Pigeon Tactics

If you live in a major North American city (except, weirdly, Milwaukee), you’ve undoubtedly encountered pigeons on an almost daily basis. Like squirrels, they enjoy a commensal relationship with humans, benefiting greatly from our effect on the ecosystem without significantly helping us or harming us in any way. And you know they’re generally quite chill, unless your toddler runs directly at them, as toddlers invariably do.

The standard pigeon in fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons is no different. A small, unthreatening thing, it’s disinclined to fight at all and relies heavily on its Hypervigilant Flight reaction, which allows it to move up to half its speed as a reaction—without provoking an opportunity attack—if another creature moves within 5 feet of it. Pigeons are prey creatures, not predators, and the only way you’re likely to suffer a Beak attack from one is if you somehow manage to grab it.

A swarm of pigeons behaves similarly to a single pigeon, but not exactly the same. It still spooks easily, and it rarely attacks, preferring simply to use Hypervigilant Flight to retreat to a safe distance and, if pursued, to Dash to a safe perch out of reach. However, sometimes a swarm of pigeons chooses an empty, elevated location to roost in, such as an upper floor of an abandoned building. Particularly if this roost is home to eggs or squabs, a swarm of pigeons may become aggressive toward anyone who intrudes.

The first action it generally takes against a trespasser is Evacuate, more as a scare response than a calculated attempt to debilitate. If the target subsequently moves, so does the swarm, using Hypervigilant Flight. However, if the target doesn’t leave, the swarm then swoops back down and attacks with its Beaks. It continues to attack until the intruder is driven off or the swarm is reduced to 10 hp or fewer.

The giant pigeon is another matter, because unlike its Tiny cousins, it doesn’t scare. Cheeky and undauntable in its pursuit of food, it disregards other creatures as long as they leave it alone. Even snatching food away from it doesn’t provoke it to fight; it simply continues to try to get the food back, with greater determination. (You can use the Disarm action, from “Action Options” in chapter 9 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, to represent the giant pigeon’s attempts to snatch food back from a character who’s holding it.) If and when one does actual harm to it, however, it fights back, doing its best to drive the aggressor away. Continue reading Pigeon Tactics

Yeth Hound Tactics

The yeth hound originates in Devonian myth as the local spin on the “black dog” motif prevalent across British and Northern European folklore as a harbinger of doooooom. In fifth-edition D&D, they’re evil fey predators that hunt at night, their howls echoing through the darkness.

To run a yeth hound, you’re going to need to familiarize yourself with the chase rules in chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, because they’re a major component of how this creature hunts, as indicated by the first paragraph of flavor text in Volo’s Guide to Monsters: “Yeth hounds fly in pursuit of their prey, often waiting until it is too exhausted to fight back.”

But first, the usual breakdown. Yeth hounds have a ferocious ability contour: exceptional Strength, very high Dexterity and Constitution, making them both brutes and shock attackers. Their goal is to make the first hit count, but if that’s not enough to slay their prey, they’re tough enough to stick around and finish the job. Their Intelligence is lower than that of an ape, but higher than that of an ordinary dog; they can understand speech but can’t speak. They’re immune to physical damage from nonmagical, nonsilvered weapons, and they can’t be charmed, exhausted or frightened. Continue reading Yeth Hound Tactics

Eladrin Tactics

The eladrin in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes are not in any way to be confused with the eladrin subrace of elves described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. The Mordenkainen’s eladrin are CR 10 champions, each intimately associated with a different season of the year. Like many other fey creatures, they have a whimsical, fever-dream quality to their behavior: their decisions sometimes make more emotional sense than they do strategic sense.

One curious aspect of eladrin is that the four “types” aren’t separate beings at all. Eladrin morph from type to type according to the season—or their moods—with the metamorphosis taking place upon completing a long rest, so you don’t need to concern yourself with their changing type mid-encounter. They don’t do that.

What qualities do all the types of eladrin have in common? They all have resistance to physical damage from nonmagical attacks. They all have darkvision, ideal for the perpetual twilight of the Feywild. They all have superior natural armor, Magic Resistance, the Fey Step trait, and proficiency with both longswords and longbows. This constellation of features allows them to dart around a battlefield, engaging and disengaging as they please, suddenly appearing up close or far away—whichever is more inconvenient for their targets. Continue reading Eladrin Tactics

Meenlock Tactics

Meenlocks are the unseeliest of the unseelie fey: deformed, sadistic, dark-dwelling predators. They look like a cross between a lobster, a stag beetle and Jeff Goldblum in The Fly (toward the end of the movie, not the beginning). They’re halfling-size and not very strong, relying on Dexterity-based shock attacks, psychic terror and a paralyzing touch to take down victims quickly. They may also hunt in groups.

Because of their Light Sensitivity feature, which gives them disadvantage on attacks and Perception checks in bright light, meenlocks shun daylight. However, because the frightened condition requires their prey to see them in order to suffer disadvantage from their Fear Aura feature, total darkness isn’t ideal, either, unless their prey has darkvision. Thus, meenlocks are most active at twilight, though they’ll also be drawn to the dim light of torches and campfires at night.

Dim light also allows meenlocks to take full advantage of their Shadow Teleport feature, even in view of creatures with darkvision—both the space it’s teleporting from and its destination must be in dim light or darkness, regardless of whether these spaces are unobscured or only lightly obscured to an onlooker. Because this is a recharging feature, available on average one turn out of three, Shadow Teleport is more useful as an ambush tactic than as an escape tactic—it simply isn’t reliable enough for the latter. The fact that it’s a bonus action means that it can be combined with an attack, and a meenlock will usually use this bonus action first, then attack as a follow-up action. Continue reading Meenlock Tactics

Boggle Tactics

Boggles are fey pranksters, called to the material plane by people’s loneliness. You might say they’re the embodiment of the desire to get attention—any kind of attention, including negative. This may remind you of someone you know.

Boggles have low Strength but exceptional Dexterity and above-average Constitution. Their melee attack is feeble, and they lack a ranged attack. Really, they’re incapable of seriously hurting any but the lowest-level adventurer. Therefore, they attack not to kill but simply to harass.

They have proficiency in Perception, Sleight of Hand and Stealth, along with 60 feet of darkvision and advantage on Perception checks that rely on smell, so they won’t operate in broad daylight but rather in twilight, at night and underground. They’re at their best in darkness, where their Uncanny Smell makes up for the penalty on seeing targets in dim light. They’re resistant to fire, which has no meaningful bearing on their tactics. Continue reading Boggle Tactics

Fey Tactics: Darklings, Quicklings and Redcaps

Volo’s Guide to Monsters offers a number of new possibilities for deep forest encounters and conjure fey summonees, and today I’m going to look at three of them: darklings, quicklings and redcaps.

Darklings are the rogues of the fey world, inhabiting not just woodlands but also caves and catacombs. They’re high in Dexterity, above-average in Constitution and below-average in Strength, marking them as snipers and shock attackers that must choose their battles carefully. If they can’t manage their mischief with secrecy and stealth, they’ll have to compensate with numbers. But nothing in the Volo’s flavor texts suggests that they’re prolific, so secrecy it is. Fortunately for them, they’re proficient in Acrobatics and Deception and expert in Perception and Stealth.

They have 120 feet of darkvision topped off with 30 feet of blindsight; they’re also light-sensitive, giving them disadvantage on attack rolls and Perception checks in bright light. Dim light is ideal for them, but they can function capably in total darkness—even, to a certain extent, in magical darkness.

They have only one attack: a simple dagger strike, either melee or ranged. Built into this attack, however, is extra damage when they attack with advantage—a partial equivalent of the Sneak Attack feature. The most straightforward way for them to attack with advantage is to strike in darkness against a target who lacks darkvision. Continue reading Fey Tactics: Darklings, Quicklings and Redcaps

Korred Tactics

I’ve gotta be honest: I picked korreds to examine in this post essentially at random. I didn’t have anything else on my to-do list, and I flipped through Volo’s Guide to Monsters until I saw one that looked interesting. Turns out, korreds are cool. And hilarious.

They have a feature called Command Hair.

What would really be awesome would be if they could command other creatures’ hair, or just hair clippings swept up from the floor of the barbershop, but alas, they can command only their own hair. That alone is brilliant, though.

Oh, also, they’re Small creatures, but they’re ridiculously strong. Tough, too, with a sizable reservoir of hit points and 7 points of natural armor. They’re practically made to be underestimated. Continue reading Korred Tactics

Hags Revisited, Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, Volo’s Guide to Monsters offers three alternatives to the conventionally witchy hag coven spell repertoire. One is necromantic, one is nature-oriented, and one plays up the divination angle at the expense of the maledictory. These can be used with any variety of hag, although green hags and bheur hags seem more likely to form covens than the other three varieties, which strike me as more exclusively solitary.

Although the Prophecy list seems relatively benign compared with Death, Nature or the default list—and even Nature seems like it could go either way—hags are not your friends. Any prophetic services you get from a hag are going to come at a steep cost, and they’re going to enjoy watching you pay it.

The Prophecy list is distinctive in another way: It offers almost no tactical advantages or combinations. Arcane eye lets the coven hunt down a fleeing or hiding foe, perhaps, and dispel magic’s utility is straightforward, but bane and bless are low-power spells that have to be sustained (and why would a hag want to bless anybody, even one of its sister hags?), and all the other spells in this repertoire are either rituals or strictly divination. Not only are these coven spells more suited to social interaction encounters than combat encounters, a hag coven assembling for this purpose is probably doing so for reasons entirely their own, and they may not even be casting these spells in front of your player characters. Continue reading Hags Revisited, Part 2

Hags Revisited, Part 1

Volo’s Guide to Monsters includes an extended treatment of hags, and it heavily emphasizes lore: their scheming and manipulation, their names, their personalities, their use of odd mounts and vehicles and keeping of strange “pets,” their fondness for weird objects. But it also presents two much more powerful varieties, along with new information with the potential to alter hag tactics: lair actions and alternative coven spells.

Arch-hags, called “grandmothers,” gain access to powerful lair actions, and their lairs have regional effects. As with dragons and other powerful enemies, the regional effects are mostly for flavor, and those that do actual damage do so whether the resident hags are present or not. But the lair actions include a few curveballs.

All grandmother hags have access to two of these lair actions. One allows them to pass through solid walls, doors, ceilings and floors. The other allows them to open or close doors and/or windows at will, and a closed door or window may be magically locked against any attempt to force it open. If a battle is taking place in a hag’s lair, this can allow the hag to trap weaker enemies inside the lair—or in a single room within the lair. Or enemies chasing the hag through its lair may be cut off from one another by the sudden slamming of a door (giving the hag—and, by extension, the dungeon master—incentive to create lairs that are mazes of small rooms connected by doors). Or, if a battle is going poorly for the hag, it can make its escape by fleeing through a wall, possibly leaving its would-be pursuers locked inside. Continue reading Hags Revisited, Part 1

Satyr Tactics

I’ll wrap up “fey week” with a look at satyrs, a.k.a fauns (depending on whether you’re feeling more Greek or Roman), the sex-, drugs- and rock-and-roll-loving party animals of fairyland. These creatures aren’t inclined to start a fight, but if you start one, they have ways of finishing it.

Average to slightly above-average in Strength and Constitution but well above average in Dexterity, satyrs will avoid melee fights in favor of ranged sniping. In a way, this is disappointing, because the most distinctive and delightful attack in their arsenal is ramming—but they have no good reason to use it. On average, it has a poorer chance to hit than a shortsword or shortbow attack, it does marginally less damage than either of those, and it doesn’t even knock the target down. It would have been much better if their stat block had included a Charge feature, which would have given the satyr’s ram some real punch. A satyr engaged in melee is better off using its action to Dodge.

When a fight breaks out, satyrs scatter. They take cover behind trees and Hide if they can, counting on their enemies to be unable to keep track of them all. Their ideal range from their enemies is 40 to 60 feet: well within normal bow range, close enough that their enemies can hear the tunes from their enchanted pipes, far enough away that those enemies can’t close the distance in a single round. Continue reading Satyr Tactics