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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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.)

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Dragon Tactics, Part 5: Deep Dragons and Sea Serpents

Deep dragons present a subterranean variation on the chromatic dragon theme. They exist in wyrmling, young, adult and ancient variants, just like their chromatic cousins, and share a sequence of features and traits that they acquire according to the same pattern as they age. Their challenge ratings are lower, however, since they have fewer hit points, deal less damage than even white dragons, and lack the Frightful Presence trait; we might think of them as degraded versions of the chromatics.

Like their kin, deep dragons are melee-favoring brutes, with Strength as their primary offensive ability and Constitution as their primary defensive ability. Despite living underground, they can fly as fast as their skyborne relatives, and they can also burrow and swim. Sadly, lacking the Tunneler trait, deep dragons have no way of burrowing through solid rock; they have to make do with whatever passages nature carves for them. But they’ll certainly favor caves with large halls, and flooded areas are a plus—to an extent. Unlike green dragons, deep dragons aren’t amphibious and have to hold their breath underwater. That’s no big deal, though: Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons’ suffocation rule is generous, as long as you can take a deep breath and hold it before you dive. Deep dragons also have exceptional darkvision—90 feet as wyrmlings, 150 feet later on—so they have no reason to light their lairs, and they love locations with straight passages and long sight lines, which allow them to see other creatures long before they can be seen themselves.

They have proficiency in the ambush skills of Perception and Stealth, but they also have proficiency in Persuasion. To confabulate with a deep dragon wyrmling, you’ll have to speak Draconic, but young, adult and ancient deep dragons all speak Common (and Undercommon) and also have high enough Wisdom and Charisma that they’ll stop fighting and parley if a combat encounter is going awry for them, generally when they’re moderately wounded (for a young deep dragon, reduced to 65 hp or fewer; for an adult, reduced to 102 hp or fewer; and for an ancient, reduced to 140 or fewer). Continue reading “Dragon Tactics, Part 5: Deep Dragons and Sea Serpents”

Dragon Tactics, Part 3: Gem Dragons

There are a lot of cool things in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. I don’t count gem dragons among them.

Gem dragons aren’t anything new. They were first mentioned in a 1980 issue of Dragon magazine, and they appeared in the pages of the second edition Monstrous Manual and the third edition Monster Manual II. Be that as it may, I can’t get over the hokeyness of the concept. I just can’t.

I mean, it’s already silly and simplistic to have five matte-colored evil dragons pairing off against five metallic-colored good dragons, each one with a monochromatic personality, but at least there’s a symmetry to that silly simplicity. Gem dragons are like, “What if neutral dragons and also there are five of them too and they look like something else valuable?” Oh, and they’re all psionic!

It’s running the conceit into the ground. It’s too much marzipan. What comes next? Air, earth, fire, water and void dragons? Hemp, linen, cotton, wool and silk? Bitter, sour, sweet, salty and umami?

Frankly, rather than incorporate gem dragons into a campaign of my own, I’d just as soon ditch the colors, metals and sparkly rocks altogether and make every dragon unique, so that you don’t know anything about a dragon just by looking at it. We’re supposed to be moving away from bioessentialism anyway, right? Aren’t lots of players condemning alignment as outdated? All right, then, let’s put our treasure hoards where our mouths are. No colors, metals, gems or anything else. Just dragons. Pick the personalities you want them to have, give them powers to match, and make them whos, not whats.

That’s not what you came here for, though. So here we go: gem dragons. Five kinds. Well, actually, sort of, six. But moonstone dragons don’t follow the same rules, so I’ll discuss the others first, then come back to them. Continue reading “Dragon Tactics, Part 3: Gem Dragons”

Cadaver Collector Tactics

Cadaver collectors are like monstrous Roombas that scour the endless battlefields of Acheron, scooping up corpses and recycling the souls that formerly inhabited them into specters, which are then bound to fight for the cadaver collectors’ masters. Although native to that outer plane, they can be summoned to other planes as well, including the prime material—and if the summoner dies or loses control of them, they just keep on Roomba-ing around, turning living beings into cadavers if there aren’t already cadavers handy.

With Intelligence 5, they’re mechanistic juggernauts that never vary their method. What is their method? Well, they’re brutes, with extraordinary Strength and Constitution, so whoever, whatever and wherever their targets may be, they march straight at them. They have no independent judgment and lack the Wisdom to discriminate among targets, but they have a function, and a good machine completes its function with maximum efficiency, so they tend to head toward concentrations of bodies, whether those bodies be alive or dead. When they’re close enough to three targets to engulf them all in a 30-foot cone of Paralyzing Breath, that’s what they do (as long as this recharge ability isn’t on cooldown). And when they come within melee reach of a paralyzed target—or when cheeky opponents with magic or adamantine weapons run up and impertinently attack them—they employ their dual Slam Multiattack (rolling with advantage if the target is paralyzed, with every hit a crit).

What if they’re attacked by foes with nonmagical, non-adamantine weapons? They ignore it and keep juggernauting toward the nearest knot of humanoid organic mass. These attacks can’t hurt them and have no relevance to their mission. Woe betide the third opponent to get in on the action, though: at that point, the cadaver collector’s density-detecting algorithm kicks in, and all it has to do is take a couple of steps back—heedless of opportunity attacks—to nail all three with Paralyzing Breath. Continue reading “Cadaver Collector Tactics”