- 1 Society
- 2 Types of demons
- 3 Related creatures
- 4 History
- 4.1 The Founding
- 4.2 The Age of Arcanum
- 4.3 The Calamity
- 4.4 Post-Divergence
- 4.5 The Campaign of Vox Machina
- 4.6 Campaign Two: The Mighty Nein
- 5 Notable demons
- 6 Trivia
- 7 References
In contrast to the Nine Hells, where mortals can conduct business (if mostly in the Iron City of Dis), few mortals visit the brutal demon-ruled Abyss. Where devils are creatures of ordered tyranny, demons are savage and chaotic, driven by madness and hunger. Their societies are inscrutable: twisting, crumbling, and rebuilding at a truly insane rate.
The language of demons is, naturally, Abyssal.
Types of demons
Other types of demons
Unlike devils, demons don't have a strict hierarchy, but they do respect power, and the difficulty of summoning them depends on their Challenge Rating (CR), so this list is ordered by descending CR.
- Balor - A huge, muscular fiend with large, red, leathery wings and two black horns; its eyes and mouth exude incandescent heat, and its body heats the air around it to a scalding temperature. A balor carries a burning whip and an electrified sword.
- Goristro - Hulking, furry creature with a turned-up, pug-like nose, forward-curving horns, and fists like battering rams.
- Marilith - Appears like a woman with six arms carrying six different blades, and with a serpentine lower body.
- Glabrezu (treachery demon)
- Shoosuva - A ten-foot-long skeletal creature, somewhat catlike and somewhat doglike, with large spined protrusions along its back and a long, scorpion-like tail with a foot-long hooked stinger at the end.
- Armanite - The Mighty Nein fought a homebrew fiend with characteristics of an armanite.
- Draegloth - A 12-foot-tall, four-armed creature with sharp teeth, gray skin, and a silver-white stripe of hair running down its back. These are created by a mix of drow and demon blood in some of the darker drow societies, and they are almost exclusively found in the Underdark.
- Chasme - Like massive, bloated, blue mosquitoes, with humanoid protrusions like hair
- Vrock - A long, lithe, vulture-like creature, with giant wings, clawed hands, and a long beak-like mouth. It has a sickly-looking scaled hide on the parts that aren't covered by harsh feathers. Fjord summoned one in the Chantry of the Dawn.
- Barlgura - A large, gorilla-like demon with horns, tusks, and red, burning-coal-like eyes. Fjord summoned several of these over time.
- Shadow demon
- Babau - Lithe, humanoid-looking demons with long, clawed limbs and long, thin tails. They have black, leathery skin wrapped tightly about their bodies. The backs of their heads are elongated, curving into a single horn, and their expressions are dark and skeletal, with sharp teeth and dark tongues. They have pupil-less, yellow eyes that deliver a Weakening Gaze.
- Dybbuk - Appears to be an incorporeal jellyfish. Possesses and animates the bodies of dead creatures.
- Quasit - Tiny, sneaky shapechangers with wide, lemur-like eyes.
- Dretch - Somewhat humanoid in shape, but with claws, dark greenish skin dangling from its body, and a snub nose like a mole.
- Udaaks are fiends brought from the Abyss to Exandria, but they lost their connection to the Abyss when the Divergence happened.
- Merrow are monstrosities with demonic origins; it's not yet established whether Exandrian merrows' origin is quite the same as in the 5th-Edition Monster Manual, in which they are corrupted merfolk who were transformed by generations in Demogorgon's layer of the Abyss.
- Other kinds of fiends sometimes end up in service of demons; Vox Machina encountered a succubus among several demons in Sir Gregory Fince's house, and the Mighty Nein encountered an incubus and succubus when investigating a demonic incursion beneath Asarius.
Some lore about demons, such as the creation of the merrow, is not yet specified as having taken place in a certain era.
Naviask was once a balor demon obsessed with the destruction of the Feywild. He was transformed into a fey spirit by the archfey Queen Titania of the Summer Court; this happened before the end of the Calamity, but the timing is otherwise unclear.
During the Founding, when the elemental titans called Primordials rose up to destroy the mortals, the demons of the Abyss, attracted by the carnage, poured forth to feed on the carrion. Some of the celestials sent to fight the demons fell into hate and tyranny and forged the Hells under the leadership of a fallen angel. A conflict called the Blood War has raged between these devils of the Hells and the demons of the Abyss ever since.
The Age of Arcanum
Before the Calamity, eight of the Betrayer Gods each forged a sentient weapon; four of these, made by (respectively) Tharizdun, Gruumsh, Lolth, and Zehir, each contain the life force of a demon. Among the few ways to destroy one of these "Arms of the Betrayers" is to bathe it in the blood of a demon lord.
When Vespin Chloras released the Betrayer Gods from their prison planes, the creatures of the Abyss and the Nine Hells pushed their way into Exandria in the hopes of dominating it. Demons joined in a surprise attack on Vasselheim; the Prime Deities descended to save the city, and the battle raged for twenty days and nights. The demons were thrown back, but that was only the beginning of the war that would be called the Calamity.
The Umbra Gates in Xhorhas was the historical seat of power on the Prime Material Plane for the Demon Princes of the Abyss. During the Calamity, the Demon Princes of the Abyss had a rare moment of unity, for the purposes of fighting the Prime Deities.
Arcane devices called "Abyssal anchors" can slowly tear holes through the barriers between the Abyss and the Prime Material Plane; they were used during the Calamity to allow demon generals to invade various places in Exandria.
Around the early fifth century PD, a hero of the Verdant Expanse named Joran the Sea-Speaker ventured into the Endless Maze of the Abyss and was devoured, along with the Spire of Conflux he wielded, by a goristro named Yenk.
During the iron rule of Drassig, the hierophant druids of the Dawn Circle were subjected to great cruelty and killed at one of their ritual sites, drawing the attention of Orcus, the Demon Prince of Undeath. He waited for centuries afterward for a mortal to disturb its deepest sanctum.
Though Neminar Drassig dabbled in infernal magic and made a pact with Bane that continued through the bloodline, his younger brother Trist struck an additional, desperate deal with Graz'zt, the Demon Prince of Indulgence.
As the Scattered War grew increasingly desperate for King Trist Drassig, Zan Tal'Dorei's rebel human forces and the allied Elves of Syngorn backed Drassig's army into a valley in the Emerald Highlands. Obsessed with the possibility of losing, Drassig pledged his service to Graz'zt, for whom the nearby valley had once been a bastion of influence, in exchange for the power to smite his foes. The bargain accepted, during the battle a flood of fiends, including Graz'zt himself, poured into the battlefield in support of Drassig. All the continent's greatest mages fought in the battle. The hills ran dark with human blood and demonic ichor. Against all odds, Zan Tal'Dorei's forces prevailed, ended the Drassig bloodline, and banished Graz'zt back to his Abyssal prison.
However, the demonic blood that spilled that day permanently transformed the hills from a floral, sun-dappled Emerald Highlands into a blasted wasteland; grass and flowers grow burnt and black, their sap coursing with demon blood. Because of this, the region was renamed the Umbra Hills. Similarly, the nearby valley whence Graz'zt had come was scarred by the terrible energies released at that time, and the forest there was left dead, petrified, and cursed, so that it became known as the Grey Valley.
Though the main description of the Battle of the Umbra Hills mentions only demons aiding Trist's army, devils apparently also participated. Seeing that the spawn of the Betrayer Gods could return to the world, some of Tal'Dorei's most capable and trusted mages formed the Arcana Pansophical to guard against the misuse of magic that invited such incursions.
Reactivation of the Umbra Gates
Around 795 PD, a group of dungeoneers accidentally reactivated the gateway to the Abyss within Bazzoxan, which has remained open ever since, requiring a full-time containment effort by the Aurora Watch.
One member of the Aurora Watch told the Mighty Nein in 836 PD that there were actually many "doorways" within the temple, and that they had been at a stalemate for "the better part of a century," which would mean the fighting started earlier than 795 PD.
When Vox Machina arrived in Emon a short time later, Syldor Vessar hired them to look for Sir Gregory Fince; when they investigated his home, they found his tortured corpse in the basement, and they discovered and defeated several demons and a succubus. They also found his notes about the attempted assassination of the royal family; the notes repeatedly mentioned someone named General Krieg. They also encountered an imp (a lesser devil) in the upstairs library.
They finagled their way into a meeting with Krieg and told him what they discovered from Sir Gregory's home and an encounter with Spireling Modeth of the Clasp. Krieg warned them to leave the investigation to the officials. With the Palace of the Sovereign so close, Vox Machina decided to try to talk to Uriel Tal'Dorei III instead, but they were denied entry. There they met Allura Vysoren, who had been trying to access the palace for a week. Vox Machina and Allura went to her tower to talk, they formed an alliance, and they scried on the palace, discovering that the Sovereign's family was under demonic influence.
Vox Machina continued investigating the Clasp's involvement. They confronted and killed Spireling Modeth in his chambers, and discovered four glowing crystals in his possession. They returned to Allura's tower and found evidence of her having struggled with and escaped from demons. As it turned out, Allura had been attacked shortly after the Scrying.
Vox Machina returned to General Krieg's home, discovered he was secretly a blue dragon, and killed him. Allura found them as they left Krieg's home. The skies darkened over Emon, a sign that the demonic influence around the Sovereign was growing bolder. With Allura's help, they infiltrated the palace, and they stormed the Throne Room and banished the shadows from the royal family's bodies. Then the throne cracked open, and an entity identifying himself as a "devil prince" by the name of Juurezel emerged. He informed them of the great war between demons and devils, noted the demonic forces throughout the city, and asked for the adventurers' aid in fighting the demonic threat. He offered them a single Wish if they struck the pact, and the party accepted. They then conferred, returned to the throne room, Wished to cancel their contract, and attacked, at which point "Juurezel" revealed himself as a glabrezu, or treachery demon. Before the glabrezu was defeated, it killed Pike; though she was soon resurrected nearby, this marked a turning point for her, signified in part by her switching from the Life domain to the War domain. Vox Machina, discovering that the four members of the Sovereign's family were catatonic and dying because their souls were missing, figured out that the four glowing crystals they'd taken from Modeth were Soul Jars, and restored the souls within to the family.
During the liberation of Whitestone, Orthax's influence on Percy began to manifest physically, as smoke poured from him when the chance for revenge presented itself. As the Briarwoods were defeated, Vox Machina had its first encounter with Orthax. They defeated Orthax, then Scanlan freed Percy of the demon's influence by destroying his precious instrument of revenge, The List.
Vox Machina again encountered Orthax, who had made a pact with Anna Ripley. Ripley killed Percy, but Vox Machina was able to kill Ripley and defeat Orthax. Orthax remained on the Material Plane through its connection to Ripley's pepperbox, Animus; it used this attachment to grab hold of Percy's soul, preventing his resurrection until Keyleth managed to sever the thread connecting it to Animus through the use of Greater Restoration.
Vox Machina, having learned about the goristro Yenk from Kamaljiori, used a Gate scroll to rip Yenk from the Abyss in order to draw in and soften up the white dragon Vorugal. From Yenk's corpse they retrieved the Spire of Conflux, which from then on was wielded by Keyleth.
As of 812 PD, the Umbra Hills were still cursed by the demonic blood that had spilled there centuries earlier. No animals live there, and the only plant that grows in these hills is shadegrass. The grass's unique acrid flavor has drawn the interest of spice traders worldwide, and they hire armed escorts for their spice-pickers. Undead soldiers rise from the grass when the moon is high, and the centuries-old ruins of Drassig war camps draw shadow demons to patrol these lands, still bound by a contract between Trist Drassig and Graz'zt. Graz'zt's greatsword, Graz'tchar, remains there, guarded by twin hezrou demons (though they are disguised as ghosts of great knights) and calling out for someone to wield it.
As of this time, more than a year after his escape, Felrinn Derevar was still on the loose.
One adventure hook in the sourcebook involves Orcus sending a flood of undead spilling from the Shadebarrow, the site of Drassig's great cruelty to the Dawn Circle druids, requiring the heroes to take on Orcus himself. Here Orcus is identified as a servant of the Betrayer Gods, though Highbearer Vord identifies Orcus as one of the Betrayer Gods himself, sealed behind the Divine Gate.
In 834 PD, the year before the Mighty Nein met, Yasha encountered Obann, a former devil who had changed into a demon by allying himself with an entity of the Abyss. According to Cobalt Soul records, Obann was once Graz'zt's Master of Wills, but was shamed and destroyed after a terrible failure to his lord. By the time he found Yasha in the Xhorhasian wastes, he was seeking out undying warriors who could help him release the "Angel of Irons"; he did not know he was actually working to release Tharizdun from its shackles.
An organized band of gnolls who worshipped Yeenoghu attacked the town of Alfield and abducted some of its citizens. The Mighty Nein and Shakäste followed the gnolls' trail back to the Rill's Mouth Mines, discovered they were allied with a human (or something similar) and a manticore, and killed all the members of the cult they found, rescuing some of the abducted survivors.
Several adventure hooks in the Explorer's Guide to Wildemount sourcebook, set in late 835 or early 836 PD, involve demons.
- One of the longer adventure modules revolves around a shadow demon named Trush possessing a goblin warlock, Bol'bara.
- A balor and a crew of demons are sent by a demon lord to retrieve a powerful magic item from the Exalted Collection Auction House in Port Damali.
- A follow-up to the gnolls' attack on Alfield: the ritual sacrifice of abducted people of Alfield in the Rill's Mouth Mines open a portal to the Abyss, through which demons loyal to Yeenoghu invade the Material Plane.
- Hezrous and dretches invade the forest around Charis.
- A cultist in Rotthold summons a glabrezu using the viscera of many victims.
The Mighty Nein, having made their way to Asarius, were tasked with investigating the beginnings of a demonic incursion underneath different areas of the city. They fought three shoosuvas who appeared in Zorth's breeding caves, then informed Lady Zethris Olios of the rift responsible for the incursion. She noted that they had found other similar rifts, and offered them rewards for investigating the source of these rifts. The Nein discovered a crude Abyssal anchor elsewhere beneath the city, and destroyed the fiends who were attempting to build a more permanent portal from the Abyss, earning themselves an important audience with the Bright Queen.
The stone giants of the Braan were forced out of their home by a demonic incursion. The Mighty Nein helped the giants fight the demons—dybbuks, chasmes, and babaus—and discovered the incursion was caused by yet another Abyssal anchor. Inspecting the anchor, they learned that it had been placed by Vence Nuthaleus, a member of the Angel of Irons cult. After warning the Bright Queen of the demonic threat, they followed that thread to a clandestine meeting at the Overcrow Apothecary, where they encountered Obann. They chased Obann to the Bazzoxan area, but had to retreat after he released the Laughing Hand and once again dominated Yasha's mind.
The party picked up Obann's trail but failed to stop him from reviving (and subsequently dominating) Jourrael, a drow assassin and chosen of Lolth. The Nein learned of Obann's history as a servant of Graz'zt, and eventually they caught up with Obann and his dominated crew at the Chantry of the Dawn in Rexxentrum, where they destroyed him and others fought a force of demons in the cathedral hall.
In the meantime, when Fjord summoned a barlgura—which he had done several times while in a pact with Uk'otoa—the creature that emerged looked less fiendish and more fey-like, reflecting Fjord's new connection with Melora.
The Mighty Nein saw a draegloth in the forest on Rumblecusp; the fact that they are almost exclusively found in the Underdark was a clue that this island had pulled creatures from very different, distant environments, a clue punctuated by the draegloth being killed moments later by a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Known demon lords
- Baphomet: The Horned King, Demon Prince of Beasts, master of minotaurs and other demonic bestial creatures.
- Graz'zt: Demon Prince of Indulgence, Dark Prince of the Argent Palace, whom Obann once served as his Master of Wills. King Trist Drassig pledged himself to Graz'zt during the Scattered War, and Graz'zt sent a horde of demons to fight on Drassig's side during the Battle of the Umbra Hills.
- Orcus: Demon Prince of the Undead and particular enemy of the Raven Queen. Has an ever-hungering need to break all life to bring it under his power.
- Sess'inek: A reptilian demon lord worshiped by lizardfolk.
- Yeenoghu: A demon lord of hunger and destruction chiefly worshiped by evil gnolls.
In other Dungeons & Dragons settings, Lolth, the Spider Queen, has been made a demon lord. In the Exandrian mythology, although Lolth's domain, the Demonweb, is tethered to the Abyss, she is not yet explicitly identified as a demon lord.
- "Juurezel": The name used by a glabrezu who infiltrated and trapped the souls of the family of Sovereign Uriel Tal'Dorei III, and grew increasingly bold in his influence until Vox Machina rooted him out; he killed Pike before he was defeated.
- Naviask: Formerly a balor demon, transformed into an Archfey warlock patron. His new mission is to heal scarred lands with new natural growth.
- Obann: Formerly a devil, but changed into a demon by allying himself with an entity of the Abyss. Served Graz'zt as his Master of Wills, but was shamed and thought destroyed following a terrible failure to his lord. Ended up unwittingly serving the ends of Tharizdun.
- Orthax: An unusually large and powerful shadow demon (or something very similar) who made pacts of vengeance with Percy and then Anna Ripley.
- Yenk: A goristro from the Endless Maze who swallowed Joran the Sea-Speaker and his Spire of Conflux, and was later summoned from the Abyss by Vox Machina to battle with Vorugal.
- One of Vex'ahlia's favored enemy types was demons. She and her brother Vax'ildan could understand the Abyssal language, apparently because their father insisted they learn it.
- Had Vox Machina not used the Gate scroll to forcibly summon Yenk, they likely would have had to make allies with demons to help track the goristro through the Maze of the Abyss.
- Official art of an udaak, by Kent Davis (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Naviask, by Weradd (source). Used DM response with permission.
- Fan art of the Umbra Gates in Bazzoxan, by Miloš Radojkić (source). Used with permission.
- Screenshot of Vox Machina confronting the glabrezu. "The Story of Vox Machina" (Sx06) at 16:57
- Fan art of Percy wielding The List while being manipulated by Orthax, by David Rodrigues (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Orthax and Ripley finishing Percy, by Hugo Cardenas (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Vorugal fighting Yenk, by Kamille Areopagita (source). made in collaboration with Kevin Areopagita Used with permission.
- Fan art of Obann, by MateuszWilma (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Fjord summoning a barlgura, by Shae Marie Illustration (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of the chasme, by Stephen Oakley (source). Used with permission.