Monster Manual A-Z is a series of quick looks at each and every monster presented in the Monster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. New monsters go up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in alphabetical order, touching on lore, mechanics, and ways to use them in your campaign. To search for all Monster Manual A-Z articles, search MMAZ in the search bar as we’ve excluded them from our Roleplaying Games tag to keep things tidy.
Born of a fiend and a mortal, Cambions are ruthless and wicked creatures who take on aspects of both parents yet always exceed the worst expectations of their humanoid parent. Physically, they look like a fiendish version of their humanoid parent, having such variations as having horns, tails, wings, and other telltale signs of their heritage. While all Cambions are evil and think they deserve to rule over mortal subjects, where they are raised and from what type of fiend can have an impact on how they go about it. Within humanoid settlements they may stage uprisings and rebellions, bringing together lesser fiends and gangs of humanoids to their side. Within the Nine Hells they serve as high ranking personnel in the service of greater devils as a way to gain their power, while in the Abyss they rule as any do- through sheer force and raw strength.
Cambions have a few tricks up their sleeves that can definitely disorient a group of adventurers, especially if the Cambion has some servants working with them. The most obvious advantage that a Cambion possesses is their wings, but that overshadows their excellent defensive traits. While wings may be able to keep the Cambion out of harms way, they may not necessarily need it. They have a very high armor thanks to their fiendish heritage, which also bestows upon them certain resistances. Cold, fire, lightning, and poison damage, along with non-magical weapons are all fairly ineffective against a Cambion, making them a nightmare for sword and board types that don’t have a magic sword. Offensively Cambions have a few tricks as well, including both the ability to shoot off multiple fire rays at will as well as dealing fire damage along with their weapon of choice. Beyond that they have some innate spellcasting, allowing them to cast alter self, command, and detect magic a few times a day each. They can also use plane shift once per day, a good way to teleport between their home plane and the material place, or as a quick escape route when things get hairy. Lastly they can also attempt to charm any kind of humanoid for a day where they obey any spoken command given by the Cambion. If they suffer harm or perceive the command to possibly lead to death, they have a chance to break the charm and regain control of themselves.
The way I see it, a Cambion can be a great Big Bad at lower levels, a decent “elite troop” at mid levels, or a good mass troop at really high levels. Given the capabilities of the Cambion and how the game scales, the reason I think they’re a good Big Bad option early on is their ability to plane shift out of the combat. This means you can spare the adventurers from actually fighting the Cambion for a while even as he’s present, and allowing him to get away builds tension for when they finally clash after a few levels gained. Their flight and offensive capabilities position them as unique compared to very low level fiends once the party is mid level, making one or two of them acting as lieutenants fun and exciting, offering a secondary target to the real Big Bad in a fight. This does lead them eventually to be less exciting at higher levels, awkwardly being a tad too strong to be out in swarms but not strong enough to hold significant interest, especially as larger threats are likely to loom. That said, in the right balance I think they can be pulled off. Personally, given these options, I’d use one at low levels as the Big Bad, and have them use alter self to manipulate the players early on without them knowing it.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the article, be sure to follow along on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Patreon, so that you don’t miss anything. We are also now Twitch Affiliates, so please subscribe to our Twitch channel for free with your Amazon/Twitch Prime account. It’s a great way to support our blog without costing you anything!
We are proudly sponsored by FlipSide Gaming. Enter the coupon code READYTOROLE at checkout for 10% off any order of $10 or more!