Monsters of the Multiverse Humanoids, Part 2

Today I finish up the humanoids in Monsters of the Multiverse by looking at significant changes to shadar-kai, drow, gith and nagpas. As a reminder, I’m only examining creatures whose tactics might differ because of changes to their traits and actions in Multiverse. If I don’t mention a creature, my tactics for that creature are unchanged.

The shadow dancer, now explicitly called the shadar-kai shadow dancer, was already a powerful fighter in darkness, thanks to its Shadow Jump bonus action. It’s even more powerful now that its Multiattack includes an additional use of Shadow Jump. Having one use of this ability as a bonus action and a second one in its Multiattack means the shadow dancer no longer has to choose between using it to engage in melee and using it to disengage; it can do both in a single turn. Since it can now return to darkness at the end of every turn, it can always gain advantage on the first of its three Spiked Chain attacks against a target without darkvision, increasing its expected damage by roughly half. There’s no longer any reason for this shock attacker to stay within its opponent’s melee reach between turns.

The most significant changes to the gloom weaver, now called the shadar-kai gloom weaver, are to its Spellcasting, but in addition, its Multiattack now allows it to make a third Shadow Spear attack rather than cast a spell, the spear comes back when thrown, and all elves, not just shadar-kai, are exempted from Burden of Time. Taken together, these changes are great enough to require a total rethinking of gloom weaver tactics. (There’s also a slight chance that Misty Escape will recharge and allow a second use of it, but that chance isn’t good enough that the gloom weaver should take a chance and use it when it wouldn’t have done so before.)

Formerly, as a spellcaster, the gloom weaver was a sort of sorcerer-warlock hybrid. With the elimination of monster/nonplayer character spell slots, and without any spell cast any higher than its base level, the distinction is no longer meaningful. It can still cast its former at-will innate spells at will; the cantrips minor illusion and prestidigitation join this list, but chill touch and eldritch blast are lost, dramatically reducing the gloom weaver’s effective combat range. (Although it can throw its Shadow Spear up to 120 feet, it does so with disadvantage from farther than 30.) Also gone are compulsion, armor of Agathys, blight, dream, invisibility, hypnotic pattern, contact other plane, vampiric touch and witch bolt.

That’s a big, big chunk cut out of its spellcasting repertoire. How much of a difference does it make? Well, losing compulsion invalidates the cooperative tactic of having one gloom weaver force a target to pass through another gloom weaver’s arcane gate, but that was a highly situational stunt to begin with, not to mention extremely dirty pool. Armor of Agathys and invisibility were worth the spell slots, and without them, the gloom weaver must take a much more aggressive approach; also, without invisibility cast at 5th level, it can no longer make three other shadar-kai invisible alongside it, a much bigger loss than the compulsion/arcane gate trick. Blight dealt solid damage and could be cast up to three times. Hypnotic pattern was a reliable shutdown spell. Vampiric touch and witch bolt, at least, are no great loss.

My previous plan for the gloom weaver was to use its three spell slots to cast invisibility, armor of Agathys and one offensive spell, preferably blight, fear or hypnotic pattern; or armor of Agathys and two offensive spells. Except for fear, which was mainly useful for making enemies drop magic weapons, all these spells are gone now. Can the “shock attacker who lays into one opponent while also lobbing spells at other opponents elsewhere on the battlefield” concept be sustained? Only in much closer quarters than before. Darkness has its uses but will ruin an allied shadow dancer’s day: it suppresses advantage and disadvantage on all attack rolls, other than those involving creatures that can see through magical darkness, and the shadow dancer needs advantage on its attacks. Confusion remains fairly solid and has a 90-foot range; bane, a 1st-level spell, still suffers from high opportunity cost. The newly boomeranging Shadow Spear is clearly intended to take the place of blight and eldritch blast, but while it deals wicked damage, it’s only fully effective out to 30 feet—and remember, all ranged attacks are made with disadvantage if you have a non-incapacitated enemy that can see you within 5 feet of you. Using it to fight a melee opponent and shish-kebab an opponent 20 feet away isn’t a viable strategy.

Except … OK, this is where we can play some wacky games. First of all, throwing the Shadow Spear at an enemy who’s 80 feet away while engaged in melee is no worse than throwing it at a target 20 feet away. Once you’ve already got disadvantage from being distracted by an opponent who’s in your face, what does it matter if you get it from making a long-range throw? You can’t have disadvantage twice. Perversely, then, the “fight one in melee, make ranged attacks against another” strategy looks better when the target of the ranged attack is all the way across the street.

Moreover, it only takes one source of advantage to negate both of those sources of disadvantage—and that’s where darkness comes in. Sure, the shadow dancer hates it, but if there’s no shadow dancer around, the gloom weaver is happy to exploit the situation by making one melee attack with Shadow Spear, casting darkness, then making another attack with Shadow Spear at long range—without disadvantage. It’s worth noting, also, that minor illusion doesn’t require concentration, and an illusory sound you can’t see is much more convincing than an illusory image you can’t hear. Thus, a gloom weaver shrouded in darkness can make use of minor illusion to obfuscate its location, potentially getting its enemies to aim their attacks at the wrong location. However, this stunt is only worth trying if the opposition is landing too many hits; otherwise, the opportunity cost of another hit’s worth of Shadow Spear damage is too high.

Most of the time, I think the better choice for the gloom weaver is to focus much more on its melee engagements. Remember Burden of Time, which imposes disadvantage on saving throws made by non-elven opponents within 10 feet. Which spells does the gloom weaver have left that call for saving throws? Only bane, confusion and fear. Now we’re looking at an all-new strategy: Charge up to a cluster of non-elven foes (non-gnome, too, since Gnome Cunning gives them advantage on mental ability saves), cast confusion, then make two Shadow Spear attacks against an un-boggled opponent. Thanks to the massive damage that a Shadow Spear hit deals, this order of operations is a true shock attack. On subsequent rounds, switch to darkness or, if the enemy arsenal includes a lot of magic weapons, fear.

What about major image, which the gloom weaver retains? Before, I said that it should only cast this spell to avoid a combat encounter, but now I have one other thought: It can use the spell to hide itself before combat begins, then initiate the encounter by hurling its Shadow Spear three times from behind the illusion. If its foes are especially slow-witted, it may even get to play this trick twice! Caveat: The gloom weaver lacks proficiency in Stealth, so it makes its ability check at only +4—and while minor illusion provides total visual concealment, it doesn’t obscure sound, so a successful Perception check using hearing is enough to avoid being surprised.

The soul monger, renamed shadar-kai soul monger, gains two hit dice, loses a point of Wisdom (but not a point of Wisdom modifier—“15 (+3)” must be a typo), carries a renamed weapon (Phantasmal Dagger is Shadow Dagger now, perhaps to connect it to the gloom weaver’s Shadow Spear) that also magically returns when thrown, exempts all elves from Weight of Ages, and also undergoes changes to its Spellcasting. These changes are less drastic, however. Although the soul monger loses chill touch and poison spray, the damage of these cantrips is far inferior to that of the Shadow Dagger, which can be thrown up to 20 feet without disadvantage and up to 60 feet with—twice. As for its once-per-day spells, the only ones it loses are chain lightning and phantasmal killer. Phantasmal killer frankly kind of stinks, but chain lightning was huge, and it’s regrettable to see it go. Still, the soul monger’s whole shtick is that it becomes more dangerous the longer combat drags on, and chain lightning can spell too quick an end to the encounter.

A huge, easy-to-miss change is that Shadow Dagger now imposes disadvantage on targets’ saving throws until the end of the soul monger’s next turn rather than the beginning, meaning that the soul monger can finally capitalize on it by itself—most likely to make sure that finger of death succeeds. Also, the soul monger can make ranged weapon attacks with the Soul Dagger before it gets within melee range. Aside from these changes, and the unavailability of chain lightning, the soul monger’s tactics don’t differ much from before. It still uses Wave of Weariness whenever it can, casts finger of death when it’s got a good chance of taking out an enemy who has disadvantage on the saving throw (55 hp or fewer is a good threshold), casts bestow curse on a monk to force them to make Wisdom saves every turn or lose their action, and otherwise Multiattacks with its Soul Dagger.

The drow house captain can no longer beat its allies until morale improves, so its Whip attacks are always aimed at its opponents. Other than that, its tactics don’t change.

The drow arachnomancer’s Multiattack changes fairly significantly. Instead of two attacks, one of which deals lots of additional poison damage on a hit, the arachnomancer makes three, and one of those attacks can be replaced by Web or a spell. This change opens up some powerful combos, especially if the arachnomancer opens with Web or faerie fire, possibly granting advantage on subsequent attacks. Poisonous Touch deals 25 percent more damage on a hit; Bite’s average poison damage is increased, and the variance is reduced, raising both the ceiling and the floor.

As for its spells, the arachnomancer loses levitate (which is fine—it was self-only, and the arachnomancer has Spider Climb anyway), chill touch, eldritch blast, poison spray, conjure animals, crown of madness, dimension door, fear, giant insect, hold monster, vampiric touch, web, witch bolt, dominate monster and eyebite. Yeowch! If the arachnomancer was a shock attacker first and a spellslinger second before, it’s even more so now, simply because so many of its spells are gone.

Of the spells it had that required concentration, it retains fly (which it no longer casts at 5th level), insect plague (which it no longer casts at 5th level), invisibility (which it no longer casts at 5th level), darkness, faerie fire and dancing lights. Of those that didn’t require concentration, it retains etherealness, dispel magic (which it no longer casts at 5th level) and mage hand. Dancing lights and mage hand are the only spells it can cast at will; all its others are limited to one use per day.

Losing web hurts the most: rather than goop-gun several targets at once, it can Web only one of them. At least, though, with Web becoming part of its Multiattack, if it manages to restrain that one target, it can cash in on its success immediately, which is more than adequate compensation for losing hold monster. So there’s one possible combo: Change Shape (bonus action) into spider form, then Multiattack (Web/Bite/Bite). And if there are other drow mages on the side, it can still cast insect plague on top of areas they’ve blanketed with web.

As ever, darkness is good for the arachnomancer, which has blindsight, but bad for allies that don’t, and faerie fire is better left to underlings. Dispel magic is weaker now, since it’s cast at 3rd level rather than 5th and limited to one casting per day; a spell has to be causing the arachnomancer real problems for it to bother dispelling it now. With dimension door gone, the arachnomancer must cast etherealness to withdraw from combat in case of emergency, while fly can no longer be spared to enhance the movement of drow elite warriors and shadowblades if it must be reserved to help evacuate a VIP. Since it can cast a spell as part of its Multiattack, it has the option of making a couple of spite attacks before bugging out.

Because Bite’s poison damage rider depends on the outcome of a Constitution saving throw, the arachnomancer should generally prefer its humanoid form when fighting tough melee opponents, unless it plans to use Web, and its spider form when fighting more fragile ones. It can toggle back and forth at the beginning of its turn.

The drow shadowblade gains a huge boon: It can now cast darkness at will, and it’s been granted Devil’s Sight, the ability to see through magical darkness. It’s hard to overstate how huge this is. Whereas darkness is usually the great equalizer, quashing both advantage and disadvantage for everyone within it as well as everyone attacking into it, it’s pure win for the shadowblade, which gains advantage on attack rolls against everyone else who can’t see through the murk, while they all have disadvantage on their attack rolls against it.

Its Multiattack has changed: Before, it made two Shadow Sword attacks, and two hits could result in a surge of extra necrotic damage. (The way it worked was more complicated than I’m describing, but that complication is probably a large part of why the feature needed to be changed.) Now, it makes three Shadow Sword attacks, with the option of substituting a Hand Crossbow shot for one of the three, and gets to cast darkness. A third Shadow Sword hit deals more damage, on average, than the necrotic damage surge made before, and darkness most likely confers advantage on every attack roll.

These changes are murder in a can. The drow shadowblade now has little reason to fear anybody and thus little reason to need to use Shadow Step to withdraw from melee, although it may occasionally want to in order to attack someone else. As long as it begins its turn in dim light or darkness, it can plop a darkness zone down wherever it likes, Shadow Step (bonus action) into the zone, then make three melee attacks, all with advantage, for an average of 81 damage if it hits three times out of three.

Now, relocating can be a bit of a trick: darkness requires concentration, so as soon as it begins casting the spell again, its original zone of magical darkness dissipates. If that leaves it in an area of bright light, it won’t have a launchpad to Shadow Step off of. But drow across the board are innately able to cast darkness, so if the shadowblade isn’t working alone, a confederate can cast darkness wherever the shadowblade needs to go—or maybe even as a sort of “Go here!” signal—or, if the shadowblade’s darkness is prematurely dispelled or its concentration on it is broken, save its bacon by casting darkness on top of it.

The shadowblade’s hand crossbow is still weak, but with Devil’s Sight, it can at least gain advantage on its shots (or cancel out its disadvantage at long range); what it can’t do is shoot more than once per turn. But a creature never has to use the entirety of its Multiattack. The shadowblade can cast darkness, shoot a crossbow bolt and forgo its two Shadow Blade attacks.

This tactic works well with the strategy I originally proposed of sniping from darkness while allies soften up the opposition, then Shadow Jumping in to start the real assault. And the combination of darkness at will, Shadow Jump and a triple melee Multiattack also enhances the solo method of jumping in, dealing as much damage as possible in three rounds (or until seriously injured, whichever comes first), then evacuating. In other words, same strategy, way less to keep track of. It’s Christmas in Menzoberranzan for the shadowblade.

The drow inquisitor is no longer a cleric; I’m not sure what it is, but according to the stat block, it uses Charisma as its sole spellcasting ability now. Then again, mathematically, there’s no difference between choosing Wisdom as its spellcasting ability and choosing Charisma; it has a +5 modifier in each ability. I guess it only makes a difference if the inquisitor is hit by feeblemind, which reduces Charisma to 1 but leaves Wisdom intact. It’s one of those choices I’d love to know the logic behind: Is there something about drow that makes Charisma all-important to their spellcasting, even that which isn’t innate?

A big and surprising change is that the drow inquisitor no longer has Magic Resistance. Granted, its saving throw modifiers are extremely high already, but I do like the idea of an inquisitor’s being effectively immune to Jedi mind tricks. On the other hand, Magic Resistance is a blunt instrument that confers just as much immunity to fireball as it does to suggestion. Whatever. It’s gone. The upshot is, the drow inquisitor used to be unafraid of spellcasters but has as much reason to fear them now as anyone else does.

Its cleric spell list has been butchered. Harm is gone, so true seeing no longer has to compete with it. The inquisitor can cast it only once per day, however, so it waits until something happens that suggests a need for it. All of its former 4th- and 5th-level spells are gone. Two of its three 3rd-level spells are gone, leaving only dispel magic, which can’t be boosted to 4th level because that doesn’t happen anymore. Of its 2nd-level spells, only silence remains, although spiritual weapon has been reskinned into the Spectral Dagger bonus action (dealing 2nd-level damage, sadly, rather than 4th, which is the level I recommended casting it at). All of the inquisitor’s 1st-level spells are gone. It keeps message and thaumaturgy, but guidance, poison spray and resistance are gone.

The news isn’t as grim with respect to its former Innate Spellcasting list. It can still cast dancing lights and detect magic at will, and all the spells it used to be able to cast once per day, it still can.

In the first round of combat, if the inquisitor can close and engage in melee with an opponent, it makes total sense to take the Spectral Dagger bonus action followed by the Multiattack action. But what if it can’t? It no longer has any ranged attack, not even poison spray, whose 10-foot range was better than nothing. Despite its challenge rating, does the inquisitor have anything better to do with its first-round action than to cast faerie fire? What about a preemptive true seeing? It doesn’t require concentration, it lasts an hour, and by noting that the inquisitor doesn’t seem to have anything better to do, I’ve tacitly granted that the opportunity cost is somewhere between zero and faerie fire. Later on, there may be things the inquisitor would much rather do than cast true seeing. May as well cast it right away, then.

From the second round on, I originally posited a choice between Multiattack and insect plague. Insect plague is gone, so there’s no longer any choice, really, unless there’s a 1st- through 3rd-level spell that the inquisitor needs to snuff out, a spellcaster it needs to shut up or a place where the lights need to be doused—and it can cast each of these spells only once.

It’s sad to say, but the drow inquisitor has been largely reduced to Death Lance and Spectral Dagger. There just isn’t all that much more it can do, and nothing it can do more than once. It’s an inquisitor—it could at least have gotten to cast detect thoughts at will, or even three times per day rather than one. If it truly is Christmas in Menzoberranzan, the inquisitor got coal in its stocking.

The drow favored consort fares better. It gains a ranged spell attack, Arcane Eruption—a mashup spell with the range of magic missile, the damage of cone of cold (dealt to one target rather than half a dozen) and the push effect of gust of wind—which replaces the unimpressive Hand Crossbow. Its three-Scimitar Multiattack has been diversified to allow Arcane Eruption attacks instead, as well as to replace one attack with a spell. Its blade deals more poison damage than before, and it’s a bit tougher than it was before.

But it, too, loses a lot of pages from its spellbook. Chain lightning, cone of cold, Otiluke’s resilient sphere, counterspell, haste, gust of wind, misty step, shatter, burning hands, magic missile, poison spray, shocking grasp, ray of frost … all gone. (Shield has been reskinned into the Protective Shield reaction.) The biggest loss in this list is haste, followed by resilient sphere, both of which were excellent round 1 plays; losing misty step is a brutal blow to its mobility. The War Magic trait is gone, probably because the drow favored consort no longer has any spells it needs to concentrate on while getting punched in the face. Similarly, Scimitar no longer imposes disadvantage on saving throws against spells the favored consort casts, but it no longer has a single-target spell that requires a saving throw, so there’s no need.

Even though the favored consort’s options are drastically narrowed, it can still do a lot of what it would have done before. It’s still proficient in spellcasting and fighting alike, and thanks to its improved Multiattack, it can still engage in both at once. After taking note of what its foes do in round 1, it casts fireball against the tanky fighters and their support casters, aims Arcane Eruptions at less robust targets, and cheekily uses dimension door and invisibility to get behind the enemy back line and carve it up with Scimitar attacks—or to get back out if it finds itself in a jam. With three uses of each of these spells allowed per day, it can cast them as it pleases, saving a single use of one of them (in most cases, dimension door) to escape when it gets too hot.

The most striking change to the drow matron mother isn’t to her spellcasting—although that is, of course, substantial—but the fact that she gains lair actions! Huzzah! Perceive Interlopers is a neat twist on true seeing (which she didn’t have to begin with), Spectral Web is a splendid gift to any arachnomancers on her side, and Telekinetic Throw is a satisfying smackdown against any sneaky attacker who’s trying to get the drop on her (it’s less effective against a sturdy front-liner).

Like the inquisitor, the matron mother loses her Magic Resistance and also becomes a single-ability spellcaster, using Charisma. She can still make two Demon Staff attacks per turn, but her Multiattack now allows her one Demon Staff attack on top of her three Tentacle Rod attacks (the criteria for which to use remain the same, strongly favoring the Demon Staff except against unarmored, fragile-looking spellcasters). Her Cast a Spell legendary action now costs 2 actions regardless of the level of the spell.

Running down her spell list, she loses access to holy aura, divine word, harm, contagion, flame strike, geas, mass cure wounds, death ward, freedom of movement, guardian of faith, bestow curse, spirit guardians, spiritual weapon, bane, guiding bolt, guidance, mending (OK, but seriously, tell me why she had that in the first place—“Oh, my goodness, there’s a tear in my web!”), resistance and sacred flame. She now has only one use per day of dispel magic; if she was selective about what she used it on before, she’s even more so now, and between Perceive Interlopers and a passive Perception of 21, she can wait to dispel invisibility until she loses track of where an invisible enemy is.

One of the matron mother’s greatest advantages as a spellcaster was the number of spells she could cast that didn’t require concentration. Sadly, many of these spells—including all her instantaneous spells that had lasting effects—are gone, and banishment, dispel magic and hold person can no longer be upcast.

But let’s look at what she’s gained: Since the Cast a Spell legendary action only ever costs 2 actions and is no longer limited by level, there’s nothing stopping her from using it to cast banishment, and dispel magic is cheaper than before. Hold person, cast as a legendary action on a front-liner or shock attacker charging her, has a wonderful cinematic quality to it and sets her up to deliver their punishment when her turn rolls around. Amazingly, delightfully, she still has gate, which means she can still literally summon Lolth herself—and do it on another creature’s turn! (If that feels OP to you, maybe she also knew a marilith back in Pi Beta Phi that she can call for backup instead—the additional limbs are on brand—but I stand by my reading of gate.)

Plane shift no longer competes with divine word for her 7th-level spell slots, and she can cast it twice per day, giving her one opportunity to use it offensively while retaining the use of it as an escape route. Blade barrier is still a strong offensive choice against inferior foes, but she’ll have to look for other alternatives for dealing with serious threats, since holy aura is no longer available and hold person can no longer be upcast. Clairvoyance is still available for pre-combat spying. Silence, command and cure wounds are what they’ve always been, although the matron mother can now cast command at will, encouraging her to spam it whenever she doesn’t have anything better to do with her legendary actions.

Summon Servant is now a bonus action, clearly intended to be used in round 1: the drow matron mother gets only one chance to do it, and the sooner her demon ally is on the battlefield, the most use she gets out of it, since it unlocks a legendary action she may not be able to use otherwise. It can still conjure up a yochlol, but in lieu of a retriever, the matron mother can choose to summon a glabrezu. The retriever was quite a bit more powerful—maybe too powerful—but a glabrezu isn’t something you want to have to tangle with while you’re already busy tangling with something else. It’s faster and tougher than a yochlol, it can grapple mobile enemies with its pincers, and it can cast power word stun. The yochlol, on the other hand, can climb anywhere, deals more melee damage against enemies that aren’t resistant to poison damage, and can cast web and dominate person.

Taken together, all these changes upend the drow matron mother’s tactics, since most of her formerly preferred round 1 and round 2 actions are defunct.

Without spiritual weapon to cast, Summon Servant is the obvious use for her round 1 bonus action. On subsequent turns, she’ll use Lolth’s Fickle Favor when it makes sense (using the same criteria as before) and forgo her bonus action when it doesn’t.

As for her action, let’s look at what ranged offensive spells she has left, because she is, after all, a spellslinger: blade barrier (area effect, requires concentration), banishment (one target, requires concentration), hold person (one target, requires concentration), faerie fire (area effect, requires concentration), suggestion (one target, requires concentration). Hmmm, I’m noticing a pattern here; are you? I’ve arranged these spells in roughly the order that I think the should take priority, but there are a couple of caveats:

  • Blade barrier has a rigid area of effect. It’s either a straight-line wall, up to 100 feet long, or a circular wall, up to 60 feet in diameter. The former configuration is for dividing the battlefield (and, by extension, keeping enemies away); the latter is for trapping enemies (and, by extension, keeping them from getting away). It’s only 20 feet tall, which won’t keep anyone from flying over it unless the ceiling is less than 20 feet high. As such, it might be useful in certain circumstances for forcing an opponent into the air, where it can be shot at more easily. But if controlling opponents’ movement is either not a priority or too hard to accomplish, this spell may not be the right tool for the job. Casting it on top of enemies for direct damage, à la wall of fire, requires them to be arranged just so and probably isn’t the best use for this twice-per-day spell.
  • Banishment is good for ejecting planar travelers from the Abyss, but if it’s cast on the material plane, the target merely spends 1 minute in the penalty box, then comes right back. And it’s probably not going to work on a bard, paladin, sorcerer, warlock or Swashbuckler rogue. It may not even work on a cleric, unless they’ve dumped Charisma, because of their proficiency in that saving throw. Also iffy against gnomes, thanks to Gnome Cunning.
  • Hold person is always dandy, but cast innately, it affects only one target, and they get lots of saving throws. Limited to two castings per day, this spell may end up not having all that great an effect on a battle.
  • Faerie fire? Any drow can cast that! But the thing that’s emerging about the drow matron mother is that in many cases, the opportunity cost of certain choices is … not much. When she has nothing better to do, why not drop some fairy dust on her foot soldiers’ foes and make them easier targets? She only gets one chance to make it work, though, and there’s no point in trying unless at least four enemies are clustered within a 20-foot square.
  • Suggestion is a tricky needle to thread, but when it works, it sticks. Only one use per day, so make it count. When in doubt, “Resistance is useless.”

There’s one other option, usable twice per day: Divine Flame, an actionized flame strike that deals an expected 42 damage, a combination of fire and radiant, against two targets. If the matron mother can nail more than two targets in its 10-foot radius, even better—but it’s sure to make them scatter, so it may not be possible to land a follow-up strike.

The last two paragraphs of my previous analysis stand, minus references to spell the matron mother can no longer cast. She doesn’t necessarily need to engage in melee, however. In fact, a phalanx of allies may be just the right thing to soften her enemies up for a final mano a mano battle inside a blade barrier ring. And remember, her first melee attack can carry a plane shift spell with it, slapping them all the way into the Abyss.

The githyanki gish relies more heavily on attack actions now, with Telekinetic Bolt, a ranged spell attack, taking the place of magic missile but dealing fireball-grade force damage against a single target—it’s like casting magic missile at 6th level, but with the possibility of a clean miss. Telekinetic Bolt is also part of a new Multiattack that increases the number of attacks from two to three, giving the gish some savage ranged-attack potential. War Magic is no longer listed among the gish’s traits, but it’s not gone, simply folded into Multiattack in a reworded form that intriguingly immunizes it against slow (since the weapon attack is no longer a bonus action but rather part of the action).

The gish’s former two uses of dimension door are reduced to one, and it loses counterspell, haste, blur, levitate, expeditious retreat, magic missile, sleep, thunderwave, jump, blade ward, light and true strike. Most of these deletions are shrugworthy, but the loss of haste is a serious bummer. Granted, there was a logjam at 3rd level, with haste competing with counterspell and fireball, but you know what? If it were up to me, I’d have kept haste and ditched fireball. Misty step is supplanted by Astral Step, a bonus action on a 4–6 recharge; as long as it’s available, the gish can still use it whenever it would have used it before.

Aside from being unable to cast haste or counterspell, the gish’s tactics remain largely intact. It’s still got one use per day of telekinesis, as well as the ability to plane shift out if things go sideways. Despite gaining Telekinetic Bolt, the gish is still a melee fighter at heart, mainly using its new ranged attack to strike back at enemies who hit it with ranged attacks themselves or support allies that are under assault by shock attackers when it can’t get close enough to engage them in melee.

The githyanki supreme commander loses jump—too bad, so sad—but its psionic Spellcasting is otherwise unaltered. Actually, that’s not true: Rather than be limited to three uses of misty step per day, the supreme commander can now effectively cast it every turn, thanks to the Astral Step bonus action. Unlike the githyanki gish’s Astral Step, the supreme commander’s Astral Step has no recharge. The supreme commander also gains Legendary Resistance, which it mainly uses to succeed on failed Dexterity saves. Pure win, and virtually zero need to alter its tactics in any significant way. Huzzah!

The githzerai enlightened also loses haste, which saddens me deeply, along with all its thrice-per-day psionic powers except see invisibility (although the Slow Fall monk feature substitutes for feather fall). As compensation, it gets 10 more feet of movement speed and an extra die of psychic damage on each Unarmed Strike hit. Maybe someday I’ll feel like doing the math to find out whether this is a fair trade, but right now, I’m just trying to bang out these tactical comparisons as fast as possible. (If only someone could cast haste on me.)

The one and only upside to no longer having haste is that the githzerai enlightened no longer has to consider what to use instead if its concentration is broken. Aside from being unable to stack haste and Multiattack anymore, its tactics are essentially the same as before.

The githzerai anarch—like its githyanki counterpart, the supreme commander—gains Legendary Resistance, which it mainly uses to succeed on failed Con saves. Its Unarmed Strike is nerfed a bit, and it loses the “spells” teleportation circle, feather fall (with no Slow Fall to compensate), jump and shield. What does it gain? Lair actions and regional effects! However, the lair actions are … odd.

Create Object is creation cast as a 9th-level spell, which means the anarch can create an object as big as 25 feet tall, wide and/or deep. The most prosaic application of this spell is a 1,200-ton rock, although maybe the situation calls for, I don’t know, 15,625 cubic feet of mashed parsnips (“Sorry, I don’t know create food and water, but maybe this will do?”). Based on the flavor text in Monsters of the Multiverse, however, I think a more likely application is an impromptu log cabin or brick bunker. The latter might be able to provide helpful cover.

Move Object has at least a two-thirds chance of moving any object that’s Medium or smaller, unlimited by mass. The chance of moving a Large object is marginally better than 50/50; of moving a Huge or larger object, 10 percent. Note that this action is Move Object, not Hit Opponent With Object, so it’s not an effective damage-dealing abilty; it seems to be intended mainly for placing obstacles, or removing them. Or stealing stuff—it’s good for that, too. (If it’s trying to yoink an item that another creature is holding, consider using the optional Disarm action from the Dungeon Master’s Guide, chapter 9, “Action Options,” with the anarch’s Wisdom check contested by the target’s Strength/Athletics or Dexterity/Acrobatics.)

Psionic Bolt originates from the anarch, so like any lightning bolt, its effectiveness depends on how prospective targets are arranged. The anarch doesn’t get to move before taking the Psionic Bolt lair action; wherever it’s standing, that’s where the line must be drawn from.

The regional effects are largely irrelevant from a tactical perspective, except to the extent that they shape the terrain.

Despite the other alterations to its Spellcasting, the githzerai anarch holds on to globe of invulnerability, wall of force and the Teleport and Change Gravity legendary actions—very important! These non-changes mean that the anarch’s tactics need no alteration beyond incorporating the above.

The nagpa gains a Multiattack, allowing it to make three attacks with its Staff or with a new ranged spell attack, Deathly Ray—40 percent of the damage of disintegrate, with the necrotic flavor of chill touch. Staff, additionally, deals an additional 7d6 necrotic damage. Criminy!

As for its Spellcasting, the nagpa keeps feeblemind—this one surprises me, I have to admit—but loses prismatic spray, circle of death, disintegrate, dream, geas, confusion, hallucinatory terrain, counterspell, ray of enfeeblement, charm person, protection from evil and good, witch bolt, chill touch and fire bolt. Thankfully, the nagpa keeps its most important spell, wall of fire, which out of all the nagpa’s spells synergized best with the Paralysis bonus action. That means it still initiates combat the same way: with Paralysis, immediately followed by wall of fire. (Thank goodness I don’t have to commission a new cover illustration for MOAR! Monsters Know What They’re Doing.) Feeblemind is still an available alternative action to kick things off with, but not prismatic spray or circle of death. If it chooses feeblemind, it can still take the Corruption bonus action along with it.

Hold person, unfortunately, can no longer be upcast to paralyze three enemies at once, nor can the nagpa thwart enemy magic with counterspell or defend itself against unearthly foes with protection from evil and good. But fireball is still available to punish enemies for clustering, and Deathly Ray is now an option for all other situations in which the nagpa wants to hurt its opponents regardless of how they’re positioned. If it can make a hold person spell stick until its next turn, so much the better: it will make all its follow-up attack rolls against the target with advantage, whether it uses Staff or Deathly Ray. Upon choosing to withdraw from a fight, a nagpa can use Deathly Ray whenever it would otherwise have cast witch bolt or fire bolt.

Next: Monsters of the Multiverse NPCs.

5 thoughts on “Monsters of the Multiverse Humanoids, Part 2”

  1. You know, I was pretty disappointed when I saw all the Spellcasting changes. But seeing it all laid out, I think it was mostly improvements, especially to the martial monsters.

  2. Quick correction, the drow arachnomancer can still cast Insect Plague at 5th level, because it’s a 5th level spell. Giant Insect is a 4th level spell. Perhaps you confused them?

  3. I am quite happy with most of the changes, but I will really miss the versatility of the inquisitor.

  4. Does the Inquisitor maintain the same CR after being gutted this badly? And, if so, what does that tell us about CR in general? Seems like this particular enemy got a lot less interesting.

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