This week’s devil shows that even if you start off as a knock-off, you can rise through the ranks and establish an identity all your own.
As we continue our journey through the fiends of the Nine Hells here in anticipation of next week’s Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, we come to a rather interesting example. The Erinyes, a monster stolen from mythology and changed to be an off-brand succubus, instead of hewing to its mythic origins as other monsters do, has been through a lot of changes over the editions.
Much like Kobolds, Minotaurs, and even the Tarrasque, the Erinyes’ origins are in real world mythology. In greek mythology, the Erinyes, or Furies are “chthonic deities of vengeance, sometimes referred to as ‘infernal goddesses’.” They would erupt from the underworld to take vengeance on people swearing a false oath–and may in fact spring from the self-cursing of the oath. Depending on which accounting you believe, they either emerge from the blood of Uranus’ castration or from a union between air and mother earth–but these three wrathful goddesses are ancient, you might represent them as the three sisters: Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, who were to make sure that crimes did not go unpunished… with snakelike hair, batwings, bloodshot eyes, and worse, the furies were fearful to invoke.
D&D initially started wit a variation on this, casting them as devils fulfilling a similar role…
In 1st Edition D&D, the Erinyes are lesser devils common to the second of the Nine Hells. Most commonly sent out after wayward souls who are bound for hell, the Erinyes prefer to take their prey alive back into the depths. The souls are fresher that way. With an agile fly speed, and a magical dagger that drips venom and causes targets to faint for 1d6 rounds, going up against one (let alone the 1-16 that you might actually be facing down) is a daunting task.
Strong, fast, and capable of detecting invisible creatures, locating objects, and polymorphing themselves, they are wily foes who will find you.
In 2nd Edition the Erinyes are much more like devilish versions of succubi. With feathery wings, natural beauty, and the ability to charm victims with a gaze (even if you don’t look back), they are powerful tempters, who excel at dominating lesser species. In 2nd Edition their Charm is particularly powerful, as victims of their gaze attack make their save as though they were only half of their actual level–an 8th level Paladin saves as only a 4th level Warrior, for instance. And once you fail that save you’re loyal to them even unto death or until they decide to charm someone else.
They are tempters and seducers and lurers in this edition. And they carry out their whims freely because they alone among the baatezu can pass freely into the Prime Material Plane in order to tempt mortals back (and transform them into lemures). This earns them a lot of respect, but is also a far cry from the Kindly Ones of myth.
3rd Edition Erinyes are more like fallen angels who were tempted to the more hellish side of things–ad their goal is to fight their opponents from a distance, again lassoing enemies and using animate rope to capture them. Think devil Wonder Woman and you’ve got a good idea…again, they are changing radically between the editions. This one fights much differently from the other versions. And it’s even more varied in 4th Edition.
4th Edition sees Erinyes recast as arbiters of justice among the devils. Again growing out of their former role, they are much more respected for their combat prowess than their abilities to tempt mortals. They are powerful warriors and acknolwedged as furies in this edition. Though they skew more towards the bottom of the power level, as only 13th level soldiers.
They fight furiously though, eschewing the magical rope of the previous two editions for powerful sword and shield attacks that can knowck creatures prone, attack multiple creatures, and allow them to shift around as they make opportunity attacks. They make excellent leaders who can keep their allies in the fight much longer than you’d think, thanks to their healing powers.
5th Edition Erinyes walk a line between all the previous lore. They’re the most beautiful and striking of all the devils, but they’re alos fierce and disciplined warriors. You can see by their art they’re still heavily armed and armored, but they also fight with their magical lassos. They bring swift death to oathbreakers–but only those that have broken oaths with archdevils and Asmodeus. And rumor has it they were once angels–again, a bit of everything.
It’s eflected in their combat styles too–they’re CR 12, which places them toward the top of the chart when it comes to devils. And they’re incredibly fast with a fly speed of 60, and a multiattack that lets them strike up to three times while dealing massive amounts of poison damage. Their posion is long-lasting and they can fight defensively if need be, making them an excellent boss encounter. They have to be played intelligently, but, they are capable foes that excel at leading troops into battle.