Best of the Beastiary, D&D

Demons Part 13: Shadow Demon (Best of the Bestiary)

Only three left… We’re nearing the end, folks! Then we get to talk about Devils for a few months! Then we get to talk about dinosaurs for a month! And that’s all before we go into the dragon’s den for another six months!

Oh god, I’m going to be on the D section for the entire year…

Getting back on track, let’s talk about the Shadow Demon. It’s definitely a unique monster when compared to the other demons. It has some interesting lore, a simple and cool design, and enough stats to make it challenging despite its low stats. I’m not quite sure I love it yet, but I do like it quite a bit!

Should a demon’s body be destroyed but its spirit somehow prevented from returning to the Abyss, the creature takes on this new form. Shadow Demons exist outside of the hierarchy of the Abyss, making them the most independent monster in the demonic catalog. They all but vanish in the darkness, moving without so much as a sound and without a trace. Rather than feasting on flesh, Shadow Demons prefer to use their claws to eat the victim’s fears, memories, and doubts. Only the most brilliant of lights can expose this monster and properly slay it.

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much you could do with this monster. But if you put your imagination cap on, you can find a lot of stuff! Perhaps a small village is unknowingly terrorized by one and the players need to hunt it down! Maybe the party finds themselves haunted by one after slaying a bigger demon! Or, if you want to tug at your player’s heartstrings, you could have an established NPC become haunted by a Shadow Demon, resulting in the slow degradation of their mental state! Sure, you can’t make one of these guys the main villain! But you could make a damn good sidequest out of these things!

Alright. We’re off to a strong start! Can the Shadow Demon keep up the pace? How’s its design?

Design: A Shadow of Its Former Self

Oh hi, Churnabog! When did you get here? I loved your work in Fantasia!

shadow-demon
Tell me this motherfucker isn’t just Churnabog!

This is not a super creative design. The wings, fangs, horns, and claws are all pretty typical and cliche demonic give-aways. Sure, it’s not a dark-red, muscular monster wreathed in flames! But this thing doesn’t look as unique as, say, the Nalfeshnee or the Marilith.

However, while this design certainly isn’t very creative, it is undoubtedly effective! You can glean a lot just by looking at this thing! Its shadowy, legless form hints at the creature’s literally dark nature! The claws immediately draw the eyes thanks to their size, which hints at its primary method of attack! Hell, even its cliche design helps make it work, as it hints at what the monster used to be! Its lack of creativity is made up for multiple times over by how effective it is!

Alright! We’re batting two-for-two! Can we get three? Is this thing fun to fight?

Stats: Smite it With the Power of SMITE!!

Holy shit! A monster with a vulnerability! I never thought I’d see the day!

Stat wise, this thing isn’t super intimidating. It has an AC of 13, which is hardly difficult to beat, and an average HP of 66. Its Claws are easily the most intimidating thing about it, dealing 10(2d6+3) damage or 17(4d6+3) if it had advantage on the attack roll. It’s essentially a glass cannon.

Unfortunately, they made this one out of that super strong reinforced glass that you always see in bad action movies.

This thing is resistant to basically everything, which cuts the damage it takes in two. If you want to hit it with cold, lightning, or poison magic, then tough luck; it’s completely immune to all three. Unless your weapons are enchanted, you won’t do much damage, even if you hit. Even then, you’d better hope it’s a holy enchantment. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

It also has a slew of abilities that make it tricky to fight. With Shadow Stealth, the monster can take a Hide action for a bonus action, so long as it’s standing in dim light or darkness. Incorporeal Movement allows it to pass through other creatures, dealing 5(1d10) damage if it ends its turn inside that creature. Like any good assassin, this monster specializes in hiding and striking while unseen.

However, this thing is far from invincible. It is vulnerable to radiant damage, making it a perfect target for paladins or clerics. Worse yet, it’s sensitive to light, giving it disadvantage on attack and perception rolls while it’s in bright light. In the dark, this thing is basically invincible. But in the light? Total pushover.

This monster could make for a phenomenal fight! Throw the party into a dark area, put them up against a Shadow Demon, and see what they do! Will they tough it out and hope they can whittle it down before it kills them? Or will they explore other tactics and find its weaknesses? It inspires a ton of creative tactics on the part of the players which could make for a super memorable and fun fight!

Just don’t throw one against a higher-level party. They’ll be able to curb stomp this thing pretty easily.

Conclusion

Admittedly, I had pretty low expectations of the Shadow Demon going into this. But this thing really took me by surprise! Its lore is simple but interesting, the design is uncreative but incredibly effective, and its stats, both its strengths and its weaknesses, can make for an amazing battle! This has quickly become my favorite demon we’ve talked about so far!

With all that in mind, let’s put the Marilith on the Best of the Bestiary!

  1. Beholder
  2. Death Tyrant
  3. Couatl
  4. Behir
  5. Aboleth
  6. Chuul
  7. Chimera
  8. Death Knight
  9. Ankheg
  10. Shadow Demon <——–
  11. Marilith
  12. Aarackockra
  13. Azer
  14. Demilich
  15. Spectator
  16. Cambion
  17. Animated Armor
  18. Banshee
  19. Basilisk
  20. Bulette
  21. Cloaker
  22. Darkmantle
  23. Nalfeshnee
  24. Glabrezu
  25. Chasme
  26. Barlgura
  27. Balor
  28. Dretch
  29. Goristro
  30. Hezrou
  31. Manes
  32. Quasit
  33. Planetar
  34. Carrion Crawler
  35. Rug of Smothering
  36. Bugbear Chief
  37. Bugbear
  38. Vine Blight
  39. Twig Blight
  40. Needle Blight
  41. Bullywug
  42. Cockatrice
  43. Solar
  44. Deva
  45. Cyclops
  46. Centaur
  47. Flying Sword
  48. Crawling Claw

If the Shadow Demon had a more creative design, it could have ended up higher on the list. Still, landing in the top ten isn’t bad at all! It’s a simple but incredible monster that deserves its spot at the top of the list!

Until it ends up in the thirty range. Because I’m not gonna lie: pretty much all of the dragons are gonna end up in the top spots. Call me basic, but I love a good dragon. And Dungeons and Dragons have lots of those!

I wonder why that is.

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