Damnation and Hellfire

I’ve been reading a lot about the planes lately. Most the Golarion/Pathfinder variants, as I wait for some PlaneScape books to hit Print on Demand over on the Dungeon Master’s Guild.

The fate of sinners has always troubled me in Dungeons & Dragons. What happens when people die? In Judeo-Christian mythology, people go to hell to be punished for their defiance of the all powerful god.

However, in a D&D world, evil gods are a thing. And have their own realms in the lower planes. Why would they not reward their worshippers and followers? Why doesn’t the Karkus, the dark god of death, reward his faithful to the same extent as the good gods? And if he doesn’t, why don’t raised followers spread the word that he’s a total tool and an eternity of torture awaits. Even the possibility of hell keeps people good in the real world. In a world where you can cast communion  or gate and see for a fact what the afterlife is like, why wouldn’t everyone opt for chaotic good? The hand-wavy explanation is that evil gods lie and the spells are high level and thus rare. But then why wouldn’t the lawful gods – the literal embodiment of honesty – just open a few gates and reveal the truth?

There’s not a great solution for this because, deep in our heart of hearts, we want bad people to be punished for their sins in life. And it seems weird to have Hell be a place of paradise for evil people. And if you’re rewarded either way for your actions in life, why bother being good?

4th Edition tried to address this problem by making the fate of souls vague. People died and went somewhere, but the gods weren’t saying. Which is odd because the outer planes were still a thing. There was literally a heaven and hell, but they were no longer where people went when they died. Which was counterintuitive. But possibly a good starting place.