Monster Manual A-Z is a series of quick looks at each and every monster presented in the Monster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. New monsters go up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in alphabetical order, touching on lore, mechanics, and ways to use them in your campaign. To search for all Monster Manual A-Z articles, search MMAZ in the search bar as we’ve excluded them from our Roleplaying Games tag to keep things tidy.
So, there are a lot of demons in D&D. While some have entries elsewhere, the ‘Demon’ entry has 14. FOURTEEN. That’s a lot of demons hanging around in the Abyss. So, rather than write 14 separate entries, I’m going to break them out into two parts, covering 7 at a time. That said, expect a slightly different format here; I’ll give each demon their own paragraph and try to cover as much as I can without being overly verbose. In this part one, we’re going to be taking a look at demons such as: Balor, Barlgura, Chasme, Dretch, Glabrezu, Groistro, and Hezrou. We have the two top dogs in this bunch so it’ll be a fun one!
So let’s start with one of the top demons in the abyss: the Balor. Just short of being a demon lord, the Balor is a huge, winged demon that wields a whip of fire and longsword of lightning, both of which have good reach, good damage, and a cool special abilities such as extra critical damage or pulling creatures closer. In addition, they can teleport at will, explode upon death, and has an aura of fire that harms those that get too close. Add in their resistances and immunities, high armor class, and hellish amount of hit points, and you have a demon that is truly terrifying. A common use would be to use a Balor as the leader of a demonic army, either trying to get enough power to ascend and become a demonic lord or as a general in the service of such a lord.
Second is the Barlgura, a demon towards the bottom rungs of the demonic ladder, but still above the so called ‘minor demons’. The Barlgura represents savage power, and appears as a giant, hulking primate that lives to pummel. Surprisingly, they have some innate spell casting, including the ability to turn invisible, disguise itself, and entangle foes. While easy to hit with a decent amount of hit points, their reckless attacks ensure that they can bite and pummel their foes into a red splatter on the ground. Great in packs, for a more experienced party using the Barlgura in a group while invisible is a great way to get the drop on your players and cause havoc and necessitate the need for quick tactics and cooperation.
Next up is the Chasme, a demon that looks more mosquito than humanoid and ranks slightly above the Barlgura. Chasme make great interrogators, as they are able to quickly fly after and cause enemies to fall unconscious with the drone of its wings. Those who are not knocked out will find their vitality being drained, leaving them weakened and open to torture at the delight of the Chasme. There isn’t much to say about them otherwise, and so long as a group of adventurers are not knocked out by the droning, fighting of a single Chasme should be too hard for those with a few adventures under their belt. As far as use, I think using them as the Monster Manual mentions is great- interrogators, but also maybe spies. They can stick to the wall and ceiling, and while they are quite big, shadows can do a lot to hide them.
Dretches are, for lack of a better term, awful. One of the lowest demons (possibly only above the Manes), they are self-loathing, ugly, and dull. But what they lack in positive attributes that make up with malice and numbers as they go around in mobs causing havoc. Easy to hit and easy to kill, a Dretch won’t cause too much trouble even for beginning adventurers. They can bite and claw at the same time, but beyond that their only real power is that they can release a fetid green gas cloud that obscures and poisons those within it. I find the Dretch makes a great “My First Demon Summoning” for low level demonologists or evil priests that would challenge the adventurers.
Next we have the Glabrezu, who combines their pure strength with decit and temptation. They offer their services to those unfortunate enough to summon them, which is all a lure that includes wealth and power to bring their victim’s guard down. Relatively rough, hearty, resistant to magic and with a few spells of its own (such as the ability to confuse, dispel magic, and fly), the Glabrezu is a hard nut to crack. Add in their four arms (two of which have GIANT PINCERS on them) and you have a fiend you don’t want to find yourself next to. I like the Glabrezu as the demon that tries to make a deal with a party member. Maybe the fighter wants an edge, or the rogue is already being shady- why not make a deal with a demon? I would like it more if it had the power to disguise itself, but sometimes the easy to spot threats are able to hide in plain sight.
The Goristro is possibly the only demon that could contest the Balor for being at the top of the demonic food-chain, as they are also large, horned, and cunning. In truth they resemble demonic minotaur, using their brute strength to claw and gore their enemies as they charge at them. Just as tough as the Balor, it would be all but impossible for a weak group of adventurers to even harm a Goristro thanks to it’s many resistances to most types of damage. It’s a shame the Goristro has such a low intelligence, because they would make a great final enemy in a labyrinth of minotaur. On the other hand, perhaps the Minotaur have found a way to pacify one and unleash it when they themselves don’t feel like stalking intruders in their mazes. There’s also the obvious connection to the demon lord Baphoment, so working that into your story gives you more threads to pull.
Last on the menu today, but certainly not the least, is the Hezrou. Resembling large, spiked, bipedal lizards, they are as tough as they are weak-willed and constantly find themselves serving and sacrificing themselves for greater demons. Tough, full of vitality, and packing a punch in both it’s physical presence and an awful stench, the Hezrou makes a great demonic foe either as a singular enemy for lower level adventurers, or as a form of troops for those who need a challenge.
So there we have it, the first seven demons! I hope you’ve learned a bit of these quick quips, and I’ll leave on a note of another overarching piece of knowledge. What is interesting is that demons themselves can transform into stronger demons over time. A Dretch, at the bottom, if it survives long enough and kills enough, could one day find itself as a stronger demon, which can then keep going, hypothetically up to becoming a Balor. This is extremely rare, however, as they need to survive first, and survival in the Abyss is not for the weak. Still, in the cases where it does happen, it is certainly interesting and a cool way to upgrade demons in your campaign!
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