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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to the Hezrou

by Mike Schell
I am gearing up to run four classic Monte Cook adventures, all converted to 5th edition. As I prepare them, I have noticed that Monte uses certain monsters in every single module. I guess they're his favorites? The monsters: Retrievers, gray renders, and hezrous.

I have never liked hezrous, but I decided that I need to embrace them. If I'm running a series of awesome Monte Cook adventures, then I should try to deliver an authentic Monte Cook experience, right? It turns out that this experience apparently includes using hezrous.

Let's go through the core books of each edition, and then branch out into whatever I can find after that. I'm sure I missed hezrou appearances in all sorts of products, but the goal here is to figure out what their deal is and how they can be used.

If I missed any particularly cool hezrou appearances, please let me know.

AD&D 1st Edition Monster Manual

In 1st edition, demons were often referred to by "type". For example, a type I demon was a chasme. A type VI demon is a balor. Hezrous are a type II demon. Check it out:
  • Type I: Vrock
  • Type II: Hezrou
  • Type III: Glabrezu
  • Type IV: Nalfeshnee
  • Type V: Marilith
  • Type VI: Balor
Those are the core demons in D&D history! Weird, right? A nalfeshnee? So, here is what we learn about type II demons:
  • They resemble 7-foot-tall "gross toads" with arms in place of forelegs.
  • They can create magical darkness.
  • They can cause fear, levitate, detect invisible, use telekineses, and summon other type II demons (20% chance of success).
  • They will eat human flesh.
  • They do have psionic powers, of the 1st edition variety.
That's it! Short and sweet. I'm interested to see what kind of lore they come up with for these monsters in future editions.

AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix

by Tom Baxa

We get a pretty sweet piece of Baxa art. I was wondering if an artist would draw stink lines, but nope. Just splashy water. Quick note: In 2e, demons are referred to as "tanar'ri" due to the Satanic Panic. In 2e, we learn:
  • Hezrou serve the nalfeshnee.
  • They wander the Abyss and oversee the formation of armies.
  • They communicate with telepathy.
  • They like to bear hug and bite enemies.
  • Stench: Their skin emits a foul liquid. Anyone within 10 feet must save or be overcome by the stench, unable to attack, helpless on the ground, gagging and vomiting. Even if you make your save, you have -2 on most rolls!
  • They have a ton of spells, including animate object, blink, unholy word, and summon insects.
  • They take half damage from normal weapons.
  • "They are impossible to surprise." Huh. Why?
  • Hezrou are less advanced than other demons. They are not especially intelligent or intuitive.
The Dark Walk: "During certain times of a century, the hezrou are given the ability to plane shift at will." During these times, they make pacts with mortals. They will serve a mortal but exact a heavy toll - usually the eternal subservience of the mortal or someone close to them.

Their job is to walk the Abyss and enforce the directions of the higher true tanar'ri.

Blood War Role: Hezrou enforce the will of the tanar'ri.

AD&D 2nd Edition Planescape Monstrous Compendium I
by Tony DiTerlizzi

There are a few changes in here. Tanar'ri are now divided up a bit further, categorized according to how powerful they are:
  • Least: Dretch, manes, rutterkin.
  • Lesser: Alu-fiend, bar-lgura, cambion, succubus.
  • Greater: Babau, chasme, nabassu, "water lord."
  • True: Balor, glabrezu, hezrou, marilith, nalfeshness, vrock.
  • Guardian: Molydeus.
Hezrou are true tanar'ri! What does that mean? "These classifications actually mean little in their lives. They are merely broad estimates of destructive power."

OK. I have one other question. See the list of greater tanar'ri? What the hell is a water lord? I have no idea whatsoever. Flipping through the book, I see that a water lord is another name for a wastrilith! Mystery solved.

Dark Walk Note: The hezrou entry in this book is slightly different from the Outer Planes Appendix version. In this, those mortals who make pacts with a hezrou turn into demons known as manes.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition Monster Manual

Check it out! The hezrou now has weird metal plates embedded in it. I really love the way they look.

Their description is pretty much the same as in 2e, except that they're 8 feet tall now. They grew a foot in a single edition, not too shabby.

Their stench now nauseates foes. Even if you make the save, you are only sickened. That's it! No explanation of the metal. Man... nobody cares about the hezrou.

3e Book of Vile Darkness

In the entry of the demon lord Juiblex, it says that hezrous pay him fealty by bringing him victims for his slimy brood to hunt and feed on.

Juiblex has a black pudding servant named Darkness Given Hunger. "It was possessed by a hezrou demon at Juiblex's command..." The demon has become one with the pudding, and is now the main servant of Juiblex. It patrols Juiblex's layer, looking for food.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Monster Manual

by Sam Wood

I love the art on this one. They still have the metal plates, but I am not finding any explanation of what they are.

I'm actually starting to feel sorry for the hezrou. It's like nobody cares enough about them to give them any attention. In this, we get a very bare-bones rundown of what they are:
  • Obedient, loathsome, eager servants of powerful demons and summoners.
  • Their stench aura gives a -2 and if the hezrou is bloodied, the aura also weakens foes.
  • They can phase through difficult terrain.
  • Lore: They are numerous, expendable, powerful, and focus on simple tasks.
  • Hezrous are easy to please if there is abundant food they can kill.
That is it! Sheesh. They've been in D&D so long. Let's see if we can find any more hezrou stuff in other 4e books.

4e Manual of the Planes

The hezrou gets a nice big piece of art. It is credited to William O'Connor, but I think that is a mistake, as this looks nothing like his other work.

Again.. the hezrou with the metal looks really cool! I'm bummed to find that they only get two tiny little mentions in this book:
  1. Hezrous can be found in Demogorgon's screaming Jungle. 
  2. Sometimes, they serve Grazz't.
I figured there would be some hezrou stuff in Plane Below. Nope! Just a few mentions, nothing meaningful.

Nothing in the 4e Book of Vile Darkness, either. This is depressing.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Monster Manual

The 5e redesign was by Christopher Burdett, but I can't figure out who did the official art.

What the?! They got rid of the metal plates!! I liked them! They looked cool. I can't take this hezrou abuse much longer. I mean, they're one of the original demons! Type II, dammit! That's gotta mean something, right?

Let's see what they have for us in 5e.
  • They have magic resistance.
  • Their stench now poisons people who are within 10 feet.
  • Hezrous are foot soldiers in the demonic hordes of the Abyss.
  • They are weak-minded and can be duped into sacrificing themselves for more powerful demons.
Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus

They did something real interesting in this adventure. They redesigned the demons who served Yeenoghu, demon god of gnolls, so that they looked more like him! This is what Yeenoghu's hezrou look like:
by Max Dunbar
How about that for a wild idea?! And, just in case you're interested, this is what a Yeenoghu balor looks like:

by Max Dunbar

I really like the idea that demons linked to a particular demon lord look similar to that demon lord. In this case, it's a bit weird. The hezrou's entire deal is that it stinks and looks like a toad. As presented here, the hezrou is a mangy hyena. Unrecognizable as a hezrou!

I think the problem lies in the fact that the hezrou has so few identifiable traits. All it has is body odor and toad-y goodness. 

Anyway... on page 142 of this adventure, the heroes defend a place called Idyllglen from Yeenoghu's demons, who come in waves. Among the rampaging demons is a hezrou, who might kill a mastiff and force open some temple doors.

Also, I want to mention again how much I love the Descent Into Avernus dice set. It's got a map and all the concept art... the box is lined with felt.. it's great IMO.

That's it! I find myself rooting for the hezrou. They've been around far too long to be this neglected.

Let's go through these Monte Cook adventures and see how they are used.

Dungeon Magazine #84 - The Harrowing

This adventure is about Lolth's daughter. She's got an evil scheme, and the adventurers need to go into the Demonweb Pits to stop her.

As they are exploring the Demonweb, the adventurers come upon a room with a pool of water in it. 4 vrocks swoop down and try to throw the heroes into the pool. A hezrou lurks beneath the water.

Later, the group comes across a sailing ship that was pulled into the Demonweb. In one area of the ship, two hezrous are rummaging through crates and sacks, looking for food.

There are more hezrous in the actual Demonweb Pits (which lie below the demonweb, collecting anything that falls from it). The sides of the pits are made from "impenetrable darkness". Hezrous actually "swim" in this darkness.

Demon God's Fane

OK, so this is not an 'official' D&D product, but it's made by Monte Cook for 3rd edition (and he's one of the designers of 3rd edition!).

Demon God's Fane is about a massive statue in a lake. The statue is of a demon lord named Ochremeshk, and it has a dungeon inside of it! A hezrou named Lasteresh has escaped the dungeon and is exploring the village that is right next to the lake.

His lair inside the statue has a water tank with red runes on it.  The runes say, in Abyssal, "The drowning screams that come from the murders in this pool are yours, oh mighty Ochremeshk."

A Paladin in Hell

This is an epic adventure in which the group must sail a demon boat into hell, bust into a hell-fortress and rescue a paladin.

On the demon boat, there are a number of rooms. One holds a 20-foot-tall statue of a froglike, scaly demon and a waterfall (this is a magic boat, obviously). In the murky water are 2 hezrou and... a water lord! Also known as a wastrilith.

One hezrou has a bracer of watery fire: It allows fire spells to do full damage under water.

The submerged hezrou lair is nearby. In it, 6 skeletal corpses hang from chains. They were former intruders who were hung on the wall and eventually drowned when their water breathing spells ran out. "Now they serve as decor."

OK... I am still not satisfied with what I've dug up on the hezrou. I see that the forgotten realms wikia has a great entry on the hezrou. Apparently, these monsters have appeared in quite a few novels. The wikia says that there's a hezrou mention here:

Dungeon Magazine #359 - Demonomicon of Iggwilv: Apocrypha

In this article, there is a claim that Demogorgon spontaneously came into being when the first evil mortal soul arrived at the Abyss. This contradicts previous claims that the Queen of Chaos created Demogorgon before she discarded him and created Miska the Wolf-Spider.

It says that the first tanar'ri had few, if any, humanoid aspects. "Other tanar'ri bear the mark of sibriex alterations and have an almost mechanical aspect to parts of the bodies (such as the hezrou and goristro and glabrezu, both of which have half-organic armor plating under their flesh)."

The sibriex! That's cool.

The forgotten realms wikia reminds me to check one of my favorite sourcebooks of all time:

Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss
by Tom Baxa
Wow. Lots of tidbits!

There is a discussion of roles demons can play. Hezrous are described as effective "brutes." When discussing "overlords", the book says: "The ultimate demon Overlord has always been the balor, but adventurers are more likely to encounter a number of hezrou demons acting as Abyssal sergeants before they ever confront one of those nightmarish beings. A hezrou knows how to organize underlings. On the Material Plane, it often uses its above-average intellect and impressive size to recruit less intelligent mortal followers, such as hill giants, trolls, and ogres."

Hezrou Rubric: A rubric is a collection of loose pages containing the names of specific kinds of fiends. "Greenish-gray in color, this page is a piece of leathery parchment that is always coated in a film of slime." The possessor can cast gaseous form 3 times per day.

Pazunia Encounter: Pazunia (the first layer of the Abyss, also known as the Plain of 1,000 Portals) gets a whole chart of encounters! One of them involves two hezrou taskmasters leading a group of chained human and halfling slaves. They would rather cut a deal than fight.

Demonweb Encounter: 3 hezrous unexpectedly burst from a doorway, mindlessly defending the Demonweb under the psychic suggestion of Lolth.

Twelvetrees Encounter: Four robed hezrou pilgrims wander from a Pazunia gate to an appropriate place to worship. Twelvetrees is a place where twelve devas were sacrificed, and it has permanently altered the layer.

Expedition to the Demonweb Pits

by James Zhang
That Pazunia encounter reminded me that there's a hezrou encounter in this adventure! It's got art and everything.

Grazz't rules three Abyssal layers, collectively known as the Triple Realm of Azzagrat. On one layer, hezrous own mansions in a place called Fogtown. They also work on the docks near the River of Salt.

Side Quest: A succubus wants to hire someone to kill off her hezrou master.

The Frogfaced Slaver: When the group gets near Grazz't's city of Zelatar, they have an encounter. A hezrou is leading a long line of slaves. "A fat, froglike demon walks along this line of bleeding, dazed demons, slapping each of the creatures and putting shackles on those who show signs of resistance." The hezrou sees the group and immediately tries to enslave them.

Living Greyhawk - Every Passing Breeze

Teos Abadia was nice enough to point out this adventure, written by Greg Marks. Teos apparently played through this and ended up with his character being permanently altered by Bazhon, the hezrou in this adventure.

In this scenario, the heroes might end up meeting Bazhon, a hezrou. whoserves Rzasanet, the Master of the Blood-Drenched Sky, a vrock who works for a powerful demon lord. Rzasanet lives in the Castle of Foul Breezes.

Bazhon, the hezrou, is a torturer/interrogator. "He is fascinated by mortals, and studies them as he goes. In the end, he looks at himself as an artist..."

Bazhon tortures each of the heroes individually. "At all times during the torture sessions, there is a float quill that records the questions and responses upon a stack of parchment."

Bazhon has a gem that he can use to make a copy of a character's mind.

The tortures are listed in an appendix in the back of the document. There are 6 types of torture, and each one is crazier than the last:
  1. Fish: Electric shocks/eat raw fish.
  2. Box: Placed in a box where the temperature can be regulated.
  3. Blood Replacement Therapy: All of the character's blood is removed and replaced with black ichor! The character must save or become charmed by Bazhon."This effect is permanent and applies to all demons the PC meets until he/she is healed by heal, regenerate, or similar magic."
  4. Arm Rejuvenation: The character is strapped to a chair. Their arm is amputated, and replaced with a demon arm!The character loses a point of dexterity and is plagued by dreams of being strangled by the arm.
  5. Impalement: The character is impaled on a spike and... it just gets worse from there. These are just getting crazier and crazier.
  6. MOLTEN LEAD: Pouring molten lead on the character.
OK, I am somewhat satisfied. Let me know if you think there's anything I should add.


Hezrou Stats on Roll20
ENWorld Discussion on re-making the hezrou
Reduced-Threat Hezrou Stats

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