Time to put the wraps on Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons with a roundup of the last several creatures remaining: animated breath, metallic sentinels, dragonbone golems and dragonblood ooze. (That’s right—a draconic ooze!)
Gem stalkers are odd, and that’s not just my bias against gem dragons talking. They’re kind of a jumble, even for unevolved creatures—which they are, being created by gem dragons out of the leftover organic material of liquidated aberrations.
Let’s start with their ability contour: highest in Strength, with high Dexterity, Intelligence and Constitution to go with it. Their Dex is a smidge higher than their Con, although the modifier is the same, so while there’s a slight bias toward shock attacks over brute melee fighting here, they can flex in a pinch. Proficiency in Perception and Stealth indicates a predilection for ambush, harmonious with the shock attacker role, and their climbing ability (climbing speed plus Spider Climb) fits into this schema nicely as well.
But then we get into the strange stuff. Their Multiattack is savage: four Claw attacks, each of which deals an average 10 damage. Melee, yes, please! Shock attacker and brute are both melee-intensive roles. What’s this, though? A bonus action ranged spell attack, Crystal Dart? That’s not useful in melee. If a gem stalker is engaged in close combat with a target, it’s going to have disadvantage on ranged attacks—all ranged attacks, whether against the same target or a different one. This bonus action clashes with the gem stalker’s melee Multiattack, suggesting that it’s always used before the gem stalker closes and engages. (There’s also the fact that Crystal Dart includes one of five different riders, depending on the type of gem dragon that created the gem stalker, but more on that in a moment.)
I’m a big fan of multilateral combat encounters, and the egg hunters in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons are a sly way to throw in an extra dimension of conflict: parasites that feed on dragon embryos and lay their own eggs in the emptied shells.
To a dragon defending a clutch of eggs—like the black dragon Mundirostrix in Live to Tell the Tale—a party of bloodthirsty adventurers may pose a clear and present danger, but all that will be forgotten in an instant if the dragon spies an egg hunter skulking around. The horror and revulsion, fear and fury that these minuscule monstrosities evoke in dragons overwhelms all other considerations. First, the dragon will try to whisk its eggs out of the egg hunter’s reach; second, it will turn all its attention and efforts toward obliterating the parasite.
This distraction may allow a party of player characters to punch above their weight, taking on a dragon that would normally be too much for them to handle. Don’t assume, however, that just because the PCs are enemies of the dragon, an egg hunter—or its hatchlings—are friendly to them.
Tyranny of Dragons (Hoard of the Dragon Queen plus The Rise of Tiamat) was the first full-length campaign I ran for my fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons group, after putting them through The Lost Mine of Phandelver. It was the right campaign for the moment, and its linear nature and geographic jumping around made it easy to insert character-specific side quests, which I appreciated. It also had many flaws, though, and a big one is that the dragon cultists just weren’t that interesting or memorable as opponents. (There’s also all of “Mission to Thay,” chapter 8 of Rise of Tiamat, which … whoo, boy, don’t get me started on that.)
Might the insertion of some dragon followers or dragonborn champions from Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons have livened up Tyranny? Maybe, but not without some fiddling.
Lots of monster types in this batch, but not that many monsters. The overwhelming majority of the mechanical changes in Monsters of the Multiverse went into humanoids and fiends; whether because they were designed and balanced better to begin with or because they just aren’t encountered as often, other monster types got away pretty clean.