Month: February 2022

  • Radiant Idol Tactics

    The radiant idol is another Eberron entity that didn’t survive the transition to Eberron: Rising From the Last War intact. Originally, every radiant idol was a being with its own unique domain, sort of like the cleric domains in fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons, and powers that related directly to that domain. In this most recent sourcebook, radiant idols are simply fallen celestials, with no particular bailiwick and the same powers across the board. Craving adoration, they amass cults of devotees, but the relationship sends both worshipers and worshipees into spirals of psychological disintegration.

    Radiant idols’ ability scores are uniformly high, in a gently sloping contour that you don’t see too often. Five of those scores form a straight, from Intelligence 17 to Charisma 21; their highest ability score, Strength, takes a hop up to 23. This deviation—which really isn’t much of one—gives them a slight bias toward melee engagement. But with ability scores like these, radiant idols can fight pretty much any way they like. Unlike most creatures, which have one favored combat role and stick to it, radiant idols are distinguished by their flexibility.

    One way this flexibility manifests is an extreme unwillingness to get into any fight they can’t win, and another is a pronounced preference for talking first. Whenever they can, radiant idols try to get their way without fighting. With that extraordinary Charisma and proficiency in Persuasion, Deception and Insight, along with an immunity to being charmed and an Aura of False Divinity that can passively charm others, radiant idols can dominate social interaction encounters in a way they can only wish they could in combat. And if logos, ethos and pathos don’t do the trick, they can always try dominate person or mass suggestion, depending on whether they’re trying to sway one or many. (more…)

  • Zakya Rakshasa Tactics

    When I see the name “zakya rakshasa,” the first two questions that pop into my mind are:

    • What’s special about Zakya?
    • How is this rakshasa different from all other rakshasas?

    Well, it turns out that “Zakya” isn’t a place; rather, it’s a modifier of “rakshasa,” like “gish” or “kith’rak” after “githyanki.” As for the second question, the answer is interesting, since it includes the fact that zakya rakshasas (CR 5) are significantly less powerful than the Monster Manual rakshasa (CR 13). (more…)

  • Quori Tactics

    Though significantly more powerful than the inspired they possess, the quori have a major shortcoming: They aren’t—can’t be—physically present. Chapter 4 of Eberron: Rising From the Last War (“The Dreaming Dark”) is explicit about this: “The quori can’t manifest physically in Eberron.” But chapter 6, where the stat blocks are found, confuses the issue: “Because it is difficult for anything to physically travel to or from Dal Quor,” it says, “quori in Eberron are typically encountered while possessing a host body”—implying that there are other ways in which quori might be encountered in Eberron. Also, all three quori stat blocks include the Possession action, which targets a humanoid “that the quori can see within 5 feet of it”—and none of them contains any trait stating that the quori are incorporeal or ethereal.

    I asked Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron setting and co–lead designer of Eberron, for clarification, and his answer was unequivocal: He never intended that quori should be present on the material plane at all. The only way you’d ever encounter one directly, in such a way as to put yourself “within 5 feet” of one, is in a dream—or if you managed somehow to transport yourself bodily to Dal Quor, the plane of dreams, such as by casting plane shift or gate.

    Moreover, they’re supposed to be invited in; only the inspired are supposed to be susceptible to involuntary possession. As far as Baker is concerned, quori should be able to take the Possession action only when the target is either willing (most often, in a dream) or in the presence of the quori itself (not in a dream), and if the target is willing, it should happen automatically, without a saving throw. I’m going to proceed from this premise as I examine the quori stat blocks. (more…)

  • Inspired Tactics

    It’s been a bountiful year of Dungeons & Dragons releases. Van Richten’s Ezmerelda’s Guide to Ravenloft! Fizban’s Guide to Dragons! Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos! Before I dive into any of those, though, I’ve got 13 months’ worth of catching up to do, and so I’m going to pick up where I left off: with Eberron: Rising From the Last War, probably followed by Mythic Odysseys of Theros, although the post-Eberron sequence remains up for discussion.

    The top item on my Eberron to-do list is the inspired, humanoids whose consciousness is ridden by the alien minds known as quori.

    Possession by quori grants psionic power to the inspired, which have high Dexterity and very high Intelligence and Charisma, positioning them as casters that aren’t looking to get into a mano a mano fight. They have proficiency in Insight and expertise in Deception and Persuasion, and they can’t be charmed or frightened, which tells us that they’re just as puissant in the social arena. In fact, they’re good enough at both talking and fighting (at least at their challenge level) that they can probably gain a bit of synergy by combining the two. Since talk is not merely cheap but free from an action economy perspective, we can easily imagine an inspired keeping a running patter going throughout a fight, angling to achieve their goal—whatever that is—by whichever means gets the job done first.

    As spellslingers, they’re limited by the ranges of their spells, but this isn’t much of a limit for the inspired: Hex is good out to 90 feet, and dissonant whispers, hold person and vicious mockery reach up to 60 feet, although charm person is good only within 30. Let’s take a closer look at these spells, because their mechanics allow some tactical combinations but prohibit others. (more…)

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Praise for The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters

“I’ve always said, the Dungeon Master is the whole world except for his players, and as a result, I spend countless hours prepping for my home group. What Keith gets is that the monsters are the DM’s characters, and his work has been super helpful in adding logic, flavor, and fun in my quest to slaughter my players’ characters and laugh out the window as they cry in their cars afterward.” —Joe Manganiello

“The best movie villains are the ones you fall in love with. Keith’s book grounds villains in specificity, motivation, and tactics—so much so that players will love to hate ’em. This book will enrich your game immeasurably!” —Matthew Lillard

“This book almost instantly made me a better Dungeon Master. If you’re running games, it is a must-have enhancement. I gave copies to the two others in our group who share in the Dungeon Mastering, and both of them came back the next time grinning rather slyly. Keith is a diabolical genius, and I say that with the utmost respect!” —R.A. Salvatore

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