Figures of ancient and terrible evil, balors rule as generals over demonic armies, yearning to seize power while destroying any creatures that oppose them. Wielding a flaming whip and a longsword that channels the power of the storm, a balor’s battle prowess is fueled by hatred and rage. It channels this demonic fury in its death throes, falling within a blast of fire that can destroy even the hardiest foes.
Spawned in the Infinite Layers of the Abyss, demons are the embodiment of chaos and evil-engines of destruction barely contained in monstrous form. Possessing no compassion, empathy, or mercy, they exist only to destroy.
Spawn of Chaos.
The Abyss creates demons as extensions of itself, spontaneously forming fiends out of filth and carnage. Some are unique monstrosities, while others represent uniform strains virtually identical to each other. Other demons (such as manes) are created from mortal souls shunned or cursed by the gods, or which are otherwise trapped in the Abyss.
Demons respect power and power alone. A greater demon commands shrieking mobs of lesser demons because it can destroy any lesser demon that dares to refuse its commands. A demon’s status grows with the blood it spills; the more enemies that fall before it, the greater it becomes.
A demon might spawn as a manes, then become a dretch, and eventually transform to a vrock after untold time spent fighting and surviving in the Abyss. Such elevations are rare, however, for most demons are destroyed before they attain significant power. The greatest of those that do survive make up the ranks of the demon lords that threaten to tear the Abyss apart with their endless warring.
By expending considerable magical power, demon lords can raise lesser demons into greater forms, though such promotions never stem from a demon’s deeds or accomplishments. Rather, a demon lord might warp a manes into a quasit when it needs an invisible spy, or turn an army of dretches into hezrous when marching against a rival lord. Demon lords only rarely elevate demons to the highest ranks, fearful of inadvertently creating rivals to their own power.
Wherever they wander across the Abyss, demons search for portals to the other planes. They crave the chance to slip free of their native realm and spread their dark influence across the multiverse, undoing the works of the gods, tearing down civilizations, and reducing the cosmos to despair and ruin.
Some of the darkest legends of the mortal realm are built around the destruction wrought by demons set loose in the world. As such, even nations embroiled in bitter conflict will set their differences aside to help contain an outbreak of demons, or to seal off abyssal breaches before these fiends can break free.
Signs of Corruption.
Demons carry the stain of abyssal corruption with them, and their mere presence changes the world for the worse. Plants wither and die in areas where abyssal breaches and demons appear. Animals shun the sites where a demon has made a kill. The site of a demonic infestation might be fouled by a stench that never abates, by areas of bitter cold or burning heat, or by permanent shadows that mark the places where these fiends lingered.
Outside the Abyss, death is a minor nuisance that no demon fears. Mundane weapons can’t stop these fiends, and many demons are resistant to the energy of the most potent spells. When a lucky hero manages to drop a demon in combat, the fiend dissolves into foul ichor. It then instantly reforms in the Abyss, its mind and essence intact even as its hatred is inflamed.
The only way to truly destroy a demon is to seek it in the Abyss and kill it there.
A powerful demon can take steps to safeguard its life essence, using secret methods and abyssal metals to create an amulet into which part of that essence is ceded. If the demon’s abyssal form is ever destroyed, the amulet allows the fiend to reform at a time and place of its choosing.
Obtaining a demonic amulet is a dangerous enterprise, and simply seeking such a device risks drawing the attention of the demon that created it. A creature possessing a demonic amulet can exact favors from the demon whose life essence the amulet holds—or inflict great pain if the fiend resists. If an amulet is destroyed, the demon that created it is trapped in the Abyss for a year and a day.
Despite the dark risks involved in dealing with fiends, the mortal realm is filled with creatures that covet demonic power. Demon lords manipulate these mortal servants into performing ever greater acts of depravity, furthering the demon lord’s ambitions in exchange for magic and other boons. However, a demon regards any mortals in its service as tools to use and then discard at its whim, consigning their mortal souls to the Abyss.
Few acts are as dangerous as summoning a demon, and even mages who bargain freely with devils fear the fiends of the Abyss. Though demons yearn to sow chaos on the Material Plane, they show no gratitude when brought there, raging against their prisons and demanding release.
Those who would risk summoning a demon might do so to wrest information from it, press it into service, or send it on a mission that only a creature of absolute evil can complete. Preparation is key, and experienced summoners know the specific spells and magic items that can force a demon to bend to another’s will. If a single mistake is made, a demon that breaks free shows no mercy as it makes its summoner the first victim of its wrath.
The Book of Vile Darkness, the Black Scrolls of Ahm, and the Demonomicon of Iggwilv are the foremost authorities on demonic matters. These ancient tomes describe techniques that can trap the essence of a demon on the Material Plane, placing it within a weapon, idol, or piece of jewelry and preventing the fiend’s return to the Abyss.
An object that binds a demon must be specially prepared with unholy incantations and innocent blood. It radiates a palpable evil, chilling and fouling the air around it. A creature that handles such an object experiences unsettling dreams and wicked impulses, but is able to control the demon whose essence is trapped within the object. Destroying the object frees the demon, which immediately seeks revenge against its binder.
No matter how secure its bindings, a powerful demon often finds a way to escape an object that holds it. When a demonic essence emerges from its container, it can possess a mortal host. Sometimes a fiend employs stealth to hide a successful possession. Other times, it unleashes the full brunt of its fiendish drives through its new form.
As long as the demon remains in possession of its host, the soul of that host is in danger of being dragged to the Abyss with the demon if it is exorcised from the flesh, or if the host dies. If a demon possesses a creature and the object binding the demon is destroyed, the possession lasts until powerful magic is used to drive the demonic spirit out of its host.