Tag: CR 6

  • Eater of Knowledge Tactics

    Eaters of knowledge are mighty brutes that crack open victims’ skulls like walnuts and scoop out what’s inside, not only the thinking meat but also whatever the meat had in mind. The more brains they consume, the more their psionic powers grow, using a mechanic much the same as that of the neh-thalggu in Boo’s Astral Menagerie. Neh-thalggu, however, remove brains with surgical precision. Eaters of knowledge do it … messily.

    For such hulking creatures, eaters of knowledge have surprisingly formidable mental abilities—high Charisma, very high Wisdom and exceptional Intelligence. That Intelligence is on par with their Strength, allowing them to switch seamlessly between brute-force and psionic attacks. Between their very high Constitution and merely humanoid-average Dexterity, it’s not hard to figure out which one is their primary defensive ability. Eaters of knowledge get in your face and stay there, counting on their bulk to absorb incoming damage.

    Let’s posit that eaters of knowledge have a single overarching goal: Consume as many brains as they safely can, then leave. They can innately cast plane shift whether they’ve consumed any brains or not, so that’s what they use to “return to their masters” (as the flavor text says) whenever they decide they’ve had enough—either enough brains or enough mistreatment. And, of course, they consume brains using the Extract Brain action, which requires an incapacitated target. So how do they incapacitate their targets?

  • Planescape Faction Agent Tactics, Part 4

    As I work my way through the various factions of Sigil and their agents, I find myself wishing that the links between factions and their associated planes made more sense in terms of alignment. I know that alignment is an aspect of Dungeons & Dragons that many contemporary players—and even a few longtime ones—consider problematic or irrelevant, but if you’re going to be working within the Gygaxian Great Wheel cosmology, as Planescape does, you can’t just ignore it. You have to make your peace with it, and you have to try to be internally consistent in how you do so. I’ve already struggled with the dissonance between the Bleak Cabal and its associated plane of Pandemonium; two of today’s factions, the Fated and the Doomguard, also strike out-of-tune notes to me.

    The types of characters who belong to the Fated—“bullies, moguls, and warlords,” according to Sigil and the Outlands—have an undeniably evil bent, yet the Fated are associated with the chaotic good/neutral plane of Ysgard, where heroes go to test their mettle, according to the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Furthermore, Sigil brazenly asserts, “There’s no inherent malice in the Fated’s philosophy.” O rly? I don’t care for a second whether or not the Fated think they’re acting out of malice when their methods include mugging and slaughter. That’s evil. End of discussion. (Side note: It’s a little weird to include “moguls” alongside bullies and warlords; rank, power, and influence don’t necessarily have anything to do with taking whatever you can grab.) If I were assigning Outer Planes to these factions, I’d associate the Fated with Gehenna. I’d also swap the positions of Gehenna and Carceri on the Great Wheel, since the oppression of prison has a decidedly lawful orientation, but I’m fighting 45 years of precedent on that, and I know when to yield.

    As for the Doomguard, it’s bizarre to declare it affiliated with a D-list Inner Plane that didn’t exist before fourth edition, as far as I can tell, when the Abyss is right there. Glorying in destruction and decay? Can you get more chaotic evil than that? Yet, oddly, not only is the Doomguard not associated with the Abyss, it also supposedly has a near-monopoly on weapon manufacture in Sigil. It’s baffling to think that anyone would trust a blade made by someone who’s probably just as happy to celebrate your demise as that of the enemy you’re pointing it at, let alone someone who’d be even more delighted to watch it corrode. I’m starting to think that Sigil is the postmortem dumping ground for souls whose worldviews are too incoherent to stand up to scrutiny.

  • Psurlon Tactics

    Time to wrap up Spelljammer and 2023 together with the last of the Dark Sun–connected beasties in Boo’s Astral Menagerie, the psurlons—hyperintelligent, 7-foot things that look like worms with legs, or perhaps overgrown insect larvae.

    The standard psurlon has a curious ability contour: a single peak in Intelligence, with its three physical ability scores all equal. Avoid attacks or absorb them—it matters not. But for its own attacks, it decidedly prefers to use its psionic ability rather than brute force, and since its Psychic Crush has a 120-foot range, there’s no particular need for it to get up close and personal.

    Before I go on, however, I want to address the combination of the psurlon’s very high Intelligence and its merely humanoid-average Wisdom. Its Intelligence indicates an ability to plan, multiple tactics in its arsenal, an awareness of what works best in which situations, and a keen ability to assess enemies’ weaknesses. Its Wisdom, however, indicates a lack of care in choosing targets and not so much sense when it comes to knowing when to quit, or even to avoid getting into a scrap in the first place. If we presume that alignment still means something, the fact that psurlons are (typically) lawful evil might be interpreted as signifying a measure of arrogance, a sense of entitlement to abuse others as they see fit—and surprise and outrage when the lesser beings dare to strike back.

  • Megapede, B’rohg and Braxat Tactics

    Last time I promised megapedes, but you get two bonus monsters today, because I’m trying to get Spelljammer behind me by the end of the year and it turns out that none of the three are particularly complicated.

    The megapede is exactly what its name promises: a 100-foot-long bug with too many legs. The stat block and the flavor text seem to have been written by two different people. The flavor text says it buries itself in the sand and ambushes passers-by, but it has neither a burrowing speed nor blindsight nor tremorsense. The flavor text also says it can be found in “cavernous underground chambers,” and it does have a climbing speed, but not the Spider Climb trait, so it’s not going to get very far up the wall, and it definitely won’t be hanging out on the ceiling. Proficiency in Stealth and expertise in Perception are an ambush predator combination for sure, but I’m not sure where this megabeastie is supposed to hide if it wants to spot prey without being spotted itself.

    With extraordinary Strength, very high Constitution and not much else to speak of, the megapede was never going to be anything but a brute melee fighter, charging its prey as soon as they come within 40 feet of it. Its Multiattack consists of one Bite attack and its choice of two other actions, and the only choice to be made is which of those two actions it takes.

  • Vampirate Tactics

    Whoever first coined the portmanteau “vampirate” must have felt very proud, and deservedly so—but it wasn’t Chris Perkins, or whoever else worked with him on Spelljammer. The first “vampirate” I encountered was Jessica Marcrum’s Captain Fulmini from Hit Point Press’s Big Bads series. Before that, British author Justin Somper wrote the six-book Vampirates series of novels for young readers, starting in 2005 with Demons of the Ocean. Somper claims the word just came to him, and I’d be inclined to credit him with its invention … if not for its use in 2004 in the webcomic Charby the Vampirate, in 2003 in Uncle Davver’s Really Scary Movie Show and in what I think may be the decisive winner, James H. Schmitz’s science fiction short story “The Vampirate,” published in Science-Fiction Plus magazine in 1953. (You can read that story, retitled “Blood of Nalakia,” online at http://baencd.freedoors.org/Books/Telzey%20Amberdon/0671578510___7.htm.)

    As for Spelljammer’s vampirates, they bear only superficial similarities to the vampire and vampire spawn of the Monster Manual—and more closely resemble those of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, at least with regard to their Explode trait, which causes them to burst into clouds of ash when reduced to 0 hp. They’re not sensitive to sunlight, they don’t drink blood, they’re indifferent to running water, they don’t regenerate, and they can march right into your house whether you’ve invited them in or not.

    Their ability contour is one we don’t see too often: one high peak in Constitution, high Dexterity, and everything else either average or only slightly above average. This contour would suggest a skirmisher, except that vampirates have only one out-of-the-ordinary movement ability, Spider Climb. What I’m thinking is that what makes vampirates unique isn’t their behavior in melee but rather their behavior when boarding a ship.


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