Throughout human history, the term “imp” has applied to all sorts of mischievous fairy creatures. They were playful, yet cruel.
Although medieval Christianity allowed for unaligned spiritual beings not mentioned in the bible (like fairies) to exist, the Renaissance and scientific revolution attempted to do away with all spiritual things, and the church responded by lumping all folkloric and mythological creatures under the headings of “angel” or “devil.”
(If you’re interested in the history of this, see C.S Lewis’s The Discarded Image.)
Since angels were perceived as direct servants of God, there was no room for any unaligned spirits. Therefore, fairies became demonic, and imps became wretched little devil-tricksters that might think it funny to put a bowl of milk at the top of the stairs for you to trip over and go tumbling down – your untimely demise being the funniest part of all.
In D&D, this tradition continues. Imps are untrustworthy servitors on the bottom of any fiendish hierarchy. They can only be depended on to be mischievous. Any instructions given will be interpreted as differently as the giver intended as possible, accepting of course the command to “go make those people’s lives miserable.”
This, of course, could likely result in those people getting everything they ever wanted only to realize that material possessions can’t make them happy and well-adjusted people even though it might make them physically safe and wealthy.
Money might make you safe, but it won’t make you sane. Such a deal would appeal to the imp’s trickster nature as well as allow them to make that person miserable as originally instructed.
What Are Imps in DnD 5e?
Imps are tiny, CR 1 fiendish shapechangers that delight in causing mischief and trickery. They can be found anywhere, anytime, provided anything devilish is afoot.
A Player’s Guide to Imps in DnD 5e
Tiny Fiend (Devil), Lawful Evil
- Armor Class: 13
- Hit Points: 10 (3d4 + 3)
- Speed: 20 ft., fly 40 ft.
- STR 6 (-2), DEX 17 (+3), CON 13 (+1), INT 11 (+0), WIS 12 (+1), CHA14 (+2)
- Skills: Deception +4, Insight +3, Persuasion +4, Stealth +5
- Damage Resistances: Cold; Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks that aren’t Silvered
- Damage Immunities: Fire, Poison
- Condition Immunities: Poisoned
- Senses: Darkvision 120 ft., Passive Perception 11
- Languages: Common, Infernal
- Challenge: 1 (200 XP)
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
Shapechanger. The imp can use its action to polymorph into a beast form that resembles a rat (speed 20 ft.), a raven (20 ft., fly 60 ft.), or a spider (20 ft., climb 20 ft.) or back into its true form. Its statistics are the same in each form, except for the speed changes noted. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn’t transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies.
Devil’s Sight. Magical darkness doesn’t impede the imp’s darkvision.
Magic Resistance. The imp has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Sting (Bite in Beast Form). Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4 + 3) piercing damage, and the target must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw, taking 10 (3d6) poison damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one.
As tiny creatures, imps are not likely to be able to threaten the PCs unless they attack in large numbers.
As Lawful Evil creatures, imps are likely to be found in the service of more powerful masters.
An AC of 13 is just high enough for imps to risk engaging in combat. There is a chance that you won’t be able to hit them. However, their HP is so low that a 3rd-level PC stands a fair chance of killing them in a single hit, so you can trust that an imp won’t take a shot unless it has an escape plan ready.
The most notable stat here is the 17 for Dexterity. This is why their AC is 13. Granted, with an 11 Intelligence, it is reasonable to assume that some imps could wear armor if it were made correctly. Either way, expect the imp to rely upon magic or ranged attacks should you find yourself in combat with one.
As a fiend, it has an array of damage resistances and immunities worth noting. Its darkvision is the best that it could possibly be, and it also has an interesting mix of socially oriented skills. This opens the imp up to an array of roleplaying applications.
As trickster types, the imp employs a shapechanger ability that can let it roam around unnoticed by most people and NPCs. This means it can serve its master as a spy and give it a handy escape plan.
The devil’s sight ability is always an annoying one for a monster to have. This means you won’t be able to hide unless you have cover.
Finally, the magic resistance of the imp will mean that casting spells that rely on saving throws is not a guaranteed way to subdue this little devil.
While the DC on the Constitution save for the imp’s sting attack is not necessarily unpassable, it does still do half damage on a successful save. This means you will take 1d4+3 from the sting and an additional 1-9 damage from the poison.
All told, the imp can dish out 5-16 damage on a successful save and 5-23 damage on a failed one. Since the imp can turn invisible, it will always try to do this before attacking you in order to gain advantage.
The first thing an imp will do will be to avoid combat with you. They’re small and squishy! It would be much better to talk you into a trap or somehow manipulate you into letting them live. With a +4 to persuasion and deception, it might just be able to do that.
If forced into combat, however, the imp will try to make full advantage of its stealth and deception abilities. Expect it to run away while invisible or to jump into a swarm of rats while shape-changed into a rat.
Should it actually decide to stay and fight, it will become invisible and try to sting you before flying out of reach. While you may get an opportunity attack this way, that is much better for the imp than simply floating there and letting you get a full round of attacks on it.
If multiple imps can swarm you this way, they will definitely do that, thereby reducing the risk for each individual imp. Sure, one of them might get swatted, but you can only hit one of them while the other four get to attack you.
The best way to take an imp out is to hit it with ranged attacks. This way, you won’t need to wait for an opportunity attack in order for it to be within reach, provided you can see it.
If someone can cast faerie fire, even better. This will negate the imp’s ability to use its invisibility, provided you can overcome its magical resistance to spells.
Nonmagical methods of negating invisibility involve throwing sand or water into the air in order to reveal something’s position, but that gets complicated and can use up too many actions than you would prefer.
In general, this is why imps are hard to fight. They have so many resistances and have so much deceptive ability that actually pinning one down can be difficult, but it’s absolutely worth trying because their HP is so low that you really only need one good hit to take it out.
Imps as Familiars
An imp would make both the best and the worst familiar for a warlock with the pact of the chain option.
The pros are simple. The imp has a powerful attack, it can shapechange, and it can see through darkness. All of its abilities make it the perfect spy, saboteur, and espionage artist.
The cons, though, are numerous. Can you trust it to do its job? Can you make your instructions specific enough to make it worth the trouble, knowing that the imp will still find ways to screw you over?
The answer is simple: Will your DM allow you to control your familiar, or will they retain control?
If the DM gives you total control, then absolutely take the imp. But if your DM will not let you control it, you are taking a huge risk. There is much wiggle room for your DM to ruin your day with bad information.
A DM’s Guide to Imps in D&D 5e
Let’s get mischievous!
Imps in combat are straightforward. Hide, strike, escape, repeat. But if you want to use the imps to their full ability, give them total knowledge over environmental factors.
Can the imp pretend to run away only to lead the PCs into a hazard or a trap? Can the imp lead a larger monster to the party so that it doesn’t need to fight the PCs itself?
Also consider giving the imp valuable information the PCs need. Torture may seem like the only way to get the information, but in truth, when a creature like this is under duress, it will not want to give away all it has.
So, use the imp to give out false leads. Make it lie its little devil-pants off. Make it give half-truths in order to confuse the PCs.
The only way to truly impress an imp is to press it into servitude. An imp will serve a powerful enough evil master. Have the imp give the PCs a bargain; if they will commit some act the imp feels worthy, it will give the PCs the information they want. And then still lie about it afterward.
Story Seed – A Nasty Little Dobby
This is a fun little type of adventure that depends on a reversal of perceptions for the PCs concerning alignment and values.
Most gamers (and people in general) do not have a nuanced view of ethics and morality. If your players are like this, take advantage of that lack of thought and force them to reconsider how they tend to ascribe good and evil to institutional powers (such as religious or national powers) instead of actual good and actual evil.
Setup: The PCs have recently cleared out a dungeon of cultists, fiends, aberrations, or similar monsters.
Inciting event: An imp approaches the most self-righteous cleric or paladin of the party and decides to make that player their new evil overlord. Really play it up too. The imp can say things like:
- “Oh Master, unequaled in violence and terrible power, I will serve you the rest of my miserable life.”
- “Allow me to serve you and your blood-soaked god, the foeslayer and power of the age!”
Escalation: If the PCs have any depth to them at all, they won’t want to kill the imp but instead try to convert it and teach them ways of “good.” The imp, however, does not understand the concept of good and evil. It only understands power and the will to do what pleases you.
To demonstrate its willingness to support the PCs, the imp then goes out and finds its former masters, the original devils that were worshiped by the original cult, and leads them straight to the PCs’ location, hoping the PCs will kill them in order to make the world a better place.
Make sure the attack is overwhelming to the PCs and that they have to escape or die.
Resolution: How will the PCs deal with the imp that didn’t understand, and how will they deal with the new batch of devils reigning destruction in revenge for their lost followers?
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.