Tag: CR 9

  • Quori Tactics

    Though significantly more powerful than the inspired they possess, the quori have a major shortcoming: They aren’t—can’t be—physically present. Chapter 4 of Eberron: Rising From the Last War (“The Dreaming Dark”) is explicit about this: “The quori can’t manifest physically in Eberron.” But chapter 6, where the stat blocks are found, confuses the issue: “Because it is difficult for anything to physically travel to or from Dal Quor,” it says, “quori in Eberron are typically encountered while possessing a host body”—implying that there are other ways in which quori might be encountered in Eberron. Also, all three quori stat blocks include the Possession action, which targets a humanoid “that the quori can see within 5 feet of it”—and none of them contains any trait stating that the quori are incorporeal or ethereal.

    I asked Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron setting and co–lead designer of Eberron, for clarification, and his answer was unequivocal: He never intended that quori should be present on the material plane at all. The only way you’d ever encounter one directly, in such a way as to put yourself “within 5 feet” of one, is in a dream—or if you managed somehow to transport yourself bodily to Dal Quor, the plane of dreams, such as by casting plane shift or gate.

    Moreover, they’re supposed to be invited in; only the inspired are supposed to be susceptible to involuntary possession. As far as Baker is concerned, quori should be able to take the Possession action only when the target is either willing (most often, in a dream) or in the presence of the quori itself (not in a dream), and if the target is willing, it should happen automatically, without a saving throw. I’m going to proceed from this premise as I examine the quori stat blocks. (more…)

  • Shadar-kai Tactics

    If eladrin are the elf-kin with the strongest remaining connection to the Feywild, shadar-kai are those whose nature has been shaped by the grim Shadowfell. Three types are described in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes: the shadow dancer, gloom weaver and soul monger.

    Shadow dancers are shock troops optimized for operations in darkness. They can function in dim light, but bright light hobbles them severely, so they’ll never willingly choose to fight in daylight or comparable illumination. Dexterity is their one outstanding ability, which they rely on for both offense and defense, and they’re proficient in Stealth, predisposing them to ambush.

    Although they’re tough, their stat block is short, not especially complex and mostly passive. Their two standout features are Shadow Jump and Spiked Chain (which they can use three times as a Multiattack action).

    Shadow Jump is a mobility feature and action economy enhancer that lets shadow dancers teleport from one dark or dimly lit point to another up to 30 feet away. Depending on the environment and the positioning of combatants, they can use this trait either to engage in melee or to disengage from it. Shadow Jumping to engage is a more desirable tactic when fighting in total darkness, as we’ll see in a moment. (more…)

  • Ulitharid and Mindwitness Tactics

    Ulitharids are elite, extra-large mind flayers with better ability scores, a couple of additional traits, several extra psionic “spells,” telepathy that extends to a range of 2 miles, and moar tentacles. They work in conjunction with elder brains to extend the influence of mind flayer colonies over a greater distance. In fact, their Psionic Hub trait assumes and requires a connection with an elder brain, so without a mind flayer colony built around one, there’s not much reason to write an ulitharid into your adventure.

    An ulitharid’s Strength and Constitution are significantly higher than those of a normal mind flayer, but these are still outweighed by its extraordinary mental abilities, which predispose it toward spellcasting and Mind Blast rather than melee attacks. However, since its Constitution is higher than its Dexterity, it’s more willing than the average mind flayer to charge forward in order to make use of these psionic powers. An ulitharid leads from the front.

    The one thing an ulitharid lacks that an ordinary mind flayer possesses is proficiency in Deception and Persuasion. As part of their mind-control schemes, mind flayers may try to tempt victims with rewards, either real or imaginary; ulitharids aren’t about that. They’re the muscle, not the face. (more…)

  • Frost Salamander Tactics

    Cousins to salamanders, elemental beings of fire, frost salamanders are elemental beings of ice—in Dungeons & Dragons lore, a conjunction of water and air. They aren’t simply salamanders reskinned to deal cold damage, though. There are major differences between the two:

    • Salamanders are Large; frost salamanders are Huge.
    • Salamanders can travel only across solid ground; frost salamanders can burrow and climb.
    • Both salamanders and frost salamanders are brutes, but salamanders are as intelligent as sentient humanoids are. Frost salamanders are smarter than apes, but just barely, and they don’t have much personality.
    • In addition to their burrowing movement, frost salamanders have tremorsense, allowing them to lie in wait beneath the surface of the ground and spring out to attack prey, like a remorhaz.
    • Salamanders wield weapons and can use their tails to grapple and restrain. Frost salamanders just mess you up with their teeth and claws.
    • The heat of a salamander’s body deals fire damage to anyone who comes in contact with it. Frost salamanders don’t have equivalent contact damage. However . . .
    • Frost salamanders have a breath weapon, Freezing Breath, whose effects lie somewhere between the Cold Breaths of young and adult white dragons. It recharges only on a roll of 6—or when it takes fire damage, thanks to its Burning Fury trait.


  • Yugoloth Tactics: Hydroloths

    On to the hydroloth, toadlike denizens of the River Styx that presumably show up from time to time in the water features of the material world. They’re technically Amphibious, able to breathe both water and air, but they have very little reason ever to want to come out of the water, because that’s where all their advantages lie.

    Hydroloths have an unusual ability contour: extraordinary Dexterity (first) and Intelligence (second), with very high Constitution coming in third. What to make of this? It seems like first and foremost they’re designed for fast melee assault, since they don’t have any ranged weapon attack that could take advantage of that Dex. Secondarily, they rely on magic, in the form of Innate Spellcasting and Steal Memory. Finally, if they need to tank it out for a bit, they have the Constitution to do that; they prefer to settle a fight quickly and decisively, but they’ll settle for an attrition battle if they must. They’re extremely good at assessing the specific weaknesses of their opponents—good enough to read stats off a character sheet—but with a Wisdom of only 10, they tend to be indiscriminate in their target selection and slow to figure out when they’re outmatched.

    Hydroloths are immune to acid and poison and resistant to cold, lightning and physical damage from normal weapons. They’re vulnerable to fire, but whether they avoid it or go berserk in its presence will require more analysis. Like dhergoloths and merrenoloths, they have overlapping darkvision and blindsight, making darkness (which they can cast at will) particularly advantageous for them, without the usual problem of being unable to see through it oneself. They have Magic Resistance, and therefore no particular fear of spellcasters, and they’re immune to the memory-wiping effects of the Styx, as well as to mind-reading. (more…)

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Praise for The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters

“I’ve always said, the Dungeon Master is the whole world except for his players, and as a result, I spend countless hours prepping for my home group. What Keith gets is that the monsters are the DM’s characters, and his work has been super helpful in adding logic, flavor, and fun in my quest to slaughter my players’ characters and laugh out the window as they cry in their cars afterward.” —Joe Manganiello

“The best movie villains are the ones you fall in love with. Keith’s book grounds villains in specificity, motivation, and tactics—so much so that players will love to hate ’em. This book will enrich your game immeasurably!” —Matthew Lillard

“This book almost instantly made me a better Dungeon Master. If you’re running games, it is a must-have enhancement. I gave copies to the two others in our group who share in the Dungeon Mastering, and both of them came back the next time grinning rather slyly. Keith is a diabolical genius, and I say that with the utmost respect!” —R.A. Salvatore

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