Have you seen Vox Machina? If not, go watch it. Get the free trial of Amazon Prime, binge the show, and then cancel Prime if you need to.
In that show, the team gets attacked by creatures that can come through the walls and cause NPCs to erupt into gore with their vicious claw attacks. Those creatures are basically shadow demons with some nifty Critical Role sauce added to their abilities.
This is the creature that you think you might be seeing in the corner of your room at night while you are trying to go to sleep. It is the darkest part of the shadow that stares back at you.
In truth, these are simply demons that have died on the material plane but for whatever reason were prevented from returning to the abyss. Their basic energy, or soul for lack of a better term, has yet to reincarnate into a new demon form. Instead, they are still wandering the material plane as literal shadows of their former selves.
This post is designed to get you ready to face one down. If you happen to be facing one down at your table right now, then scroll down to the bit on how to fight these creatures and survive.
If you’re a DM, we’ve got some good stuff for you at the bottom of the post designed to help you vary up these monsters and maximize their plot uses to make sure your next adventure will be remembered forever.
If you find this creature to be enjoyable and your players seem to be impressed by how you use them, feel free to use the story seed at the end of the post to frame your next campaign around the unique flavors of the shadow demon.
What Is a Shadow Demon in Dnd 5e?
A Shadow demon is a CR 4, medium fiend with incorporeal traits. It can pass through walls and creatures and is invisible in darkness. Oh, and it also gets sneak attack.
A Player’s Guide to Shadow Demons
Shadow Demon Statblock
Medium Fiend (Demon), Chaotic Evil
This is a medium creature that will occupy a 5-foot square. As a fiend, the druids, paladins, and clerics should check and see if they have any special abilities against fiends.
- Armor Class: 13
- Hit Points: 66 (12d8 + 12)
- Speed: 30 ft., fly 30 ft.
The armor class is fairly low. Most characters ought to be able to hit at least half the time. With 66 Hit Points, it should be able to stand up to a round or two of combat before going down.
- STR 1 (-5), DEX 17 (+3), CON 12 (+1), INT 14 (+2), WIS 13 (+1), CHA14 (+2)
The obvious weakness here is the Strength score. You should take note of that, although don’t expect to be able to win in a grapple against this creature. Its incorporeal movement ability will allow it to move right through you. The rest of its ability scores leave no obvious weakness to exploit.
- Saving Throws: DEX +5, CHA +4
- Skills: Stealth +7
- Damage Vulnerabilities: Radiant
- Damage Resistances: Acid, Fire, Necrotic, Thunder; Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks
- Damage Immunities: Cold, Lightning, Poison
- Condition Immunities: Exhaustion, Grappled, Paralyzed, Petrified, Poisoned, Prone, Restrained
- Senses: Darkvision 120 ft., Passive Perception 11
- Languages: Abyssal, Telepathy 120 ft.
- Challenge: 4 (1,100 XP)
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
This portion of the stat block reveals the main thing this creature can do: it can sneak up on you. With a Stealth of +7 and immunity or resistance to most conditions and damages, the shadow demon is definitely an ambush hunter that can wear you down for the long fight.
Incorporeal Movement. The demon can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object.
Light Sensitivity. While in bright light, the demon has disadvantage on attack rolls, as well as on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
Shadow Stealth. While in dim light or darkness, the demon can take the Hide action as a bonus action.
The abilities in this portion of the stat block reveal why this creature is so unique. It can flow through walls, obstacles, and creatures. You can not block this thing’s movement, nor can you see it if it remains still. This is a creature of the dark in every possible way.
Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) psychic damage or, if the demon had advantage on the attack roll, 17 (4d6 + 3) psychic damage.
Because this is a shadow creature that has no body, it is no surprise that it deals psychic damage when it attacks you. The shadow demon essentially has sneak attack, getting an extra 4d6 when it has advantage. Luckily, it can only attack once per turn.
A Shadow Demon’s Tactic
One glance at the stat block and we can see that shadow demons are obviously ambush hunters. They will use stealth to approach you from behind. If you face them, they will most likely become still so that they are effectively invisible.
When they get close enough, they will attack with their claw attack and deal their Sneak Attack damage. This will be during the surprise round, which means they will be able to move away from you without provoking an opportunity attack. Then they will simply wait for you to lower your guard so they can get sneak attack during another surprise round.
If trapped or cornered, they can not escape, (nothing short of a magical wall spell could do it, though). They will probably remain still in order to become invisible and get sneak attack. However, in this situation, you will most likely not be subjected to sneak attack. They will simply fight like a cornered creature.
This is the shadow demon’s only tactical choice — attack during a surprise round and escape before you can take your first turn. With their incorporeal body, they can usually pull it off every time.
So, what do you do?
How To Fight a Shadow Demon in DnD 5e
The shadow demon is another reason why Alert is probably the best feat you can take. It will make sure you can act in every surprise round so that you won’t be ambushed.
But not everyone can take Alert, and not everyone can have a weapon of warning. That being said, you will have to take that first round of damage from a shadow demon.
On that second round, if the shadow demons have gone out of reach, you will need to light every torch you have. Ready an action to cast faerie fire, create bonfire, or light if you have it.
If you can catch the shadow demon in bright light before it attacks, it will have disadvantage on its attack, which also negates the Sneak Attack damage. Furthermore, you will force the shadow demon to back up out of the light in order to become invisible again and stay in its comfort zone.
That’s right, chase it with your light source. Do not let it get away unless it goes into a wall. Once it does that, back away from all walls and low ceilings so that it doesn’t reach out at you again.
From there, you can expect the shadow demon to reach up out of the floor at you. There isn’t much that you can do about that; however, since it can’t see you, it will have disadvantage again. All you will need to do is ready your action to attack as soon as it reaches out. Also, do radiant damage. It is vulnerable and will take twice as much damage as you roll.
Again, the shadow demon is a simple creature with simple but effective tactics. Your tactics will be equally simple. Get as much light as possible, and ready an action to attack.
A DM’s Guide to Shadow Demons
If you like shadow demons but your players are getting a little bored of you repeatedly putting them into your adventures, it might be time to spice things up for a bit or even make the shadow demon the central figure in a campaign.
Varying a Shadow Demon
Shadow demons are creatures of darkness. If you like, consider these variations:
- Make the incorporeal body ability useless while in bright light. If the PCs can trap the shadow demon in light, then they can fight it. To balance this out, give the shadow demon the ability to cast thaumaturgy as an action. It will add an element of back-and-forth strategy.
- Allow the shadow demon to possess a creature that fails a DC13 Charisma save. If this happens, the shadow demon can cast phantasmal force on that creature at will with automatic success. The creature is possessed until they pass the saving throw, which they can attempt at the start of their turn. Once this is passed, they are immune for 24 hours.
Story Seed – Insubstantial evidence: Two Sessions at Tier 2
This story is based on a standard “whodunit” style mystery. I imagine this happening in Neverwinter or Eberron, but you can adjust it if needed.
We begin with a dead body. Make sure the following things happen in the numbered sessions below.
1. The PCs must be invited to find the dead body and compelled to investigate it. This can be a law enforcement angle, a mercenary angle, or a personal one. Either way, the victim is a young partygoer who was out way too late and decided to walk home alone through a darkened alley. The victim has no wounds but has a frozen expression of mortal terror. They died from psychic damage.
The PCs will find a matchbook, an ashtray, or even a receipt from a nightclub. The PCs should go to that nightclub and ask around.
Upon asking, they can make persuasion or investigation checks to find people who knew the victim. They can find these people either by asking around or by looking for similarly dressed individuals. There will be people who know what happened, and they will point the PCs to a person who was a witness.
Sitting in the corner of the club with a haunted look and surrounded by friends, the witness will only share their story after a successful persuasion, intimidation, or deception check. Make the players roleplay this conversation.
The witness was walking home when something like a ghost attacked them. If they follow the witness after he leaves the club, they will have their first combat. The witness or the PCs will be attacked by specters later that night.
One of the specters will drop a crystal with a blood moon pendant similar to what one of the witness’ friends were wearing. Make the PC roll an Intelligence check to recall it.
2. Upon tracking down who was wearing the pendant, they will find that person dead in their apartment from the same cause. An investigation check will reveal that they were a member of the Blood Moon Coven that meets every blood moon on a rooftop in the industrial district. Luckily, someone with an Intelligence Nature score will know there is one tonight.
The PCs should go to the coven meeting. When they do, they will discover a group of minor spellcasters in mourning for their lost members. A successful persuasion or intimidation check will reveal that the victims were killed in the same manner that the former leader of the coven was killed.
The coven members tell the PCs that the former leader of the coven “lost his way.” He found a book that allowed him to summon a demon and take its power. It was a ruse.
The ritual in the book did summon the demon, but the demon immediately attacked. Together, they were able to defeat it, but when it died, it lashed out and killed the coven leader in the same manner as the first victims the PCs encountered.
The demon’s power was sapped enough that it could not return to the abyss, and it became a shadow demon. The blood moon pendant the PCs discovered when the specter was killed was the tool the coven leader was using to siphon power from the demon.
An Arcana check of Identify spell will reveal that the pendant can be used to absorb the life force of a creature. When enough creatures have been siphoned, the shadow demon should be able to cast plane shift to escape to the abyss.
During the coven’s story, the shadow demon appears with enough ghosts and specters to challenge the PCs.
Congratulations! This is the boss fight. Don’t die.