Your party took a tremendous beating, but you slew the dragon. Huzzah! Bruised, bloody and weary, you’re out of healing potions and scraping the bottom of the mojo barrel, but lo—look at all the shiny loot! A balm for the adventurous soul, the hard-earned reward at the end of a brutal adventu—ow! What is that? Ow ow ow ow make it stop!
To the Dungeon Master who never tires of playing dirty tricks on their players, Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons offers the hoard scarab and the hoard mimic, two monstrosities that disguise themselves as treasure and feed off dragons’ casualties like pilot fish or crocodile birds. You thought your encounter day was over? Think again, suckers!
An individual hoard scarab is more a jump scare and a nuisance than anything else. Before I dive into the rest of its specifics, though, I want to call attention to the wording of the False Appearance trait in all the stat blocks I’m looking at today, which follows the new pattern we see in Monsters of the Multiverse, allowing a player character with a high enough passive Intelligence (Investigation) to spot the disguised creature before it attacks. I predict with 100 percent confidence that all the Monster Manual monsters with False Appearance are going to have this trait changed accordingly when Wizards of the Coast publishes the revised version of that book in 2024.
The hoard scarab is a teeny shock attacker (very high Dexterity, not much else) with no tactical flexibility or target selection savvy. What it does have going for it, however, are tremorsense and the ability to both burrow and fly. Thus, it doesn’t have to rely solely on False Appearance to avoid detection. With a 5-foot reach on its Bite attack, it can hide in the middle of a pile of treasure and monch whoever sticks their hand in first—both gaining surprise and attacking with advantage, because it has total cover with respect to being seen. Honestly, I wouldn’t play it any other way.
From that point on, you need to ask yourself what you think is funnier: leaving the hoard scarab in the pile to bite whoever reaches in next to try to get it, or having it latch on to whomever it just bit while they try to shake it off. Either way works, although I think the latter provides slightly better justification for the fact that a successful Bite imposes disadvantage on the target creature’s attack rolls. However, note the timing on this rider, because it’s very easy to misread (so easy that I wonder whether the existing wording is what was actually intended): “If the target is a creature, it has disadvantage on attack rolls until the start of its next turn”—that is, the start of the target creature’s next turn, not the hoard scarab’s. Effectively, this means only attacks made as reactions, e.g., opportunity attacks. It helps the hoard scarab evade retaliation, but it doesn’t do a whole lot else.
Anyway, if the hoard scarab stays hidden in the pile, it can continue to attack unseen and enjoy disadvantage on its opponents’ attack rolls against it whether they’ve been bitten by it or not. If and when its cover is swept away, it launches itself airborne, releases its Scale Dust as a bonus action, Bites the nearest creature within reach and finally flies up in the air, out of its foes’ melee reach if possible. On later turns, it flies down to dish it out some more, then flies back up to avoid taking it, counting on its target’s attack roll disadvantage to protect it from opportunity attacks.
If it stays latched on to its target’s hand, the target isn’t grappled or restrained, nor does the hoard scarab gain advantage on subsequent Bites, but the target may waste an action trying to fling it away rather than simply attempt to squash it. If the target does try to shake it off—which is easily and fairly resolved with a Strength (Athletics) vs. Strength (nada) contest—the hoard scarab can “instinctively” release its Scale Dust as a bonus action on its next turn. Once a hoard scarab has latched on to one target, it keeps attacking that target unless and until another opponent lands a hit on it.
Chances are, one hit on a hoard scarab will kill it. If, however, a hoard scarab is seriously wounded (reduced to 1 or 2 hp), it flies away, using the Dash action.
More threatening than one scarab is a swarm of hoard scarabs, which behaves similarly to a single hoard scarab except that it must occupy the same space as its target. The approach of trying to stay hidden inside a treasure pile isn’t feasible with a whole swarm of hoard scarabs; instead, the whole swarm descends on whichever creature disturbs it. The swarm is dispersed when it’s reduced to 12 hp or fewer.
Hoard scarabs are best played for comedy, but a hoard mimic encounter is serious stuff. Huge in size, a hoard mimic can’t hide beneath a pile of treasure: most treasure hoards would in fact be dwarfed by it! (The vast carpets of gold in much fantasy art—to say nothing of the cockamamie underground river of it in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug—are many orders of magnitude more voluminous than the treasure hoards presented in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. All the precious metals and gems in the hoard of a well-endowed adult dragon, for instance, would take up less than 10 cubic feet of space. That’s not a cube 10 feet on a side. That’s a cube 26 inches on a side.) Instead, the hoard mimic disguises itself as the biggest pile of treasure anyone’s ever seen—a decoy from its host dragon’s actual hoard, which it keeps elsewhere. (This sort of ruse is right up a green dragon’s alley.)
Hoard mimics are brutes, with extraordinary Strength and very high Constitution. Although they’re not great strategic thinkers or capable of pinpointing their enemies’ particular strengths and weaknesses, they have a strong sense of self-preservation and have a good overall sense of how great a threat their opponents pose. They’re also capable of communicating, both verbally and telepathically, which sets them apart from ordinary mimics and allows them to stop and parley when they find themselves in a bind.
Generally, if other creatures are fighting a dragon in the hoard mimic’s presence, it stays out of the fight: It would rather wait until the dragon has weakened its foes as much as possible before it attempts to take them on itself. However, if the dragon is significantly overmatched by its foes—something that should be evident after just one round, two at most—the hoard mimic may jump in on the dragon’s side, intuiting that it’s not going to have any better chance at survival if it waits.
Whether in cooperation with a dragon or on its own, a hoard mimic’s opening play—assuming its enemies are positioned properly, at least three of them within a 30-foot cone—is its Caustic Mist. It uses this ability again whenever it recharges. Otherwise, it Multiattacks, using Pseudopods first (for the chance to grapple and restrain) and its Bite afterward. Because Pseudopod has a 10-foot reach but Bite has only a 5-foot reach, the hoard mimic may need to move closer to a grappled target to bite them. Weapons stick to ordinary mimics when they hit, but not to hoard mimics, which adhere only creatures they hit with their pseudopods. There’s no reason for a hoard mimic to take its Shapechanger action during combat; it’s just a waste of time. Save it for the big reveal when the hoard mimic stands down.
When the hoard mimic is moderately wounded (reduced to 86 hp or fewer) and its opponents aren’t at least moderately wounded themselves, or if it’s seriously wounded (reduced to 49 hp or fewer) and its opponents aren’t at least seriously wounded as well, the hoard mimic stops fighting and tries to strike a deal with its foes, using its proficiency in Persuasion to plead for its life. It fights to the death only if its foes convince it that they’re going to kill it no matter what.