D&D 5E Epic Monsters: Balor

This entry in Epic Monsters takes us into the mythological wars of Ireland’s supernatural legends with the Fomorian champion: Balor!

balor - Guilherme Sommermeyer shrunk.png

This big beautiful bastard is the same fellow you see on the cover of this incredible, awe-inspiring tome!

Balor (aka Balar, Balor Balcbéimnech [the strong smiter], Balor Béimeann, Balor Béimnech [the smiter], Balar Bemen, Balor Birugderc [of the piercing-eye], Balor mac Doit meic Néid [son of Dot son of Nét], Balór na Súile Nimhe [of the Evil Eye], or Balor ua Néit [grandson of Nét]) may come from the Celtic ‘Boleros’ which—because we certainly don’t have enough possible meanings just yet—stands for "the flashing one" and is sometimes personified as a harsh, scorching sun (causing crop failure and drought).

In the mythology of Ireland Balor is a giant with one incredibly destructive eye (with petrifying and poisonous powers imbued when he was exposed to fumes from a potion being crafted by his father’s druids) that leads the Fomorians, a magical race born from the earth and sea. Being a monocular titan, he is often compared to Greek cyclops and the Welsh Ysbaddaden. The Balor is best known from the Battle of Mag Tuired and for being murdered by his grandson (Lugh of the Tuatha Dé Danann), initially appearing in the Mythological Cycle as one of the four major cycles of early Irish literary tradition (along with the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle and the Cycles of the Kings), describing conflict between the Fomorians and the divine Tuatha Dé Danann where he is not only their champion, but ruler of the Hebrides Isles as well and slayer of the rival forces’ king Nuada Airgetlám.

When Balor’s grandson chucks a sling-stone through his eye, it opens up the backside of his skull and harms the Fomorian soldiers behind him (27 of which are crushed by his corpse). Alternatively, he may have survived this eye shot and fled to Mizen Head where he’s beheaded on a large rock that shatters from the act—the origin of the headland's Irish name Carn Uí Néit (cairn of Nét's grandson)

Balor knows his fate in advance however and tries to prevent his murderer from ever being born, locking away his daughter Eithne (aka Ethnea or Ethlinn) on Tory Island in a keep so she never becomes pregnant. This might have worked—but he steals Glas Gaibhnenn, the magical cow of abundance, and a hero named Cian mac Cáinte (aka Kian or MacKineely) quests to get it back, something impossible so long as Balor lives. His spirit familiar (Biróg, a leanan sidhe) sneaks him inside of Eithne’s tower and they conceive not one but three sons. Of course Balor drowns them, though unbeknownst to him one manages to survive—and years later brings about his death.

There is some dispute about how many eyes Balor has (although there’s definitely not more than one on either side of his head) and the extent of what the destructive one could do. The coolest of these is the story about the seven coverings over his eye: removing the first causes the bracken to wither, with the next grass became copper-coloured, the third heated the forest, the fourth made the trees smoke, the fifth spawned red glow, the sixth brought sparks, and the last finally set everything ablaze. Or nine shields made from leather that his grandson pierces using a red spear crafted by Gavida (the metalsmith of the Tuatha Dé Danann).

Another story says Balor has this glass to destroy people with by looking through, or burn and wither plants. Someone tricks him into explaining how it works and uses the opportunity to stab him in the eye, the blood from the wound pooling to create a lake near Ballindoon Abbey (Suil Balra, Lochan na Súil, Lough Nasool, or “lake of the eye”).

Modern scholars think that Balor's is one of many stories and harvest myths about cyclical rebirth: the woman (aka fertile earth) is imprisoned by an elder (aka winter and the past year) then impregnated by youth (the new year and spring).

Design Notes: Aside from his destructive eye and being very, very big there aren’t many concrete details about Balor so what follows is a suped up cyclops equipped with (a slightly improved) petrification gaze and then one for the burninating. Some more speed and a few other key traits any supernatural monster champion ought to have (Legendary Resistance and Magic Resistance) round him out to be a creature that can stand against a party of adventurers long enough to make a big impact. So: let’s do the numbers! This entry managed to find a very solid middle ground between the DMG chart landing at 15.333 and the Blog of Holding rubric juuuust a wee bit lower at 15.1666, obviously leaving him at CR 15.

Balor (Fomorian)
Gargantuan giant, chaotic neutral
Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points 262 (15d20+105)
Speed 50 ft.
28 (+9)​
13 (+1)​
24 (+7)​
15 (+2)​
12 (+1)​
19 (+4)​
Skills Arcana +7, Athletics +14, Intimidation +9
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities poisoned
Senses darkvision 200 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages Giant
Challenge 15 (13,000 XP)

Burning Gaze (Recharge 5–6). If Balor isn’t incapacitated and can see, he can use a bonus action to open his eye and wreak havoc in a 100 foot-cone. Each creature in the area makes a DC 18 Constitution saving throw. If the saving throw fails, a creature takes 7 (2d6) fire damage. If the saving throw fails by 5 or more, the creature instead takes 14 (4d6) fire damage. Flammable objects in the area that aren't being worn or carried are ignited.

Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If Balor fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead.

Magic Resistance. Balor has advantage on saving throws made against spells and other magical effects.

Monocular Perception. When attacking a target more than 30 feet away, Balor has disadvantage his attack roll.

Petrifying Gaze. When a creature that can see the Balor’s eye starts its turn within 30 feet of him, Balor can force it to make a DC 18 Constitution saving throw if he isn't incapacitated and can see the creature. If the saving throw fails by 5 or more, the creature is instantly petrified. Otherwise, a creature that fails the save begins to turn to stone and is restrained. The restrained creature must repeat the saving throw at the end of its next turn, becoming petrified on a failure or ending the effect on a success. The petrification lasts until the creature is freed by the greater restoration spell or other magic.
Unless surprised, a creature can avert its eyes to avoid the saving throw at the start of its turn. If the creature does so, it can't see Balor until the start of its next turn, when it can avert its eyes again. If the creature looks at him in the meantime, it must immediately make the save.

Balor attacks three times with his slam or he throws two rocks.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +14 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 22 (3d8+9) bludgeoning damage.

Rock. Ranged Weapon Attack: +14 to hit, range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 35 (4d12+9) bludgeoning damage.
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler


IIRC, they went with Balor instead of Balrog for the same reason treants exist instead of Ents and halflings instead of Hobbits - namely, the Tolkien Estate and its copyright lawyers.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
IIRC, they went with Balor instead of Balrog for the same reason treants exist instead of Ents and halflings instead of Hobbits - namely, the Tolkien Estate and its copyright lawyers.
Originally, they had ents and hobbits, and more. Then, as you said, lawyers. Gary Gygax then denied everafter that Tolkien was a strong influence. But early versions of the game make it clear that he was.


IIRC, they went with Balor instead of Balrog for the same reason treants exist instead of Ents and halflings instead of Hobbits - namely, the Tolkien Estate and its copyright lawyers.
That is not completely true as originally they were simply Type VI demons and Balor was simply a name of one of those demons, see post #4 above.

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