Last Updated on January 22, 2023
The demon lords of the abyss are all truly terrifying creatures. Each of these demons seeks power in their own way, but all of them have one consistent feature. They are vile monsters of pure chaotic evil.
Today, we’re focusing on one such demon lord, the Prince of Gnolls, Yeenoghu. As the creature/patron deity of gnolls and a harbinger of savagery, this is a demon lord to be feared.
In this article, we’ll be talking all about the Beast of Butchery, how to introduce this creature as a villain, how it fits into the abyssal pantheon, what sort of followers it has, and how likely players are to survive an encounter with this horrible entity if they come across it.
Who Is Yeenoghu in 5e?
Yeenoghu is a demon lord and the patron deity of gnolls, hyenas, and savages. As a demon lord, he has control over a specific lair of the Abyss, which he claims as his domain of dread. While he isn’t as powerful as other demon lords like Orcus or Demogorgon, he is still a great threat — one that players would be wise to avoid.
Let’s start by talking about what a demon lord actually is. These aren’t necessarily gods, but they occupy about the same power level as lower deities. Demons, in general, always strive to gain more power. Doing so allows them to increase their rank, and this often means taking on new forms.
Essentially, we see demons start off as damned humanoid spirits and then take the form of lesser demons. As that demon amasses more and more power, it grows stronger.
Eventually, we end up with creatures like Orcus or Yeenoghu, demons who have amassed enough power to rule over their own domain of dread, their own layer of the abyss.
Yeenoghu resembles a great savage gnoll, a borderline humanoid hyena with monstrous proportions. He has a vicious maw, dark fur, and a leathery hide. His upper body is truly massive with the strength to beat down all but the most powerful of foes.
Interestingly, Yeenoghu’s form existed before the gnolls that follow him. It is said that a pack of hyenas followed the demon lord around in his early days, and those that ate from his kills became transformed into the race now known as gnolls.
Because of this, Yeenoghu is followed by gnolls and hyenas, but those aren’t the only races that seek the demon lord’s patronage. Any creature that is truly savage enough might pray to Yeenoghu for strength in the hunt and for primal savagery and carnal destruction.
Any creature who worships Yeenoghu and provides enough destruction might begin to take on attributes of a gnoll: a hunched back, sharpened fangs, and even the leathery, matted fur. On top of that, Yeenoghu’s blessings might extend to actual abilities for the truly devout.
The Death Dells
Yeenoghu’s lair is known as the Death Dells, the 422nd layer of the abyss. It is a desert realm lit by a low-hanging red sun, and it is the hunting grounds of the demon lord and his followers. The few structures that dot this wasteland are surrounded by large spikes of iron to display hunted trophies.
The Beast of Butchery isn’t capable of traveling to the material plane like some other, more powerful, demon lords, but he can certainly do a great bit from his home in the death dells. From this base of operations, he commands his hordes, endows powers, and promotes his mission — destruction to all civilization.
As a legendary creature, he does have command over his lair, meaning adventurers will be facing a number of threats if they face the prince of gnolls on his own turf.
Yeenoghu has three lair actions that he can activate at initiative count 20, and he can’t use any lair action twice in a row.
- Incite the Pack – Until the next initiative count 20, all hyenas and gnolls within the lair are enraged, giving them advantage on melee-attack rolls and giving attacks against them advantage as well.
- Iron Spikes – Yeenoghu causes an iron spike to burst from the ground at a spot he can see within 100 feet of him. A creature in the space must make a DC 27 Dexterity saving throw or take 27 (6d8) piercing damage and be restrained on the spike. A creature must use an action to remove themselves from the spike, or be removed by the action of another.
- Pack Rush – Each gnoll or hyena that Yeenoghu can see can use its reaction to move up to its speed.
While Monsters of the Multiverse doesn’t distinguish a specific place within the layer as his actual lair, we know that a lair tends to be a smaller place within a region. Older editions tell us that Yeenoghu has a great iron fortress that is pulled around the Death Dells by innumerable slaves.
Likely, this is where he can make his lair actions, but there are still regional effects to worry about. In the six miles surrounding Yeenoghu’s lair, predatory beasts (such as hyenas and gnolls) become particularly savage, killing far beyond what they would need to feed. Rotting corpses lie strewn about the area, a great savannah of death.
Of course, you also have to be worried about the iron spikes that grow haphazardly from the ground. These spikes are often adorned with the corpses of Yeenoghu’s enemies, and if you’re not careful, one could jut from the ground to add you to the collection.
Yeenoghu Stats and Tactics
Yeenoghu is a terrifying entity to find yourself face to face with. Armed with his three-headed flail, the Butcher, this Lord of Savagery is more than just a predator. He is a demon lord bent on destruction and death.
Huge Fiend (Demon), Chaotic Evil
- AC: 20 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 187 (25d10 + 50)
- Speed: 0 ft., fly 20 ft. (hover)
- STR: 29 (+9), DEX: 16 (+3), CON: 27 (+8), INT: 15 (+2), WIS: 24 (+7), CHA: 15 (+2)
- Saving Throws: Dex +10, Con +15, Wis +14
- Skills: Intimidation +9, Perception +14
- Damage Resistances: Cold, fire, lightning
- Damage Immunities: Poison; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing that is nonmagical
- Condition Immunities: Charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned
- Senses: Truesight 120 ft., Passive Perception 24
- Languages: All, telepathy 120 ft.
- CR: 24 (62,000 XP); or 25 (75,000 XP) if encountered in his lair
Legendary Resistance (3/Day) – If Yeenoghu fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead.
Magic Resistance – Yeenoghu has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Multiattack – Yeenoghu makes three flail attacks.
Flail – Melee Weapon Attack: +16 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 22 (2d12+9) force damage. If it’s his turn, Yeenoghu can cause the target to suffer one of the following additional effects, each of which he can apply only once per turn:
- Confusion – On a failed DC 17 Wisdom saving throw, the target is under the effects of the Confusion spell until the start of Yeenoghu’s next turn.
- Force – The target takes an extra 13 (2d12) force damage.
- Paralysis – On a failed DC 17 Constitution saving throw, the target is paralyzed until the start of Yeenoghu’s next turn.
Bite – Melee Weapon Attack: +16 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (2d10+9) acid damage.
Spellcasting – Yeenoghu can cast one of the following spells without using material components. Charisma is his spellcasting modifier (spell save DC 17).
- At will: detect magic
- 3/day each: dispel magic, fear, invisibility
- 1/day: teleport
Rampage – When Yeenoghu reduces a creature to 0 hit points on his turn with a melee attack, he can use a bonus action to move up to half his speed and make a bite attack.
Yeenoghu can take up to three legendary actions each round of combat. He can only take one at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn.
Charge – Yeenoghu moves up to half his speed.
Swat Away – Yeenoghu makes a flail attack. If he hits, the target must make a DC 24 Strength saving throw or be pushed 15 feet in a straight line from Yeenoghu. If they fail by more than 5, the creature is also knocked prone.
Savage (costs 2 actions) – Yeenoghu makes a separate bite attack against each creature within 10 feet of him.
This is a particularly nasty stat block to have to deal with. Like all legendary creatures, Yeenoghu will be making a lot of attacks, and we shouldn’t just be worried about him having control over the action economy. Perhaps the scariest bit of the Beast of Butchery is that each of his attacks carry added weight thanks to the additional abilities of his flails.
The spells he carries aren’t particularly worrisome, but Fear, Invisibility, and Teleportation are all great ways to regain control of the battlefield. Likely, he will attack savagely and often until he finds himself losing the upper hand.
We can also expect a good deal of hyenas, gnolls, and flinds backing him in the fight. Flinds, by the way, are gnolls blessed by Yeenoghu with particular ferocity and powerful abilities. In a pack of gnolls, you might only find one of these as a war chief. At Yeenoghu’s side though, there are likely to be quite a few serving as his personal retinue.
It is said that Yeenoghu commands an elite combat force of 66 gnolls as his personal guard, known as the Claws of Fury. Among these, I’m sure at least a sixth have risen to the status of flind.
Adventurers looking to defeat Yeenoghu may have to fight through the entirety of the Claws of Fury, as well as any scattered beasts, before getting to their main target. This can play out like a wave battle to get to the final boss, or there might be a path our heroes need to take before facing Yeenoghu.
Either way, the final battle is certain to contain more than just Yeenoghu. His lair actions and general fighting style set us up for a large group fight. If our heroes aren’t careful, they’ll probably end up outnumbered. After all, this is a fight with a CR 24 demon; it realistically shouldn’t be something they come out of alive.
As far as tactics go, Yeenoghu’s forces won’t be as highly marshaled as other groups might be. Savagery and power are worshiped in this layer of the Abyss, and those are the tenets that they will fight by. Overwhelming forces should group up on the strongest targets first, while “weaker” targets are taken out by a handful of hyenas.
As a show of strength, Yeenoghu might want to take on the “strongest” member of the party in solo combat. This wouldn’t play out like an honorable duel but rather as a way for Yeenoghu to demoralize his opponents. The beast won’t play fair either.
He will likely make full use of lair and legendary actions even in a fight of this caliber. If he were to start losing, he would likely call in his forces to restrain his foe. Players should avoid this sort of confrontation, always making sure that they have the upper hand.
The best thing going for players in a face-off like this is that they will likely be more clever with more time to plan. Brute force alone will not win this fight.
Followers of Yeenoghu
Yeenoghu is worshiped as a deity by gnolls. They revel in his savagery and seek to honor him with blood. Their connection to him is what makes them a particularly nasty group to get caught up with.
Gnolls are very similar in tactics and motivation to their ancestors. Much like hyenas, they travel in packs, known as war bands, and seek to kill whatever they can, scavenging if need be. These creatures are incredibly violent and aren’t motivated by politics, power, or money.
This savagery inspires more than just gnolls though. Others might follow Yeenoghu if they also rejoice in senseless killing. Members of any race who are brutal killers with little preservation of life may come to worship Yeenoghu. These worshippers are known as Fangs.
A group with non-gnoll members may develop more nefarious goals. Humans and orcs with eyes set on power may embrace the savagery but still maintain their personal goals. Since Yeenoghu cares more about means than the goal, these Fangs aren’t seen as any less.
In fact, these are probably going to be the more dangerous encounters you face. A non-gnoll that has managed to lead a war band of gnolls is likely to employ more than just the “pick off the weak” tactics employed by the hyena-folk. They may also put more stock in Yeenoghu’s true goal — destruction of all civilization.
This is when we see gnoll war bands that are interested in more than just protecting their territory. They might ravage villages or whole nations, depending on their size.
Running a Campaign Around Yeenoghu
Yeenoghu isn’t often a central focus. Instead, he tends to be a weaker demon lord who is encountered or dealt with on a party’s way to take down larger threats like Orcus. In Out of the Abyss, he makes an appearance, but he is not pivotal to the story.
If you want to highlight Yeenoghu, the best way to do so is by creating a war of civilized folk against savages. This can tackle some interesting issues, asking who the real savages are, but it can also just be a fun way to make a campaign with a whole lot of combat and less story than one might expect from a modern rpg.
I particularly enjoy the idea of a charismatic and brutal leader creating a grand army to dismantle some tyrannical nation. The majority of the campaign could be focused on uncovering the faults of the kingdom while still protecting the lay people from savage raiders.
In this context, the leader of the rebellion may have a more convincing argument than the ruler of whatever kingdom we use. Still, our heroes will likely disagree with their means to success.
This is where we begin to see the influence of Yeenoghu. Perhaps he corrupted the heart of someone who only wanted change. However we actually pull this off, we get to have a really intriguing campaign centered on political turmoil. Choices will have to be made, and the resulting story can change drastically depending on our characters’ decisions.
Regardless, one thing will be consistent. Yeenoghu will be one of, if not the, final enemies our heroes will have to face since any non-evil party will have no choice but to disagree with the savagery and senseless murder of his followers.
Yeenoghu, often a background player, is a very interesting character to be explored. Even if he’s just brought in as a way to add character to the gnolls, he still makes for a great plot point. Hopefully, you get to explore this savage and his followers in great detail.
As always, happy adventuring.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.