Since 1974 fiendish creatures have evolved, gaining and losing many powers and spells down through the ages. Through all of this, the mechanics of possession are ellusive.

Please note all editions of D&D have had careful descriptions on possession when needed - note the (in)famous ghost. It explains how the living target-creature would lose control, which stats change (or not) and how the etherial form phases into a material body. The mechanics are exacting and have really effective game-play usage. It is great.

Contrast this with the 5e Shadow demon: in the writeup they lay claim to some ability to possess targets - yet mechanics for this ability seem to be missing. Most other fiends seem to be devoid of all mind control powers all together. Even the almighty Pit Fiend's only mind alteration does not extend beyond causing enemies to be a bit scared... for a possible six seconds. On a failed save. Once a day. Provided one is not otherwise immune.

It would add a lot to a campaign to have anyone, characters, player characters or even the players themselves (open for anything here), possessed by a demon. Note that StackExchange even features a brilliant write-up on how to be rid of a demon once one has been taken over - this is a Step-By-Step / 'How-To'. It is very good.

Long story short: how do demons possess (player or non-) characters? Where are the mechanics listed?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking for someone to review each official monster, list the ones that can possess, and then write out the mechanics for them? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jan 19, 2020 at 20:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There were mechanics for demonic possession in D&D 3rd edition, but I don't know the mechanics for 5th. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 19, 2020 at 21:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or are you asking if there are general always-on rules for all fiends to possess? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jan 19, 2020 at 22:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am asking if there is a specific rule-mechanic for fiends to possess one or more creature types. The example of 'ghost possession' is only listed because it is so specific-exacting - and so useful! For example, a ghost cannot possess an ogre ('giant') nor a mind flayer ('aberration') - despite how 'humanoid' they appear. Clear guidelines for fiend-possession would be valuable / handy! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 20, 2020 at 3:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ To confirm, you're asking the question in my 2nd comment: if there are always-on general possession mechanics available to all fiends? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jan 20, 2020 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


They get bound in an object, then escape the object to enter a mortal soul

It says on p. 51 of the Monster Manual in the section on Bound Demons:

...ancient tomes describe techniques that can trap the essence of a demon... within a weapon, idol, or piece of jewelery...

and further on the same page under Demonic Possession:

No matter how secure its bindings, a powerful demon often finds a way to escape an object that holds it. When a demonic essence emerges from its container, it can possess a mortal host.

So, this is an exception to the usual tendency of demons to have their essence return immediately to the Abyss when they are without a vivified body (i.e, when they are killed), as is explained on pp. 50,51 of the Monster Manual in the section, "Eternal Evil."

What is not specified, is how a "powerful demon... finds a way to escape" its container. But this gives you an overall framework or "backstory" for your demon possession: some spellcaster must have summoned and bound your demon inside an object, and then the demon must have found a way to escape that object, thereby giving the demon the chance to possess a mortal soul instead of going to the Abyss.


They don't

WYSIWYG - if it doesn't say it, it doesn't do it.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ On the contrary. It says they do, but doesn't say anything about the mechanics of how. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alicia
    Jan 31, 2021 at 1:07

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