One of the most exciting parts of late-game encounters in 5e is facing off against foes from the strange and twisted dimensions that make up the setting’s web of planes. Each plane boasts unique environments, political situations, and a cast of frightening creatures to face off against.
The high-ranking D&D monsters within these planes tend to be incredibly powerful with high challenge ratings, making them perfect for encounters against a high-level party. One of my favorites of these, especially if you want to re-enact a certain Lord of the Rings scene, is the star of this Balor 5e Guide, the Balor.
Key Info Up Front
- Book: Monster Manual
- Size: Huge
- Type: Fiend
- Challenge Rating: 19
- Editions: 1e, 2e, 3e, 4e, 5e
- Native Plane: Abyss
Balor History in DnD
Tracing the history of the Balor throughout the history of DnD is made slightly more difficult because of its odd naming history. Balor was initially included in the very first edition of DnD. During the system’s development, it was referred to as a Balrog because of its original inspiration in The Lord of the Rings. To avoid infringing on any copyrights, however, they had their name changed for release to type VI demon.
However, the name Balor was still present in the game system. Instead of being the name of the species, Balor was the highest rank within the type VI demon armies in Abyss. It wasn’t until the release of the second edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons that the entire species was referred to as Balor rather than just being a rank.
Ever since, the Balor has been featured in the core books of each edition’s release, making them a tentpole to the game’s demonic enemies. It is interesting also to note that the name of the Balor was also changed within the Gord the Rogue novels written by the father of DnD himself, Gary Gygax. In the books, they were referred to as both conflagrant and raloogs, possibly giving a peek at other naming options that were lost to Balor.
Balors are intensely intimidating fiends that look as powerful as they indeed are. They stand around 12 feet tall, making them tower over entire buildings in the Forgotten Realms while weighing an incredible 4,500 pounds. They have red skin, accented with short black hair, charred leather gear, and spanning black wings. Despite their size, they can deftly move both on the ground and in the sky, making facing a Balor extremely difficult as players have to face them on multiple levels.
Balors are naturally equipped with claws, their imposing size, and long fangs that steadily drip with poison to accomplish their killing. However, this isn’t enough killing potential for most Balor, and the species has come to favor equipping themselves with flaming whips that split into multiple strands toward the end, as well as swords of lightning. They wield both weapons at once and are storied warriors with both of them.
The Balor is native to the hellish plane known as Abyss. It’s difficult for other species to correctly discern how many Balor there are in the world because many are never seen, instead lurking in the infinite black Abyss to gather forces for their armies. What is known of how many ever Balor there are, however, is that they play a critical role in the Blood War.
The Blood War is a never-ending war between the various demonic forces spread across the planes of existence. Every fiendish species participates in the Blood War to a different degree and for other reasons. They may want to accumulate more power for themselves, are trying to satisfy an innate craving for violence, or are just bored without having something to fight. The Balor, however, are deeply invested in the Blood War and are responsible for leading the demonic races of Abyss in the conflict, giving them positions of authority over many other demonic races.
This position of power is a tumultuous one, however, as demons and fiends are not ones to ever be too complacent taking orders from another. So, the Balor have to rule with an iron fist that is enforced with cruel acts of violence and suppression. The Mariliths and Nalfeshnees have been known to harbor an extreme dislike for the Balor and the control that they force on others. Rather than outright opposing them, however, they are more likely to try and embarrass their Balor leaders because they know that they are not nearly powerful enough for confrontation.
This is because the Balor prefer leading individuals that aren’t as powerful as them to avoid having to deal with putting down insurrections or disorder. This does not mean that they lead armies of weaklings, however, and they instead prefer to lead others that are just slightly below their ability.
1This ensures that they can achieve their lofty goals while helping them avoid constantly having to re-assert their dominance over their followers. Some Balor have been known to team up with one another when their goals align appropriately. Still, this alliance often ends in betrayal or conflict due to how naturally competitive Balor are.
Personality and Mortals
The Balor is primarily driven by a ferociously burning rage that stems from deep within them. They constantly crave the thrills of battle and the conquests it can bring. Little is as essential to a Balor as increasing their power and prestige.
A Balor is never as happy as when they have successfully crushed an opposing force and have a crowd of new subjects bowing before them. Even outside of battle, they enjoy disrupting the lives of others with misery and terror to exert power over their existence.
While their rage and constant desire for more power often leave them trying to satisfy an eternal hunger within themselves, they are far from being overly impulsive or crude. In actuality, they also have a deep appreciation for the more subtle arts of corruption and deceit. Their passion is often seen as charismatic by individuals craving power or opportunity, and it allows them to be corrupt and manipulates weaker entities to do their bidding.
This is particularly true with mortals who hunger for untold power. Balor interacts with the mortal races far more often than other demonic species to use this desire to their advantage. In return, they receive more influence and magical power from the human realm flowing into Abyss that they can then use to fuel their growth and efforts in the Blood War.
It is also believed that some Balor lie in wait within mortal realms, gathering power in the shadows and hidden areas until they grow powerful enough to take to the surface and begin wreaking their terror on any they can find.
With a Challenge Rating of 19, it is no surprise that Balor is a mighty foe for any player to face off against. To start, they have an incredible ability array that includes 26 Strength, 22 Constitution and Charisma, 20 Intelligence, 16 Wisdom, and 15 Dexterity. These ability scores reflect just how robust and influential a Balor can be, especially when it comes to influencing others through their sheer passion and force of will.
Balor also comes with an array of Damage Resistances that your players will have to circumvent if they want to deal much damage to the Balor at all. These include Cold, Lightning, and nonmagical physical attacks while being utterly immune to all sources of Fire and Poison damage or becoming Poisoned at all.
Since your party should be at a high level before confronting a Balor in combat, they shouldn’t have too much trouble finding other damage types to use. However, they still can be pretty crippling to any players that have over-invested in a particular damage type or two.
On top of the above, Balor has Truesight with a range of 120 feet, allowing them always to see those around them and making it almost impossible to sneak up on them. They are also fluent in the Abyssal language and can speak telepathically with others that are within 120 feet of them.
To round it all off, Balor has a decent Armor Class of 19, a walking speed of 40 feet, an impressive flying speed of 80 feet, and a Hit Point pool of 262 on top of being considered Huge.
Once your party enters combat with a Balor, they will discover just how formidable of an opponent they are. This starts with the passive abilities that help make them much more difficult to deal damage to. To start, they have Magical Resistance, which grants them a universal advantage on all saving throws made against spells and magical effects. They also have the Magic Weapons feature, meaning that all of their attacks count as magical.
To round out their defensive features, the Balors also come with a Fire Aura. This feature surrounds them in unbearable heat that extends five feet out from them in every direction. This has a few different effects. The first is that it deals 3d6 fire damage, or an average of 10, to any creatures within range at the start of the Balor’s turn.
This damage also applies to any enemies that hit the Balor with a melee attack while within five feet of it, so bring a weapon within reach. Finally, this heat also ignites any flammable objects in a range that aren’t being carried or equipped at all.
The Balor’s final passive feature is called Death Throes and is a great way to shock your party just as they think they are finally safe. It is activated when the Balor is fully killed and causes it to explode in a force of white light. The explosion extends 30 feet out from the Balor in every direction, making all creatures in the range create a Dexterity saving throw with a DC of 20.
The explosion deals an incredible 20d6 fire damage or an average of 70, but the damage is halved on a successful saving throw. This is an absurd amount of damage that acts as an incredible capstone to your Balor encounter for players that aren’t expecting it.
Balor also comes with three combat actions and a Multiattack that lets them use one Longsword and Whip attack each turn. Attacks with their Longsword are made with a +14 attack modifier and a reach of ten feet.
On a successful hit, they deal 3d8 +8 slashing damage plus 3d8 lightning damage, which averages out to 34 damage. Their electric sword also comes with the unique property of rolling damage dice three times when they roll a natural 20 on their attack roll rather than the standard twice.
The Balor’s fiery Whip attacks are then made with another +14 attack bonus and a terrifying reach of 30 feet. The whip deals 2d6 + 8 slashing damage and 2d6 fire damage, equalling out to 25 total damage. When a target is successfully hit with the Whip action, they have to make a Strength saving throw with a DC of 20.
If they fail the saving throw, they are then pulled 25 feet toward the Balor. This is a great tool to use to attack ranged players to keep them on their feet and make sure they never get too comfortable on the fringes of combat.
The final ability that Balors have is a Teleport. Their Teleport is pretty helpful because it doesn’t take up any resources and allows them to instantly move to a space that they can see within 120 feet of them. The Teleport also lets Balor keep all of their equipped and held items, making it a great way to kidnap a player or magical artifact before fleeing the battle.
Playing a Balor
When it comes to roleplaying a Balor for your party to interact with, it is critical to give it the appropriate amount of drama and cinematic feel. The personality of Balors is pretty simple, but it also defines their actions and motivation. A critical aspect of their personality to communicate is their manipulative nature. Before your Balor goes straight into attacking the party, they should first try to corrupt and manipulate them.
This can make for exciting interactions. Having a Balor try to influence different members of the party can be an excellent way to try and sow some discord into the party or even keep them from working toward the final boss right away.
If you can manage to sway a party member or two, you can leverage that to either lead to an interesting debate within the party or have them be betrayed or tricked by the Balor.
This will help communicate just how sinister Balors are as well as give you an excellent way to introduce the idea that the Balor has a greater scheme or may be playing a hidden role as they manipulate other, more minor villains.
The second part of Balor’s personality that you should make sure to draw attention to is the unbridled rage that motivates and moves them. You can do this by making them quick to anger, having them almost foam at the mouth and crave violence, or having them torture any underlings that fail them or doesn’t follow orders appropriately. To do this, I’ve personally set the scene by having the Balor mercilessly kill those that serve it for little infractions or simply for entertainment whenever it’s bored or has to wait for something.
Finally, if you’re comfortable doing so, I highly recommend using a voice when talking as a Balor. Not every group is comfortable doing different voices for roleplaying, and that is fine, but if you can do so, using a deep, booming voice can add a lot to a Balor’s presence.
Suppose you can properly emote and act out the Balor’s expressions and gestures as well, or even mimic a sinister laugh or two. In that case, it will make your Balor have a much more significant impact on your party than just using a regular voice would.
Suppose you aren’t very used to using voices for characters. In that case, I recommend trying to mimic the voice of a feeling you are familiar with in media, whether it be Scar from The Lion King or even Cobra Commander.
If your campaign includes a Balor, your party will likely have to face it in combat eventually. Even if they work with the Balor for a while, the Balor should try to outdo them ultimately out of their sheer competitive spirit, eventually leading to combat. Once you get into action, you’ll want to play the Balor intelligently so that they have as big of an impact on your party as possible.
To do so, you’ll want to play around the Balor, staying in melee combat and trying to pull ranged combatants in toward them. You can do this using its Whip attack to pull Wizards, Rangers, or any other ranged combatants out of position to disrupt the party’s strategy. This can also be used to bring fleeing players back into the fold, mainly if they use disengage to try and run away.
Apart from disrupting ranged combatants with the Whip action, you’ll need to keep them in the melee range of most of the party to get the most out of their abilities. Doing so will allow you to keep the pressure on the party’s melee combatants thanks to the Balor’s Fire Aura and Longsword action.
Also, don’t forget about the Fire Aura damage that players take when making melee attacks against the Balor within five feet. This will help push them to think creatively when it comes to damaging the Balor, but you’ll also have to make sure to emphasize what damage types the Balor is resistant or invulnerable to. I prefer to do this by having the player make a Perception check and telling them their attack didn’t deal as much damage as they’d expect if they passed it.
You should also make sure to use the Balor’s teleport to its full potential, especially in certain situations. One great use is to have the Balor attack the party to either steal something or kidnap somebody, only to run away to steal it.
This is a great way to intimidate the players with the Balor and get them involved in the plot without outright killing them or making it a final confrontation. With the Balor’s fast flight speed, it is easy to have the Balor take what it needs, teleport away and then fly to leave the party behind.
Because of the Balor’s station within Abyss, you have an excellent opportunity to have the Balor have minions attack the party as well. However, you can also have the Balor want to fight the party on its own to prove its strength or out of pure rage.
Finally, you should make use of Balor’s explosion from Death Throes. I prefer introducing the explosion by having the Balor say something just before it dies, but you may want to give your party some hint that the Balor will explode beforehand.
I recommend doing this as having a high-level character die to a Balor explosion will likely feel terrible as a player unless you give the party a way to bring the character back to life, which should be easy if they are a high enough level to fight a Balor.
Question: Are Balors more powerful than Pit Fiends in DnD?
Answer: While Balors are often thought to be the demonic equivalent of Pit Fiends, they are much more powerful.
Question: Are there Balrogs in DnD?
Answer: Yes, there are fiends called Balors that were initially inspired by Balrogs from Lord of the Rings and function very similarly.
Question: Where are Balors from?
Answer: Balors are natively from the terrifying plane known as Abyss.
Balors are a great enemy to pit against your high-level party. I especially recommend using them as a giant boss for a section of your campaign or even the final boss for your entire campaign. This is because of their innately evil nature, their desire to manipulate and control others, and how imposing their appearance is.
This makes them great to frighten your players early on in the campaign, and it would make sense for them to try and mess with the party and NPCs throughout the campaign.
If your party wants to keep playing at level 20 and hunt down character boons, killing a Balor is an excellent lead into a post-campaign arc dealing with the Blood War being waged between the demonic forces of the planes.
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