Hel appears as a thin woman, beautiful on one side but like a rotting zombie on the other. For this horrid visage she is outcast among the gods, but admired by the dead.
Hel's visage is frightening for mortals to view. When she reveals the undead half of her face, it inflicts fear in even the bravest of mortals.
She occasionally sends an avatar to Midgard who takes the form of a warrior-priestess with a swarthy complexion and black hair. Her avatar is often tasked with recovering a man who Hel favors and taking him to Niflheim. The kiss of her avatar causes death, and mere proximity to her is dangerous.
Hel is sometimes depicted with half of her face a featureless white, and the other half black.
Personality and alignment
Hel is grim and fierce. She is merciless in destroying those who offend her.
Hel rarely conveys emotion, except for the occasional mocking smile.
She is neutral evil in alignment.
As a deity, Hel is immortal. She cannot be harmed by disease, paralysis, poison, stunning, magical imprisonment, extraplanar banishment, or other effects to which deities are typically immune. She can see, sense and communicate at a distance of 15 miles from herself or any of her worshipers, holy sites, or any where her name or one of her titles were spoken.
She is dangerous in combat. Any opponent or object she strikes can be obliterated with a single strike. She can also drain the life from a creature by touch. She has a third power, which can surround her with a cloud of darkness which drains the life of those who enter it. A fourth power lets her instantly slay any mortal she can see, and she can raise anyone back to life too. Should anything survive these powers, her weapon attacks are especially deadly to celestials and good-aligned gods.
Her skill with both arcane and divine magic is unsurpassed. She can cast wizard spells instantaneously. She is particularly skilled with divine necromancy spells. She is also talented with metamagic.
She holds power over the undead. She can instantaneously command or destroy any undead, and can summon undead as she wishes. She can inflict plague and pestilence upon Midgard with a wave of her hand.
Hel is a goddess of death and the underworld.
She automatically senses all deaths by disease, accident, or poison, and anything which occurs in graveyards.
Hel has no particular dogma.
The people of Midgard typically worship the Norse pantheon as a collective group. All living humans fear Hel, but she has few dedicated worshipers. Cultists of Hel tend to be those seeking revenge against a society or group of people which wronged them, including those unjustly imprisoned or exiled.
Hel has few priests among the living. Her clergy tend to be women, and their duties involve cremation of the dead. Some devote themselves to placating Hel to avoid bringing her wrath upon a community, while others use it as a path to personal power.
Hel has no temples among the living.
Hel favors the longsword.
Allies and minions
Hel rides white, spectral three-legged horse.
Her realm is guarded by the powerful lich Modgud, and the great bloodstained dog Garm.
Hel is served by her divine proxy Eirikka the Bloody, a human thief. The blood of Eirikka's past victims drops from her hands when she is angry.
The creatures called beastmen of the Known World are said to be reincarnated from evil souls by Hel. In that world, Hel is known as an Immortal of Entropy, and seeks to bring death and decay into the world.
Hel first appears in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), p.31.
AD&D 1st edition
AD&D 2nd edition
D&D 3rd edition
Hel appears in Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.180-181.
D&D 4th edition
The Norse pantheon does not appear in D&D 4th edition.
D&D 5th edition
Hel is one of twenty Norse gods listed in the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014).
Hel appears in Norse myth as both the name of the underworld where the dead go, and as the goddess who rules over it.
In the Prose Edda, it is described that when prophecy revealed that the siblings Fenrir, Jormungandr and Hel would cause grave misfortune for the gods of Asgard, they took the three from Jotunheim attempted to banish them. Hel was cast into Niflheim, and given power over nine worlds. All men who die of illness or old age go to her.
In the story of the death of Balder, Hermod offers Hel a ransom in exchange for Balder's return. She agrees, but only if every creatures and thing in nature weeps for Balder. A single giantess, thought to be Loki in disguise, refuses to weep, and Balder remains in the realm of Hel until Ragnarok.
Reception and influence
- Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.180-181.
- Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.182.
- On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.146.
- The Faces of Magic, Dragon #130 (Feb 1988), p.28.
- Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.104.
- Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), p.31.
- Hollow World Campaign Set, Dungeon Master's Sourcebook (1990), p.10.
- Plane facts on Gladsheim, Dragon #90 (Oct 1984), p.36.
- The Ulfjarl's Stone, Dragon #141 (Jan 1989), p.48.
- Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014), p.11.