Hollow Dragon Tactics

Remember when I said, “There are a lot of cool things in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. I don’t count gem dragons among them”?

Hollow dragons are cool.

Take a metallic dragon with a responsibility so important that it can’t chance failing to uphold it by dying. Replace its life force with an imperishable aurora of otherworldly radiance—but keep it contained in the former dragon’s metallic hide. Send it back to work.

This new entity is tireless and unwavering, incapable of shirking its duty even if it wanted to. Destroy it, and its parts self-reassemble like the limbs of a troll (at least, the cooler sort of troll). Plus, the visuals, man, the visuals.

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Monsters of the Multiverse: Fiends, Part 2

On to ƬЄƛM ƇӇƛƠƧ!

The maw demon, a wind-it-up-and-let-it-go battlefield hazard of the Abyss sometimes found in the company of gnolls, loses the Rampage trait (and, thus, much of its connection to gnollkind) and gains Disgorge, a projectile vomit attack. Charming. This action recharges only on a roll of 6, meaning the maw demon will most likely get to use it only once per combat encounter. Since it’s stupid and erratic, the maw demon won’t wait for a better opportunity to use it than the first one it gets, so its nature impels it to move straight toward any group of three or more foes clustered together in a 15-foot cubical area and vomit as soon as it arrives. If it gets a chance to do it again, it will, but that’s not probable.

The babau’s Multiattack is dialed back: formerly comprising Weakening Gaze and two melee attacks (either Claw or Spear), it now comprises only two Claw attacks, one of which it can replace with Weakening Gaze or a Spell. The Spear attack is gone, which is fine; the babau didn’t need it. Its spell list is left intact.

The flaw inherent in Weakening Gaze remains: It’s primarily useful against enemies who are likely to have the Constitution to resist it. And the tactical conclusion remains: Use it against paladins and fighting clerics, because at least they don’t have proficiency in Constitution saving throws. Fear is still likely to fail, but the fact that it costs only one Claw attack, rather than an entire action, makes it a somewhat less pointless gamble against three or more targets within its area of effect. For the same reason, darkness is a better deal than it was before, particularly against a party that contains neither a paladin nor a battle cleric. And heat metal is dramatically better, since it can now be combined with a Claw attack for up to three dice of damage plus the babau’s Strength bonus. If none of these options makes sense, default back to two Claw attacks.

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Monsters of the Multiverse: Fiends, Part 1

On to fiends, which receive—by far­­—the greatest number of substantive changes in Monsters of the Multiverse, and that’s not even counting archdevils and demon lords. In fact, so many fiends receive significant updates to their actions that I’m going to break my examinations of this creature type into five posts: three for the rank and file (one each for the lawfuls, chaotics and neutrals) right now, then two more for the archfiends (one for archdevils, one for demon lords) after I’ve covered all the other creature types.

To begin with, the merregon’s Multiattack has been made unconditional: three Halberd attacks, period, whereas before it received the third only if there was a superior devil within 60 feet of it. That means there’s no longer any particular need for merregons to form a line to either side of a bone devil, erinys, pit fiend or amnizu commander. They can form any kind of formation now, including rank upon rank in front of their commanders, who can lead from the rear. A detachment of them can also break formation to strike at an enemy weakness. Mind you, at CR 4, merregons are hardly weak minions—each of them is roughly the equivalent of a level 11 PC—so even a mere platoon of them is better managed using the mass combat rules of your choice. The Loyal Bodyguard reaction is unchanged, so it does still make sense for a ring of merregons to surround the superior devil that commands them and act as its personal guard.

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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”