Monster Analysis: Utugash the Pit Fiend, Bone and Bearded Devils

Thanks to @JustADakota for this art piece!

  • Encounter Appearance: 93 Bats Out of Hell
  • Armor Class 20 (Suggested 19)
  • Truesight 120 ft, Passive 14
  • Speed 30 ft, 60 ft flying
  • Resistant to cold and nonmagical, nonsilvered physical damage
  • Immune to fire and poison damage
  • Suggested Average, Max HP: 300, 408
  • 602 damage taken, 19 HDYWTDT by Tova

Vox Machina found themselves, for the second time, commissioned to assassinate a pit fiend. While they (and their target) may have been mostly unprepared the first time, Vox Machina entered the stronghold of Utugash, Herald of Vassalage, with ample preparation. Unfortunately, it would seem that despite his lazy demeanor, Utugash was also prepared.

Utugash vs. Ghurrix

First, let’s compare the two pit fiends we’ve seen in action:

Utugash, Herald of the Vassalage

Utugash, Herald of the Vassalage

Ghurrix, Ambassador to the City of Brass from the Nine Hells

Ghurrix, Ambassador to the City of Brass from the Nine Hells

The Monster Manual’s suggested AC for a pit fiend is 19. Ghurrix, Ambassador to the City of Brass from the Nine Hells, had an AC of 21 that reflected his increased ability to get around to avoid being hit. Utugash’s AC of 20 demonstrated his increased toughness combined with his likely lower dexterity. Similarly, while Ghurrix had the MM-suggested strength modifier of +8, Utugash had +10.

Utugash’s size and strength gave him the Corpulent Form ability, which allowed him to land on enemies to deal damage and grapple them. Utugash’s increased size also granted him more health, taking 602 damage before going down, compared with Ghurrix’s 484 HP. 

Both pit fiends wielded weapons too big for Grog to use, Ghurrix opting for the pit fiend-standard mace that dealt bludgeoning and fire damage and Utugash favoring his Black Iron Axe of Corruption, which dealt slashing and fire damage. Taryon’s identification of the axe revealed that, in the hands specifically of a pit fiend, the axe would increase the pit fiend’s fear-inducing presence (fortunately negated by the Heroes’ Feast consumed for the later encounter). 

As Ipkesh noted, Utugash had grown overconfident and lazy. Unlike Ghurrix, who used the open landscape of the City of Brass to his advantage to move around, Utugash stayed in place until the lack of conscious melee attackers provided him with nobody to hit. For most of the battle, he let his summoned Wall of Fire and underlings do his work for him. Of his possible 12 Legendary Actions, he only used four, and three of those were to command his invisible imps. However, when Utugash took it upon himself to strike, he hit hard with his strength modifier of +10.

Utugash reaped the benefits of fighting within his own stronghold, making use of his punier underlings to do his bidding with advanced traps, while the surprised Ghurrix could only summon an Erinyes.

Bone Devils, Bearded Devils, and Imps

Bearded Devils
Armor Class 13
Truesight 120 ft, Passive 10
Speed 30 ft
Resistant to cold and nonmagical, nonsilvered physical damage
Immune to fire and poison damage
Bearded Devil 1 took 68 damage (38 killing blow by Grog)
Bearded Devil 2 took 75 damage (29 killing blow by Percy)

Bone Devil
Armor Class 19
Truesight 120 ft, Passive 12
Speed 40 ft, 40 ft flying
Resistant to cold and nonmagical, nonsilvered physical damage
Immune to fire and poison damage
Bone Devil took 166 damage (16 killing blow by Percy)  

Imps
Imp 1 was one-shotted by Fire Giant!Keyleth
Imp 2 flew away

Utugash’s bone devil and bearded devils served as combat distractions for Vox Machina, ensuring that the party used almost all of Round 3 to focus solely on them. They also served no real threat to Vox Machina. The bearded devils dealt precisely zero damage and attacked exactly zero times, and the bone devil dealt a whopping 15 damage. While they served Utugash’s purpose of distracting the invaders from assaulting him, the devils also drew the melee combatants out of range. This forced him to leave his protective Wall of Fire and leaving him vulnerable to attacks from Vex, Fire Giant!Keyleth and Tova.

Interestingly, it was the smallest of the combatants, the imps, that provided the only real challenge to Vox Machina outside of their quarry. No one knew where they were or what or where their next actions would be. Once Utugash gave them a command (through his Legendary Action hand gestures), they were free to ready their actions: traps, traps traps. Imp 2 activated the cages for Trinket and Grog once each wandered under them. Imp 1 activated the hot oil trap once the three melee combatants were in range, and activated the molten iron pit while Vax was standing over it.

Heroes’ Feast

The benefit to battling the same type of creature twice is that VM got to learn from their past mistakes and apply that knowledge to their next fight. Vox Machina’s wisest move was ensuring that they ate a Heroes’ Feast prior to battling Utugash and Co. The Heroes’ Feast ensured that they were immune to two of the pit fiend’s terrifying abilities: his poisoning bite (which prevents the victim from healing any hit points until cured) and the fear aura (which would have added disadvantage on top of ). The Bearded and Bone Devils also had attacks that dealt poison damage, which was equally useless. Although Tova did not partake of the feast, she was immune to fear as one of her Blood Hunter abilities, and was luckily never bitten or stung.

Vox Machina’s Strategy

While Utugash was the only combatant, VM immediately got to work dealing with the pit fiend. Of the 602 damage that Utugash sustained, 525 of it was incurred in the first two rounds. Had this been Ghurrix, Utugash would have been dead before the bearded devils made their appearance. They learned the first time that pit fiends are capable of summoning help, so it was strategically important to deal a lot of damage early before they had to deal with other combatants. 

The ranged fighters made good use of distance from the melee. Vex opted to use Trinket as a melee combatant more than she usually does so that she could keep out of sight while the bear fought on. This proved useful when Utugash summoned a Wall of Fire, completely obscuring Vex’s vision of him. Percy very smartly used the remaining eight charges of Cabal’s Ruin against Utugash before the Wall of Fire went up. Percy also used a well-placed Head Shot against the bone devil to give it disadvantage, forcing it to miss all of its remaining attacks.

Grog did what Grog did best: smash. With his second level of fighter, he was able to use his Action Surge to deal over 100 points of damage in one round. Tova’s amplified Blood Curse of Mutual Suffering (cast twice) worked in her favor: by opting to take a total of 7 self-infliction damage, she ensured Utugash took 41 necrotic damage for lashing at her. Tova’s ice claws also favored her in the hot environment, and her Crimson Rite allowed her to deal the death blow on the pit fiend.

Keyleth took a lot of damage in a short amount of time from Utugash, but she dealt damage in kind. Her Tidal Wave knocked Utugash prone, paving the way for Grog’s attacks. With Sunbeam, she blinded both of the bearded devils and drained them of half of their health in one hit. Her Shapechange enabled her to pile drive a pit fiend. (Nobody expects the Shapechanged Fire Giant.)

Vax demonstrated his growing comfort with paladin spells, wisely using Vow of Enmity to Grant his Divine Smite on his first attacks against Utugash and the bone devil. Paladins deal 1d8 extra damage when casting Divine Smite on a fiend, allowing his already monstrous damage with Whisper and Sneak Attack to be amplified that much more. For his third and final spell he cast Hunter’s Mark, enabling him to continue dealing extra damage on each attack for the next minute, rather than a one-time Smite.

Taryon’s placement of the window from his Robe of Useful Items allowed VM a way in and out of the room besides the only doorway. He managed to deal 13 damage to Utugash with his Rod of Mercurial Form lance, but this fight went south very quickly for Tary and Doty. 

Final Thoughts

One unfortunate final difference between the battle with Utugash verses Ghurrix was in the aftermath. While Scanlan had bought time for the party to rest and heal without concern of being arrested, Vox Machina went straight to prison after fighting Utugash (do not pass go, do not collect 200 HP). In our upcoming analyses, we’ll see just how beneficial even a short rest could have been before facing the Mentiri prison.