How The Villains On 'Stranger Things' Differ From The D&D Monsters They're Based On

Stranger Things is a series that grounds itself perfectly within its setting, which is the 1980s. The children featured throughout the show are like many kids of the era. They like video games, riding their bikes, and playing Dungeons & Dragons. When a new threat emerges in Hawkins, the kids look to D&D for inspiration on how to explain it in a way they understand, and they also use the game to give names to the various monsters and characters of the Upside Down.

The first season began with the Demogorgon, followed by the Demodogs - smaller, less mature versions of the Demogorgon but dangerous creatures nonetheless. Then it was the Mind Flayer, and finally, Vecna. Each of these beasts is straight out of the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, so there's definitely a connection. Of course, the names are the only true connection between D&D's monsters and those in the show, as they differ physically and in their overall portrayal.

This list highlights the ways the monsters from Dungeons & Dragons differ from those named in their dishonor on Stranger Things. Take a look at them down below, and if you see anything that makes you want to binge the latest season or adventure into the depths of a dark dungeon with your friends, be sure to watch out for the nasties on this list!

SPOILER ALERT - This list features details and plot elements of Stranger Things' four seasons, so if you're not caught up, go binge it before you continue!

  • 'Stranger Things'' Demogorgon Gets Its Name From Eleven

    'Stranger Things'' Demogorgon Gets Its Name From Eleven
    Photo: Netflix

    The Demogorgon is a clear and present danger to the people of Hawkins, but nobody knows what it is or how to describe it until Eleven meets the gang. The D&D character comes into play early in the pilot and is introduced when Mike describes him by saying, “Something is coming. Something hungry for blood. A shadow grows on the wall behind you, swallowing you in darkness. It is almost here.”

    The Demogorgon is represented by a miniature figurine. When Eleven describes it later, she picks up the Demogorgon figure to represent the danger Will is in, saying it was hunting him. The name was coincidental, and Eleven could have grabbed any figure to illustrate her point at that moment. By linking the monster from the Upside Down to D&D, the link between the two is born, and it would remain throughout the series.

  • Demogorgon Looks Very Different In D&D

    The Demogorgon in Stranger Things has several prominent features, but most would look to its head for its most distinct feature. The head of the D&D character is also distinctive, but not for the same reason. D&D's Demogorgon has two heads instead of one, and depending on how he's represented, those heads can appear in the form of mandrills or hyenas.

    Each head has a name, Aeumal and Hethradiah, and a unique personality as well. The heads employ opposing combat techniques and constantly disagree with one another. Despite this, one head cannot slay the other, as this would result in their own demise. The heads' personalities are best described by Shami-Amourae, the former consort of Demogorgon, in Dungeon #148's story, "Wells of Darkness:"

    Demogorgon is his own worst enemy. He is, in many ways, two creatures that share the same body. Aeumal, his left head, is the more charismatic and calculating while Hethradiah, his right head, is more impulsive and feral. Each views the other as inferior and each believes the other incapable of outfoxing itself.

  • The Demogorgon's Growth Stages Bring It Close To Another D&D Creature

    The Demogorgon's Growth Stages Bring It Close To Another D&D Creature
    Photo: Netflix

    Demodogs aren't a part of Dungeons & Dragons, so there's no direct comparison to be made to D&D's Demogorgon or anything else in the game. The Demodog represents one of the many growth stages of the Demogorgon, and there is some reference to a D&D creature along the way. The first phase of a Demogorgon's growth cycle is small and toadlike. Dustin finds one in Season 2, and he names it Dart.

    The closest approximation to a D&D creature is the Pollywog, an aquatic creature much like an enlarged frog. The episode where Dustin adopts Dart is called "The Pollywog," so there's at least a correlation. The Demogorgon's second phase is much larger than the first, but instead of a snotty-looking tadpole, it's more of a quadruped. The third phase is the aptly-named Demodog, which is about the size and rough shape of a dog, but more like the adult Demogorgon with its blossoming mouth and nasty disposition.

  • The Demogorgon And Demodogs In 'Stranger Things' Are Completely Different From D&D's Demogorgon

    Physically, the Demogorgon in Stranger Things is nothing like the one from Dungeons & Dragons. That creature is the Prince of Demons, and it has two sentient heads that look like mandrills. Also, it's a demon lord, so the two characters aren't like one another outside of their nasty dispositions. 

    Ultimately, the Demogorgon in Stranger Things takes its name from the D&D creature and nothing more. Still, by giving it that name, the children can better understand the threat they face (and the danger Will is in after he disappears). Once that cat was out of the bag, each successive threat took its name from D&D for the same reason.

  • The Demogorgons In 'Stranger Things' Represents Vecna's Hunger

    The Demogorgons In 'Stranger Things' Represents Vecna's Hunger
    Photo: Netflix

    The Demogorgons in Stranger Things represent the first threat the Upside Down poses to Hawkins, and it's genuinely a nightmarish creature. The Demogorgon stands nine feet tall, has incredible strength and speed, can smell blood, and it has a gigantic flowering mouth but no eyes. 

    The Demogorgon is One's (Vecna) first attempt at influencing reality, and they represent his hunger for people's minds. They act as an extension of the influence One has over the people of Hawkins, and they portray his desire to return to reality from the Upside Down and his need to consume the minds of his enemies.

  • Mind Flayers In D&D Are Powerful Psionic Monsters Of The Underdark

    Like the Demogorgon, the children name the next significant Upside Down threat after a monster in Dungeons & Dragons, choosing to settle upon the Mind Flayer. Like the Demogorgon, the Mind Flayer looks nothing like its D&D inspiration, but there are some parallels and major departures from the source material. For example, Demogorgon is a single entity in D&D, yet his Stranger Things counterpart is one of many.

    Conversely, there's only one Mind Flayer in Stranger Things, but in D&D, Mind Flayers are a race of beings with incredibly psionic powers. They come from the Underdark and have only one goal: extend their influence to transform people's minds, making them their thralls, and they subsist on their victim's brains (while they're still alive). Mind Flayers consist of small communities of creatures governed by a single Elder Brain (the final stage of a Mind Flayer's life cycle) that psionically controls all Mind Flayers under its control.