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Top to bottom, imps from Pathfinder, World of Warcraft, and DOOM (2016).
You thought an imp was a cute little dude in a red suit with a pitchfork. Where did these brown bastards come from?
Doom manual
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Imps are fantasy creatures, often inhabiting the lowest tiers of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil. They're typically seen acting as henchmen and lackeys for mortal summoners or more powerful supernatural entities; when independent, they're usually unaligned nuisances or scavengers, but never powerful figures in their own right. In personality, they're usually malicious and fond of cruel humor, but also cowardly and simpering when faced with more powerful beings, and will reserve their full malice for creatures who can't fight back or are somehow even weaker than themselves. Less malevolent examples still tend to be tricky and mischievous.

Imps are usually weak and lowly beings. They're often summoned by and serve wizards, typically more malevolent or unscrupulous ones, and may be seen as a "safe" choice of creature to summon and bind due to their weakness and lowly status, in contrast with more powerful and dangerous beings who would be more likely to break free or trick their would-be master. Some possess no strength or skill of any sort, sometimes being little more than Fantastic Vermin. More formidable examples typically rely on things other than brute strength; some are magically skilled, becoming Squishy Wizards who can deal strong damage from range but can't stand long in melee. Others are Fragile Speedsters instead, moving quickly and hitting hard but possessing little ability to absorb damage themselves.

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While they're usually lackeys and underdogs, imps can sometimes be seen in positions of greater influence. Many are portrayed as very intelligent or at least fairly cunning, and can make up for their small size and lowly strength by using their smarts to establish themselves as hidden manipulators, leaders of wider organizations, or at least successful con men. In situations where demonic beings can "evolve" into stronger forms, imps are typically one of the first stages in such ladders and can mature or be promoted into stronger types fiends — in these cases, their weakness is less a sign of being a naturally weak breed of creatures and more a product of low personal rank and/or youth.

Physically, imps tend to resemble tiny demons, but are otherwise fairly variable. They may or may not have wings, horns, or prominent ears, and may have skin in any of a variety of unnatural shades (green, red, and coal black are the most common). Most are small, which can range from the size of a songbird to the size of a child, but some examples can be the size of a grown person. They're often linked to demons, and are often a specific variety of these beings — invariably the weakest.

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Not to be confused with The Imp, which is about any weak but bothersome characters who serve as stronger villains' sidekicks. See also Our Demons Are Different, Our Goblins Are Different, and Griping About Gremlins.


Examples

    open/close all folders 
    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon: Impmon is a Virus-type Rookie Digimon who first makes his appearance in Digimon Tamers. He is portrayed as a Boisterous Weakling hiding massive insecurities which lead to him taking a deal with Caturamon and becoming the Mega-Level Beelzemon in exchange for killing the Tamers.

    Film — Animation 

    Folklore and Mythology 
  • According to legend, the Lincoln Imp, a decorative carving within the Lincoln Cathedral in England depicting a squat, ugly humanoid, was once one of two imps brought to Earth by Satan to cause havoc and mischief. When angels arrived to command them to stop, one of the imps threw a rock at them and was petrified in punishment.

    Literature 
  • Artemis Fowl: Imps are infant demons; when they're ready for adulthood they undergo a metamorphosis that grants them tremendous strength and physical prowess. Although most can't use magic, a rare few imps that do not metamorphose are known as warlocks and have the potential to become the greatest mages of all fairykind.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Imps are the least powerful and easiest to summon of the five main classes of demons (mites are even weaker, but they're not worth summoning most of the time). Unlike more powerful demons, they cannot shapeshift.
  • Discworld: Imps are tiny green humanoids used to power Magitek devices like cameras (they have no imagination, so they paint what they see) and watches.
  • Fighting Fantasy: Imps are a recurring, minor threat, with the most common being Fire Imps — bat-like, fire-breathing, flying critters with a human's face and horns, who attack the heroes by spitting fireballs. They're Fragile Speedster-type enemies who, despite being fast, go down in two hits, although in a few books (like Trial of Champions) the Fire Imps display the ability to further transform into far more powerful Fire Demons upon being slain.
  • InCryptid: In the short story "One Hell of a Ride", the train Jonathan and Frances are riding gets temporarily sent to a hellish dimension, where squat, six-limbed humanoids called border imps start killing and eating the passengers. They can only be killed by a Silver Bullet or blade, which both our heroes happen to carry.
  • Pact: Imps such as Pauz are the weakest form of demon, having been crafted from stronger demons in order to fulfill a purpose in some way related to furthering demonic interests in the world. Given time, they can become more powerful demons.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Imps are very weak, small, and low-ranking devils who take on jobs as familiars in the hope of carrying their master's soul off to the Lower Planes. Until then, they supply aid as a lab assistant, gopher, and irritant. They resemble tiny versions of the classic red-skinned, bat-winged devils with scorpion tails. Additional imp variants are described in the 3rd Edition Fiend Folio:
      • Bloodbag imps were created by the lords of the Nine Hells are a sort of infernal nurse corps. They're swollen and rotund from the blood that fills their bodies, which can be drunk by other devils to restore health.
      • Euphoric imps are produce a weak version of common imps' venom, which doesn't do damage but serves as a potent hallucinogenic. These imps serve powerful devils as alchemists and drug dealers, and often inject themselves with their own toxin. Most are emaciated, constantly-dazed layabouts as a result.
      • Filth imps are rotund imps with yellowish skin and stringy, filthy hair. They're talented translators, forgers and code-breakers, but they stink to high heavens and most other devils loathe them as a result. Consequently, most filth imps seek out employment on the Material Plane.
    • Quasits are the demonic equivalent of imps, and fill largely the same role to both higher-ranking fiends and mortal wizards. Unlike true imps, they're green and wingless and possess tall horns and solid black eyes.
    • Mephits are elementals who maintain the "leering gargoyle" aesthetic. Each mephit is a Mr. Vice Guy (with the specific vice varying by elemental type), and they're also none too bright and suffer massive delusions of grandeur. In Planescape, mephits are most often summoned to be sent as gifts to people that the sender really doesn't like, with each type conveying a subtly different kind of insult.
  • In Nomine: Imps are minor infernal spirits charged with hindering and inconveniencing humans without actually causing physical or spiritual harm, such as by hiding car keys, draining batteries, or tampering with birth control.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Imps are usually depicted as essentially much smaller, weaker versions of demons, and like them are mostly tied to Black mana (the color of selfishness, treachery, and amorality) and secondarily to Red mana (the color of impulsivity and emotion), and mostly appear as weak scavengers or servants to greater powers. They're chiefly associated with the Phyrexians, who use them as disposable minions and agents, and the Ravnican Cult of Rakdos, which mostly uses them as jesters. While most look like tinier versions of the humanoid, bat-winged demons, more unusual examples include the older art of Bog Imp, with diaphonous blue wings, green skin, and an elongated skull; the Red-aligned dieflyns of Shadowmoor, which are wingless and Wreathed in Flames; Infernal Pet, which resembles a rat with horns; the Phyrexian skirges, which have vaguely frog-like heads split by vertical, fang-filled mouths; and Teferi's Imp, the only Blue imp, which resembles a monkey-cat with bird wings and a prehensile ratlike tail.
    • Magic also uses the term Devil separately from Demons, referring to a kind of small, red-skinned, horned imps. Unlike the scheming Deal with the Devil-type, corrupting demons, devils are small nuisances that delight in causing chaos and suffering on a small scale.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Imps are among the weakest of all devils, and resemble diminutive versions of the classic Big Red Devil with long tails tipped with venomous stingers. They are often summoned by evil spellcasters to act as familiars, a role they take to with servile glee because it allows them extended one-on-one time with which to subtly push their would-be master towards damnation. In Hell, they mostly act as secretaries, gofers, and general-purpose lackeys while trying to impress their superiors enough to be promoted into a stronger form of devil.
    • Quasits are demonic counterparts to imps, and resemble tiny, horned, winged humanoids covered in green scales. Unlike other demons, which originate from the souls of deceased, sinful mortals, quasits are created in the act of being summoned when a fragment of the summoner's soul breaks off and mixes with the matter of the Abyss. They're spiteful and scheming servants, but serve their role until their master's death frees them; at that point, they either race their master's soul to the Abyss to grab it for themselves and use it to bargain for power or a better position with more powerful demons, or choose to remain as free-willed troublemakers in the material world.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Imps are the most minor species of daemon, little more than motes of emotion and magical energy within their native Realm of Chaos. The exact form they take in the mortal world varies, but they're usually diminutive humanoids, and daemonologists like to use them as Familiars.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Feral Imp is a card released in the first set of cards and with the first Yugi structure deck, depicting a small green humanoid with wings and large ears. It has since seen zero play, thanks to far more powerful cards showing up.

    Video Games 
  • Conan Exiles: Imps are apelike nuisance enemies in the terrain closest to where new players start.
  • Doom: Imps are the most common demons Doomguy will encounter; they typically resemble lean humanoids covered in spikes or bony armor. Their primary weapons are fireballs at long range and their claws at close range. Beginning with Doom³, they can also use their claws to climb on walls and objects. They're the lowest on the demon totem pole, with only former humans being lower; in combat, they're Fragile Speedsters who rely on mobility and agility to make up for their physical fragility.
  • Dungeon Keeper: Imps are the Worker Unit doing all the digging, land claiming, and logistics. They are also made out of mana and have undying loyalty.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Scamps, the weakest of Daedra, are small, pointy-eared beings used by Daedric Princes to cause mischief. They're noted to not be all that bright, and not especially dangerous to prepared adventures except in large numbers.
  • Final Fantasy: Imps are recurring enemies resembling small purple humanoids with bat wings and long, arrow-tipped tails; a more unusual version occurs in Final Fantasy XIII, which is fat, neckless, and with a wide mouth and a single central eye. They're usually fairly weak and described as cowardly, but can use a variety of elemental spells in combat.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic: Imps are usually the tier 1 creature for the Inferno faction. Their stats are awful, usually second-worst only to Peasants. They make up for it with their special ability, which is some form of Mana Burn or Mana Drain depending on the game. Plus, they can be used as Cannon Fodder to sacrifice and summon more powerful demons.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: The Skull Kid is referred to as an "imp", but thanks to the titular mask, he's an exceptionally powerful one. Except not really, since the demon inside the mask turns out to have been running the show the whole time. Without it, he's far less imposing. He's also the same Skull Kid that Link teaches Saria's Song to in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In that game, Skull Kids are described as being spirits of those children who lose their way in the Lost Woods (basically, young Stalfos).
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: Miniblins are small, very weak members of the Blin family of enemies, which makes up the series's most common Mooks. They're tiny, devilish figures with prominent buck teeth and a pair of curved horns, and are armed with pitchforks. They make up for their weakness by attacking Link in huge waves, aided by the fact that they constantly respawn.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Midna begins the game as a small black imp, and is disrespectful and very clearly only using you as means to an end. However, eventually you learn that it isn't her real form at all, but the result of a curse that sealed away most of her powers (and seeing as she still has access to teleportation, energy blasts, and flight in her weakened state, her true powers must be quite considerable). At the end of the game she's a fully heroic character, and beating the final boss restores her to her true form.
  • Miitopia:
    • Enemy Imps come in Imp, Naughty, and Clever forms. They all wield pitchforks for their basic attacks and have a chance to "dip a Mii's heart in darkness", causing a Mii to temporarily turn evil. In gameplay terms, affected Miis may trip up their teammates to interrupt their attack, which can cause resentment in developing relationships.
    • Imp is also one of the available classes alongside the more standard ones. This class is very magic-orientated and is not only able to steal health and magic from enemies, it can reduce their defense too as well as buff teammates' attacks.
  • Nightmare Creatures has three fire-breathing Grey Imps that show up in the first level, which attack by spitting fire but can be easily defeated. Later — much, much later, after seven more levels — the player encounters the imps' larger and stronger cousins, Red Imps, which show up in the ruins of Westminster Abbey and Tower of London.
  • Plants vs. Zombies: Imps are the smallest zombies, being short, bald creatures with less than five fingers. They come in many forms throughout the series, but are typically seen riding on the backs of hulking Gargantuars, who throw them deep into the plant defenses after taking enough damage.
  • Pokémon: Impidimp are tiny, pink, humanoid Pokemon with large heads, pointed ears, and upturned noses. They're mischievous Peeve Goblins who like to play pranks on people, cause minor damage, and hide objects, in order to generate annoyance and irritation that they can feed on. They evolve into Morgrem, a stronger and more malicious gremlin, and then into the ogre-like Grimmisnarl.
  • RuneScape: Imps are small, red, demonic creatures that drop ash when killed. Originally they looked like gnomes in a hoodie with horns, but were re-designed to look more like a demon, with red skin and bat-like wings. There's also the friendlier Snow Imps, who are blue colored and are the servants of the Queen of Snow. Similar creatures include the implings, which look like small imps and can be caught for the Hunter skill.
  • South Park: Phone Destroyer: Imp Tweek is Tweek's Mystical set card. His card art depicts him as looking like a human with red bat wings and horns, a forked tail, goat legs, and a pitchfork, and his quotes have him talking about how "Darkness will prevail!" and such.
  • Warcraft:
    • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft: Imps are one of the most common types of demons, typically with exactly one attack and one health, and are usually summoned in large groups by Warlock spells. More powerful imps like Flame Imp and Bloodbound Imp exist, which have higher than average stats but also cost health to use. There's also Jumbo Imp, a massive 8/8 that becomes cheaper each time a friendly demon dies.
    • World of Warcraft: The first demons that warlocks can summon are Imps. They're small, fragile, and whiny little things with long ears and goatlike horns that can only cast fireballs and make snarky jokes. They're replaced with other, more powerful demons as the Warlock levels up. They are however fairly effective for certain purposes, as they're the only demon with a ranged attack, and often continue to be used right up to the endgame. Lorewise, imps are used as Cannon Fodder by the Burning Legion. Female imps are also much larger and more dangerous than the males. Interestingly, an imp in Legion implies that he was originally born on Azeroth, implying that imps were once native to the world before being corrupted into demons.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: Imps are the lowest class of demons in Hell, and are not really treated well by many higher-class demons, often being used as servants. Blitzo and his company IMP cannot enter the living world normally, and have to use a book that Blitzo had to obtain by sleeping with its owner Stolas, one of the Princes of Hell.

    Webcomics 
  • Homestuck: Imps are the weakest and most common underlings, monsters created in the in-universe game Sburb to oppose the players. They resemble stout humanoids about the same size as human children, and while their basic form is simplistic and generic they gain a number of increasingly complex traits as the game progresses — among others, jester and princess outfits, feline and canine traits, facial and arm tentacles, and wings all become present among them. They're fairly challenging foes when the game first begins, but as the kids grow stronger they quickly cease to pose a meaningful threat and eventually cease to be seen as dangers at all. They're also portrayed as more mischievous than violent; while stronger underlings focus on attacking players, imps primarily steal objects, vandalize houses and make nuisances of themselves.
  • Looking for Group: Richard the warlock has an imp as his familiar named Elttil Hctib. They do not get along.
  • The Weekly Roll: Klara has a Quasit familiar, a demonic version of a type of imp from Dungeons & Dragons.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series: The Egyptian-themed Nefir Hasenuf and his band of fellow imps are recurring antagonists. Their get-rich-quick schemes tend to involve a lot of trickery, such as getting Agrabah and Odiferous into a war or using magic shoes to cause a giant to destroy a city night after night so they can charge for rebuilding it. Typically, once their underhanded deeds are exposed, their schemes fall apart rapidly and the imps are forced to flee rather than fight.
  • Harvey Beaks: The twins, Fee and Foo, are imps. They aren't particularly demonic looking, being short, humanoid creatures covered in pink and orange fur respectively, and possess sharp teeth. They do however share the mischievous nature of typical imps, being rambunctious but friendly troublemakers. Their parents later arrive in the series finale and hail from the "Greater Impland Empire". However, their parents are much bigger than the usually diminutive imps in classic fiction.
  • Masters of the Universe:
    • She-Ra: Princess of Power: The Big Bad, Hordak, has an imp named Imp as his sidekick. A shapeshifting spy, Imp rarely takes a direct hand against the good guys, but he's invaluable for collecting info on Rebel schemes. The fact that he's also one of the few minions Hordak has who is competent at his job makes him a favorite of his master.
    • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power also features the Imp, but in a smaller role. It mostly acts as Hordak's Familiar and can't talk, but can perfectly mimic voices it's heard, which it uses to spy on Hordak's subordinates for him. Season 3 implies that the Imp is a failed clone of Hordak.
  • The Smurfs (1981): One episode features a redheaded, green-skinned imp who is the same size as a Smurf and gives Smurfette some magical dancing shoes that lock her into an Involuntary Dance. Papa Smurf notes that all imps are evil.

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