I was reading Monsters and Manuals last night and I stumbled on this clever idea. The author even made a cool d20 chart to go along with it, and so I thought, “Sweet, I’ll give it a go.” I rolled:
Rocky world populated by minor devils.
And was like, “Well, that’s boring.” I rolled up a few more and jotted them down, wondering if I’d ever use this for anything. I rolled up an organic planet where dwarfs and mind-flayers fight over lumps of brain and an ice world ruled by aboleth, both of which I thought were very cool. Surely I could use those.
Then, this morning, I suddenly remembered that terse little prompt about the rocky world ruled by minor devils, and my shower-thoughts kept flowing until I’d written all of this:
Metum’s surface is utterly devoid of life. It makes the Gobi desert looks like the Amazon. It’s mostly iron-rich rock under a swirl of carbon dioxide, so red-orange, like Mars, but somehow far less hospitable.
In a forgotten age, 666 barbazus (bearded devils) were left stranded here. They were given no orders, no instructions, and no chain of command. The supremely lawful creatures tried to elect leaders from within, but their inability to break from Hell’s rigid caste system made it impossible to rally. They fought among themselves, murdering one another for the slightest insult, only to discover that the murdered devils returned, fully intact, six days later.
The devils have been stuck on Metum for thousands of years. They build almost nothing: they are killers, not builders. The devils might band together long enough to erect a tower or dig a trench, but complex architecture eludes them. They cannot change their caste. No one is promoted or demoted. Everyone is male. Everyone is lawful evil. The devils have no need for water, food, or shelter; bearded devils are immortal beings and besides, they cannot ever truly die. Also, everyone has killed everyone else. No one trusts anyone. All they have to offer is violence and betrayal.
Metum is a remote moon, rarely visited on purpose. When someone or something does come to Metum, the devils tend to torture it for sport until everything is gone. Most of the devils have gone mad with long isolation (being devils, they weren’t terribly stable to begin with), so bargaining will be hard. That said, these devils are desperate. Anyone who offers them something besides eternal drudgery in this dark Valhalla will be remembered for centuries, whether their words are true or false. They would all kill for an opportunity to return to Hell. The devils know that when they die, they return to Metum. This fact might inspire recklessness or extreme caution, depending on the devil and how wild they’ve gone across the uncounted millennia. Some devils believe that if they can make it back to Hell, they’ll no longer be tied to Metum. They can serve in their caste again. They can torture souls. There will be other devils besides barbazu: they can grovel to their superiors and punish their lessers forever.
A magistrix desperate enough to enlist the devils of Metum will have a powerful army at her command, provided she can catch their attention, transport them off-world, and deliver on her promises. After all, a planet of unkillable devils with nothing better to do than nurse grudges could make for a frightening adversary, provided they could ever reach you.
|Ok yeah, so these are Ice Warriors from Dr. Who. The imagery still works.|
Metum is a graveyard for fools who thought they could bargain with the barbazu. Derelict ships, ruined one-way portals, and other paraphernalia for traversing the void might still be found scattered across its surface, though it’s equally likely the devils have ruined it. Given enough time, any single devil might have escaped centuries ago in a stolen spacecraft, returning to Metum after a suffering an untimely death, the technology he used to escape forever lost.
So, from a literary standpoint, Metum isn't a new idea. It's basically Gazorpazorp without a female component: the worst aspects of masculinity exaggerated. That said, I love the concept, and now I want to roll up another moon populated only by succubi. I also want to find some time write up a full sword-and-planet setting in which to tell my friends to roll death saves.
Note: The name Metum came up in a Sumerian name generator, and it’s also the Latin accusative singular of fear (argumentum ad metum is a fallacy in which a person attempts to increase fear toward a competitor), so I like it for this planet. Fear crouched in the remnants of vanished civilizations.