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Rosemary's Baby
By James Wyatt

A lmost a year ago, I talked about demons and devils. Part of that discussion was the succubus, which is in the unfortunate position of having “switched sides” in their 4th Edition incarnation, becoming devils. When I asked in a poll whether you preferred them as devils, demons, or playing both sides, the results were nearly evenly split among the three answers.

So we revisited the conversation last week, putting it in the broader context of fiends as a whole and their half-fiend offspring. With thanks to Chris Perkins for writing some of this up, here’s where we got to.

The Succubus and Incubus

The succubus and its male counterpart, the incubus, are fiends of the lower planes that use deception, temptation, and sex to ruin mortals, undoing their works and unraveling their lives. In benevolent guises, they corrupt mortals and lure them into performing lewd, wicked, and self-destructive acts. The souls they corrupt become larvae, forever damned to the lower planes.

Succubi and incubi are neither demons nor devils. Like such creatures as night hags, they operate freely throughout the lower planes and can often be found in the service of powerful devils, demons, night hags, rakshasas, and yugoloths. They are as common in the Nine Hells as they are in the Abyss. Asmodeus, Lord of the Nine Hells, uses them to tempt mortals to perform evil acts, while the demon lord Grazzt keeps succubi and incubi as concubines and advisors. (Note: We have some pretty important stories that feature succubi in the Nine Hells—namely, Erin M. Evans’s Brimstone Angels books and The Adversary, her novel of the Sundering.)

Mortals rarely see a succubus or incubus in its true form, because the creature can polymorph into a Medium or Small humanoid of the same gender at will and hold this form for as long as it likes while it works its evil. Unlike a doppelganger, however, it cannot assume the form of a specific individual.

In its natural form, a succubus or incubus appears as a tall, attractive human with leathery wings, small horns, and a forked tail. The fiend uses its disguises, its sexuality, and its charisma to influence those around it. It can also beguile a humanoid creature, with effects similar to the charm person spell; the effect is so powerful that the saving throw to resist it is made with disadvantage. A succubus or incubus can charm only one creature at a time, and once the effect ends, the target remembers being charmed, so the fiend typically uses this power only in self-defense.

A succubus or incubus travels to the Prime Material Plane in search of mortals to sway and corrupt. Humans are ideal prey, since they are easily corruptible by nature. After the succubus or incubus insinuates itself into the life of its prey, it tricks or goads the hapless fool into committing escalating acts of violence and depravity. It might take days, weeks, or months for the fiend to achieve its goal. The more virtuous its prey, the greater the time commitment, but the more rewarding the downfall. After destroying the lives and relationships of those around it, the succubus or incubus kills its prey, whose corrupted soul then descends into the lower planes to become a larva.

The fiend’s most deadly attack is its kiss. A succubus or incubus can use this attack against a willing creature, a creature it has charmed, or a creature too helpless to resist. It has no effective attacks other than its kiss. If forced into melee, it typically wields a dagger, but it would rather flee into the Ethereal Plane to escape attackers.

Succubi and incubi have sexual organs appropriate for their genders. When a succubus has a child with an incubus, the offspring is either a succubus or an incubus. That said, both succubi and incubi like to mate with humans on occasion, and the offspring (whether born of a human mother or a succubus) is always a cambion.

Cambions, Again

I talked about cambions just a month ago, and I received pretty decent support for my idea of treating them as generic half-fiends, reconciling the demonic cambion of earlier editions with the 4th Edition half-devil. But last week we came up with another idea.

A cambion is specifically the offspring of a mortal human with a succubus or an incubus. It looks like a human with a distinctly fiendish cast, including horns, leathery wings, and a tail. They’re much like half-orcs, in that they blend the best of both worlds, so to speak. Combining infernal power with human ambition, they often rise to leadership in both societies, though they have to work their way into influential positions in the infernal bureaucracy.

Most everything else I wrote about cambions last month holds true. Other half-fiends, such as the draegloth, are not cambions, and we’ll treat them as unique cases. The draegloth, for example, is the product of a specific ritual sanctioned by Lolth. The durzagon likely is the result of an infernal bargain made by a group of duergar. And so on.

What Do You Think?

So how do you like this new take on these creatures? It’s a pretty subtle shift, but I think an important one.

Previous Poll Results

How do you think the green dragon presented here squares with its history and place in the game?
5 -- It's awesome, and I can't wait to use a dragon like this in my game. 931 53.4%
4 -- It's pretty good, and I can imagine using a dragon in this way in my game. 657 37.7%
3 -- I'm ambivalent -- it has its points, but it still needs work. 112 6.4%
2 -- It's not working for me at all. 27 1.5%
1 -- I hate it. 15 0.9%

How do you think the black dragon presented here squares with its history and place in the game?
5 -- It's awesome, and I can't wait to use a dragon like this in my game. 826 47.3%
4 -- It's pretty good, and I can imagine using a dragon in this way in my game. 726 41.5%
3 -- I'm ambivalent -- it has its points, but it still needs work. 158 9.0%
2 -- It's not working for me at all. 22 1.3%
1 -- I hate it. 16 0.9%

What do you think of this overall direction for dragons (making them truly legendary, with significant impact on their environment both short-term and long-term)?
I love it -- I can't wait to play dragons like this! 642 36.3%
I really like it -- it looks like a lot of fun to play with. 530 30.0%
I like it, but individual dragons of the same type should be more different from each other. 444 25.1%
I like it, but it needs something more. 76 4.3%
I like it, but it's a little too complex. 42 2.4%
I hate it -- dragons should be incredibly rare and virtually godlike. 20 1.1%
I hate it. Dragons should be dirt simple. 15 0.8%

Do you think these write-ups sufficiently differentiate the green dragon from the black?
Yes, they're distinct in really interesting ways. 1460 78.2%
They're OK, but could use a few more points of differentiation. 323 17.3%
No, they're too similar and need to be pushed apart a little more. 37 2.0%
Yes, but right now they're too different. Dragons should be more similar to each other. 31 1.7%
No, they're too much alike. Different types of dragons should be very different from each other. 15 0.8%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
Comments
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On the topic of erinyes. Because they are fallen angels they don't have to be devils. They just have to be evil. But if they are following the story from 3.5 that the original erinyes fell with Asmodeus then they would have to be devils. Otherwise if a chaotic good astral deva falls there's no reason it can't become a chaotic evil erinyes.
  
Posted By: Butters7 (1/28/2014 8:25:46 AM)
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Maybe it's odd that this is where my mind went while reading this, but my major question about this idea for succubi/incubi is about the specifics of their charm ability. Succubi and Incubi are supposed to tempt mortals, most commonly with sex. the question that arises then is: does the charm ability become more powerful against characters who would be attracted to the appropriate gender? Would an Incubus have a better chance at charming a woman than a man?

If so, then the next question is how does homosexuality play into the equation. If a player makes a conscious choice that their character is a lesbian, does a Succubus then gain the same benefits on her charm ability against that character as they would against a male character?

  
Posted By: Vaske (10/17/2013 10:27:37 PM)
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Those poll results surprise me a little. The incubus/succubus is in mythology, pop culture, and all but one edition of DnD, ostensibly a demon. I don'e see much to be gained from going against all that. They could easily be a tribe of demons that doesn't care about the Blood War, distrusted but useful to devils and demons alike. It's a more intrigue-laden back story than being just another free agent race, paints demons as the discordant, free spirits they are, and it's in-line with every mythos established up until now.
  
Posted By: Dreamstryder (9/30/2013 11:17:01 PM)
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Sometimes yours forgot the mytology who yourselfs created for DND.
Iuz "The Ancient" in Greyhawk was born like a Cambion, but not from a succubi.
Leave them as generic half-fiend.

In the folklore, succubus are used to explain the night pollution of the young men, and the incubus used as excuse by night rapist in attempt to avoid punishement for their crime, and generaly seeying as the same demon with capacity to change its gender.

This is not so important for DND, luxurious fiends of temptation with separed gender is ok.
But succubus have their demon queen, Malcanthet, that rule the layer 570 of the Abyss and he's involved with Demogorgon, Graz'zt, Baphomet and other demon princes.
Coherence with yourselfs, first.
And give them more combat options, because wield daggers and flee throught planes is simply annoying.
  
Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (9/24/2013 4:07:00 PM)
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I think that it's ridiculous to have gendered succubi and incubi.
They should all be one genderless group that can polymorph to resemble mortal sexes.
If they are sexed, then an obvious question that needs to be addressed is whether they have sexualities. Are there homo- bi- and hetero-sexual succubi?
I think that a being that seeks to corrupt through sex and depravity does not really care about such things. They will use their tools on anyone and tailor themselves appropriately. Each succubus doesn't care what sex, gender, or sexuality their prey are, they will happily take anyone down in whatever way works for that specific prey.
  
Posted By: gedgaroo (9/22/2013 1:51:44 PM)
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There's clearly important history to both factions, so why not both? Or maybe yugoloth. I think re-writing the lore again however will only serve to divide the fan base again.
  
Posted By: Ave1 (9/20/2013 11:21:21 PM)
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For the Succubi, I'll say that making them like Night Hags really blurs the cause behind which they stand in the DnD cosmology. Yes, succubi seduce mortals and have them crumble to snag their souls into whatever specific unfortunate kind of afterlife, but it was generally always for a strong purpose that the Succubus tended to believe in, a cause that was the fabric of what she was.

As for the Cambion...

...I'm quite frustrated with what you're doing for the Cambion. Why?

First, I never liked the cambion. I dislike the name, for one, and I dislike how its creature archtype was pushed to generalize half-fiends in general. Now, you're making cambions the specific offsprings of Succubi?

Doesn't hold water to me. You'll lose that brutish winged humanoid half-fiend race you needed to fill that niche and need to cobble up some other for that.

Plus, the offspring of the Succubi and Incubi had a name, and it was "Alu Fiend" (alte... (see all)
  
Posted By: Zoberraz (9/20/2013 8:05:39 PM)
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I don't see the need to maintain two separate sexes in this instance. Why not let them change gender at will, and use the terms "succubus" and "incubus" simply to describe the forms they take for specific purposes? It's inefficient to have a sex fiend whose sexual appeal is limited to a certain portion of the population.
  
Posted By: RadioKen (9/19/2013 12:49:54 PM)
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If the succubus and incubus are not devils or demons (which is fine) then what are they? Are they a unique race or part of a greater whole?
They use charm and mind affecting abilities. They can shape change and like playing with mortals. That sounds like a fey creature to me.
Having the Cambions as offspring of a succubus/incubus and human hybrid works well for this too.
Perhaps they have been tainted by the corruption of the lower places; or banished to the lower planes by the other fey for misdeeds; or are simply plying their trade and the lower planes offer the best opportunities for wealth/power/a bit of fun.
  
Posted By: Rartemass (9/18/2013 8:25:27 PM)
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The restriction on assuming the forms of specific individuals is a good one - succubi are meant to seduce into sin, not impersonate (and there are plenty of monsters that do the doppleganer thing, already). So, a succubus assumes a form that is appealing to it's target, it might remind the target of someone they want, for instance.
  
Posted By: Tony_Vargas (9/18/2013 3:11:29 PM)
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The Succubus/Incubus should, as in the lore that conceived them, be the same creature, just polymorphed into female or male form. By the same token, the LE DnD Devils are a much closer fit than CE demons. Hell, too, had a hierarchy.
  
Posted By: Tony_Vargas (9/18/2013 3:11:16 PM)
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Wasn't the Cambion and Alu-Demon originally the spawn of an incubus or sucubus, respectively? WotC seems to have a lot of 'new ideas' that are actually really not new at all.
  
Posted By: Tony_Vargas (9/18/2013 3:09:41 PM)
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So what would they be weak to? Cold Iron or Silver?
  
Posted By: Bly2729 (9/18/2013 10:32:14 AM)
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Like a number of the others who commented before me, I'd also like to know the reasoning for a succubus's/incubus's inability to look like a specific individual. If they use seduction to corrupt, how can they corrupt someone who lusts after a specific individual? Recall the many myths where person A wanted person B and assumed their form for a secret liaison, a la King Arthur. It would also expand their role to espionage (a natural extension of seduction and corruption); and lets them see some use in a campaign where the DM states that they're not going to do any of that 'extreme role playing'.

The small-medium size limit also annoys me slightly. They can corrupt halflings easily, but are out of luck when it comes time for Baphomet to make a few more Baphotaurs? Even the large folks need some corrupt lovin'.

And here's a thought for you to mull over: the natural form of a succubus/incubus isn't attractive. They're naturally hideously ugly by any and all stan... (see all)
  
Posted By: Malecus (9/18/2013 1:14:19 AM)
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Erinyes need to be preserved as antagonists of succubi. Here are 3 ways of doing it:
1. Reflavor/rename 4e succubi to erinyes. Keep succubi as demons. Or if the name itself is important...
2. Consider "Succubus" a name Primes give to tempter fiends in general. The devils call themselves erinyes, and the demons call themselves something else.
3. If you must make them actually one species, at least fold in the erinyes traits and then give the erinyes vs (demon name) status as political/faction names.
  
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (9/18/2013 1:07:09 AM)
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leave the erinyes alone, they are not succubi, they are fallen angels. done.
  
Posted By: Evilbastage (9/18/2013 10:54:21 PM)
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Except that if succubi become generic fiends, erinyes with their similar appearance are likely to be killed off or also made into generic fiends. I just don't think there is room in the Nine Hells for both of them.
  
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (9/21/2013 1:17:25 AM)
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I think that this version of the succubus is fine and dandy. Its not actually better, at all, than the original succubus as a demon, but its not any worse.

What is a lot better is the more central role of the incubus. It gets quite tiresome, and frankly too blatantly sexist even for a Conan loving, heavy metal magazine digging, swords and sorcery guy like myself that there are all these female demon temptresses. Not that I am against that sort of thing, but there needs to be a balance-- both genders should get an opportunity to tempt mortals with the sultry sins of the flesh.

There is perhaps a problem with the succubus/incubus's inability to polymorph into a specific individual. What can the shape shift into then? Do they have individual, unique alternate forms for each race that they change into? Are they limited to changing to a particular, single alternate form (a particular halfling for one succubus, a particular elf for another, a particular goblin for yet... (see all)
  
Posted By: demon_idol (9/17/2013 10:51:45 PM)
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I think the best solution re: the incubus is to take on the Medieval lore which holds that succubi and incubi are *the same demon*, and that the name only refers to the human form which it takes to seduce mortals. When it assumes a female guise, it's a succubus, and when a male guise, an incubus. Of itself, it is neither male nor female.

I also think that we can see the succubus/incubus as either Lawful or Chaotic in their evil. From a Lawful perspective, their temptation serves to corrupt and compromise the victim morally, not so much to ruin his whole life but rather to promote more and more wicked choices to allow the continuance of the fiendish affair, producing a dark and twisted version of the former victim. As Chaotic Evil, a succubus would seek to overturn the victim's whole life, seeking out more and more depraved acts doing injury not only to himself but to all of his other relationships until nothing is left.
  
Posted By: Llenlleawg (9/17/2013 9:27:27 PM)
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I prefer 4E's succubi and incubi. They make more sense as devils than demons, or a race of free agents.

Also, tieflings are already half-devil people. Cambions as fiendish offspring of any kind dilutes this concept. Better to make them their own thing.
  
Posted By: Gizmoduck_5000 (9/17/2013 7:01:49 PM)
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I like the idea of Succubi/Inccubi being 'evil free-agents' rather than merely demons or devils. Not entirely sure on the Cambion thing; I saw a comment further up (posted by D._Minky) about them being unable to reproduce except via using a mortal to add a symbiosis sort of feel to them (well, evil symbiosis!) is pretty cool.

I think my only real annoyance is the articles insinuation that 'lewd acts' are evil and corrupting. >.>
  
Posted By: AlyFoxLP (9/17/2013 4:05:53 PM)
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I like this very much, except for one note I would like to see added. In medieval demon lore, demons could not reproduce naturally, which is why succubi and incubi were used on mortals. The succubus would steal a mortal's sperm, then implant it (through sex) in the incubus, who would then implant it (again via sex) into a human female. Then that child would be born a cambion.

I think this is much more interesting than having fiends simply reproduce sexually. If their own survival is tied to some symbiotic/vampiric relationship with mortals, it makes a lot more sense why fiends would ever interact with the mortal world. Fiends need humans in order to carry on their species, just as a parasitic wasp needs caterpillars to lay its eggs in. IMHO, noting this specifically makes demons all that much scarier and more interesting in the campaign world.
  
Posted By: D._Minky (9/17/2013 2:53:21 PM)
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This strikes me as another weird "let's rewrite lore just because Designer X had an idea" sort of thing.

Succubi and Incubi are demons in real-life mythology and classically were demons all throughout 1E-3.5E editions. What's the point in making them a separate race? How does this "help" the game, by pulling them further from their classical roots in myth and lore? I think changing them in 4E was a bad idea, and it was one of the designer mistakes designers got called on. Designers need to learn to add, not re-design, change, or retcon things away "just because" someone has a wacky idea.

Cambions, same thing. Restricting cambions to being the offspring of only succubi/incubi is a bad, restricting move. It limits player and DM choices rather than expanding them.
  
Posted By: Therise (9/17/2013 1:16:06 PM)
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'Real life mythology' is a red herring in this debate. The division between demons and devils as two different factions or types of creatures is about as mythological as color-coded dragons with varied breath weapons. :)
  
Posted By: Matthew_L._Martin (9/18/2013 2:56:48 PM)
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I like the inclusion of multiple sexes for incubi/succubi, this model would be well used with other creatures as well (where controversy has arisen). I also applaud the literal reference to sexuality. I don't need lurid descriptions, but it's nice to see Wizards NOT shying away from such basic components of certain monsters via circumlocution.

I like Cambions as a term for all half-fiends with maybe certain sub-type or keyword addendums to denote fiendish lineage. It sound more 'in-world' than 'half-fiend.' (Though I think there should be a subtitle so people are made aware of the change).

I feel like succubi and incubi should have a little more to do in combat than run away or charm someone into kissing them. They could be quite squishy but if they can't fight AT ALL, I don't see how they would make it very far on the lower planes... where everything can kill you.
  
Posted By: OskarOisinson (9/17/2013 12:20:20 PM)
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I like this handling of the Succubi/Incubi, as it fits what's needed for both the game and the players. Well done, and thanks for listening.

On the Cambion however, how is this different from Tieflings in any real way? They seem to have the same role in general, and the description automatically brought Tieflings to mind when I read your above right-up.

I think that the third option of your last question had it right; Call All Humanoid Half-Fiends Cambion. This would include the Tiefling race (whose name is pretty retarded anyways), as they fill the same role and description. More importantly, it takes the race back to their original incarnations, before the design changes (artistic and thematic) of 4E.
  
Posted By: LupusRegalis (9/17/2013 10:47:30 AM)
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Cambions were traditionally *half-devils* who have a devil as a parent.

Tieflings are people who have fiendish blood (of any kind, devil demon, etc.) somewhere in the history of their lineage.

It is possible that some authors have blurred that line to say that a Tiefling had a fiend for a parent. While traditionally that would be inaccurate, people do things differently based on the needs of their story, and the edition they're using as inspiration.
  
Posted By: Wyckedemus (9/17/2013 12:23:26 PM)
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I want to posit that it might be healthier for the game if the succubus as a "demon of temptation" moved away from having so much emphasis on sex. The "Desire Demon" from Dragon Age might be a good analog to consider. They use illusions/charms/etc to give mortals "what they want" in exchange for corrupting souls, but that desire may not (and in most games, is probably not) sexual. Maybe they still look like sexy demons in their true form, but having their story include so many "and here is how they have sex and breed" elements I think just makes the creature awkward to use at many tables, and potentially very off-putting to a large class of players.
  
Posted By: highbulp (9/17/2013 10:42:12 AM)
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They don't have to be sexual. How about making a succubus or an incubus the head of a thieves or assassins guild? You could even have a peaceful incubus or succubus who acts as someone who aquires rare items or info your character (or anyone) needs for the right amount of gold. Or maybe just because our succubus is the head of the thieves guild doesn't mean she wants the rampaging warlord of Tiamat to invade the city (that's bad for business), so maybe the thieves guild and the heroes work together to stop the warlord. There are alot of nonsexual ways to use a succubus or an incubus as friend and a foe. You could even throw in The risen succubus paladin from the silver skeleton mini game.
  
Posted By: Butters7 (1/28/2014 8:38:54 AM)
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I like succubi becoming free agents within the forces of evil. I think if anything, there should be more, like angels were in older editions.
  
Posted By: the_Horc (9/17/2013 9:43:43 AM)
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Yeah, I'm into it! I'd almost like to see this category widened to include the erinyes.
  
Posted By: mordicai (9/17/2013 1:29:04 PM)
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How in the nine hells would a being with leather wings, horns and tails ascend to leadership of anything instead of just being cast into the fire!? I mean if it was some easy to hide, such as 1 inch horns covered by a hat, ok! But please, don't screw my game making it look like a colorful mmorpg where everyone shines and have wings, tails, horns, colors (blue, orange, etc)...
  
Posted By: R0ver (9/17/2013 9:01:33 AM)
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I think he meant cambion rise in the demon world. Not the mortal one.
  
Posted By: mellored (9/17/2013 9:08:16 AM)
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About the cambion, wasn't originally what they want to call a cambion, an alu-fiend? or was that only the female offspring of a sucubus? because I kinda rememeber cambions being originally only the male offspring of a sucubbus, but with the years it came to mean the offsrping of a humanoid with any other kind of fiend, and the in 4th edition only with devils. I would preffer to call all humanoid half-fiends cambions, with different characteristics and subtypes for different fiendish parentage, and call the specific case of an incubus/sucubus offspring and alu-fiend (and make them me able to be of any sex, not only female, as I remember them being).
  
Posted By: xohar17 (9/17/2013 3:26:24 AM)
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I like that Fiends are separate from Law/Chaos. Agents of Neutrality, perhaps? Keeping the war going is profitable...

All half-fiends as Cambion seems easier, either expand them to include spider legs instead of bat wings, or Draegloth aren't half-fiends, or rack are sub-types of half-fiends...
  
Posted By: strider13x (9/17/2013 12:27:14 AM)
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I think succubi shouldn't care about the war. Make lust, not war.
  
Posted By: the_Horc (9/18/2013 8:34:34 AM)
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For the first time, I feel comfortable with where the Succubus, Incubus, Cambions, and Half-devils are! And now I feel there's enough of a distinction between Cambions and Tieflings too!!!!
  
Posted By: Marandahir (9/17/2013 12:18:59 AM)
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I agree about the Succubi/Incubi, but how does this separate Cambions from Tieflings in any way?

If anything, this makes the case for Tieflings being renamed Cambions instead (I guess with Tieflings being a colloquial term used by those who don't know better, which I'm sure the Wizard would love to correct, LOL).
  
Posted By: LupusRegalis (9/17/2013 10:51:41 AM)
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I disagree; I think tiefling should remain super classical. I'd say in roughly half the campaigns that I've seen with tieflings, they include a direct fiendish parent...because um, "your mother is a marilith!" is a good reveal, frankly.

Maybe my pitch for cambion would be special class levels, like the old "tiefling paragon" or, failing that, it could be a term for people who become willingly half-fiend, like by grafting on a devil's skin or demon implants or magic or insane rituals...or whatever?
  
Posted By: mordicai (9/17/2013 1:31:51 PM)
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0.51.01.52.02.53.03.54.04.55.0

 


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