Dungeons & Dragons Monster Cards – Barbed Devil

Dungeons & Dragons Monster Cards – Barbed Devil

The Barbed Devil is the second card in in Set 1 of the AD&D Monster Cards from 1981. While this creepy fella might look like a great villain to throw at your party, back in 1982, the appearance of this monster was much more meaningful. From the start of the game, people have attempted to associate it with Satanism. So if you happened to have a religious but well-meaning Grandmother, this card could send her through the roof.

Because of this, I tended to avoid using devils and demons in my game early on and the Barbed Devil remained a rarity. Eventually thought after about a year of playing, the game was deemed very acceptable and my confidence in using all the tools at my disposal grew. Even with that, I would always make sure to not leave anything provocative laying around when my Grandmother was staying with us, so that I would not offend her.

I always use the 3 Ds in my game sparingly. So Demons, Devils and Dragons were always something fearful and mysterious. As they should be, I mean look at this thing. Just one of them can wreak havoc on even a very advanced party of adventurers.

Those spells are AT WILL, which mean that they could leap around, summon other demons and just wreck the place. If that ain’t scary enough, look at this thing.

Thanks to Mathujoke, who contacted me in the comments below and mentioned that this art was probably done by Jim Holloway. The suggestion was really valuable in my education of artists who do not sign their work.

I originally believed the art on this card was by the great David A. Trampier, who also went by DAT. He was a very talented early artist at TSR, who created much of how we early players visualized the game. While he created so much, he is probably best known for his cover of the original AD&D Players Handbook.

Trampier’s Legendary Players Handbook Cover

The Barbed (Lesser devil) would appear in the Monster Manual with equally evocative artwork by DAT. Here the devil appears to be more contemplative.

The description of the Barbed Devil in the Monster Manual doesn’t exactly match the Monster Card description. While their physical attributes are the same, the Monster Card list ALL the spells associated with ALL devils and its description is a little longer.

Barbed Devil in the original Monster Manual by DAT

The Satanic Panic would event have an effect on the Barbed Devil. When the 2nd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons was released the term “Devil” was dropped in favor of the much more obscure and made-up “Baatezu” Who in the Monstrous Manual (1993) are described as “the primary inhabitants of the Nine Hells.” In this renaming the Barbed Devil is given its own unique name, “Hamatula” pronounced: hah-mah-CHOO-luhz. They really over-corrected on this entry. It is vague and confusing.

We learn about the of the various baatezu, but only 4 get detailed stats, none of which is the hamatula. You get the pit fiend and the black, green and red abishai. Then they also list the greater, lesser and least baatezu (the hamatula is in the lesser group), but fail to give detailed stats there. They also keep art to a minimum, including only a pit fiend and green abishai.

In addition to the Monstrous Compendium, the Hamatula would be represented in Monstrous Compendium Volume Outer Planes Appendix (1991) and the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994).

In these supplements we do learn some details about the Hamatula and they are just as formidable, as they were in the MM. They reduced the hit dice by one and raised its armor class slightly, but its ability to damage and case an array of devilish spells is still intact. It has also been given a new “hug” attack that allows it take advantage of its barbs in combat.

We also learn that the Hamatula is one of the only devils that produces a “by-product.” Behind the ears of a Hamatula is a gland that produced a powerful hallucinogen. Greater devils will harvest it for use in tormenting prisoners. It is also conjectured that if mortals get their hands on this substance it could be used to make an extremely powerful Potion of Illusion.

The art in the Monstrous Compendium is by Thomas Baxa, while the appearance in the Planescape Compendium is by Tony DiTerlizzi. Both version are very similar and keep the DAT’s design, but add their own artistic flair. I think Baxa’s, with its impossible grin, sort of looks like the Joker from Batman.

The Barbed Devil is mentioned in Dragon magazine #75 and #76, appearing in part I and II of Ed Greenwood’s The Nine Hells. They don’t build on the mythology of this particular Devil, but instead mention to which greater devils they attend to and in what number.

Dungeon #170 features and epic adventure, Betrayal at Monadhan, by David Noonan that has some Barbed Devils. They also appear in Dungeon #2 in a fantastic adventure by William “Todo” Todorsky called The Titan’s Dream. This appearance is notable because of some delightful Barbed Devil art by Jeff Kronan.

In Gary Gygax’s classic Alice in Wonderland inspired adventure, The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror (EX2), the Barbed Devil shows its spiky mug in the Mad Feast Hall in the illusionary guise of a owl-like bird. An illustration is included, with art by Jim Holloway, showing the devil fighting a group of adventurers while madness reigns around the feast table.

Multiple Devils, including the Barbed Devil make an appearance in the Jim Bambra module, All that Glitters…(UK6). No depiction of a Barbed Devil here, but a great stylized image of a Bearded Devil by Tim Sell makes an appearance.

Barbed Devils are no joke in any version of Dungeons & Dragons. My advice though is to use them sparingly and keep them special. They are cunning creatures that are highly intelligent. One alone should strike fear into any party and give them a run for their experience points.

Barbed Devil Random Encounter

Your party is relaxing at the Smiling Wolf Inn when a distraught farmer approaches them begging them to help her daughter is very sick and acting strangely. If the party agrees the woman takes them to her farm which is deep in the woods. During the trip there, she is vague on details. Only saying that a great sickness is effecting her only child and that no medicine has helped.

When they get to the farm, she brings them into the small one room house lit only by a small lamp. The room immediately plunges into darkness and they can see the farmer scrambling out the back door. When they move towards the door a terrible silhouette fills the frame. It is a Barbed Devil who has taken up residence at the farm and uses the charmed farm family to lure unsuspecting adventurers to their doom.

Monster Cards Podcast

Learn all about this monster on the bite-sized Monster Cards Podcast about the Barbed Devil.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. The Retroist

    Yeah, its pretty powerful. What I first thought when I looked at it was, “Its barbed, I guess.”

    I mean the barbs on the Barbed Devil are prominent, but not overwhelming. I wonder if it is sad that its “barbs” have come to define it.

  2. Mathujoke

    Always liked the look of barbed devils – or hamatula, as they called them to avoid anti-satanist forks and torches… Just thought to give a word, in fact I’m pretty sure that the illustration on the monster card is by mr. Holloway 😉

    1. Retroist

      Now that I look at it, it looks a lot like the the Devil as portrayed in The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. Have you see this art credited to Mr. Holloway somewhere?

      1. mathujoke

        Unfortunately not, and he (like many other artists) hardly ever signs; but I collect and study d&d illustrations since many years, and I can say that the stylistic register is recognizable. For example, in the “Monster Cards” collection, those are almost certainly from Holloway: Zorbo, Vampire, Tunnel Worm, Thri-kreen, Su-monster, Rust Monster, Merman, Land Urchin, Hybsil, Hairfoot Halfling, Gorgon, Giant scorpion, Efreeti, Succubus, Salamander, Galeb Duhr, Hill Dwarf, Gold Dragon, Sabre-tooth Tiger, Axe Beak, Bombardier Beetle, Bugbear, Ankheg and MAYBE Leucrotta and Obliviax. Plus the Barbed Devil.

      2. Retroist

        This comment made my day and I am very happy you found this post. I love the art, but I am not as gifted as I would like in fully recognizing style differences. I am going to add your feedback to the post as a correction.

        Also your interest got me started writing a new Monster Card post.

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