This is part of a series! Go here to see the other entries.
Dretches are the pond scum of the Abyss. The name “dretch” is likely a contraction of “demon wretch”, because these things are weak, stupid and stinky. Everyone bullies them back home, and more powerful demons love throwing hordes of dretches at new opposition both to gauge their abilities and to enjoy the sight of dretches dying in droves.
I think dretches used to be the souls of Chaotic Evil sinners in previous editions, but that is not the case here. Demons in 4e don’t care about souls, and no one who dies goes to the Abyss. These balls of rage and body odor just spontaneously generate from the corruption of that plane.
In this edition, Dretches first show up in the Monster Manual 2, so we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here. This is because they’re also present in the Monster Vault. Since we have the space we’ll cover the MM2 and MV versions each in their own entry.
In both cases, they’re Small Elemental Humanoids (demons) with Int 5 and darkvision. They speak Abyssal but have nothing interesting to say.
Basic dretches are Level 2 Brutes with 44 HP, which very likely makes them the first demon your PCs will ever encounter in a Heroic campaign. They possess the usual variable resistance 10 (1/encounter). A Sickening Miasma emanates from their bodies in an Aura 1 pattern. Each enemy inside the aura takes 1 damage whenever they take a move or standard action. Multiple miasma auras are cumulative, increasing that damage to a maximum of 5. Beware dretch mobs!
Their basic attack uses their claws, and they can also make an at-will Claw Frenzy that allows them to make that attack against up to two creatures. The Monster Manual 2 still had the damage bug, but these monsters are too low-level to be much affected by it.
When a dretch dies it spills its stinky insides all over the floor. This Vile Death creates a zone of poison on a Close Burst 1 pattern centered on the dretch, which lasts for a turn and does 5 poison damage to any non-demons who enter it or start their turns inside.
Do note that while the Vile Death deals poison damage, the Sickening Miasma deals untyped damage. Being resistent to poison will not save you from dretch funk.
The sample encounter in the MM2 is level 7! 1 level 7 bloodseep demon, 2 level 5 gnaw demons, and eight dretches. Whoever designed this really took that line about waves of dretches in the lore seriously.
Dretch Lackey (MV)
Monster Vault demons are strictly paragon tier or above, so it gives us the Dretch Lackey, a Level 12 Minion Brute.
They lack the MM2’s dretch Vile Death and multiattack ability, but the attack bonus and damage on their claws is appropriate for fighting early Paragon PCs. They do keep the Sickening Miasma, which now does 2 untyped damage per dretch up to a maximum of 10.
Having a huge crowd of Dretch Lackeys seems more appropriate than the medium-large crowd of basic dretches from the MM2’s sample encounter.
I guess I can kinda see why dretches were left out of the first Monster Manual. Sure, they’re the classic low-level demons, but they don’t have much more than tradition going for them. Still, the pull of tradition might be enough - I did wonder where they were when I first looked at the MM entries.