Monday, 29 August 2016

Let's Read the 5e Monster Manual - 'D' - The Barbed Devil

Barbed Devil
We’ve finally moved on from Demons to the vastly different terrain occupied to Devils. Our first thorny customer is the Barbed Devil, who dates back to the very first Monster Manual in a time where the world was young and Britain’s industrial sector existed. I personally much prefer the name ‘Hamatula’, and would always use it with my players – it carries more mystery than a ‘Barbed Devil’.

I like his bitter, snarling little face and the hunched little body: I love the skittish, viper-cruel little sod that everything about this depiction implies. The artist has really managed to capture the vibe of the vengeful bottom-feeder with every aspect of it. A fundamental thorniness is implicit in every aspect of the creature. My only criticism is I can’t imagine these creature ‘resembling a tall humanoid’ or being in any-way larger than a Halfling – nothing about it connotes size. All in all, an excellent piece.

A victim of the fiend-blurb. They are perfect guardsmen, yet mercenary little buggers. This allows you to stock any dungeons with a vaguely arcane or fiendish bent with one, but isn’t terribly interesting. What does a Hamatula do, considering it never gets bored? Are they masters of mindfulness meditation, do they plot ceaselessly for hours on end, do they experience slow and fast time? How does their patience impact their normal lives? No answers, but a few hooks.

Purpose and Tactics
He’s something of a no-frills bruiser, like a more interesting Hezrou. At CR5 he can be a low-level boss, but I think he works better paired with some other creatures, as his abilities aren’t terribly interesting in isolation. He has some solid attacks, the usual Fiendish resistances and an ability that makes him damage opponents who grapple him. My players seldom grapple anyway, and I can’t see them queueing up to play Twister with Lucifer’s pet hedgehog, so this will almost never come up. I’d personally rule it also works if the Hamatula grapples you, but technically by RAW this is not the case.

If paired with a spellcaster, you can abuse the Darkness and Devil’s Sight combo to pretty deadly effect with his multiple attacks, and the idea of a spiny monstrosity lashing at you in impenetrable darkness is a good one. Most PC parties will easily have access to a spell to counter this tactic, though.

Hurl Flame also carries the ability to start fires, but that seems unlikely to ever come up unless you deliberately plan for it and have the fight occur in a flammable locale.

As a quest-giver, he’s unlikely to have the right nous in the Infernal Hierarchy to really pull strings, but there’s no reason this grasping little yuppie won’t turn his spiky coat if the right incentives are dangled.

Colonumnus the Caustic, a barbed devil warrior of renown, has embarrassed himself by falling for the most beautiful Succubus in all the Hells. How can their love ever work if any congress between them carries the risk of a 1d10 climax? Can you help Colonumnus overcome his spiky nature and win love?

Gastarii has guarded the Sepulchre of the First Sin for millennia. He knows every mote of dust in this room intimately. He’d trade all his knowledge for the chance to face a true Chess grandmaster though, as he has spent a thousand-thousand hours developing his supposedly undefeatable ‘Pandemonium Opening’.

Kucixtis is bored.  Every day he guards the same room, in the same wizard’s tower, in the same way. He’s not a Golem, you know. He has needs. Feelings. Wants. If you can show Kucixtis a good time, maybe he’ll be less than attentive to anybody sneaking past…

Verdict: A solid, spiky monster, but nothing awe-inspiring. 

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