What Are Demons?
Demons are a subclass of the Fiend Race in Dungeons & Dragons. They generally live in the Abyss but will come to the surface from time to time to wreak havoc and cause mayhem.
They’re a distinct subset of Fiends from Devils, and in 5e notation, the two will be differentiated in the subtags of the monster block.
The Demons and Devils are also different in society. The Devils come from the Nine Hells of Baator and are generally evil but lawful, structured, and tyrannical. They want to subjugate all the worlds and bring them under the control of the Hells.
Demons hail from the Abyss. They’re agents of chaos and general care little for the concepts of law and order. They are lead by the Demon Lords, who gained their positions through sheer brute force. They represent disorder and true, unbridled evil.
These two forces have been at war since primordial times in a battle known as the Blood War. The two sides were pitted against each other by the equally evil but Neutral Yugoloths.
Strength is everything to the demons. They come to power by killing those above them and taking their roles. The Demons of the Abyss kill and maim for pleasure, and few can find themselves so unholy as to be considered immoral by the demons.
While Devils are unlikely to try and help you, Demons will actively try to mislead you for their own enjoyment. Demons lie as easily and as often as they breathe. It may be unclear if a demon has even realized the depth of their own compulsive lying.
Demons and Devils constantly war, with Devils finding the Demon’s actions atrocious and the Demons finding the Devils to be buzz-killing spoilsport.
List of Demons in 5e by Challenge Rating
These are the souls of evil creatures, transformed into the lowest form of demonkind when entering the Abyss. They are sometimes called to the surface to sow chaos and destruction.
This demon is a demon that vaguely resembles a plucked chicken. It defends itself with its teeth and claws but is pretty wimpy compared to most of its demonkin.
Abyssal Wretches are another lowly demon often seen near more powerful demons. They’ll attack by biting but are otherwise unremarkable.
Dretches are weak but hateful demons who can expel vile green gas as an attack. They’re usually found in small groups complaining and airing their grievances together.
These Ravnican demons serve the Demon Rakdos, Lord of Riots. They perform in his Cult’s performances with their chaotic antics and mimicry.
Often summoned by gnoll warbands to offer fresh humanoids to Yeenoghu, Lord of Savagery. They transport anything devoured directly to Yeenoghu’s gullet when they rest.
Quasits are often used as spies and messengers for more powerful demons… when they aren’t eating them or tearing them limb from limb for fun.
Rutterkin are the first line of defense for the Abyss. Creatures struck down by their bite transform into Abyssal Wretches that fight with them.
Bulezaus act as foot soldiers for many demon lords. They attack with their tail which spreads a rotting poison to anyone hit by it.
The Babau is a demon born of the blood of the Demon Lord Graz’zt. Their menacing gaze can weaken enemies in their paths.
The Dybbuks are terrorists on the material plane who possess corpses and engage in morbid activities to horrify onlookers.
Shadow Demons are created mainly through mortal magic and exist outside of the standard demon hierarchy. They feast on fear and doubt using their incorporeal claws.
Barlgura gather in packs to hunt down stronger foes and decorate their pack’s territory with gruesome trophies from their hunts.
The Tanarukk are demon corrupted orcs made either by orcs who turn their leaders with Abyssal magic or evil humans controlling armies of orcs.
The Chasme is an unholy amalgam of a humanoid and a fly. It scuttles around on four legs that can climb up onto walls and ceilings with ease. Its droning makes nearby creatures feel lethargic.
The Vrock combines a humanoid and a vulture that lives only to create pain and carnage. They stun prey with their screeching and devour their flesh.
The Armanite has a vast collection of weapons at their disposal to dispatch enemies. They are often seen attacking with their hooves, barbed tails, and claws.
The Draelgloth is born of a Drow high priestess through an unholy ritual. They attack with teeth and claws on each of their four arms.
The Maurezhi are a race of corrupted elves created by the King of Ghouls. They lead packs of ghouls and ghasts on the material plane.
The Hezrous are extremely physically powerful but as dim-witted as they are strong. They’re regular foot soldiers that Demon Lords will convince to sacrifice themselves for their leaders.
A Shoosuva is a hyena-demon born of a gnoll gifted a fang by Yeenoghu, Lord of Savagery. They attack with their fangs and the stinger on their tail.
Glabrezu love to destroy mortals through temptation, offering their services to those foolish enough to summon them.
Yochlol’s are known as the Handmaidens of Lolth. They attend to their Goddess’s every whim. She will occasionally dispatch them to the material plane to guard her temples.
The Nalfenshee is a fat amalgam of a boar and an ape with comically tiny wings that somehow sustain its swollen body in the air.
Wastriliths are lords of the deep and corrupt creatures who ingest water they have tainted. They can manipulate water to pull people towards them.
The Nabassu are outcasts even amongst demon society because they devour souls. They live on the fringes of the Abyss and pick off weak demons. Sometimes they will band together to take down larger prey.
The Marilith has a serpent’s bottom half and a humanoid woman’s upper half with six arms, each wielding a deadly blade. They can unite and lead other demons with their high intelligence.
The Giostro is a hulking minotaur-like demon that often carries smaller demons on its shoulders. A giostro is like a living siege engine and prized pet for Demon Lords.
The Sibirex is a horrifying obyrith demon that manipulates flesh and grafts it to its body. The Sibirex is a powerful demon that can turn living creatures into Abyssal Wretches.
The Balors rule as generals presiding over demon armies and taking down any enemies which threaten them. They wield long whips, and their power is fueled by hatred and rage.
A Balor whose son tricked him into imprisonment. He thirsts for freedom and is willing to offer an excellent price for it.
The Molydeus stands some 12 feet tall and enforces the will of its Demon Lord master. It speaks with and commands great authority within the Demon hierarchy.
Baphomet is the Prince of Beasts, and he rules over minotaurs and those with savage hearts. He attacks with his Heartcleaver and envisions a world without restraint where the savage can live out their desires.
Fraz-Urb’luu is the Prince of Deception and the Demon Lord of Illusions. He will employ any trick and manipulation he can muster to get his enemies to do his bidding.
Juiblex is known as the Faceless Lord and the Oozing Hunger. He’s a slime ooze that couldn’t care less about the schemes and plans of other Lords. He exists only the consume living matter and become fatter.
Zuggtmoy is the Demon Queen of Fungi and the Lady of Rot and Decay. She infects creatures with her spores, turning them into mindless servants that serve her until death.
Graz’zt, the Dark Prince, is ethereally beautiful. Still, there’s a subtle uncanniness to his beauty, such as his six fingers and toes on each hand and foot. He wields Angdrelve and is capable of vicious cruelty when provoked.
The Ravnican Guildmaster for whom his Cult is named. He is an entertainer at heart, and his very appearance is a gritty performance.
He sometimes emerges to watch the shows of those who adore him but will strike down the performers with his flaming scythe if they bore him.
The Beast of Butchery and the rival of Baphomet. These Demon Lords and their followers will attack each other on sight. Yeenoghu is the Gnoll Lord, and the Gnolls are his instruments of chaos.
Demogorgon is the Prince of Demons. He has two heads, Aameul and Hathradiah, and their gaze strikes madness and confusion into the hearts of those who view them.
Orcus is the Prince of Undeath, and he desires to see all living things quenched and turned into undead creatures at his command.
Demons for Dungeon Masters
Dungeon Masters will want to consider what kind of demons, if any, will be appearing in their campaigns. For instance, it’s doubtful that you’ll see an Abyssal Wretch or Abyssal Chicken just running around in an open field.
Demons will most likely be servants of the Demon Lords that have come to the material plane to sow chaos. They may appear to offer cryptic messages laced with lies, torment the mortals, and otherwise cause mayhem.
They might also appear to cause great destruction — usually just because they can — and thus become an enemy of the party in that way.
Demons are a great way to add dimensions to the term “evil.” A lot of people misunderstand the concept of evil as being a one-dimensional caricature of misdeeds. However, the idea of evil is as varied as any other alignment.
The Blood War is an excellent way to begin introducing variance into the world’s evil sectors. Few creatures want to align with Devils, but the moral problem is presented when opposing the demons puts them on the good side of the Devils.
Once a party begins to raze demonkind, it’s unlikely that their efforts will go unnoticed in the Hells. The Hells are always seeking to increase their power and bolster their ranks.
In that way, they will ally themselves with heroes who will have them to take down a greater, common foe.
Of course, these alliances are not valid. Once the deed is done, Devils will not hesitate to betray their old “friends” for their purposes. But demons can barely keep their armies in the alliance without having to sleep with one eye open.
Devils are undoubtedly evil and likely would not attempt to hide such facts. But it becomes a matter of “yeah, I’m bad… but have you seen that guy?” kind of situation with the demons. The party can see a variance in the world of evil in the same way they see the variance in the world of good.
It’s critical to remember that demons may be hard for some DMs to get in character with. Moral corruptness and lawlessness can be hard to feel right about acting out for your party.
As always, make sure you check with your party before, during, and after. While the gruesomeness of a demon’s killing blow might allow more immersion for one person, it might disturb another.
So keep your players’ reactions in the back of your head and be open to toning it up or down depending on the group.
Frequently Asked Questions About Demons
Are Demons Immune to Fire?
No. Unless otherwise stated by their monster blocks, demons are not naturally immune to fire.
Are Demons Weak to Radiant Damage?
No. Like immunities, damage weaknesses are based on the individual block, not the race.
What Does Abyssal Chicken Taste Like?
Abyssal Chicken is said to taste like a fatty cut of chicken.
Who is the Most Powerful Demon?
Demogorgon is widely considered to be the most powerful of all demonkind.
Demons are a fantastic addition to just about any campaign. The addition of demons allows players to be experienced the worlds of evil and good as multi-dimensional and make enemies and allies that can help them flesh out their characters within the world.
Demons may be able to provide the perfect common enemy to unite your players into a perfect heroic adventuring party! Happy hunting!