Towards the end of Stranger Things 2, Dustin realizes yet again that Dungeons & Dragons offers everyone a helpful analogous monster so they can understand the Upside Down. Season 1 had the Demogorgon, and in Season 2 the even greater threat comes from the Shadow Monster, a creature he realizes is just like the Mind Flayer in D&D.
The Duffer Brothers, who make Stranger Things, love infusing the show with Dungeons & Dragons lore and other references. In Season 2, the kids constantly talk about their “party” and Mike fusses over how Max fits in during Eleven’s absense. During an outburst in Episode 3, he even breaks down everyone’s role: “I’m our paladin, Will’s our cleric, Dustin’s our bard, Lucas is our ranger, and El’s our mage!”
Both the Demogorgon and Mind Flayer come from the Eldritch Wizardry expansion of the game, with “eldritch” referencing the Lovecraftian genre of horror.
The Mind Flayer offers up a perfect analogy for the Shadow Monster’s hive mind, but what other threats from Dungeons & Dragons lore might fit into the Stranger Things universe?
It’s about time that Stranger Things introduced a genuinely good or at least neutral creature from the Upside Down. Resembling a unicorn but more accurately a hybrid between a dragon and an ox, the ki-rin are highly intelligent and telepathic “lawful good” creatures with their own psionic powers. They tend to reward good deeds but punish malefactors.
Creatures like these could exist in the Upside Down but be able to avoid the Shadow Monster’s influence, but they’d no doubt become allies, especially of Eleven.
By the time Season 3 rolls around, the Stranger Things boys will be well on their way through puberty. Almost all of them already have interest in girls, so what could be scarier than a demon that takes a beautiful human form to seduce its victims? We’re far from suggesting anything sexual in nature, unless the succubus in question targeted older victims like Billy, Steve, Jonathan, or even Hopper.
If the Shadow Monster wants to infiltrate the real world, then the most impressive thing he could do would be to create some creature that could take human form.
Su-Monsters are basically superpowered monkeys. They’re horribly violent, incredibly agile, and could easily fall under the control of something like the Shadow Monster. In fact, they’re not terribly dissimilar to the demodogs but with one key difference: Su-Monsters have limited psionic powers, which makes them immune to all manner of psionic attacks. That means that there’s no way that Eleven could fight them, making them a new adversary for the show that would up the stakes on Stranger Things.
One of the least creative names in all of D&D might fit into Stranger Things the easiest. Thought Eaters are creepy little malnourished platypus-looking things that dwell in the ether — in this case, it would be the Upside Down.
Thought Eaters metabolize people’s mental faculties, quite literally eating thoughts. Perhaps the most interest aspect of these creatures, however, is that they’re drawn to psionics and devour psionic abilities first and foremost.
What if a villain in Season 3 is a small creature that they can’t see as it quietly just devours Eleven’s psionic abilities over time? Could there be anything more terrifying?
There’s a trend here. The only thing that might be worse than a thought-eating demon platypus would be a creepy slug parasite that’s attracted to psionics. They’re nearly impossible to detect and once they find a host, they psionically “burrow” into their brains. That one could be more literal or figurative depending on a number of factors, or they could literally just be slugs that enter through a person’s ear and take over their brain.
A loose variation on the idea of a Brain Mole played a huge part in the Animorphs book series, in which an alien race of slugs could take over the brains of any hosts. What if, instead of a new outward threat from the Upside Down, the real threat was Eleven taken over by a Brain Mole and under the Shadow Monster’s control?
Orcus, Prince of the Undead
D&D fans likely already know that the “Demogorgon” from the game is rather different from the one that shows up in Stranger Things, but they also probably already know that the Demogorgon’s eternal foe is Orcus, Prince of the Undead.
Orcus is traditional a fat demon with a ram’s head, bat’s wings, and goat’s legs with necromancy powers that can summon the undead, but his wand can kill anything with a single touch.
Though Orcus is a bit more animalistic than we’re likely to get in Stranger Things 3, the fact that he’s an enemy to the Demogorgon could make for an interesting dynamic in the world’s relationship to the Upside Down. What if, in that other realm, even the Shadow Monster has enemies? It’s possible that Orcus could be one of them — or at the very least, Dustin might name any enemy of the greater Demogorgon family after Orcus.