Ettin Tactics


Today, by reader request, I take a look at ettins, a species of two-headed subgiants distantly related to orcs. There’s not a lot here to look at, though. Ettins are fundamentally a “Rrrraaaahhhh, bash bash bash” monster without any sophistication or subtlety. Clumsy brutes with extraordinary strength, exceptional Constitution and not much Dexterity or Intelligence, they rely on tank-like durability and crushing force to confront enemies head-on.

The one thing that makes an ettin interesting as an enemy is that it’s difficult to surprise. Thanks to its Wakeful feature, you can never catch an ettin napping: while one of its heads sleeps, the other remains alert. Plus, ettins have expertise in Perception and advantage on Perception checks, along with 60 feet of darkvision. Even in the dead of night, an ettin’s got a good shot at spotting you. For this reason, orcs and other, cleverer beings may employ ettins as sentries.

Once an ettin spots one or more foes, it goes straight into aggro mode. Perceiving the biggest enemy as its greatest threat, it charges right up and Multiattacks with the battle ax it holds in one hand and the morning star it holds in the other. It will use both of these weapons unless it’s engaged in melee by a second enemy. In that instance, it will turn each of its heads to face a different melee opponent and divide its attacks between them. The illustration in the Monster Manual shows an ettin with its morning star in its right hand and its ax in its left hand. Sure, go with that.

Ettins are very stupid, though not so stupid that they can’t figure out what’s going on if archers or spellcasters are plinking them from a distance. Their primary attack mode, though, is in-your-face melee, and as long as there are still enemies engaging it in that mode, it’s not going to think to disengage and go after a ranged attacker. Only once it’s dispatched its melee foes will it give chase.

An ettin is an evolved creature with a normal, healthy survival instinct. Once it’s seriously wounded (reduced to 34 hp or fewer), it Dashes away, each of its heads berating the other for fighting badly. (It’s not nimble enough to Dodge, nor intelligent enough to Disengage.)

Next: stirges.

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One response to “Ettin Tactics”

  1. Mary Catelli Avatar
    Mary Catelli

    At least the heads get along for all tactical purposes.

    If you really wanted a nerfed ettin, have its heads get into a disagreement serious enough to interfere with fighting.

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