Learn about all the different demons in D&D 5e
What are demons?
Demons are creatures of pure evil that sow chaos and destruction in their wake. They are a type of fiend (like devils) but while devils take their origins from the angelic beings of Mount Celstia, demons originate from another reality.
The first demons to invade our reality were known as obyriths; eldritch beings of unspeakable horror. These creatures created servant demons known collectively as the tanar’ri. It is the tanar’ri that now dominate their home plane of the Abyss. These creatures seek to tempt and torture souls into the Abyss while they also seek to destroy their foes. The enemies of demons are many, with particular hatred reserved for devils and angels. However, the demonic hordes also seek to overthrow the mortal plane as well as one another as each demon vies for greater power.
The demonic plane of the Abyss is a forsaken land found on the outer planes. The Abyss itself is sometimes referred to as the infinite Abyss. Some believe there to be 666 layers while other believe they have discovered 679. The Abyss of course could be infinite with many of the layers simply not having been discovered yet.
All types of demons
Broadly speaking, demons can be categorised into 6 different types:
- Demonic beasts
- The Created
There’s a huge variety in the different types of demons though, so not all demons fit into these main types. You can read about all the different types of demons below:
The Obyrith are eldritch creatures that originally came from another reality, travelling to the Abyss and establishing themselves as its lords. They’re an extremely ancient race predating mortals and even the gods themselves. They’re also the creators of the Tanar’ri whom they ruled for aeons before the Tanar’ri rose up against their masters.
Their bodies take on a horrifying appearance, terrifying enough to drive mortals insane by their very sight. They appear alien, not sharing physical similarities with mortals as even other demons do. Despite their great power, obyriths have dwindled in numbers and are now very rare due to the tanar’ri uprising.
Bloodthirsty and genocidal demons who sought to rid the Abyss of all non-obyrith life. They’re often referred to as the mother of all demons.
Driven by a desire to reproduce, ekolids inject their eggs into living creatures to act as incubators until the baby ekolids burst out of their host.
Lovers of shadow and darkness those few that survive meeting a golothoma are affected permanently, becoming obsessed with shadows and developing a distaste for the light.
Octopus-like creatures that inhabit the river styx, they are able to suck memories from their victims, imparting a partial amnesia, while also being able to implant false memories within their prey.
A 15ft tall, writhing mass of malformed and rotting flesh, strapped together in a spiked harness of chains that can be magically manipulated to allow it to walk. Sibriexes obsess over body manipulation, creating unholy experiments of the flesh.
Gigantic leviathans whose minds have devolved into primitive creatures that primarily think about feeding. They take great joy in liquefying their victims and drinking them.
Beastial killing machines with razor-sharp claws and fangs that inspire savagery within those that view them. They are highly ferocious and impossible to reason with.
The Tanar’ri came into being after the obyrith, becoming the most dominant and numerous type of demon in the Abyss. It is believed that they are formed from mortals that enter the Abyss and are transformed into demons, the first Tanar’ri being Demogorgon.
It’s difficult to find similarities in form or attributes between different variations of the Tanar’ri, though these differences may be due to the differences in mortal beings from which they have evolved. In many cases, certain variations of the Tanar’ri have come about from experiments and malformations caused by sibriexes. Variations of the Tanar’ri include:
Masses of bright green toxic corruption, Alkiliths are even considered revolting, even by the standards of other demons
Flame covered demonic generals that lead the hordes of the blood war as well as operating in the mortal plane to promote demonic interests among mortals.
Ape-like demons that’re as savage as they are powerful.
Demons that are bred for war, they are the more powerful form of foot soliders used by demon lords for their armies.
Primarily used as spies and infiltrators, cambions are the result of mating between Tanar’ri and humanoid females.
Demons formed primarily of bone, they use psionic abilities to stun their prey.
Insectoid demons that operate as torturers and identifying deserters.
The least powerful of demonic creatures, dretches are given no value in demonic society, often used as sacrifices by demon lords.
A four armed demon with powerful pincers.
Comparable to balors in power, but not intellect, goristro are minotaur-like demons.
Ill-tempered demons with a foul stench, hezrous often act as minor commanders of Tanar’ri armies.
Formed in the death of an evil being, they are unintelligent beings, good for nothing more than cannon fodder according to the more intelligent denizens of the Abyss.
Powerful, 6 armed demons with a serpentine lower half and a humanoid upper half, they often weild multiple weapons making them formidable foes.
Ghoulish demons that consume the flesh of their foes, gaining their memories and experiences.
Humanoid demons with 2 heads, one the form of a wolf or a hyena and the other in the form of a serpent, molydei are powerful demons that serve as enforcers for demon lords.
Gargoyle-like demons with scaly, leathery skin and a slender body.
Horned creatures with short wings and large bodies, they are gluttonous and lazy but rule many of the beings of the abyss.
Weak and deformed beings, formed of chaos, they are the embodiment of a disorganised creation with body parts of incorrect proportions making them ineffective fighters and thinkers.
A seductive demon with supernatural powers that allow it to take on an enticing form to ensnare its victims
Looking like a human/vulture hybrid, vrocks have a powerful shriek that stuns enemies and claws and beak to tear them apart.
Snake like, aquatic creatures with razor sharp spikes. These demons were once obyriths that have since evolved into tnar’ri.
The youngest of the demonic subspecies, Loumara are immaterial beings born of the dreams of dead gods in the Abyss. They are horrors that use mortal beings to exact their will. Despite being relatively unknown on the material plane, the loumara’s influence is very widespread.
Born of the nightmares of gods of craftsmanship, these beings desire to inhabit weapons that they can use to manipulate their wielders.
Born of the nightmares of goddesses of love and art, Dybbuks possess the bodies of corpses whom they will corrupt into depraved behaviour.
Manifested from the dreams of gods of law and peace, guecubu possess the bodies of those that sleep, causing them to perform murderous acts while they slumber.
These creatures delight in the corruption of wildlife and nature, possessing plant, animal and fey alike, often manifesting themselves as masses of vines with vicious mouths. Manitous are born of the nightmares of goddesses of nature and fertility.
Not all demons are “intelligent” creatures, many act more like animals. Though distinctly demonic in nature, these creatures can only really best be categorised as beasts. Some of these creatures include:
- Abyssal Chickens – Demonic creatures that resemble chickens in stature only, not in appearance or temperament.
- Abyssal Scavengers – A form of demon vermin that hunts in a pack.
- Kazrith – Poisonous demons that live in water.
- Maw Demons (CR 1) – Demons that live in a constant state of hunger, always looking to feed.
- Nashrous – Pack hunting predators that some believe to be perverse incarnations of wolves or lions.
- Skulvyn – Aquatic dwelling demons that’re able to slow their prey.
The created are demonic entities that are not formed from the Abyss or as the offspring of other demons, but rather, are created by powerful creatures. Often they’re created by demon lords, but occasionally night hags or some powerful mortals (the drow are known to dabble in such things).
Despite the fact that such creatures are originally constructs of some form, the Abyss will at times, accept such creatures as its own, forming them spontaneously. Such beings seem to include quasits that can both be created and born of the Abyss. Such creatures can include:
- Babau (CR 4) – Created from the body of the demon lord Graz’zt when he was wounded by Glasya sword. They have inherited some of the cunning held by devils.
- Blood Fiends – Four armed abominations that feed on the blood of demons.
- Bonegouge Assassins – Stealthy warriors adept at killing.
- Ghazneth – Winged demons that’re adept at different forms of magic
- Ghour – Minotaur-like demon creations
- Haures – Half spider, half humanoid creatures created by Orcus
- Ferroliths – Creations made from succubi thrown into molten iron
- Quasit (CR 1) – imp-like demons, with sharp claws capable of incapacitating an enemy
- Shoosuva – Large, hyena-like demons
- Tomb Demon – A construct made from the combination of many bodies found in a single grave site
Servitors are rare in the Abyss, but are the result of beings created by a deity that has since abandoned them to the Abyss or died. These types of demons include:
- Deathdrinkers – Creatures that collect dead souls
- Yochlols (CR 10) – Shapechangers that act as servants of the spider-queen, Lolth
- Zovvut – Winged demons and servants of deities
Many demons still fall outside of the usual categorisations made above due to the vast array of different demonic forms and the chaotic nature of creation within the Abyss. Some of these demons include:
- Abyssal Wyrms
- Demon Spawn
- Shadow Demon (CR 4)
- Whisper Demons
Very powerful demons often take upon themselves titles of status, though these are always self-proclaimed. Usually, such demons command armies of lesser demons to perform their bidding through fear and respect. These demons refer to themselves as demon lords or demon princes (if they are especially powerful). Some of these include:
Tanar’ri demon lords
Demogorgon: Prince of Demons
The most powerful of the Demon Lords and a minor deity with two heads, Demogorgon rules from a part of the Abyss known as The Gaping Maw.
A master of the undead and often challenger to Demogorgon’s position as Prince of Demons, Orcus rules his layer of Thanatos.
A Demon Lord of pain, beauty and desire, Graz’zt is proof that not all things of beauty are good. He rules from the Abyssal layer of Azzatar.
Baphomet is a savage Demon Lord who is also known as the Horned King. He rules from the Abyssal layer known as the Endless Maze.
The Prince of Lies is exceptionally cunning using every trick known to deceive his enemies. Fraz-Urb’luu rules from the Abyssal layer of Hollow’s Heart.
Known as the Oozing Hunger, Juiblex is a faceless monster of ooze and slime. He rules from an Abyssal layer called Shedaklah (also known as the Slime Pits).
Scarred from many battles, Yeenoghu is the Beast of Butchery, worshipped by many gnolls and whipping them up into a bloodthirsty frenzy. Yeenoghu rules from the Abyssal layer known as the Death Dells.
The Queen of Fungi has only one desire; to infect the living with her decaying spores. Like Juiblex, she rules from the Abyssal Layer of Shedaklah.
Obyrith demon lords
Known as the Prince of the Depths, Dagon is an ancient and cunning leviathan who has often acted as an adviser of sorts to the tanar’ri (and Demogorgon in particular).
Dwiergus, the Chrysalis Prince, is a riving mass of limbs and bodyparts who rules the layer of the Abyss known as The Fleshforges. He is a foul being who plants in the minds of others, wicked impressions of corrupted body parts in order to entice his victims to mutilate themselves.
Pazuzu has declared all the skies of the Abyss as his own and few are powerful enough or care enough to oppose him in this claim. While still an obyrith, Pazuzu has evolved into something a little more like a tanar’ri over time.
The Queen of Chaos
The Queen of Chaos’ true name has been lost to history. It is she that led the obyriths in their war against the rest of reality and it is also believed that she was behind the fall of Obox-ob from his lofty position.
Known as the Squirming King, Ugudenk is a gigantic, burrowing, worm-like obyrith who digs through his Writhing Realm. He brings fear of all that is beneath the earth and brings with him the dread that at any moment, an unseen creature might burst from the ground and devour all in his way.
Using demons in your campaign
Demons make excellent villains for a campaign. Not only are they savage beings hell bent on destruction, making them excellent opponents in combat, but they also love to tempt, manipulate and make deals. This desire to engage in cunning and deception makes for great role play elements too.
I’d suggest some of the following ways of using demons in your campaign:
- Tempting mortals – Demons love nothing more than to tempt a mortal into evil and claim their souls. Players might confront evil doers being influenced by demons before eventually getting to the source of that evil. Consider using loumara to have mortals unknowingly perform the will of demons leaving players with moral conundrums on how to exact judgement on such beings. Even better, have a demon manipulating one or all of the players.
- All out invasion – Demons desperately want to conquer the mortal plane. Perhaps players need to stop an invasion of the hordes of the Abyss. Maybe this requires killing demons coming through a portal before closing it or maybe they’ll need to prevent a conspiracy to bring demons into the mortal realm.
- Venturing into the Abyss – The Abyss is filled with a myriad of layers, all with different environments and creatures. Consider sending players on a mission into the Abyss. Maybe they’re off to rescue someone trapped there, are guarding researchers like Mordenkainen or have been sent to assassinate a particularly problematic demon.
- Demonic patron – Demons make great patrons, and patrons aren’t only the domain of warlocks. Creating a desperate need and then presenting different options to resolve that need such as a demon willing to solve your problem, at a price.
- Demon infested dungeon – Perhaps a dungeon needs clearing of its demonic presence. You could use Watcher’s Keep from Baldur’s Gate 2 as inspiration. In this situation, Demogorgon’s magical bonds need reinstating, but players must delve through a large dungeon complex in order to do so.