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Hel is a deity in the Norse pantheon. The daughter of Loki and the witch-giant Angrboda, she rules the underworld of the dead of Midgard.



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.[1]

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.[1]

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.[2]

Hel is sometimes depicted with half of her face a featureless white, and the other half black.[2]

Personality and alignment

Hel is grim and fierce. She is merciless in destroying those who offend her.[2]

Hel rarely conveys emotion, except for the occasional mocking smile.[3]

She is neutral evil in alignment.


She is called "The Merciless".[3] She is known as the Goddess of Death, or the Goddess of Death and the Underworld. Some know her as the Mistress of Death.[4]


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.[1]

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.

Hel is also highly resilient. Her wounds repair quickly, like the regeneration of a troll. If slain, she will simply return to life days later. She is immune to cold and fire.[1]

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.[1]

She holds power over the undead. She can instantaneously command or destroy any undead, and can summon undead as she wishes.[1] She can inflict plague and pestilence upon Midgard with a wave of her hand.[2]

Hel can create magic items that can deal damage, or have an evil alignment, or impose a penalty. She can create all but the most legendary of magic items in this way.[1]


Hel is a goddess of death and the underworld.[1]

She automatically senses all deaths by disease, accident, or poison, and anything which occurs in graveyards.[1]



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.[1]

There exists an order of assassins is called the Daughters of Hel. They are known to use a type of dagger which can destroy a soul and prevent their victims from being raised from the dead.[4]


Hel has few priests among the living.[1] 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.[2]

Holy sites

Hel has no temples among the living.[1]

Holy symbol

Hel's holy symbol is her own face. It is variously depicted as a half-living, half-dead face, and as a half-white, half-black symbol.[1][3]

Favored weapon

Hel favors the longsword.



Hel is the daughter of Loki, the trickster god of the Norse pantheon; and the giant-witch Angrboda. She has two monstrous brothers: Fenrir the wolf, and the world-serpent Jormungandr.[1]


Hel will fight against the gods of Asgard at the final battle of Ragnarok. She looks forward to this day.[3]

Allies and minions

Hel rides white, spectral three-legged horse.[5]

Her realm is guarded by the powerful lich Modgud, and the great bloodstained dog Garm.[6]

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.[3]

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.[7]


Hel wields a wounding longsword of disease. Its strikes inflict bleeding wounds and illness.[1]


Hel inhabits frozen Niflheim, where the gods confined her. Her hall is named Eljudnir,[1] sometimes known as Elvinder.[6] Hel's great citadel here is also called Hel.[8]

All those who die of sickness, old age, or accident go to Hel's realm.[1] It is believed that Hel cannot claim someone who is buried wearing ritual triangular coverings called Hel shoes.[9]

Publication history

Original D&D

Hel first appears in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), p.31.

AD&D 1st edition

Hel appears in Legends & Lore (1e) (1985), p.104 and Deities & Demigods (1e) (1980).

AD&D 2nd edition

Hel is detailed in Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.182 and the Planescape sourcebook On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.146. Hel's sword is listed in Encyclopedia Magica Volume Four (1995), p.1375.

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).

Creative origins

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

Hel was an inspiration for the Raven Queen, death goddess of the D&D 4th edition Dawn War pantheon.[10]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.180-181.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.182.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.146.
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Faces of Magic, Dragon #130 (Feb 1988), p.28.
  5. Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.104.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), p.31.
  7. Hollow World Campaign Set, Dungeon Master's Sourcebook (1990), p.10.
  8. Plane facts on Gladsheim, Dragon #90 (Oct 1984), p.36.
  9. The Ulfjarl's Stone, Dragon #141 (Jan 1989), p.48.
  10. Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014), p.11.