Demons have always been popular foes for adventurers at all levels. The release of Fiendish Codex I has opened the gates to Hell -- or at least the endless layers of the Abyss! This tome takes an in-depth look at classic demons as well as new abominations from this chaotic plane.
Over the course of the next few installments, we'll examine some of the old favorites that can be found in the Monster Manual, including ways they fight, tactics that can be used against them, and new lore that applies to finding out more information on these terrible beings.
First up, we look at the crazed and brutal vrock, terror of the Abyssal skies.
Vrocks are large, birdlike demons resembling a blend between a person and a fiendish vulture. Their long, gangly limbs end in razor-sharp talons, and a keen, predatory intellect burns in their terrifying eyes. Vrocks make excellent bodyguards and enforcers for more powerful (and smarter) demons. They are smart enough to keep an eye out for threats but not so intellectual that they are likely to overthrow their masters.
Where vrocks truly shine, however, is as aerial strike forces during massed battle. Vrocks take to wing above their armies and rain death on their enemies with rocks and debris before plowing into them in melee.
Vrocks as Brutes
Vrocks are capable of producing masses of miniscule spores that can burrow into a victim's flesh and eat it alive. These spores can sometimes be collected from freshly killed vrocks (those that do not disintegrate into goop) and stored for use as a poison. The spores must be collected within 10 minutes of the vrock's death. Harvested spores lack the lingering power of fresh ones, but they can still deal damage.
Type: Contact DC 16
Initial Damage: 1d8 hp
Secondary Damage: 1d8 hp
Price: 500 gp.
Fiendish Codex I divides demons into four roles. Vrocks make excellent brutes because they are powerful in combat and have a joy of battle that makes them eager to get into a fight. Unfortunately, vrocks are smart enough to employ effective group tactics that make them more dangerous than other demons (or brutes). While fractious by nature, vrocks work well together -- be wary of three or more in close proximity (see below). If you keep a vrock's attention long enough, you can set up an ambush. Divide and conquer should be your primary tactic.
Vrocks are tough, dedicated opponents that care little about their own safety. They throw themselves into combat with reckless abandon. This can work to your advantage, because vrocks can get single-minded in their slaughter. One possibility is to set up one or two members of your group as bait to lure a vrock into a trap. Let it fight the single person for a few rounds before the remainder attack from the safety of cover with ranged weapons and spells.
Vrocks produce deadly spores that contaminate the immediate area around it. This makes close combat an unwise choice, but sometimes it's necessary. Make sure that you carry spells, potions, or scrolls of bless, neutralize poison, or remove disease. Holy water does the trick as well (and is considerably cheaper).
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (the planes) can learn more about vrocks. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the lore from the lower DCs.
15 Vrocks serve a dual purpose as guards for more powerful demons and as aerial assault troops.
20 Because of their insatiable love of combat, vrocks can sometimes get lured into situations where they are heavily outnumbered and outgunned. They can emit a terrifying screech that stuns opponents.
25 Vrocks produce deadly spores that can penetrate armor. The effect of these spores can last a full minute, slowly eating away at the victim's skin.
30 Three or more vrocks can join talons together and whirl about in a terrible dance that sends out devastating waves of crackling energy.
The spell-like abilities of the vrock are well suited for combat. It uses mirror image on itself to create the illusion that you're fighting at least three of them at a time (and make you think it can use its dread dance of ruin ability). Greater teleport means that it can move swiftly about the battlefield, although it prefers actual flying. Don't forget that it can also use telekinesis at will, tossing potential victims into the sky where they can get snatched up or pinning them in place so they make easy targets. Make sure your nonspellcasters have silence placed about them to gain protection from the vrock's stunning screech ability.
Hitting a vrock with dispel magic (or, if you have it, antimagic field) is a good way to soften it up for a full assault. Be mindful that the vrock has decent Spell Resistance, so be prepared to use this trick more than once. Vrocks are immune or resistant to most other forms of attack, except paralysis -- something to keep in mind if you know you're going to be facing one.
The Dance of Ruin
If three or more vrocks manage to join talons together and dance about for three rounds, they unleash a devastating blast of energy that affects everything in a 100-foot diameter. The only way to stop this is to keep the vrocks from getting together in the first place! Spells that hinder movement, such as slow or entangle, keep them from getting up to speed. If you are desperate, even grappling a vrock would work. Remember, however, that because vrocks can use greater teleport at will, this might only stop them for a round or two.
Failing that, keep each vrock occupied with multiple targets so they are too busy fighting to join together for their dance of ruin.
About the Author
Eric Cagle cut his teeth at Wizards of the Coast, but now lives the extravagant freelancer lifestyle. Look for his name on D&D, d20 Modern, and Star Wars books. Recent credits include d20 Apocalypse, Races of Destiny, and Monster Manual III. He is also a contributor to the Game Mechanics, Green Ronin Publishing, Dragon Magazine, and this lovely website. Eric lives in Seattle where the coffee is dark and bitter like his goddesses.