D&D Monster Monday: Barbed Devil

Two barbed devils stand at attention next to the escape route. A wave of anxiety, then relief washes over you as you peek around the corner and see the two devils missing. Although the relief is momentary. The next thing you feel is the pain of sharp claws piercing through your back and your abdomen.

Barbed devils are nasty creatures despite their low-ranking in the devil hierarchy. Their sharp spines and claws can tear through flesh and armor alike. Yet they’re hardy creatures and extremely perceptive making them fantastic guards for more powerful devils in the Nine Hells.

Still, in the grand scheme of things they’re lesser devils. They’re a perfect vessel for introducing the party to devils in the early game to prep them for a late-game romp through hell. Yet they’re hardy enough to work as minions for powerful demons should the party face them at higher-levels.

Let’s see if we can fight our way past these barbed devils and break into the Monster Manual!

A green impish creature with long spikes protruding from its skin
The 5e artwork is a total throwback to the 3e version and I’m all for it. Credit: WotC.

Barbed Devil Lore

Barbed devils are ranked 5/13 in the Monster Manual’s Infernal Hierarchy chart. This means that while they’re not total bottomfeeders, they’re certainly not powerful devils in the grand scheme of things.

Still, they’re fearsome foes in their own right. They have exceptional observation skills due to their Devil’s Sight and enhanced darkvision making them phenomenal guards. Plus, they’re skilled combatants equipped with spiny hides, fireballs, and sharp claws.

These traits allow them to curry favor from more prominent devils, letting them latch onto successful devils and enjoy the fruits of their success as they rise up the ranks in the Nine Hells.

Each intruder they defeat is another reward to claim for a barbed devil.

Barbed Devil Stats and Abilities

You can find the barbed devil’s statblock on page 70 of the Monster Manual.

Stats

Size: Medium fiend (devil)
AC: 15 (natural armor)
HP: 110 (13d8 + 52)
Speed: 30 ft.
STR: 16 (+3)
DEX: 17 (+3)
CON: 18 (+4)
INT: 12 (+1)
WIS: 14 (+2)
CHA: 14 (+2)

The barbed devil’s statblock hits the ground running. They have a fantastic defensive foundation with their 110 HP that’s bolstered by a bunch of resistances and immunities. Plus, 15 AC is nothing to scoff at, even at CR 5.

Their ability score spread is superb. We’ve got a couple +3’s, a +4 in CON, and the rest is all +1-+2. Their common saving throw abilities are already in a good spot, yet their traits and other bonuses continue to build upon this solid foundation.

Their speed is nothing to write home about. Nor, is it anything to complain about. 30 ft. is the average compared to a medium-sized adventurer.

This is a common theme for the barbed devil. Their worst features are a typical creature’s average features.

Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills

Saving Throws: STR + 6, CON +7, WIS +5, CHA +5
Skills: Deception +5, Insight +5, Perception +8
Damage Resistances: cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slahing from nonmagical attacks that aren’t silvered
Damage Immunities: fire, poison
Condition Immunities: poisoned
Senses: darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 18
Languages: Infernal, telepathy 120 ft.
CR: 5 (1,800 XP)

The barbed devil gets four saving throw bonuses which is fantastic. Yet what’s even better when we see that two of them are common saving throw abilities. But that’s not all! This pushes their weakest common saving throw, Wisdom, into their second-highest slot.

It’s tough to get these devils to fail a save.

They also get some skill proficiencies. Perception is useful in or out of combat, but proficiency in Deception and Insight gives them some depth for social interactions and role-playing.

Barbed devils have a generous spread of damage resistances and immunities. Cold, fire, and poison damage are common damage types to deal with making these high-value resistances/immunities.

Resistance to nonmagical & nonsilvered weapon attacks is also pretty useful at CR 5. There’s no guarantee the party will have access to magical weapons when they first encounter a barbed devil. CR 5 is just low enough to face a handful of these fiends pretty early in a campaign.

As I mentioned in the lore section, barbed devils are very perceptive. They have an astounding 120 ft. of darkvision without any penalties. Plus, a ludacris passive Perception of 18. It will take a miracle to sneak past a barbed devil on guard duty.

These are solid creatures. Offensively, they’re balanced, but their impressive defenses push them over CR 5 for sure.

Traits and Abilities

Barbed Hide. At the start of each of its turns, the barbed devil deals 5 (1d10) piercing damage to any creature grappling it.

Devil’s Sight. Magical darkness doesn’t impede the devil’s darkvision.

Magic Resistance. The devil has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Barbed Hide is a flavorful trait. An extra 1d10 damage a turn is nothing to scoff at, but I’m certain the PC grappling it would either drop the barbed devil immediately after. My players also don’t tend to grapple creatures often so your mileage may vary.

Thankfully, the creature isn’t balanced around this damage. It’s a nice perk, but a niche one.

Devil’s Sight is a common trait shared between devils. Basically, the devil’s vision won’t be impaired by spells like DarknessAgain, it’s a niche trait, but it’s a nice trait to have in the back pocket for a guard unit like a barbed devil.

Magic Resistance almost feels unnecessary given their solid ability score array and their saving throw proficiencies. I mean, if you’re giving it to me I’m gonna take it!

Actions

Multiattack. The devil makes three melee attacks: one with its tail and two with its claws. Alternatively, it can use Hurl Flame twice.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) piercing damage.

Tail. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) piercing damage.

Hurl Flame. Ranged Spell Attack: +5 to hit, range 150 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (3d6) fire damage. If the target is a flammable object that isn’t being worn or carried, it also catches fire.

The barbed devil’s Multiattack is both powerful and versatile. It comes in two flavors.

The first is the melee package which consists of three separate attacks. That’s quite the action economy value! Each attack has a +6 to hit and the combo tallies up to 22 piercing damage.

The ranged package is two Hurl Flames which have a +5 to hit and deal 20 fire damage in total. These attacks can also ignite a flammable object that isn’t worn or carried giving the devil a bit of utility.

Hurl Flame is less accurate than either melee option, but the trade-off is that it’s effective from up to 150 ft. away. In many cases, I’d say that this is a worthy trade as it allows the barbed devil to make full use of cover to bolster their AC.

Barbed Devil Strengths

Stalwart Defenses

If 15 AC is the weakest part of a creature’s defenses then you know that they’re a hardy foe. Plus we must consider that utilizing even half-cover will boost their AC up to 17 if they choose to use their slightly-weaker ranged attack option.

The barbed devil has 110 HP that’s reinforced by a smattering resistances and immunities to common damage types. They’re a tough nut to crack!

Generally, when direct attacks fail you, you’ll want to rely on crowd control to make it easier for the rest of the party to it the target. While don’t have any immunities to hard crowd control like Paralyzed or Stunned, their high ability modifiers and saving throw bonuses make it difficult for these conditions to stick.

Bane of Mages

Barbed devils are gifted at making saving throws in general. Yet, they get an additional boon when they’re asked to make a save against magical effects such as spells.

Magic Resistance takes this natural strength and turns it up to 11. The party’s magic-users will probably waste a fair number of spells attempting to lock-down these spiny bastards.

a barbed devil with black, volcanic-looking skin and spikey hair
This might be the first time I’m saying this but the 4e artwork is cursed. Credit: WotC.

These resources add up, after all, sure the party might defeat the devil, but if each magic-user wastes 2-3 spell slots in a single encounter you’re going to have a tough time throughout the rest of the dungeon.

Devil’s Sight exists solely to make a magic-user’s day that much worse. Using magical darkness to impair their vision and positioning is yet another wasted spell slot.

Versatile Attack Options

Neither Multiattack option is super powerful. In fact, they’re a smidge lacking for a CR 5 creature. However, there’s something to be said about having such versatility in their arsenal.

Barbed devils can slash you to pieces in melee range for an extra +2 damage on average and +1 to hit.

Alternatively, they can choose the weaker Multiattack option to hurl flames at you from a safe distance. In fact, their Hurl Flame has a longer distance than most magic-users’ attacks, allowing them to kite the party around the Nine Hells with ease.

Barbed Devil Weaknesses

I struggle to find an area of the barbed devil’s statblock that I could truly call a weakness. Their damage is a smidge low, but the trade-off is that they have a viable ranged attack option from up to 150 ft away.

Any other “weak points” in their statblock are about average for most creatures.

If you’re squaring-up against a barbed devil, you’re going to have to earn your victory.

How to Play a Barbed Devil

Zerg Them!

If your encounter takes place on a smaller-sized battlefield then using Hurl Flame to kite the party isn’t a viable option. Although, it’s a nice option to keep in your back option should the party run away or if your barbed devils can’t reach their target.

In close-quarters you should make use of the barbed devil’s more powerful melee attack Multiattack. Rush up to the party or a specific target and rip them apart with your claws and spiked tail!

Utilize their 30 ft. of movement to match the party’s movement and press the assault.

a large imp-like creature with small spikes on its back
“Yeah uhh they’re like imps but bigger and some spikes!” Credit: WotC.

Run and Gun!

Hurl Flame’s 150 ft. range is quite generous. It’s important to make use of such generosity when it’s given to us!

When possible, give your barbed devils ample room to run around in. Locations like guarding the outskirts of a keep or building with plenty of open space are perfect lore-friendly encounter locations.

Ensure that these open spaces have obstacles and scenery that can provide cover. This is always a great design tip as it gives the party a reason to move around the battlefield and position to gain control of more coverage.

Have the barbed devils duck behind the cover and weave in and out of them to take potshots at the party. They’ll need to continually reposition once the party gets close, or they’ll have to drop the ranged act and settle things with their claws and spikey tail.

Either way, they’ll surely have softened up the party a bit while enjoying the increased AC benefits that come with using cover.

5 Barbed Devil Plot Hooks

  1. Guarding the Keep – You’ve been tasked with defeating a powerful devil, however you’ve been forewarned about the impeccably perceptive barbed devils that guard and patrol the keep the devil resides in.
  2. Scouting Report – Spiny-backed fiends have been reported to be skulking around the outskirts of the city in the dead of night. A tight curfew is in place until the guard have handled the situation.
  3. Illegal Summonings – It’s said that a conjuration expert has begun dabbling in summoning more powerful devils than just paltry imps. The local mage’s order will pay a generous finder’s fee to anyone who can bring in the mage for questioning.
  4. A Hellish Weapon – The local blacksmith wishes to aid in your fight against the devil invasion. They believe they can affix a weapon that will cut through their fiendish ranks and the barbed devil’s spines are the perfect material.
  5. You Help Me, I Help You – A barbed devil has offered up a contract with your party. You kill their superior and they let you sneak out of the keep without being captured. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Conclusions

Barbed devils are a great way to introduce a party to the horrors that are devils and other such fiends. While I wouldn’t call them low-CR creatures, CR 5 is low enough that they can square off against one or two fairly early in a long-term campaign focused around the Nine Hells.

While their offenses aren’t much to write home about, their defenses are superb. They’re strong against wizards and other magic-users and will give martial characters a run for their money too if they don’t have magical or silvered weapons.

They’re a fantastic resource drain to throw a wrench in the party’s dungeon crawling escapades

All in all, they’re a fun low-ranking devil to throw at your party for pretty much any reason. Be it an introductory fight against an incoming devil army or as a minion in an all-out fight against a high-ranking hellish official.

Previous Monster Monday – Hobgoblin

Next Monster Monday –  Underworld Cerberus

If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!

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