Normally I like fulfilling readers’ requests, but I’ve gotten enough of one particular category of request that I feel like I need to discuss why it’s an exception.
Several readers now have asked me to analyze the dragon goddess Tiamat or the demon lords in Out of the Abyss, and I regret to say, I’m not going to do that—for a few reasons.
First, while I do own Rise of Tiamat, I don’t own Out of the Abyss, and I don’t plan to run it with my own players, so I don’t have a good reason to buy it and thus don’t have access to the stat blocks. (“I’ll send them to you! Just tell me what you need!” Hang on there, tiger, I haven’t gotten to my other reasons yet.)
Second, analyzing specific boss beings would be a spoiler of the worst kind. I don’t mind if players read this blog—especially those whose characters have some sort of favored enemy about which they’d know these things from experience—but anything you read about a certain type of monster is a generalization, which an individual monster might defy. In contrast, if I wrote up game plans for unique beings, players could read it, download it and plan around it, using meta-knowledge their characters would have no way of possessing. That’s contrary to the spirit of roleplaying. (For the same reason, I’ve thought about creating lists of quick-reference links to all the monsters in a given published adventure—and subsequently decided against it, because it could inform players of what to expect.)
Third, I’d like to think that I’ve already indirectly provided you with all the tools you need to do what I do, so that Orcus or whoever becomes a solvable problem for you. The articles on dragons, krakens, liches, etc., break down how to employ lair actions and legendary actions; this one talks about spellcasting prioritization; and so forth. Generally speaking, I write the articles on this site to save you prep work. But a boss monster should take work. You need to be fully in that baddie’s head.
With all that said, here are a few tips on how to think about the demon lords (keep in mind that I haven’t read OotA, so this all comes from my own knowledge of the lore of past editions):
- Make yourself a table of all the various demon lords’ features. Identify which features they all (or mostly) have in common and which ones are unique to specific demon lords.
- The features they all have in common form the backbone of demon lord behavior.
- The features that most of them have in common tell you something distinctive about the one or two that don’t share it.
- The features that are unique to specific demon lords will distinguish their behavior from that of others and should be featured prominently.
- Demon lords are just that: lords. They’ll always surround themselves with as many minions as they can marshal. Attacking one should be a massive gantlet of pain. PCs will have to not only be world-class heroes but also world-class strategists just to reach them, let alone to take them down. Also remember that demon lords didn’t become demon lords by letting some other chump demon encroach on their power. They’re justifiably paranoid—of other demons, most of all.
As for Tiamat, just take everything I wrote about ancient dragons and crank it up to 11.
I hope that helps, because with regard to these big bads, that’s all the help I’m going to give you. Sorry, folks.