Tag: CR 6

  • Gallows Speaker Tactics

    The gallows speaker (I love the name) haunts places where many people have been put to death, echoing their last words and foretelling the dooms of others (I love the concept). Is it really a monster, though? That is, is it going to pose a danger if player characters simply leave it alone?

    I’m inclined to say no. An insight I had about undead creatures long ago is that they all have two things in common. First, as everyone already knows and understands, they occupy a liminal space between life and death—they’re no longer alive and not yet dead. Second, the transition to this space imbues them with a compulsion, which causes them to engage in repetitive and often illogical behavior. Skeletons keep going through the motions of their prior lives. Ghouls and ghasts devour the living. Ghosts are unable to leave a place where they have unfinished business. Mummy lords cling to lost glory. Et cetera.

    Gallows speakers have a compulsion, too, but their compulsion is all talk. They haunt the gibbet—but they never wander away from it. They yammer away, but their yammering isn’t an attack per se; it’s merely a behavior with an unfortunate damage-dealing side effect. Like a number of other creatures, such as vampiric mist, it’s not a monster, in the functional sense, as much as it is a hazard. And I’d say it fights only when it’s actually attacked.

  • Variant Zombie Tactics

    The Monster Manual zombie isn’t a complicated or sophisticated attacker, but it possesses one trait that makes it memorable: Undead Fortitude, which allows it to pop back up and keep fighting even after it’s reduced to 0 hp. You never know how many hits it will ultimately take to stop a zombie. Ezmerelda’s Guide to Ravenloft additionally (and accurately) notes, “The horror of the shambling dead lies not in their individual menace … but [in] their numbers, their persistence, and their disregard for their own well-being.” One zombie, in the right circumstances, can be played for laughs; many zombies are legitimately unnerving, regardless of context.

    Even so, after a while, zombie fights can become ho-hum affairs—especially past level 5, when clerics’ Destroy Undead feature can clear them out en masse. How can a Dungeon Master keep the thrill alive?

    We can find part of the answer by looking to an unrelated monster: the troll. A troll, out of the box, is nothing but a hard-to-kill brute. However, the Loathsome Limbs variant, which allows the troll’s severed limbs to keep fighting independently, turns a troll encounter into something special. In a similar vein, suppose that a town’s response to an invading zombie horde was to make absolutely sure they didn’t get up again by hacking the corpses to pieces—and even that didn’t work. That’s one way you might end up with a swarm of zombie limbs.

  • Draconic Elemental, Construct and Ooze Tactics

    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!)

  • Dragonflesh Grafter and Abomination Tactics

    As far as I can tell, dragonflesh grafters and dragonflesh abominations are newly introduced in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, and I think they’re one of the more interesting additions to be found in this book, at least concept-wise. When you have access to (a) magic and (b) dragon parts, why wouldn’t you experiment with whether you could make yourself more powerful by combining the two? (I mean, aside from basic common sense.)

    The dragonflesh grafter is the unfinished version, still recognizably humanoid in origin, though enlarged by draconic magic and incorporating pieces of dragon anatomy, which grant it several Armor Class points’ worth of natural armor. It’s a brute, with very high Strength and high Constitution; its Charisma is low, owing to its repugnant, unnatural fusion of incompatible biologies. (Given its origin, I feel like it ought to have a higher Intelligence and a lower Wisdom: It had to be smart enough to figure out how to graft dragon flesh onto itself and foolish enough to actually do it.)

    Tactically, it’s not complicated. It has a weapon attack (as written, a greatclub, but you could swap in anything you wanted to) and a natural weapon (Claw), and its Multiattack lets it attack once with each per turn. These have a 10-foot reach, so it doesn’t approach any nearer before attacking, although its opponents may choose to move in closer in order to return the favor. It also has a quasi–breath weapon, Acid Retch, which affects a 30-foot cone and recharges as dragons’ breath weapons do. The application of this ability is the same: The dragonflesh grafter uses it whenever it’s available, provided it can target at least three enemies in the area of effect (per the Targets in Area of Effect table, Dungeon Master’s Guide, chapter 8). The grafter can’t fly, nor does it have any easy way to avoid opportunity attacks, so unlike dragons, which optimize their positioning before using their breath weapons, it has to decide whether or not to use Acid Retch based on whom it can affect from where it is.

    As written, its average Wisdom lets it retain a normal self-preservation instinct, and it flees when seriously injured (reduced to 20 hp or fewer), Dashing as it retreats and potentially provoking one or more opportunity attacks in the process. A dragonflesh grafter with a lower Wisdom, however, might be driven slightly berserk by its transformation and fight to the death.


  • Draconian Tactics

    You thought I was salty in “Derro Tactics”? This is where I get really salty. This is where I share one of my most unpopular of unpopular Dungeons & Dragons opinions:

    I am not nostalgic for Dragonlance. At. All.

    Even as a high schooler, reading the first two Dragonlance trilogies, I recognized that those books were not good books. They were all right. They were beach reading for nerds. That was OK for me then, because I was a nerd who wanted some beach reading. From the very beginning, though, I hated the concept of the kender, which were clearly ersatz halflings free of any even marginally actionable link back to the J.R.R. Tolkien estate, distinguished by the most annoying traits the authors could come up with to assign them. Also, looking back, the depiction of gully dwarves is beyond cringeworthy.

    For me, two trilogies were plenty; the story, such as it was, felt complete. I didn’t doubt that more Dragonlance novels had been published, but my jaw dropped recently when Teos “Alphastream” Abadía posted on Twitter that there had been more than 190. (I’ve since counted the titles on the list on Wikipedia and come up with only 189 published novels, plus two more unreleased, but also another 20 short story anthologies, for a total of 209 published works.) No way does the world need that much Dragonlance.

    So, naturally, it’s going to be re-released later this year. I guess the fact that readers bought 209 Dragonlance books makes it a hot property.

    My general attitude toward the revival of old official campaign settings, with the exception of Eberron, is that I’d much rather see something entirely new. We get a little of that with Ravnica and Theros, although those are technically borrowed from another Wizards of the Coast property, Magic: The Gathering. But all the excited anticipation surrounding Planescape, Dark Sun, Spelljammer? I don’t feel it. And I especially don’t feel it about Dragonlance, which in my opinion has aged like fine milk.

    That’s all preface to the fact that this post is about draconians, a monstrous folk native to the Dragonlance setting. In that setting, as you might expect, they’re evil, but in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, they can be of any alignment, despite also being described as “bipedal monsters born from dragon eggs that have been corrupted or warped by powerful magic.” Five varieties are statted out: the foot soldier, the mage, the infiltrator, the dreadnought and the mastermind. None has an especially high challenge rating, but that’s a good thing, since they’re meant to be encountered in hordes.


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