Eyedrake and Elder Brain Dragon Tactics

Now we get into the real weirdies—the dragon-adjacent aberrations, elementals, constructs and oozes. And since beholders and mind flayers contend with dragons for the title of Most Iconic Monsters of Dungeons & Dragons, it’s not surprising that Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons contains two creatures that represent the overlap between these creatures’ spheres of influence and that of dragons.

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Monsters of the Multiverse: Aberrations

Time to look at the aberrations that receive significant updates in Monsters of the Multiverse. Most of these are spellcasters; the exception is the star spawn mangler. These changes aren’t tactically earthshaking, but they do require certain things to be prioritized differently.

First, the neogi master. It gains a new attack action, Tentacle of Hadar, a hybrid of arms of Hadar and eldritch blast with a range greater than the former and less than the latter. Its Multiattack is modified to allow it to attack twice with this action as an alternative to Claw/Bite. As for its Spellcasting ability, it loses access to arms of Hadar, counterspell, fear, invisibility, unseen servant, eldritch blast and vicious mockery. It can cast its remaining leveled spells once per day and its remaining cantrips at will. Finally, Enslave, formerly an action, is now a bonus action.

Because Multiverse monsters no longer have pact magic, the neogi master can cast hold person at only one target at a time, whereas before, it could target three. This loss hurts, because the neogi master can no longer paralyze both the target it wishes to enslave and the tough front-liners who come to its defense—and the concentration requirement means it’s still constrained from casting hunger of Hadar at the same time. A neogi master now needs a posse of regular neogi to lock these characters down, whereas before, it could have worked alone.

On the other hand, thanks to the Multiattack upgrade, a neogi master no longer has to get within melee reach to attack. The one-two Tentacle punch makes the neogi master a more effective skirmisher than it was before, able to switch back and forth flexibly between short and long range. Also, the loss of other combat actions narrows the focus on what was probably meant to be central to the neogi master’s tactics all along: hunger of Hadar, a damage-dealing sphere of magical darkness into which the neogi master can see, thanks to Devil’s Sight (which it always had, although it wasn’t called out explicitly as a trait), and therefore use Enslave. In fact, since Enslave is now a bonus action, it can even combine the two on the same turn. The caveat is that, while hunger has a 150-foot range, the range of Enslave is only 30 feet, so the neogi master can’t execute this combination from farther away.

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Quori Tactics

Though significantly more powerful than the inspired they possess, the quori have a major shortcoming: They aren’t—can’t be—physically present. Chapter 4 of Eberron: Rising From the Last War (“The Dreaming Dark”) is explicit about this: “The quori can’t manifest physically in Eberron.” But chapter 6, where the stat blocks are found, confuses the issue: “Because it is difficult for anything to physically travel to or from Dal Quor,” it says, “quori in Eberron are typically encountered while possessing a host body”—implying that there are other ways in which quori might be encountered in Eberron. Also, all three quori stat blocks include the Possession action, which targets a humanoid “that the quori can see within 5 feet of it”—and none of them contains any trait stating that the quori are incorporeal or ethereal.

I asked Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron setting and co–lead designer of Eberron, for clarification, and his answer was unequivocal: He never intended that quori should be present on the material plane at all. The only way you’d ever encounter one directly, in such a way as to put yourself “within 5 feet” of one, is in a dream—or if you managed somehow to transport yourself bodily to Dal Quor, the plane of dreams, such as by casting plane shift or gate.

Moreover, they’re supposed to be invited in; only the inspired are supposed to be susceptible to involuntary possession. As far as Baker is concerned, quori should be able to take the Possession action only when the target is either willing (most often, in a dream) or in the presence of the quori itself (not in a dream), and if the target is willing, it should happen automatically, without a saving throw. I’m going to proceed from this premise as I examine the quori stat blocks. Continue reading “Quori Tactics”

Dolgaunt and Dolgrim Tactics

Sincere apologies to everyone for disappearing for the entire month of October. I have a good excuse: I was spending what little free time I had working furiously on finishing my next book, which will include some entities that certain readers have been awaiting for a long, long time.

Today, I return to Eberron with a couple of quasi-humanoid aberrations, the dolgrim and the dolgaunt, both of them species that originated as goblinoid races warped by evil magic.

Dolgrims look like the result of a transporter malfunction, each one the fusing of two goblin individuals into one horrible entity with four arms, two mouths and two dissociated personalities. Unlike ordinary goblins, dolgrims are shock attackers, with high Strength along with high Dexterity and merely above-average Constitution. They also have less Intelligence than the average goblin, no doubt the result of the clashing noise in their heads. However, their split personalities do confer one advantage: advantage on saving throws against certain mind-affecting debilitating conditions.

Because their Strength and Dex are roughly equal—the base scores differ, with Strength slightly higher, but the modifiers are the same—they can flex between attacking at range and in melee. But that higher Strength gives them a slight preference for melee, so they have a simple approach to combat: Regardless of what range they begin at, they charge, shooting with their crossbows as they run, throwing spears when they come within 60 feet and finally switching to their morningstars upon arrival.

Their Multiattack gives them three attacks per turn, but this doesn’t supersede the loading property of the hand crossbow: “You can fire [sic] only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.” [Linguistic nitpick: You don’t “fire” weapons that don’t use gunpowder. You “shoot” or “loose” their ammunition.] Thus, as long as they’re attacking with Hand Crossbow, they can shoot only once per turn. There’s no range at which it makes sense to shoot once rather than throw three spears, not even between 20 and 30 feet (unless the target has AC 19 or greater, and that’s not an assessment dolgrims are equipped to make). Continue reading “Dolgaunt and Dolgrim Tactics”

Ulitharid and Mindwitness Tactics

Ulitharids are elite, extra-large mind flayers with better ability scores, a couple of additional traits, several extra psionic “spells,” telepathy that extends to a range of 2 miles, and moar tentacles. They work in conjunction with elder brains to extend the influence of mind flayer colonies over a greater distance. In fact, their Psionic Hub trait assumes and requires a connection with an elder brain, so without a mind flayer colony built around one, there’s not much reason to write an ulitharid into your adventure.

An ulitharid’s Strength and Constitution are significantly higher than those of a normal mind flayer, but these are still outweighed by its extraordinary mental abilities, which predispose it toward spellcasting and Mind Blast rather than melee attacks. However, since its Constitution is higher than its Dexterity, it’s more willing than the average mind flayer to charge forward in order to make use of these psionic powers. An ulitharid leads from the front.

The one thing an ulitharid lacks that an ordinary mind flayer possesses is proficiency in Deception and Persuasion. As part of their mind-control schemes, mind flayers may try to tempt victims with rewards, either real or imaginary; ulitharids aren’t about that. They’re the muscle, not the face. Continue reading “Ulitharid and Mindwitness Tactics”