How Demons & Devils Differ


When it comes to naming evil creatures and entities in the world of Dungeons & Dragons, demons and devils are almost guaranteed to come to mind. Whilst similar on the surface, both being inherently evil and almost certainly causing problems for the player party at some point in their careers, they are very different creatures with unique lore, rules, and lives. It is common for many players and even Dungeon Masters to confuse the two types of creatures.

With the correct knowledge of the two creature types, it is entirely possible to implement both into a game’s plot and have them be part of totally separate and unique story arcs for the players to investigate and come up with solutions for whatever havoc they may be wreaking upon the proceedings. Despite many cultures and languages in the world having the words “demon” and “devil” meaning the exact same thing, gamers should be aware of critical differences between the two in D&D.

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Demons and Devils Have Different Alignments and Languages

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Demons are almost always Chaotic Evil in alignment, spreading destruction and mayhem every day of their lives. They despise rules and anything that impedes their freedom, which often results in indiscriminate killing, annihilation, and meddling with the plans of others. Devils on the other hand are Lawful Evil, favoring a more structured approach to life. They often have elaborate plans behind their actions and attacks, with some spanning millennia to see through, relying on alliances and deals to achieve.

Regarding languages, demons speak Abyssal, a harsh and chaotic language that is rarely seen in written form. Devils speak Infernal, another harsh language that sounds unpleasant yet somewhat melodic. However, Infernal is commonly written down and has its own alphabet. Due to devils’ reputation for deals, it is more common for both non-demons and non-devils to learn Infernal, many of them being mages, priests, or scholars.

The Societies and Hierarchy of Demons and Devils in D&D

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Orcus from DnD, a giant skull-headed demon looming over some mindflayers

With no rules in their society, demons thrive on bloodshed and mayhem. Depending on the setting and game, they primarily live in The Abyss, an outer plane of hellish scenery and a chaotic, ever-changing environment. Demons are spawned into existence there and stay in the form they are born in for the rest of their lives, even reforming on the plane if they are destroyed during a fight. Demons Lords are the strongest creatures on the plane and lesser demons only obey their orders to avoid being annihilated by those much stronger than themselves.

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Devils, however, have a rigorous, strict hierarchy. Ruling over the denizens of The Nine Hells, another outer plane filled with levels of monstrous creatures and horrors, Arch Devils serve under Asmodeus, the ultimate leader of the Nine Hells. Weaker devils are enslaved and tortured by stronger ones. Like demons, devils can reform on their home plane if destroyed, but unlike them, all devils are born as tiny grubs that can bully their way up the ranks to achieve power.

How Demons and Devils Interact With People

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>D&D devils of the nine hells

Many players’ first encounter with a demon will be in combat, witnessing the creature’s destructive power firsthand. They rarely ally themselves with others, and only do so to gain more power or destroy enemies. A deal with a demon is possible, and potentially immensely powerful. However, once the deal is complete, the demon is as likely to destroy the person as they are to follow through with the promised reward. For the most part, demons want to destroy and cause as much chaos to others as possible, primarily using raw physical power over tactics and words. They enjoy killing, often cruelly torturing their enemies to inflict the most pain they can before finishing them off. Between the two, demons tend to be more monstrous in physical nature, coming in all sizes and grotesque shapes.

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Devils are notorious for making deals with mortals in exchange for power. These deals fuel the devil’s power, with the contracts and minions a devil has accumulated indicating its strength. Devils are clever and sneaky, finding and creating loopholes to exploit their rivals and allies. Devils will also collect the souls of mortals through these contracts to add to their ranks, turning them into wriggling worms upon death to enact torture on them for eternity. Devils will get as much out of contracts as they can get away with, for as little return as possible. They can take all sorts of forms, but many often utilize their intelligence and even social charms to achieve goals.

Both demons and devils can be amazing additions can any campaign, with distinct goals and attitudes towards mortals and the other planes. By making the distinctions between the two species clear, a huge amount of lore and story possibilities can be written for players to explore. Gamers can play the hero when they fight against these two evil, but utterly different, monster species.


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