Moloch: A Devil For All Campaigns
Okay. I have to admit. I wasn't that impressed with Moloch when I first met him. In 1988, some friends and I found ourselves in the possession of Monster Manual 2. Much to Tipper Gore's chagrin, this handy little accessory had the low-down on all sorts of demons and devils. We, however, were elated. The time had come to include devils into our campaigns. So, my friends and I pored over their stats and fantasized about taking our low-level halfling rogues on a quest through the Nine Hells. We were beguiled by Belial. We were impressed by Amon. And we thought Mephistopheles's whispering wind speech was ultra cool.
Okay. I have to admit. I wasn't that impressed with Moloch when I first met him.
In 1988, some friends and I found ourselves in the possession of Monster Manual 2. Much to Tipper Gore's chagrin, this handy little accessory had the low-down on all sorts of demons and devils. We, however, were elated. The time had come to include devils into our campaigns. So, my friends and I pored over their stats and fantasized about taking our low-level halfling rogues on a quest through the Nine Hells. We were beguiled by Belial. We were impressed by Amon. And we thought Mephistopheles's whispering wind speech was ultra cool.
I, however, wasn't impressed by Moloch.
First impressions are lasting ones, or so they say. So my first look at Moloch was some sub-standard art of a guy with a whip thrown over his shoulder. I admit, D&D art has its ups and downs, and there were other pics in Monster Manual 2 that weren't that impressive. But, the devils, demons, & daemons (as they used to be called) got some pretty good treatment. For me, Moloch was an exception. He was so. . . plain. Tall devils with fangs, square bodies, and red-orange skin don't work so much for me. Not now and certainly not then. I wanted to fight devils with goat-horns, green eyes, wings of fire, cloven hooves, forked tongues, and diseased, pus-ridden skin, oozing with acidic blood. Still do.
I remember reading Moloch's stats, thinking I might give this guy a second chance. I became less impressed. Unlike Belial, Dispater, and the rest, this guy wasn't even fully in charge of his layer of Hell (or Baator, if you prefer). He was a flunky to the Lord of Lies / Flies. Now, while it's true all devils are minions of the Top Devil, this guy was a minion's minion. Okay, so were Amon, Hutijin, and the like. But Moloch was a minion's minion who didn't have any style. Moloch felt like he was thrown together at the last minute because Gygax and The Crew figured that SOMEBODY should be in charge of the 6th Layer of Hell.
Feh. Who needs Moloch, I thought. I went about my business and dreamed about how my squad of halfling rogues would go on to fight Tiamat, Orcus, Dispater, and their ilk. Sure, we'd kill Moloch someday, but it would be more of an after-thought and a focal point of our quest to banish all evil.
Time (as always) passed.
By 2001, I had made my return to the D&D mythos and started to once again about taking players on a quest against the ultimate forces of evil. Yes, that's right. I wanted to put devils into my campaign. But which ones? This was something that I'd have to research. And, as an adult with a job, I was able to track down a fair number of tomes and accessories that gave more details on demons, devils, Hell, etc. And, as an added bonus, I didn't have to worry so much about what my mother would think.
It wasn't long before I came across a very useful product that revolutionized my opinion of poor ol' Moloch. It was called the Guide to Hell.
In said book (and others), the classic line-up of Who's Who in Hell gets shaken up a bit. Dispater still ruled the 2nd layer and Asmodeus still had a trollop for a daughter. But the mastery of the 6th Layer of Hell had been transferred to a crone named the Hag Countess (who used to be Moloch's lover). What happened to Moloch, I wondered. Well, after further reading I discovered Moloch had a falling out of sorts after a great Hellish rebellion. When the rebellion was put to an end, all of the devils go back to Asmodeus and start kissing his you-know-what.
Not Moloch. Of all the rebel devils, Moloch stood his ground and all but gave Asmodeus the finger.
Now he may not be much to look at, and his special devil's powers may be kind of bland (they're all fire based. . . imagine that), but it takes some serious sand to have your rebellion put down and then spit in the face of your master. Actually, in this case, Moloch was spitting in the face of his master's master.
And, so, for his unrepentant ways, Moloch was cast out of the Nine Hells.
And from Hell, Moloch landed in my home. Moloch finally showed me that sense of style that I was looking for. He's not the coolest looking devil nor is he the most powerful, but he may very well be the one with the most backbone, the most nerve, the most, well, honor.
I like trying to include as much as I can into my D&D games. I like to be creative about it, but I also try to be sensible. My last article described how I brought races like the Githyanki into my games. To some extent, that was something of a challenge. Bringing arch-devils into your games (without throwing common sense to the winds) is a bigger challenge. A group of PC's would have to be pretty boss to catch the attention of the Lords of Hell. But, a lesser group of PC's might not have to go too far to find a deposed Lord of Hell brooding in some fortress on their home world.
Moloch started off as the least interesting of the devils to me. Now I have to admit he's my favorite. His attitude and versatility more than make up for any other short-comings he might have had. In my D&D cosmos, Moloch is an arrogant, power-hungry foe seeking to reclaim his position in the caste of evil. He doesn't want to rule the universe, he just wants to be put back into power and revenge against his foes. Initially, he showed up trying to help the player's overcome a menace that threatened to destroy their world. During their brief alliance, said players realized working with Moloch was more trouble than it was worth. Moloch, having been shunned by Asmodeus himself, wasn't about to take the hand from a small gathering of mortals. Moloch and my players became foes and the confrontation between them has escalated ever since. Moloch has put some of their friends to death and has horribly tortured others. In return, my players have destroyed his fortress, cut off his hand (long story), and have ruined his plans. And on it goes. Now, were Moloch still the ruler of the 6th Layer of Hell, my players might be in more trouble than they can handle. But, Moloch is an outcast and his resources are limited and he's low on allies. He still has that whip of his and a lot of fire-based attacks, but he can't command legions of bearded devils to swoop down on my players. Moreso than any other devil, he has to take his time to plot his revenge and make his next strike -- and that's part of what makes him so interesting and challenging.
For those of you seeking to add a little diabolic spice into your campaign, I offer you Moloch. I know he's not much to look at up front, but when you start digging into the meat of his character, I think you'll find he has the potential to be the most versatile and ruthless of D&D's known arch-devils. Dispater and Mephistopheles may be more clever, Mammon may be more gruesome, and Asmodeus may be more sinister, but all of them are burdened with the responsibility of their respective realms. Moloch has nothing to loose and is free to roam where he pleases.
Mayhap, someday, he'll roam into your campaign.