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Straight from the Upside-Down… Or Out of the Abyss
The Demogorgon has been a part of D&D since all the way back in 1st edition, though it’s gone through some transformations since then. Chances are, you’ve found this little article because of Stranger Things which prominently featured the classic fiend. However, due to the release of the “Stranger Things Starter Set” we’ve got two versions of the old Demogorgon floating around. No matter which kind you’re looking for we’ve got you covered. So, follow us into the Upside-Down, or possibly the Abyss, as we go through everything you need to know.
Demogorgon (Stranger Things)
During the very early moments of the first episode of Stranger Things, we’re introduced to the crew as they come to the very end of their campaign and come face-to-face with the dreaded Demogorgon. The miniature that Mike slams down onto the table is an original 1984 pewter Demogorgon from the very first edition of dungeons and dragons. Considering how terrified everybody is, it’s reasonable to assume that it is being used correctly, as the mad demon prince of beasts it has always been.
However, as the show progresses, the term “Demogorgon” becomes their accepted name for the interdimensional creatures that threaten the cast throughout the series. The stranger things starter set gives us the statistics for the upside-down Demogorgon, petal-headed maw and all.
Demogorgon (Stranger Things)
Medium monstrosity, unaligned
Armor Class 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 60 (8d8+24)
Speed 30 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
16 (+3) 12 (+1) 16 (+3) 3 (-4) 12 (+1) 5 (-3)
Skills Perception +3, Stealth +5
Senses blindsight 60 ft., passive Perception 13
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)
Keen Smell. The demogorgon has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
Blood Frenzy. The demogorgon has advantage on melee attack rolls against any creature that doesn’t have all of its hit points.
Regeneration. The demogorgon regains 10 hit points at the start of its turn. If the demogorgon takes acid or fire damage, this trait doesn’t function at the start of the demogorgon’s next turn. The demogorgon dies only if it starts its turn with 0 hit points and doesn’t regenerate.
Multiattack. The demogorgon attacks 3 times: one with its bite and two with its claws.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8+3) piercing damage.
Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d8+3) piercing damage.
Using the Demogorgon (Stranger Things) as a DM
Ability-wise, the stranger things Demogorgon is about half-way between a troll and a quipper swarm. I was a bit surprised to find no real stealth or dimension-hopping abilities and it’s a pretty straightforward creature to use. Note that it’s unaligned, and though it’s classified as a monstrosity this thing is basically just an animal.
It’s CR 4, and that generally means it should be an appropriate threat to a level 4 party. However, quite a bit like a troll, the Demogorgon is primarily a damage race. The high regeneration means that if your party has trouble dealing consistent damage they can fall behind and never recover. Be very aware of your party’s ability to negate the regeneration ability with fire or acid damage, if they don’t have any easy access you may need to provide something in the environment like a bonfire or acid pit to make sure the fight isn’t unwinnable.
The Demogorgon also has a surprisingly high average damage per turn, largely due to the blood frenzy ability that will usually grant advantage on all of its attacks.
Altogether you should play the Demogorgon much in the same way that you’d use a troll, just with fewer hit points and a higher damage output. Use it as a major threat for low-level players, and as a resource depleting mid-boss for mid-level dungeon crawls.
Fighting the Demogorgon (Stranger Things)
Treat the Demogorgon as a sneaky troll. It’s medium-sized and has a decent stealth bonus, so it may very well be able to sneak up on the group, unlike most big regenerating targets.
With that said, all the strategies you’d use for fighting a troll apply here. To the best of your abilities make sure it is dealt fire or acid damage every turn to stop the regeneration. It doesn’t have all that many hit points, and a 4th level party should be able to bring it down in 1-2 rounds.
The only deviation from troll fighting strategy is avoiding the blood frenzy. Its bonus to hit is fairly low but is drastically improved once its target has taken a hit. If possible, try to keep it locked in combat with whichever of your allies is still untouched. A heavily armored paladin may be able to keep themselves topped off while occupying its attention. Doing so can keep it from ever really being dangerous.
Demogorgon (Demon Lord)
The Demogorgon in actual Dungeons and Dragons is not a “type” of creature, it’s the name of a very specific demon that’s been kicking around since 1st edition. The Demogorgon is the Prince of Beasts, the Sibilant Beast, and Master of the Spiraling Depths. Demogorgon rules the Gaping Maw, a layer of the abyss that he’s carved out for his cult of madness. Demogorgon likes to get in your head because he can never make up his mind.
Demogorgon is a demon prince and a weird meld of discordant creatures. He has two baboon-like heads that constantly squabble, tentacle arms, and a reptilian almost dinosaur-like lower half. His two heads (named Aameul and Hethradiah) have very different personalities, and Demogorgon lives a perpetual life of internal conflict.
Demogorgon isn’t some two-bit upstart demon either, he’s a major player. Without going too far into abyssal politics, just know he has a life-long feud with Orcus and has a sizable cult that worships him both in the abyss and on the material plane.
Demogorgon (Demon Lord)
Huge fiend (demon), chaotic evil
Armor Class 22 (Natural Armor)
Hit Points 406 (28d12 + 224)
Speed 50 ft., swim 50 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
29 (+9) 14 (+2) 26 (+8) 20 (+5) 17 (+3) 25 (+7)
Saving Throws Dex +10, Con +16, Wis +11, Cha +15
Skills Insight + 11, Perception +19
Damage Resistances Cold, Fire, Lightning
Damage Immunities Poison; Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks
Condition Immunities Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Poisoned
Senses truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 29
Languages All, Telepathy 120 feet
Challenge 26 (90,000 XP)
Innate Spellcasting. Demogorgon’s spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 23). Demogorgon can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
- At Will: detect magic, major image
- 3/day each: dispel magic, fear, telekinesis
- 1/day each: feeblemind, project image
Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If Demogorgon fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead.
Magic Resistance. Demogorgon has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Magic Weapons. Demogorgon’s weapon attacks are magical.
Two Heads. Demogorgon has advantage on saving throws against being blinded, deafened, stunned, and knocked unconscious.
Multiattack. Demogorgon makes two tentacle attacks.
Tentacle. Melee Weapon Attack: +17 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 28 (3d12 + 9) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 23 Constitution saving throw or its hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. This reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if its hit point maximum is reduced to 0.
Gaze. Demogorgon turns his magical gaze toward one creature that he can see within 120 feet of him. That target must make a DC 23 Wisdom saving throw. Unless the target is incapacitated, it can avert its eyes to avoid the gaze and to automatically succeed on the save. If the target does so, it can’t see Demogorgon until the start of his next turn. If the target looks at him in the meantime, it must immediately make the save. If the target fails the save, the target suffers one of the following effects of Demogorgon’s choice or at random:
- Beguiling Gaze. The target is stunned until the start of Demogorgon’s next turn or until Demogorgon is no longer within line of sight.
- Hypnotic Gaze. The target is charmed by Demogorgon until the start of Demogorgon’s next turn. Demogorgon chooses how the charmed target uses its actions, reactions, and movement. Because this gaze requires Demogorgon to focus both heads on the target, he can’t use his Maddening Gaze legendary action until the start of his next turn.
- Insanity Gaze. The target suffers the effect of the confusion spell without making a saving throw. The effect lasts until the start of Demogorgon’s next turn. Demogorgon doesn’t need to concentrate on the spell.
Demogorgon can take 2 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. Demogorgon regains spent legendary actions at the start of his turn.
Tail. Melee Weapon Attack: +17 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (2d10 + 9) bludgeoning damage plus 11 (2d10) necrotic damage.
Maddening Gaze. Demogorgon uses his Gaze action and must choose either the Beguiling Gaze or the Insanity Gaze effect.
Using the Demogorgon (Demon Prince) as a DM
It should be obvious that his guy is no joke. There are very few situations where you can reasonably expect an encounter with Demogorgon to end in anything except a total party kill.
Much like the other demon lords, Demogorgon is best used as an “ultimate big bad” that the players don’t actually ever have to face. He can be used as the shadowy influence controlling the villains you actually intend them to encounter.
If you do want to have your players do battle with Demogorgon, it should only be at level 19 or 20. All the Demon lords are end game bosses and Demogorgon is one of the strongest even among them. If they’re going to encounter this beast, it should be the final climactic fight of an entire campaign.
If you do want an encounter where your PCs have a chance of survival, have the fight outside of Demogorgon’s domain. Demogorgon has some nasty lair abilities that will stack on top of his already fearsome arsenal if you want a fair fight don’t do it on his home turf.
In combat using his legendary actions, Demogorgon will essentially get two tentacle attacks, a tail attack, and a gaze attack every round. He should direct his gaze at whichever PC is causing him the most trouble and focus his tentacle attacks down on single targets until they die.
Fighting the Demogorgon (Demon Lord)
If you’re set on fighting this behemoth, I’ve got two tips to keep in mind:
Firstly, you won’t be able to heal your way out. Demogorgon’s tentacle attacks will regularly negate your healing attempts, so have some healing word spells or similar for emergencies, but otherwise, load out on all offense.
Secondly, the Demogorgon’s gaze attack will throw a MASSIVE monkey wrench into your strategy if he forces one of you to walk off a cliff or attack their allies. The solution to this problem would be blindsight but sadly it’s extremely difficult to get in 5e. There are polymorph effects that can change you into a creature with it, and some very rare magic items, but that’s about it. Instead, if you’re a caster, try focusing on spells that require concentration or saving throws rather than attack rolls, as you’ll need to “avert your gaze” or risk getting hit with the gaze attack. Ravenous Void is one of the best options for this, as Strength is strangely one of Demogorgon’s worst saves.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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