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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to the Succubus

A succubus is a demon temptress who lures you in and kisses you or engages in "activities of passion" until you die. One of the most classic D&D tropes is when your heroes are exploring a dungeon and they find a poor, beautiful gal in a prison cell. They free her and before you know it, she is sapping the life out of you via level-draining kiss.

The intent of this article is to take a comprehensive look at a cool monster and to collect all of the lore in one place. In D&D, so much information is spread out in so many hard-to-find sources that I think it is handy for DMs to be able to have a nice outline to start with. This should help us run these monsters more effectively.

I've also listed many official succubus NPCs that might be handy to use in a campaign. I'm sure I've missed some obvious ones, but I tried my best.I'm also including some Pathfinder stuff because they do such a great job and it is very useful stuff for any campaign.

This is sort of a companion to my other succubus article, where I focus on Malcanthet and Nocticula (the awesome Pathfinder succubus queen). The main relevant info is in the Malcanthet section, detailing the "War of Ripe Flesh" (from Dragon Magazine #353).

Scandalous Content
I have tried my best to keep this column from getting too explicit, but there is a lot of art depicting half-naked ladies in here. There's no nipples but we get pretty close. So click away if that is not something you want to see! Googling succubus art is a slippery slope, let me tell you.

It is interesting to see that in the early days of D&D, there's a lot of official D&D art that includes topless succubi. As time goes on,the art has become less explicit. Mike Mearls discussed this a bit in an interview with The Escapist. Here's a quote:

"Mearls mentioned that the development team - including an art team consisting almost entirely of women - decided early on that they were going to avoid bare midriffs, cleavage, and other common gaming tropes. 'We only use those if a specific character would actually dress that way,' such as the demonic incubus and his six-pack abs."

Are they Demons or Devils?

I used to have a hard time keeping this straight. Here is my mantra:
  • Demons (Tanar'ri) are chaotic and come from The Abyss
  • Devils (Baatezu) are lawful and come from Hell
They are clearly demons in 1e, 2e and 3e.

AD&D 1st Edition
  • They are beautiful human women with bat wings.
  • Can only be harmed by magic weapons.
  • 70% magic resistance.
  • Their kiss drains the victim of one level (no saving throw).
  • They have all sorts of at-will powers: Charm Person, ESP, Suggestion, Shape Change (same height and weight).
  • They can gate in other demons! 70% chance it's a Nalfeshnee. 25% chance it's a Balor (!!). 5% chance it is a demon lord. A demon lord!
Belgos and Silussa

The original artist Jeff Dee re-drew this image in 2013. Check it out here.

Silussa appears in a classic adventure - Gary Gygax's Vault of the Drow. The adventurers step out of a tunnel mouth. There's a starry sky overhead. They're in a garden and a lovely grotto that has a "rose-surrounded statue of alabaster." It's a nude sculpture of a human female.

There are birds twittering in the trees. The PCs start to hear voices in their mind, sowing dissension. The heroes will start to be charmed one by one.

The statue is Silussa the succubus. The whole area is an illusion. The birds are bats and rats. Silussa's lover, the vampire Belgos, lurks nearby. This amuses me greatly: He is a master of rats and bats. They do his very bidding!

If our heroes survive this encounter, they can find a secret entrance to the couple's lair. In it is a charmed deep gnome, their servant. Their lair is overloaded with treasure, including:
  • Erotic sculptures!
  • A beautifully-wrought coffin.
  • A poisonous cloak.
  • Pipes of the Sewers (?).
What a great duo of NPCs. You could run them as villains utterly devoted to each other. That could be their weakness that the PCs can exploit. Or, they could secretly loathe each other, and do really cruel things to one another and then make up later. A villainous dysfunctional relationship.

AD&D 2nd Edition
Egad. Baxa really went to town with this drawing.
  • My, my, this descriptive text. Perfect figures! Smooth, milky skin. "They all share one thing with each other, though: uncommon loveliness."
  • Ho, ho! Get a load of this. They lure men into "activities of passion" and drain the life from them. The heat of the moment is so strong that the poor sap might not even notice he is being level drained  (wisdom check -4 penalty).
  • They can plane shift once per round.
  • 40% chance of summoning a balor.
  • Immune to fire, never surprised, hit by +2 weapons or better.

Well of Worlds is a book full of Planescape adventures. I ran most of these way back when, and they were awesome. "Love Letter" is an adventure about a devil named Kas'rarlin who is in love with a succubus (demon).

The two met when the devil led a raid into the Abyss. Kas'rarlin fell in love with her instantly. His subordinates tried to kill her, so he defended her and killed them.

Kas'rarlin sends her one love letter a year. Our heroes are hired to deliver this year's letter.

This adventure features what became a mega-popular NPC in my game: a talking skull on a pike. My PCs "kept" him and he endured over several campaigns, outliving many characters.

Chiryn puts a special perfume on her return note. If the PCs steal stuff from her tower (which as a lot of cool encounters in it) she neglects to put the perfume on it. When he PCs give Kas'rarlin the return note without the perfume, he assumes it's a fake and tries to kill the PCs.

Succubi are horrible mothers. Horrible! This NPC appeared in Dungeon Magazine #55, in the gigantic Chris Perkins-penned adventure "Umbra" (I ran this adventure and wrote summaries of it here).

Karylin is a succubus who lives in Curst, a town right on the edge of the plane of Carceri. She charmed a fellow who was a member of the Harmonium (a faction devoted to order) to make a baby due to " irresistible desire which maternal succubi refer to as 'The Urge'." Six months later, she gave birth to an alu-fiend named Umbra.

Karylin found out that there's a demon lord named Kalphazor who resides on an Abyssal plane called Phurnis. Kalphazor has an "insatiable desire for alu-fiend slaves." Kalphazor was known to give chunks of his realm over to those who brought him alu-fiends.

So, yeah, this adventure is about Karylin trying to sell her daughter, Umbra, to a demon lord. Making things more complicated, Umbra might be destined to become a great god, according to a prophesy.


This NPC, I believe, first appeared in the popular "Planescape: Torment" computer game and has since been referred to in official D&D RPG lore.

Fall-From-Grace is a lawful neutral succubus whose demon mother (Red Shroud, detailed below) sold her to devils. Fall-From-Grace earned her freedom by challenging a devil to a game of improvisation (?) and won.

She fled to the city of Sigil and joined the Society of Sensation. She runs the Brothel of Slaking Intellectual Lusts, where the staff offers intellectual and emotional stimulation, rather than physical.

Her kiss is allegedly fatal.

D&D 3rd Edition
Check out this flavor: "This creature is stunning, statuesque, and extraordinarily beautiful, with flawless skin and raven hair. Her form, so tempting, also has an otherworldly side. Large bat wings unfurl from her back, and her eyes glow with sinister desire."
  • Now they have telepathy.
  • They can polymorph into humanoid forms, stay that way indefinitely.
  • The kiss comes with a suggestion effect. A PC must make a hefty Will save or continue making out with her.
  • Charm Monster.
  • 30% chance to summon a vrock (far cry from a balor).
  • She has a permanent tongues effect - she can speak any language.
Red Shroud

Red Shroud is detailed in Dungeon Magazine #148. She is the daughter of two demon lords - Malcanthet and Pazuzu. She rules a place in the first layer of the Abyss known as Broken Reach, which is a small community built around several crumbling towers.

She has crimson hair and large bat wings. She has four hezrou bodyguards. She loves poison, especially slow-acting poison that make people more susceptible to her charms.

She is sought out often when information is needed and is a powerful spellcaster, able to cast up to 7th level spells. And yeah, it actually says in the text that she sold off her daughter, Fall-From-Grace.

Eludecia the Succubus Paladin

I had no idea this NPC existed until I started working on this article. In 2005, Wizards of the Coast did a monster tournament where fans voted on who was the best. The victor won out over a gelatinous cube, a warforged ninja, and the tarrasque (!!). The winner: succubus paladin.

The Paladin's stats were posted online. Her name was Eludecia. She was a succubus that fell in love with an angel. The angel taught her how to be good over the course of years. Now she is a full-fledged paladin, fighting back her evil nature every day.

Wizards published an adventure about her called Legend of the Silver Skeleton. It's pretty crazy. An enemy of Eludecia captured her and threw her in a gelatinous cube. What a great NPC!

D&D 4th Edition

They made a strange choice in 4e: Succubi are now devils.

Their kiss is now a charming kiss. You can't attack her, and if someone else does, the charmed person jumps in the way to take the hit. She can also dominate targets at will (which is a nasty effect in 4e). Most of the other old abilities are gone.

I am sitting here wracking my brain and I can't think of any named succubi to appear in a 4e product. There's one in Dungeon #197 - Shadowghast Manor - but she's just a monster in a room.

One place that comes to mind is one of my favorite planar locations - the city of Hestavar.

Hestavar is detailed in Dragon Magazine #371. It is a city in the astral sea founded by Pelor (God of the Sun) Erathis (Goddess of Civilization) and Ioun (Goddess of Magic). The city is populated by angels, exalted souls, devas and... devils. Devils are allowed to live in Hestavar under a special pact. The idea is to try to enlighten the devils and change their ways.

Naberius Sain

Naberius Sain is a gregarious and charming succubus who runs the embassy of the Nine Hells in Hestavar. She often mingles with the angels and the exalted. Naberius is referred to as a 'sometimes male', but there's a picture of what looks like a female and it is too good to go to waste.

Naberius Sain pulls off some diabolical plots in Hestavar, but is able to keep from getting caught. She answers to Glasya of the Nine Hells.

Dragon Magazine #417 - Ecology of the Succubus

Finally! Somehow it took four editions to get an ecology article.

In the beginning of time, there were these Angels of Love. "With a single chaste kiss, an angel of love fulfilled all mortal desires.." The archangel Asmodeus had been chosen by the gods to guard the prison of the Chained God Tharizdun. Asmodeus convinced the angels to join him and rebel against the gods.

The rebellion failed and they fled to Hell. The angels were transformed into succubi. "They suffer under an acute physical addiction - a sustained, insatiable desire for the touch of flesh that only a kiss will ameliorate."

Two of the first succubi both wanted to be Asmodeus' consort. They were Lilith and Malcanthet. Asmodeus played them off of each other. These days Lilith is a devil a consort to Baalzebul in the 7th layer of Hell.

Malcanthet led a band of devils into the Abyss and took control of an Abyssal Layer. She named it Shendilavri and transformed it into a paradise. She declared herself the Queen of the Succubi and has gone on to become a full-fledged demon lord.

This somewhat contradicts Dragon Magazine #353, where it is told that Malcanthet won "The War of Ripe Flesh." I think you can reconcile all of it with a little tweaking. 

Here's the explanation as to why the succubus is now a devil:

Those kissed by a succubus experience immortal emptiness.

Atonement: A succubus can redeem herself by walking a path of atonement, living a chaste and virtuous life and countering each bad deed with seven good deeds.

One succubus has done this: Fall-From-Grace. The author of this article had a little more to say in his blog here.

D&D 5th Edition
  • A Succubus is now neither a devil or a demon. They work for both sides. Some work for the devil Asmodeus, and others work for the demon Graz'zt.
  • They can shift into an Incubus (male) form at will.
  • They corrupt their victims by making them commit three betrayals: of thought, word and deed.
  • The more virtuous the victim, the more rewarding it is for the succubus.
  • When they reproduce with a mortal, the child is a cambion.
  • Their kiss is painful. It doesn't drain a level (I don't think there is such a thing in this edition). Instead, it does 32 points of damage and reduces the victim's hit point max by that amount until a long rest.
  • They can charm people. The charm lasts a day. The succubus can telepathically communicate with them, even from another plane.
Really great lore for the 5th edition version!


Pencheska appears in the "D&D Next" adventure Scourge of the Sword Coast as well as in Dead in Thay. Pencheska somehow survived everything in my game at the store, and apparently is still running around out there in the Forgotten Realms somewhere.

Pencheska is bound to a Red Wizard named Tarul Var. In this adventure, she seduces NPCs and wreaks havoc in the town of Daggerford. She is also an ally of another villain, a pit fiend spirit. She is actually OK with being killed, because she will appear back in her home plane and is no longer bound to Tarul Var.

I found Pencheska to be a very dull NPC, especially considering she's a succubus. 


Demons Revisited

In Pathfinder, a succubus is an entirely different entity than an incubus. A succubus can assume a male form and father children, though. 

When a succubus tempts, corrupts and life drains a mortal, their souls are sent to the Abyss (regardless of their alignment). There they become larvae.

Creating Demons: Alternately, a succubus can bring a mortal's life energy to a "pulsing, sac-like organ" in the Abyss and create nearly any type of demon with it. The strength of the demon depends on the potency of the mortal essence.

How to Summon a Succubus: You'll need to cast planar ally, planar binding or summon monster VI. You'll need these ingredients:
  • Expensive incense.
  • Candles rendered from the bodies of beautiful women or handsome men.
  • You might even need to provide the succubus with a " to ravish.." Egad.
Succubus Babies: A succubus can become pregnant. If the child is conceived while the succubus is in humanoid form and she retains that form for the whole pregnancy, the child is a half-succubus (I'll explain what these are down below).

If a succubus becomes pregnant in her true form, or if she reverts to her true form while pregnant, she gives birth to an Alu-Demon.

Mortal women impregnated by a succubus who took the form of a man give birth to half-succubi.

Half-Succubus: Basically, they're just a weaker version of a regular succubus. Many of them run brothels or become spies and assassins. They have some powers:
  • Passion: They can drain life from people that she lures into an act of passion.
  • Change Shape: She can assume forms of humanoids like the alter self spell.
Profane Temptations: A succubus can grant a "profane gift" to mortals. Basically, a mortal can establish a link to her and use her power through it. The downside is that the mortal is much more easily influenced by the succubus, and in some cases she can even read the mortal's mind. These gifts include:
  • Gift of Transformation: The person gains the ability to change shape.
  • Gift of Domination: The person can use the succubus power to dominate others.
  • Gift of Recovery: Once per day the person can reroll a Will save.
The Crimson Lotus

The Crimson Lotus was a close ally of Runelord Sorshen. Together, they studied the connection between blood and eternal life. Sorshen betrayed her 10,000 years ago during a cataclysmic event. To this day, Lotus awaits Sorshen's return so she can have her revenge.

Further Succubus Reading


Timothy Brannan said...

Wow! and I thought I enjoyed the Gith article a lot.

This is some great information, there is stuff here that I never even knew and I thought I had done some good research.

Keep up the great work here!

Sean said...

Timothy: Thanks! Your blogs were extremely helpful.

Shaun Ray said...

FYI The 4e adventure Infernal Wrath by Logan Bonner from Augast 2012, contained Askavan, a succubus patron to a tiefling hellbent on revenge over his brother's death.

Sean said...

Shaun Ray: Cool, I'll look it up! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Where exactly is this "attached image" of Elucedia and the Gelatinous cube? I looked everywhere in the link and in your article and I couldn't find anything like that.

Sean said...

Anonymous: I meant the image that contains the text from the adventure. As far as I know there is no actual art of Eludecia. I'll edit the text. Sorry for the confusion and thanks for reading.