Codex of Betrayal

A Walk Through the Planes – Codex of Betrayal




I knew that it would be a bumpy ride when we hit Fourth Edition, and not just because of the radically different cosmology. Wizards of the Coast had a newfound focus on planar material that coincided with this change, despite the multiverse’s new shape being unpopular and messy. This meant that in addition to the Demonomicon of Iggwilv series that we covered previously, three (and nearly four: see below) additional series were added to Dragon and Dungeon magazines using the same longform profile format that became so popular when Paizo was in charge. Apparently, the “needless symmetry” that the cosmology’s creators hated so much in the Great Wheel was a boon when it came to their own coverage, and so we saw the birth of the Codex of Betrayal, Court of Stars, and Lords of Chaos series, plus the tangentially related Deities & Demigods/Channel Divinity series, which unlike these others I don’t plan on covering on this site—deities are, of course, planar in nature, but covering them would mean even more scope creep for this series, which really has more than enough of that already. 

Astute readers might also have noticed that a couple of these profiles have snuck their way into individual A Walk Through the Planes articles in the past, and the reason for this is simple: when I first began reading through Fourth Edition I didn’t realize just how many of these there are. Given the abbreviated length of this edition, I figured that there’d just be one or two articles in each of these series, when in fact there are far more. In addition to the seven Fourth Edition Demonomicon articles there would be five Codex of Betrayal features, three Lords of Chaos ones, and a whopping eight for the Court of Stars. Generally speaking, for most of Fourth Edition one of these series or another would see a release online each month in Wizards’ periodicals. Many are quite good and noteworthy, but they’re also not articles I feel like covering on their own, as at that rate we’d never get to Fifth Edition, at least not until I lost interest in this series entirely. So instead of covering each individually as I did with Beleth and Mual-Tar, I figured it made more sense to cover these series as a whole. 


The Codex of Betrayal was most noteworthy in its beginning, which is why I don’t feel too bad about giving Beleth his own article; for the first two parts of this series, Ari Marmell chose to cover previously unknown devils. Beleth was a lord of imps and so not your typical devilish nobility, while Alloces (featured in Dragon #373, March 2009) is if anything even more interesting: an almost loyalty free torturer. So much time has always been spent on the unique devils at the absolute apex of Hell’s hierarchy that it’s great to focus on individuals who are just as noteworthy but far less powerful. 

Alloces’ backstory is linked with that of Asmodeus’ in Fourth Edition, which is to say it’s kinda cliched and uninteresting, but that shouldn’t be counted against him. After he betrayed his fellow angels, he fell in with Geryon, but it quickly became clear to all of Hell’s higher ups that he wasn’t so much a warrior as he was a weirdo mad scientist and essentially torturer-in-chief. “The general quickly assigned Alloces a position as his chief inquisitor, allowing the sadistic angel all the opportunity he could ever desire to wreak unimaginable suffering on captured enemies.” Alloces managed to leave Geryon’s side just before the Reckoning, and since then has largely worked for Asmodeus himself, though he has some alliances with Glasya, Fierna, and Mephistopheles as well. For the most part, though, he’s a loner, not quite shunned by other devils, but certainly apart from their usual hierarchy.

Alloces’ monstrosities are almost over-the-top nasty. They make Hell truly Hellish, and so I appreciate them.

Alloces has a ton of horrifying personality traits, and this comes out best in his creations, such as melded souls and nessian hounds. He loves capturing animals and particularly mortals and then fusing their bodies and souls together in gruesome new ways. This makes him one of the most terrifying individuals in the history of the game, and emphasizes both just how evil devils can really be and also the stakes now at play—in previous editions losing your soul to an eternity of torment through no cause of your own was a rarity, but now it seems like a commonplace problem. 

In all, you (i.e. me) might hate the new cosmology, but that’s no reason to ignore Beleth and Alloces, who fit in perfectly fine in pretty much any conception of Hell. Any parts of their lore you want to ignore are easily forgotten, and what is there is still close enough to the old Planescape Great Wheel that they’re easily insertable with minimal fuss. Deciding to create new entities was wonderful in and of itself given how many times the same archdevils had been covered over the years, but even if they weren’t these write-ups are expansive and deep, showing new sides of these fiends that have previously gone unnoticed. 

Geryon’s triple form is actually pretty sweet. No idea if the game decided to keep this or not, but it’s a cool development.

The other three Codex of Betrayal features comprise a trilogy of sorts, with all three focusing (more or less) on the lore surrounding Stygia and its complicated succession of rulers. They’re each by a different author and were published years apart, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not worthwhile, and aside from all of the Dawn War backstory there’s no reason why they couldn’t work just as easily in the Great Wheel cosmology. That’s one of the nice things about Hell in Fourth Edition—while its shape was altered and Asmodeus is now some sort of dumb deity, aside from its new origins everything established about it before is essentially canonical. 

The first of these was “Geryon, the Broken Beast,” written for the March 2010 issue of Dungeon (#176) by Ari Marnell. Marenll’s decision to expand upon Geryon was inspired, as he’s an integral part of the game’s history but also someone who’s easy to adapt into something more worthwhile. As noted in a sidebar:

Like so many of the game’s greatest fiends, Geryon finds his roots in real-world myth and literature. Unlike others, Geryon actually comes from two completely separate sources. 

Back in 1st Edition, Gary Gygax based Geryon on the demon that appears in Dante’s Inferno to briefly carry Dante and Virgil. It is from this source that the duke’s handsome human face and bestial body are drawn, and that was the look that Geryon maintained throughout 1E and his (extraordinarily scarce) 2nd Edition mentions. 

Once he’d been banished from the Nine Hells, and his domain given to another, Geryon took on a very different form in 3rd Edition. He appeared in the Tome of Magic as a vestige—a creature of forgotten spirit. Here, he’s described as three bodies joined into one. This description draws not on Dante but on Greek mythology—specifically the twelve labors of Heracles—in which Geryon was a giant with three torsos on one pair of legs. (In some of the myths, those three torsos together support only a single head. Try to picture that without your eyes crossing!)

While the 4th Edition Manual of the Planes mentions that Geryon dwelt in exile within the depths of Tytherion, it says nothing of his physical nature. As such, because it provides for interesting background and mechanics both, we’ve chosen to combine aspects of both prior variations for his current incarnation. Thus does Geryon enter the 4th Edition era as a creature both new and steeped in the traditions of the game—and of the game’s classic inspirations.

As with most early D&D drawings, the original conception of Geryon is less “terrifying monster” and more “terrifying embarrassment.”

Geryon was introduced as the ruler of Stygia in the original Monster Manual, with Gygax writing:


Sometimes referred to as the “Wild Beast,” Geryon is the gigantic ruler of the fifth plane of Hell.

This arch-devil is as powerful as a storm giant, and he loves to grab his opponents and rend them with his claws while stabbing them with his terrible poisonous tail…. Geryon dwells in a huge castle in the very middle of the plane, and seldom ventures forth.

A handsome head and torso sit atop Geryon’s snakey trunk. This arch-devil has no legs, but travels in a snakelike mode along the ground. He has huge bat wings. His tail is barbed and drips poison. Geryon’s arms are strong and hairy, ending in paw-like hands.

He receives a few mentions in the Monster Manual II, with a full write-up of his vassal Amon, plus notices about how much Belial and Moloch hate him. He also crops up in Dragon #75 with Ed Greenwood’s seminal series “The Nine Hells,” which first detailed Stygia and his huge castle Tantlin. Here, he’s depicted as essentially the living embodiment of a bully and somewhat akin to Baphomet:

Geryon seldom leaves his great castle. He delights in physically battling lesser devils and captured intruders within the walls of Tantlin, sometimes chasing them for long periods of time throughout the halls of the castle and the gravel-strewn mines nearby, where Tantlin’s blocks were and still are quarried, eternally, by captives, spined and barbed devils, and the like. Geryon delights in luring powerful creatures from other planes (that is, from outside the hells) to Stygia with carefully contrived tales of magic, lore, or other treasure, so that they can be the victims for one of his cruel hunts. Any survivors of these unsporting events go to the quarries.

However, we’re also introduced to facets of Geryon that will ultimately lead to his downfall, at least in how I parse things: “Geryon is perhaps the most satisfied or contented of the archdevils, and the least interested in the endless political struggle among the devils for more power.” While he’s mentioned a couple more times in Greenwood’s follow-up in Dragon #91, after this he wouldn’t show up again until Monte Cook’s A Paladin in Hell more than a decade later. 

Amongst other things, Paladin first introduced The Reckoning event that explained why Geryon had been replaced by Levistus. Unfortunately the rest of the adventure was pretty bad, and ultimately Geryon’s plots would be defeated such that by the time of Third Edition he’d been relegated to vestige status as mentioned above. He’s mentioned more frequently towards the end of Second and Third Editions than the quoted sidebar implies, but remained an infrequently used figure with a lot of potential. I remained fond of him throughout, partially because any potential for moving metaplots in D&D‘s increasingly static world interested me, even if Fourth Edition’s retconning wasn’t what I meant by this. 


Marmell’s version, as he notes, draws on a different origin and with this Geryon has a neat backstory… if you wish to have a Dawn Ware and turn him into a fallen angel. Even without this, though, there’s no reason he couldn’t be a tripartite individual. I actually prefer the idea that he’s been relegated to a vestige, as to me this is a more interesting way for things to go, but if you want to include Geryon as a still-relevant force in the multiverse then what’s included here is excellent at making a certain sense of this frequently forgotten devil. By the standards of the Demonomicon series it’s a short article, coming in at just six pages, but given how reduced in stature Geryon now is this seems fitting. An adventure that really shows what Geryon’s up to at this point is sorely missing, but Fourth Edition tends to just introduce things without using them, so that’s not a huge surprise. 

Kinda dig Glasya’s depiction here, even if it’s a little basic.

Next would come “Glasya, Princess of the Nine Hells” in Dungeon #197, December 2010. Written by Robert J. Schwalb, this is a longer article (nine pages) that takes even more liberties with retconning the past, though in a more interesting manner. Glasya was originally introduced in the Monster Manual II (technically she was kinda introduced first in Dragon #75, but with how dating works for magazines they would’ve been published essentially simultaneously, and I consider the book more canonical) in a short entry that read, in part, “As consort to Mammon, Glasya is one of the more powerful and influential female devils … Glasya is the daughter of Asmodeus and incredibly beautiful. Her wings, forked tail, horns, and copper-colored skin betray her origins.” She grew in stature over the years, likely because there were essentially no other prominent lady devils included in the game until… wait, aside from her there still aren’t any. That’s kinda sad.

While she was covered in Second Edition AD&D, it wasn’t until the end of Third Edition D&D that she really came to prominence with the Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells, one of whose authors also happened to be a certain Mr. Schwalb. In this book, Glasya suddenly and gruesomely became the new ruler of Malbolge, a newly disgusting realm made from the body of the hag countess Malagard. Since then, she’s been continuing the plots developed in that earlier book, her ambitions now clarified to be usurping her father’s rulership of Hell, but Schwalb sees fit to develop her far more in the past. For the most part this article is a rewriting of the previously sketchy history regarding Asmodeus’ mistress Bensozia (i.e. Glasya’s mother) and Levistus. Playing off of the earlier article about Geryon, this is developed into a betrayal in which Bensozia was actually killed by her daughter as revenge for sleeping with her own lover. That Bensozia had raised Glasya to hate her father and plot his downfall almost from her birth did nothing to stay her hand.

Equally momentous is the decision to reframe Glasya as perhaps the primary force behind The Reckoning that reshaped Hell between First and Second Editions of AD&D. “Scholars have theorized that Glasya was also Asmodeus’s agent in the Reckoning, and that her task was to expose the treachery of the archdevils and to help consolidate Asmodeus’s power.” Through all of this, Glasya has transformed from simply Mammon’s “consort” (or in this article “concubine,” both cases feeling like a very euphemistic way of saying “sex slave”) into the most active member of Hell’s ruling class, the person most likely to destroy any other archdevil including her own father. I can see the argument that this is too much retconning, but nothing here feels like it contradicts what came before, plus it makes Hell a more politically fascinating plane, so I don’t care, I’m quite glad for these changes. The rest of the article largely focuses on Malbolge, which is largely unchanged from before but with less detail. If what you’re looking for is either crunch or more information about that layer then there won’t be much here for you, but all of the flavor and revision of Glasya’s past makes this a necessary read for anyone interested in exploring Hell’s politics on a deeper level. 

Levistus is essentially Aquaman frozen in the ice mid-optometrist visit. I’m unimpressed.

The final article in this series covered Levistus in Dragon #427 (September 2013), published during that weird period between the death of Fourth Edition and the reign of Fifth Edition—in fact, the Player’s Handbook for Fifth Edition was released in August 2013 and so was roughly contemporaneous with this issue, which would prove to be the fourth from final ever published. I’m less enamored of this seven page article than I am of its predecessors, but that isn’t to say that it’s bad, just less necessary than them. John Rossomangno’s coverage of Levistus largely serves to tie together the lore from the previous two codices. If you already read them, there isn’t much new here, and I never found Levistus to be terribly interesting as an individual, but that’s mostly a matter of taste.


In Fourth Edition, Levistus is newly all about hoarding souls, and this interest encircles all of his contemporary plots. He has a half-baked scheme for taking over Hell that revolves around his soul stash, plus a relationship with allies from the Outer Torments, an area of Hell I only learned about through these articles but I have to assume will play a bigger role in future books (particularly the one focused on the Astral Sea).

When everything is ready, the Outer Torments will become a staging point to cut off the flow of souls to Avernus. This embargo will slowly starve the other archdevils’ servants, a sensation only the denizens of Stygia are truly accustomed to experiencing for long periods of time. Levistus can then use the souls in his vaults to strike bargains with other devils and solidify a hold over additional layers of Hell. Any allies he secures can be turned against the layers that hold out against him.

Levistus’ plan is bad, but at least it’s a plan, and as such something easily integrated into campaigns. Likewise, he’s got all sorts of dumb souls stashes leading up to his tomb now. I don’t care for this version of Stygia as much as the one from Third Edition, but it’s also not terribly different from before and it’s easy to integrate any parts that you do appreciate. The main problem with this article is that, unlike with Glasya and Geryon let alone the earlier fiends from the Codex, Levistus is already well-developed, and changing the game’s lore in real ways that move things forward is something Wizards of the Coast rarely allows. 

As far as Fourth Edition series go, this is one of the best, and appreciably more useful and noteworthy than the degraded version of the Demonomicon that was also intermittently published during these years. They’re all worthwhile enough that if you want to include Glasya, Geryon, or even Levistus in your campaign then it’s worth checking these out, and the two new devils Beleth and Alloces are worthy editions to the game period. I have my doubts that these other series focused on planar individuals will be up to this same standard, but perhaps we’ll be surprised. Fourth Edition did publish so much planar material in such a short period of time that, as we’ve seen, some parts of it do manage to sparkle despite the large morass of accompanying dross.

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