Lawful Evil Religion in Greyhawk

Something piqued my interest while finishing up my article on the pilgrims of the Flanaess. Of all the 60 deities of Greater, Lesser, or Demi- status listed in the original Guide to the World of Greyhawk, there is only one of Lawful Evil alignment; Hextor. One would expect, even with the loading of so many of the Greyhawk deities to the Neutral alignment, there would be more than a single being representing the ethos of both law and evil. I suspect this was not an oversight, but another sideways glance into the vast tableau that stretches beneath the surface of the World of Greyhawk.

We are told, in the Gord the Rogue short story “Cat or Pigeon?” (presented in the book Night Arrant, now lamentably out of print), that the “cult of Asmodeus” is a well-known source of evil doings, at least within the precincts of the city of Greyhawk. Within the precincts of the Horned Society, we are told that “deviltry” is the state religion (itself a change from the novels, where it is implied that the Horned Society serves the Daemons of Hades rather than the Devils of the Hells).

I submit that a cult dedicated to the Dukes of Hell is widespread in the Flanaess, and that most of the human (and possibly demihuman and humanoid) population of Lawful Evil alignment adheres to that faith. This cult would be seen as a great rival to that of Hextor; bear in mind that Hextor dwells on the plane of Acheron, rather than the Nine Hells.

Owing to the nature of their alignment, it would be a very regimented faith. All honor would eventually flow up to Asmodeus, but this could easily be done through intermediaries. Either individual sects would honor different arch-devils, or different unholy days along the infernal calendar would mark celebrations in honor of those lesser, but still puissant, beings. It could be a combination of both, of course, but in either case the chain of command, and the power of the sacrifices, would ultimately flow to the Arch-fiend.

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Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

5 thoughts on “Lawful Evil Religion in Greyhawk

  1. I’d noticed the same thing about the Greyhawk gods years ago and came to a similar conclusion. In my take on it, though, I decided that all the archdevils had cults on Oerth and that these cults riddled many of the churches of good and neutral-align deities. My reasoning was that the devils, not being gods, could not grant spells to their followers, but they could grant the “power of deception” that allowed their mortal servants to mask their allegiance even from the gods they ostensibly served and who granted them spells because of it. Asmodeus began this practice, but other archdevils quickly followed suit, not wanting to lose further standing in the diabolical hierarchy.

    This is in contrast to demon cults, which largely attract the insane or otherwise unhinged.

  2. IIRC, Arch-devils, demon lords, and the like are all considered lesser gods. As such, they would be able to grant their followers up to 6th level clerical spells. Thus do we get the chief of the Horned Society as an 18th level EHP. One wonders where Lareth the Beautiful is getting his spells, though…

    I would disagree about the demonic cults; they could very well appeal to those of CE alignment who were otherwise sane (a necromancer being a dedicant of Orcus, for instance). Those I would make completely individual, owing to the disjointed nature of Abyssal politics. Their priests can still receive spells up to 6th level, but the power of the worship doesn’t flow up the hierarchy as it does with the devils. a sacrifice to Lolth stays with Lolth, etc.

  3. I should also point out, though, that the whole demons/devils granting spells thing is a product of the differences between OD&D and AD&D. Your interpretation makes perfect sense, and could definitely make for some interesting plot-twists.

  4. It also seemed that the Greyhawk gods were more tolerant of alignment drift in their followers. So for LE bad guys, you had

    a) The Great Kingdom (Hextor, state religion)

    b) The Scarlet Brotherhood (not really religious, or at least not primarily)

    c) Crazy overzealous Pholtans – ridin’ the LN/LE line since 342 CY

    d) Horned Society devils

    e) Wastri, fairly often, and Wee Jas, occasionally

    That’s not really underrepresentation, especially as Greyhawk commendably has more NE stuff than many milieus and not really all that many evil gods in total (10 of those 60).

  5. As regards the Great Kingdom, though, there’s an interesting anomaly. South Province, North Province, and of course Medegia all appear as LE or NE in the regional alignments map on page 44 of the Guide.

    But smack dab in the middle is this big ol’ chaotic neutral section, centered right on Rauxes.

    An interesting juxtaposition, methinks.

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