Monsters of the Multiverse: Giants

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Monsters of the Multiverse doesn’t make many changes to giants. Then again, there weren’t many giants in Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes to begin with, just some specially trained and equipped ogres and elite giants and trolls. Only three of these are revised enough to require reexamination.

Mordenkainen’s includes stat blocks for a handful of ogre variants tamed (sort of) and trained for battle, none of which is especially complicated. Calling them “ogres of war,” Multiverse mostly leaves them alone, making minor changes to the ogre howdah (upping its Armor Class by 2 and reskinning its mace as a Fist attack). The ogre battering ram’s Block the Path action, however, is significantly altered. For one thing, it’s a reaction now, granting a Bash attack when another creature comes within 5 feet of the ogre. It works less like the Sentinel feat than it did before, since it’s triggered by another creature entering, rather than leaving, the ogre’s reach; however, a hit still reduces the target’s speed to 0. In addition, Block the Path no longer imposes disadvantage on attack rolls against the ogre battering ram, no longer confers advantage on the ogre’s own attacks and no longer grants extra damage. Finally, a new Multiattack action lets the ogre battering ram make two Bash attacks per turn instead of just one.

With its original stat block, the ogre battering ram didn’t seem designed to fulfill the function described in its name. With the new stat block, it’s far better suited to its purpose: marching up to a structure and smashing it. It still has the Siege Monster trait, so two Bash attacks deal an average of 60 bludgeoning damage to an object or structure per turn rather than 30. Per the Object Hit Points table in chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, that’s enough to stave in a reinforced double door in one turn. Block the Path is still solid for occupying choke points, but it’s also good for revenge attacks against any overconfident idiot who decides to take the ogre on directly. Step 1: Enter the ogre’s reach. Step 2: Draw its attention. Step 3: Regret.

Short version: The ogre battering ram no longer has to choose between Bash and Block the Path. It takes the Multiattack action unless it has nothing to attack, and the Block the Path reaction whenever something (or someone) triggers it, thereupon transferring its Bash attacks to the triggering creature until they’re beaten senseless.

The stone giant Dreamwalker can now use its Multiattack to make ranged as well as melee attacks. Its Rock attack deals one less die of damage, but it’s still a net gain: Instead of one hit that deals an average of 28 damage, it can land two hits dealing an average of 22 damage each, for a total of 44; it also gets two chances, rather than one, to knock its target down. Its Greatclub attack, meanwhile, does one more die of damage.

You know what, though? None of this really matters, because the Dreamwalker is too disoriented to act tactically anyway. Its core features—Dreamwalker’s Charm and Petrifying Touch—are unchanged. These changes to its damage just make it more dangerous when it randomly decides to lash out.

The cloud giant Smiling One’s revisions are more extensive. It’s a Spellcaster, so of course its spell list has been pruned: feather fall, telekinesis, cure wounds, silent image, Tasha’s hideous laughter, prestidigitation and vicious mockery lie on the cutting room floor. Two more spells—fly and misty step—are replaced by an always-on flying speed and the Cloud Step bonus action, which is on a 4–6 recharge. Disguise self was always redundant to the Change Shape action anyway, and control weather has become a trait all its own—one that the Smiling One can apparently use at will! (I’m guessing that it was broken out this way, rather than included as an at-will spell under Spellcasting, because it takes 10 minutes to cast, rather than a single action.)

As in other stat blocks, Keen Smell is superseded by expertise in Perception. Finally, the Smiling One’s Multiattack is overhauled: It no longer carries a ho-hum morningstar or a bag of rocks, so its choices are Slam (which I suppose you can skin however you like—a punch, a cudgel, a psionic haymaker) and Telekinetic Strike (Punch From Across Room With Mind!), which I guess is what it gets in return for losing telekinesis.

I can’t say for certain whether all of these changes are improvements—Slam and Telekinetic Strike are a little flavorless, IMO—but it’s an incontrovertible fact that the Smiling One, as originally designed, was too complicated. So let’s come at it afresh.

The cloud giant Smiling One, as ever, is a crafty, opportunistic trickster and manipulator, motivated by the pursuit of wealth. It can still use suggestion against one target in either social interaction or combat, and it can take advantage of invisibility when Cloud Step is unavailable at an inconvenient moment. It no longer gains damage on its attacks when it rolls with advantage, so it has neither need nor incentive to prime those attacks with spells that confer it. On the plus side, this means it no longer hesitates to cast fog cloud and in fact is more likely to do so if its opponents are gaining advantage on their attack rolls. It can locate them by listening, using that passive Perception of 21, and Search for anyone who’s being sneakier than that with a double-digit Perception modifier—or, better yet, simply pass them by on the way to its objective. Also, the Smiling One no longer bothers to alternate between priming actions and attack actions; it doesn’t need to, and doing so doesn’t help. When it feels like fighting, it can and does attack every round.

Since it can fly all the time, it can stay airborne whenever it’s advantageous to do so, without monopolizing its concentration. Thus, it can cast suggestion, invisibility or fog cloud without having to land.

That’s all fine, but based on its ability scores, the cloud giant Smiling One is a brute melee fighter. How do we reconcile that with its tricksy nature? By keeping its objective in mind. While it enjoys deceit and mischief for their own sakes, what it wants is to swipe some piece of exceptional treasure, and if it can get its hand on the object(s) it wants, it doesn’t hang around after that. In other words, it uses its attacks and spells to (a) reach its prize, (b) discourage foes from getting in its way and (c) exit, stage left.

Speaking of (c), the fact that the Smiling One can now fly without concentrating permits a neat illusion: If it’s been sustaining fog cloud, it can fly above its foes to the top of the cloud, then simultaneously drop the spell in favor of gaseous form, making it seem to disappear as its foes misinterpret the mist above them as the dissipating remnants of the fog! Why, you ask, would the Smiling One bother with such a baroque stunt when it can simply disappear by casting invisibility? Two reasons: First, because see invisibility is not a rare spell. Second, because the Smiling One has only three uses of invisibility per day, and it might be out of them. Third, because the first question everyone asks when an enemy vanishes is, “Where did it go?” And then they go looking for it … when the true answer to the question is, nowhere. The Smiling One is still right there, waiting for its foes to run off on a wild goose chase so that it can scoop up the Golden MacGuffin unopposed and be on its merry, laughing way. To win without fighting is best of all.

Next: undead of the multiverse.

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2 responses to “Monsters of the Multiverse: Giants”

  1. TheNovelLord Avatar
    TheNovelLord

    Two notes about the cloud giant smiling one, first that it has seemed to have kept silent image in its three per day spell list. Second is that their change shape feature not changing their statistics is really cool. You are at a party and notice something off about an old halfling lady? Suddenly she’s punching you in the gut for 26 damage. Did that frog you caught just speak? Probably, because it straight up muscled out of the barbarians grip and now your being smacked around by telekinetic force. That’s what really sells this trickster to me.

    1. Lionheart261 Avatar
      Lionheart261

      Yeah, that change to the Change Shape feature of certain creatures is absolutely hilarious to me. I wanted to include Fizban in a dragon-centric campaign and I just absolutely love the idea that Fizban’s “magic” while he’s walking the land in that form is just him waving his staff around while his seven “canaries” (actually Ancient Gold Dragons whose Change Shape action is modified to be like this) let out 90 foot cones of devastating fire breath. xD

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