Yeti Tactics

Scourges of the arctic peaks, yetis are reclusive apex predators renowned for their bloodlust. Being impervious to the cold and having a keen sense of smell, they may be encountered wandering the foggy terrain around a white dragon lair or venturing out to hunt in a swirling blizzard.

With exceptional Strength and Constitution and merely above-average Dexterity, yetis are brute melee fighters, but they do have a couple of features they gain an edge from. One is their proficiency in Stealth, which combined with their Keen Smell and Snow Camouflage features gives them tremendous incentive to ambush prey in low-visibility conditions, such as the darkness of night or the whiteout of a snowstorm. The other is Chilling Gaze, which is part of its Multiattack.

Chilling Gaze requires the yeti to be within 30 feet of its target, so it has to exercise patience, staying hidden until its prey is close enough for it to strike—but that doesn’t mean it leaves this to chance. Yetis have Wisdom 12, high enough for them to exercise care in choosing their targets, and like other predators hunting for a meal, they favor the young, the old, the weak, the isolated and the oblivious. They’ll actively maneuver to bring themselves within strike range of such a target, counting on the combination of their Stealth proficiency, their Snow Camouflage and vision-obscuring conditions to keep themselves from being seen.

Once its range to target is 30 feet or less, the yeti charges. With any luck, it gains unseen-attacker advantage on its first claw attack, which can’t help but draw its victim’s attention. Then it makes eye contact, bringing Chilling Gaze into play. DC 13 isn’t an especially high bar to clear—the average adventurer will make this saving throw roughly half the time. But the consequences of a failure are catastrophic, comprising not only cold damage but paralysis, the demon king of all the debilitating conditions. In case you aren’t already on intimate terms with Appendix A of the Player’s Handbook, a paralyzed character can’t take actions, bonus actions or reactions, and automatically fails Strength and Dex saves; attacks against him or her have advantage; and every hit from a range of 5 feet or closer is a critical hit.

Regardless of the outcome of Chilling Gaze, the yeti makes a second attack with its claws, because you can’t change the terms of a Multiattack in mid-action. However, if Chilling Gaze does work, the yeti gains advantage on this attack, and it’s an automatic crit on a hit. Just to lay it out: With an unsuccessful Chilling Gaze, a yeti that lands two claw hits will inflict an average of 22 points of damage altogether. With a successful Chilling Gaze, one regular claw hit, one critical claw hit and the damage of the gaze itself add up to an average of 40 points of damage.

On its next turn, the yeti’s action depends on whether or not it’s managed to incapacitate its intended prey. If not, it most likely Multiattacks again. But if it has incapacitated its target, it scoops him or her up its arms and Dashes away! Seriously, why would a predator stick around and keep fighting when there’s a meal there for the taking? Besides, the yeti is faster than most of its foes, and it can easily elude them if vision is heavily obscured. It will leave obvious tracks, but if it can put a few hundred feet between itself and its pursuers, it will have time to finish its meal before they catch up.

So what does it take for a yeti’s opponents to drive it away from a potential meal? Well, the yeti is an evolved creature with a will to live, so if it’s seriously wounded (reduced to 20 hp or fewer), it will Dash away (potentially incurring one or more opportunity attacks), with or without its prey. Yetis also aren’t accustomed to encountering resistance, so if at least two other opponents engage it in melee while it’s trying to finish off its intended victim, it will experience conflicting thoughts. If they can do more than light damage to it—15 points or more in a single turn—its survival instinct will win out, and it will Dash off. (Yetis are indifferent to ranged attacks, unless and until they’re seriously wounded.)

And then there’s fire. The Fear of Fire feature confers disadvantage on attack rolls and skill checks anytime the yeti takes fire damage, but you may as well roleplay its fear as well. Strike a yeti with an open flame, and it nopes out.

On the other hand, what if none of these conditions applies? What if, for example, just one opponent engages the yeti in melee, while someone else drags its intended victim away to safety? This will enrage the yeti, and it will turn its Multiattack on its melee opponent.

The abominable yeti is a huge super-yeti with extraordinary Strength and Constitution, more than twice as many hit points, and the additional Cold Breath feature. This feature has a 30-foot, conical area of effect, so the abominable yeti will seek to use it against at least three opponents (see “Targets in Area of Effect,” Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 249). Rather than use it against its intended prey, however, it will use it against any other opponents who try to interfere with its predation. Its method of hunting is otherwise the same as the regular yeti’s: a claw attack from hiding, a Chilling Gaze, and a follow-up claw attack, then running off with its prey at the first reasonable opportunity.

Neither the regular yeti nor the abominable yeti makes grappling attacks, even though they’re both more than equipped to do so. This is largely a matter of timing. As long as their prey isn’t incapacitated, they’re better off making additional Multiattacks than spending an entire action on a grappling attempt. Once their prey is incapacitated, they don’t need to grapple to pick him or her up and run—the victim is dead weight.

That being said, if a victim paralyzed by Chilling Gaze manages to make his or her saving throw on a repeat attempt, he or she has can try to escape the yeti’s clutches, using the normal rule for breaking a grapple (PH 195), and the yeti’s movement will be slowed by half as long as its victim is struggling. Again, however, if its prey wriggles free, the yeti won’t try to grapple him or her—it will simply attack with its claws until he or she stops moving, and will pursue relentlessly if he or she flees.

Next: the optional flanking rule—good or bad?

9 thoughts on “Yeti Tactics

  1. I came up with this tactic and would like to here your thoughts on it: Once the yeti meets resistance while fighting in mountainous terrain, it starts to cause enormous noise (for example by smashing a large rock against another) to cause an avalanche. The yeti can dig itself out of the snow due to its resistance to the cold and find the remnants of its victims afterwords.

  2. I missed the rule that a creature moves at half speed while grappling another creature. One of my player’s giant crab companion benefited from that oversight.

  3. Might be a little mean but seems like once you have a little morsel chilled you could just toss em off the edge of the mountainside. You know the terrain so it’s as easy as a seagull cracking a clam on the pavement. *Krünch*

    1. I’d say that they could do that, but only if the target continue to fall down inside of the Yeti’s territory. Dropping them from a mountaintop straight down would, not benefit the yeti as a predator, who would essentially lose its prey.

  4. Can you use dispel magic to remove the paralysis from the Chilling Gaze? It’s not a spell, but it does refer to “this magic,” so it should work? Thanks!

    1. I don’t think so. Chilling Gaze doesn’t have a spell level, so I don’t see anything in dispel magic that would address it. But that’s the kind of question you should direct to Jeremy Crawford, not to me.

    1. No. Per PH 195, a grapple or shove attack is an Attack action, or replaces one of the attacks of an Attack action that comprises more than one attack. It can’t replace one of the component attacks of a Multiattack unless the description of the creature’s Multiattack says it can.

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