In place of orcs and goblins in other settings, and in place of Draconians specifically in the Dragonlance setting of Krynn, I am using Oni. Because of the shared cultural referents in the cultures of east and southeast Asia (not universal, but Hinduism and Buddhism influence all of them to varying degrees), I thought that I demons could provide the equivalent of a Bad Monster Race. There is also the added bonus that they are not a race, but rather corrupted forms of all races, which is a small step farther from the implied racism of most fantasy settings where ‘races’ are actually often species, and where species have generalized moral alignments.
The term Oni is of course from Japanese mythology, essentially meaning “demon”, but unlike more Western demons who are always from another plane of existence, Hindu and Buddhist demons can be corrupted people, or animals, or even corrupted gods. There are even good demons, which terrify people, or serve as powerful guardians, for good ends rather than evil. I liked the moral gray area, and I liked the concept that anything, in theory, can become demonic. And rather than magic or gods twisting them, they are twisted from within. Here I’m diverging into my own worldbuilding, but I wanted the concept to be recognizable.
In keeping with the five-element, five-color metaphysics of Dragonblade!, I divided the Oni into five broad categories. For those who don’t want to click on a link and re-read: red/fire, yellow/earth, white/metal, black/water, green/wood. I also kept with the inspiration of Dragonlance and gave each Oni a problematic death-effect, just like our friends the Draconians.
First, the stat block for a basic red or fire Oni
Large monstrous humanoid, selfish freedom
AC 13 (hides)
7d10 HD +14
Str +3, Dex -1, Con +2, Int -2, Wis -3, Cha +1
Vulnerabilities: cold, halts regeneration
Advantage versus slowing or calming effects
Death effect: 3d6 fire damage 10’ radius, Dex DC 12 save
2 1st level spells, 2 spell slots
Fire Oni are spawned by an over-abundance of passion of various kinds. Some core sins that lead to red-oni corruption might include impatience or arrogance or lust. They are resistant to fire but not immune, and not only are they vulnerable to cold damage but cold damage also halts their regeneration effect (in this way, I borrow that scary element of D&D trolls for each type of Oni). Their death effect is a fireball of course.
This stat block is a bit less developed, but is pretty close
Large monstrous humanoid, pure selfishness
AC 13 (natural)
HD 8d10 +24
Str +3, Dex -1, Con +3, Int -3, Wis +0, Cha -2
Resistances: acid and poison
Immunities: poisoned condition
Vulnerabilities: force and thunder, halts regeneration
Advantage versus fear effects
Death effect: turns to stone and traps the last piercing or slashing weapon to strike it; Dex save DC 12 to retain weapon
Yellow oni are enormous, hideous demons tied to earth qi. Stories about them abound in folklore and mythology – their spittle and blood are poison; their bones are made of stone; when they die, or just sleep, they look just like rocky mounds. Like any oni, they are invariably sinister, violent and cruel.
And another rough stat-block
Large monstrous humanoid, legalistic selfishness
AC 14 (metallic body)
7d10 HD +14 (49hp)
Str +4, Dex -1, Con +2, Int -1, Wis -3, Cha -1
Vulnerabilities: fire, halts regeneration
Advantage on saves vs. rage effects and confusion effects
Death effect: metal bones shatter and explode from inside the body, dealing 3d6 slashing damage in a 10’ radius, Dex DC 12 save for half. This damage is also dealt to any equipment the oni carried, and only metal is likely to survive.
White, or metal oni are some of the more intelligent of oni-kind. They are comfortable with machinery, and tend to live in cold, dry regions when they have a choice in the matter.
Large monstrous humanoid, selfish freedom
AC 15 (hide armor)
Move 30’ Swim 20’
Str +3, Dex +1, Con +2, Int -3, Wis -1, Cha -2
Vulnerabilities: acid and poison, halts regeneration
Advantage versus charm effects
Death effect: the body suddenly decomposes into a pool of acid which splashes all adjacent creatures and objects for 1d6 acid and deals 2d6 acid to any who are in the pool, which remains for 1d6 minutes. If they die in the water, they decompose into a 20′ cube cloud of acide that deals 2d6 damage to any inside and remains for 1d6 rounds.
Black oni are amphibious and take distinct pleasure in terrorizing and torturing their victims – some say they literally feed off of others’ fear.
Large monstrous humanoid, neutral evil
AC 13 (hide)
Str +4, Dex -1, Con +2, Int -3, Wis -3, Cha -2
Resistances: thunder and force
Vulnerabilities: lightening, halts regeneration
Fast regeneration: 2hp/HD
Advantage versus sleep effects
Death effect: unlike other oni, death does not end a green oni’s regeneration. A severed head keeps gurgling insults and trying to bite (+2 1d6 +3 piercing), severed limbs crawl around looking for prey, entrails twist like snakes and grasp at foes. Lightening damage can end this, and one can also burn the body, or at least cauterize the wounds, in which case the body simply starves over the course of a few days.
Green oni are the strongest of oni-kind, and also regenerate very swiftly. They are fueled by unbridled wrath and are a terror to face in battle.
The Making of an Oni
Each element is associated with all aspects of life, including the emotional. When this qi becomes radically unbalanced, especially in an area where the natural flows of qi are similarly corrupted, beings can begin to be twisted into oni. The process is gradual, with a sudden change at the end. Sages disagree on what brings the final moment about – the intervention of an evil deity, or a free choice of the person or creature for evil, or the accumulated karma of their past lives and current actions. Either way, the thinking goes that every oni can be traced back to an uncorrupted creature of some kind in the distant past, making them all the more tragic.