With fiends like these, who needs enemies? Today we’re dragging the lowliest of demons into the spotlight, come take a look at the Dretch.
A dretch is both a demon and an onomatopoeic description of the creature. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a miserable creature somewhere between a demon and a wretch (either the noun or the verb). These minor demons have been around since the Return of the Jedi, only instead of lovable squat furry creatures, they’re loathsome, squat, blubbery demons. But they’ve endured over the decades, and for good reason. So let’s take a look at what makes these foul fiends work so well.
It all starts back in 1st Edition, with the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. In this deep and dangerous delve that spans a multi-session crawl, players would encounter the demonic minions of Grazz’t, and among them were the loathsome Dretches. In the Monster Manual 2, we get a glimpse at their inner natures:
Dretch are the most common and least powerful of all demons, being scarcely capable of dealing with a quasit on equal terms.
Described as round and rubbery and thin and spindly all at once, the dretch are miserable pile of contradictions and secrets. They are there as cannon fodder in the 1st Edition, with little in the way of details.
2nd Edition Dretch are all about the Blood War. So still cannon fodder, but in addition to a suite of spell-like abilities INCLUDING telekinesis, which even back in those early days could still be quite deadly. Dretches get some of the most entertaining stories in 2nd Edition and Planescape though. On occasion, the Dretches would go on strike, refusing to pay heed to their superiors in some sort of attempt to start a demonic union. It would never work–but they could cause enough civil strife to disrupt the Blood War. So let that be a lesson, demons are against unions.
In 3rd Edition, the Dretch don’t even rate their own artwork. Their entry nets them a bunch of resistances, and they gain the ability to speak telepathically, but they still serve the demons and are basically what they’ve always been.
4th Edition is much kinder to Dretches, casting them as some sort of hungry miasma carrying demon. They strike savagely and carry a burst of poison that explodes when they die. They’re quite an interesting 4th Edition encounter, even if their lore entry is next to nothing.
5th Edition is much kinder to the Dretch. They are still the weakest of the demons, but they are cast as more of a workhorse and get some decent artwork that makes them look like the hounds of Zuul from the Ghostbusters. Plus their attacks evolve, keeping much of their 4th Edition concept (a fetid cloud and the ability to lay waste), but they lose spell abilities they’ve had since 1st Edition.
And that’s the Dretch. Nothing fancy, but if you’re looking for some resilient fodder that won’t threaten your party too much, but will stick around long enough to make your party feel like they had a decent fight.