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The entry on devils (p. 68) in the Monster Manual states the following:

"Devils that die in the Nine Hells are destroyed forever - a fate that even Asmodeus fears."

This makes it clear that not even archdevils or gods are exempt from this rule, and even a god that dies in the Nine Hells has no chance of coming back. My question is, does this apply to Tiamat as well? Though she was not originally a devil, and is technically a dragon god, she once ruled Avernus. This gave her the title of at least Archfiend, and an old article (“Leomund's Tiny Hut: Rearranging and Redefining the Mighty Dragon” by Lenard Lakofka) says that she was an Archdevil.

It's possible that being given this role technically made her a devil. Something similar happened to Zariel, who was previously a solar, but was definitely turned into a devil when she declared her loyalty to Asmodeus and given rule of Avernus. Still, while Zariel's stat blocks describes her as a devil, Tiamat's only describes her as a fiend.

There's also this quote from the newest adventure "Descent Into Avernus" (p. 126) which suggests this permanent death rule may apply to others outside of devils as well.

Mahadi doesn't believe in taking unnecessary risks, particularly in the Nine Hells where he can be permanently slain.

The mentioned creature is not a devil, but a rakshasa, which makes it curious that he can permanently die here.

I realize that as a DM, I can decide which way to go, but I'd like to know which conclusion should be considered canonical. I don't know if there's anything in Forgotten Realms lore that I've missed that supports one argument more than the other.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. That being said, a side note on the Rakshasa: their description in the MM explicitly mentions that they only die if they are killed in the Nine Hells: "For a rakshasa, death on the Material Plane means an agonizing and torturous return to the Nine Hells, where its essence remains trapped until its body reforms [...] Like devils, rakshasas killed in the Nine Hells are forever destroyed." \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Apr 14 at 10:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you ok with lore from previous editions? Because the many-headed dragon deity has been killed many times in various campaign settings including the FR, and managed to come back over and over. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Apr 14 at 20:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster Oh! I didn't know that rakshasas had their own rule on that. That helps a little bit. \$\endgroup\$ – Damascus Apr 16 at 2:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ZwiQ Yeah I'm okay with older lore. I know Tiamat's been killed several times, but I don't think she has inside the Nine Hells itself. \$\endgroup\$ – Damascus Apr 16 at 2:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Damascus specifically, Rakshasas die that way because they are originally devils, as is also explained in their Monster Manual entry - they're essentially devils who abandoned their normal form and created Rakshasa bodies with which to wander the prime material. (Honestly, given the description in this lore, I think they still deserve the devil tag.) \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Apr 20 at 19:35
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Yes, but with story-continuity caveats

The lore regarding Tiamat is varied, it has been interpreted and reinterpreted many times throughout the editions and campaign settings. In 4e and 5e, Tiamat and Takhisis have been confirmed to be the same entity, so the lore also includes many Dragonlance stories. Here are two actual examples of Tiamat/Takhisis being killed on her home plane:

  • In the Dragonlance Legends trilogy, we have Raistlin travelling to the Abyss (the outer plane where Takhisis is said to reside) and is able to kill her. She is gone for good (though further events revert this outcome).
  • In the Last Breath of the Dragon Queen (Dungeon magazine #175, 4e, Nentir Vale campaign setting), which is the last adventure of the Scales of War adventure path, the adventurers travel to Tytherion, a plane in the World Axis cosmology that was home to Tiamat. If they manage to defeat Tiamat, she is gone for good.

So in principle, at least as far as particular campaign worlds are concerned, the lore has examples of Tiamat dying in her realm and staying dead.

Then the next question is whether Tiamat's home realm is in the Nine Hells or not. Regarding this, here are some pieces of relevant lore:

  • As you have mentioned, Tiamat is explicitly mentioned in the article Rearranging and Redefining the Mighty Dragon (Dragon magazine #38, June 1980, page 41) to be a devil and reside in Hell (alignment LE).
  • In Dragon magazine #75 (July 1983), in the very first fleshing out of the Nine Hells in D&D history, Ed Greenwood specifically assigns Tiamat as the ruler of Avernus, first layer of the Nine Hells. This is such a classic article that it was re-printed in Dragon issue #400 (June 2011).
  • The 2e Planescape sourcebook On Hallowed Ground demotes Tiamat to "a watchdog position at the entrance of Dis" from being a Lord of the Nine, but her lair is still on Avernus.
  • The 3e Manual of Planes places Tiamat again on Avernus, guarding the access between Avernus and Dis.
  • In 5e, she is the main villain in the very first adventure story-line, where the heroes are trying to stop the Cult of the Dragon's attempts to bring her from the Nine Hells to Toril. (Furthermore, according to the 'next' adventure Storm King's Thunder, when the heroes officially became successful, and Tiamat was banished to the Nine Hells.)

Hence, she has been a resident of the Nine Hells in almost all of D&D history, and counts as a (arch)devil in some of the editions. Besides, as we discussed earlier, deities can also be slain in their home planes.

There is only one complication: Tiamat is a multi-spheric power, she has worshippers in many crystal spheres, so being killed, even in her "home plane" might not mean the end of her completely throughout the multiverse. Examples of this situation are described in 2e Forgotten Realms sourcebook, Faiths and Avatars:

Incidents that occur on one crystal sphere are not relevant to the dealings of that deity on another. Only incidents that affect a deity on its home plane of existence (usually in the Outer Planes) affect the power in all crystal spheres, and even then one has to be careful not to assume too much. So, beings who are multispheric who die in the Realms have merely involuntarily or voluntarily severed their divine connection to Realmspace. They are not dead, but they might as well be as far as the inhabitants of the Realms are concerned.

Perhaps an example would serve to illustrate this. In a far-off crystal sphere a power of evil who manifests herself as a multiheaded chromatic dragon has recently been rumored to have died. She was known to the natives of the sphere as Takhisis. A group of powerful adventurers from the Bloodstone Lands in the Realms met and killed a powerful multiheaded, chromatic dragonlike creature on one of the lower planes some years ago. It was known as Tiamat. It may have been a manifestation of a deity, or it may just have been an extremely powerful planar being. In the land of Unther, also in the Realms, until very recently the majority of the populace belonged to the Cult of Tiamat. Tiamat’s avatar died during the Time of Troubles at the hands of Gilgeam, god-king of Unther, who himself died recently.

The being called Takhisis on one crystal sphere may or may not be Tiamat, and in any case her rumored demise had no effect on events in the Realms. From this we can assume that either Takhisis is Tiamat, has a presence on multiple crystal spheres, and is thus not dead—or she is dead and is thus not the Tiamat known in the Realms.

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I think I can answer your question. On page 67 of the Monster Manual, it states:

If it [a Devil] dies outside the Nine Hells, a devil disappears in a cloud of sulfurous smoke or dissolves into a pool of ichor, instantly returning to its home layer, where it reforms at full strength. Devils that die in the Nine Hells are destroyed forever—a fate that even Asmodeus fears.

Asmodeus is considered a god as of Deities & Demigods¹, p. 90, with the same status as Tiamat. Therefore we can infer that a god can be permanently slain if on it's own home plane. However, on page 64 of the DMG, it states:

Tiamat, the Queen of Evil Dragons, is a prisoner on this layer, ruling her own domain but confined to the Nine Hells by Asmodeus in accordance with some ancient contract.

Since Tiamat is not on her home plane, she cannot be permanently slain in the Nine Hells. As the DM, you can use ths information or you can just ignore it, but I hope I helped.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I understand your stance. To begin, are you saying that Tiamat is a devil and therefore the rules from the MM you quoted apply? Can you support that she's a devil? Or are you saying that she's not a devil, and therefore killing her in the Nine Hells doesn't kill her because she's not from there? But what rule or lore says that? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 20 at 18:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ If I understand the logic: The first quote, combined with the Deities & Demigods reference, establishes that any being - including gods - slain on their home plane die permanently. Where Tiamat's "home" plane is, is up for debate, frankly: her realm, from what I've found, is listed variously as residing in Zigguraxus, Avernus, and the Dragonspawn Pits of Azharul (aka the Cave of Greed) on the Dragon Eyrie, the latter two being connected (somehow). I would wager however that Dragon Eyrie is likely her home plane. \$\endgroup\$ – Izzy Apr 20 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Izzy I don't think you can extrapolate the rules of the nine hells to all planes. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 20 at 21:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I would normally agree, however that seems to be Deus' interpretation here. \$\endgroup\$ – Izzy Apr 21 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Izzy And that's fine, but they should still back it up. And I'm having trouble seeing where it's backed up other than in their head. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 21 at 13:13

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