Dao Tactics

Today I wrap up my look at genies with the dao, which I include only for completeness’ sake, because—let’s be frank—it’s not all that interesting a monster, unless you’re running a thematic campaign on the Elemental Plane of Earth. Like the marid, it seems to exist only because someone thought the existence in myth of air and fire genies meant there had to be water and earth genies too. It doesn’t even appear to have a source in Arabic folklore. And its afterthought nature shows in its abilities.

Dao are straight-up brutes, lacking the cleverness of their cousins, although they still have above-average Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma by humanoid standards. They do have proficiency in Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma saving throws, and their Constitution is extraordinarily high, but they’re susceptible to spells that require Dexterity saves, which spellcasters can exploit.

Dao can attack unarmed or with a maul; the latter does greater damage and allows them to knock targets prone, so it’s clearly the preferred option. They have no special attack related to their element, only the Sure-Footed feature, which gives them advantage on saving throws against being knocked prone themselves.

Dao have Innate Spellcasting along with the standard genie package of gaseous form, invisibility, plane shift and conjure elemental, lacking major image but including phantasmal killer, wall of stone, passwall, move earth and stone shape. That’s a lot of spells, but they don’t add up to much. I’ve examined phantasmal killer in the past and noted its unfortunate requirement that the target fail two consecutive Wisdom saving throws in order to take any damage at all. For a dao to have about a two-thirds chance of harming an opponent with phantasmal killer, the opponent must have a Wisdom saving throw modifier of −3; for a roughly 50/50 chance, −1. That’s bad enough to lead most dao to the conclusion that the spell doesn’t work often enough to bother with. The other earth-related spells in the dao’s repertoire don’t inflict damage or debilitating conditions. The one possible exception is wall of stone, which can be used to imprison an enemy spellcaster.

All roads lead to the conclusion that the sophistication of the dao’s tactics doesn’t extend beyond:

  • Summon an earth elemental to help out.
  • If a spellcaster lobs a spell that requires a Dex save, wall him off.
  • Pick a nearby target and whack it with this great big hammer.

Dao are seriously injured when reduced to 74 hp or fewer, and at that point, they’ll exit the scene using one of their abundance of movement options. If they have nothing else, boy, do they have movement options. They can fly, burrow, passwall, gaseous form, invisibility and plane shift. (That last, as I’ve noted before, can also be used to banish a pesky enemy to another plane, but honestly, I don’t believe dao would have that kind of imagination—or, more to the point, the ability to guess accurately whether any enemy has a low enough Charisma to make the effort worthwhile. Then again, they might do it to whomever, simply out of rage or spite, and become even more enraged and spiteful if it doesn’t work.)

Next: pixies, sprites and dryads.

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