Tag: CR 1/2

  • Death’s Head and Boneless Tactics

    Hello, hello! I’m back from PAX Unplugged, the new book is moving, and I’m back to the blog with monsters from Van Richten’s Ezmerelda’s Guide to Ravenloft (she did the research, racist uncle took the credit—that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it). Before I jump into individual monsters, however, I strongly encourage you, if you own this book, to read the introductory sections of chapter 5, “Monsters of Ravenloft.” The advice these sections give on creating new monsters and customizing existing ones is outstanding. I won’t recapitulate them here, because honestly, this instance is one of few about which I can say the content speaks for itself, and I can’t improve on it by paraphrasing. Just read it.

    With that out of the way, I’ll note that, as you might expect, the emphasis in Ravenloft is heavily on undead. Out of the 32 enemies included in the book, undead account for 12 of them. Monstrosities number six, and humanoids (including non-player characters) five. That’s nearly three-fourths of the creatures in Ravenloft right there. The leftovers comprise two aberrations, two fiends, two plants, a beast and its corresponding swarm, and a construct. My original plan was to follow the order of the sections of The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters, starting with humanoids, but now that I think about it, it makes more sense to dive right in with the undead.

  • Draconian Tactics

    You thought I was salty in “Derro Tactics”? This is where I get really salty. This is where I share one of my most unpopular of unpopular Dungeons & Dragons opinions:

    I am not nostalgic for Dragonlance. At. All.

    Even as a high schooler, reading the first two Dragonlance trilogies, I recognized that those books were not good books. They were all right. They were beach reading for nerds. That was OK for me then, because I was a nerd who wanted some beach reading. From the very beginning, though, I hated the concept of the kender, which were clearly ersatz halflings free of any even marginally actionable link back to the J.R.R. Tolkien estate, distinguished by the most annoying traits the authors could come up with to assign them. Also, looking back, the depiction of gully dwarves is beyond cringeworthy.

    For me, two trilogies were plenty; the story, such as it was, felt complete. I didn’t doubt that more Dragonlance novels had been published, but my jaw dropped recently when Teos “Alphastream” Abadía posted on Twitter that there had been more than 190. (I’ve since counted the titles on the list on Wikipedia and come up with only 189 published novels, plus two more unreleased, but also another 20 short story anthologies, for a total of 209 published works.) No way does the world need that much Dragonlance.

    So, naturally, it’s going to be re-released later this year. I guess the fact that readers bought 209 Dragonlance books makes it a hot property.

    My general attitude toward the revival of old official campaign settings, with the exception of Eberron, is that I’d much rather see something entirely new. We get a little of that with Ravnica and Theros, although those are technically borrowed from another Wizards of the Coast property, Magic: The Gathering. But all the excited anticipation surrounding Planescape, Dark Sun, Spelljammer? I don’t feel it. And I especially don’t feel it about Dragonlance, which in my opinion has aged like fine milk.

    That’s all preface to the fact that this post is about draconians, a monstrous folk native to the Dragonlance setting. In that setting, as you might expect, they’re evil, but in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, they can be of any alignment, despite also being described as “bipedal monsters born from dragon eggs that have been corrupted or warped by powerful magic.” Five varieties are statted out: the foot soldier, the mage, the infiltrator, the dreadnought and the mastermind. None has an especially high challenge rating, but that’s a good thing, since they’re meant to be encountered in hordes.


  • Monsters of the Multiverse: Celestials, Fey, Elementals, Constructs, Oozes and Beasts

    Lots of monster types in this batch, but not that many monsters. The overwhelming majority of the mechanical changes in Monsters of the Multiverse went into humanoids and fiends; whether because they were designed and balanced better to begin with or because they just aren’t encountered as often, other monster types got away pretty clean.


  • Valenar Animal Tactics

    The Valenar hawk, Valenar hound and Valenar steed are presented as archetypal examples of a more general class of creatures: fey animals, inhabited by the spirits of long-dead elven druids, which bond to humanoids (usually elves themselves, but not always) as companions. This bond is distinct from, and potentially in addition to, that of the Beast Master ranger’s companion animal; it allows telepathic communication over a distance of up to 100 feet. With a little reverse engineering, you can make a Valenar animal out of any beast stat block by applying the following template (approximate, since the changes aren’t as consistent as those of, say, nonhumanoid skeletons):

    • Add a total of 21 points to the beast’s ability scores, bringing its Intelligence to 9 or greater, its Wisdom to 15 or greater and its Charisma to 11 or greater.
    • Add proficiency in Perception and increase its passive Perception accordingly.
    • Allow it to understand Common, Elvish and Sylvan.
    • Add the Bonding trait, whose wording is identical across all three of the archetypal Valenar animals.
    • Recalculate the attack bonus, damage and saving throw DCs of its existing attack(s) based on its new ability scores.


  • 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). (more…)

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Praise for The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters

“I’ve always said, the Dungeon Master is the whole world except for his players, and as a result, I spend countless hours prepping for my home group. What Keith gets is that the monsters are the DM’s characters, and his work has been super helpful in adding logic, flavor, and fun in my quest to slaughter my players’ characters and laugh out the window as they cry in their cars afterward.” —Joe Manganiello

“The best movie villains are the ones you fall in love with. Keith’s book grounds villains in specificity, motivation, and tactics—so much so that players will love to hate ’em. This book will enrich your game immeasurably!” —Matthew Lillard

“This book almost instantly made me a better Dungeon Master. If you’re running games, it is a must-have enhancement. I gave copies to the two others in our group who share in the Dungeon Mastering, and both of them came back the next time grinning rather slyly. Keith is a diabolical genius, and I say that with the utmost respect!” —R.A. Salvatore

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