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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Demogorgon

Demogorgon in Out of the Abyss
If you've seen the cover of the upcoming adventure, Out of the Abyss, you know that it features Demogorgon on the cover. As dungeon masters, our work is never done.  What do you say we get ready for the adventure right now by studying all of the Demogorgon D&D lore so we can be properly prepared to wow our players when the Rage of Demons storyline hits?

Demogorgon appears in the 5th edition adventure Out of the Abyss. You can buy it on amazon here:

Out of the Abyss (D&D Accessory)

Demogorgon, Prince of Demons

In Dungeons & Dragons, there's quite a bit of lore when it comes to demons and devils and it can be quite daunting to new players. In my experience, at one time it was pretty common to see dungeon masters use devils and demons together.

But they are, in fact, enemies, and each has their own epic story and home. To help my players keep this stuff straight, I always tell them this:
  • Demons (Tanar'ri) are chaotic and live in the Abyss.
  • Devils (Baatezu) are lawful and they live in hell.
Today I am going to write about a demon lord who is perhaps one of the great villains in all of Dungeons & Dragons. While Orcus is a bit more iconic, Demogorgon is perhaps the most threatening of them all.

In this article, I am going to go through each edition of Dungeons & Dragons and take a look at Demogorgon and how he was presented. The hope here is to provide a resource for those of us using Demogorgon, to have all the relevant lore in one place.

The Essential Information

Here's Demogorgon in a nutshell:
  • Demogorgon is the Prince of Demons - most powerful of all the demon lords.
  • He has two heads named Aameul and Hethadriah that secretly plot against each other.
  • He rules an abyssal layer called Gaping Maw.
  • He is close allies with the aquatic demon lord, Dagon. Dagon manipulates each of Demogorgon's heads to be paranoid of the other.
Demogorgon was originally described as having a head that looks either like a baboon or a mandril. Here's a baboon head. Here is a mandrill head.

Real Life Origins

The James Jacobs article in Dragon #357 sums it up perfectly, so here is a portion of it in image form:

AD&D 1st Edition

Demogorgon is 18 feet tall and has two heads "...which bear the visages of evil baboons or perhaps mandrills with the hideous coloration of the later named beasts". His two necks "resemble snakes". Demogorgon is insanely powerful:
  • He can hypnotize up to 100 creatures with his gaze with less than 15 hit dice with no saving throw!
  • The left head has the power of a rod of beguiling.
  • The right head can cause insanity, which lasts 10-60 minutes.
  • He has a forked tail that drains l1-4 levels of the people it hits!
  • If he hits you with his arm tentacles, a limb on your body will rot off in 6 rounds, which permanently removes 35% of your hit points.
  • He's got every psionic power, 95% magic resistance and a paragraph of spell-like abilities.
I believe that his 200 hit points  makes him the most powerful creature in all of 1st edition AD&D.

Dragon Magazine #36

In this issue is a small humorous column called "Meeting Demogorgon" that is about what would happen if your party said Demogorgon's name out loud, and Demogorgon appeared. "In a loud, deep, doomsday roar he thunders, WHO CALLS UPON DEMOGORGON, PRINCE OF DEMONS, RULER OF THE ABYSSAL, THE INVINCIBLE HORROR?!?!"

There's a list of responses which includes things like:
  • Point to someone else in the party and say, “He did it!”
  • Convert to his religion immediately.
  • Try to convert him (“Hey, wanna be lawful good?”)
  • Offer up one of your companions as an involuntary sacrifice.
So yeah, that was in Dragon.

Dragon Magazine #79

This issue has an article on saints of different D&D entities. One of them is Saint Kargoth, a fallen paladin transformed into a death knight by Demogorgon.
  • He has a sword called Gorgorin the Shatterer. When he hits you with it, you make a saving throw or be disintegrated! He eventually lost it and has been searching for it ever since.
  • Kargoth travels in a glowing green chariot pulled by 6 nightmares.
  • He's got a massive pile of powers and abilities. Supposedly he is nearly as powerful as Demogorgon.
AD&D 2nd Edition

Demogorgon was presented in Monster Mythology, one of the blue-covered DM books. He is categorized as a "Lesser God".
  • He is worshiped by ixixachitl, which are a race of evil, sentient vampiric manta rays. When these creatures energy drain other creatures, some of that energy goes right to Demogorgon, empowering him further.
  • He can create avatars of himself, which are 18 feet tall but much weaker than his 1st edition form.
  • He hates Sekolah (god of the sahuagin).
The concept of an ixixichatl priest is so bizarre to me. But that's mostly what this Demogorgon entry is about.

D&D 3rd Edition

Demogorgon first appears in the Book of Vile Darkness. The art depicts him very differently.
  • Demogorgon is known as "Lord of all that Swims in Darkness".
  • Each of his heads has its own name: Aamaeul and Hethadriah. Each head secretly plots agains the other.
  • Aameul actually wants to split from the other head, out of selfishness and jealousy.
  • Demogorgon's forces are comprised of hezrous, balors, mariliths, aboleths, scrags and skum.
  • He wages war with Grazzt and Orcus.
  • The text actually says he has hyena heads.
  • His symbol is of a forked tail, wrapped around a sword or skull.
Why the Hyena Heads?

Monte Cook was asked about Demogorgon's altered 3rd edition appearance on his forum.

His response: "Demogorgon's heads is the result of a terrible error. I take full responsibility. I thought it said "baboon" or "mandril" until it came out and I saw if for myself."

Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss

Demogorgon is explicitly said to have baboon heads. Troglodytes worship him as Ahmon-Ibor, the Sibilant Beast. Yuan-ti know him as Siosicash. The ixixichitl don't speak his name out loud.

We get a few pages that detail Demogorgon's Abyssal Layer, "The Gaping Maw". It is a vast, primordial jungle with an abyssal sea. Monsters living here include bar-lguras, nalfeshnees, troglodytes and demonic dinosaurs including spinosauruses with scar-riddled bodies that bear the personal seal of Demogorgon.

Abysm: This is where Demogorgon lives. Abysm is two connected towers rising out of the sea, each topped with a fanged skull. They actually extend so deep underwater that they connect to Dagon's layer, Shadowsea.

Lemoriax: This is a crumbling city dotted with ziggurats that is home to tens of thousands of savage demons. Demogorgon often climbs onto the tallest step pyramid to shout blasphemous declarations. Lemoriax is well-known for having thriving, diverse slave markets. 

Bastion of Broken Souls

The Cathezar
This is a high level adventure made for D&D 3.0. One of Demogorgon's heads, Aameul, thinks it has found a way to slay the other head without destroying itself. He thinks if he can slay a red dragon named Ashardalon, who is feeding on preincarnate souls, and absorb its soul, Demogorgon might survive the death of the other head.

To kill the dragon Ashardalon (who has a demon heart beating in his chest), Demogorgon needs the blood of one of the heroes of your group! Agents of one head are out to get the PC, agents of the other head are trying to help the party. Pretty crazy.

Aameul's main agent is The Cathezar. She is a half-demon, half-devil. She looks like a marilith with chains - so I'd assume she's a cross between a marilith and a kyton.

Hethadriah's main agent is Nurn, a death slaad (!!). He is a master of stealth who can magically alter himself to appear as a human male with blonde hair and green eyes.

Dungeon Magazine #120

The Lost Temple of Demogorgon is an adventure is for high level characters (14th level!). It involves a dungeon full of demonic apes that worship demogorgon and a death knight who wants to reverse his condition.

There's a magic anvil called the Dread Forge. It was created by Demogorgon to turn dinosaurs into thinking, reptilian humanoids. It is powered by sacrifices. Spellcasters can use it to bestow all sorts of enchantments on items. The Dread Forge can create flaming weapons, enchanted armor, rings of protection, and bracers of armor among other things. Crazy! All items are "demon-tainted", meaning that the items radiate evil and drain levels from good and lawful individuals who try to wield them.

Dragon Magazine #357

Demogorgon: Prince of Demons is is a gigantic, definitive article by the great James Jacobs. It covers everything you need to know about Demogorgon. It starts off by detailing Demogorgon's origin, which goes like this:

First there were the obyriths - hideous proto-demons led by Obox-Ob. Then the Queen of Chaos ran them off and created the tanar'ri (demons).

The very first tanar'ri was Demogorgon. She thought he was defective, more or less, and cast him aside. Other demon lords rose up that were more to her liking, including Miska the Wolf Spider, but Miska and the Queen of Chaos were chased off by the eladrin.

This means there was a power vacuum. Many onlookers assumed that either Orcus or Grazzt would duke it out and claim the mantle of Prince of Demons. But instead, Demogorgon came out of nowhere and took over.

Then we get a massive list of Demogorgon's schemes. One of them involves a demon lord I've never heard of before: Zuregurex,  Lord of the Drowned Dead. He rules the 480th layer of the Abyss, Guttlevech, a realm of endless shipwrecks, hurricanes and blood-soaked beaches. How awesome is that?

Demogorgon's allies include his "advisor", Dagon, Zuggtmoy, and Ilsidahur, the demon lord of bar-lguras.

We even get a discussion of Demogorgon's girlfriends, which includes Malcanthet, Queen of the Succubi. They have made many hideous offspring, including a beast named Arendagrost ("The Maw of the Abyss", who appears in Dungeon #150).

Verakia, a demonic dinosaur
There's piles more - details on Demogorgon's cult (including some really disturbing stuff where a demon makes you eat part of your own brain), minions, and a demonic tyrannosaurus known as a verakia.

Dungeon Magazine issues #139 - #150

The Savage Tide adventure Path is all about Demogorgon. His followers are creating these shadow pearls, which are like bombs. When they explode, they turn the surrounding land into a realm similar to Gaping Maw, weakening the boundaries between the prime material plane and the Abyss. All of the people in the bomb's radius transform into Demogorgon-worshiping monsters.

It turns out that this plot is part of a scheme by one of Demogorgon's heads to transmute and absorb the other head.

In issue #147, there is an adventure called "Into the Maw". In it, our heroes use a magic item known as a wakeportal (a crystal tear you can embed into your sailing ship) to travel to Gaping Maw. There, the heroes explore Divided's Ire, a prison. Our heroes must break their friend out!

The whole campaign culminates in "Prince of Demons", which is in Dungeon #150, the final printed issue of Dungeon Magazine. In this adventure, the adventurers lead an army on an assault on Demogorgon's layer. The heroes' army may include Orcus himself!

This adventure is pretty much as epic it gets.

D&D 4th Edition

Demogorgon actually made the cover of Monster Manual 2! (D&D Supplement) Not too shabby.
  • His followers now include kuo toa.
  • Mortal cults of Demogorgon are war bands who wander from town to town, burning and looting. They destroy all they see.
  • His stats retain most of the core concepts, though the gaze attacks are severely weakened. He gets two full turns each round, because of his two heads
  • Aameul prefers deception, Hethadriah favors destruction.
  • Originally Demogorgon had one head and one mind, but the deity Amoth nearly split him in two. I assume this was during the Dawn War, the ancient battle between gods and primordials that is the backbone of the 4e story.
  • Twins are revered by the cults, and often end up leading the cults. The cults usually destroy themselves when the twins turn on each other. What a great idea.
Demogorgon's Brother?

I usually try to stick to official D&D stuff for these guides, but in this case it involves Gary Gygax writing about Demogorgon in a Greyhawk novel. Seems worth a mention to me! Gary Gygax wrote a series of novels starring Gord the Rogue. Demogorgon appears in his "Gord the Rogue" books. In them, it is said that Demogorgon has a brother named Mandrillagon.

I don't own most of these books. Mandrillagon is described here on this fantastic Gord resource page: "This demon lord is a monstrous, blue-faced parody of a mandril. He has filthy yellow-gray fangs and speaks in roars, coughing, and barking. He controls two planes with his winged monkey demons. He is a long ally and blood kin of Demogorgon, whom he fears."

Demogorgon is a bit different in the Gord Books. His gaze attacks come out as beams from his eyes. One head shoots green beams, the others shoots maroon. He also owns an artifact known as a Venom Fountain. Seems like you might be able to do something cool with this.

Demogorgon Links

Tim Brannan has an article on his version of Demogorgon, which has some cool ideas in it. I particularly like the idea of the Blood Apes.

There is a fantastic article on Demogorgon here on the D&D site. It even covers the version of Demogorgon in the D&D basic set.

Zak S. wrote a giant article discussing Demogorgon, and he came up with a huge system of covens who read codexes to gain random mutations.

Check out this 4e Demogorgon cartoon, too.


Patrick Henry Downs said...

Let's not forget Zak Smith's contributions

faoladh said...

"The concept of an ixixichatl priest is so bizarre to me."

It shouldn't be. The first description of Ixitxachitl, in Supplement II: Blackmoor, was as follows, "A race of Chaotic Clerical Philosophers, they resemble Manta Rays (i.e. having a flat blanket-like form) with one in ten being a vampire equivalent (affected by any holy or blessed item, not just a cross)." They've always been priests and vampires.

Timothy Brannan said...

Awesome as always! I didn't even notice that you had linked to my Demogorgon until a second reading.

Sean said...

Patrick Henry Downs: Wow, Zak really went to town. I will add his link into the article. Thank you for pointing it out!

Faoladh: I did not know that! I guess what I meant is just that the entire concept of vampiric manta ray priests is way out there and amusing.

Timothy Brannan: Thanks!

faoladh said...

It's one of the reasons that I love ixitxachitl almost as much as the gith/illithid crowd. I also connect them, for some reason, with the sahuagin (probably because they were introduced in the same supplement, are aquatic, and have Mesoamerican-style names).

Ross M Kitson said...

Great blog post. Didn't Demogorgon also pop up in a Dragonlance short story with Tasslehoff?
And now, of course, gets totalled by a fireball in Stranger Things: must have been some high level fireball !!!

Sean said...

Ross M Kitson: I googled it. You're right! In the book Magic of Krynn, Tasslehoff frees Demogorgon, who was bound by a sorcerer. I had no idea. I might see if I can find that book. My brother might have it. Thanks!