|Bel, Lord of the First.|
|Title(s)||Warlord of Avernus, Lord of the First, General of the Third Command|
|Home Plane||Nine Hells|
|Class(es)||Fighter 20 (avatar)|
|Portfolio||The Blood War|
|Domains||Destruction, Strength, War|
Bel sports the typical features of any pit fiend. He is a huge, square bodied creature with red, scaly skin and a gaping maw instead of a mouth. He also wears a belt made out of decapitated, still-living angel heads.
Bel has also recently learned how to create an avatar form. His avatar appears as a burly humanoid with a jutting chin, powerful arms, and a slightly reddish complexion. His brooding scowl reveals the barely controlled rage beneath.
Thousands of years ago, Bel wrested Avernus from its previous ruler, Zariel, whom he once served as her warlord. It is said she still lies bound beneath Bel's fortress as he slowly siphons power from her. Before he served Zariel, he served Dispater, commanding three companies of horned devils known as the Iron Guard.
He has no support among the other Lords of the Nine, but he is held in high favor among the Dark Eight, an advantage that is not to be overlooked. He has responsibilities to the Dark Eight that Asmodeus has forced him to continue as a condition for allowing him to ascend to mastery over his layer. It is thought that Asmodeus only allowed his coup to succeed because Bel's responsibilities leading the Third Command in the Blood War meant he would have much less time for scheming than his predecessor.
Bel has extensive dealings with Tiamat, who is mocked by some as Bel's scaly watchdog, though this is an unfair characterization.
Bel has granted the Dukes of Hell Malphas, Amduscias, and Goap into the service of Tiamat. As a result, no nobles serve him personally. He is served by two horned devil fighters, Yeddikadir and Nalebranc, and the Dark Eight function as Dukes of Hell for him to some extent.
As well as commanding the armies of Avernus, Bel has primary control over the Third Command, one of the three divisions of Hell's armies commanded by Dagos of the Dark Eight. In this task, his co-generals are the ice devils Meritos and Hanariel. The Third Command is made up mostly of infantry and expendable ground troops, whose primary task is to wear down their demonic foes through attrition and superior tactics. For the most part, the soldiers of the Third Command are mindless lemures and nupperibos, but the command also includes a large number of lesser devils such as abishai, spinagons, and lower-ranked bearded devils.
Bel rules the whole of Avernus, except for the realms of the gods who dwell there such as Tiamat, Bargrivyek, and Kurtulmak. However, as preoccupied as he is with the Blood War, much of Avernus remains wild, and exiled nobles known as the Rabble of Devilkin roam its blasted and scarred wastes with little supervision.
His center of power is the Bronze Citadel, an ever-expanding fortress that serves as Hell's principal bulwark against demonic invasion. It currently consists of 14 concentric rings sprawling across 600 square miles of territory, pressing against the Stigmaris Mountains. Within the complex, each of the Dark Eight maintain households for when they need to consult with Bel.
Bel originally served as a duke in the service of Dispater. He was given command over the armies of Avernus after enacting a devastating maneuver in the Blood War that became known as the Four-Cross, in which he ostensibly betrayed the devils to join the side of the demons, then rejoined the diabolic side of the war only to betray them a second time, then fought with the demons for a year and a day before finally enacting a devastating betrayal that crippled the forces of the Abyss for a decade.
Bel took rulership of Avernus some time following the Reckoning of Hell, after he betrayed his mistress, Zariel, the former Duchess of Avernus about whom virtually nothing is known. Bel is a cruel, violent and very blunt warlord whose main concern is the Blood War, an unending conflict between the chaotic evil tanar'ri from the Abyss and the lawful evil baatezu of Baator. As Avernus is actually the battlefield upon which the daily fights occur, Bel is in charge of keeping the demons at bay and keeping safe the harvesting of the souls that come to the Nine Hells. This makes him the Lord of the Nine who most often deals directly with mortals and non-baatezu. Although Bel delights in corrupting souls as much as others of his kind do, he is very realistic and he knows he can at best contain the invaders but not utterly destroy them, as they fairly outnumber his own armies. Thus, any mortal that offers him to lend a hand in the Blood War is welcome every now and then, and might be rewarded with the right to go further in the Nine Hells or simply to have his/her life spared. Bel is also the Lord who most often deals with the outcast dukes of Baator, a group of demoted devils that lurk in Avernus and are continually scheming to regain their lost status.
Bel actually gets his power from removing and consuming pieces of flesh from Zariel herself who is currently imprisoned and continually tortured in the basement of the Bronze Citadel where the Lord of the First has his headquarters. This fact got him nicknamed "The Pretender" by the other Arch-Lords who greatly despise him. However, Bel is very appreciated by Asmodeus and the Dark Eight, for his warfare skills and his efficiency in the Blood War, as well as his spying abilities.
As busy as he is with the Blood War, Bel does not have the time to run a formal cult. However, he is worshipped by a few warriors here and there. His clerics favor the greatsword.
Bel's name, like many other arch fiends of Baator, is inspired namewise by a real life mythological figure, the Semitic god Bel.
In first edition AD&D, the ruler of Avernus was said to be Tiamat, although this has since been retconned.
Bel was first described as a pit fiend servant of Dispater in Dragon #75 and the 1st edition Monster Manual II (1983). He was mentioned briefly as a commander of the armies of Avernus in the Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix (1991). He was mentioned in this context, described as a servant of the layer's unnamed lord, in Planes of Law (1995), and given primary control over the Third Command of the Blood War in Hellbound (1996). He was first identified as Avernus's ruler in Dragon #223 (1995), a role he retained in later appearances. That source explained that he had wrested control of the layer from the unnamed previous ruler (noted only to not be Tiamat) thousands of years ago. His predecessor was first named as Zariel in Guide to Hell (1999).
- Gygax, Gary. "From the Sorcerer's Scroll: New Denizens of Devildom." Dragon #75. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1983.
- -----. Monster Manual II. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1983.
- LaFountain, J. Paul. Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1991.
- Laws, Robin D., and Robert J. Schwalb. Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2006.
- McComb, Colin. Faces of Evil: The Fiends. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1997.
- -----. "The Lords of the Nine." Dragon #223. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR 1995.
- McComb, Colin, and Wolfgang Baur. Planes of Law. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1995.
- McComb, Colin, and Monte Cook. Hellbound: The Blood War. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
- Stewart, Todd, and the Paizo Staff. "1d20 Villains." Dragon #359. Bellevue, WA: 2007.