Dragon Encounters

Making dnd combat fun, finding monsters that fit together, monster tactics and strategies, and other ways of using the monsters of dungeons and dragons

SHADOW DEMON & How to Use Hiding


Combat rating 5


1 Shadow demon (CR 4)

4 Specters (CR 1)


Combat rating 6


1 Shadow demon (CR 4)

2 Mummies (CR 3)


Combat rating 7


2 Shadow demons (CR 4)

3 Scarecrows (CR 1)


Combat rating 8


2 Shadow demons (CR 4)

1 Flesh golem (CR 5)


Hiding in D&D

The shadow demon has the ability to hide when it’s in partial or complete darkness. As hiding in D&D doesn’t seem to have exact rules, except for the fact that anybody spending an action has a chance to detect someone hidden*, I would like to suggest a few ideas of my own.

* (It won’t even help them, as they’ve just used up their action, and their perception will run out right when their turn comes again. The only way it will help them is to prevent the one hiding from having advantage against them, and they could do that and more with the dodge action.)

  • All PCs, and most monsters that use sight, look ahead of themselves. If the one hiding is within 10 feet ahead of them, in the direction that they’re moving in, and is not behind total cover, measure the stealth roll the one hiding made last round against the passive perception of the one moving to see if the one hiding was spotted. With partial cover, you can add +2 to their stealth roll, and/or require the one moving to move within five feet of the one hiding.
  • A person always keeps track of the one who attacked them last, unless an enemy is standing within melee range of them. If they try to hide behind cover, they can roll stealth against the other character’s passive perception. If it’s partial cover and within thirty feet, roll with disadvantage.
  • If someone makes a perception check and succeeds in spotting the opponent, he shares the information with every else on his side, and the creature is no longer hidden. [I considered saying that a successful perception check lets you take an attack action against the one hiding, but if you fail the perception check then your turn is over and you can’t attack someone else. While this makes logical sense and is balanced game wise, it’s flat out contradicted by RAW, and that’s why I didn’t suggest it.)

All of these ideas are for a monster who uses the hide action. With a player who uses the hide action, you have to discuss the rules of hiding with him beforehand, and come to an agreement that you’re both happy with. If you’re in the middle of a fight and haven’t discussed it, you can’t change the rules until after the fight, or at least until you’ve given him a round or two of warning. To do otherwise is just plain unfair.

How to Use – Psychic damage

The shadow demon deals psychic damage. You can simply narrate it as “You take X psychic damage”, the way you’d do anything else. Alternatively, while speaking to the player in direct, second language (“Nobody likes you”, “Your fighting style is pathetic,” “Nobody can trust you, they all know you’ll let them down”) is going to be offensive and resented, even if you make it clear that you’re referring the character and just narrating the psychic damage, you can narrate it in third person and using more general terms.

(“A dark melancholy grips your character” “Your character feels a deep sadness. It feels to him as though he’ll never be happy again”, “Your character feels impossibly alone. He knows that the others are with, and he remembers their friendship, but it’s feels like something from years ago that no longer feels real”.)

Darkness and Light. Combat Encounter 1: (difficulty 8)

I think my favorite idea for shadow demons would be as follows. The players are in a dark room, but there are several doors/windows/skylights, all of which are tightly shut/locked/hard to reach. The enemies consist of several shadow demons and one higher CR enemy, (Ideas include: A hezrou (CR 8), a flesh golem (CR 5), a shambling mound (CR 5)).

At the beginning of the fight, the shadow demons have a massive advantage thanks to the darkness. If the players can manage to get one or two of the above entrances open, however, they’ll flood parts of the room with light and massively restrict the shadow demon’s movements. Should they open three, they’ll have effectively imprisoned the shadow demons into the corners, from where they can be picked off at leisure. The high CR monster is to distract, and to make it somewhat hard for the PCs to get the entrances open.

(Note that the shadow demons can move across the sunlight. If they don’t want to expose themselves, they can take a dash action to move through the floor. This wastes their turn, however.)

When setting up this scenario, you should work out where the sun is, and which areas become sunny with each entrance that’s opened. It’s okay to have overlap. You’ll also want to decide how much the players know or are able to calculate regarding the sun’s position, just in case they ask. It will depend on how long they’ve spent inside, and how good their characters are with calculating where they are.

I might consider adding statues, vases, and or other hiding places to the room. It will make the room seem nicer, and having hiding places will increase the shadow demons’ options, especially should the entrances get opened.

Let’s just look at the entrances in a bit more detail.

  • Doors: The most flexible of all entrances, and the one that should let in the greatest amount of sunlight. Doors can be locked, barred, or jammed. Unlocking the door can be done by picking the lock, undoing the bolts, retrieving the key from elsewhere in the room [or, if they already have it, getting the right PC to the door, and possibly rummaging through a backpack.] or breaking down the door. Note also that doors come in vastly different thicknesses.
  • Windows: Can be barred, in which case they might have to remove the bars. Can be locked, high up, or jammed. Note that unlike the doors, windows are generally smaller, which means it may not be practical to have two PCs work on the window at the same time.
  • Skylights: High up. Getting to them might involve moving furniture, using a spell, or standing on a different PC’s shoulders. Like with the others, it can be locked or jammed. (Although I wouldn’t put too many obstacles on the same entrance.)

Traveling Through Darkness. Combat Encounter 2: (difficulty 6)

The shadow demons are also nasty at hit and run tactics, turning what should be a single encounter into a series of annoying strikes that the players will have a very hard time countering.

While you don’t really need to make this an encounter, I would suggest giving them a goal to reach a certain point, or to bring a certain object to a certain point. You don’t need any extra rules/challenges as part of this mission. What having the mission is doing is making it feel like they’re achieving something, instead of just repeatedly failing to take down the same enemies.

It will also give a point in which the shadow demons will be forced to emerge and fight, if they don’t want the PCs to achieve victory. This will give your players a chance to finally kill the annoying shadow demons. (I expect them to manage to hurt them, and possibly to kill at least some of them. As such, prepare something else for your climax, and you can bring the shadow demons in as an extra. For extra difficulty, have them come in mid-combat as surprise reinforcements.)

The players may also try to trick the shadow demons into revealing themselves and getting ambushed. While I’m not saying that you shouldn’t let this work, they won’t be tricked easily, and they definitely won’t fall to the same trick twice. (If the players come up with something clever or creative enough, I’m inclined to let it work, at least partly, regardless of how smart the enemy is, provided this is the first time they’re trying it. Having the game be fun is a higher priority than having it be realistic, within reason.)

While the shadow demons can go through walls, they can’t sense where the PCs are through walls, and so emerging from out of a wall is a bit of a risk. Here are obstacles where they can hide, and still be aware of nearby PCs.

Hiding Places: Incudes statues, large vases, cupboards and other furniture, and tapestries covering passages or encloves. Statues are my favorite, as they have the right ambiance for darkness, plus they’re pretty difficult to remove/destroy.

While the players might well think to investigate each of these places as they come across them, the shadow demon can sneak back to them through the floor or walls. [You can choose whether the the shadow demons are there when they first check. Both ways have merit]

These are best used together with an encounter, combat or other; an obstacle, such as the door or broken ledge below; a puzzle; or a room that needs searching.  

Staircase: This will allow the shadow demon to hide on a lower [or higher] flight of stairs, if using modern staircase design, or around the corner, if using medieval design, and move back and forth through the stairs and walls to ambush the PCs on any relevant sides. Balconies at night, and ledges running alongside a pit offer the same opportunity.

Like above, placing encounters, obstacles, or puzzles allows them to be a persistent nuisance, or you can use them for a one-time attack.

Locked Doors: Unlike walls, you can hear through most doors, and peek through the keyhole. The shadow demon will attack through the door and then retreat that same turn. And it’s hard to defend against it when you’re busy picking the locks.

There are various ways to get through a door with force. I will just note that some doors are thicker than others, it makes it harder if there isn’t a straight area in front of the door which you can charge down, and having limited room to stand in front of the door also makes stuff harder. That, plus use hiding places, like mentioned above, and choose the difficulty level that seems best to you.

Trapdoors: They can be placed in the floor or ceiling. They’re like doors, but they each have their own twists. In the floor they can be covered with a rug or, and thus hard to find, they require the ones opening the lock or bashing in the door to lie prone, and your players may render themselves vulnerable as they climb down.

In the ceiling they require that your players find a way to climb up to it, they’re harder to force, harder to protect against shadow demon attacks while opening the door, and there’s a chance the shadow demon’s attack can cause the person to fall if he’s balanced precariously.

Gaps in a Ledge: Probably the hardest option. This is a ledge that runs along a pit, and there are places where a part is missing and needs to be jumped. If the ledge is sticking out of the wall, the shadow demon can hide underneath (without that, it will hide in the shadows and rely on its thirty feet of movement. It can also hide around corners.)

Since the ledge is narrow, and possibly weak, the players can’t stay tight together, which leaves them vulnerable to attacks. Finally, it’s possible that an attack could knock them off the ledge. (You can rule that they can protect themselves against this by remaining near the wall running along one side, if you want.)

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About Me

I have been a DM for several years, and I was designing home RPG games since my young childhood. I have been a fan of many different types of games (computer, board, RPG, and more) and have designed several for my own entertainment. This is my first attempt to produce game content for a wider audience.