Good morning, readers (and players)! Got a special treat for you, in honor of the impending release of Fire in the Blood…a preview from the also-impending Monster Manual, featuring one of my favorites, the cambion. (Art by Milivoj Ceran.)
I dig ’em as novel characters. Nothing gets you quite the flavors of character conflict that a cambion does. On the one hand, they’re fiendish–the offspring of demons or devils–so evil. But canonically, in the Forgotten Realms at least, their mortal parent imbues them with a soul (Check out Paul S. Kemp’s Twilight War Trilogy for what happens when a half-devil’s soul’s on the line)–which means they’ve got the capacity to be good.
But, man, what immeasurable odds! If you somehow develop empathy in the Nine Hells or at the knee of a succubus, you’re more likely to use it to manipulate others than do the right thing–otherwise you’re probably going to wind up dead (especially since, for a half-devil cambion, you’re not in the hierarchy. No demotion for you!). And even if they fight the good fight and end up good, that fiendish parent’s not going to let them go so easily. It’s downright Shakespearean when you dig in. The glimpse of salvation, but they probably don’t even know it’s there.
“Ooookay,” you may be saying, “well and good for a novel, but I came here to read about the Monster Manual.” Cool–take this and make your players dance. It looks like a low-level fiend, but that cambion’s the infiltration point, the connection to a much larger fiendish force. Maybe they’ve got something to prove to Daddy Graz’zt or maybe they’re in lockstep with Momma Erinyes or maybe they’re good and kind-hearted (or maybe they’re faking), but that’s nothing so long as their family’s looking over them. Maybe they’ve got a chip on their shoulder about the whole thing and they’re the ones the players can manipulate. “Fiendish blood” doesn’t just mean the stuff in their veins–there’s a whole plane that’s pulling on them.
Plus: fiendish charm.