Recently, I was asked by a reader to look at ogre tactics. There’s a reason why I haven’t touched on ogres before now, and that’s that ogres basically have no tactics. They’re dumb, simple brutes. With many monsters, simply throwing them at player characters and having them go “Rrrraaaahhhh, stab stab stab” (or in this case, “bash bash bash”) falls far short of what those monsters are capable of at their best. With ogres, at least ordinary ones, it’s all they’re capable of.
But Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes includes several ogre variants that are, in fact, worth examining. What you have to remember, though, is that these ogres are never going to appear on their own, nor solely in the company of other ogres. These are semi-domesticated ogres used by other species as trained warbeasts. They use their special features only when commanded to. Thus, it’s the Intelligence of the trainer, not of the ogre, that influences how effectively they’re used.
In the stat block of the basic ogre, there are only two details that a dungeon master not accustomed to tactical thinking might overlook (by now, they should be obvious to any regular reader of this blog). Continue reading Ogre Tactics
Treants are, of course, ents. I can only assume they’re called “treants” for the same reason that the humanoid creatures who are obviously hobbits are called “halflings”: a dispute over usage rights with the Tolkien estate. (This may also be why Dungeons and Dragons has always spelled “warg” with an o instead of an a.)
Treants are chaotic good, and good usually means “friendly,” but not always. Evil displeases them mightily, but so does any kind of civilization encroaching on their turf. Even if one doesn’t do anything to hurt them or the trees and forests they care for, they still may get annoyed enough with trespassers to want to teach them a lesson about treading where they oughtn’t. In this last case, their primary goal is deterrence, and if they can’t drive the trespassers out, they’ll attack to subdue, then take out the trash themselves.
Another thing to like about treants is that they’re resistant to bludgeoning and piercing damage but not to slashing damage. Anytime fifth-edition D&D bothers to distinguish among the three different types of physical damage, it gets a thumbs-up from me. Note also that treants are resistant to any kind of bludgeoning or piercing damage, even if it comes from a magical weapon. Continue reading Treant Tactics
I’ve been procrastinating on analyzing the skull lord, because it’s another damn monster with a spellbook three inches thick. Spells are all right, but if you ask me, the way to make a monster interesting is to give it interesting features. A plethora of spells just creates analysis paralysis.
So what makes a skull lord different from a lich? Quite a lot, actually, but let’s start with the lore. Liches are megalomaniacal wizards who became undead in the pursuit of immortality and boundless power. Skull lords aren’t wizards but warlords—more correctly, agglomerations of warlords, former squabbling rivals now forced to share a single wasted body with three skinless heads.
Undead creatures are driven by compulsions, not survival instincts or rational motives. To run one, you have to know what its compulsion is. Here, it seems, the lore indicates two compulsions: to conquer and . . . to bicker. We’re gonna have some fun with this one. Continue reading Skull Lord Tactics
The githzerai monk has the ability profile of a shock attacker, but it lacks the mobility to get in and out of combat easily. The githzerai enlightened is the more fully developed version of this build concept, differing from the githzerai monk in three ways: higher ability scores, the Temporal Strike action, and a package of mobility- and defense-enhancing psionic “spells”: blur, expeditious retreat, haste, plane shift and teleport.
Getting the best use out of these abilities is going to require paying close attention to action economy and “spell” duration. Let’s break it down! Continue reading Elite Githzerai Tactics