Stranger Things from Netflix debuted in 2016 and introduced Dungeons & Dragons to a new generation of players. The show has had an undeniable influence on D&D as the characters name the monsters from their home games: the demogorgon, the mind flayer, and the lich Vecna. Let’s take a look at each of these monsters in the latest edition of D&D.
First set in 1983, the kids in Stranger Things have a long-running campaign playing Basic D&D. After a monster kidnaps their friend, they dub it the Demogorgon from their game.
While the physical description of Demogorgon doesn’t quite match up in the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, there are some similarities that line up with the name. Demogorgon is a demon lord set on chaos and destruction with a goal to see the world dragged into the Abyss. Demogorgon is strongest in its lair, located on the Gaping Maw. Much like the Upside Down, the Gaping Maw is full of confusing mazes and cold darkness.
Demogorgon in 5E, found in Monsters of the Multiverse, shares a couple of abilities with its counterpart in Stranger Things. Demogorgon uses telekinesis and is incredibly strong and perceptive. But that’s where the comparison ends; Demogorgon isn’t particularly weak to fire and it can’t teleport.
However, the demon is still something you don’t want to run into in your game – with a challenge rating (CR) of 26, even a party of four characters at level 20 would need lucky dice to survive this encounter. (If you’re looking for a new player version, check out the Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set where the much weaker demogorgon’s CR is only a 4.)
A year after their encounter with the demogorgon, the kids are trying to move on with their lives but it isn’t long until disaster strikes again. When the kids realize what’s going on, they name their new foe the Mind Flayer.
Mind flayers are also known as illithids in Dungeons & Dragons and have been featured in every edition. They have ruled worlds with their mind control and collective consciousness, and prefer to speak through telepathy. They are connected to a leader called an Elder Brain, and mind flayers only consume humanoid brains. They attack with psychic energy and can read thoughts.
The Mind Flayer in Stranger Things doesn’t look the same, but has much in common with the 5E version. Mind flayers excel at mind control and share a hive mind and they often command thralls to carry out their desires. While a party of four characters at level 6 shouldn’t have any problems with a CR 7, the devastating Extract Brain action can instantly kill. In any setting, mind flayers are best avoided.
The latest nemesis to face the Stranger Things kids is Vecna. In the newest season of the show, the now teenage crew faces a murderous being they name after the lich Vecna.
Vecna has the unique distinction of being the only artifact in every edition of D&D in the form of his eye and left hand, and a prominent part of the first campaign of Critical Role and Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. Vecna has been a powerful foe in all of Dungeons & Dragons, and his stats have recently been updated for 5E.
What is known about Vecna is that his mastery of magic and desire to dominate transformed him into a lich. He had so much power that few dare to say his name and call him The Whispered One, the Master of the Spider Throne, the Undying King, or the Lord of the Rotted Tower. His own personal guard betrayed him and severed his hand and removed his eye. Both adventurers and Vecna hunt for the powerful Hand of Vecna and the Eye of Vecna. It’s said that Vecna has so many followers that he is now a god.
While the D&D 5E stats for Vecna give him the same CR 26 as Demogorgon, he’s got some strong actions that could easily wipe a well-outfitted party. He can cast Dread Counterspell as a reaction, and his Vile Transport not only bamfs him but can cause his hit points to be restored. He has an action that can instantly kill a character and turn them into a zombie under his control. And if that’s not enough (he has plenty more tricks), his strong spirit will create a new body for him if he dies.
Ready to start your own D&D campaign? Check out the starter adventure Lost Mine of Phandelver or the Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set.