Elite Giant Tactics

In case your players are so jaded that they just shrug and say, “Whatevs,” when you throw a giant at them, Volo’s Guide to Monsters introduces a set of elite variations, one for each race of giants in the “ordning.” Curiously, however, most of them don’t offer any new tactical twists. (more…)

Salamander Tactics

Salamanders are the fiery analogue to water weirds, galeb duhrs and invisible stalkers, but they’re significantly more independent-minded, serving only efreets (and those only reluctantly and resentfully). They have a society of their own, on the Elemental Plane of Fire, and if they’re hanging out on the material plane, they’re probably doing so against their will.

As fighters, salamanders are shock troops. Their exceptional Strength is coupled with high Dexterity and Constitution (their Con is higher than their Dex, though not significantly so): they can engage in either toe-to-toe slugfests or hit-and-run attacks, but in general they’ll favor melee over ranged attacks, because they can do much more damage at close range.

Salamanders are immune to fire attacks, vulnerable to cold attacks and resistant to physical damage from nonmagical weapons. Thus, they’re more cautious around foes who wield magic weapons, as well as spellcasters who sling frost spells. Because of their choleric temperament, however, this caution is as likely to result in focused fire (pun intended) as in avoidance. (more…)

Water Weird, Galeb Duhr and Invisible Stalker Tactics

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. (more…)

Banshee Tactics

Banshees are curious creatures: accursed undead elves, without any clear explanation of who did the cursing. They’re the “mean girls” of elvenkind, beautiful but cold, shallow and manipulative, who instead of remaining eternally youthful become more and more debased and drained of vitality, and end up wallowing in empty alienation forever.

Banshees have no physical form, so their only movement is flying, at a brisk 40 feet per round. They have above-average Dexterity and very high Charisma, but owing to their lack of substance, they have virtually no Strength. Thus, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever engage in prolonged, toe-to-toe melee combat; instead, they’ll use their ranged powers first, then make hit-and-run attacks. They’re not worried about opportunity attacks, because they’re resistant to physical damage from nonmagical weapons.

In addition to laughing at mundane iron and steel, banshees are also resistant to acid, fire, lightning and thunder damage and outright immune to cold, necrotic and poison damage, along with the vast majority of debilitating conditions. Thus, they have as little to fear from spellcasters as they do from loutish fighters. A magic weapon, on the other hand, puts them on red alert. (more…)

Hydra Tactics

A reader recently asked me to look at the hydra, but the hydra isn’t a particularly complicated monster. A straightforward brute, with extraordinary Strength and Constitution, it’s extremely stupid and not discriminating when it comes to target selection. It also has only one method of attack: one bite for each of its multiple heads, of which it initially has five.

Running a hydra encounter is primarily a matter of accounting: tracking how much damage has been done to it; whether any of that was fire damage; and how many heads it has at the moment, since (a) destroying one head without cauterizing it causes two to sprout back in its place, and (b) it gets an additional opportunity attack for every extra head.

The only question you have to answer, round by round, is where the hydra is going to position itself, and the answer is, wherever it can attack as many targets as possible, up to the number of heads it has. In other words, if possible, a five-headed hydra will try to position itself where it can reach five targets; a seven-headed hydra will go where it can attack as many as possible, up to seven; and so on. It doesn’t have to be immediately adjacent to these targets, since its heads have a reach of 10 feet: a target is still within reach if there’s a single square or hex between the target and the hydra, even if there’s another creature in that square or hex. (Because of the hydra’s size, an interposed Medium-size ally doesn’t give a humanoid creature any cover.) (more…)