Summon Greater Demon spell in DnD 5E explained

The Warlock cackled as the demon crushed their rival into pulp with their boulder fists. Still aglow, the vial of blood in their hand felt like the key to their greatest victory. It had taken years, years of delving into unspeakable places, battling powerful foes, and striking unseemly bargains to get to this point, their magnum opus. The Warlock, consumed by this moment of glory, didn’t notice the shift in the great furred thing’s shoulders, the look in its eye as it turned to face them. They hadn’t realized they had lost control until it was too late, and suddenly the key to their success became part of a greater pool of regret left behind in the demon’s wake as the magic faded, and the Abyss ripped its denizen back home.

Summon Greater Demon is a 4th level conjuration spell available to Warlocks and Wizards. It takes an action to cast and requires a vocal, somatic and material component, with the latter being a vial of blood from a humanoid that has been killed within the last 24 hours which is not necessarily consumed by the spell. When you cast the spell you summon a demon of challenge rating (CR) 5 or lower within 60 feet of you, such as a shadow demon or a balgura. This demon can make a Charisma saving throw at the end of each of its turns to break free of your control, if successful it will spend its remaining time pursuing and attacking the nearest non-demon creatures to the best of its ability. The demon has disadvantage on this saving throw if you say its true name.

In combat roll initiative for the demon, which acts on its own turn to carry out any verbal commands you have issued it. Commanding the demon requires no action from you and if you issue no command it will instead attack any creature within reach that has already attacked it.

The spell requires your concentration and can last for up to one hour, the demon disappears when the spell ends or it reaches 0 hit points. However, unlike many other summoning spells, when you lose concentration on this spell the demon won’t disappear instantly. Instead, it will remain for 1d6 rounds if it is uncontrolled, plenty of time for it to get revenge on you for summoning it.

If you’re worried about the demon attacking you, fear not! As part of casting the spell, you can create a circle on the ground with the blood used in the casting. This circle is just large enough to encompass your space and using the blood in this fashion consumes it. The demon is unable to enter this circle, damage the circle, or target anyone within it.

If you cast this spell with a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the CR of the demon you can summon increases by 1 for every spell slot level above 4th. For example, a 6th level spell slot would allow you to summon a demon of CR 7.

Is Summon Greater Demon a good spell?

This is dependent on a variety of factors but in short, yes it can be very powerful. Being able to summon a CR 5 creature with a 4th spell slot is a very potent effect, and adding such a powerful creature to your party’s forces can trivialize many encounters.

However, there is so much to go wrong with this spell that can leave your party being savaged by the creature you summoned, as well as the effectiveness of that creature being dependent on what you choose. So here is our verdict:

This can be a very good spell if you choose a ‘good’ demon, make a protective circle, and have a good Con save to maintain concentration. This is not a good spell for beginners or those that have a low chance of maintaining concentration.

What demons should you summon?

One of the problems with this spell is that its effectiveness is dependent on which demon you summon, so to save you from choosing a sub-par critter here’s our list, in no particular order, of effective demons to choose from:

  • Barlgura – This demon is very mobile with a 40 ft. walking and climbing speed and can punish your enemies with three melee attacks. However, this demonic ape’s value isn’t purely in speed and number of strikes, as it can also cast a number of spells. Entangle is a great control option, and Invisibility can help get the Barlgura into a position where it can deliver those melee strikes. This demon has a -1 to Charisma saves, making it a fairly safe choice if you have a high spell save DC.
  • Tanarukk – More of a meatshield than the Barlgura, with a whopping 95 hit points, this is a good choice against creatures that have spellcasting or other magical effects, and melee-centric enemies. This is due to the Tanarukk’s Magic Resistance and ability to take a reaction attack at advantage against enemies that are hitting it with a melee attack. That magic resistance is also a cause for concern, however, as it means that it will roll the Cha saves against your spell with advantage too, it still has a -1 modifier to the save, but Magic Resistance makes this less reliable to control than a Barlgura.
  • Shadow Demon – A great choice due to its large number of resistances, most monsters don’t have magical attacks innately, although this is a demon to use with great caution. The Light Sensitivity trait makes it best to use this demon in a situation where any form of bright light is unlikely to come up, and its +2 Cha save modifier is less than ideal to retain control of it. The good news here is that a PC party is well suited to take down a shadow demon that gets out of control, all you need is a light spell, or a torch, and a PC with radiant damage. 

You may be tempted by the Dybbuk, however, if you choose this demon you need to be extremely careful. With a +2 Cha modifier and Magic Resistance, it won’t be the easiest demon to keep control of, and it has enough resistances and immunities to make it a bit of a handful. The Possess Corpse ability is cool but will eat an entire action and requires a cool monster’s corpse to be present, making it more awkward to use effectively than some of the other demonic options.

How can you get Summon Greater Demon?

If this spell interests you then fear not! It is a widely accessible spell, on four different spell lists and accessible to many subclasses:

  • Warlock and Wizard – These classes get access to this spell from their spell lists.
  • Eldritch Knight Fighter and Arcane Trickster Rogues – These three quarter casters can choose Summon Greater Demon as an unrestricted spell choice. This is the highest level of spell that these casters can learn.
  • Magical Secrets (Bard class feature)  – This class feature allows the Bard to pick up any spell they choose from any list, as long as they have a high enough level spell slot to cast it. Summon Greater Demon is a low-enough level spell that a Bard can choose it with even their lowest level Magical Secrets.

Hopefully, this article gave you some pointers for your next demonic summoning or helped you avoid it, to begin with. If you’re interested in researching other spells then check out our spells section, or if you’re here because you’re preparing for your next Warlock, then check out our Warlock guide. Good luck out there adventurers and until next time, remember, draw your protective circle!