Dragon Encounters

Making dnd combat fun, finding monsters that fit together, monster tactics and strategies, and other ways of using the monsters of dungeons and dragons

CHAIN DEVIL: How to Maximise Animated Chains


Combat rating 10


1 Chain devil (CR 8)

2 Gargoyles (CR 2)

2 Nightmares (CR 3)


Combat rating 11


1 Chain devil (CR 8)

2 Hell hounds (CR 3)

2 Helmed horrors (CR 4)


Combat rating 14


1 Chain devil (CR 8)

3 Flameskulls (CR 4)

2 Salamanders (CR 5)


Combat rating 16


1 Chain devil (CR 8)

2 Shield guardians (CR 7)

2 Mages (CR 6)

My combat encounters are going to revolve around various ways to use the animate chains ability, but before we get into that, I want to discuss his unnerving face reaction.

The tactics of the reaction are simple. He’ll target the first PC to start his turn within 30 feet of himself, provided that they’re not already adjacent. If they’re wielding a melee weapon with reach, he’ll prefer a different target if there is one. (Such a target can be attacked by the chain devil, and can’t fight back.)

If any PC makes their save twice, the chain devil will switch to a different PC, even one who is adjacent. Any PCs that want to be adjacent are presumably adjacent by now anyway. The only PCs it won’t target are PCs not carrying weapons, as it will assume them to be spellcasters, and spellcasters aren’t heavily impacted by fear.

(It doesn’t have the wisdom to tell who will make a save and who won’t. If someone makes one save, it will choose a different target if there is an equally valid one available. If someone makes two saves, it won’t target them again unless there is absolutely no other non-spellcaster target available. Its low wisdom also means that it won’t notice someone sneaking up on it, including the rouge’s default attack, unless they’ve already hit it.) 

The harder part of it is how to describe it. The text suggests a friend or enemy personal to the PC. The deceased friend option practically demands it.

I would avoid this idea, except under the rarest of exceptions. While this might be interesting in a novel, that works there because the character belongs to the author, and is under his complete control. In a game, the character belongs to the player, and it is almost certain that the DM will end up going against the player’s idea for his character and/or stepping too far into his personal space.

If you have the chain devil take on the appearance of enemies of the party as a whole, as in game characters that you introduced into the game, then there is potential. How you use it will depend on whether the chain devil uses a new appearance each time, or keeps using the same appearance.

Single appearance. There is a good chance that your players will assume that they’re meeting the villain, assuming the body shape and abilities make sense. You can quickly disabuse them of this through dialogue, or by narrating how the chain devil changes back.

Your players might assume that the villain is somehow seeing through the eyes of the chain devil. If you’re willing to do this, it might be an interesting idea, actually. Otherwise, it’s up to you to narrate through dialogue or through having their character know this information [a successful skill check, basically.]

If the chain devil has any of the villain’s knowledge, or if you let it guess correctly, this is an interesting way to info dump information that you want your players to have. [Note: I would not use false information, as that ends up being far more confusing than anything else. You can use information that is obviously false, but be aware that it will cause them to question the validity of all information.]

Multiple appearances. Each time it takes an appearance it chooses a different NPC to appear as [although if you only have so many significant NPCs, there is no reason it can’t use the same face more than once.] Multiple appearances are almost certainly the way the chain devil is supposed to be played.

Playing the chain devil this way will let you remind the players of the existence of different NPCs. You can hint at information while doing this, but with multiple faces, it is less likely that the players will catch on to your hints. Mostly, you’ll want to have the chain devil be whispering things that your PCs might find upsetting. Try to either use the speech mannerisms of the various NPCs, or information personal to each of said NPCs to make it more interesting. Expect your players to start poking fun at the chain devil’s comments.

Combat Encounters

These are basically a bunch of different ways for it to use animate chains.

Encounter 1: (difficulty 9) The animated chains are part of a large pile of chains. It’s hard for the players to figure out which are the animated chains in order to attack them. Area of effect spells will work as normal. For a step up, you can have one of the four chains animated not be part of the pile. Place one or more chains in the room description that aren’t part of the pile, and have one of those be one of the four. The PCs won’t notice, and the players probably won’t think to check, until it’s already grabbing one of them.

Encounter 2: (difficulty 9) Have the chains be connected to various machinery. After the chains nab the PCs, the machine wheels start rolling up the chains, pulling the PCs in different directions and away from each other. For extra challenge, have the far end of the chains be inside furnaces. If they don’t get away in time, they’ll be pulled into the furnaces and start taking large amounts of fire damage.

Encounter 3: (difficulty 10) Similar to the last one, but over here the chains grab them by their feet, and pull them up instead of sideways. They’ll end up dangling upside down in the air. For extra challenge, put a pit with spikes underneath each chain. If they break out of the chains, they’ll fall head first into the pit.

Encounter 4: (difficulty 10) This one is a little more complex. Have multiple chains be part of a room’s décor [ideas below]. You’ll be sending them through this room twice, with the chain devil showing up on the second time, and a small encounter in between to distract them. [perhaps they fight a hag, and as her last act of defiance she summons a chain devil into the room behind them, which is the only way for them to leave.] They have to battle the chain devil on the way out, and they only have their memories of where the chains are to help them avoid them.

(difficulty 11) For extra challenge, have the room/house be on fire, and they have to fight their way past the chain devil as everything is catching fire [and inflicting fire damage] around them. I would also suggest that the room be small, and possibly cluttered, making it hard to maneuver past the chain devil to get out.

Places to scatter chains:

  • Holding up a picture. (Instead of holding them in place, you could use this grapple as the PC dragging a heavy and bulky picture in frame along with him. The weight will reduce his speed, the size will further reduce space in the room. Finally, the picture won’t fit through the doorways.)
  • Holding up a hammock in the corner. (Hammocks are sometimes used instead of beds.)
  • Holding a closet shut. (You’ll need to give them a way to get into the closet, or they’ll probably try to break the chain.)
  • A decorative chain, running alongside the bottom of the table.
  • Holding up a chandelier. When it grapples, it will drop the chandelier, which may hit someone, and will spread the flames into new areas.

Tips to Running a Burning Fire Effect:

  • The fire will start out in one or two areas, but will spread rapidly. Keep in mind how flammable everything is. A rug, a couch, a hammock, or the contents of a closet will catch on fire almost right away.
  • Having multiple copies of the battlemap might prove useful, as that way you can draw on it to show where the fire is every round or two, and then move all the characters onto the new battlemap. If you try to do this with one battlemap, your drawings from previous turns will start to get in the way.
  • The fire will eat away at the floorboards, leaving weakened areas. They should probably realize where those areas are before they fall through, and in any case those areas are on fire, but it will still reduce movement further.
  • Similarly, the roof or upper story might start giving way, turning areas into difficult terrain, placing burning obstacles on the map, and maybe even pinning a PC into place until he can make a STR check or get rescued.

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About Me

I have been a DM for several years, and I was designing home RPG games since my young childhood. I have been a fan of many different types of games (computer, board, RPG, and more) and have designed several for my own entertainment. This is my first attempt to produce game content for a wider audience.