Monsters of the Multiverse: Archdevils

It’s been my longtime policy not to post analyses of the stat blocks of unique villains on this blog, because I’d be a fool to think players don’t read it, too—in fact, I’ve encouraged them to—and going through every part of a BBEG’s kit is about as spoilery as it gets. Which is why the tactics of archdevils and demon lords are content exclusive to MOAR! Monsters Know What They’re Doing.

But there’s a problem, isn’t there? The content of MOAR! Monsters, at this point, is locked in, and it refers to the archfiends and their stat blocks as they’re described in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. The only place you’ll find updates reflecting the changes in Monsters of the Multiverse is right here. However, all the archfiends are changed in some way or another, and I can’t ignore them.

To resolve this conflict, I’m taking two measures:

  1. I’ve placed every section of this post and the next referring to a particular archfiend behind a spoiler box, which you have to open to read. There won’t be any accidental spoilers.
  2. As much as possible—and with more assiduity than I’ve bothered showing in my prior Monsters of the Multiverse updates—I’m going to confine my comments to precisely how these tactics differ from those in MOAR! Monsters.

With that out of the way, let’s start with the archdevils.

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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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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 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”

Pigeon Tactics

If you live in a major North American city (except, weirdly, Milwaukee), you’ve undoubtedly encountered pigeons on an almost daily basis. Like squirrels, they enjoy a commensal relationship with humans, benefiting greatly from our effect on the ecosystem without significantly helping us or harming us in any way. And you know they’re generally quite chill, unless your toddler runs directly at them, as toddlers invariably do.

The standard pigeon in fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons is no different. A small, unthreatening thing, it’s disinclined to fight at all and relies heavily on its Hypervigilant Flight reaction, which allows it to move up to half its speed as a reaction—without provoking an opportunity attack—if another creature moves within 5 feet of it. Pigeons are prey creatures, not predators, and the only way you’re likely to suffer a Beak attack from one is if you somehow manage to grab it.

A swarm of pigeons behaves similarly to a single pigeon, but not exactly the same. It still spooks easily, and it rarely attacks, preferring simply to use Hypervigilant Flight to retreat to a safe distance and, if pursued, to Dash to a safe perch out of reach. However, sometimes a swarm of pigeons chooses an empty, elevated location to roost in, such as an upper floor of an abandoned building. Particularly if this roost is home to eggs or squabs, a swarm of pigeons may become aggressive toward anyone who intrudes.

The first action it generally takes against a trespasser is Evacuate, more as a scare response than a calculated attempt to debilitate. If the target subsequently moves, so does the swarm, using Hypervigilant Flight. However, if the target doesn’t leave, the swarm then swoops back down and attacks with its Beaks. It continues to attack until the intruder is driven off or the swarm is reduced to 10 hp or fewer.

The giant pigeon is another matter, because unlike its Tiny cousins, it doesn’t scare. Cheeky and undauntable in its pursuit of food, it disregards other creatures as long as they leave it alone. Even snatching food away from it doesn’t provoke it to fight; it simply continues to try to get the food back, with greater determination. (You can use the Disarm action, from “Action Options” in chapter 9 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, to represent the giant pigeon’s attempts to snatch food back from a character who’s holding it.) If and when one does actual harm to it, however, it fights back, doing its best to drive the aggressor away. Continue reading “Pigeon Tactics”