D&D 30 Day Challenge — Day 23

D&D 30 Day Challenge — Day 23

Least Favorite Monster Overall

Devils and demons. It’s not that I don’t like them; it’s just that they don’t make any sense.

There are lots of cool fiends in the game, with pedigrees going all the way back to the AD&D Monster Manual and the earliest days of Dragon magazine. Their mechanics are pretty much always cool. Their design is memorable, their art is always iconic. But where devils and demons break down for me is in the standard backstory of how these extraplanar fiends crave souls and long to destroy the mortal world in order to consume the living — and then somehow just don’t ever seem to get around to doing that.

I’m not a biologist or anything, but I’m at least passingly familiar with the notion that apex predators have lesser populations than the prey they feed upon, and that the number of apex predators is always limited by available prey. Monsters like dragons are typically always rare in an average campaign, because they implicitly obey the laws of predator selection, so that it’s easy to say within the context of a game world, “There are relatively few dragons because of competition between them for prey and territory.” And it’s easy to understand that this is a good thing, because if the numbers of dragons — or beholders or owlbears or behirs or what have you — suddenly doubled or tripled, it would spell disaster as they ate their way through existing natural food stocks, then eventually overwhelmed the humanoid world.

The thing with devils and demons is that they have no such limits on their population. And they have a mission statement that specifically involves overwhelming the humanoid world. And so they’re always, like, “We long to destroy you all!”, and I’m always, like, “Fine; what’s stopping you?” And then they’re, like, “Oh, well, today’s pretty full up. Lot of stuff going on. Blood War and such, you know. So out of the tens of millions of ravening, bloodthirsty, damage-and-magic-resistant shock troops at our disposal, we’ll just send in a half-dozen or so to give this particular group of heroes a bad time. Take that! Nyahh!”

Imagine an imaginary D&D campaign (I know that’s doubly redundant; just work with me) in which I get to play all the devils and demons in the Nine Hells and the Abyss, and you get to play all the people, creatures, and heroes in Greyhawk, or Faerûn, or wherever. I win that campaign every time. In, like, fifteen minutes. So it’s not that I don’t like playing with devils and demons; I just don’t like that unless a DM takes specific measures to limit their numbers and explain why their presence in the world is even more limited (as I do in my own campaign), every devil and demon encounter comes with an obligatory suspension of disbelief that goes over and above the normal levels of suspension of disbelief that are part of the game.