be that devilkin are explicitly half-blood devils, while tieflings have a much smaller proportion of diabolic blood.
Expanding Greyhawk. The Order of the Rosy Cross of Truth, a sect of the Church of St. Cuthbert that opposes devils, is introduced in Guide to Hell. Mind you, the Greyhawk developers of the time said that if a book didn't have a Greyhawk or Living Greyhawk logo, then it wasn't canon... so your Greyhawk may vary.
Future History. Wizards touched lightly upon diabolic topics in the Book of Vile Darkness (2001), and they more directly returned to many of these topics in Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (2006). Some things have changed in Tyrants, as Hell continues to evolve and change between the D&D editions.
About the Creators. Pramas joined Wizards in 1998; a year and a half later, Guide to Hell was his first printed work. In 2000, Pramas would form his own roleplaying company, Green Ronin, and there write his second treatise of devils: Legions of Hell (2001).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.