Tactics and Tips
Devilishly Difficult Opponents (Part 2)
By Eric Cagle
Winning Tactics Against Bearded 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.
We now look at the barbazu, otherwise known as the bearded devil for its bizarre and deadly facial "hair."
The Bearded Devil's Role
Bearded devils serve as the Nine Hell's shock troopers, either forming the first line of offense against the enemy or goading masses of lemures to soften them up beforehand. On those rare occasions when devils take their war to the Material Plane, untold thousands of bearded devils form the vanguard, cutting down anything in their path with their vicious, saw-toothed glaives. When not engaged in the eternal Blood War, bearded devils work for more powerful devils as guards and sentinels. Fighting Bearded Devils
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.
Bearded devils are serious and disciplined before battle, but they let themselves go into a terrible frenzy when engaged -- few devils let loose like the bearded devil. Adventurers should keep several key points in mind when fighting bearded devils:
- Strengths and Defenses. Like most devils, bearded 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 2d10 lemures or another bearded devil). Other than a decent spell resistance, bearded 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 weapons and infernal wounds.Every bearded devil possesses a saw-toothed glaive capable of causing persistent wounds. A creature damaged by the glaive loses 2 additional hit points per turn. To stop this loss of hit points, someone in the party should have several ranks in Heal or be able to cast cure or heal. Because cure spells work only if the caster makes a DC 16 caster check, keep your cleric or other healer close at hand to anyone that intends to get up close and personal with a bearded devil.
- The devil's beard. The beard of the bearded devil is more than mere adornment. If the devil successfully makes two claw attacks, the beard automatically hits, deals damage, and has the potential of infecting the victim with a terrible disease called devil chills. Remove disease stops this in its tracks -- try to have at least one or two potions of this spell effect available for your group in case your cleric or other healer gets taken out during combat.
- Battle frenzy -- now twice as long! A bearded devil that uses its battle frenzy ability does not suffer any ill effects afterward. Combine this with the fact that it can use this ability twice a day and you're effectively looking at 12 rounds of serious bonuses. Always take this into account when facing a bearded devil.
- Use ranged weapons and spells. Bearded devils lack any form of ranged attack and a bevy of melee options. Thus, engaging a bearded devil with your own ranged attacks and spells is probably your best option.
- Greater teleport. Remember that a bearded devil can use greater teleport at will, so it can move about the battlefield with impunity. To negate this, space your group out so that everyone has a shot to take at a bearded devil when it decides to teleport adjacent to a party member. If you're of sufficient level (and probably fighting several bearded devils at that point), use of dimensional anchor keeps bearded devils from fighting on its own terms. Deny the bearded devil its ability to play cat and mouse with your group, and you can pen it in for the final killing blow.
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.