What Is The Blood War In DnD?

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  • Are Demons And Devils Equals?

In the universe of Dungeons & Dragons, Demons and Devils are not the same thing. Both are evil, but Demons are chaotic beings that want to destroy everything, while Devils are of lawful alignment, and their aim is to control all life.


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Their differences have them in an eternal conflict known as the Blood War, a battle that’s been going on for longer than anyone can remember, and that has no end in sight. But why are these creatures locked in eternal combat, and why is it that no side ever wins?


What Is The Blood War?

Dungeons & Dragons Asmodeus comanding his forces in the Blood War
Via Wizards of the Coast

As stated before, the Blood War is the eternal conflict between Devils and Demons. They fight because their aims are fundamentally opposed; Devils want absolute control, while Demons look for absolute destruction.

The way each side does battle echoes their nature: Devils are expert planners, using carefully thought out strategies to take down their foes, while Demons attack with reckless abandon, throwing themselves into the fray with little care.

Most of the conflict happens in Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells, with hordes of Demons entering it via the river Styx. The constant conflict can sometimes spill into other layers, and even to the Abyss itself, although it’s usually contained in Avernus.

The Styx is a river that crosses the planes, connecting most Fiendish layers.

It starts in Pandemonium and enters many layers of the Abyss before ending in the fifth layer of Hell, Stygia.

Are Demons And Devils Equals?

Dungeons & Dragons collage showing demon Orcus and devil Zariel
Orcus, Prince of Undeath by Andrew Mar and Descent into Avernus Cover Art by Tyler Jacobson

In terms of raw power, you can find similar stat blocks for Demons and Devils, meaning that they are roughly equal in power. However, there are some key differences that set them apart, and they mostly have to do with where the battle takes place.

Demons

Out Of The Abyss Cover Art with a two headed Demogorgon
Out Of The Abyss By Tyler Jacobson

Like all Fiends, Demons can only truly die if slain in their home realm (in their case, the Abyss), making their strategy of throwing themselves away with little thought have a bit more justification.

Since the infinite layers of the Abyss are constantly making new Demons, and they revive when dying in the Hells, it would be safe to assume that Demons have the upper hand.

Their lack of organization, however, affects them even before entering the battlefield. Demons don’t like being ordered around, so they have to be threatened into service, meaning that you need plenty of powerful Demons to put others in check.

If any of the Demon Princes were to take interest in the Blood War, that would be a different matter, but they’re busy with their own agenda to worry about what the Devils are up to. That’s without mentioning the constant infighting, particularly between Demogorgon and Orcus.

Devils

Mephistopheles
Via Wizards of the Coast

With just a glance over the battlefield in Avernus, you’d see the organization of Devils taking hold, as they dispatch the Demonic horde with ease. Yet their combat supremacy is countered by their glaring weakness: every Devil slain in Avernus is lost forever.

What’s more, Devils can’t refill their numbers as easily as Demons can, since they usually need mortal souls to turn into new Devils.

This makes Devils avoid exceedingly dangerous tactics, ensuring their survival, but keeping them from attaining a true advantage over the Demonic army.

Devils are able to keep the Demons at bay thanks to their commanders, particularly the ruler of Avernus, Zariel. While Archdevils aren’t known for working together, they still do now and again against the Demons, particularly when they start spilling into layers beyond Avernus.

Can The Blood War End?

Baldur's Gate 3 avernus concept art

If the Blood War ended, no matter which side ends victorious, it would spill doom for the rest of creation. The winning side would shift their focus to enslaving or destroying everyone else, and they’d use the power of the losing side to do so.

Since it’s so important that the War never ends, many factions look to its continuity, keeping balance in the cosmos. This usually means distracting the leading Fiends with other problems, so the mightiest of them don’t take interest in the conflict.

The main faction that benefits from the Blood War are Yugoloths, a third species of Evil Fiends. They are of neutral alignment, and since they’re not from the Hells nor the Abyss, they can fight for both sides and never truly die.

asmodeus stting upon a spiked iron throne with the ruby rod
Asmodeus the Archfiend by Aleksi Briclot 

The one thing that could end the Blood War is if either side works in unison, something nearly impossible to achieve for Demons. Yet for Devils, it isn’t as impossible: it would require Asmodeus, Archdevil of the ninth layer of Hell, to command the rest to win it.

It wouldn’t be as simple, but Asmodeus certainly has the power to see it through. Since it hasn’t happened yet, we can only assume that Asmodeus wants the Blood War to continue, for what reason we don’t know, and it’s hard to think that he’d keep it going forever.

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