Manticore Tactics


I didn’t realize when I chose it—to be honest, if I don’t have a theme I’m following or a request to fulfill, I choose these monsters more or less at random, although I tend to favor the old-school ones—but the manticore is the first creature I’ve encountered whose tactics are already laid out in the Monster Manual flavor text:

A manticore begins its attack with a volley of tail spikes, then lands and uses its claws and bite. When outdoors and outnumbered, it uses its wings to stay aloft, attacking from a distance until its spikes are depleted.

Given the manticore’s stat and feature profile, these tactics make sense. The Tail Spike is a strong attack with good damage and a generous range, and the manticore can hurl three in a single Multiattack action. Its Strength, Dexterity and Constitution are all very high, suiting it equally for ranged and close-in combat. It stands to reason that it would use its strongest, safest attack first, then close in to finish off injured enemies.

This part makes a little less sense, though this is a monstrosity we’re talking about, after all, so some of its behaviors are going to be weird:

A manticore isn’t particularly bright, but it possesses a malevolent nature and the ability to converse. In the course of attacking, it denigrates its foes and offers to kill them swiftly if they beg for their lives. If a manticore sees an advantage to be gained by sparing a creature’s life, it does so, asking for a tribute or sacrifice equal to its loss of food.

The manticore’s Intelligence is 7; its Wisdom, however, is 12. I don’t think it would be possible to trick a manticore into accepting a bad deal. In fact, I think it would have very little imagination with respect to what might constitute a good deal. The only thing that would be more appealing to a creature like this than food would be more food, perhaps a steady and easily obtained supply of it. A greater challenge, though still possible, would be offering to eliminate a known territorial rival (the MM lists chimeras, griffons, perytons and wyverns as being among these). I think a manticore is simply too dumb to recognize the value of anything beyond food and territory.

As for target selection, a manticore will be indiscriminate. As a Large creature with formidable physical ability scores and low Intelligence, it sees all player characters as equally weak and doesn’t distinguish between ranged fighters and melee fighters or spellcasters and non-spellcasters. A PC who can deal it 20 hp or more of damage in a single turn will certainly get its attention, but that’s as likely to enrage it as it is to make it hesitate.

A few final notes: The manticore has darkvision, so it will have an advantage over many PCs when attacking at night or twilight. It has a land speed of 30 feet but a flying speed of 50 feet, so it will move by leaping and won’t be hindered by difficult terrain; furthermore, it will probably live and hunt in difficult terrain, where its prey will be slowed. It will flee when seriously injured (reduced to 27 or fewer hp) by Dashing away through the air—it’s not smart enough to Disengage, and it’s tough enough that it normally wouldn’t have to, anyway. And finally, the MM flavor text notes that manticores often hunt in packs, so despite having a challenge rating of only 3, they may still make good opponents for intermediate-level PCs . . . although it doesn’t seem likely to me that a manticore encounter would include more than four or five of them.

Next: Chimeras.

Related Posts

6 responses to “Manticore Tactics”

  1. Matt Avatar

    As with many flying creatures larger than the PCs, wouldn’t they attempt to grapple and then fly away with their prey , perhaps dropping it from high enough to kill it? Or is this a tactic that is too potent for its CR?

    1. Keith Ammann Avatar

      Aerial predators typically don’t fly away with live prey. They strike to kill or fatally wound, then watch their prey till it stops moving, then carry it off. If a manticore flew off with live prey and then dropped it, the prey might survive the fall and run off where the manticore couldn’t find it again. That’s a bad bet.

  2. Lance Avatar

    Not quite true. Some species of hawk and eagle can ad do drop prey to kill them. Aerial predators also don’t normally wait for their prey to stop moving before carrying it off to be devoured, because they aren’t the only things that want to eat, and they are usually weaker than land based carnivores.
    Now as to whether a Manticore would deliberately pick up a person and drop them from a height. I would say maybe, but that would be something a smarter creature would do.

    1. Keith Ammann Avatar

      Then I’d say any creature that had evolved to use that tactic would also have evolved an intuition about how high the drop would have to be to kill its usual prey outright: 60 feet at a minimum; 160 feet or higher if possible.

      1. Fireslayer Avatar

        And it would have proficiency in Athletics.

  3. […] trend and does explain how a monster uses the abilities it’s got, precisely and accurately. The manticore, in the Monster Manual, is one of these instances. The carrion stalker, in Ezmerelda’s Guide to […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Support the Author

Spy & Owl Bookshop | Tertulia | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo | Kobo | Google Play | Apple Books | | Audible

Praise for The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters

“I’ve always said, the Dungeon Master is the whole world except for his players, and as a result, I spend countless hours prepping for my home group. What Keith gets is that the monsters are the DM’s characters, and his work has been super helpful in adding logic, flavor, and fun in my quest to slaughter my players’ characters and laugh out the window as they cry in their cars afterward.” —Joe Manganiello

“The best movie villains are the ones you fall in love with. Keith’s book grounds villains in specificity, motivation, and tactics—so much so that players will love to hate ’em. This book will enrich your game immeasurably!” —Matthew Lillard

“This book almost instantly made me a better Dungeon Master. If you’re running games, it is a must-have enhancement. I gave copies to the two others in our group who share in the Dungeon Mastering, and both of them came back the next time grinning rather slyly. Keith is a diabolical genius, and I say that with the utmost respect!” —R.A. Salvatore

Find my short works on the Dungeon Masters’ Guild, or just toss a coin to your witcher: