NPC Tactics: Kraken Priests

Despite several reader requests, I kept putting off analyzing the kraken priest because it’s always kind of a pain to analyze creatures with large spell repertoires. Turns out the KP’s repertoire isn’t as big as I thought it was, so my bad.

The kraken priest’s ability contour is highest in Constitution, second-highest in Wisdom, with Strength and Dexterity a good ways behind. This non-player character is a spellcaster first and foremost, and arguably a support spellcaster first and foremost, rather than a spellslinger hiding way in the back. Charisma is also high; Intelligence, merely average.

Presumably through the kraken’s influence, the KP has resistance to physical damage from nonmagical weapons and can breathe underwater. That’s pretty much it in the way of distinctive passive features. Aside from spellcasting—which isn’t all that unusual for, you know, a priest—the KP’s only distinctive features are the actions Thunderous Touch and Voice of the Kraken.

Voice of the Kraken recharges only after a rest, so it’s a once-per-combat ability, which the effect of . . . frightening people. For up to 1 minute. That’s it. And the DC is only 14, which the average adventurer has a 50/50 chance of meeting or beating. I don’t know about you, but that seems unimpressive to me. Granted, it can affect a lot of people at once—a radius of 300 feet, if you go by “Targets in Area of Effect” on page 249 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, should affect somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 people, and if most of those are commoners who make their saving throws as a mob, only 1 in 3 will succeed, meaning anyone not frightened has to make his or her way past 40 screaming, panicking bystanders. Other than that, the bulk of this feature’s usefulness lies in its chance of imposing disadvantage on incoming attackers for a round, maybe two.

Thunderous Touch is a melee spell attack. Since the kraken priest won’t routinely be plowing into melee, but rather hanging back a short distance behind other minions who are plowing into melee, this is more a get-away-from-me kind of attack. For that purpose, though, it certainly does the trick: an average of 27.5 thunder damage on a hit will certainly make an assailant question his or her decision.

The real meat of this stat block lies in the spells. Let’s go down the list:

  • Evard’s black tentacles depends a lot on where the kraken priest is holding services. Out in the open, it’s fairly easy to avoid and only worth using if the priest can drop it on at least four enemies at once. In a more confined area, like a shrine in a sea cave or aboard a ship, it’s more powerful, though four enemies is still the minimum criterion for casting it. Requires concentration, which means it can’t be used in conjunction with call lightning, which would have been a great combo. Unless you have two kraken priests working together, in which case . . . mwahahahaha.
  • Call lightning is a great spell overall, but even more so against front-line melee opponents who rely more on Constitution than Dexterity. In combat in an open area, this is a no-brainer—a far superior alternative to Evard’s.
  • Control water can be devastating against a ship. The KP can use the Flood option to smash it into a cliff or the Part Water option to cause it to plummet to the sea floor, as long as the water’s less than 100 feet deep. Once the ship is destroyed, the KP switches to Whirlpool to torment the poor unfortunate souls whose vessel is now a pile of matchsticks. The Redirect Flow option is useful for making the tide flow out of the aforementioned sea cave, making it harder for intruders to row their way in. All kinds of good choices here, but again, it requires concentration.
  • Darkness is most useful for blinding spellcasters, ideally at least three of them. And it requires concentration.
  • Water breathing doesn’t require concentration (yay!), but the kraken priest is Amphibious and doesn’t need it (aww). Instead, the kraken priest casts it on up to 10 of his or her minions, if it would be useful for them to be able to breathe underwater as well.
  • Water walk is the alternative to water breathing to use on minions who’ll be more effective on top of the water rather than under it. Both this and the previous spell can be cast as rituals, applying their effects to said minions before combat begins.
  • Command is useful for the usual reasons—imposing the prone condition, provoking opportunity attacks, pulling an enemy into melee range—but depending on how much you believe the text of the spell limits you, you may wish to explore what happens when the kraken priest commands an opponent to “Drown!” (Reader Nolan reminds me that command can’t be used to directly harm the target, so it looks like what happens in that instance is probably nothing at all. Ah, well. How about “Dive!”? The dive itself doesn’t necessarily harm the target . . . )
  • Create or destroy water has one primary function in kraken priest combat: neutralizing a chunk of a fog cloud

Unfortunately, the kraken priest’s three best spells—call lightning, control water and Evard’s black tentacles—are all mutually exclusive, since each one requires concentration. The KP always leads with one of them and keeps it going as long as possible, but which one depends on the overall terrain of the encounter. Control water is for battles on open water, especially against opponents on ships or in boats. Evard’s is for indoors, particularly in tight quarters. Call lightning is for non-shipboard battles under open sky. If the KP’s concentration on call lightning or Evard’s is broken, he or she switches to whichever of these spells is next–most logical, depending on the circumstances.

Everything else the kraken priest does depends on the needs of whatever minions are accompanying him or her.

Despite having a high Wisdom the kraken priest is a fanatic who fights to the death.

Next: devourers. Om nom nom nom nom nom nom.

13 thoughts on “NPC Tactics: Kraken Priests

      1. I recently ran a dungeon where an Aboleth was the big bad. I had a few kraken priests who were leading the flock of minion worshippers populating it’s lair. They were very effective. In fact it was a KP who killed a PC and none fell to the Aboleth.

        I had plenty of Sea Spawn (also in Volo’s) and some Deep Scions as the foot (fin?) soldiers.

  1. So, regarding Command, the spell’s text says that the command cannot be directly harmful to the target. So I don’t believe that saying “drown” would be effective. Otherwise, this is a great article.

  2. A good use of the Command spell against ship-based opponents is “Disembark!” since the water isn’t going to be directly harmful, you’ve gotten them over the side, and they may not be able to get back on the ship on their own.

  3. Control Water: would it be doable for the KP to raise a 100ft cube on a side and 20 ft high, to have a transport for his water creature minions and invade a shore?
    I’ve done that recently and the KP brought with him a bunch of allies from the ocean to roll over the heroes while the KP minions attacked them. I don’t know if I kept it legal, but it was fun and added a whole new dimension for water encounters

    Minons included Sea Spawn, Merrow and Icefish (cockatrice converted to fish and that deep freeze victims instead of turning to stone).

  4. I’d like to point out the use of control water to flood an area. If he faces his enemies in an area with a direct source of water from, let’s say, the sea, that can fit inside in the area of the spell, he can turn the battlefield into a pool. Enemies will have all the downsides of fighting underwater. I had a kuo-toa archpriest use control water to completely flood a seaside cave, and it was rough for my players, just for the inconvenience alone, let alone any damage it can cause.

  5. So I’m contemplating how effective it would be to first cast Create or Destroy Water to splash some water on the ground, then use Control Water to create a Flood. It seems to be within the RAW, allowing a Kraken Priest to dominate in a lot of indoors locales. The only trick is surviving for two rounds. Is that clever, or too clever by half?

    1. Too clever by half, I think. If control water doesn’t increase the volume, you’d end up with a cylindrical column of water 20 feet high and 3½ inches in diameter. Even if it does, you’d end up with a cylindrical column of water the diameter of the original puddle, maybe 10 or 15 feet across—enough to fill a small room, but not a larger one.

      1. Thanks so much for the quick answer. Your blog rocks, and I just ordered the book! Thanks again Keith, you’re a savior to so many DMs.

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