Draconic Elemental, Construct and Ooze Tactics

Time to put the wraps on Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons with a roundup of the last several creatures remaining: animated breath, metallic sentinels, dragonbone golems and dragonblood ooze. (That’s right—a draconic ooze!)

Animated breath is just what it sounds like: a dragon’s breath weapon, given life, form and intention. Although it has just one stat block, that stat block contains options that depend on what sort of dragon exhaled this being into existence: Fire Aura (the fiery breath of a red dragon), Putrid Aura (the acidic spittle of a black dragon or the poisonous exhalation of a green dragon) and Lightning Burst (the lightning discharge of a blue dragon). A white dragon’s freezing breath comes with no special trait or action option, just a boost to the animated breath’s Armor Class.

With extraordinary Strength, exceptional Constitution and not a lot else to work with, animated breath is a brute melee fighter, but it’s a brute melee fighter that can fly and hover. The main benefit of that is superior mobility on difficult terrain, but the animated breath mainly uses this superior mobility to close in quickly. Animated lightning breath uses its Lightning Burst bonus action for the same purpose.

Breath weapons are most effective against clustered enemies, and this characteristic carries over into the behavior of animated breath. Animated acid, fire, lightning and poison breaths emanate auras that deal a token amount of extra damage to any creature within 5 feet of them, giving them a modest incentive to charge into groups. However, neither the radius of this damage nor the amount of it is enough to justify waiting to charge until the animated breath has a group of enemies to barrel into, or to pass up one target who’s standing alone in favor of one who’s side by side with another. Instead, these auras are more of a deterrent against those who might come to the rescue of the animated breath’s chosen melee opponent.

How does it choose? On its own, indiscriminately. Animated breath is not at all bright, and it lacks any kind of intuition that might tell it to choose one target over another. However, when an encounter with animated breath also includes the dragon that created it, it follows the dragon’s target selection criteria, dutifully hurling itself at whichever opponent the dragon tells it to.

Animated breath is a magical being conjured into existence by its draconic creator, not an evolved creature, and therefore has no self-preservation instinct. It fights until either it’s destroyed or its creator tells it to stop.

Only chromatic dragons create animated breath. Metallic dragons create a different sort of disposable sidekick, the metallic sentinel. These come in two varieties: the metallic warbler and the metallic peacekeeper. Unlike animated breath, which is categorized as an elemental, metallic sentinels are constructs.

The metallic warbler is a little reconnaissance drone, not built for combat. It has a 40-foot walking speed but not much reason to use it, because its 60-foot flying speed gets it where it needs to go even faster. If cornered, it has a Claw attack that can deal damage that’s impressive for a 4-ounce birdbot but unlikely to deter any opposition with actual class levels. It’s better off releasing a cloud of Calming Mist, which, if the metallic warbler is lucky, charms whatever nearby creature may be menacing it. If this tactic succeeds, or if it has any escape route at all, the metallic warbler nimbly Disengages and flies away as fast as it can.

The metallic peacekeeper is both tougher and unafraid of combat, although it, too, prefers to use Calming Mist before punching fist. This construct’s tranquilizing gas reaches out to a radius of 30 feet, and to ensure that it has the greatest possible effect, the metallic peacekeeper first walks into its enemies’ midst, hoping to position itself within range of at least six enemies—or all of them, whichever number is less. Friendly by default, the construct resorts to its melee Multiattack only against an enemy that attacks it first, and only if Calming Mist fails to pacify them.

Neither the metallic warbler nor the metallic peacekeeper has an innate self-preservation instinct, but the metallic warbler is designed to evade capture and avoid destruction, while the metallic peacekeeper is designed to fight back against belligerents for as long as it’s able to do so. Both constructs have Telepathic Bonds with their creators and report back on their experiences in real time, sharing everything that’s happening to them. If the situation is sufficiently dire, and their dragon masters are close enough, either one may call for assistance.

Dragonbone golems are also brutes—I know, I know, I’m wishing for a little more combat role variety here, too. At least they have an interesting tactical combination in their Multiattack, which is set up with Pinion; this attack, therefore, is the one they use first, unless both of their wings already have targets pinned.

However, before using its Multiattack, a dragonbone golem first uses Petrifying Breath, a 5–6 recharge ability, to try to immobilize as many opponents as it can—preferably at least six, or all of them, whichever number is less. It repositions before using this breath weapon in order to ensure that it meets its quota (but note that dragonbone golems cannot fly—they have to just scuttle). After using its breath weapon, the golem mops up whoever’s left with its Multiattack, moving to the nearest point where it has both one mobile foe and one restrained foe within reach. It strikes at the mobile foe with Pinion, aiming to restrain it. If it succeeds, it Rends that foe; otherwise, it Rends the one who was restrained already.

A dragonbone golem always follows this pattern of attack if it can. It’s mechanistic in its behavior and has no capacity for distinguishing the desirability of one target from another except on the basis of whether or not they’re moving. It chases a moving target unless it has one pinned down, in which case it stays put and tries to finish them off; it gives no further consideration to one who’s petrified by its breath. If another moving target comes into reach while it’s got one pinned, it tries to pin the new one, too, and it divides its Rend attacks between them. Its Fear Aura has the capacity to frighten foes who get too close, but it uses this trait only passively; it doesn’t position itself to make the best use of it. Its only positioning considerations involve the aiming of its Petrifying Breath and the use of Pinion and Rend.

As constructs, dragonbone golems have no independent judgment or self-preservation instinct. They fight until they’re destroyed.

The dragonblood ooze is kind of a pathetic note to end on: a barely sentient blob that tries to dragon but can’t pull it off. Yet another melee brute, with exceptional Strength and Constitution, it at least has Perception and Stealth proficiencies going for it, granting it some aptitude for ambush attacks. It can also scale walls and cling to ceilings, and its Pseudopod attack has a 10-foot reach, so quietly hiding in the rafters and reaching down for a surprise whomp is an excellent way for it to initiate combat.

Also, unlike some of the other brutes we’ve looked at today, this one has the capacity to pick its targets. It has resistance against all the basic breath weapon damage types, but not thunder; nor is it resistant to physical damage, nor any of the arcane damage types. Thus, interestingly, it’s not as interested in taking out spellcasters, unless they’re dishing out necrotic, psychic or force damage; clerics and paladins, on the other hand, are very likely to draw their attention if they lay radiant damage on top of their weapon attacks. A dragonblood ooze has no way to predict that this will happen, though; it’s extremely stupid, and it can only react to that damage when it takes it.

With 120 feet of blindsight, a dragonblood ooze is nearly impossible to take by surprise, and while it has no idea what the lifeforms it detects can do, it knows exactly how many of them there are and where. Thus, it can make good use of its Slime Breath, a recharge ability, by positioning itself where it can aim the cone at three or more foes. However, it doesn’t make sense for the dragonblood ooze to lead with this ability, because it gains no unseen-attacker advantage by using it. Instead, it kicks off the encounter with its Multiattack—two Pseudopod attacks—and saves its Slime Breath for when its opponents are no longer taken by surprise. Slime Breath also recharges only on a roll of 6, so chances are, it’s going to get only one use of this action. Let’s say it’s triggered the first time at least three opponents land hits on the ooze that deal types of damage to which it’s not resistant: bludgeoning, piercing, slashing, thunder, necrotic, psychic, radiant or force.

Another unevolved magical creation, the dragonblood ooze shouldn’t necessarily have a self-preservation instinct, but there are a couple of points in favor of allowing it to have one. First, it wants very badly to be a dragon, and while it’s terrible at it, that aspiration does suggest that it wants something out of life—and, by extension, to live. Second, its Wisdom score isn’t half bad. In fact, it’s high enough to suggest that the dragonblood ooze might refrain from combat in favor of parley if it recognizes that it’s outmatched. This willingness to talk is complicated by the fact that the ooze can’t talk, but it can understand Draconic, as well as any language(s) spoken by its creator. Therefore, a dragonblood ooze that’s moderately or seriously wounded (reduced to 47 hp or fewer) might respond to an adversary barking an order at it to back off, or to the spontaneous, apologetic shout of a good-natured opponent, “We didn’t want to do this!” Having words with an ooze that just bushwhacked them isn’t something that will occur to most player characters, but keep this surprise payoff in your pocket, just in case it happens. When the dragonblood ooze is seriously wounded (reduced to 27 hp or fewer), it Dashes away, up the walls and across the ceiling—preferably out of its opponents’ reach, since it can’t move fast enough to outpace them—or through a convenient crevice, possibly provoking one or more opportunity attacks either way. It can’t help that; it’s neither smart enough to Disengage, nimble enough to do so instinctively nor fast enough to be able to afford to.

Next: taking a break until after PAX Unplugged. See you in December.

2 thoughts on “Draconic Elemental, Construct and Ooze Tactics”

  1. When you say “Neither the metallic warbler has an innate self-preservation instinct,” I think you might’ve meant to say neither of the metallic sentinels have an innate self-preservation instinct. However, I could’ve just misunderstood it—either way, a great article to finish off Fizban’s.

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