I Don’t Feel Like Arguing About Yugoloths

Before I delve into the oinoloth, I want to settle an issue regarding yugoloths—or at least, regarding my interpretation of yugoloths. The issue involves the question of what plane yugoloths are native to, and specifically, whether they can be killed (as opposed to just destroyed) on any plane other than Gehenna, the outer plane of “lawful evil neutrals.” My take, which differs from pure canon, is that yugoloths may be numerous in Gehenna, and some yugoloths may be native to that plane, but Hades has as strong a claim on them, if not stronger.

The fifth-edition Monster Manual says:

Back to Gehenna. When a yugoloth dies, it dissolves into a pool of ichor and reforms at full strength on the Bleak Eternity of Gehenna. Only on its native plane can a yugoloth be destroyed permanently. A yugoloth knows this and acts accordingly. When summoned to other planes, a yugoloth fights without concern for its own well-being. On Gehenna, it is more apt to retreat or plead for mercy if its demise seems imminent.

This paragraph isn’t as ironclad a statement that yugoloths are native to Gehenna, and only to Gehenna, as one might think. First, it doesn’t state explicitly what a yugoloth’s native plane is, only that if it’s killed somewhere other than its native plane, it re-forms in Gehenna. Another paragraph on the same page states, “Yugoloths are fickle fiends that inhabit the planes of Acheron, Gehenna, Hades, and Carceri” (the last of these, in AD&D, originally called “Tarterus,” a misspelling of “Tartarus”), implying that any of these planes could be a yugoloth’s native plane. Second, I reserve the right to declare occasionally that the Monster Manual flavor text is full of it, as in the case of the soldierly hobgoblin that for some reason instantly forgets all its training and abandons all its discipline if it happens to catch a glimpse of an elf, or the use of “efreeti” as a singular noun rather than “efreet.”

Before yugoloths were yugoloths, they were “daemons,” the neutral evil counterpart to lawful evil devils and chaotic evil demons. The first daemons to appear in a D&D sourcebook were the guardian daemon, mezzodaemon and nycadaemon in the Fiend Folio (the last two are now the mezzoloth and nycaloth). The guardian daemon’s home plane is unspecified, but the mezzodaemon and nycadaemon are described as inhabiting “the Lower Planes between the Abyssal Layers and the Hells—i.e., Tarterus, Hades, Gehenna” (idiosyncratic italics in original). Gehenna doesn’t even appear first in that list.

All daemons/yugoloths are neutral evil—always have been, probably always will be. And in the Outer Planes cosmology, the plane corresponding to the neutral evil alignment is Hades. If there’s any plane likely to have spawned a neutral species of fiend that sells its services to both of the feuding sides in the Blood War, it’s Hades. And for that matter, if daemons are found in Tartarus (C/NE), Hades (NE) and Gehenna (L/NE), chances are, they started in Hades and spread outward from there. (In fact, the second-edition Planeswalker’s Handbook, says, “The yugoloths live on Gehenna, although some claim the Gray Waste [Hades] was their original case [sic].”) In Planescape and more recent cosmology, if yugoloths have made it as far as Acheron, then perhaps they did once originate in Gehenna, but there’s still no reason why they shouldn’t feel just as much at home in Hades, just as Polish-Americans born in Chicago to Polish parents may be native to the United States but still think of themselves as Poles.

And finally, Dungeon Masters get to make this stuff work however they want to. If you want to insist that all yugoloths are native to Gehenna and only to Gehenna, can always be killed there and can never be killed anywhere else, that’s your call. If you want to say that there exist yugoloths native to Gehenna and also yugoloths native to Hades (or Carceri or Acheron), and that any of them can be killed on their own home plane, that’s also your call. If you want to say, as I like to, that yugoloths are actually native to Hades but have managed to colonize Gehenna and make it their own, resulting in their being vulnerable on both planes, that’s your call, too! All of this is made-up, and you’re at liberty to make stuff up as well.

However you set your cosmology up, the most important thing is that yugoloths encountered on the prime material plane—where most PCs spend most of their lives—can’t be permanently killed there, and consequently aren’t going to be concerned about self-preservation the way, say, a bear is. When your PCs are high enough level to go plane-hopping, then you can deal with the fine print.

14 thoughts on “I Don’t Feel Like Arguing About Yugoloths

  1. “In Planescape and more recent cosmology, if yugoloths have made it as far as Acheron, then perhaps they did once originate in Gehenna, but there’s still no reason why they shouldn’t feel just as much at home in Hades, just as Polish-Americans born in Chicago to Polish parents may be native to the United States but still think of themselves as Poles.”

    And now going forward all Yugoloths encountered in my campaign will have Chicago superfan accents. “Daa Balors”

  2. And this is why I have merged the 5e lore with the Pathfinder lore on daemon/yugoloths. For me, most Yugoloths are native to Hades, and serve the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but a subset were made native to Gehenna by the nighthag’s ritual and follow the General. I literally use both names. The Daemons are the original, stronger variants, and the Yugoloths are the splinter force mercenaries.

  3. Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes states that Gehenna is their home plane.

    It’s in the chapter titled, The Great Dance.

  4. Hey, you don’t even have to allow the characters access to the Outer Planes — or accept the Outer Planes at all.

  5. Thank You for your diligent research & time. I appreciate you & your work. Signs are for those who won’t read them.

  6. I’m a fan of the Planescape cosmology and lore, so it occurs to me that if outsiders are allowed to die on -ANY- plane other than their home and its a get out of jail free card, then it would be trivial for outsiders conscripted into the Blood War to desert by killing themselves as soon as they leave their home plane. Since I think this is a ridiculous idea, I would rule that anyone dying on a lower plane gets absorbed into that plane regardless of origin because it makes more sense to me thematically. The lower planes are soul prisons, you don’t want the inmates escaping easily, and the wardens have been at this for a very long time. There should be no obvious loopholes. This also has the side effect of rendering the entire discussion of home planes academic in any lower planar context. Hooray.

    I could optionally add on to this that prominent loth’s and baatezu have prisoner exchange clauses in their blood war supply contracts, so if they die on each other’s planes they get stored in a soul gem and sent home that way. Tanarri would be unlikely to participate in any sort of Geneva convention, or might pretend to agree in exchange for something they want then renege on the agreement. Its kinda their shtick after all. Still, I think its far simpler to rule that everyone gets absorbed, no exceptions. The lower planes are always hungry. This has the side effect of explaining why powerful outsiders rarely leave their homes without a very good reason.

    Obligatory disclaimer that other DMs can do as they like, yadda yadda, although if anyone needs my permission to do that then they have other problems.

    “I Don’t Feel Like Arguing About Yugoloths”

    I agree, being the internet equivalent of that guy shouting at people at the bus stop is strange. People are weird.

    1. In my understanding, reforming in their home plane is a burden, something that they don’t like doing much

  7. Amen! I’m a fan of cosmic symmetry, so I favor the older lore that leans towards Hades. I’m also a fan of Planescape so I let them colonize Gehenna additionally.

    As far as 5e lore that fails to respect good things (or in this case, neutral evil things) from the past, I apply a principle to it that can be expressed in a single phrase: “Some people in the multiverse believe that.”

  8. I’m a big believer that published lore is always in-universe opinion. One monster manual could be written by Volo, and another by Fred, Asmodeus’s Chief propaganda officer.
    This is how I explain discrepancies among editions, or even within editions.
    I tend to run Planescape, and it promotes this feel.

    That being said, Hades is the natural choice, except for “that’s what they WANT you to think!” Yugoloths so purposely shroud their own history and lore in a web of lies that they could be CG faeries for all we know.
    I don’t trust any lore on them 100%. It’s all half-true.

  9. When a yugoloth died and disolves into a pool of ichor to then reform in Gehenna, what do you reckon happens to anything they are carrying at them time such as their signature tridents? Disolves and reforms with them or left behind in the pool of goop?

      1. I can’t recall where I read this now, but I seem to recall some bit of lore that pointed out the reason that Devils prefer to fight on their home turf is because it’s easier to recover their weapons and other materiel, implying that new recruits are easier to come by than quality armaments.

        Similarly, most devils are depicted as carrying weapons and most demons aren’t – so they have nothing to lose.

        Not sure if this has anything to do with it, but a lot of devils don’t have the “magic weapons” property that Yugoloths do. I took that to mean that any weapon a Yugoloth picks up is magical in their hands, so it doesn’t matter what they’re carrying — or maybe they just have a clause in their mercenary agreement covering their expenses.

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