Despite the plethora of monsters and bad guys you can find in D&D sourcebooks, many of them share one trait: they deal a lot of melee damage.
Spellcasters can break this up, but not many monsters have tactics beyond getting close to someone and pummeling away.
For DMs looking to mix things up, creatures like the spined devil and the bristled moorbounder offer a chance to do some harassing and skirmishing with your monsters.
Let’s take a look at what these creatures are like and how a DM could best put them to use in combat.
What Is a Spined Devil?
The spined devil is the messenger and ranged artillery for the legions of the Nine Hells. With their ability to fly and the fiery spines that grow from their tail, these devils are agile and can easily harass a foe from afar.
Spined devils receive respect from other devils not for their size and stature but for their utility to the legion.
The stats for a spined devil can be found in the Monster Manual. Here’s what that statblock looks like:
Small Fiend (Devil), Lawful Evil
- Armor Class: 13 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 22 (5d6+5)
- Speed: 20 ft., fly 40 ft.
- STR 10 (+0)
- DEX 15 (+2)
- CON 12 (+1)
- INT 11 (+0)
- WIS 14 (+2)
- CHA 8 (-1)
- Damage Resistances: Cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren’t silvered
- Damage Immunites: Fire, poison
- Condition Immunities: Poisoned
- Senses: Darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 12
- Languages: Infernal, telepathy 120 ft.
- Challenge: 2 (450 XP)
- Devil’s Sight: Magical darkness doesn’t impede the devil’s darkvision.
- Flyby: The devil doesn’t provoke an opportunity attack when it flies out of an enemy’s reach.
- Limited Spines: The devil has 12 tail spines. Used spines regrow by the time the devil finishes a long rest.
- Magic Resistance: The devil has advantage on saving throws against spell and other magical effects.
- Multiattack: The devil makes two attacks: one with its bite and one with its fork or two with its tail spines.
- Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (2d4) slashing damage.
- Fork: Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6) piercing damage.
- Tail Spine: Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, range 20/80 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4+2) piercing plus 3 (1d6) fire damage.
To sum up the stats, a spined devil is a ranged attacker that uses its tail spines to deliver a combo of piercing and fire damage to targets.
While they don’t possess magic like the tougher devils out there, they have several features that make them a challenge, especially when encountered by low-level adventurers.
Notable Features of Spined Devils
Spined devils earn respect from their peers for their flight, something most creatures don’t have in D&D. By gaining access to a fly speed, spined devils open up the rarely used third dimension.
Players will be used to dealing with threats at the same height as themselves, but a spined devil can use its flight to dip around tall cover like trees and walls.
Combined with its tail spines, the spined devil can play the part of ranged skirmishers, harassing foes from afar. This barrage could go to anyone in the party, including the spellcasters that usually sit in the backline of the party.
To make matters worse, spined devils get Flyby. With this trait, a spined devil can dip out of melee from a foe.
This keeps the spined devil from having to rely on its weaker melee attacks and helps the devil move to a smarter spot on the battle map.
To round out its defenses, spined devils have Magical Resistance, a trait common to many denizens of the Nine Hells. This trait makes it harder to land any saving throw-based spells on the fiend.
While this might not matter too much for some spells, the spells that force the creature to the ground, like magnify gravity and earthbind, rely on saves to bring creatures out of the sky.
With Magical Resistance, those spells have a much harder time sticking.
What Is a Bristled Moorbounder?
A bristled moorbounder is an evolution of the moorbounders found in the Xhorhas region of Wildemount, the well-known setting of Critical Role’s second campaign.
Thanks to the bladelike bristles growing along its back, this creature gains a defensive feature that makes it harder to pin down and tame.
The bristled moorbounder was released alongside its unbladed cousin in the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. Here’s what the bristled moorbounder has for its stats:
Large Beast, Unaligned
- Armor Class: 15 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 52 (7d10+14)
- Speed: 70 ft.
- STR 18 (+4)
- DEX 14 (+2)
- CON 14 (+2)
- INT 2 (-4)
- WIS 13 (+1)
- CHA 5 (-3)
- Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
- Languages –
- Challenge: 3 (450 XP)
- Bladed Hide: At the start of each of its turns, the moorbounder deals 5 (2d4) piercing damage to any creature grappling it.
- Standing Leap: The moorbounder’s long jump is up to 40 feet, and its high jump is up to 20 feet with or without a running start.
- Multiattack: The moorbounder makes two attacks: one with its blades and one with its claws.
- Blades: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) slashing damage.
- Claws: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (4d4+4) slashing damage.
Overall, the moorbounder is a ferocious predator of the marshland. Its high speed and jump distances mean the moorbounder can ignore terrain adventurers would have to slog through, like muddy trenches and shallow water.
In addition, the moorbounder has high damage potential that allows it to quickly take out prey before returning home with its kill.
Notable Features of Bristled Moorbounders
As mentioned, bristled moorbounders are highly mobile. Most player characters have to Dash to get close to a 70-foot speed on their turn, which the moorbounder has natively.
That speed makes it possible for moorbounders to flank around the party and attack a weak-looking member, such as the wizard or sorcerer.
The jumping speed helps with mobility as well. Since moorbounders hunt in murky areas, that can allow these beasts to vault over mud, shallow water, and grassy overgrowths.
To combat this speed, Strength-based characters might want to hold these predators in place with a grapple. However, the bristled moorbounder punishes this thanks to its bladed bristles.
The Barbarian or Fighter can try to pin this creature in place, but they suffer damage every turn they do so as the bladed bristles dig into their flesh.
Using a Spined Devil or Bristled Moorbounder in Combat
While these two creatures don’t have much in common for their ancestry, they both occupy interesting roles as skirmishers for a larger group of foes.
If you need some help putting these creatures to use as a DM, let’s look at some tactics and terrains that work best for these creatures.
Allies for Spined Devil and Bristled Moorbounder
Spined devils and bristled moorbounders work best when they have allies they can work in tandem with.
Due to their low hit points and Armor Class, both of these creatures will fall quickly if they don’t have someone else take the heat for them.
For the spined devil, this usually means other devils.
While the lowly lemure won’t stand up long against an adventuring party, mixing it with higher Challenge Rating creatures, like bearded devils or barbed devils, makes for a good challenge to players between levels five and seven.
However, bristled moorbounders don’t have the same fiendish connections that spined devils do.
You could draw on inspiration from the large cats they resemble and the bristled moorbounder as the pride leader for a pack of regular moorbounders, each running in and out of the party’s melee reach.
Humanoids also make for a good choice in ally for these creatures. Spined devils could be the summoned allies of a hobgoblin spellcaster while a bristled moorbounder might be the prized pet of an orcish chieftain.
Mixing creature types like this gives you a way to build out interesting encounters and tell a fun, engaging story.
As long as you give these creatures some friends to take hits for them, you’ll find these skirmishers do well for challenging your players.
Best Terrains and Environments for Spined Devil and Bristled Moorbounder
Spined devils and moorbounders love terrains with cover and difficult terrain, though for different reasons.
A spined devil can use its flying speed and Flyby trait to get to cover not accessible to creatures stuck on the ground.
Given the Armor Class and Dexterity saving-throw benefits of cover, spined devils want to use cover as much as possible to stay alive.
Tall ruins, forests, and caves with thick stalagmites all make great places for spined devils to fight their foes.
Bristled moorbounders instead use difficult terrain as a way to keep foes from reaching them.
Their fast speed and jumping capability mean they can ignore or mitigate movement penalties from difficult terrain to get to backline enemies faster.
Tactics for Spined Devil and Bristled Moorbounder
As skirmishers, spined devils and bristled moorbounders work best when they use their allies and terrain to stay out of harm’s way.
Use the terrain to get cover and melee allies to make it harder for the player characters to reach them.
If the fight doesn’t go the right way for these creatures, both are smart or instinctive enough to try and preserve themselves.
Don’t be afraid to use their capabilities to flee and possibly communicate with other monsters in the dungeon.
Devils especially prefer to stack the odds in their favor, meaning a spined devil is more than happy to bring its bigger, badder friends if the first crew falls to an adventuring party’s might.
Skirmisher monsters like the spined devil and the bristled moorbounder give DMs a way to introduce a new angle for their combats.
Rather than relying on surviving melee bruisers, parties against these monsters have to think about catching up to these creatures and taking them out quickly.
The next time you create a combat encounter for your players, think about creatures like the spined devil and bristled moorbounder.
Mixing up creature types and tactics gives you an encounter that can feel more threatening and interesting than any Challenge Rating will tell you!