Hoard Scarab and Hoard Mimic Tactics

Your party took a tremendous beating, but you slew the dragon. Huzzah! Bruised, bloody and weary, you’re out of healing potions and scraping the bottom of the mojo barrel, but lo—look at all the shiny loot! A balm for the adventurous soul, the hard-earned reward at the end of a brutal adventu—ow! What is that? Ow ow ow ow make it stop!

To the Dungeon Master who never tires of playing dirty tricks on their players, Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons offers the hoard scarab and the hoard mimic, two monstrosities that disguise themselves as treasure and feed off dragons’ casualties like pilot fish or crocodile birds. You thought your encounter day was over? Think again, suckers!

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Monsters of the Multiverse Humanoids, Part 1

I’m going to look at the significant changes to monsters in Monsters of the Multiverse in the order they appear in MOAR! Monsters Know What They’re Doing (which, for the record, is not random, OK?—they’re in order of challenge rating, from low to high) and grouped by creature type, starting with the humanoids. Which means the first ones I’m going to look at are the sorry, sad-sack xvarts.

The basic xvart loses the Overbearing Pack feature; the shoving effect is moved into the Shortsword attack, which includes pushing the target 5 feet but not knocking it prone. This change means that the strategy of knocking down targets to attack them with advantage is history.

Since they still have Raxivort’s Tongue, I do think the idea that they’d team up with giant rats and giant bats remains sound. Because of how the shoving rider works, they do still have an incentive to double-team their opponents, but simply pushing the target 5 feet doesn’t offer much benefit. It can’t be used to trigger opportunity attacks: you don’t get an OA when a creature is pushed out of your reach against their will.

The only peak in their ability contour is in Dexterity, so xvarts are either shock attackers or snipers. But both of these combat roles require a way to maximize damage. How can xvarts do that?

  1. Like before, xvarts send their beast buddies into combat first. Then, while the xvarts’ foes are fending them off, they pop up and attack from 30 feet away with their slings. When charged, they use Low Cunning to slip away.
  2. Xvarts hide near a pit full of giant rats, then use the shoving rider to push their foes into the pit. This plan is made feasible by the fact that the shove is automatic on a Shortsword hit: the target doesn’t get to make a Strength check to resist it. Xvarts need that edge, because they haven’t got much else.

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Expeditious Messenger and Iron Defender Tactics

In the Monster Manual, a homunculus is a construct created as an intelligent companion, sharing a telepathic bond with its creator. In Eberron, homunculi possess additional abilities that aid their master in specific ways. Eberron: Rising From the Last War includes stat blocks for two: expeditious messengers and iron defenders. Both are exactly what their names suggest, and both are fairly low-challenge and narrow in their applications. Continue reading “Expeditious Messenger and Iron Defender Tactics”

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.

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Kruthik Tactics

Kruthiks are a refreshing change of pace: a straight-up monster that just wants to eat, have babies and otherwise be left alone. They come in various sizes, but all of them have in common a high armor class, burrowing and climbing movement, darkvision, tremorsense, and the features Keen Smell, Pack Tactics and Tunneler.

Ordinary young and adult kruthiks have a balanced ability contour favoring Dexterity. This would normally indicate a bias toward ranged combat, but young kruthiks lack a ranged attack, and in adult kruthiks, the bias is slight, almost insignificant. Thus, they don’t fit neatly into any one single combat profile. On the other hand, their Intelligence isn’t high enough to indicate tactical flexibility. I’m going to interpret this to mean that they may start combat in any number of ways—brute melee fighting, ranged sniping, scrappy skirmishing, hard-and-fast shock attacks—but whichever of these they choose, they generally don’t deviate from.

Because their ability contours offer so few clues about their fighting styles, the importance of their burrowing and climbing movement and their Pack Tactics and Tunneler features is magnified. Young kruthiks are disinclined to fight enemies they don’t outnumber—at least 3 to 1. Adult kruthiks don’t necessarily have to outnumber their enemies, but they’ll never fight in a group of fewer than three, and four or five is a more typical squad size. Since young kruthiks have only melee attacks, they have to swarm their enemies; adult kruthiks can combine melee Stab attacks with ranged Spike attacks (akin to a porcupine throwing its quills) and gain the benefit of Pack Tactics as long as least one of them is engaged in melee with a foe. Continue reading “Kruthik Tactics”