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Nabassus, otherwise known as death stealers,[5] were aggressive tanar'ri demons that had strong connections to undeath and were eternally hungry for souls.[1] They were unique among demons as the only ones that had to live on a foreign plane for a part of their lives,[4] sent as they were to bring the terror of the Abyss to the Material Plane.

If I don't rend you limb from limb, who will?
— A nabassu[6]


Nabassus were gaunt, gargoyleish creatures that stood 7 ft (2.1 m) tall[4] and weighed 140 lb (64 kg).[3] Their emaciated bodies were scaly, leathery, and covered in tight sinewy muscles. Their elongated heads had noseless faces with a large tusked mouth, a pair of forehead horns, and beady eyes. Although their eyes were sometimes steel gray, they also could glow a menacing shade of yellow.[4][3] Both their ears and wings had a long, bat-like appearance, and their digits were as lengthy as their talons.[3]

A nabassu's hide was a dull shade of black on the rear half, with small tufts of similarly shaded fur on the top of the shoulders and a dirty gray color on their chest. However, nabassus could change their coloration to better blend in with their surroundings, changing to black, brown, and pale gray at will.[3][5]


Death stealers held a special enmity towards beings of the Material Plane, seemingly blaming the denizens for their exile from the Abyss.[3] Although juvenile nabassus were not particularly treasure-hungry, adults had far greater greed and often sought treasures and prizes.[3]


Fledgling nabassus were weaker than their older counterparts. A nabassu's very presence darkened the environment around it, which combined with their sneaking skills and camouflage abilities made them incredibly hard to keep track of. With a stare, a death stealer was capable of draining a living creature's life-force, potentially killing them. This process was incredibly dangerous not only because a victim would be severely weakened when not outright killed, but also because it could cause the victim to rise as a ghoul or ghast.[3] Nabassus did not just take life force; it was said they could give it back in a twisted fashion, causing someone else to become a shadow.[5] Most terrifying was when a nabassu decided to feed on a victim, consuming their flesh and spirit in a nightmarish process that caused the rest of the body to melt away. This soul-devouring process could be done within an hour of someone's death, and the soul was only recoverable via true resurrection, miracle, or wish spells.[1][3]

Mature nabassus were far more dangerous, possessing amplified versions of their juvenile powers. They also had a new batch of abilities, including short-ranged paralysation, teleportation, energy draining, and the power to turn ethereal.[4] Once fully grown, they also had the power to summon other tanar'ri such as small groups of babaus or hezrous, or even a glabrezu. They were also known to call in cambions, a small horde of manes, or a second nabassu. Those within the Abyss were known to conjure a pack of ghasts to do their bidding.[4] They could also establish a vampiric link with a given target, causing them to experience every effect the nabassu was hit with.[3]


Because of their limited abilities, nabassu demonlings were more concerned with closing in on their targets and using their death-stealing gaze before ripping them to pieces.[3] Despite having access to supernatural powers, they preferred to use their claws and fangs against opponents who couldn't fight back, as these inspired more terror.[4] The more terrified the target and the faster they could consume their souls, the better.[4]

Once matured, they took great pleasure in bossing around their summoned minions, commanding them to enter more tactical positions while they were free to move stealthily around the battlefield and attack from the shadows. If unable to kill anyone with their gaze for too long, they would typically retreat before focusing their efforts on an individual and trying to pick them off.[3] So long as nabassus thought they could succeed in soul consumption, they would do so, even if the target was a demon, and even if it was another nabassu demon.[1]


Nabassus were considered outcasts even among other demons, who considered the devouring of their souls abhorrent and horrifying. They made an active effort to be summoned by mortals, so they might feast on the summoner's soul or trade their cooperation for a steady supply of souls. Even demon lords might not be safe from the insatiable appetites of nabassus, as they would gang up to find more substantial prey, and even try to find demon amulets.[1]

Once nabassus had matured, they normally moved into an Abyssal fortress on the 1st layer of the Abyss, where they were expected to live out the rest of their existence.[3] From there, they could prey on hapless planar travelers who either intentionally or accidentally ventured into the Abyss.[2]

Despite being unnerving to most other demons, the seclusion many nasbassus took part in often involved other demonic minions.[3] Although they would devour any creature's soul, they might also work with those that promised not to interrupt their plans. They ruled the nearby territory as debased lords, letting their minions take care of any outside problems.[3] Although this was normally the end of their advancement, some nabassus abandoned this role on the Abyss's fringes and pursued a higher demonic form, making them more hated than even the rutterkin. Unlike most demons, they did not have to serve in the Blood War.[7][4]

Not all death stealers resided in a fortress, with some working as assassins, spies, and mercenaries for demon lords such as Orcus or Doresain who had relationships to the undead.[3] Sometimes mature nabassus would take up the wizarding arts,[8] and followers of Orcus sometimes trained as rogues, clerics, rangers, sorcerers, and even assassins, and blackguards. The Prince of Undeath often rewarded his most valued subjects with their own undead minions and made them his elite agents.[3]


Nabassus were born spontaneously in the Abyss from sinful souls filled with ravenous gluttony[9] or as the result of a mane that ascended. Upon birth, juvenile nabassus would use plane shift to travel to the Material Plane seeking out rural areas to live in, normally abandoned cemeteries, in order to one day return to the Abyss.[3] In order to reach their grown state, they had to steal mortal life-force, normally of around 18–30 people, before they could plane shift back to the Abyss for the only other time on their own.[3][5] This was normally done within a year or two of reaching their mature state.[5]

The true purpose of the death stealers was for a long time largely not understood, with the only theory being that their killings somehow empowered the tanar'ri.[4] As it turned out, the horrifying nature and abilities of the nabassus were completely intentional. Because the Outer Planes were shaped by belief, the tanar'ri attempted to spread their name throughout the multiverse in order increase their actual power. By feasting on souls and creating boundless undead, nabassus made people, especially those from the Material Plane, fear the denizens of the Abyss.[7]


The nabassus were thought to have been former gargoyles that served Orcus, believed by some to have formerly been a primordial, who were corrupted by necrotic energy. In a bid to escape from the Abyss and consume the living, the first nabassus found their way to the Plain of Infinite Portals and ended up lurking around the area and becoming infused with a mysterious planar connection. This link tied their existence to the mortal realms and Abyss, ironically creating their current condition. Their strong bond to Orcus remained despite their transformation, as they were usually found doing his bidding when not hunting for souls.[2]

An old legend once said that elemental spirits, in fear of demonic incursion, bound themselves to structures made by mortals. These door guardians were empowered by noble-hearted deeds and weakened by wickedness. To prevent nabassus from utilizing a unique ability to travel through their iron fortresses onto the Material Plane, door guardians kept watch over these parts of the world. If the door guardians were too weakened from acts of evil, nabassus could use these doors to create permanent gateways to the Abyss.[10]

Notable Nabassus[]

Aec'Letec was a powerful nabassu that was worshiped as a god by cultists on the Sword Coast.[11]



The Runes of ChaosDungeon #70: "Ssscaly Thingsss"
Video games
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of AmnBaldur's Gate: Enhanced EditionBaldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition

External links[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (May 29, 2018). Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Edited by Kim Mohan, Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 135–136. ISBN 978-0786966240.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mike Mearls, Brian R. James, Steve Townshend (July 2010). Demonomicon. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 128. ISBN 978-0786954926.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 Ed Stark, James Jacobs, Erik Mona (June 13, 2006). Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 48–51. ISBN 0-7869-3919-2.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 J. Paul LaFountain (1991). Monstrous Compendium: Outer Planes Appendix. Edited by Timothy B. Brown. (TSR, Inc.), p. 106. ISBN 1-56076-055-9.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Gary Gygax (August 1983). Monster Manual II 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), pp. 40–41. ISBN 0-88038-031-4.
  6. Wolfgang Baur and Lester Smith (1994-07-01). “The Book of Chaos”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Chaos (TSR, Inc), p. 19. ISBN 1560768746.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Colin McComb (September 1997). Faces of Evil: The Fiends. Edited by Ray Vallese. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 45–46. ISBN 0-7869-3430-1.
  8. Colin McComb, Monte Cook (July 1996). “The Dark of the War”. In Ray Vallese ed. Hellbound: The Blood War (TSR, Inc.), p. 49. ISBN 0-7869-0407-0.
  9. James Jacobs (March 2007). “The Demonomicon of Iggwilv: Malcanthet: Queen of the Succubi”. In Erik Mona ed. Dragon #353 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 23.
  10. Mike Mearls, Brian R. James, Steve Townshend (July 2010). Demonomicon. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 86. ISBN 978-0786954926.
  11. BioWare (May 1999). Designed by James Ohlen. Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast. Black Isle Studios.