Tactics and Tips
Devilishly Difficult Opponents (Part 8)
By Eric Cagle

Winning Tactics Against Pit Fiends

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.

Last, but by no means least, is the baddest of the bad -- the pit fiend. These mighty devils come equipped with iron hides, razor-sharp talons, and a list of special abilities as long as your adventurer's severed arm. There's no easy way to fight a pit fiend, although you can read several tips below.

The Pit Fiend's Role

The Monster Manual describes pit fiends as the "undisputed lords of the baatezu, masters of creating fear in mortals and devils alike." These powerful devils dominate the Challenge Rating level for their mastery of several different spell-like abilities, defenses, and massive Hit Dice. Pit fiends are the masters behind the scenes, ruling entire armies of devils -- there is no such thing as meeting a pit fiend "at random."

Fighting Pit Fiends

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.

Oh boy, are you in for a fight. Pit fiends are a challenge for both characters to face and Dungeon Masters to run. You may have a difficult time keeping track of the bewildering array of abilities that a pit fiend has at its disposal. The main thing to remember is that a pit fiend is a genius and fights accordingly. Also, a pit fiend is unlikely to fight alone and it willingly sacrifices scores of other, lesser devils to save its own scaly hide.

  • Special abilities. Like most devils, pit fiends 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 two lemures, bone devils, or bearded devils, or one erinyes, horned devil, or ice devil). Other than an excellent spell resistance, pit fiends have no particular defense against electricity, so stocking up on wands of lightning bolt and scrolls of chain lightning is advised, as are shock or shocking burst weapons. Don't even think about attacking a pit fiend without at least one good-aligned weapon (silvered, in fact!) -- going without one is signing your own death certificate. In addition, pit fiends have regeneration 5, so unless you're hitting it with good-aligned silvered weapons, expect it to bounce back rapidly.

  • Buff up everything. A pit fiend has enough special abilities, poison, diseases, and other horrid side effects that you would be wise to ensure that everyone in your group maxes out all their saves. At this level, you should be wearing the best in cloaks of resistance and the like -- you'll need them.

  • Claw/claw/bite and then some. Many of the melee attacks of a pit fiend have some additional nastiness attached to it. The bite of a pit fiend is particularly egregious, since it deals both disease and poison damage. Its tail attack has improved grab, leading to additional constrict damage. You can "ignore" the disease at first with its relatively long incubation period -- deal with it after the fact. A pit fiend's poison, however, can easily take members out with its Constitution damage.

  • Dispel magic is your friend. One of your best defenses against a pit fiend is a strong offense -- namely in the form of dispel magic and greater dispel magic. Try to hit it as many times as possible to drop its numerous buff spells. Even if you fail (and have a wand or numerous scrolls), make sure that at least one capable member of your group is whittling away at its defenses.

  • Greater dispel magic is your foe. A pit fiend is just as likely to use this tactic on you as well. Don't be alarmed if your buff spells and magic items fail after repeated casting of greater dispel magic. Always have a backup weapon ready just in case you have to rely on it when your favorite sword goes all normal on you.

  • Be prepared for fire. Pit fiends love fire and have little compunction about blanketing an area with fireballs and meteor swarm. If you're going to choose an energy form from which to protect yourself, pick fire.

  • Mobility is your friend. Do your best to hit a pit fiend with dimensional anchor to keep it in place, while your group blinks about the battlefield with your own teleport, dimension door, and ethereal jaunt spells. By no means should you stay in one place -- you'll be blasted ten ways from Sunday.

And one final piece of advice: If things go poorly, don't hesitate to run and fight another day!

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.


1995-2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.