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.

Continue reading “Monsters of the Multiverse: Archdevils”

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.

Continue reading “Monsters of the Multiverse: Fiends, Part 1”

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”

Quori Tactics

Though significantly more powerful than the inspired they possess, the quori have a major shortcoming: They aren’t—can’t be—physically present. Chapter 4 of Eberron: Rising From the Last War (“The Dreaming Dark”) is explicit about this: “The quori can’t manifest physically in Eberron.” But chapter 6, where the stat blocks are found, confuses the issue: “Because it is difficult for anything to physically travel to or from Dal Quor,” it says, “quori in Eberron are typically encountered while possessing a host body”—implying that there are other ways in which quori might be encountered in Eberron. Also, all three quori stat blocks include the Possession action, which targets a humanoid “that the quori can see within 5 feet of it”—and none of them contains any trait stating that the quori are incorporeal or ethereal.

I asked Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron setting and co–lead designer of Eberron, for clarification, and his answer was unequivocal: He never intended that quori should be present on the material plane at all. The only way you’d ever encounter one directly, in such a way as to put yourself “within 5 feet” of one, is in a dream—or if you managed somehow to transport yourself bodily to Dal Quor, the plane of dreams, such as by casting plane shift or gate.

Moreover, they’re supposed to be invited in; only the inspired are supposed to be susceptible to involuntary possession. As far as Baker is concerned, quori should be able to take the Possession action only when the target is either willing (most often, in a dream) or in the presence of the quori itself (not in a dream), and if the target is willing, it should happen automatically, without a saving throw. I’m going to proceed from this premise as I examine the quori stat blocks. Continue reading “Quori Tactics”

Devil Tactics: Abishais

I’ve got Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes in my hot little hands, and the first request I’ve gotten is for abishais, a kind of devil-dragon hybrid. It would be lovely if they followed a nice, regular pattern of features, as dragons do, but unfortunately, they’ve inherited their fiendish progenitors’ all-over-the-place-ness.

There are certain things all abishais have in common, though:

  • Impressive natural armor, with ACs ranging from 15 up to 22.
  • Brisk flying speeds.
  • Above-average abilities across the board, with peaks varying according to type.
  • Resistance to physical damage from nonmagical, non-silvered weapons, along with cold damage (except for white abishai, which are fully immune to cold).
  • Immunity to fire and poison damage, along with the types corresponding to their draconic progenitors’ breath weapons (this means that red and green abishai don’t get an extra type), and immunity to being poisoned.
  • Long-range darkvision and telepathy.
  • Devil’s Sight (the ability to see through magical darkness), Magic Resistance and Magical Weapons.
  • At least two attacks per Multiattack action, along with additional elemental damage when they claw or bite.

So here are a few things we can already infer about abishais in general: fearlessness toward most other beings; tactics built around aerial attacks (since opportunity attacks pose little threat to them); and a strong preference for operating underground, at night or in artificial darkness. Continue reading “Devil Tactics: Abishais”