Long, long time ago, I tried my hand at making a simple card game using only 18 cards. It was a contest on Board Game Geek. My entry? The Dream Collectors.
While my entry went nowhere, it did help me come up with some pretty cool concepts for monsters. The one that always stuck with me, though, was this guy:
The Duke of Nightmares!
(Please excuse the horrible Photoshop, I wasn’t nearly as good back then as I am now. Now that I think about it, I still probably suck. But whatever…)
I just thought he looked cool with his 1800’s French soldier uniform, gazelle horns, and two glowing eyes (you can’t tell from the sepia photo, but his eyes glow green and red).
Years later, I’m running a D&D 5e campaign and he’s suddenly the BBEG. My players are marching their way to his iron tower at the edge of the Swamp of Misplaced Hope on the Demi-plane of Nightmares.
Problem is: I haven’t statted him up yet!
Design notes for the Duke of Nightmares
Doing some back reading on Forgotten Realms Lore, I know the following about the ol’ Duke and his setup in the Region of Dreams:
- The Duke of Nightmares is an exiled Lord of Hell. Apparently, this isn’t that uncommon of a thing.
- He discovered the Swamp while traveling along the River Styx. The Swamp itself is full of dream trees, and the dream trees produce dream fruit. Each dream fruit is a sneak peek into someone from the Prime Material’s dreams. And if a dream fruit is rotten, then it is made of nightmare stuff.
- Creatures closely associated with dreams populate the Duke’s swamp, especially beholders and beholderkin. Also, the diaboli, those who inhabit the Region of Dreams, work for the Duke, picking fruit for him and managing his estate. I also recreated the ocularon for fifth edition, too.
- Because of his close connection to the subconscious desires of every person that’s ever lived, the Duke trades with other devils seeking to corrupt mortals.
Now that I know that the Duke is a duke of hell (or former Duke of Hell, as it were), it’s just a matter of putting him up there with the other Dukes.
He would not be as strong as say, the Archdevils from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, but he would be above all other devils except for maybe the Pit Fiend.
In addition, I wanted the Duke to be a challenge that my players (whose characters are all around level 8 right now), could reasonably challenge. They might lose a life or two, but they could still take the guy down if they ran the combat right.
The Duke of Nightmares
Large fiend (devil), lawful evil
Armor Class 18 (natural armor)
Hit Points 153 (18d10 + 66)
Speed 30 ft.
Abilities Str 18 (+4), Dex 21 (+5), Con 18 (+3), Int 24 (+7), Wis 21 (+5), Cha 26 (+8)
Saving Throws Dex +10, Con +8, Wis +10, Cha +13
Skills Deception +13, Intimidation +13, Perception +10
Damage Resistances cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren’t silvered
Damage Immunities fire, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned
Senses truesight 60 ft., darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 20
Languages all, telepathy 120 ft.
Challenge 15 (13,000 XP)
Disturbing Familiarity. The Duke makes Deception checks at advantage against all creatures that aren’t devils.
Innate Spellcasting. The Duke of Nightmares’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 21). He can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
At will: alter self (can become Medium when changing his appearance), animate dead, bestow curse, confusion, detect magic, dream, major image, modify memory, sending, suggestion
3/day each: dispel magic, hallucinatory terrain
1/day each: project image
Legendary Resistance (3/day). If the Duke of NIghtmares fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead.
Magic Resistance. The Duke has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Magic Weapons. The Duke’s weapon attacks are magical.
Regeneration. The Duke regains 10 hit points at the start of his turn. If he takes radiant damage, this trait doesn’t function at the start of his next turn. The Duke dies only if he starts his turn with 0 hit points and doesn’t regenerate.
Multiattack. The Duke makes two eye ray attack: one with his right eye ray and one with his left eye ray.
Right Eye Ray. The Duke targets a creature he can see within 120 feet of him. The targeted creature must make a DC 21 Constitution saving throw, taking 36 (8d8) necrotic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
Left Eye Ray. The Duke targets a creature he can see within 120 feet of him. The targeted creature must make a DC 21 Dexterity saving throw or take 45 (10d8) force damage. If this damage reduces the creature to 0 hit points, its body becomes a pile of fine gray dust.
Nightmare Vision. The Duke targets one creature he can see within 60 feet of him. The target must succeed on a DC 21 Charisma saving throw or become paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
Teleport. The Duke magically teleports, along with any equipment he is wearing and carrying, up to 120 feet to unoccupied space he can see.
The Duke can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The Duke regains spent legendary actions at the of his turn.
Eye Blast (Costs 2 Actions). The Duke attacks with his right eye ray or left eye ray.
Nightmare Assault. The Duke uses his Nightmare Vision action. Alternatively, the Duke targets one creature paralyzed by his Nightmare Vision action that is within 60 feet of him; that paralyzed target must make a DC 21 Charisma saving throw. On a failure, the target takes 35 (10d6) psychic damage.
Teleport. The Duke uses his teleport action.
Thanks for reading!
Hopefully, this insight into the Duke of Nightmares is pretty cool for you as it is for me. I love roleplaying the guy (I play him like a goofy game show host).
The Duke of Nightmares is free for you to use in your own Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition games. Just not commercially!
Next up, I’ll be recreating the diaboli for 5th edition along with some other monsters I’ll need to populate the Duke’s eponymous swamp.
See you then!