The eye monger is yet another head-scratcher in what’s turning into a whole series of head-scratchers in Boo’s Astral Menagerie. A large, durable brute with extraordinary Strength and Constitution (and exceptionally poor Dexterity, Intelligence and Charisma), it’s saddled with a plodding flying speed of only 20 feet. How is it supposed to catch targets in order to bite them?
The intention is clearly to catch them by surprise. Eye mongers have the False Appearance trait—the Monsters of the Multiverse version, which gives them advantage on first-round initiative rolls and can be penetrated in advance by a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check, not the Monster Manual version, which effectively grants an automatic surprise round. Their appearance is that of a 12-foot asteroid. Dear reader, that is what we would normally call a “rock”—or, more charitably, a “boulder”—not an asteroid, whose diameter is typically measured in miles or kilometers. The largest asteroids, and by extension the ones of greatest interest, are several hundred miles or kilometers across. There’s nothing to tempt space travelers to venture near a 12-foot rockball.
Moreover, it is, in fact, shaped like a ball, which is atypical of most asteroids. It takes a lot of mass for rock to be pulled into a sphere under the force of its own gravity, and only the largest possess that much. So not only is the eye monger not disguised as something that would lure anyone near it, if you take a few seconds to think about it, it’s not even a convincing disguise.
“Ah, but what if it’s among a whole bunch of asteroids, in a debris field?” OK, well, my first reply to that question is, what are you doing flying through a debris field? That’s the kind of thing you go around. Second, unless there’s an object of much greater gravity nearby to govern their movement—say, a planet like Saturn—the objects in any such debris field are going to be attracted to one another and eventually all smoosh together into much bigger objects, farther apart. The average distance between objects in an asteroid belt is 3 million miles. Minefield-like zones of drifting asteroids that have to be dodged like slalom poles don’t exist.
Looking at the accompanying art, we see a couple of adventurers standing on a space rock in what looks like it could be an analogue of Saturn’s rings—there’s a planet nearby, after all. All right, fine: Suppose for some reason you have to land on a rock in a planet’s ring system as opposed to, say, one of its actual moons. Maybe your ship is falling apart, and all the moons are ferociously hostile to life, and of course you can’t land on a gas giant. Ring rocks do drift close to one another from time to time, sometimes as near as 3 feet apart. This scenario is the only one I can think of in which spacefarers might plausibly have a close encounter with an eye monger. Otherwise, it seems to me the most likely places to encounter them would be underground, near piles of talus on a mountain, or possibly on a rocky coastline.
But coming up with an appropriate situation in which to encounter them in is only the first problem with eye mongers. The next one is that if they miss their initial attack, or if they hit but fail to swallow their target because the target succeeded on its Dexterity saving throw, the encounter is already over, because they’re so easy to run away from. Even a dwarf, gnome or halfling can outpace these lazily drifting lugs, and they have no ranged attack of any kind.
The eye monger’s obvious goal to gulp down as many targets as it can. Its Bite attack deals only 12 damage per round on average, but its stomach acid deals 35. Also, its Antimagic Gullet trait suppresses the use of magic inside it, its swallowed victims are blinded and restrained
, and there’s no stated limit on how many creatures it can swallow at once. Arrrrgh. Yes, there is, as WHM points out in the comments below. I read over that action three times, looking for a limit on how many creatures the eye monger could swallow, expecting to find one, and somehow managed to miss it every single time.
So, obviously, everything below about gobbling up additional targets is out the window. Once it’s swallowed a single target, there’s no reason left for an eye monger to hang around—not unless it manages to digest its first meal in a single round. But for that to happen, the Bite damage plus the initial digestion damage would have to kill the target outright. How likely is that? Not very. The average damage of these two effects totals 47, and the sheer number of dice involved means that the actual damage isn’t going to vary far from this mean. Two-thirds of the time, these effects will deal no more than 49 damage; 95 percent of the time, they’ll deal no more than 56. That amount of damage will kill a PC with 28 hp or fewer outright, but a CR 10 creature is unlikely to be thrown at any group of PCs below level 6, and no level 6 character has that few hit points at full health. Consequently, we’re looking at three rounds of death saving throws, minimum, before a victim is fully digested and the eye monger has room for more.
Like the joke about the dog that finally catches the car, however, swallowing that first target is strategically bad for the eye monger. As long as all its foes can run away, it makes sense for them to do so. If one can’t, though, now the others have to stick around and try to free it—and once they gain the upper hand against the eye monger, its poor speed means it can’t escape. It’s doomed.
“But wait, can’t it just fly straight up, so that they can’t follow it?” Good thinking; let’s explore that. Planetside, on a mountain or on the coast or underground, sure, that’s a sound strategy, albeit also a major jerk move on the Dungeon Master’s part. However, if we go back to the illustration, those folks are clearly in Wildspace. In Wildspace, the Astral Plane overlaps with the material. Travelers in the Astral Plane can move simply by thinking about moving, at a speed of 3 × their Intelligence score (Dungeon Master’s Guide chapter 2, “Astral Plane”). Any creature with an Intelligence of 7 or greater can keep up with a fleeing eye monger and overtake it. Gravity? Schmavity. One good jump will provide enough velocity to escape the pull of that cosmic pebble the adventurers are standing on. ETA: As Fireslayer notes in the comments below, it’s also unclear whether movement by thought alone applies to Wildspace. I actually explored this question in a previous article (link), then promptly forgot about it. The thing is, forbidding PCs from using this mode of movement to pursue a fleeing eye monger makes the encounter even less fun, and it’s not all that much fun to begin with. I don’t know what more to say about that.
We could say, given the eye monger’s above-average Wisdom, that it has a solid sense of self-preservation and withdraws from combat when seriously wounded (reduced to 59 hp or fewer). Honestly, though, the only difference that amounts to is between fighting back and not fighting back. You know Dungeons & Dragons players: Once that thing starts a fight, the PCs are going to finish it. The eye monger fights to the death because its opponents won’t let it not fight to the death. Once it’s swallowed one target, therefore, it’s all in. It now has no choice but to try to eat enough of the rest that any remaining foes despair of their situation and leave. Its best approach is to try to target its least armored enemies first, since its +9 attack bonus gives it a two-thirds chance of hitting an opponent with Armor Class 16 or lower. But those opponents aren’t going to be the ones staying within the eye monger’s reach; they’re going to keep their distance from it and plink away. And its low Intelligence doesn’t equip it to do anything except bite at whoever’s next to it.
In short, the eye monger is nothing more than a hazard, and a fairly ridiculous one.