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One of the most terrifying of monsters, Demogorgon is also one of the best-known demon lords in the D&D game.
Demogorgon's Early Supremacy
Demogorgon was one of the first two demon lords, making his debut alongside Orcus in 1976. Both appeared in Eldritch Wizardry, the third supplement to the original D&D box set, and Demogorgon was a spectacular foe from the start. Though devotees of Orcus might disagree, Eldritch Wizardry suggested that Demogorgon might be “supreme” among demons. He definitely was supremely weird, with a reptilian body, tentacled limbs, and a pair of baboon heads! When he returned in 1977 in the Monster Manual for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, he was bestowed with the title “Prince of Demons” and a hatred of Orcus, creating a long-standing enmity between the two.
Demogorgon was frequently mentioned in AD&D supplements, but always in a minor context. Manual of the Planes (1987) stated that he ruled several layers of the Abyss, each of which was “a jungle filled with dinosaurs, wild apes, and bird-like monsters.” This dread landscape would be better defined when Demogorgon came to even greater prominence in later editions of the game.
In the 1980s, Demogorgon’s only in-game appearance occurred in The Throne of Bloodstone adventure (1988), which featured a variety of demon lords making brief cameos. Demogorgon was one of only a few demon lords who could be induced to work against the main villain of the piece—his archnemesis Orcus.
Like most demon lords, Demogorgon was largely exiled from the Great Wheel cosmology during the early days of second edition AD&D. The biggest exception was the Monster Mythology supplement (1992), which revealed him as one of just a few demon lords that had ascended to lesser godhood. His worshipers? The manta ray-like ixitxachitl.
With the appearance of the Planescape campaign setting in 1994, references to Demogorgon and his lore became more frequent. His home in the Abyss was formally defined as the 88th layer, known as the Gaping Maw. However, there was no word on what had happened to the other parts of the Abyss he was said to have ruled.
Overall, Demogorgon was an iconic presence during the AD&D days, but not a major player. That would change with the publication of third edition D&D, when he truly became one of the game’s greatest villains.
FROM THE BASTION TO THE TIDE
Demogorgon’s big break came in Bastion of Broken Souls (2002), the finale of third edition D&D’s first adventure path. Though the infamous red dragon Ashardalon was the true villain of that adventure, it featured Demogorgon working in the background—and, most surprisingly, working against himself! Bastion of Broken Souls revealed that Demogorgon’s two heads have their own personalities, leading to an attempt to unite the demon lord’s splintered psyche.
After that, Demogorgon made the rounds in supplements such as Book of Vile Darkness (2002) and Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (2006). Together, these third edition appearances added a few tidbits to the Prince of Demons’ lore. His home in the Abyss was sometimes called the Brine Flats, and his mighty palace was detailed as a site called Abysm. Also revealed during this period was that Demogorgon was warring with the demon lords Orcus and Graz’zt for rulership of the Abyss.
Demogorgon’s greatest appearance in the third edition era occurred in the pages of Dungeon magazine. Issues 139 to 150 (October 2006 to September 2007) contained the twelve-part Savage Tide adventure path. Telling of Demogorgon’s latest attempt to reunite his fractured mind, Savage Tide allowed players to eventually go to war with the demon lord in the Gaping Maw. DMs who wanted to know more about the Prince of Demons could look to Dragon 357 (July 2007), which revealed Demogorgon’s origins as the first of the tanar’ri.
The Recent Prince
A year after the launch of fourth edition D&D, the Prince of Demons scored a coveted position on the cover of Monster Manual 2 in 2009. That book detailed a demon lord focused on mindless destruction, served by kuo-toa, troglodytes, and other savages. This brutish strength was allied to the cold intellect of another demonic lord, Dagon. Fourth edition also remade Demogorgon as a primordial, making another change to the classic villain’s backstory. However, after this impressive initial appearance, Demogorgon slipped back into the shadows.
In Out of the Abyss, Demogorgon is once more a rampaging monster, said to be “the embodiment of chaos, madness, and destruction.” Unsurprisingly, he also proves himself to be one of the most dangerous demon lords invading the Underdark, and a herald of all-out destruction. Adventurers beware!
About the Author
Shannon Appelcline has been roleplaying since his dad taught him Basic D&D in the early ’80s. He’s the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons, a four-volume history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time.