peaking of evil creatures warped by the foul energies of other planes of existence, I want to talk this week about three creatures that carry the blood of fiends in their veins: cambions, draegloths, and tieflings.
Alignment: Any evil
Cambions are evil creatures born from the union of a mortal humanoid with a demon or devil. As such, they absorb a variety of monsters from past editions, including the cambion and alu-demon from 1st Edition (both half-demons) and at least part of the half-fiend template from 3rd Edition, as well as the devilish cambion from 4th Edition.
Cambions with devilish ancestry look like attractive humanoids with red skin, horns, and sometimes leathery wings. Those with demonic ancestry are more diverse, some boasting scaly skin or small wings, others having only small horns or misshapen ears to mark their parentage. Cambions with yugoloth parentage are almost unknown.
Naturally, cambions with powerful fiendish parents tend to be both more powerful and more important among fiends than those born of lower stock. The greatest half-devils can even command the obedience of lesser devils, and some have been known to rise high in the infernal bureaucracy. Half-demon cambions carry only as much authority in the Abyss as they can enforce through their own strength, of course, but even that can be considerable.
On the flip side, cambions love exerting their strength over mortals, especially when trying to escape their entanglements in infernal politics. Some cambions act as patrons for warlocks (such as Lorcan, from Erin M. Evans's Brimstone Angels series), and others gather armies and forge kingdom where they rule as iron-fisted tyrants. Rich in magical power, they have many abilities to suppress dissent, protect themselves from assassins, and spy on the populace.
Cambions share the basic qualities of demons or devils (depending on their parentage), including immunities and resistances to certain damage types. They are much like humans in their ability to learn the skills and capabilities of character classes—and in the ruthless ambition those abilities serve.
Alignment: Chaotic evil
"[Drizzt] heard the high priestesses gasping and coaxing the student on, knowing the conjuring to be at hand. He heard the snap of the snake whip—another incentive?—and cries of 'Glabrezu!' from the student. So primal, so powerful, were these screams that they cut through Drizzt and the other males in the room with an intensity they never would have believed possible.
"The flames heard the call. They roared higher and higher and began to take shape. One sight caught the vision of all in the room now—caught it and held it fully. A giant head, a goat-horned dog, appeared within the flames, apparently studying this alluring young drow student who had dared to utter its name."
—R.A. Salvatore, Homeland
And that's how draegloths are made.
Draegloths are a specific kind of half-fiend or cambion, thought to be the only half-fiends regularly, intentionally, and even ritually created by a mortal race. They are the children of drow priestesses chosen and blessed by Lolth. They look like 8-foot-tall drow, with inky black skin and knotted manes of yellowish-white hair. Their hides are thick and covered with a fine coat of white hair, and their bodies are powerfully muscled. Two of their four arms end in powerful claws; the other two, much smaller, end in normal hands that some of these creatures can use for spellcasting. (Their glabrezu parentage is evident.) Their faces have a bestial cast, slightly elongated to resemble a dog's muzzle, and their mouths are full of vicious, sharp teeth.
Draegloths attack with their claws and bite, and they also possess spell-like abilities, including those common to drow. They share demonic resistances and immunities, and some learn the ways of magic, either as mages or as clerics of Lolth.
What makes draegloths different from other cambions? The only possible answer is the blessing of the fickle Spider Queen. Born no more than once a decade to a priestess newly graduated from the Academy, draegloths are thought to mark Lolth's favor upon their mothers' families. Families often take the birth of a draegloth as a sign that it is time to strike out at a rival family—and the draegloth itself is often a key factor in ensuring that those plans lead to victory.
The uniqueness of the draegloth suggests that other distinct varieties of half-fiend might exist. Thus, while the cambion covers a lot of ground, it's a fundamentally generic half-fiend, while we might end up developing other specific kinds, like the draegloth, in the future.
Alignment: Often evil Level: Low Environment: Any
Tieflings, fundamentally, are the descendants of humanoids whose blood was mingled with fiendish influence. The classic tiefling might have demonic, diabolic, or other fiendish ancestry, which might manifest in any of a wide range of physical quirks and magical abilities. That's the tiefling we'll be steering back toward in the future.
A lot has happened with tieflings since the Planescape days, though. For starters, 3rd Edition added some new varieties of tieflings drawn from the lore of the Forgotten Realms: tanarukks (fiend-blooded orcs) and fey'ri (or daemonfey, fiendish gold elves). Fourth Edition introduced a very distinctive look for tieflings, as well as a story that tied them (in the default setting) to the ancient empire of Bael Turath. Thus, 4th Edition tieflings had very specifically devilish, not demonic, ancestry, and they had a devilish look complete with pronounced horns and long tails.
The 4th Edition Forgotten Realms setting had an explanation for this change within the world's history. In the years around the Spellplague, Asmodeus made a successful bid for power, rising from a mere archdevil to an actual deity. As part of that scheme, he put his "blood" (metaphorically speaking) into every tiefling alive in the world at the time. These devilborn tieflings became the dominant form of tiefling, particularly with the disappearance of Mulhorand during the Spellplague. (Mulhorand had once boasted a significant population of tieflings claiming descent from the evil gods of the Mulhorandi pantheon.)
To make a long story short, as with so many other things, we're aiming for as inclusive an approach as possible. As the appearance of Farideh on the cover of Erin M. Evans' forthcoming novel The Adversary demonstrates, the 4th Edition look for tieflings is not going away, but we'll also have room for the variety of devilish and demonic tieflings the game has enjoyed in the past.
What Do You Think?
How did we do this week?
Previous Poll Results
How do you think this description of foulspawn squares with their history in the game?
|1—Well, the foul part is right.
|2—It’s not working for me at all.
|3—It could work, but it needs improvement first.
|4—It’s pretty good, and I can suddenly imagine using foulspawn in my game.
|5—It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to use foulspawn in my game.
Are there other foulspawn that deserve more attention?
|Foulspawn mangler (from the 4th Edition Monster Manual)
|Foulspawn wretch (from the 4th Edition Monster Manual 3)
|Foulspawn mockery (from the 4th Edition Monster Manual 3)
|Foulspawn warpcaller (from the 4th Edition Monster Manual 3)
|Foulspawn oracle (from Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress)
|Foulspawn ragehulk (from Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress)
|Foulspawn chirurgeon (from Dungeon 162)
|Foulspawn mystic (from Dungeon 162)
|Foulspawn skintaker (from Dungeon 162)
|Dolgrim (Eberron’s corrupted goblins)
|Dolgaunt (Eberron’s corrupted hobgoblins)
|Dolgarr (Eberron’s corrupted bugbears)
How do you think this description of gibbering mouthers squares with their history in the game?
|1—It’s so much insane babbling.
|2—It’s not working for me at all.
|3—It could work, but it needs improvement first.
|4—It’s pretty good, and I can suddenly imagine using a gibbering mouther in my game.
|5—It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to use a gibbering mouther in my game.
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.