Dragon Tactics, Part 2.6: New Lair Actions

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons contains stat blocks for greatwyrms, gem dragons, deep dragons, sea serpents and 20-odd new dragon-adjacent creatures. On top of that, its “Draconomicon” section (chapter 5) includes new lair actions for the Monster Manual’s chromatic and metallic dragons. I’ve discussed these dragons in a previous post and in The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters, but to recap, chromatic dragons’ lair actions fall roughly into the three categories of movement restrictors, debilitators and direct damage, while most (but not all) metallic dragons’ lair actions can be divided into nonlethal “cloud actions” and more aggressive “push actions” that usually (but not always) deal damage and inhibit movement.

Since dragons can’t use the same lair action two rounds in a row, direct damage lair actions are a good fallback, as well as a way to focus down a single troublesome enemy. All the other types of lair actions are area effects that depend in part on having one’s enemies arranged conveniently enough to make them worthwhile. The metric I use for “worthwhile” is whether the number of enemies the dragon can affect with the lair action equals or exceeds the Targets in Areas of Effect table in chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Healthy dragons use movement restrictors to pin down enemies before using their breath weapons against them, while badly hurt dragons use them to cover their retreat. In my earlier analyses, I stated that vision-obscuring abilities (the black dragon’s darkness, the blue dragon’s cloud of sand, the white dragon’s freezing fog) were particularly useful for shutting down spellcasters, but now that I have a greater understanding of the function of darkness, I’d argue that their side effect of nullifying advantage and disadvantage on attack rolls makes them especially potent against rogues.

Here are the lair actions that Fizban’s adds to the mix: Continue reading “Dragon Tactics, Part 2.6: New Lair Actions”

Wyvern Tactics

The wyvern, a none-too-bright, beast-grade member of the dragon family, is in most respects a basic brute. But there’s a subtlety in its constellation of features that’s easy to overlook.

Wyverns have a basic “walking” speed of 20 feet per turn but a flying speed of 80 feet. With that kind of gap, there’s no reason for it to hold still and engage in stationary melee, as other high-Strength, high-Constitution brutes are happy to do. Wyverns are melee fighters, but they’re strafing melee fighters that never touch the ground if they can help it, nor do they remain within reach (and therefore engagement range) of their enemies.

In addition to their teeth and claws, wyverns have scorpioid venomous stingers in their tails, which can do massive poison damage on top of their typical-for-a-Large-creature piercing damage. That’s a no-brainer: A wyvern will always try to get at least one stinger attack in. But the wyvern’s Multiattack action offers the option of substituting a claw attack for either element of the basic bite/sting combo. Continue reading “Wyvern Tactics”

A Note on Unique Boss Monsters

Normally I like fulfilling readers’ requests, but I’ve gotten enough of one particular category of request that I feel like I need to discuss why it’s an exception.

Several readers now have asked me to analyze the dragon goddess Tiamat or the demon lords in Out of the Abyss, and I regret to say, I’m not going to do that—for a few reasons. Continue reading “A Note on Unique Boss Monsters”

Faerie Dragon Tactics

There’s not much reason for player characters to get in a fight with a faerie dragon, unless they’re just bad people. Faerie dragons are cute, good-natured and mostly harmless, teasing passers-by with mischievous illusions—nothing harmful or spiteful, mind you. PCs who take their pranks in good fun have nothing more to fear from them. React aggressively, though, and they’ll respond in kind.

Faerie dragons are tiny and very weak, but their Dexterity is extraordinary, their Constitution above average. They’re also clever and very charismatic. They have nothing in the way of ranged attacks, so any fighting they do has to be the hit-and-run kind.

This is facilitated by their high flying speed—60 feet per round—and their Superior Invisibility, which lets them turn invisible at will for as long as they concentrate on staying that way. This means they can freely move, attack, use objects or even cast spells without becoming visible, although they can’t cast a spell that also requires concentration.

They can communicate telepathically with other faerie dragons nearby, meaning that if you find yourself fighting more than one, you’re in for a world of misery, because they’re going to call in all their friends for backup. By the third round of a fight with two faerie dragons, you’ll be fighting five. A couple of rounds later, you’ll be fighting a dozen. Then three dozen. Does this seem like dirty pool? I don’t care, man. You attack a good creature, you reap what you sow. Continue reading “Faerie Dragon Tactics”

Dragon Tactics, Part 2.5

The fifth-edition Monster Manual includes listings for two “dragons” that aren’t individual creatures per se but rather templates that can be overlaid on any chromatic or metallic dragon stat block. Shadow dragons are dragons that have made lairs in the Shadowfell—a parallel plane of existence full of negative energy, dreary and desolate—and suffered the sorts of effects you’d expect from living for decades or centuries in such a place. Dracoliches are dragons that, like humanoid liches, have turned themselves into undead horrors in the misguided pursuit of immortality.

Shadow dragons and dracoliches are created by applying certain modifications to the stat block of an adult or ancient dragon of another type, either chromatic or metallic. (Yes, it seems that even metallic dragons can become shadow dragons or dracoliches, supposing that they were subjected to some sort of sufficiently powerful corrupting influence or curse.) Let’s look at what effects these modifications might have on their combat tactics. Continue reading “Dragon Tactics, Part 2.5”