Tactics and Tips
Devilishly Difficult Opponents (Part 1)
By Eric Cagle
Winning Tactics Against Barbed Devils
Fiendish Codex I discussed the horrid inhabitants of the Abyss, the demons. With the release of Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells, we look at the other side of pure evil: devils. Like demons, devils are insidious and vicious opponents, although their methods for bringing misery to the world are on polar extremes. For devils, tyranny and oppression are the tools for utter control. It's up to adventurers to stop this from happening!
Over the course of the next few installments, we'll examine some of the old favorites that can be found in the Monster Manual, including ways they fight, tactics that can be used against them, and new lore that applies to finding out more information on these terrible beings.
Starting off, we'll take on the prickliest devil of them all: the hamatula, otherwise known as the barbed devil.
The Barbed Devil's Role
Barbed devils serve as the Nine Hell's guardians of vaults, treasure caches, jails, and other places of importance. Barbed devils are also commonly employed as bodyguards for more powerful devils, who acknowledge the skill and tenaciousness that barbed devils show in their work. They are distrustful, paranoid creatures, with shifty eyes and nervous tics that make them constantly appear agitated -- paranoia in barbed devils is considered a positive trait to the superior devils that make use of barbed devils in this capacity.
If you encounter a barbed devil guarding a location, its high Listen, Spot, and Sense Motive skills ensures that it's unlikely to be caught unawares.
Devils, Status, and Hierarchy
Regardless of which devil you're dealing with, you must always remember that they are the absolute epitome of both evil and law. For a devil, order and proper place of things aren't just abstract concepts -- they are built into the very fabric of their beings. Each devil knows exactly its place in the hellish pecking order and every one of them strives to improve their lot.
Adventurers should remember the rigid caste systems in which devils operate -- it may very well save their lives. Everything a devil does occurs because of specific orders given by a higher authority. Finding and eliminating a devil's superior (if possible) is one way of disrupting a devil's plan. Also, taking out a devil's inferiors that are out doing its bidding can muck up its plan, since devils are loathe to "request" reinforcements, which can be considered a sign of weakness.
As Fiendish Codex II points out, devils are particular about keeping records, which, if they fall into the hands of adventurers, can prove the weak link in disrupting a devil's insidious plans. Should PCs locate a devil's "base of operations," they may find notes, plans, and letters of intent (complete with fawning obsequiousness towards its superiors) that give insight into a devil's goals.
In short, injecting any sort of chaos into a devil's existence is a sure way to keep it on its toes (or hooves, tentacles, and so on) and lead to victory.
Fighting Barbed Devils
Barbed devils are ferocious fighters that excel in melee combat. Adventurers should keep several key points in mind when fighting barbed devils:
- Strengths and Defenses. Like most devils, barbed devils are immune to fire and poison, have resistance to acid and cold 10, can see in darkness, have telepathy, and can summon other devils (in this case, either 1d6 bearded devils or another barbed devil). Other than a good spell resistance, barbed devils have no particular defense against electricity, so stocking up on wands of lightning bolt and scrolls of chain lightning is advised. Taking this one step further, while you should always have at least one good-aligned weapon with you when face a barbed devil, combining this with a shocking or shockingburst weapon gives you double duty in your devil slaying.
- Reach and ranged weapons are critical. The barbed devil is so named because of the huge, razor-sharp spikes that adorn its body. Simply striking at a barbed devil with a melee weapons automatically deals damage back to the attacker. To avoid this, stick with reach weapons, such as longspears and other polearms. Better yet, do not engage a barbed devil in melee at all -- use ranged weapons and spells.
- Watch out for the grapple. As if getting close to a barbed devil wasn't bad enough, they are also excellent grapplers. Their most ferocious attacks involved grappling and impaling a victim. Worse, every time you strike back while grappled, you take damage again from its barbed defense special ability!
- Greater teleport and hold person equals trouble. So, if you avoid getting into melee with a barbed devil, you're in the clear, right? Sure, except that the barbed devil has two spell-like abilities that it can use at will that ensures that if it wants to get to you, it will. A barbed devil uses hold person on anyone avoiding its grapple attempts, including those opponents pelting it with ranged weapons. The barbed devil can then use greater teleport to appear directly beside each held victim, inflicting serious damage before moving to the next.
- Buff up your Will saves. Although it seems like an afterthought, a victim struck by a barbed devil must make a DC 20 Will save or be affected by fear. A barbed devil could use its greater teleport to strike at spellcasters first, hoping that they run away, before turning its attention toward melee-oriented characters. Thus, make sure that everyone in your party has buffed up their Will save in any way possible -- potions of owl's wisdom, cloaks of resistance, and so on.
- They do have ranged attacks. Although seemingly designed exclusively for melee, remember that a barbed devil can still cast scorching ray at will. In addition, they can cast order's wrath and unholy blight once per day, meaning that good and lawful creatures (in that order of likelihood) are in for some serious hurt from these spells. A typical strategy is to grapple one opponent, then use unholy blight to affect any remaining opponents nearby, hopefully dissuading them from rushing in to save the victim.
Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, and Player's Handbook.
About the Author
Eric Cagle cut his teeth at Wizards of the Coast, but now lives the extravagant freelancer lifestyle. Look for his name on D&D, d20 Modern, and Star Wars books. Recent credits include d20 Apocalypse, Monster Manual IV, and the Tome of Corruption from Green Ronin Publishing. He is also a contributor to the Game Mechanics, Dragon Magazine, and this lovely website. Eric lives in Seattle where the coffee is dark and bitter like his goddesses.