I can speak from experience on this one! I used him once as a boss fight to hint at the upcoming Devil subplot. He would have been the coolest enemy they’ve faced so far, had they not fought a dragon the next session and an Aboleth in the last.
Horned Devils, otherwise known as Malebranche, is an incredibly lazy creature. It is rare for them to put themselves in harm’s way unless ordered by one of their superiors. Despite this, they are still highly effective soldiers, serving as the flying infantry of Hell’s armies. When given an order, they will follow it to the letter. However, they are not entirely loyal. They look on at creatures more powerful than themselves with fear and contempt. Should they be pushed far enough, the fury of one of these monsters is a terror to behold.
While not especially strong, the lore here isn’t all that bad! It’s fairly interesting and, with a little creativity, could make for a compelling quest! Maybe the players could strike an uneasy bargain with one, convincing it to aide them in exchange for killing the object of the Malebranche’s hatred. Or maybe you could build a simple encounter where the party needs to sneak around them while they’re sleeping on the job. It’s not much, but you can do some interesting things here!
Unfortunately, the design isn’t as intriguing.
Design: Yup. That’s a Devil.
Hey Satan. How’ve you been? What’re you doing in my Dungeons and Dragons?
Creativitiy wise, this design is a failing grade. There isn’t a single new idea on the table here! It just looks like a stereotypical devil! There’s no unique attribute to make it stand out like the other devils have done!
Now, to be fair, it is a decently effective design. The massive wings are impossible to miss, making it just as impossible to not figure out how it moves. The massive, glowing pitchfork draws the eyes. Plus, the weapon’s glowing tips are a not-so-subtle hint as to this monster’s primary strength: fire.
Now if only they did something to make it stand out. Because it looks super bland. For fuck’s sake, the Ice Devil is on the next page!
Stats: Raining Fire
You know those assholes in FPS games? The ones that sit in the same spot and camp for the whole game? Then, once you finally sneak up on them, they turn around and one-hit kill you with a melee attack, sending you right back to square one? Yeah, it’s that. This guy is that.
Defensively speaking, this guy is about on par with the Erinyes. The AC is just shy of a clean twenty and the HP is only about twenty away from a solid two-hundred. Not only does it have the typical devilish resistance (cold, non-magic attacks w/ non-silvered weapons), but it’s completely immune to both poison and fire. Devil’s Sight gives it immunity to magical darkness, Magic Resistance gives it advantage on saving throws against spells, so on and so forth. It’s far from an easy monster to bring down.
And god. Fucking. Damn. This thing does damage!
With Multiattack, this guy can make three attacks per turn: twice with its fork and once with its tail. Or, if you want to be that FPS asshole I mentioned earlier, you can replace any one of those with the Hurl Flame spell. Combine all that with the sixty-feet of flying movement, and you have a highly mobile, highly powerful, and highly dangerous foe.
Let’s break down the numbers. The fork isn’t an especially impressive weapon. It can deal a maximum of 15(2d8+6) piercing damage per hit. Total, it can deal 30(4d8+12) damage per turn with it. Nothing to sneeze at! But it’s also not the most intimidating thing we’ve seen so far.
The tail is a bit more dangerous. It may not seem that way, given that it can only deal 10(1d8+6) piercing damage per turn. However, this thing has a very dangerous ability. See, if you get hit by this tail, you’ll need to make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 17. Fail that, and you’ll be inflicted with an infernal wound. Get one of those, and you’ll be taking 10(3d6) damage at the start of your every turn. And yes. It does stack for every failed save. Luckily, it can be staunched by a DC 12 Medicine check or by a healing spell.
Think about that for a second. If you were to get hit by all three attacks and fail your saving throw, let’s say without any critical hits, then you’ll be taking (4d8+12), (1d8+6), and (3d6) damage. In one turn. Have fun watching the Paladin’s 60 HP drop to 0 in one turn!
Like ours did when the party fought one. Pretty sure poor Caleb shit himself when that happened.
Finally, we have the monster’s main means of long-range combat: Hurl Flame. This isn’t a very dangerous attack. It can deal an intimidating but not horrifying 14(4d6) fire damage and ignite flammable objects. It’s a very basic spell.
Oh, and did I mention that it gets a +10 to hit on melee and a +7 on Hurl Flame? Cause it does! And I love it.
Honestly, the only thing of any real note is the infernal damage from the tail. Aside from that, this thing makes for a very straight-forward fight. An intense one to be sure! But not an especially memorable one.
Believe me. My players forgot about it literally one session later. Granted, that was probably because of the Adult Green Dragon.
While I do have a personal affection for the Horned Devil, I still need to look at it critically. And while I’m doing so, I’ve got to admit that it isn’t especially interesting. The lore is fun and the stats can make for a cool, albeit straightforward fight. But that design is so boring and cliche that it physically hurts, dragging down the monster as a whole!
With all that in mind, let’s put the Horned Devil on the Best of the Bestiary!
- Death Tyrant
- Death Knight
- Bone Devil
- Shadow Demon
- Animated Armor
- Chain Devil
- Bearded Devil
- Barbed Devil
- Horned Devil <————–
- Carrion Crawler
- Rug of Smothering
- Bugbear Chief
- Vine Blight
- Twig Blight
- Needle Blight
- Flying Sword
- Crawling Claw