Once, thousands of years ago, there was a land called Dhelō. It was a bright, green, fertile land with rivers, lakes, plains, forests and farms. There was a great calamity, and the world broke into dozens of pieces, each piece a separate micro-world, linked only by magical correspondences, and Dhelō became just one of these micro-worlds. Just after this disaster, Dhelō suffered another disaster, in which it was corrupted and distorted into a realm that came to be known not as Dhelō, but as Hell.

As Hell, the realm was split by canyons through which lava flowed to large lakes or small seas of lava. The air was tainted with smoke and sulphur. The rivers and lakes dried up, the sky was covered with clouds of ash, and the sun became dim and as red as blood, yet the environment became even hotter than before.

In Hell, plants no longer grow easily, water is scarce, and the people have ben twisted by the corrupted magic of the place into devils and demons - people with red, blue or grey skins, with a variety of hooves, horns, tails and wings as in the traditional mythological view of demons.

At the time of the second disaster, the bulk of the population escaped Dhelō and went to a new realm, Edinnu - AKA 'Eden', another large, fertile realm.

Since then, Edinnu has used Hell as a prison. Prisoners are kept in hellish conditions, on platforms above a lake of lava, guarded by devils who play the role of mythological devils, reporting to 'the Satan' - the accuser - in a system designed to tempt prisoners to break the established rules of the prison, by making all the guards seem corrupt and self-interested, though this is in fact a carefully crafted system by which prisoners are encouraged to reveal secrets that the authorities in Edinnu want to know. Prisoners are used as labourers in the mines, and aren't tortured arbitrarily.

However, not everyone who lives in Hell is a prison guard. In an environment where much food has to be imported in payment for the ongoing maintenance of the prison facilities and its guards and support of the prisoners, where water is scarce and survival is difficult, the common people of Hell have an almost communistic lifestyle, that arose over centuries of struggling to survive and only succeeding when people worked together toward common goals. The currency in use is water tokens, exchangeable for a set quantity of water, however, each person has the right to draw upon enough water to sustain life free of charge. While food is imported, it is cheap, but also rationed to prevent hoarding or over-indulgence. People who are well-off are expected to support those who are less-well-off by providing employment. People are expected to work if they are able, at whatever jobs they are capable of performing. Unemployment is virtually nonexistent, as employers and employees alike are expected to 'make room' for the unemployed. People who become infirm through age or accident are cared for by the state. The only things that are not tolerated are being useless, over-entitled or harming the common good.

Since most non-native people who leave Hell are former prisoners, they have reported on the 'corrupt' brutal environment of the prison system. Very few outsiders ever see the real society of hell.

So, to be clear the society of Hell that most people see is that of the prison, where prisoners suffer through slave labour in a hellish environment, where the guards pretend to be rivals in order to tempt prisoners into trying to bribe them for better conditions, thus promulgating the view that the people of hell are evil power-hungry social-climbers in competition with each-other to gain more personal power.

The other side of Hell is the society of the other people of hell, where they are close to being idealistic communists, since surviving in Hell has been so difficult that people have only survived by cooperation and sharing what they have. Very few outsiders see this side of Hell, and those that do are mostly under orders to keep silent about it, on pain of ending up in Hell's prison.

Is this a reasonable way to set up a working society in Hell, while promulgating the reputation of Hell as a place of suffering and torment via the conditions in Hell's prison?

  • $\begingroup$ This sounds very much like an allegory of how Eastern Bloc communist states liked to portray themselves. (Of course the reality was VERY different.) $\endgroup$
    – biziclop
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 11:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @biziclop Hell is a dictatorship, run by the Satan... who is a reasonable man. It is his job to be 'The Accuser', and to extract confessions and intelligence. The Satan isn't actually interested in the trappings of power, just keeping people alive in a hostile environment and doing his job as prison warden. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ What happened to the first answer? $\endgroup$
    – M S
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 18:09
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ What is the scale / how many people / how big of a territory? Economies like this work fine if everybody knows everybody else, but tend towards disaster otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – g s
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 19:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because it is best asked on the Writing Stack Exchange $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 20:58

2 Answers 2


"Is this a reasonable way to set up a working society in Hell, while promulgating the reputation of Hell as a place of suffering and torment via the conditions in Hell's prison?"


My reasonings.

First issue: As the number of people involved in a secret, the probability that someone spills it approaches 1. I can't remember who came up with this, but it was in relation to Conspiracy theories that with an increasing number of people and increasing time, it's impossible to keep a secret and someone will eventually spill the beans.

Whether they are believed or not is a different story and whether or not their information is allowed to propagate out into society is another matter.

Second issue: The only ideal communist society is one where everyone is dead - because that's the only way you can get everyone to be equal.

Source: Every Communist dictatorship that murdered millions upon millions of their own people.
Source: Every attempt at a commune, setup by die-hard communists failing, miserably.

What you'll get is a massive black market for your water tokens (which are your currency) and all sorts of corruption.

Right - now I've disagreed with your premise time for a Frame Challenge!

You've got magic in your world. Here's how I'd do it. Have the time in hell one big struggle for survival and that the only way to survive is through mutual co-operation, then when a Prisoner has learned enough skills and learned the lesson that helping others, in order to get what you want is the right way to live - they are free to go out on parole - but in order to keep up the Facade of Hell (and to avoid people trying to glitch the system) - they have a false memory of Hell implanted where they believe that it was this nightmarish place, whilst they retain the learned knowledge of how to work with others.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think the prisoners would all learn such a wholesome message after beying expertly manipulated for information by fake-corrupt guards, which is the main purpose for this facade of evil and corruption. Not to mention that the implanted memories would be contradictory to this message. $\endgroup$
    – Kugelblitz
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 17:52

Frame challenge: hire non-native guards and use the Hell's culture as a leverage instead of hiding it.
Imagine how the prisoners would feel knowing about the undying loyalty of almost all of Hell's population to their people and leadership. There would be no chance for relief by bribing someone, no mercy from the menacing guards with those animalistic horns on their heads. However if there would also be some non-native and "normal looking" guards, they might soon become the prisoner's only hope, and given the horrid conditions of the prison that you described I would say it's just a matter of time.
Spreading rumors that help this would also be easier, since they would be inherently based in reality.

The only things that are not tolerated are being useless, over-entitled or harming the common good.

The system clearly depends on the strict culture that developed over the generations of living in a literal hell. The idea of rationed food and controlled distribution of workers to minimise unemployment don't seem like things most people would be happy about, especially since this micromanagement would make the regime totalitarian by default, even if done competently and with good intentions.
Not saying this regime is pure evil, but it isn't really good either. I think that in this case, the general idea of bad outside reputation with their own point of view showing something else (which you're propably after) is still there, but mostly because of the vast cultural differences and different points of view instead of deception hiding their pure hearts.

It is a bit different from what you actually asked about, but I hope the answer helps.


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