What Are Devils in Dungeons and Dragons?
Devils make up one pillar of the forces at work during the Blood War that ravages the Lower Planes. Devils are a subset of the larger “Fiend” race, representing the Lawful Evil plane of the Nine Hells of Baator.
They constantly war with the equally evil but extremely chaotic Demons with whom they share the Lower Planes.
Devils are profoundly evil creatures who are cast into the Nine Hells for their evil deeds. Here they’re twisted and corrupted into devils. Some devils were once mortal; others are fallen angels or born in the Hells themselves.
List of Devils By CR
Lemures are the lowest form of devil, born when a mortal soul is banished to the Nine Hells for eternity.
The Nupperibo is a bloated devil born of a genuinely worthless soul whose evil was carelessness or sloth.
Imps are low-ranking devils usually found running errands for their masters.
Spinagons act as messengers and spies for greater devils and archdevils.
Bearded Devils gorge themselves on violence and get their name from the snakelike growths on their chins.
Merregons are the souls of fallen soldiers, mercenaries, and bodyguards who served evil masters.
Barbed Devils act as guards for greater devils and archdevils because of their unnatural alertness.
White Abishai are the lowest form of Abishai, a mortal soul who gained Tiamat’s favor before death.
Black Abishai can weave shadows to mask their presence and act as assassins and infiltrators for Tiamat.
Chain Devils wear chains and can animate them and nearby chains to grow hooks, blades, and spikes.
Bone Devils have a skull-like head and a scorpion tail. Some may wield polearms made of bone.
Monastery of the Distressed Body, Grand Master
These devils have shards of vorpal swords in place of their claws.
Orthons are the bounty hunters of the Nine Hells because of their sharp senses and invisibility.
Horned Devils are lazy and reluctant to endanger themselves. However, their rage can be terrifying when provoked.
Erinyes are the most beautiful of all the devils but are warriors who use exquisite weaponry or ropes to take down foes.
Narzugons are the souls of paladins who made deals with devils.
Ice Devils serve as commanders of archdevils’ armies in the Nine Hells, working towards promotions by slaying enemies of the Nine Hells.
Green Abishai represent Tiamat’s interests in diplomatic pursuits throughout the Nine Hells.
Hellfire Engines are constructs of mass destruction held in reserve by devil generals to repel large invasions.
Titivilus is the primary advisor to Dispater and the second most powerful devil in Dis.
Blue Abishai are seekers of forgotten lore and lost relics who use their magic knowledge to assist Tiamat.
Amnizus command legions and guardians at the gateways to the Hells under the command of the Archdukes of the Hells.
Bael is a gifted tactician serving Mammon as the leader of sixty-six platoons of barbed devils.
Red Abishai are the leader of the Abishais and lead their brethren into battle to carry out Tiamat’s commands.
Pit Fiends attend the archdukes and duchesses of the Nine Hells and rule over most other devils.
Hutijin is a loyal servant of Mephistopheles who commands the Pit Devils of Cania’s aristocracy.
Moloch was banished from the Nine Hells after an almost successful overthrowing of Asmodeus.
Geryon is an archdevil who wars endlessly with Levistus for control of Stygia.
Zariel was a mighty angel who fell from grace and took her place as the ruler of Avernus.
Devils for Dungeon Masters
Devils were at a severe numbers disadvantage in the Blood War, which led them to become phenomenal tacticians. Most devils are immune to fire; thus, fire became a potent tool in the devils’ strategy.
Devils could cross blazing terrain with ease while Demons would struggle and be injured. So, the Devils opted to cover as much ground as possible with fire to impede Demon armies.
This kind of coordination required a significant amount of planning and the devils, owing to their lawful natures, are meticulous record-keepers. Even the lowest ranking devils will keep detailed records of their plans and actions to show their higher-ups when vying for their favor.
These records were a well-known source of weakness, and Devils go to great lengths to prevent their records from falling into the wrong hands or being leaked.
The first thing devils will do when they are invaded is secure their records, even if that means destroying them to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
Devils whose records have been stolen will fight tooth and nail to retrieve them, preferring to die trying to retrieve them than allow them to be taken.
This was not the only way that Devils sought to even the playing field of their numerical disadvantage. They employed many tactical decisions to help them achieve their goals.
These tactical choices have kept the devils and demons at a roughly 50:50 win rate, despite the numbers advantage of the demons.
First and foremost, they avoid fighting on Baator at all costs. If a devil were to die in the Nine Hells, they would permanently perish. This risk posed a significant threat to their numbers, where they were already at a distinct disadvantage.
Secondly, they would use their widespread knowledge of Greater Teleport to employ hit-and-run tactics. They would attack, teleport away, heal themselves, and begin planning their next attack.
Devils fight using methods that will cripple their enemies in the long term if they can’t kill them outright. They are known to sneak up and kill animal companions and other such creatures to give them an advantage.
They’re also no strangers to running away if the fight doesn’t go their way. Even if dying isn’t a permanent state for them, death could cost them a lot, including their rank. Devils go all-out from the beginning, often screaming and hollering in a fight to help get the attention of any nearby allies who may come to their aid.
An essential key for Dungeon Masters to keep in mind is that while the Devils are unquestionably evil, they represent Lawful Evil. Devils have a strong hierarchy that governs the whole Nine Hells.
Though their laws may be excessive to a regular person, they adhere to their law system strictly.
Their laws may not make sense to mortals, and for a good reason. Devil laws are determined by who is in power, and power is something to be seized, not given. Moloch was banished from Hell for treachery against Asmodeus.
While Devils are evil, they don’t represent an immediate threat to your players the way demons do. The stronger a devil becomes, the more likely they are to see reason.
The more powerful devils in the Ninth Hells would instead use the players for their gains than fight them for no reason.
Especially as the Devils are pretty wrapped up in the Blood War and their infighting, they’ve simply got bigger fish to fry than some paltry adventurers. Devils may try to use adventurers for their causes.
Archdevils may have great offerings for adventurers who can help them further their goals.
Introducing a devil into roleplay is a storyline with a lot of options. Players may encounter an emissary of a devil, be told to hunt them, or be lured into their lair by the promise of treasures.
Forget making a deal with a devil; to be offered a contract is a momentous occasion. Archdevils do not have a taste for senseless violence that their demon brethren revel in.
This cunning should not be mistaken for kindness or weakness. An archdevil will personally eviscerate those who cross them, but they do not seek the thrill of danger the way demons do.
Devils do have infighting as their hierarchy is controlled by strength. However, unlike demons, some devils display loyalty, as in the case of Hutjin and Mammon. Devils are more organized and rely more on cunning wit than pure, brute strength.
Devils have two main combat modes: one huge mothereffer or hundreds of small mothereffers. Whether you want to throw your party a horde of small devils or one giant devil will largely be determined by their party makeup.
Taking down a larger devil requires the party to either have potent spells or a strong frontline. Greater Devils can be somewhat fragile when attacked and rely on their explosive damage output and horde of smaller servants to help keep enemies at bay.
When we consider the Pit Fiend as a creature, it’s somewhat fragile on the defensive scale compared with other animals at that CR level and starts to feel a bit underwhelming compared to the Ogrémoch.
However, the Pit Fiend has a much higher damage output than the Ogrémoch, covering its defensive weaknesses.
It’s also worth pointing out the Pit Fiend’s at-will Fireball. It is an extremely powerful trait that allows the Pit Fiend to deal significant damage even from a safe distance.
It’s essential to keep the action economy in mind when creating horde battles, perhaps against one of Bael’s armies. Too many creatures will overwhelm your party, regardless of their level.
Remember that if we assume that about 5% of attacks will always hit (natural 20s always hit), 5300 CR 0 archers can instantly drop a 20th level Barbarian.
The Out of the Abyss campaign ends with the players turning the Demon Lords against each other and then picking off the stragglers because it would be somewhat unreasonable for the players to hunt Demon Lords.
Likewise, hunting archdevils should not be the goal unless the players have reached a high level.
The strongest devil by CR is Zariel, who packs a whopping 97 damage-per-round with an AC of 21 and an average health pool of over 500. She will present a challenge to most parties who wish to fight her.
While she is not a devil, Tiamat resides in the Abyss and only has two published CR 30 monsters in Fifth Edition.
Devils as a Playable Race
Devils are not currently a playable race in Fifth Edition, mainly because their births and backstories are confined to the Nine Hells. As well as the fact that devils leaving the Nine Hells aren’t usually going for tea.
Devils and Demons aren’t just innately evil; they embody the evil alignment. To cease being evil would be to cease being a devil altogether.
Dungeon Masters looking to incorporate Devil player characters will want to consider the kind of campaign they’re running and what type of character the player is looking to achieve.
A Devil player character would be better suited to a campaign where the players play as villains rather than heroes.
However, there are ways that a player could play as a devil in a regular campaign. Devils are highly lawful and value contracts. If the player is willing to cooperate, a devil could be serving a contract with a mortal for some greater ends to their archdevil master.
This allows them to integrate into the party without giving up their evil identity. There is always the option of redemption as well.
While redemption is a dicey topic as there is no accepted standard system to track “redemption,” it’s a system that has plenty of precedence in the lore of the Forgotten Realms.
Can A Devil Be Redeemed?
That being said, the option to redeem fiends does have precedence. Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus includes a chance for players to redeem a fiend. Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount introduces a Balor that was turned into a good-aligned Fey by Queen Titania.
Planes of Conflict, The Well of Worlds, and The Deva Spark from Second Edition all feature fiends who turn away from their evil ways and achieve redemption. The Book of Exalted Deeds and Legend of the Silver Skeleton both provide a precedent for the redemption of fiends in 3.5e.
The problem lies in the implementation. There is no standard method nor mechanic by which a devil can achieve redemption. Mike Mearls said on Twitter that players wanting to redeem a devil would have to find “a sliver of human emotion in a fiend” and build on it, comparing it to the opposite of corrupting a paladin.
Still, hopeful would-be devil-redeemers are not entirely out of luck. Dragon Magazine #306 features a piece entitled “Betraying Your Evil Nature,” which outlines a proposed mechanical implementation for redemption.
The magazine offers a point system for temptations and redemptions that DMs can use as a basis for creating their own redemption arcs within their stories.
Frequently Asked Questions About Devils
Who Is the Strongest Devil?
The strongest devil in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition is Zariel.
How Are Devils Made?
Devils are made when the soul of an evil creature is cast into the Nine Hells.
What Happens When Devils Die?
If a Devil dies outside of the Nine Hells, they are returned to the Nine Hells where they reincarnate.
That’s A Wrap
Devils are a fantastic addition to any campaign as NPCs or as players. They present ample opportunities for the players to learn more about the world beyond their scope and the depth of what it means to be genuinely evil.
Devils give teeth to the evil in the Forgotten Realms that is hard to overshadow with mortal characters.
Players will be left with a lot to think about and plenty of juicy moral conundrums to remember! Good luck, have fun, and happy questing!