Mea culpa. In my last post, I said I’d be looking next at “minor elementals.” However, of the three elemental creatures I’m looking at today—the water weird, the galeb duhr and the invisible stalker—the latter two are actually more powerful than pure elementals are, and none of them can be called with the conjure minor elementals spell.
You’ll note that one of the four classical elements, fire, is missing from this group. For some reason, the fifth-edition Monster Manual doesn’t offer a true igneous equivalent to these three creatures, all of which are specifically described as beings that can be summoned from their home elemental planes. The nearest equivalent—which technically can be summoned with conjure elemental, though this fact is mentioned nowhere in its flavor text—is the salamander. However, salamanders are neutral evil and, by their description, very much independent agents. Water weirds, galeb duhrs and invisible stalkers are neutral and (usually) compliant.
Water weirds are guardians, posted by their summoners in pools or fountains to stop trespassers. With very high Strength and Dexterity but merely above-average Constitution, and being invisible while immersed in water, they’re ambushers, pouncing on targets and quickly pulling them out of allies’ reach. Although they die if removed from the water they dwell in, they’re immune to grappling, so the only way to remove them is either telekinesis (to hoist them out of it without actually grappling them) or destroy water (self-explanatory).
They have only one attacking action, Constrict, which inflicts bludgeoning damage and automatically grapples and restrains a Medium or smaller target on a hit. It also pulls the target 5 feet toward the water weird—read, “into the water.”
After a successful Constrict, a water weird “tries to drown” its target. The Suffocation rule on page 183 of the Player’s Handbook make it highly unlikely that a water weird will ever be able to hold a target underwater long enough to drown him or her, but the water weird’s stat block doesn’t explicitly say that it can’t continue to Constrict the same target, only that it can’t Constrict a different one, so I’d say that this drowning attempt comprises additional Constrict attacks—with advantage, because the target is restrained—until the target either gets away or passes out.
The water weird’s movement is particularly relevant to this strategy. It has a 60-foot swimming speed, plus a 10-foot reach. Depending on how much room other creatures have to maneuver around the water weird’s basin, it may lie in wait right at the water’s edge or 5 feet farther in; the latter is preferable, if feasible. After it first successfully grapples and restrains a target, the water weird will immediately drag him or her as far as possible into the water: up to 30 feet if the target is Medium-size, up to 60 feet if he or she is Small. Depending on the depth of the water, the water weird will surely pull its victim down as well as back. (The larger the body of water, the greater the water weird’s advantage.)
If a victim struggles free from a water weird’s clutches and tries to swim away, the water weird will first move to within 10 feet of it, then try to seize it again with another Constrict attack and, if it succeeds, once again drag it down and back as far as it can. Once it’s successfully drowned a victim, it rushes back to the water’s edge and grabs at another.
Within the constraints set by their summoners, water weirds choose their targets at random, grabbing at anyone within reach. After an unsuccessful attack, a water weird may attack the same target again or switch to a different target. Once it’s gotten its pseudopods on a target, however, it singlemindedly attempts to finish that target off before going after anyone else, taking full advantage of its swimming speed to keep unlucky victims from getting away.
Water weirds don’t flee or break off attack no matter how much damage they’ve taken.
Galeb duhrs are also guardians, summoned to protect locations on land. Their lifespan—and patience—are for all intents and purposes infinite. Boulder-like in shape as well as texture, they waddle along at a comical 15 feet per round but can double this speed by going into a tuck and roll—and quadruple it by doing so on a downhill slope. On top of that, they can bring one or two nearby boulders to life and propel them as their rolling sidekicks, doubling or tripling their attacking power. They’ll use this Animate Boulder feature at the first moment when their presence is known and they’re not engaged in melee with any opponent, or when they’re moderately wounded (reduced to 59 hp or fewer), whichever occurs first.
Galeb duhrs, with their extraordinary Strength and Constitution, are more suited than water weirds to protracted melee combat; once they engage in melee, they’ll remain engaged. However, if they can make a Rolling Charge before their first attack against a target, they will. This forfeits the unseen-attacker advantage on their attack rolls, but the extra damage from Rolling Charge more than makes up for it. It also means that if they happen to finish off every foe they’re engaged in melee with, the next target they engage with will be one between 20 and 30 feet away, if possible.
They’re also more discriminating about target selection than water weirds are. Since foes with magic weapons can overcome their resistance to bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage, they’ll steer clear of these targets unless and until they can aim a couple of animated boulders at them at the same time. Otherwise, they and their animated boulders will try to mop up backline spellcasters, sharpshooters and skirmishers, since it’s most likely to be able to get a rolling start against these, before engaging front-line fighters, who will pose less of a threat if armed with normal, nonmagical weapons.
Galeb duhrs also don’t flee or break off attack no matter how much damage they’ve taken. However, they will stop to parley if someone speaks their primordial language, calmly explaining their duty and giving trespassing foes a chance to retreat without further strife.
Invisible stalkers are hunting dogs rather than guard dogs. Sometimes they’re summoned for simple search-and-recover operations; other times, they’re evanescent assassins.
Water weirds and galeb duhrs blend in with their surroundings, revealing themselves when they attack, but invisible stalkers blend in with the air itself—they’re always, as their name indicates, invisible. This, means they’ll nearly always attack with advantage, even when their presence is known; only a character under the influence of a see invisibility or true seeing spell, or its equivalent, can negate this advantage. On top of this, their double proficiency in Stealth means that, unless an opponent has exceptionally good passive Perception, they’ll routinely attack with surprise.
Invisible stalkers are savvy assessors of their opponents’ capabilities, but they’re also constrained by their summoners’ commands: if they’ve been ordered to kill a specific person, that’s whom they attack, period. If ordered to kill multiple people, however, they can get creative. Spellcasters who do direct damage or cast banishment (as opposed to casting spells that impose debilitating effects) are top targets, as is anyone who can see them and anyone with any feature that either grants advantage on attacks against them or negates their own advantage.
Invisible stalkers exploit their invisibility and high flying speed by staying on the move constantly and attacking from unexpected directions. A typical invisible stalker turn consists of either movement, two Slam attacks, and more movement; or movement, one Slam attack, more movement, another Slam attack, and still more movement. If possible, an invisible stalker always begins and ends its turn out of any opponent’s melee reach. Depending on how its opponents are arrayed, this may mean flying up in the air, 5 or 10 feet above them.
Invisible stalkers don’t like being bound to their summoners’ service, but it compels them to fulfill the duties they’re assigned—completely. That means an invisible stalker assigned to kill a single target won’t stop attacking that target once he or she is down to 0 hp—it keeps attacking until the target is killed. However, once it accomplishes that, it’s freed from the spell that bound it, and it vanishes back to its home plane. An invisible stalker sent after multiple targets, however, will try to render all of them unconscious before it proceeds to finishing any of them off. Like the galeb duhr and the water weird, an invisible stalker never retreats, flees or disengages, no matter how much damage it takes.
Next: salamanders and fire snakes.