Inspired by Can PCs create their own magically enforceable contracts? it occurred to me that the usual enforcement of contracts is the natural law enforced by the ruby rod owned by Asmodeus (If I am remembering my lore correctly).

Has there ever been any rules or lore in any edition that allows non devils to make those contracts enforced in the same way? While my focus is 5th Edition, I'm open to lore from earlier editions as well.


2 Answers 2


DnD 3.0:

Book of Vile Darkness (121-122):

A select choice of abilities of the Ruby Rod is usable at will by Asmodeus, but only once by anyone else. The wielder can cast Bodak Birth as if cast by a 20th-level spellcaster.

Bodak Birth (Book of Vile Darkness 86)

The caster transforms one willing subject [...] into a bodak. [...] anyone that holds the figurine can attempt to mentally communicate and control the bodak, but the creature resists such control with a successful Will saving throw. If the bodak fails, it must obey the holder of the figurine, but it gains a new saving throw every day to break the control. If the figurine is destroyed, the bodak disintegrates.

Demand Submission (Book of Vile Darkness 165) is an ability by Asmodeus, not tied to the ruby rod:

If the creature fails, it submits [...] to the ruler of hell[...] doing whatever Asmodeau asks as if every request of his was a suggestion spell against which the target cannot resist

ADnD 2e: Guide to Hell (51)

His avatars all carry a ruby rod, a badge of office that inspires instant obedience from any devil.

DnD 3.5: Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (156):

Asmodeus sometimes bestows his ruby rod onto a particularly worthy mortal to serve his ends.

Lore: The Ruby Rod is the symbol of office for the ruler of Nessus. He who wields it rules Hell.

a wielder can activate any of its other special abilities once per day. Asmodeus can use them at will, each as a swift action.

The Aura of Submission is notably an ability of Asmodeus, not of the ruby rod:

At the end of each of Asmodeus’s turns, creatures [...] saves or submit to all of Asmodeus’s commands for 1 day, doing whatever he asks as if every request of his was a suggestion spell against which the target cannot resist. [...] A creature that successfully saves cannot be affected by Asmodeus’s aura ever again.

DnD 5e DMG (64)

The Nine Hells:

The devils of the Nine Hells are bound to obey the laws of their superiors, but they rebel within their individual castes. Most undertake any plot, no matter how foul, to advance themselves. At the very top of the hierarchy is Asmodeus, who has yet to be bested. If he were to be vanquished, the victor would rule the plane in turn. Such is the law of the Nine Hells.

DMG (66):

He can also assume other forms and is seldom seen without his ruby-tipped scepter in hand.

Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (9-10):

The ruby rod was given to Asmodeus by Primus of the modrons as part of the Blood war trial issued by the angels.

the true ruler of the Nine Hells is the immense body of rules and regulations that dictate how all devils, even Asmodeus, must conduct themselves.

the Ruby Rod, that would guarantee his adherence to law. The artifact, which has remained at Asmodeus's side ever since, grants him and his underlings the right to enter in to contracts with mortals for their souls but unleashes an inescapable punishment upon any devil that breaches such a contract.


Editions in brackets after segments.

In the mentioned editions the ruby rod is a sign of office, but the power that creates submission is based on the order of hierarchy in the hells (2;3.0;3.5;5) and manifests in Asmodeus, not his ruby rod (2;3.0;3.5). While in 3.0 you can create a Bodak that has to obey unless it saves and then risks disintegration (3.0), there is no magical enforcement outside of that obedience and the obedience created by the ruby rod as a sign of the ruler of the hells (2;3.0;3.5;5). All Further suggestion or geas that can't be resisted are tied to Asmodeus (3.0;3.5).

A wielder can use the ruby rod and will receive obedience by any devils (2;3.0;3.5;5), but the ruby rod does not grant the power to create magical pacts that enforce the law (2;3.0;3.5;5). The wielder of the ruby rod is regarded as the ruler of the hells with its natural law and hierarchy (2;3.0;3.5;5).

The law of the hells is enforced by superiority, and thusly obedience is granted. Such is the law of the Nine Hells (2;3.0;3.5;5).

While the ruby rod is a sign of the office and any devils will obey the wielder, Asmodeus is still the undisputed ruler (2;3.0;3.5;5) who may grant the ruby rod to someone lower than himself, under his law of superiority (2;3.0;3.5;5).

And sometimes Asmodeus bestows his ruby rod onto a mortal to serve his ends (2;3.0;3.5). That mortal will see the obedience of devils (2;3.0;3.5;5).

The ruby rod itself can only punish the devils who breach their contracts with mortals (5). It grants them the right by the angels' trial, not the power (5).

The ruby rod grants Asmodeus and his underlings the right to enter into contracts with mortals, that his underlings have to be devils is not explicit. Whether the rod can extend its enforcement to none devils is also unclear (5). The laws of the hells regulate all devils and even Asmodeus (5).

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ It may be better to draw conclusions from each edition separately. Combining them to draw a single conclusion is somewhat problematic because of differences in the games themselves. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 23:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This may be received better if you tell your story as you go through and cite sources. Several quotes in a row followed by commentary is difficult to parse. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 0:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch segments of the conclusions are distinct by brackets that identify that segment. The conclusions altogether are fairly consistent, disregarding a few outliners. I personally enjoy this arrangement as you can read my conclusions in one go, and double-check later - there is a fair amount of knowledge in there that has to be contextualised in a scope that is too broad anyway. Alternatively, I could arrange an answer per edition chronologically exploring the blood-wars and the original pact which would leave a fairly inconclusive picture. Both approaches have their dis/advantages. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 0:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Totally up to you, just sharing my thoughts. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 1:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ While some people have reservations regarding how this answer is written it speaks to me in the way I would probably write this answer, and I am accepting it above the other one on that basis. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 10:53

The ability to make pacts with mortals by virtue of the Ruby Rod is unique to devils.

The use of the Ruby Rod when making a pact which binds even the gods is referenced in D&D 3.5's Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells, p.4-5, though it is not fully clear whether the Rod holds that power or is merely symbolic of Asmodeus' power:

He extended his hand, and a ruby rod of power appeared in it. "But first, we must make a pact."

"A pact?" asked Moradin suspiciously.

"Yes, indeed," said Asmodeus, producing a document with a wave of his hand.

This pact, called the Pact Primeval, is in turn the source of devils' right to claim lawful evil souls (FCII, p.12):

The diabolical right to claim lawful evil souls, punish them, and ultimately convert them to divine energy stems from the Pact Primeval. This agreement between Asmodeus and the primal deities of law dates back to the early days of mythology. Although accounts of its signing differ, the Pact is demonstrably real.

Harvester devils, erinyes and higher-ranking devils recruit mortals to damnation so that their souls can be claimed, particularly by encouraging them to sign pacts (FCII, p.13, p.23-25). Lower-ranking devils do not possess this innate ability to offer pacts. The ability of devils to offer pacts is enshrined in the Pact Primeval:

The mere act of consciously assigning one's soul to a lord of Hell is, by the terms of the Pact Primeval, an irredeemably and intrinsically lawful evil act. A Pact Certain can be nullified only by proving that the bloody signature was extracted involuntarily, through duress. According to the Pact Primeval, devils cannot reap signatures through torture or threats of force—including force against third parties.

The statistics for the Ruby Rod (FCII, p.156, and Book of Vile Darkness, p.121-122) make no specific mention of its ability to enforce pacts, and although Asmodeus will occasionally lend the Rod to someone else, it's stated that it's unclear whether this is the true Ruby Rod or a duplicate. This makes it impossible to be certain whether the Ruby Rod itself confers the ability to make pacts when used by someone else.

D&D 5e's Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (p.10) credits the Rod with granting the devils the right to make contracts and take souls:

The artifact, which has remained at Asmodeus's side ever since, grants him and his underlings the right to enter in to contracts with mortals for their souls but unleashes an inescapable punishment upon any devil that breaches such a contract.

This is still largely consistent with the the 3.5 lore detailed in Fiendish Codex II, with only minor differences. As even mentioned on Fiendish Codex II, p.12 (see second quote above), accounts of [the pact's] signing differ. Hence D&D 3.5's FCII says Asmodeus conjured the Rod when he signed a pact with lawful deities which gave devils the right to claim and punish souls, while D&D 5e says that Primus (a godlike being of law) forces Asmodeus to carry the Rod which grants devils the right to make pacts with mortals for their souls. These read as two different angles on the same fundamental story.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note, that while accounts of the signing differ there is no contradiction. MToF has a distinct (unreliable) narrator who is the aasimar bard Anodius."purportedly true events as researched by the aasimar bard Anodius." \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 0:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also note that lords of the hells don't necessarily have to be devils. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 0:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu A possible loophole, and exactly the sort of rule that Asmodeus is canonically fond of exploiting. However, according to Fiendish Codex II, all nine Lords of Hell are devils, and Asmodeus always chooses new Lords from the ranks of devils (FCII, p.10). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 17:53

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