Only the strongest demons can rise to become lords. The process by which a demon becomes a lord varies from demon to demon, but always begins when a demon grows beyond CR 20, whether by advancing in Hit Dice, gaining class levels, gaining a monstrous template, or gaining some other strange power. The majority of these demons come from the ranks of powerful mariliths, balor lords, or other high-CR demons simply because of their higher baseline abilities, but any demon that rises to the height of demonic power can make the initial transformation to nascent demon lord.
Rarely, non-demons can become demon lords. The majority of non-demons who make this transition are ascended qlippoth, but in even rarer cases, a powerful non-native of the Abyss can attract the plane’s attention and make the transition to nascent demon lord.
Direct confrontations with demon lords are a matter for truly epic-level play, for these creatures could well have CR scores in the high 30s.
For standard play, where player characters are unlikely to be above 20th level, demon lords should remain untouchable menaces at the hearts of their realms. They are the inspiration and source of power for dangerous foes themselves, and confronting and defeating a powerful cult and its leaders should itself be a task that even 20th-level PCs might struggle to complete. Nascent demon lords could serve as powerful foes here as well, for such creatures should have CR scores of 21–25.
Demon lords are generally beyond the reach of most mortal heroes, and should not be placed in an adventure without careful consideration. In most cases, they are best used as the final enemies of long campaigns—especially campaigns in which the PCs themselves are Mythic characters—and even getting an audience with one should be a memorable event.
Yet even if demon lords are far outside the abilities of most heroes to combat directly, they can still be used as foes in campaigns of all levels, inspiring or directing monsters, mortals, and entire cults. Opposing and defeating a cult is a time-honored plotline for a campaign, and a climactic encounter where the PCs must close a portal before the cult's demon lord manifests in the flesh can make an exciting capstone to a long-running campaign, especially if the demon lord in question appears for a round or 2 to fight the PCs before the closing of the portal forces it back to the Abyss. Alternatively, rather than having the PCs face the demon lord at full power, you can build a campaign where the PCs systematically undermine and destroy a demon lord's resources, imposing increasing penalties on it and gathering potent weapons so that when the time comes for the final confrontation, the PCs are powerful and the demon lord is weakened to a state below its normal CR. An easy way to model weakening a demon in this manner is to assign negative levels to the demon—normally, a demon lord is immune to level drain, but in this case, the reduction of its resources and sources of power can bypass that immunity for a time... at least, until the demon lord can rebuild and recover.
The phrase "demon lord" is gender neutral—there are male, female, and genderless demon lords, as well as demon lords with multiple genders.
A demon lord may be contacted via commune, and can be conjured via a gate spell, but when so called, a demon lord is under no compulsion to come through the gate. Typically, a demon lord requires an enormous and significant offering or sacrifice before it deigns to answer a gate spell.
Although demon lords are in most cases not true deities, they are close enough to divine status to serve as objects of worship for mortals. Demon lords are what are known as demigods, and are as capable of granting spells, domains, and favored weapons to clerics as are true deities—indeed, to a mortal worshiper, there is very little difference between the status of deity and demigod.
Most demon lords actively encourage worship, for in a way this is how demonic life flourishes. Demon cults are actively destructive and cruel, and as a result must often work in secret or base their operations in remote regions where civilization cannot rise against them. Many cults work toward a singular goal, such as the destruction of a town, the murder of a number of important nobles, the release of a powerful demon upon the Material Plane, or the ruin and downfall of another religion. Others merely serve as a method for a powerful priest to keep a group of followers (be they a tribe of savage humanoids or a secret society of aristocrats) under control.
As with all deities and demigods, one need not be a divine spellcaster in order to worship a demon. Yet it is the divine spellcasting classes who receive the greatest benefits from worshiping demon lords, in the form of their class abilities. Demon lords beyond those listed here should be assigned the Chaos and Evil domains, and then two additional domains in keeping with their personalities and areas of concern. Demon lords never grant access to the Good or Law domains, and only rarely grant access to the Glory domain. If you use subdomains, clerics of demon lords gain access to all subdomain options available to them from their demon lord’s domains, with the exception of the following subdomains (which are never granted by demon lords): Agathion, Archon, Azata, Daemon, Devil, Heroism, Inevitable, Honor, Love, Protean, and Purity.
Clerics: The vast majority of divine spellcasters who worship demon lords are clerics. Sometimes serving as leaders of cults or members of the same, while at other times acting on their own agendas, clerics of demon lords are almost always chaotic evil. The nature of their rituals, the forces they expose their souls to, and the sins they must partake in to maintain their place in their faith inexorably move such worshipers’ alignment to chaotic evil. Technically, a cleric could be neutral evil or chaotic neutral and still worship a demon lord, but such examples are so rare as to be almost unheard of.
Druids: Druids rarely, if ever, worship demon lords, as the very idea of worshiping an Abyssal divinity is anathema to a servant of the natural world. Nevertheless, rumors exist of neutral evil druid circles who venerate demon lords in addition to their own twisted takes on nature.
Inquisitors: Inquisitors of demon lords seek out not only those who would attempt to curtail or destroy their faiths, but also those within a demonic cult who might be having second thoughts or simply don’t have what it takes to properly serve such blasphemous lords. Most of these types of inquisitors don’t serve a specific demon lord, but see themselves as serving the Abyss itself.
Oracles: These spontaneous divine spellcasters do not worship specific demon lords. Rather, they have been touched by the Abyss and gifted with their powers and curses for inscrutable reasons known only to that realm. They are usually loners, not belonging to specific demon cults, although other demon worshipers often seek out Abyssal oracles for their wisdom. An Abyssal oracle favors the mysteries of Battle, Bones, Flame, Stone, Waves, or Wind, but no mystery is completely barred from an Abyssal oracle.
Rangers: Rangers are rarely known to worship specific demon lords, but when they do, they tend to choose demon lords whose areas of concern mesh well with their preferred terrain. A ranger from the frozen north might worship Kostchtchie for example. Demon-worshiping rangers typically limit their favored enemy choices to various types of humanoids or to lawful or good outsiders.
Non-Divine Classes: When a non-divine spellcaster worships a demon, the choice is nearly always due to either an obsession with the demon’s associated sins or the perception that worshiping a particular demon lord might reward the character in this life or the next with secrets and powers known to such potent entities. A particularly violent tribe of barbarians might worship Kostchtchie. As a general rule, though, a non-divine spellcaster receives no additional rules advantage for worshiping a demon lord.
The demon lords presented here comprise only those who have specific interests in the world. Countless more demon lords dwell in the Abyss, although since their attentions have traditionally been focused on other worlds, they are not detailed here. Still, these creatures could someday turn their attention to your campaign if you wish, be they demon lords with names like Behemoth, Demogorgon, or new demon lords of your own creation. You can use the entries presented here as templates and guidelines when adding new lords to your own private Abyss.
Demon lords are not satisfied with mere promises of loyalty or sacrifices of blood—they require physical and painful proof of devotion from their worshipers. These acts are known as obediences—acts of self-mutilation or great blasphemy performed by the truly damned. An obedience is typically an hour-long ritual that must be performed daily; unless otherwise stated, it does not harm the creature performing it. Spellcasting demon cultists can integrate their obedience completely with their normal hour-long rituals and methods of preparing or regaining spells—others are free to perform their obedience at any point during the day. Most choose twilight as the time of obedience.
Obedience can bring with it great Boons, particularly to the most powerful of a demon lord’s followers. The Demonic Obedience feat allows a worshiper of a demon lord to gain access to additional resistances and powers. The demoniac prestige class allows access to the most powerful Boons more quickly.
Each of the demon lords is presented in the same format, starting with a stat block that summarizes the details of the demon lord’s cult and ending with a list of three Boons that the demon lord often grants its most faithful servitors.
Name: The demon lord’s name is followed by its most common appellation or epithet, its gender, and its primary areas of concern.
Cult: This section lists the demon lord’s holy symbol, the locations where its temples are most often found or the themes those temples often adopt, the type of people and races that most often worship it, the type of demons and monsters often associated with the cult (usually as guardians or pets), and finally the demon lord’s obedience. An obedience is a method of worship closely tied to the granting of divine power.
Boons: A demoniac or any creature that takes the Demonic Obedience feat can gain Boons from worshiping a demon lord. This section lists the three most common Boons that the demon lord can grant. The first boon is always a spell-like ability—either a 1st-level spell-like ability usable three times per day, a 2nd-level one usable twice per day, or a 3rd-level one usable once per day. The second and third Boons are unique extraordinary, spell-like, or supernatural abilities that vary with each demon lord. Unless otherwise stated, spell-like second Boons that do not duplicate existing spells are treated as 8th-level spell effects, and spell-like third Boons are treated as 9th-level spell effects.
The domains granted by each demon lord, as well as their favored weapons, are listed below.
After each stat block, a few paragraphs describe the demon lord’s appearance, personality, and Abyssal realm.
See PathfinderCommunity.net for complete details.
Demon lords' realms range in size, but even the smallest are as large as a continent, and the greatest are larger than some planets. The realms' environments, themes, and traits are as unique as the demon lords themselves, presenting unusual challenges and dangers to creatures trying to explore them. Yet despite the close connection a demon lord has to its realm, it does not exert total control over the realm, and powerful adventurers can infiltrate such realms and accomplish goals without arousing the lord's anger—if they're careful.
A demon lord gains the following additional powers while in its realm (the statistics presented here do not include these abilities):
- Mythic: A demon lord functions as a 10th Mythic Rank creature, including the Mythic Power ability (10/day, Surge +1d12). It may expend uses of Mythic Power to use the Mythic versions of any spell-like ability denoted with an asterisk (*) just as if the ability were a Mythic spell.
- Use of the following spell-like abilities at will—demand, discern location, fabricate, major creation, and polymorph any object (when used on objects or creatures that are native to the realm, the polymorph duration factor increases by 6).
- Use of the following spell-like abilities once per day—binding, miracle (limited to physical effects that manipulate the realm or to effects that are relevant to the demon lord's areas of concern)