Monsters of the Multiverse: Undead

Half a dozen undead creatures in Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes receive significant updates in Monsters of the Multiverse, and deathlocks account for half of these—unsurprisingly, since they’re all spellcasters.

Gone from the deathlock’s Spellcasting repertoire are arms of Hadar, hold person and chill touch. Eldritch blast is reskinned as the ranged spell attack Grave Bolt, dealing an extra 3 damage (presumably from the deathlock’s Charisma modifier). A new Multiattack lets it attack twice with either Deathly Claw or Grave Bolt, doubling the amount of damage it can deal in a single turn.

These changes turn the deathlock inside out. For starters, it loses both of the spells that benefited from being boosted to a higher level by the deathlock’s warlockitude. It also no longer has anything that fills the role of chill touch’s suppression of healing. On the other hand, the fact that the deathlock now gets to attack a second time makes invisibility-based ambush more practical (although it gains advantage only on the first attack roll of the two), and spider climb no longer has to compete against more potent spells for the use of a spell slot.

As for direct attacks, the choice is no longer between Deathly Claw and chill touch but rather between Deathly Claw and Grave Bolt—which is really a choice between melee and ranged combat. This choice is resolved by looking at the deathlock’s ability scores and asking what they say about its combat role. With Charisma as its primary offensive ability and Dexterity as its primary defensive ability, the deathlock is a spellslinger, and as such, it wants to sling spells and avoid melee.

Therefore, its strategy is now to fortify itself in advance with mage armor and either disguise self or invisibility (the latter precludes the use of detect magic while the deathlock concentrates on it); stay as far as possible from likely foes; cast hunger of Hadar to delay opponents while the deathlock completes its task(s); and if that fails, cast spider climb to escape or to attack with Grave Bolt from inaccessible places. Since the deathlock no longer has a convenient way to paralyze an opponent, Deathly Claw is now only a last-ditch defense, for use when the deathlock is cornered and can’t get out of melee.

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Monsters of the Multiverse: Giants

Monsters of the Multiverse doesn’t make many changes to giants. Then again, there weren’t many giants in Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes to begin with, just some specially trained and equipped ogres and elite giants and trolls. Only three of these are revised enough to require reexamination.

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Monsters of the Multiverse: Monstrosities

In contrast to humanoids and NPCs, Monsters of the Multiverse makes few substantive changes to the monstrosities from Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes; most of its changes are too minor to affect the relevant creatures’ tactics. Only the choldrith, leucrotta, yuan-ti and froghemoth receive changes to their traits and/or actions significant enough to merit reexamination.

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Monsters of the Multiverse: NPCs

Continuing my examination of the stat block updates in Monsters of the Multiverse, today I look at nonplayer characters. Since the majority of NPCs in Volo’s Guide to Monsters (they all come from Volo’s—there are no NPC stat blocks in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes) are spellcasters, and since spellcasting is the most frequently changed mechanic in Multiverse, all but a few of these NPCs have received some substantive change, and the ones that haven’t are all non-spellcasters.

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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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