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A vision of Malebolge.

The Pit
Lawful evil
strongly law-aligned, strongly evil-aligned
Enhanced or impeded
Achaierais, asuras, cerberi, devils, hellcats, hell hounds, velstracs, wisagatcaks, hellspawn, Lawful evil outsiders, Lawful evil souls
Nine descending infernal circles
Source: The Great Beyond, pg(s). 40ff.

The plane of Hell, sometimes referred to as the Pit, is the ultimate expression of evil order in the Great Beyond, of the weak subjugated to serve the strong, of complete obedience, and unquestioning faith. Its tortures are not willful and random like the torments of the Outer Rifts, or purely sadistic and spiteful like that of Abaddon. Evil and obedience here are honed to a razor's edge in service to a greater purpose: that of bending the will of souls, and the very architecture of creation itself to the greater glory of the lord Asmodeus and his perfect order. It is the home of myriads of devils and other evil outsiders, and sadly the final destination for countless mortal souls.12 As well as "hellish", the adjective to describe Hell is "infernal".


Unlike nearly every other plane in the multiverse, Hell is a constructed plane, or rather nine overlapping planes, all moulded for the purpose of torment and purification.3 Although the details of its creation is unknown, Hell was first inhabited by asura and led by the greatest of them, an asura rana known as Geryon. Asmodeus led his host against the asura and ultimately triumphed when Geryon turned traitor and devoured many of his own asura followers.4

Among the earliest prisoners of Hell were the original velstracs. When they first appeared from the first truly selfish and depraved thoughts conceived by mortals, the early gods were so horrified that they ordered these new horrors to be chained in a remote part of Hell. The velstracs embraced their chains and somehow escaped (or were perhaps released) to the Plane of Shadow.5

According to draconic lore, Hell was ravaged by Dahak during the early days of the Age of Creation, making it a place of suffering and fire.67


A Hellscape.

The ecology of Hell is quite intricate, but is fundamentally based on the acquisition of mortal souls. Should a mortal soul be damned, it joins the masses of suffering shades in Avernus, Hell's first layer. The reason for damnation can vary but is usually because the mortal revered or bargained with diabolical forces, their soul was stolen or purchased on its way to its final destination, or the mortal failed in the worship of another deity and was cast as a shade from its patron's plane.8

Once in Avernus, lesser devils marshal the shades for a long, perilous journey to one of Hell's deeper layers. It is traditional for the soul to be sent to a plane for punishments appropriate to the soul's crimes, but greater devils in need of (or owed) slaves can also demand them. Upon reaching the realm of their damnation, shades are tormented at the hands of devils, other fiendish beings, and the deadly machinations of Hell itself. Inevitably these souls go mad, forgetting their mortal lives and they eventually become little more than automatons of fear and hatred. After ages of such existence, the cruel processes of Hell change the soul into something usable. Vile souls are transformed into the loathsome lemures, while less worthy souls are used as building blocks in infernal constructions. Many are simply destroyed.9


Although Hell is a boundless realm of torment and suffering, it is often thought of as a series of stacked or nesting layers bounded by the Maelstrom. A traveler must pass through each of these in order to arrive at the next lower one. Each is overseen by one of Asmodeus' lieutenants, the dreaded Archdevils.2

Layers of Hell

The first layer is ruled by Barbatos, and is a volcanic wasteland where souls assemble, are judged, and are sent to their appropriate layers for eternal punishment.10
The second layer is ruled by Dispater, and consists of a large city that provides soldiers to the other layers.10
Erebus is the third layer of Hell and is ruled by Mammon. It consists of the sewers of Dis and includes the counting house in which Hell's fortunes are listed, its supplies cataloged, and its soldiers equipped.310
The fourth layer of Hell is ruled by Belial, and contains the hideous forges of Hell, where unsuitable souls are recast into something more fitting to the infernal eye.311
A library in Stygia.
Stygia is the realm of Geryon and the temples and libraries of sin and heresy. It is here that the temptation of Hell is practised as an art form to be mastered.312
The realm of Moloch is a smouldering forest of false reward and spirited hunts of the damned.12
In this infernal realm, the damned watch the feasting of devils from cages of ice afloat glaciers and frozen oceans; here the archdevil Baalzebul holds dominion.312
Caina is a realm of iron and torture, where steel cages hang suspended over a nearly sentient darkness that spreads in all directions; the archdevil Mephistopheles rules here.313
The nearly unknown layer of Nessus is the heart and foundation of Hell and contains the palace of Asmodeus.313

Geographical features

Although each layer is geographically and morphologically distinct from the others, they share a number of features or traits in common.

The fires of Hell are a common linguistic and literary image but hardly compare to the malicious and deadly reality of actual hellfire. It burns without need of fuel, and can be found easily in water, rock or air. Stinking of sulfur, its flames burn with an unholy radiance that disproportionately harms good and moral creatures. Hellfire is most commonly encountered in the layers of Phlegethon, Malebolge, Cocytus, Caina, and Nessus.2
Hellmouths are living portals in the fabric of Hell itself, most commonly appearing as disgusting rents in the ground, devilish faces, or open orifices. They connect the various layers of Hell and are, therefore, heavily fortified and guarded, with a devil of at least infernal duke status assigned as overseer. A few extremely rare hellmouths connect to other planes, most commonly the Outer Rifts, the sewers of the planar city of Axis, or a world on the Material Plane.2
The River Styx
The River Styx begins its passage through Hell in Avernus and runs through several of its layers, passing through planar portals or hellmouths. It serves as a passage from Avernus through Dis, Erebus, Stygia, Malebolge, Cocytus, and Caina before passing to other planes. In its course can be found countless souls who have lost their memories, aquatic fiends, and planar traders.2


Regarding Hell, Paizo has published Hell Unleashed and Princes of Darkness, and a major article in The Great Beyond, A Guide to the Multiverse.

For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.