D&D Monster Monday: Balor

Victory nears as your forces begin pushing back the demonic invaders into the portal from whence they came. Suddenly, an eery silence infects the battlefield. Then, an explosion, as an enormous winged balor erupts from the portal. Their fiery whip cracks, slaying dozens of men-at-arms with a single blow.

One time I had the bright idea to hide the campaign’s BBEGs in the party in the form of a friendly NPC. In my hubris, I decided that I didn’t need to make them a statblock as there was no way the party would fight them before my intended reveal.

Turns out, they made some moves that forced the NPC’s hand to reveal their true identity earlier than intended. In the middle of a session.

So I had two options. Do I end the session early and own up to my folly or do I take a 5-minute bathroom break and reskin a high CR creature as a stop-gap?

I rolled with option B and wiped the floor with them using a “balor” and they were none the wiser! They’re a fairly simplistic high CR creature, but they’ve got enough tools to keep things interesting for both sides of the table.

Tread lightly as we descend into the abyss of the Monster Manual and learn more about this winged commander, the balor!

a demon with huge wings and a bull-like face wields a fiery whip and lighting-enchanted longsword
With its fiery whip and enchanted longsword, the balor is a true terror on the battlefield. Credit: WotC.

Balor Lore

I was taken aback by the lack of balor-specific lore in the Monster Manual, but there are a few tidbits there to paint a picture of them.

Balors are enormous, winged demons that are well-known for their choice in weaponry; a longsword and a giant flaming whip. Both of which they wield with deadly skill.

Balors are phenomenal warriors. A balor will quickly rise through the ranks of a demon lord’s army and eventually reach the station of general. Their ruthless demeanor drives them to lead their forces to conquer and destroy anything and anyone that stands in their lord’s path.

Balor Stats and Abilities

You can find the balor’s statblock on page 55 of the Monster Manual.

Stats

Size: Huge fiend (demon)
AC: 19 (natural armor)
HP: 262 (21d12 + 126)
Speed: 40 ft., fly 80 ft.
STR: 26 (+8)
DEX: 15 (+2)
CON: 22 (+6)
INT: 20 (+5)
WIS: 16 (+3)
CHA: 22 (+6)

This accomplished combatant’s prowess starts at their fantastic foundation. 19 AC and 262 HP are solid baseline defensive stats to build upon. Couple these with their excellent movement options and you have a real winner right out of the gate.

Even the balor’s ability score array is rock-solid aside from Dexterity which is a definite weak spot for the balor. While their Wisdom isn’t great, they do have proficiency in Wisdom saving throws so they’re 2 for 3 with regards to their common saving throw abilities.

Still, that +8 STR modifier is terrifying. That’s a respectable amount of guaranteed damage with each attack and a solid baseline for its attack modifier. All in all, the balor is a melee powerhouse.

Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills

Saving Throws: STR +14, CON +12, WIS +9, CHA +12
Damage Resistances: cold, lightning; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities: fire, poison
Condition Immunities: poisoned
Senses: truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages: Abyssal, telepathy 120 ft.
CR: 19 (22,000 XP)

Saving throw proficiency in 4 different abilities, two of which are common saving throw abilities, is a fantastic defensive boost. This perk was warranted as without it the balor would be susceptible to both Dexterity and Wisdom saving throws.

At CR 19 it’s unlikely that their resistance to nonmagical attacks will be relevant in practice. Everyone should have a magical weapon at this point in the game. However, it’s a nice flavor addition should you throw a balor at a humanoid army or the city guard.

Regardless, the rest of their resistances and immunities are high-value, aside from lightning which is niche but a decent addition.

There’s a surprising lack of condition immunities in their statblock, though. However, they have fantastic saving throw modifiers so they shouldn’t be in too much danger of being crowd controlled.

With 120 ft. of truesight and telepathy, you have some fantastic tools to mess with the party which is always a fun time.

CR 19 is a solid rating for the balor. They have some weak points but overall are well-tuned and strong both offensively and defensively.

Traits and Abilities

Death Throes. When the balor dies, it explodes, and each creature within 30 feet of it must make a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw, taking 70 (20d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. The explosion ignites flammable objects in that area that aren’t being worn or carried, and it destroys the balor’s weapons.

Fire Aura. At the start of each of the balor’s turns, each creature within 5 feet of it takes 10 (3d6) fire damage, and flammable objects in the aura that aren’t being worn or carried ignite. A creature that touches the balor or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it takes 10 (3d6) fire damage.

Magic Resistance. The balor has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Weapons. The balor’s weapon attacks are magical.

Right off the rip, we see that the balor has two passive AoE damage abilities in this section. The first being Death Throes which is the big kid version of the magma mephit’s Death Burst. 30 ft. radius, high-DC DEX save, and an average of 70 fire damage per explosion is a terrifying prospect to deal with after you “defeat” this creature.

Fire Aura is this second, and less risky passive AoE damage ability the balor gets. Simply standing near combatants will force them to take damage. Melee attacks against the balor will also harm their opponent. Either way you slice it, it’s a constant 10 fire damage that doesn’t impact the balor’s action economy.

Magic Resistance is another defensive tool to help offset the balor’s lack of condition immunities. Between this and their high saving throw modifiers, the balor should have no issues shrugging off enemy spellcasters’ crowd control.

Magic Weapons is a nice addition on the off chance that a PC was able to resist the damage from the balor’s weapons. It’s a niche use case, but a welcome addition.

Actions

Multiattack. The balor makes two attacks: one with its longsword and one with its whip.

Longsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +14 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d8 + 8) slashing damage plus 13 (3d8) lightning damage. If the balor scores a critical hit, it rolls damage dice three times, instead of twice.

Whip. Melee Weapon Attack: +14 to hit, reach 30 ft., one target. Hit: 15 (2d6 + 8) slashing damage plus 10 (3d6) fire damage, and the target must succeed on a DC 20 Strength saving throw or be pulled up to 25 feet toward the balor.

Teleport. The balor magically teleports, along with any equipment it is wearing or carrying, up to 120 feet to an unoccupied space it can see.

A two-attack Multiattack is standard. Still, there are some decent perks that the balor has baked into both of their relevant attacks that make this particularly deadly.

The first of which is that both weapons have a reach of at least 10 ft. This gives the balor plenty of leeway to hit different targets in the surrounding area. The second is that both weapons have unique secondary effects to make them even deadlier.

That’s not even touching on the fact that each Multiattack has an average of 59 damage per round. It’s a deadly combo.

Longsword deals slashing and lightning damage. It also has a unique critical hit property, enabling the balor to gain an extra damage die on critical hit for some bonus damage.

Whip deals slashing and fire damage. On a hit, the target has to succeed on a DC 20 Strength saving throw or else they’ll be reeled-in range of the balor’s Fire Aura.

Teleport does force the balor to forgo dealing damage on their turn. However, 120 ft. teleport plus 80 ft. of flying speed lets the balor cover a ton of ground in a 6-second turn.

Balor Strengths

Stalwart Defenses

While the lack of condition immunities does suck, the balor has plenty of tools to counteract these issues and keep it in the fight for many turns against a high-tier party.

Its high AC and HP give them plenty of baseline beef to keep them healthy against the party’s hardy frontline. Plus plenty of time to dish out chip damage from their Fire Aura.

Between Magic Resistance and its overall high saving throw modifiers thanks to 4 saving throw proficiencies, the balor is in a great spot to avoid the majority of crowd control that’s thrown their way. Only anything Dexterity or Intelligence-based will have a shot at getting through their defenses.

A balor standing tall with their whip and longsword
The skulls and heads of rulers hanging from the balor’s chest are a nice touch. Credit: WotC.

Massive Damage

The balor’s Multiattack has a respectable chunk of damage carved into it, but the utility of the whip makes the balor a real pain to deal with for melee combatants.

Trying to avoid their Fire Aura is tough when the balor’s whip can drag a fleeing melee enemy back into the fray.

Speaking of which, the free AoE chip damage from Fire Aura is a fantastic perk. Any creature within 5 ft. of the balor at the start of its turn takes a bit of chip damage. Any melee combatant that attacks the balor while being within 5 ft. of it takes this same chip damage each hit. 10 fire damage per trigger adds up very quickly.

Death Throes does mean that the balor lost the battle, but the 70 fire damage may be just enough to help them win the war. It’s a massive amount of damage to take. Which will undoubtedly force the party to expend resources to recoup their missing HP after the encounter.

Fantastic Maneuverability

Teleport is a great getaway tool. It lets the balor teleport up to 120 ft. away no questions asked. It could also be used to jump quickly to the party’s unguarded backline after the balor has drawn in the party’s melee units.

Although the downside to that fantastic tool is that it does force the balor to give up their Multiattack for a whole round.

However, Teleport isn’t the extent of the balor’s great mobility. They’ve got 40 ft. of ground speed and 80 ft. of flying speed to play with on any given turn.

Between these movement options and the fantastic battlefield control that comes with the balor’s size, weapon reach, and whip’s reel-in feature, the balor has all the tools needed to lock down large portions of the battlemap.

Balor Weaknesses

Lack of Ranged Options

The balor quickly runs into issues as soon as their targets spread out and are more than 30 ft. away. Their Fire Aura and Death Throes become nonissues, and their only option is to reposition to get within Whip range so that they can at least do some damage with their Multiattack.

While their defenses buy them time to reposition or use an Action to Teleport closer to long-ranged enemies, they’ll still lose an entire round of damage doing so.

Against long-ranged adversaries, the balor either has to ignore them or spend at least one round’s worth of action economy chasing them down.

old-school black and white version of the balor sans weapons
The balor’s design has been pretty consistent throughout D&D’s history. Credit: WotC.

How to Play a Balor

Maximize Fire Aura’s Potential

The balor’s two passive AoE damage abilities require it to stay relatively close to its foes to get optimal value out of them. Use the balor’s 80 ft. of movement to stick within 5 ft. of the party’s melee combatants so that they’ll need to decide between taking Fire Aura’s chip damage or risking an attack of opportunity to move away.

It’s a win-win situation for the balor because either way, they’ll deal some extra damage to the party’s frontline.

By staying nearby, you also ensure that multiple enemies are within range of the balor’s Death Throes which deals considerably more damage. Although as the name implies, it’s a last-ditch effort to wreak some havoc.

The Whip is the Key

Whip is a powerful movement displacement tool. When the balor hits, the target must pass the DC 20 Strength saving throw or the balor may drag them up to 25 ft. towards it. At 30 ft. of range, this means that the whip can take a target at max range and drag them right in range of the balor’s Fire Aura.

The balor can also use their whip then follow it up with their longsword attack portion of their Multiattack after dragging the target in range.

By coupling the 30 ft. reach of the whip and the 80 ft. of flying speed per turn, the balor can effectively attack any target within 110 ft. of them at the start of their turn. It’s a solid radius of control for the balor, but be sure you don’t get too carried away and lose out on that Fire Aura value!

5 Balor Plot Hooks

  1. An Invading Army Approaches – The king is offering a hefty sum for any adventurer or mercenary to lend their strength to the country’s military to fight back the invading demon army.
  2. Danger in the Underdark – Rumor has it that a balor was spotted in the upper-layers of the Underdark. Information on the whereabouts of this creature is in high demand.
  3. An Expensive Whip – A collector is looking for a brave party to obtain the flaming whip of a balor. The pay is great, but the danger is even greater!
  4. Demonic Assassination – The tide of battle will shift if the demon army’s balor commander is slain. You have been chosen for an elite squadron that will sneak behind enemy lines to assassinate this creature and end the war.
  5. A Questionable Pact – Your warlock friend made a deal with a demon for their powers. You’ve noticed that in the past few weeks they’ve been acting strangely and have gone missing for hours at a time whilst the rest of your party relaxes within the safety of the city’s walls.

Conclusions

The balor is a tough creature. It’s got hardy defenses, devastating offenses, and a bunch of fun tools to play with as a DM. It’s a well-rounded high-CR creature with a couple of exploitable weaknesses. All in all, they’re a great choice for an encounter.

The balor is simplistic in its design. There aren’t a lot of spells or unique options to comb through that many high-CR creatures are laden with. However, they work great within their niche and are both easy and fun to play. At the end of the day, I think that’s what’s important.

Not every creature needs to have a ton of unique features and options to make them great. The balor’s strength is in its simple, yet effective design.

Previous Monster Monday – Hill Giant

Next Monster Monday –  Owlbear

If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!

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1 Comment

  1. I believe you have forgotten one other adventure hook.

    GUARDIAN OF THE PASS. A group of unlikely heroes has banded together to make a long and treacherous journey. Their path takes them through undermountain mines, the home of a horde of goblins. What’s worse, however, is the lord of this lair–a mighty balor, one whose master will stop at nothing to halt the party’s progress.

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