Hollow Dragon Tactics

Remember when I said, “There are a lot of cool things in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. I don’t count gem dragons among them”?

Hollow dragons are cool.

Take a metallic dragon with a responsibility so important that it can’t chance failing to uphold it by dying. Replace its life force with an imperishable aurora of otherworldly radiance—but keep it contained in the former dragon’s metallic hide. Send it back to work.

This new entity is tireless and unwavering, incapable of shirking its duty even if it wanted to. Destroy it, and its parts self-reassemble like the limbs of a troll (at least, the cooler sort of troll). Plus, the visuals, man, the visuals.

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Ghost Dragon Tactics

It’s the spooooopy season, and so it’s appropriate that my first post–Gamehole Con analysis should be of the ghost dragon, a wyrm with unfinished business—which is to say, one that’s not done having stuff yet. At first blush, it seems odd that the fact of the ghost dragon’s refusal to pass beyond the veil makes it less legendary than it was before, rather than more, but the absence of legendary and lair actions is deceiving. A ghost dragon is as challenging a foe as any other adult dragon, if not even more so.

Ghost dragons can no longer burrow, climb or swim, but they don’t need to: they’re incorporeal now, and they can fly just as swiftly as they ever did. As in life, they’re brutes, with extraordinary Strength, Constitution and Charisma, not to mention high Intelligence and Wisdom as well. They’re resistant to physical damage—even from magic weapons!—and outright immune to acid, cold, necrotic and poison damage, plus a host of debilitating conditions. They gain expertise in Stealth, good for popping out of apparently unattended treasure piles and going, “Boo!” (They shouldn’t actually hide in the treasure pile, though, because that would cause them to take force damage each turn they were in there.)

But here are the really brutal features: Bite and Terrifying Breath. What’s so brutal about a Bite attack? Seems pretty quotidian, right? Ah, but this Bite attack deals 23 percent more damage on average than the Bite of an adult red dragon and 52 percent more than that of an adult white … and it also slows the target down to half speed on a hit.

Terrifying Breath, meanwhile, deals cold damage in a 90-foot cone—the standard breath weapon area of effect for an ancient dragon, not an adult dragon, as the ghost dragon evidently used to be, based on its size—and causes the frightened condition in targets that failed their saves, à la Frightful Presence. But there’s one more thing: Creatures frightened by Terrifying Breath are also paralyzed. That’s the real killer, right there. In fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, paralyzed is about the worst thing you can be, next to unconscious or dead.

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Draconic Shard Tactics

It’s a throwaway line, but the draconic shard stat block in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons contains one of the low-key coolest tidbits I’ve come across: “Armor Class 17 (Deflection).” Never mind armor, natural or otherwise; a draconic shard simply redirects that blow that should have hit. Wicked!

The concept of the draconic shard, despite being tied to the concept of gem dragons, is considerably cooler than gem dragons themselves are. The idea is that the gem dragon has such irrepressible force of will that even when its body is slain, its spirit goes right on existing like nothing happened—and because it no longer has a body, it’s even tougher to destroy. Now that’s legendary.

Draconic shards have the unusual ability contour of extraordinary mental abilities (both Intelligence and Charisma, with exceptional Wisdom to boot) paired with exceptional Constitution, an in-your-face spellcasting combination usually associated with support casters. In the draconic shard’s case, however, this combo simply means that it has no qualms about getting up close and personal with its foes. It can keep its distance, but it doesn’t need to.

Moreover, despite having an appropriately dragonish 80-foot flying speed, the draconic shard is perfectly happy to sit tight inside an object that it possesses—meant not in the usual “hoard of loot” sense but in the spiritual sense. If it starts to feel restless, however, no problem: It can make the object fly!

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Monsters of the Multiverse: Undead

Half a dozen undead creatures in Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes receive significant updates in Monsters of the Multiverse, and deathlocks account for half of these—unsurprisingly, since they’re all spellcasters.

Gone from the deathlock’s Spellcasting repertoire are arms of Hadar, hold person and chill touch. Eldritch blast is reskinned as the ranged spell attack Grave Bolt, dealing an extra 3 damage (presumably from the deathlock’s Charisma modifier). A new Multiattack lets it attack twice with either Deathly Claw or Grave Bolt, doubling the amount of damage it can deal in a single turn.

These changes turn the deathlock inside out. For starters, it loses both of the spells that benefited from being boosted to a higher level by the deathlock’s warlockitude. It also no longer has anything that fills the role of chill touch’s suppression of healing. On the other hand, the fact that the deathlock now gets to attack a second time makes invisibility-based ambush more practical (although it gains advantage only on the first attack roll of the two), and spider climb no longer has to compete against more potent spells for the use of a spell slot.

As for direct attacks, the choice is no longer between Deathly Claw and chill touch but rather between Deathly Claw and Grave Bolt—which is really a choice between melee and ranged combat. This choice is resolved by looking at the deathlock’s ability scores and asking what they say about its combat role. With Charisma as its primary offensive ability and Dexterity as its primary defensive ability, the deathlock is a spellslinger, and as such, it wants to sling spells and avoid melee.

Therefore, its strategy is now to fortify itself in advance with mage armor and either disguise self or invisibility (the latter precludes the use of detect magic while the deathlock concentrates on it); stay as far as possible from likely foes; cast hunger of Hadar to delay opponents while the deathlock completes its task(s); and if that fails, cast spider climb to escape or to attack with Grave Bolt from inaccessible places. Since the deathlock no longer has a convenient way to paralyze an opponent, Deathly Claw is now only a last-ditch defense, for use when the deathlock is cornered and can’t get out of melee.

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Undying Tactics

The undying of Eberron are a fascinating invention: undead creatures aligned with good. While other undead are either raised by necromancy, kept from eternal rest by trauma or malevolent entities attempting to cheat death, the undying exist beyond the mortal veil simply because they’re so beloved, the world can’t bear to part with them. Awwww!

Undying soldiers are mostly elite guards. They have very high Strength along with high Constitution and, interestingly, Charisma—although the latter doesn’t seem to power any of their abilities, so we can slot them into the regular brute role. They have ordinary Intelligence and above-average Wisdom, so they’ll talk before fighting and make prudent targeting decisions. They’re vulnerable to necrotic damage, resistant to radiant damage and less susceptible to damage from off-the-rack weapons than from ones that are magical or merely silvered.

Illumination is an interesting feature in light (har) of the fact that undying soldiers have 60 feet of darkvision. What does shedding bright light for 10 feet and dim light for 10 feet beyond that gain them? It depends who or what they’re fighting; the first thing that comes to my mind is that a Way of Shadow monk can’t use Shadow Step to get within reach of them. That’s a pretty niche benefit, though. A somewhat broader benefit is that each undying soldier exists in a darkness-proof bubble. The spell snuffs out any light-creating spell of 2nd level or lower, but Illumination isn’t a spell, so it persists; plus, its radius is greater. If an undying soldier is attacked at night from a distance of greater than 60 feet, however, Illumination just makes it a more conspicuous target, so I would assume that this feature is on by default only indoors. Outdoors, undying soldiers are better off turning it on only when they need it. Continue reading “Undying Tactics”