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When a creature dies, and it has a soul, their soul departs to the plane of their deity or their alignment. In case of evil creatures, they may end up in the lower planes.

For Hades, the DMG (p. 63) says:

[...] Hades is the destination of many souls that are unclaimed by the gods of the Upper Planes or the fiendish rulers of the Lower Planes. These souls become larvae and spend eternity in this place [...]

The larva is given a stat block of a Medium fiend, neutral evil.

For the lemure, the MM (p. 67) states under "The Infernal Hierarchy":

Lemures. The lowest form of devil, lemures are the twisted and tormented souls of evil and corrupted mortals. A lemure killed in the Nine Hells is only permanently destroyed if it is killed with a blessed weapon or if its shapeless corpse is splashed with holy water before it can return to life.

Promotion and Demotion. When the soul of an evil mortal sinks into the Nine Hells, it takes on the physical form of a wretched lemure. [...]

The lemure is likewise given a stat block, as a Medium fiend (devil), lawful evil.

What is the native plane of the larva or lemure that is a transformed form of a soul native to another plane?

I think the interpretation has concrete conseqeunces:

  • If the larva or lemure is the soul and on its native plane, and destroying it would destroy the soul; no re-animation, not even with Wish, could bring the original creature back to life.
  • If, however, the native plane of the soul is the plane of the original creature, it should depart to that plane upon destruction of the physical form of the larva or lemure, and should be available to be resurrected then.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this basically asking if they get a new native plane when they become a lemure or larva, vs if they keep their old native plane from pre-death? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Feb 17 at 9:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri: Yes, exactly. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 at 9:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also relevant to Banishment, whether it gets sent to a harmless demiplane or back to its "home plane" if not already there. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 at 21:52

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In the default cosmology lemures are native to the Nine Hells and Larvae are native to Hades

Lemures

Lemures are created on the Nine Hells, either from souls of people who have made bargins with Devils, those claimed by the Hells due to their evil alignment, or those explicity killed by the Narzugon.

MToF on lemures in the Nine Hells:

Devils constantly strive to recruit mortals into their ranks by offering them rewards in return for their service. [...] When a cultist dies, its soul emerges in the Nine Hells and becomes another of the Blood War’s immortal soldiers. Most of the evil souls consigned to an afterlife in the Nine Hells become lemures, which make up the vast majority of the hellish forces, but some mortal recruits who willingly accept a contract offer from a powerful devil can arrive as a lesser devil.

Once they are a lemure, they are now a devil, a devil native to the Nine Hells (ie if they are killed outside of the Nine Hells they follow the normal rules for being reconstituted on the Nine Hells). The soul is now native to the Nine Hells.

MToF entry on Narzugon:

If this damage kills a creature, the creature's soul rises from the River Styx as a lemure in Avernus in ld4 hours. If the creature isn't revived before then, only a wish spell or killing the lemure and casting true resurrection on the creature's original body can restore it to life. Constructs and devils are immune to this effect.

It should be noted, that the exception here for wish is specific to lemures transformed by the Narzugon, and does not apply to all lemures.

Larvae

Larvae are created by transporting a soul to Hades, or by a creature visiting Hades and being transformed by the plane itself.

The Dungeon Masters Guide section on Hades specifies:

[...] Hades is the destination of many souls that are unclaimed by the gods of the Upper Planes or the fiendish rulers of the Lower Planes. These souls become larvae and spend eternity in this place that lacks a sun, a moon, stars, or seasons.

Creatures that die on Hades are also transformed:

Optional Rule: Vile Transformation

[...] If the creature reaches six levels of exhaustion, it doesn't die. Instead, the creature is permanently transforms into a larva, whereupon all levels of exhaustion afflicting the creature are removed. [...]

Hades is crawling with larvae. Night hags, liches, and rakshasas harvest them for use in vile rituals. Other fiends like to feed on them.

The creature the soul is in is now a fiend, and native to the plane of Hades, thus the soul is now native to the plane of Hades.

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Short answer: Fiends are native to the lower planes.

If a mortal soul is transformed into a demon or devil, then their 'native plane' becomes whatever plane demons or devils are native to in your setting. They belong to that place now.

Longer answer:

For demons, it's pretty clear from their Monster Manual description:

Spawned in the Infinite Layers of the Abyss, demons are the embodiment of chaos and evil...

Spawn of Chaos. The Abyss creates demons as extensions of itself, spontaneously forming fiends out of filth and carnage... Other demons (such as manes) are created from mortal souls shunned or cursed by the gods, or which are otherwise trapped in the Abyss.

The conversion of a soul into a demon is explicitly a form of 'spawning', so they're native to the Abyss (by default; your setting may vary) as much as any other demon is.

The section on devils is a little less direct but still pretty clear:

If it 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.

So a layer of the Nine Hells (again, settings vary) is explicitly the 'home layer' of a devil. After this it lists different ranks of devils, including

Lemures. The lowest form of devil, lemures are the twisted and tormented souls of evil and corrupted mortals.

So Lemures are explicitly devils, and a devil that dies outside Hell gets returned to its 'home layer', therefore Lemures are native to a layer of the Nine Hells.

But what about resurrection?

The rest is a bit more up to your DM, but I would agree with your analysis: If a mortal soul becomes a demon or devil, it's no longer a human/elf/etc. soul, and no longer a valid target for resurrection. In a way, that mortal soul has ceased to exist; it's no longer the lingering soul of a dead mortal, but the active body of a living fiend. If that fiend later gets destroyed permanently, the soul that originally formed it is gone forever. It doesn't become available for resurrection; there's nothing left of it. That's the price of being consigned to the lower planes*.

Of course they came back wrong is a classic horror trope, so in my games, if a dead person has been turned into a fiend of some sort, I would definitely allow resurrection to work on them (no need to kill The Thing They Have Become first)... but you aren't exactly getting back the person who left. It's them, but not them. They're a fiend in human form now, and nothing can fix that...

(Well, the DM might decide there's a way to fix it. That's what we call a plot hook.)

*Footnote: Since it was brought up in the comments, the Narzugon is a special case where mortals it slays are transformed into Lemures that explicitly do revert to their original soul-form if the Lemure is permanently destroyed, and are then allowed to pass on to their proper final reward (and made available for resurrection). But that's an exception to the rule; because the soul was "recruited" under weird circumstances unrelated to their personal morality or any particular deal with a devil, those souls get a special "out". They can be de-lemurified and subsequently resurrected, but that isn't an option for baseline lemures who have come there through their own actions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I love your last paragraph "It's them, but not them." I think this is how I should run it as a DM, at least until the Devil/Larva is destroyed. From a technical perspective, the Narzugon counterexample however undermines my assumptions: If killing the lemure utterly destroys the soul, how could "kill the lemure, then cast Resurrection" revive the original creature? I think "specific beats general" does not make sense as an explanation in this context, if there were no soul left by general rule, how could you resurrect it? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ you can ressurect souls that are embodied in creatures, so having them be a lemure or larva will not block it because they are a creature, as long as it is not yet destroyed, or other planar restriction mean they are "trapped" \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree "kill and rez" does not make any sense, but it is exactly what the Narzugon, which is published material from MtoF, says. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, misunderstood your comment. I think the Narzugon is a special case; because the soul was "recruited" under weird circumstances unrelated to their personal morality or any particular deal with a devil, those souls get a special "out" -- they can be de-lemurified and subsequently resurrected, which isn't an option for baseline lemures. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 at 16:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just realized thanks to illustro, at least lemures have a built in re-spawn, so they are not permanently destroyed when killed. This leaves a window for the resurrection to get them. Wouldn't make a lot of sense if they were destroyed as materialized souls \$\endgroup\$ Feb 17 at 16:37
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Bottom line up front: larvae are found in Hades, lemures are found in Baator (Hell). But they’re both special cases—that, unfortunately, recent lore hasn’t bothered to explain.

Larvae: extra special petitioners of Hades

The souls of mortals who die travel through astral conduits to the Outer¹ Plane that best befits them (usually, the one that houses the divine realm of the deity they worshiped, or else the plane matching their own alignment). They are called “petitioners” because, generally speaking, the default goal of a petitioner is to achieve harmonic unity with the plane or deity they are associated with. On Hallowed Ground emphasizes that they’re quite single-minded about it, saying

What’s more, that single-mindedness is pretty much the only way to tell a petitioner from a regular living sod. After all, most petitioners look and act the same as everyone else (not counting those who become chaos-blobs on Limbo or archons on the Mount).

Note the mention of the petitioners of Limbo and the Mount (Celestia) being special—another special case is the larvae of Hades, per Manual of the Planes:

Petitioners in Hades are mostly grayish ghosts, spirits so depleted by the Waste that they lack solidity. They rarely speak, instead crowding around visitors like moths around a candle, seeking warmth of emotion and hope that living beings possess.

Spirits of particularly selfish and malicious mortals that come to Hades become a special form of petitioner called a larva. Larvae appear as Medium-size worms with heads that resemble the heads on their mortal bodies. Larvae serve as the currency of the Lower Planes, especially among night hags, liches, demons, devils, and yugoloths. Most are likely to be used as food to power a spell. The rare “lucky” larva is sometimes promoted to a lower form of fiend.

So larvae are petitioners in Hades, but not all petitioners in Hades are larvae. Being a petitioner is a first step towards becoming a true fiend, but most don’t, even among the “special few” that are larvae.

Petitioners in Baator generally take on the form of ghost-white “shells” of their former self.

Lemures: Lowest form of baatezu, but (secretly) not the natural evolution of its petitioners

As in Hades, only “Particularly vile petitioners become lemures,” as Manual of the Planes puts it. Most just merge with the plane, which is, again, the normal thing to happen to a petitioner.

First, a bit of planar history. The term “devil” generally describes all lawful evil fiends of Hell, but there are a few different “tribes,” if you will, of devil. By far the most dominant and numerous—today—are known as the Baatezu. Baatezu civilization got its start when Asmodeus and his cohort found Hell nearly empty, and installed themselves as its rulers.⁴ But long before the Baatezu, there had been other, earlier devils. What happened to the ancient Baatorians is anybody’s guess—in all likelihood not even Asmodeus knows that, since they were long gone by the time he got there—but the fact remains that the natural order of things is for Baator to spawn Baatorians, not Baatezu.

The official story, believed by the overwhelming majority of the multiverse and often just described as how things are even in many of our books, is that Hell is the lawful evil plane where might makes right, and the Baatezu’s conquest of the plane is sufficient to change its tune and cause it to spawn Baatezu. Thus, petitioners in Baator become lemures, the lowest form of Baatezu. By this telling, one slightly-higher Baatezu is the nupperibo. Nupperiboes certainly are slightly stronger than lemures, after all. However, it’s worth noting that nupperiboes don’t get promoted to higher forms of Baatezu. They must be demoted to lemure in order to be promoted as anything else, so even though it is “higher” than lemure in the chain, most devils would prefer to be a lemure because that’s closer to actually getting somewhere useful.² This description can be found in any number of source books.

However, most sources—including Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes—don’t give the whole story here. And, to be fair, almost no one knows the whole story—this is a secret held by only the oldest and most powerful devils. It’s likely that not even all of the Archdukes of Hell know the score.³

In the most detailed descriptions of the hierarchy of Hell—as found in Faces of Evil—we learn that everything is not as it seems. Nupperiboes are not, in fact, a weird dead-end second-tier kind of Baatezu—they are, in fact, the lowest form of Baatorian. Lemures aren’t “promoted” nupperibo, they “revert” to nupperibo. And the rendering of nupperiboes into lemures isn’t a normal demotion at all—it’s in fact a perverse process by which Asmodeus can nip any Baatorian development in the bud, and ensure more Baatezu develop instead. Everyone believes nupperiboes are a dead end because Asmodeus cannot afford to allow them to develop—the fact that they keep spawning is proof that Baator is lawful enough to give the “natural order” continued chances to reassert itself, and will only accept the “might is right” argument if that might’s domination is truly unyielding. That is, Baator only belongs to the Baatezu for as long as they can control the Baatorian situation.

This is kept a secret because it’s a vulnerability, and because the Outer Planes are literally made of belief—what everyone believes affects reality there. If everyone—including the Baatezu themselves—believe the Baatezu have conquered Baator and it is well and truly theirs, that helps them. If belief that they are interlopers and that the plane is trying to shuck their rule becomes widespread, that can weaken their grip in fact.

  1. It’s not impossible for souls to wind up on non-Outer Planes, e.g. if they go to the divine realm of a deity whose divine realm isn’t on an Outer Plane. Most are, though. Non-Outer-Plane destinations are by a large margin the exception.

  2. A preference for lemure over nupperibo is common among devils, but not among lemures or nupperiboes—those creatures don’t have enough independent thought to really develop a “preference” for anything at all.

  3. Dispater, Mephistopheles, and of course, Asmodeus, definitely know, as they were among the original Baatezu. Glasya probably does just because she’s Asmodeus’s daughter. The rest, questionable. Bel probably doesn’t, but then Bel is particularly hapless, at least for an archduke. Oh, Baalphegor, Mephistopheles’s consort, likely knows as well—she may well have been there longer than any of them, as there are reasons to suspect she is actually an ancient Baatorian (but then, she is an intensely enigmatic figure given extremely little description in the lore, and this is a lot of reading between the lines).

  4. Asmodeus’s precise history has been given many, many descriptions over the years—and almost all of them are likely heavily influenced by Asmodeus’s own attempts to push certain narratives about himself. One of the most prominent stories—which bears at least some truth—is that Asmodeus was originally an archon who assumed command of the then-empty Hell as part of the War of Law and Chaos, as part of a treaty among the forces of law enshrined in the Pact Primeval. The Pact Primeval definitely exists—Mechanus and Mount Celestia are each known to have a copy—but exactly what was agreed upon is a matter of rumor. Most claim that Asmodeus proposed to “rehabilitate” lawful evil souls by pressing them into service in the War, and then shocked the other forces of Law by turning around and actively corrupting mortals to generate more lawful evil souls and thus more power for Hell and thus himself.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that you are citing lore from previous editions in a question tagged 5e, it would be worthwhile specifying which edition your sources come from. \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Feb 18 at 0:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ It would also be very helpful for you to explain why these older references still apply to the 5e system or if this is just background lore that doesn't necessarily still apply. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Feb 18 at 2:14

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