Dragon Follower and Dragonborn Champion Tactics

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.

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Dragonnel and Liondrake Tactics

Gen Con has wrapped. I took my first vacation since 2015. Now I’m back, ready to talk about Spelljammer erm, well, I thought that everyone was going to expect me to jump right into Spelljammer, but it turns out that what folks really want is for me to keep going with Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons! Very well, then. Let’s get a couple of easy ones out of the way: dragonnels and liondrakes (a.k.a. dragonnes).

Dragonnes actually came first: They were originally published in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (with a David A. Trampier illustration, always a mark of honor!). Dragonnels came later, debuting in the third-edition Draconomicon. According to this article, dragonnes were renamed “liondrakes” in the fourth edition, and the name change was kept in order to avoid having two nearly identical names appearing on facing pages in Fizban’s.

Which, OK, as a former editor, I understand that impulse entirely. But as a longtime D&D player, I wish the dragonne had gotten to keep its name. It was there first.

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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 2

Today I finish up the humanoids in Monsters of the Multiverse by looking at significant changes to shadar-kai, drow, gith and nagpas. As a reminder, I’m only examining creatures whose tactics might differ because of changes to their traits and actions in Multiverse. If I don’t mention a creature, my tactics for that creature are unchanged.

The shadow dancer, now explicitly called the shadar-kai shadow dancer, was already a powerful fighter in darkness, thanks to its Shadow Jump bonus action. It’s even more powerful now that its Multiattack includes an additional use of Shadow Jump. Having one use of this ability as a bonus action and a second one in its Multiattack means the shadow dancer no longer has to choose between using it to engage in melee and using it to disengage; it can do both in a single turn. Since it can now return to darkness at the end of every turn, it can always gain advantage on the first of its three Spiked Chain attacks against a target without darkvision, increasing its expected damage by roughly half. There’s no longer any reason for this shock attacker to stay within its opponent’s melee reach between turns.

The most significant changes to the gloom weaver, now called the shadar-kai gloom weaver, are to its Spellcasting, but in addition, its Multiattack now allows it to make a third Shadow Spear attack rather than cast a spell, the spear comes back when thrown, and all elves, not just shadar-kai, are exempted from Burden of Time. Taken together, these changes are great enough to require a total rethinking of gloom weaver tactics. (There’s also a slight chance that Misty Escape will recharge and allow a second use of it, but that chance isn’t good enough that the gloom weaver should take a chance and use it when it wouldn’t have done so before.)

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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”