Flail Snail Tactics

The ridiculous flail snail probably ought to be categorized as a beast, but Volo’s Guide to Monsters declares it to be an elemental, meaning someone casting conjure elemental in the hope of summoning an earth elemental, xorn or gargoyle may end up stuck with one of these instead. Large, tough and most of all slow, the flail snail is technically a brute, but let’s not kid ourselves: This thing isn’t a predator, it’s prey.

Despite that, the flail snail has no effective means of running away when attacked, so it has to rely on a suite of defense mechanisms, the rudest of which is its Antimagic Shell, which has a chance of bouncing spell attacks back at their casters or refracting them into a multidirectional fusillade of force damage. Antimagic Shell, however, is passive. The one and only decision the flail snail needs to make when attacked is whether to use its Flail Tentacles, its Scintillating Shell or its Shell Defense on any given turn.

Note that flail snails, while brilliant in the visual sense, are far from it in the cognitive sense: with Intelligence 3, they’re not going to be employing advanced combat heuristics. A flail snail’s choice of action is going to boil down to a couple of simple rules that it always follows. Continue reading Flail Snail Tactics

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. Continue reading Yugoloth Tactics: Hydroloths

Yugoloth Tactics: Canoloths

Canoloths are quadrupedal, weirdly doglike yugoloths whose function, like many other dogs, is to stand guard. They have expertise in Perception and Investigation, 120 feet of truesight, and immunity to surprise (unless they happen to be incapacitated), and their very presence suppresses teleportation out to a radius of 60 feet. Good luck sneaking up on these beasties.

They have exceptional Strength, Constitution and Wisdom, but their Wisdom influences only their senses, not their combat abilities; they’re not spellcasters. Really, therefore, they’re just brutes that happen to have exceptionally high Perception—and, perhaps, a particular knack for knowing how much threat an enemy or group of enemies poses. However, with their low Intelligence, they can’t do much with this information—it’s not going to have a meaningful effect on how they act.

Normally, the modus operandi of a brute is to charge and engage. But if it were so easy to entice a fairly stupid guard fiend away from whatever it was guarding, it wouldn’t be much of a guard. Thus, rather than leave its post to charge intruders, a canoloth lashes out at them with a spiky, prehensile tongue—with a 30-foot reach!—and yanks them into melee range. Continue reading Yugoloth Tactics: Canoloths

Yugoloth Tactics: Dhergoloths

Dhergoloths are the riot cops of Gehenna, fiends with a unique knack for mowing down mobs. Creatures of instinct, they show little independent judgment and no flexibility; if you start them up, they never stop.

Their exceptional Strength and Constitution stand out among their other, very unexceptional ability scores. They’re brutes, and they wouldn’t make ranged attacks even if they had any ability to do so. Their bodies are organic riot gear, resistant to physical damage from nonmagical weapons, cold, fire and lightning, and fully immune to acid and poison. They have 60 feet of darkvision and 60 feet of blindsight (I’m not sure why they have darkvision when they also have blindsight with the same range, which obviates the need for darkvision), which, as we’ll see, is key to their approach to combat.

Dhergoloths can cast darkness and fear at will. Darkness is often a problematic spell: since it thwarts darkvision, a character or creature that casts it inconveniences itself as well as its opponents, unless it has blindsight. But dhergoloths do have blindsight, so darkness works well for them indeed. Fear can also be problematic if you want to kill your foes rather than simply make them go away, and this is as true for dhergoloths as it is for most creatures. Given that both fear and darkness require concentration, and thus can’t be used at the same time, darkness is nearly always the better choice—and dhergoloths don’t have the Intelligence to recognize situational exceptions. They’ll cast fear only if ordered to, and not always then. Continue reading Yugoloth Tactics: Dhergoloths

Yugoloth Tactics: Merrenoloths

The lowest-level of the yugoloths in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is the merrenoloth, and it’s something I haven’t come across before: a low-level monster that nevertheless has lair actions with regional effects. Merrenoloths normally pilot ferryboats on the River Styx (meaning, I suppose, that Charon is the head of their guild), but they can be summoned and hired to captain vessels on other planes. When a merrenoloth accepts such a contract, the vessel becomes its lair.

The lair actions don’t do much to protect the merrenoloth itself; rather, they protect the vessel under its command, allowing the merrenoloth to restore hit points to a damaged vessel, speed it away from pursuers (or toward another vessel it’s pursuing) or interfere with flying attackers. The merrenoloth itself, in fact, would rather not fight at all—it would rather just do its job. Consequently, it will never come to the aid of another creature. It engages in combat only if threatened directly.

When it is threatened, it defends itself partly by spellcasting and partly by striking with an oversize oar, which it seems to wield as a finesse weapon, judging by its attack bonus and damage. Its ability contour is interesting: part spellslinger, part melee shock attacker. But it doesn’t have much in the way of damaging ranged spells; its strongest offensive gambit is gust of wind, which it can use to try to shove enemies overboard. I say “try to,” because its spell save DC of 13 is not impressive; even low-level fighting classes will beat it at least half the time. On the other hand, it affect an area 60 feet long and 10 feet wide, so it’s usable against several foes at once, at least one of whom is likely to fail their save. Continue reading Yugoloth Tactics: Merrenoloths