According to Fiendish Codex II, a steel devil is Rank 6, CR 6 lesser devil, and an orthon is Rank 10, CR 8 greater devil.

Fiendish Codex II also says,

Steel devils are intensely loyal to each other and their commanders but have little use for other devils, especially orthons, whom they see as rivals. It’s not unheard of for a group of steel devils to cut its way through a unit of orthons to reach a mob of demons.

Since Hell is the lawful evil plane, and devils are the lawful evil exemplars, I am struggling with how this interaction should be portrayed against the backdrop of a society that is literally lawful-evil incarnate. How should these devils and their “rivalry” be portrayed in game without diminishing Hell’s status?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, alignment discussions are off topic here because of their intensely subjective nature. As are designer reasons questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Oct 5, 2018 at 1:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don’t know if this rewrite is enough to salvage this question, but I feel like there is an actionable question here. I feel that this paradox can be resolved using actual statements from the books. But alignment is absolutely an incredibly troublesome topic, and this may not be enough to make this work. I hope it helps, anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 5, 2018 at 1:30

3 Answers 3


I'll try to keep it short, but I find it generally helpful (assuming that each table interprets alignment slightly differently) to assume that all personality types exist in each alignment. While they may be expressed differently; an ambitious LG character would go about his ambition in a different way than a TN character, for example; clashing personalities, opinions, motivations and the like can exist even within a group that shares a similar worldview (or, in this case, alignment).

Consider how such a conflict would be expressed within the limitations of your perception of Lawful Evil - and don't count out particular behaviors! Just because a Lawful Good member of modern society would likely think that killing another person is evil, or cannibalism immoral, or stealing wrong - they could still justify doing so given sufficient cause without changing their alignment, whether that means killing in self defense, cannibalism where the alternative is death, or stealing medicine when your child is sick.

Alignment doesn't prevent a person from entering a fit of rage or anger in the heat of battle, nor does it mean that Baator has signed the Geneva Conventions.


I would like to introduce you to an incredibly useful concept: "Malicious obedience" (sometimes known as "Malicious compliance.")

The general idea is about as straightforward as the term itself: Not all orders are sensible, fully informed orders. Some of them-- how many depends on the faculties of the order-giver-- are poorly considered and may rely on information that the subordinates (those who obey or comply with them) know to be faulty. Malicious obedience is when a subordinate receives an order he or she knows full well will result in a bad outcome, looks the boss straight in the eye and says, "Sign here."

Then he or she does it, it blows up in the superior's face, and hijinx ensue.

Surely there is nothing more lawful than obedience to the hierarchy, and nothing more evil than malice. The entire concept is almost synonymous with lawful evil. As an added benefit, when properly executed, the underling devil gets to listen to his superior falling back on things like the spirit of the law and the intent of the command, and all those ways that mortals try to keep their souls after they made a bad deal.


I think the Steel devils would act very directly in this regard. If they have a goal, they march towards it, warn obstacles to move only once, and strike down or bully anything in their way. Anything too strong to strike down or bully might be moved around, but they'd remember and make sure to report that devil as a critical obstacle to their given orders. For Orthans, however, they make sure to cut from behind and forward. When questioned later they bluntly tell a commander 'You had given us our objective, they didn't move when signaled them to, and we had no time to wait. So we made a path.' The more underhanded or manipulative units of Steel devils may even let themselves be 'unfortunately waylaid' and let Orthons engage with an enemy first until weakened. That way when they come in killing, and the Orthon falls, they can claim the enemy did it and they were avenging a superior devil. Their commanders won't believe them, but in lacking evidence and the successful completion of the mission they'll likely get away with it. If they fail some great objective due to the absence of an Orthon, however, you can expect those Steel devils to get tortured, demoted, or maybe even sent on a suicide mission if the commander is merciful.

From the Orthan's perspective, life is a hellish torment and they seek rapid escape from it through accomplishments. Steel devils, and most weaker devils, are likely something to take frustrations out on and send to die on every hill. The mad commander who orders units of the troops he hates to hold every meaningless hills and achieve every meaningless victory. To suffer and die for nothing while he hunts for glory. Glory he feels he will need to get permissions to take his next devil rank and remove the spikes of torment holding on his armor.

Its a match literally made in hell. The abusive, but obediant, glory-hound commander and equally cause-loyal, but marginalized and furious, soldiers who will kill him when given half a chance. You can probably draw some parallels to Vietnam commanders and getting 'fragged' for some inspiration: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fragging

Its probably important to remember that both groups of devils are absolutely loyal to the greater cause of devils and will put aside power-vying if ordered to or in dire enough straights. They are willing to band together with rivals against demons or celestial over losing the day, but, until its a direct order or obviously necessary, everything they do is for themselves in an effort to game the system and achieve those promotions. Office politics on the battlefield.


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