Few creatures in D&D 5e are as terrifying as Bodaks.
These beings are twisted husks of the people they once were. With the power to destroy life with just their very presence and a gaze that can instantly drop any who look upon it, Bodaks are the stuff of nightmares.
So, brace yourself, dear reader.
In this article, we’re braving the terror and madness of the Bodak. We’ll look at their twisted origins, spine-chilling abilities, and what to expect when you cross one’s path.
What is a Bodak in D&D 5e?
There was a time when a Bodak was once a living person.
However, that person chose to offer themselves to the Demon Lord of Undeath, Orcus, so that they might further his diabolical will.
Rising as a Bodak, this being has all but entirely forgotten its former life. Mercilessly spreading death and destruction wherever it goes, the Bodak is particularly compelled to wipe out anything that could remind it of its life before this transformation.
Former friends or residents of what was once the Bodak’s hometown are in particular danger.
While certain mannerisms or clues might give away a Bodak’s former identity to those who once knew them, it’s much too late. By the time someone has picked up on these clues, they are likely unable to escape its undead wrath.
The only beings that Bodaks will not attack are other servants of Orcus.
Those who have been slain by a Bodak are almost as chilling to look at as the Bodak itself. Their bodies are withered and wasted away as a look of pure terror is frozen on their face.
Think of it like The Ring but somehow scarier.
Perhaps the most terrifying thing about Bodaks is just how deep their twisted corruption goes.
These are creatures so unnatural that all but the most well-trained animals (like war horses) will run away well before a Bodak has even arrived at their location.
In fact, nature itself rejects Bodaks as sunlight burns at the creatures’ rotting flesh.
The influence of Orcus over the creature’s mind, body, and soul is so thorough that nothing short of a Wish spell can restore them.
Where the creature’s heart would be is instead the symbol of Orcus. As instruments of his desire for total annihilation, Orcus refuses to allow Bodaks to be restored to their former life.
Though with most Bodaks originally being servants of Orcus, few would probably want such a thing to happen. It’s likely that many would love nothing more than the twisted honor of becoming a Bodak.
Ambassadors of Orcus
The very first Bodaks are known as the Heirophants of Annihilation. All seven of these are particularly powerful with their gaze being enough to turn slain mortals into Bodaks as well.
While they have free will and are among the mightiest beings in the Abyss, they still directly serve Orcus.
Beyond the Heirophants of Annihilation, most Bodaks are more limited by comparison. They have some intelligence, but they’re primarily driven by their impulse to destroy life.
However, they also serve as ambassadors for Orcus.
Everything that a Bodak sees or hears is known by Orcus. After all, they explicitly serve as a way to spread his influence and will outside of his domain in the Abyss.
In fact, the Prince of Undeath can choose to directly address others by speaking through the Bodak.
For allies (such as cults that follow him), few things are as high of an honor.
For those who would defy Orcus, it’s another story…
Even in the highest tiers of play, getting the personal attention of Demon Lord (especially one as strong as Orcus) is as tense as it gets!
With lore as terrifying as we’ve just covered, is it any surprise that Bodaks have a stat block to match?
Even though the Bodak has a challenge rating of CR 6, if used cleverly it punches way above its weight class.
I’ll be using the Bodak’s updated stat block as it appears in the Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse book for this article.
Let’s check it out!
Resistances, Immunities, and Vulnerabilities
Bodaks have resistance against cold, fire, and damage from nonmagical attacks. Meanwhile, they are immune to necrotic and poison damage.
(Curiously, the Bodak’s first appearance in Volo’s Guide to Monsters was only resistant to necrotic and was immune to lightning.)
If you want to attempt to charm, frighten, or poison a Bodak, you’ll be disappointed. They are also immune to those conditions.
The only vulnerability that Bodaks have is their weakness to sunlight. When they start their turn in sunlight, they take 5 radiant damage. Additionally, Bodaks have disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks while in sunlight.
This means that you’re almost certain to be in a very dark place when you encounter a Bodak. If they are outside of their lair, they are smart enough to know to return home well before the sun rises.
Bodaks’ gaze is their most important feature and takes the form of a passive feature and an action.
Death Gaze is the Bodak’s passive feature.
When a creature starts its turn within 30 feet of a Bodak and can see its eyes, the Bodak can force them to make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw.
If the character fails their Death Gaze saving throw by 5 or more and isn’t immune to the frightened condition, they immediately drop to zero hit points. Failing this saving throw by less than 5 results in the character taking 3d6 psychic damage.
To avoid this, a character can choose to avert their eyes. However, this means that their attacks will be at disadvantage. It’s a tough choice to make with potentially high stakes!
As an action, the Bodak can use its Withering Gaze feature.
Withering Gaze affects one creature that the Bodak can see within 60 feet of it. That creature must then make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or take 4d10 necrotic damage. If they succeed on their save, they instead take half damage.
The last key feature that the Bodak has is its Aura of Annihilation.
While the aura is active, it deals 5 necrotic damage to any creature that ends its turn within 30 feet of the Bodak. Undead and Fiends are immune to this effect.
While the Bodak can use a bonus action to switch this on and off, it’s a safe bet that it’s pretty much always on. If it’s currently delivering a message to a group of Orcus followers, it might turn it off unless Orcus is displeased with the cult.
But what else would you expect when your boss is a literal demon?
Encountering a Bodak
Any time I’m busting out a Bodak for an encounter, I just can’t help but give a diabolical smile.
These monsters are so terrifying and unique that they tend to get a very strong emotional response from players.
If the players weren’t freaking out at the description of the Bodak, that all changes once one of the party members get instantly dropped to zero hit points!
Running Bodaks for Dungeon Masters
An encounter with a single Bodak can quickly turn into a TPK.
As a DM, you want to create a situation that is challenging for the party and has risks. But there is a difference between that and outright execution.
When you’re using a Bodak, be careful not to overdo it though don’t make it a walk in the park. There’s a real “sweet spot” to making the encounter terrifying and memorable while also fair.
The combination of Death Gaze, Withering Gaze, and Aura of Annihilation is sure to be endlessly frustrating for the party. Keep them in range of these effects while also having some weaker undead or fiends (zombies and skeletons are perfect) between the Bodak and the party.
Death Gaze and Aura of Annihilation are both dealing damage outside of the Bodak’s turn. That keeps it free to use its Withering Gaze on whoever it perceives to be the weakest standing target or the biggest threat.
With their bonuses to Stealth and Perception, Bodaks are especially great at taking the party by surprise.
Keep in mind, a surprised character won’t be able to avert their eyes. This means that this first use of Death Gaze might kick off the combat by instantly knocking out a party member or two.
Once the party figures out what’s happening, they’re going to focus heavily on taking out the Bodak.
That’s why adding in some weaker enemies is important to up the tension while stopping the party from immediately just dogpiling the Bodak.
Use the environment to the Bodaks advantage. It wants to position itself where it always has everyone in its sight. If it can funnel them into a narrow hallway or other “choke point”, it will gladly do so.
Fighting Bodaks as a Player
If you can, getting Turn Undead off early in the fight will make a Bodak encounter much easier. Just be aware that a Cleric or Paladin will likely stand out as a high-profile target.
Your party has two main priorities when it comes to facing a Bodak:
- If someone drops to zero hit points, get them up ASAP before the Bodak and its allies dogpile them. Healing Word is especially great for this!
- Overwhelm the Bodak.
Since the Bodak should have some allies in the fight, you want to prioritize picking up any party members that are knocked out.
The Bodak may or may not keep attacking them, but creatures like zombies will be more drawn to the easy dinner!
Secondly, you want to overwhelm the Bodak. Attacks against it are at disadvantage if your team are covering their eyes. Combine that with their numerous resistances and it can feel like a hopeless war of attrition.
Effectively, you want to outlast the Bodak. The more attacks that you can throw in its direction, the better.
The party is taking damage every round from its Aura of Annihilation with additional bursts from its Withering Gaze.
If someone is going to open their eyes to get over the disadvantage on their attacks, make sure you have a plan to quickly get them back on their feet.
Ideally, someone with a high Constitution (like a Barbarian) will be able to keep the Bodak’s attention while everyone else dogpiles it.
Plan to take at least a short rest after encountering a Bodak if at all possible. These enemies are a massive resource drain for any party to encounter!
If your character wants to live to see another day, they’ll want to spend some hit dice and recover any features/resources they can before pressing forward!
Conclusion – Bodaks in D&D 5e
It’s been a little while since my last monster feature, so I wanted to bring out something extra creepy.
Seriously, Bodaks are one of the scariest creatures in D&D 5e and do not get the credit they deserve.
When a single one can potentially wipe an entire party with just their passive features, it’s enough to give you nightmares!
Have you ever faced or run a Bodak? If so, how did it go? Let’s chat in the comments!
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