The tlincalli (the name appears to be completely invented, not based in myth, but it looks Nahuatl to me, so I’m going to pronounce it
tlhin-ky-yee—nope! That’s a Spanish pronunciation. As reader Victor R. points out, in Nahuatl, each l is pronounced as a separate l, so it’s tlhin-KAHL-lee) is a centaur-like monstrosity with a humanoid torso topping a scorpioid body. Based on the illustration in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, its face is pretty awful as well, although details are hard to make out.
With very high Strength and Constitution and merely above-average Dexterity, tlincallis are brutes, unafraid of direct melee confrontation. Their Intelligence is below humanoid average, though not animal-level, while their Wisdom is above average, allowing them to pick out promising prey—the old, the young, the weak, the isolated and the oblivious—as well as to realize when a particularly dangerous opponent needs to be taken out.
The combination of proficiency in Perception and Stealth is indicative of an ambush attacker; proficiency in Survival adds the ability to track, which is consistent with the flavor text’s characterization of them as nomadic hunters. Tlincallis hot on the trail of desirable prey will pursue it aggressively until either they bag it or it fights back forcefully enough to deter them.
Darkvision gives them the upper hand at night or underground, but the flavor text characterizes them as desert dwellers and dawn and dusk hunters (desert nights being uncomfortably cold for activity). If you want to play it close to the lore, go ahead—they do at least have other ways of gaining advantage on their attacks besides having blinded enemies to pick on—but fighting foes without darkvision in dim light doesn’t improve their attack rolls, only their Perception checks.
They have their own language but no proficiency in any social skill, and their Charisma is below-average. Parley is probably not going to be a feature of a combat encounter with tlincallis, except in the narrowest circumstances (e.g., a sorcerer using Distant Spell to cast tongues at a range of 30 feet), and even then, the tlincallis will be more surprised to hear another creature speaking their language than susceptible to persuasion or intimidation; they certainly aren’t going to try to get their way by talking. They’re evil creatures, so their default disposition will still be hostile.
Tlincallis initiate combat from hiding—the flavor text suggests that they bury themselves in loose sand—in order to gain advantage on their initial attack roll, along with surprise. But the order of their attacks depends on how close their targets wander.
A tlincalli’s Multiattack consists of one attack with either Longsword or Spiked Chain and one with Sting. Sting is by far its most powerful attack, dealing an average 20 damage on a hit with the potential of paralyzing its target on a saving throw super-fail. Given a choice, a hunting tlincalli wants to use Sting first, because the paralyzed condition is more devastating to the target than any other condition except being knocked completely unconscious, then wrap the target up with Spiked Chain and run off with it. But Sting’s reach is only 5 feet; Spiked Chain has a 10-foot reach. So if their targets don’t walk right by them—or over them—tlincallis have to use Spiked Chain first, for the extra reach, then close in and follow up with Sting.
If that first-round attack doesn’t bring its prey down, then the tlincalli concludes that it’s better to beat them unconscious before hauling them off. In this case, Sting/Longsword is the preferred way to go, but things don’t always go the way the tlincalli prefers. Befitting the tlincalli’s lowish Intelligence, the heuristic is simple:
- If Sting paralyzes the target, follow up with Longsword for the greater damage. (Always one-handed, never two-handed, because the tlincalli’s other hand is full of spiked chain.)
- If Sting fails to paralyze the target, follow up with Spiked Chain for the chance to grapple and restrain.
- If the target is already paralyzed or restrained from a previous round’s attacks, lead with Sting, then follow up with Longsword regardless of the effects of Sting on the current turn.
Or is it? Commenter Luke suggests always using Spiked Chain before Sting in order to increase the chance of hitting with the more powerful attack, and it turns out that he’s right! So instead of the above heuristic, here’s what the tlincalli ought to do:
- If the target is not already paralyzed or restrained from a previous round’s attacks, always lead with Spiked Chain, then follow up with Sting.
- If the target is already paralyzed or restrained from a previous round’s attacks, use Longsword and Sting in whatever order you like; it won’t make a difference.
While a predatory beast usually flees when only moderately injured, preferring prey that doesn’t fight back, beasts are usually unaligned. Tlincalli are neutral evil, so they’ll keep fighting awhile longer out of natural truculence, sticking with it until they’re seriously injured (reduced to 34 hp or fewer). At that point, they use the Dash action to retreat.
Next: Cave fishers.