Lots of monster types in this batch, but not that many monsters. The overwhelming majority of the mechanical changes in Monsters of the Multiverse went into humanoids and fiends; whether because they were designed and balanced better to begin with or because they just aren’t encountered as often, other monster types got away pretty clean.
The dusk hag needs a warning label. There’s some interesting stuff going on in this stat block, but there are also some hidden dangers.
Here’s the crux: Dusk hags are all about exploiting the unconscious condition, but they gain the most benefit when their targets aren’t unconscious as a result of having been reduced to 0 hp. That’s what makes this stat block interesting.
Its mental abilities very good to exceptional, with Charisma on top; its physical abilities are middling, other than a high Dexterity. Dusk hags are distance casters, allergic to melee. However, despite this contour, their attack actions are all melee-based. To resolve this contradiction, I posit that a dusk hag only attacks targets who can’t fight back. That, combined with the bias toward unconscious targets, is what makes it dangerous.
Based on their Intelligence and Wisdom, dusk hags are skillful planners, wise to their targets’ weaknesses and averse to fights they’re not likely to win. This combination makes them nasty opponents, because it means a dusk hag won’t pick a fight against a party of player characters unless the encounter would be a Deadly one. What does that mean in level terms? Against a party of four, a CR 6 dusk hag should pick on level 4 PCs but not level 5; against a party of five, level 3 but not level 4; against a party of six, level 2 but not level 3. As we’ll see, though, this calculation has certain … repercussions. Continue reading “Dusk Hag Tactics”
The Valenar hawk, Valenar hound and Valenar steed are presented as archetypal examples of a more general class of creatures: fey animals, inhabited by the spirits of long-dead elven druids, which bond to humanoids (usually elves themselves, but not always) as companions. This bond is distinct from, and potentially in addition to, that of the Beast Master ranger’s companion animal; it allows telepathic communication over a distance of up to 100 feet. With a little reverse engineering, you can make a Valenar animal out of any beast stat block by applying the following template (approximate, since the changes aren’t as consistent as those of, say, nonhumanoid skeletons):
- Add a total of 21 points to the beast’s ability scores, bringing its Intelligence to 9 or greater, its Wisdom to 15 or greater and its Charisma to 11 or greater.
- Add proficiency in Perception and increase its passive Perception accordingly.
- Allow it to understand Common, Elvish and Sylvan.
- Add the Bonding trait, whose wording is identical across all three of the archetypal Valenar animals.
- Recalculate the attack bonus, damage and saving throw DCs of its existing attack(s) based on its new ability scores.
If you live in a major North American city (except, weirdly, Milwaukee), you’ve undoubtedly encountered pigeons on an almost daily basis. Like squirrels, they enjoy a commensal relationship with humans, benefiting greatly from our effect on the ecosystem without significantly helping us or harming us in any way. And you know they’re generally quite chill, unless your toddler runs directly at them, as toddlers invariably do.
The standard pigeon in fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons is no different. A small, unthreatening thing, it’s disinclined to fight at all and relies heavily on its Hypervigilant Flight reaction, which allows it to move up to half its speed as a reaction—without provoking an opportunity attack—if another creature moves within 5 feet of it. Pigeons are prey creatures, not predators, and the only way you’re likely to suffer a Beak attack from one is if you somehow manage to grab it.
A swarm of pigeons behaves similarly to a single pigeon, but not exactly the same. It still spooks easily, and it rarely attacks, preferring simply to use Hypervigilant Flight to retreat to a safe distance and, if pursued, to Dash to a safe perch out of reach. However, sometimes a swarm of pigeons chooses an empty, elevated location to roost in, such as an upper floor of an abandoned building. Particularly if this roost is home to eggs or squabs, a swarm of pigeons may become aggressive toward anyone who intrudes.
The first action it generally takes against a trespasser is Evacuate, more as a scare response than a calculated attempt to debilitate. If the target subsequently moves, so does the swarm, using Hypervigilant Flight. However, if the target doesn’t leave, the swarm then swoops back down and attacks with its Beaks. It continues to attack until the intruder is driven off or the swarm is reduced to 10 hp or fewer.
The giant pigeon is another matter, because unlike its Tiny cousins, it doesn’t scare. Cheeky and undauntable in its pursuit of food, it disregards other creatures as long as they leave it alone. Even snatching food away from it doesn’t provoke it to fight; it simply continues to try to get the food back, with greater determination. (You can use the Disarm action, from “Action Options” in chapter 9 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, to represent the giant pigeon’s attempts to snatch food back from a character who’s holding it.) If and when one does actual harm to it, however, it fights back, doing its best to drive the aggressor away. Continue reading “Pigeon Tactics”
The yeth hound originates in Devonian myth as the local spin on the “black dog” motif prevalent across British and Northern European folklore as a harbinger of doooooom. In fifth-edition D&D, they’re evil fey predators that hunt at night, their howls echoing through the darkness.
To run a yeth hound, you’re going to need to familiarize yourself with the chase rules in chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, because they’re a major component of how this creature hunts, as indicated by the first paragraph of flavor text in Volo’s Guide to Monsters: “Yeth hounds fly in pursuit of their prey, often waiting until it is too exhausted to fight back.”
But first, the usual breakdown. Yeth hounds have a ferocious ability contour: exceptional Strength, very high Dexterity and Constitution, making them both brutes and shock attackers. Their goal is to make the first hit count, but if that’s not enough to slay their prey, they’re tough enough to stick around and finish the job. Their Intelligence is lower than that of an ape, but higher than that of an ordinary dog; they can understand speech but can’t speak. They’re immune to physical damage from nonmagical, nonsilvered weapons, and they can’t be charmed, exhausted or frightened. Continue reading “Yeth Hound Tactics”