Help, My Dungeons & Dragons Players Just Adopted A Fire Fiend Demon

Being a DM in Dungeons & Dragons requires a lot of ad-libbing. You might have a carefully constructed plan, but once it’s in the hands of other players, you have to be prepared for them to cross bits out, highlight others, and scribble unintelligibly in the margins. It’s an exercise in ‘yes, and’ where you enforce the rules and reality of the game while letting them reskin elements for flavour and forge their own path. Recently, this has meant my group has befriended a chaotic fiery fiend.



I have two groups that I play D&D with, both playing the same adventure, and the second group has not reached this point yet – so if that’s you, stop reading now. That means you, Scott. Anyway, this fiery fiend is named Cackle, as the group discovered after trapping and interrogating him while he flailed around.

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The set up for Cackle was very simple – the party was asked to head to a farm to kill some annoying beast who had been stealing food, damaging crops, and generally vandalising everything. It wasn’t part of the main quest per se, but was an easy way to do a favour for a character whose help they needed. So, off they went.

The Pit Fiend, a powerful monster from Dungeons & Dragons
Official art via Wizards Of The Coast

This is not a group who thinks things through. In a previous session, they had picked a fight with a painter they thought was ripping them off, but who was actually selling enchanted paintings that would have benefited them. Then, while trying to convince a store owner to help them, they destroyed his store by summoning skeletons, for reasons I can’t recall and couldn’t make sense of at the time. I had set a trap for them with Cackle, and fully expected them to walk into it.

How it was supposed to go was that they would see Cackle, the horrible fiery fiend that he is, and instantly kill it. The fight would not have been difficult. However, soon after they would have found his den and discovered that he had been dropped here against his will by a giant eagle, and had then been forced to survive off what he could steal. There were even letters to his family to find. The point, thematically, was to teach the group not to rush in, to not judge a book by its cover, and to consider combat a last resort, rather than the instant solution. The only problem is, they seem to have learned this lesson one beat too early.

Dungeons & Dragons a druidic figure surrounded by plants and fungi
Abyssal Wedding by Tyler Jacobson

Instead of killing Cackle, they trapped him. He threw a fireball at them, but unfortunately they took an instant liking to him, so they let him get away with it. Through questioning him, they discovered what they would have done from the den, and have decided to escort him home. This means for the foreseeable future of the adventure, each encounter must be tweaked to encompass ‘what if there was a fiend in the background scratching his name on the wall?’.

I plan my adventures in depth – they are two ‘episodes’ (or five sessions) into an 11 episode adventure and the whole thing is written already. None of the current writing accommodates a vandalising and unpleasant cackler coming along for the ride. They seem to think it does – they have been told Cackle hails from a volcanic island in the north, and they know their next main quest destination is an atoll (that’s a ring island around a tropical lake) to the south. They seem to believe these two diametrically opposed islands might secretly be the same thing.

Baldur's Gate 3 - Mol the tiefling child in the Guild Hall

I’ve already written that other players are the best and worst things about playing D&D, and this is exactly what I mean. I thought Cackle would be a one scene character, killed and then forgotten. There’s no guarantee that they would even have looked in his den and found his backstory, after all. Now, he’s going to be a defining figure in the adventure, even if I have to change everything about it to accommodate him. Oh, and if you kept reading anyway, please don’t adopt the fire fiend Scott.

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