The faint scraping of stone echoes down the darkened dungeon corridor. You freeze, hand poised above the unlit torch, every sense strained. Again the sound, fainter this time, from up ahead past the bend. Is it rats scurrying across the floor, or the claws of something more sinister? You take a cautious step forward, your footfalls muted by the layer of damp debris beneath you. The scraping stops. You hold your breath…then exhale sharply as an impish cackle reverberates through the tunnels. “My my, what have we here? A fresh plaything, ripe for the picking!” You whirl around frantically, peering into the gloom, but see nothing. The gleeful voice continues, “What fun and games we'll have together, you and I!” You shudder, torn between pressing forward and fleeing this place entirely. For you know that laugh, that wicked tone of mingled glee and malice. An imp is near, and you have already taken the bait…
Since the earliest days of Dungeons & Dragons, the imp has delighted in confounding heroes and leading them astray. As a minor devil and classic trickster monster, the imp encapsulates the devious nature of fiends. With access to powers like invisibility, polymorphing, and poison stingers, imps make dangerous foes and valuable allies. This definitive guide will explore all facets of imps in 5th edition D&D, from their stealthy tactics to their role as warlock familiars. We'll see how clever DMs can use imps to craft moral quandaries, and how players can tap into an imp's manipulative potential. So leave your assumptions at the door, let that inner devilish voice take hold, and prepare to be captivated by the Little Devils of the D&D multiverse!
Impish Attributes and Tactics
In its natural form, an imp stands almost 2 feet tall, weighing about 8 pounds. With its leathery wings, curved horns, and arrow-tipped tail, an imp might seem diminished compared to other devils. But underestimate them at your peril! What imps lack in brute strength, they more than make up for in stealth, mobility, and guile. Let's examine an imp's capabilities:
- Dexterity is the imp's prime attribute. With a +3 Dexterity modifier, imps are incredibly nimble, excelling at feats of acrobatics, stealth, and skullduggery. Combined with their small size, imps can slip into gaps and hide in spaces that humanoids would find impossible. An imp's Dexterity also improves its Armor Class to 13 and grants a +5 bonus on Stealth checks, allowing it to vanish from sight with ease.
- Speaking of invisibility, imps can turn invisible at will, ending concentration as a standard action. This gives them an invaluable edge when avoiding detection or setting up the perfect ambush. Devil's sight allows imps to see normally through magical darkness, so there's little chance of surprising a lurking imp.
- Though not physically strong, an imp's tail-stinger injects a wicked venom that garrotes foes with paralyzing poison. The sting's piercing damage is modest, but failing the ensuing Constitution save results in 3d6 poison damage. And with magic resistance granting advantage on magical saving throws, even veteran heroes may find their strength sapping as imp venom courses through their veins.
- With a flying speed of 40 feet, imps are incredibly mobile skirmishers. They can assail from above with stinger strikes before winging away over hazardous terrain. By polymorphing into a raven, imps double their flying speed to 80 feet, outpacing most flying PCs and monsters. And in spider form, they gain climbing speeds perfect for stealthy ascents or quick getaways.
- Beyond enhancing movement, polymorphing lets imps blend into urban crowds in rat form, or go entirely unnoticed as ordinary spiders and ravens. Combined with invisibility, this makes imps peerless scouts and infiltrators. The sight granted by an imp's raven or spider forms can be invaluable when spying on enemies or exploring dangerous areas.
Taken together, these traits make imps ideally suited for ambush tactics. By sneaking in, turning invisible, then stinging vulnerable targets, an imp can whittle down parties and sow chaos before beating a hasty retreat. With magical darkness and obstacles to break line of sight, an imp can strike repeatedly while staying safely out of reach. And polymorphing allows an imp to approach openly in a harmless form before surprising foes with its true devilish nature.
When forced into sustained combat, an imp's lack of Hit Points make it vulnerable. But between invisibility, flight, and a healthy speed, withdrawals and escapes come naturally to imps. And magics like blur, mirror image and shield provide additional protection if an imp must endure battle. Ultimately, imps fare best picking their moments, using their bag of tricks to terrify and infect, then evading any reprisals. This blend of maneuverability, stealth, and venomous surges makes imps deadly opponents in the right circumstances.
Pact of the Chain Imp Familiars
For warlocks, imps offer more than mere mischief – they make potent pact-bound familiars. Upon choosing the Pact of the Chain boon at 3rd level, warlocks learn the Find Familiar spell and can summon an imp companion. This imp familiar obeys its warlock master's commands unfailingly, though it works tirelessly to corrupt the warlock toward evil acts that further the goals of Hell.
An imp familiar provides numerous advantages beyond a typical familiar. At the warlock's bidding, an imp can deliver touch spells from a distance, fly ahead for aerial reconnaissance, or turn invisible to infiltrate and spy. The warlock perceives what the imp senses while within 1 mile, granting Darkvision and specialized forms of sight like the imp's Devil's Sight. Within 10 feet, the warlock also gains the imp's Magic Resistance for advantage on magical saving throws.
Certain invocations further augment an imp familiar. Voice of the Chain Master extends the warlock's telepathic link to their familiar to unlimited range on the same plane. Investment of the Chain Master allows a warlock to command their familiar to attack using a bonus action. This permits an imp to sting using the warlock's magical attack bonus and saving throw DC for its poison.
An imp familiar offers power, but also presents risks. Intelligent familiars might find loopholes in instructions, obeying the letter but not spirit of a command. Familiars are also not automatically replaced when slain, leaving a warlock potentially imp-less. Additionally, an imp urges its warlock to evil deeds that could have consequences. But for warlocks willing to pay the price, an imp familiar is an invaluable servant, spy, and supernatural companion.
Weaving a Tricksy Imp Tale
Far beyond combat stats, the true delight of imps lies in roleplaying their sly tricks and temptations. Their lawful evil alignment means imps ultimately serve the infernal hierarchy. But left to their own devices, imps eagerly sow chaos and corruption among mortals. Their manipulations are executed not through overt force, but with sly whispers and cajoling words.
This subtlety means imps lack the sheer intimidation factor of hulking devils like horned devils or erinyes. But their temptation to evil is no less insidious. Offering forbidden secrets, the promise of power, or preying on hidden vices, imps leverage temptation tailored to an individual's deepest desires and flaws. And they are content to gradually lead their victims astray one minor concession at a time.
For DMs, imps present delicious opportunities to create moral dilemmas. The party warlock, hearing their imp's silver tongue promise shortcuts to power or hints of valuable secrets, must decide how closely to heed its advice. Imps might trick the party into completing seemingly minor evil acts that have graver consequences down the road. Or offer forbidden magics that provide great benefit at an unseen cost.
Imps need not only be enemies or hazards, either. With the right leverage, they can forge alliances of convenience with noble heroes. An imp guide could help navigate the dangers of Hell in exchange for magical favors. Or an imp familiar could have a change of heart after adventures shared with a kindhearted warlock master. Even the closest bonds between imp and mortal remain complex, as the imp balances its innate evil against emerging empathy.
For players, especially warlocks, roleplaying this dynamic grants opportunities to explore morality and power's corrupting influence through your imp's eyes. Does the warlock engage in playful banter with their “partner in crime,” or sternly order the imp to act against its wicked nature? Does the imp offer innovative insights with its infernal knowledge, or secretly mock the naivety of mortals? This inner tension between harnessing the imp's useful abilities and resisting its manipulations can drive engaging character moments.
Far more than a stat block, the imp exists in the imagination, offering endless avenues for weaving deception, temptation, and moral complexity into your D&D game. By embracing the imp's role as both mischievous scourge and cunning companion, DMs and players alike can craft tales that delight and bedevil!
Temptation Calls…Will You Answer?