I Don’t Feel Like Arguing About Yugoloths

Before I delve into the oinoloth, I want to settle an issue regarding yugoloths—or at least, regarding my interpretation of yugoloths. The issue involves the question of what plane yugoloths are native to, and specifically, whether they can be killed (as opposed to just destroyed) on any plane other than Gehenna, the outer plane of “lawful evil neutrals.” My take, which differs from pure canon, is that yugoloths may be numerous in Gehenna, and some yugoloths may be native to that plane, but Hades has as strong a claim on them, if not stronger.

The fifth-edition Monster Manual says:

Back to Gehenna. When a yugoloth dies, it dissolves into a pool of ichor and reforms at full strength on the Bleak Eternity of Gehenna. Only on its native plane can a yugoloth be destroyed permanently. A yugoloth knows this and acts accordingly. When summoned to other planes, a yugoloth fights without concern for its own well-being. On Gehenna, it is more apt to retreat or plead for mercy if its demise seems imminent.

This paragraph isn’t as ironclad a statement that yugoloths are native to Gehenna, and only to Gehenna, as one might think. First, it doesn’t state explicitly what a yugoloth’s native plane is, only that if it’s killed somewhere other than its native plane, it re-forms in Gehenna. Another paragraph on the same page states, “Yugoloths are fickle fiends that inhabit the planes of Acheron, Gehenna, Hades, and Carceri” (the last of these, in AD&D, originally called “Tarterus,” a misspelling of “Tartarus”), implying that any of these planes could be a yugoloth’s native plane. Second, I reserve the right to declare occasionally that the Monster Manual flavor text is full of it, as in the case of the soldierly hobgoblin that for some reason instantly forgets all its training and abandons all its discipline if it happens to catch a glimpse of an elf, or the use of “efreeti” as a singular noun rather than “efreet.”

Before yugoloths were yugoloths, they were “daemons,” the neutral evil counterpart to lawful evil devils and chaotic evil demons. The first daemons to appear in a D&D sourcebook were the guardian daemon, mezzodaemon and nycadaemon in the Fiend Folio (the last two are now the mezzoloth and nycaloth). The guardian daemon’s home plane is unspecified, but the mezzodaemon and nycadaemon are described as inhabiting “the Lower Planes between the Abyssal Layers and the Hells—i.e., Tarterus, Hades, Gehenna” (idiosyncratic italics in original). Gehenna doesn’t even appear first in that list. Continue reading I Don’t Feel Like Arguing About Yugoloths

Yugoloth Tactics: Yagnoloths

The yagnoloth is bonkers. What’s more, it’s a very particular and distinctive kind of bonkers—so much so that if I hadn’t done my due diligence and found that it dates back to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual II, I’d be 100 percent convinced that it was a Chris Perkins invention. (Except I also have a strong hunch that Kate Welch is responsible for the flavor text phrase “its brutally powerful giant appendage.”)

Yagnoloths are daemonic contract lawyers and commanders of lower-level yugoloths. Although they’re Large creatures, they possess asymmetrical, mismatched arms, one of them Medium and the other Huge. Ability-wise, they have no real weakness: the nadir of their ability contour is their Dexterity, which is still well above humanoid average. Their Strength and Constitution are highest, making them brutes, but they also possess exceptional Charisma and very high Intelligence. They cast their spells from the front line.

They’re as potent in social interaction as they are in combat, with Deception, Persuasion and Insight modifiers equal to their attack bonuses, and they shamelessly use suggestion, which they can cast innately and at will, to try to compel other parties to accept less-than-favorable terms. Like all yugoloths, they’re immune to acid and poison damage and resistant to cold, fire and lightning damage along with physical damage from nonmagical weapons. They have advantage on saving throws against magic, they can’t be poisoned, they have overlapping blindsight and darkvision, and unless you speak Abyssal or Infernal, they talk directly into your thoughts. Continue reading Yugoloth Tactics: Yagnoloths

Flail Snail Tactics

The ridiculous flail snail probably ought to be categorized as a beast, but Volo’s Guide to Monsters declares it to be an elemental, meaning someone casting conjure elemental in the hope of summoning an earth elemental, xorn or gargoyle may end up stuck with one of these instead. Large, tough and most of all slow, the flail snail is technically a brute, but let’s not kid ourselves: This thing isn’t a predator, it’s prey.

Despite that, the flail snail has no effective means of running away when attacked, so it has to rely on a suite of defense mechanisms, the rudest of which is its Antimagic Shell, which has a chance of bouncing spell attacks back at their casters or refracting them into a multidirectional fusillade of force damage. Antimagic Shell, however, is passive. The one and only decision the flail snail needs to make when attacked is whether to use its Flail Tentacles, its Scintillating Shell or its Shell Defense on any given turn.

Note that flail snails, while brilliant in the visual sense, are far from it in the cognitive sense: with Intelligence 3, they’re not going to be employing advanced combat heuristics. A flail snail’s choice of action is going to boil down to a couple of simple rules that it always follows. Continue reading Flail Snail Tactics

Yugoloth Tactics: Hydroloths

On to the hydroloth, toadlike denizens of the River Styx that presumably show up from time to time in the water features of the material world. They’re technically Amphibious, able to breathe both water and air, but they have very little reason ever to want to come out of the water, because that’s where all their advantages lie.

Hydroloths have an unusual ability contour: extraordinary Dexterity (first) and Intelligence (second), with very high Constitution coming in third. What to make of this? It seems like first and foremost they’re designed for fast melee assault, since they don’t have any ranged weapon attack that could take advantage of that Dex. Secondarily, they rely on magic, in the form of Innate Spellcasting and Steal Memory. Finally, if they need to tank it out for a bit, they have the Constitution to do that; they prefer to settle a fight quickly and decisively, but they’ll settle for an attrition battle if they must. They’re extremely good at assessing the specific weaknesses of their opponents—good enough to read stats off a character sheet—but with a Wisdom of only 10, they tend to be indiscriminate in their target selection and slow to figure out when they’re outmatched.

Hydroloths are immune to acid and poison and resistant to cold, lightning and physical damage from normal weapons. They’re vulnerable to fire, but whether they avoid it or go berserk in its presence will require more analysis. Like dhergoloths and merrenoloths, they have overlapping darkvision and blindsight, making darkness (which they can cast at will) particularly advantageous for them, without the usual problem of being unable to see through it oneself. They have Magic Resistance, and therefore no particular fear of spellcasters, and they’re immune to the memory-wiping effects of the Styx, as well as to mind-reading. Continue reading Yugoloth Tactics: Hydroloths

Yugoloth Tactics: Canoloths

Canoloths are quadrupedal, weirdly doglike yugoloths whose function, like many other dogs, is to stand guard. They have expertise in Perception and Investigation, 120 feet of truesight, and immunity to surprise (unless they happen to be incapacitated), and their very presence suppresses teleportation out to a radius of 60 feet. Good luck sneaking up on these beasties.

They have exceptional Strength, Constitution and Wisdom, but their Wisdom influences only their senses, not their combat abilities; they’re not spellcasters. Really, therefore, they’re just brutes that happen to have exceptionally high Perception—and, perhaps, a particular knack for knowing how much threat an enemy or group of enemies poses. However, with their low Intelligence, they can’t do much with this information—it’s not going to have a meaningful effect on how they act.

Normally, the modus operandi of a brute is to charge and engage. But if it were so easy to entice a fairly stupid guard fiend away from whatever it was guarding, it wouldn’t be much of a guard. Thus, rather than leave its post to charge intruders, a canoloth lashes out at them with a spiky, prehensile tongue—with a 30-foot reach!—and yanks them into melee range. Continue reading Yugoloth Tactics: Canoloths

Yugoloth Tactics: Dhergoloths

Dhergoloths are the riot cops of Gehenna, fiends with a unique knack for mowing down mobs. Creatures of instinct, they show little independent judgment and no flexibility; if you start them up, they never stop.

Their exceptional Strength and Constitution stand out among their other, very unexceptional ability scores. They’re brutes, and they wouldn’t make ranged attacks even if they had any ability to do so. Their bodies are organic riot gear, resistant to physical damage from nonmagical weapons, cold, fire and lightning, and fully immune to acid and poison. They have 60 feet of darkvision and 60 feet of blindsight (I’m not sure why they have darkvision when they also have blindsight with the same range, which obviates the need for darkvision), which, as we’ll see, is key to their approach to combat.

Dhergoloths can cast darkness and fear at will. Darkness is often a problematic spell: since it thwarts darkvision, a character or creature that casts it inconveniences itself as well as its opponents, unless it has blindsight. But dhergoloths do have blindsight, so darkness works well for them indeed. Fear can also be problematic if you want to kill your foes rather than simply make them go away, and this is as true for dhergoloths as it is for most creatures. Given that both fear and darkness require concentration, and thus can’t be used at the same time, darkness is nearly always the better choice—and dhergoloths don’t have the Intelligence to recognize situational exceptions. They’ll cast fear only if ordered to, and not always then. Continue reading Yugoloth Tactics: Dhergoloths