Monsters of the Multiverse: Fiends, Part 1

On to fiends, which receive—by far­­—the greatest number of substantive changes in Monsters of the Multiverse, and that’s not even counting archdevils and demon lords. In fact, so many fiends receive significant updates to their actions that I’m going to break my examinations of this creature type into five posts: three for the rank and file (one each for the lawfuls, chaotics and neutrals) right now, then two more for the archfiends (one for archdevils, one for demon lords) after I’ve covered all the other creature types.

To begin with, the merregon’s Multiattack has been made unconditional: three Halberd attacks, period, whereas before it received the third only if there was a superior devil within 60 feet of it. That means there’s no longer any particular need for merregons to form a line to either side of a bone devil, erinys, pit fiend or amnizu commander. They can form any kind of formation now, including rank upon rank in front of their commanders, who can lead from the rear. A detachment of them can also break formation to strike at an enemy weakness. Mind you, at CR 4, merregons are hardly weak minions—each of them is roughly the equivalent of a level 11 PC—so even a mere platoon of them is better managed using the mass combat rules of your choice. The Loyal Bodyguard reaction is unchanged, so it does still make sense for a ring of merregons to surround the superior devil that commands them and act as its personal guard.

The Predator—I mean orthon—has gotten a nerf to its Invisibility Field. It’s still a bonus action, but whereas before it could take that bonus action every turn—and had no good reason not to—this ability is now on a 4–6 recharge, making it far less reliable. I guess it was just too good.

The normal brain response to this change is to have the orthon act just as it did before, using Invisibility Field when it can and simply fighting out in the open when it can’t.

The genius brain response is that, since the orthon begins the combat encounter invisible, it doesn’t attack until its Invisibility Field has recharged already. Then, taking this bonus action at the end of its first turn, it passes its turns invisibly, not allowing itself to become visible again until its Invisibility Field has recharged—for which it rolls at the beginning of its turn—so that it knows that it will have immediate access to this ability after attacking again. This gives its opponents some beats during which to heal up, buff one another and so forth, but it keeps the orthon mostly safe from incoming attacks. Which it kinda needs, having only 105 hp despite being CR 10.

The galaxy brain response is that if the orthon, by itself, constitutes a Deadly encounter for a party of player characters (these would be four PCs of level 6 or lower, five of level 5 or lower, or six of level 3 or lower), the orthon doesn’t need to take that precaution after all, and can be content to fight out in the open whether or not it has its Invisibility Field immediately available. It only has to exercise caution when its foes are tougher than that. But it also won’t know how weak or strong its foes are until it’s engaged with them: its Intelligence is high, but not high enough to size up its opponents at a single glance. So it forgoes the cautious approach only when its foes prove hapless after a few rounds of observation.

The amnesia-inducing amnizu has undergone changes to its Multiattack, its Spellcasting, its Forgetfulness action and its Taskmaster Whip attack; it’s also lost its Disruptive Touch attack, and its former Poison Mind action has been renamed Blinding Rot, which has the virtue of being a precisely literal description of its effects.

The Multiattack, which formerly comprised one use of Poison Mind and two melee attacks (one of each type), now comprises one use of either Blinding Rot (née Poison Mind) or Forgetfulness, plus two Taskmaster Whip attacks, which are now the only kind of melee attack the amnizu has. The Taskmaster Whip is significantly weakened: its slashing damage has both greater variance and a slightly lower average, while its force damage has been halved. Forgetfulness, on the other hand, deals psychic damage equal to the necrotic damage of Blinding Rot, so the net damage of the Multiattack is consistent regardless of which option you choose.

The spells fireball, dominate person and charm person are gone, but the amnizu can now cast dominate monster (which includes dominating people) three times per day. Each of these takes an action, however, which means forgoing the entire Multiattack. Before, the amnizu had three primary action options: Multiattack, Forgetfulness or casting a spell. Now it has two: Multiattack or casting a spell.

Multiattack, having unlimited availability and the broadest effect—and now including Forgetfulness as an option—remains the default. Although both Blinding Rot and Forgetfulness have 60-foot ranges, the amnizu still prefers to position itself 20 to 40 feet away from its foes, so that it can make Taskmaster Whip attacks against them from 10 feet away while flying past them. Whether it chooses Blinding Rot or Forgetfulness, it takes this action at the beginning of its turn so that it can potentially make attack rolls with advantage against a blinded or stunned target.

As before, the amnizu casts dominate monster to disrupt attempts by its opponents to cooperate against it. However, it no longer has to draw a distinction between dominate monster and dominate person, since dominate monster is the only version of the spell it has. Its primary target is the collaborator with the lowest Wisdom save modifier (with Intelligence 20, the amnizu knows which one that is). Fireball is no longer an option for dealing with clustered enemies, but feeblemind is still available for use against non-wizard spellcasters and is still an essential primer for Forgetfulness.

Monsters of the Multiverse’s changes to the black and white abishais are minor, but the changes to green, blue and red abishais are significant. Their natures remain the same, but their actions differ.

The green abishai no longer has a Longsword attack, although its Fiendish Claw attack (formerly just “Claws”) deals one more die of poison damage than before. The Longsword/Claw combination in its Multiattack is now simply two Fiendish Claw attacks, dealing quite a lot more damage and having a better chance to hit than Longsword to boot. Amazingly, the green abishai’s Spellcasting is entirely unchanged, so this change to its Multiattack doesn’t alter its tactics in any way—it simply makes the green abishai much better at what it already does.

The blue abishai similarly forfeits its Quarterstaff. Its Bite damage remains unchanged, but now its Multiattack comprises three attacks rather than two, which can be either Bite or a new ranged spell attack, Lightning Strike. That’s compensation for the removal of chain lightning and lightning bolt from its spell list, and it’s a big net gain. If you want to zot three targets with lightning bolt, they have to be obligingly lined up, but three single-target Lightning Strikes can go anywhere.

A lot of spells have been stripped from the blue abishai: teleport, cone of cold, dimension door, ice storm, fear, darkness, mirror image, chromatic orb, expeditious retreat, magic missile, thunderwave, friends, message and shocking grasp. The new bonus action Teleport doesn’t duplicate the teleport spell; instead, it’s a reskinned misty step that the blue abishai can use at will. The loss of both teleport and dimension door is tactically important: the blue abishai no longer has a magical escape hatch.

Greater invisibility is still in the blue abishai’s kit and is still its best opening play, but it gets only two uses of this spell per day and needs to reserve the second for emergency situations. If its first casting is dispelled or it loses its concentration, it can try splitting its opponents up with wall of force, but otherwise it must fight out in the open. It remains in the air unless forced down, hovering out of its enemies’ melee reach between turns, and mostly attacks with Lightning Strike, saving Bite for low-AC spellcasters whose opportunity attacks hit like wet noodles and for when it’s engaged in melee by an airborne enemy. (Then again, dispel magic works nicely on fly.)

The red abishai loses its own weapon, the Morningstar, and the three melee attacks in its Multiattack are reduced to two: one Claw and one Bite. However, its Claw attack is upgraded to include a couple of dice of fire damage, and in lieu of its Frightful Presence—which is ineffective beyond its initial use—it can now take its Incite Fanaticism action as part of its Multiattack.

Incite Fanaticism now lasts only until the start of the red abishai’s next turn, rather than a full minute, but since it no longer precludes attacking, the either/or proposition is no longer between Incite Fanaticism and Multiattack but rather between Incite Fanaticism and Frightful Presence. Since Frightful Presence endures and Incite Fanaticism doesn’t, and since Frightful Presence imposes disadvantage on enemies’ attacks while Incite Fanaticism grants advantage on allies’ attacks, it seems pretty cut-and-dried that round 1 is the time to use Frightful Presence, with Incite Fanaticism used every round after that. There’s one exception, though: If the red abishai and its allies manage to surprise their opponents, it makes sense to use Incite Fanaticism in that first round of combat, when Team Abishai are taking actions and their opponents aren’t. Having disadvantage is hardly a problem when you’re not making any rolls. Save Frightful Presence for the first round in which your opponents will actually try to do something.

Next: demons and other chaotic fiends of the Multiverse.

4 thoughts on “Monsters of the Multiverse: Fiends, Part 1”

  1. Hey Keith! I was looking through your humanoids post and couldn’t find anything on giffs (those space hippo folk with the muskets). Did I miss it somewhere, or have they yet to be written about? I love the work that you do, and was simply curious if you had anything on them. Thank you for your contributions to the community, and have a wonderful day!

  2. “… at CR 4, merregons are hardly weak minions—each of them is roughly the equivalent of a level 11 PC…”

    PCs are a lot stronger than that. A 6th level human champion fighter with no feats is CR 4 according to the DMG’s calculation guide. I’ve found that a PC’s CR is usually around 2/3 of their level.

    I assume you are referring to the merregon’s three attacks per round, but a 6th level fighter makes up for slightly lower damage with more AC and hit points.

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