Fabulous Foes: Demons Part 2 – Manipulators and Masterminds

Looking to kill your players? Well first of all, no, that’s not how you should view running your DnD game. So… wanna kill your players? Not intentionally of course, no it’s entirely a coincidence that they’ll get their teeth kicked in from these demons. I mean it’s not your fault, you just read some articles detailing what makes them deadly, fun to use and how to set up a plot around them. Don’t worry, I got you covered. Send any complainers or whiners my way, we’ll set the record straight.

Last time we discussed the ‘Fodder’ of the demon army, an extremely important part of any enemy force, but not always the most engaging, dynamic and interesting of foes. You want the good stuff, the badasses and the masterminds, which is what’s next! Seeing as every plot starts with a schemer, we’ll lead with them this time. Previously, we discussed them in ascending Challenge Rating and we’ll be keeping that format here. When you think of a Mastermind, you probably think of something really high level and scary. You may be surprised to see just how many creatures in the “simplistic” demon catalog fit this shoe, especially on the lower scale side of things.

Quasits (CR 1) are the first manipulators we find in our search, a surprisingly early entry. You may think that as a level one opponent they aren’t that big of a threat… and you’d be correct. Mostly. Mischief makers at heart, they are often employed by bigger baddies to help in their schemes and Quasits are surprisingly capable partners. They have the ability to change their shape into a bat, centipede, or toad at will and to turn invisible on demand, are resilient to magic, and are intelligent and charismatic enough to attempt deceptions (though rarely are their deceptions elaborate or spectacular). They are capable scouts, informers and onlookers, but when things turn dangerous they can defend themselves with sharp claws filled with poison and resistance to most damage; however they prefer to simply go invisible or shapeshift into a more mobile creature and run away. Usually helping other demons out of fear, their true desire is to make mischief for mortals. They enjoy minor acts of inconvenience like curdling milk, tripping people as they walk, and removing the bottoms of peoples shoes. However, they are still a demon. As such, they are always seeking to gain more power and are acutely aware of their weaknesses. When working alone, which they prefer, they will familiarize themselves with any other demons in the area to flee to in emergencies.

Quasits love to scheme and are skilled in deceiving others. They often seek to corrupt mortals with promises of power and wealth in order to push them deeper into acts of depravity. The main way to use a Quasit in your game is to have them be a subordinate of a greater demon. Have them be responsible for many seemingly tame and low scale acts of evil, but these acts are part of a much greater plot and are necessary to set up a grand scheme. Quasits have a strong sense of self preservation and when cornered will gladly sell out their ‘employers’ to save their skin, but their information will be extremely limited in scope and rarely will they have any actual idea who or what purpose they are truly serving.

A typical Quasit

Babau (CR 4), nicknamed ‘One Horned Horrors’, are recruiters, manipulators, and assassins. Possessing devilish deceptiveness married with demonic bloodlust, they are devious, cruel, cautious, and sadistic. Their cleverness is highly valued by other demons, using them as secret agents specializing in espionage and assassinations whilst on the material plane. While comparatively weaker than many of their demon kin, their pension for crafting schemes and deceiving others give them an edge over stronger demons. They’re capable of creating magical darkness, teleporting, and being coated in an acidic slime. Able to get into enemy compounds, they’ll attack the command suddenly and mercilessly, then slip away before the enemy realizes what happened. While they have potent claws and fangs, they recognize the ineffectiveness of said tactics compared to weapons, preferring to wield large two handed weapons instead.

Whilst in the Abyss however, their task is much different. They are instead tasked as recruiters for demonic task forces and armies, this role has earned them the resentment of many fellow demons of similar strength. They fulfill this task fervently, for if their troops are deemed dissatisfactory, the Babau themselves will end up recruited.  They make good early game captains of smaller hordes of demons. Babau aren’t the shapeshifting type, so they tend to remain hidden until the last possible moment, only revealing themselves when they’re sure of their superiority or pushed into a corner. Due to this, the players will know pretty quickly what they’re dealing with and be quick to distrust them, so make sure the miss-directions of the Babau happen BEFORE the party comes face to face with them.

A Scheming Babau

Dybbuk (CR 4) are some of the most interesting demons out there and that says a lot. Their bodies are translucent and incorporeal, like a floating jellyfish, but they are rarely ever seen in their native bodies. You see, they greatly desire to indulge in all the material pleasures imaginable, but lack the physical body to do so. Their solution is to possess the corpses of dead mortals and they are quite patient in waiting until the perfect target becomes available. Seeking out recently dead corpses in great condition, physically attractive, having numerous social connections and whose death was undiscovered, they will wait years to ensure that their body is perfect. They then revel in debauchery whilst maintaining the guise of their host corpse and use their connections to ensure a steady stream of pleasure to indulge in. Experts at deception and impersonation, they often perfectly mimic the actions of the corpses they possess, successfully deceiving close friends and family. However, their demonic nature invariably leads to the unraveling of their facades as their desire for defilement leads them to act more and more out of character. They derive extreme pleasure from the terror of others and will make their bodies act in unholy ways: such as turning the head 360 degrees, puking blood, snapping limbs entirely backwards, and having maggots and rotgrubs burst from their eyes. In combat, they possess the statistics of whatever creature they possess and can only be killed if their true form is destroyed, however they are quick to flee and jump into more corpses to avoid such a fate.

When using a Dybbuk, have their presence be hinted at by many seemingly unconnected events happening. People going missing, local breweries out of stock when the party wants a drink, fresh corpses turning up with horrific injuries, a rise in disease spreading and a sharp increase in the economy of a city, all of which its revelry is directly responsible for. A great tool can be to have the Dybbuk possess an NPC friend of the party that they weren’t aware died and keep subtly dropping hints at the shift in their personality, giving the party a chance to unmask the Dybbuk if they’re observant, making for a terrifying reveal as it uses its horrific powers if they don’t catch on. Not the kind to have a grand goal, they are often ‘encouraged’ by stronger demons to cause chaos in cities and areas they seek to control, but a Dybbuk is really only in it for the fun of it.

Glabrezu (CR 9) are an interesting marriage of physical power and manipulation. Despite their impressive physical stature, they choose to act behind the scenes, preferring to corrupt and tempt mortals rather than butcher them. They tempt weak willed and ambitious mortals with promises of great wealth, influence, and power, acquiring large hoards of money, magical items, and similar materialistic items to use as bargaining chips. Deals with them invariably end in the ruining of the mortals life and often lead to them suffering eternally in the Abyss for their foolishness. Viewing combat as often a waste of their talents, they employ the help of many lesser demons to deal with violent problems. That said, they will not hesitate to annihilate their foes in combat should the need arise and with access to both powerful spellcasting and physical capabilities, they make for deadly combatants. With true sight and the ability to cast darkness at will, they often blind their opponents before grappling them with their massive claws and then ripping them to pieces.

Glabrezu make for great mid-game leaders and organizers, having much sway and influence over an ongoing conflict, but not being the ones in charge of everything. Often partaking in the schemes of stronger demons because of the opportunity it affords them to corrupt mortals and convert them to the cause. They typically care little for the actual schemes of others, typically helping out of convenience and coincidence. Even still, their ferocity and pride makes extracting intel from a defeated Glabrezu impossible, a feature many powerful demons gladly take notice of. In particular, Balors (a Brute we’ll discuss next article) are quite fond of Glabrezu and will often give them important tasks and high ranking positions in their forces. 

The Mighty Glabrezu

Sibriex (CR 18) are some of the nastiest Demons in existence and I don’t just mean physically. Averaging 15 feet in height, yet somehow being composed entirely of bloated heads covered in putrid flesh, they are unmistakable from any of their kin. Truly embodying the infinite horrors of the Abyss, they are constantly using their powers to sculpt flesh to create new amalgamations and monstrosities. They’re also on an eternal quest to learn all the mysteries of the multiverse, if only for them to use as leverage over the rest of existence. Viewing flesh like a sculptor would clay, they view the morphing of flesh as an art form, a form which they are proud masters of (now if only they used it to look less hideous). Vain and arrogant, yet possessing great intelligence, they had zero tolerance for beings attempting to be their equals and as such answer only to themselves and the absolute highest of authorities such as Demon Lords. Even then, they still seek to betray and/or overtake their superiors at every chance they can safely get away with. Sibriex are hosts to a variety of strange and potent abilities, possessing magic that can dominate and destroy the minds of lesser beings. Additionally, it emits an aura that corrupts not only the physical space around them, but also the egos of those inside so that they view the Sibriex as a perfect life form, losing their personality and self esteem. Most terrifying of its abilities however is the power to warp the flesh of creatures around it, turning them into Abyssal Wretches completely subservient to its will.

Considered a legendary creature, they also enjoy legendary actions and resistances, making them formidable adversaries. At such a high CR with such impressive abilities, these creatures can easily be the final boss of your campaign and with their unique abilities and tactics they can make for a truly memorable encounter. Their desire to constantly improve their standing leads them to always be on the lookout for useful slaves to do their bidding and this attitude can put the party on their radars depending on the actions they take. They often keep hoards of magical items that they themselves can’t use in order to bestow them to worthy servants and if the party earns their favor it may even bestow them with gifts (with strings attached of course). A Sibriex can become a powerful asset if the party aims to take down a powerful demon, but they must be fully prepared to also deal with the Sibriex as well, lest they become permanent servants to its will. 

The Nasty Sibriex

And… that’s a wrap! Let me know if you like the updated formatting I’ve added to this and if you have any suggestions for things to make it look even nicer. I genuinely hoped to cover both Brutes and Masterminds this time, but as you can see this article has already been quite lengthy (and not just because of the pictures I’ve added). Next week we’ll finish off this series on Demons with a dive into Brutes, how to use them in combat and a skeleton outline for a chain of command for demons, to give you an idea how to structure your campaign in a way that makes sense. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, and until next time, stay helly!

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