Cadaver Collector Tactics

Cadaver collectors are like monstrous Roombas that scour the endless battlefields of Acheron, scooping up corpses and recycling the souls that formerly inhabited them into specters, which are then bound to fight for the cadaver collectors’ masters. Although native to that outer plane, they can be summoned to other planes as well, including the prime material—and if the summoner dies or loses control of them, they just keep on Roomba-ing around, turning living beings into cadavers if there aren’t already cadavers handy.

With Intelligence 5, they’re mechanistic juggernauts that never vary their method. What is their method? Well, they’re brutes, with extraordinary Strength and Constitution, so whoever, whatever and wherever their targets may be, they march straight at them. They have no independent judgment and lack the Wisdom to discriminate among targets, but they have a function, and a good machine completes its function with maximum efficiency, so they tend to head toward concentrations of bodies, whether those bodies be alive or dead. When they’re close enough to three targets to engulf them all in a 30-foot cone of Paralyzing Breath, that’s what they do (as long as this recharge ability isn’t on cooldown). And when they come within melee reach of a paralyzed target—or when cheeky opponents with magic or adamantine weapons run up and impertinently attack them—they employ their dual Slam Multiattack (rolling with advantage if the target is paralyzed, with every hit a crit).

What if they’re attacked by foes with nonmagical, non-adamantine weapons? They ignore it and keep juggernauting toward the nearest knot of humanoid organic mass. These attacks can’t hurt them and have no relevance to their mission. Woe betide the third opponent to get in on the action, though: at that point, the cadaver collector’s density-detecting algorithm kicks in, and all it has to do is take a couple of steps back—heedless of opportunity attacks—to nail all three with Paralyzing Breath. Continue reading Cadaver Collector Tactics

The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters, Available NOW!

It’s here! The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters, published by Saga Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is available in hardcover and e-book formats today!

The Monsters Know What They're Doing Cover
Cover Illustration by Lily Pressland

This book features all the creatures I’ve analyzed from the Monster Manual, along with exclusive analyses of un-blogged monsters including aarakocra, basilisks, cockatrices, griffons and hippogriffs, kenku, merfolk, quaggoths and xorn, plus thoughts on how to handle encounters with tactically uninteresting monsters.

Click here to order The Monsters Know What They’re Doing from your favorite independent bookseller.IndieBound I’m a strong believer in independent booksellers as community anchors, promoting the free expression and sharing of ideas, enriching the cultural life of communities, and keeping money circulating in the local economy. If you don’t already have a favorite independent bookseller, maybe it’s time to get to know one!

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Spawn of Kyuss Tactics

A couple of months ago, a reader asked me to take a look at the spawn of Kyuss in Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Reader, I hope you’re not too disappointed.

Both the flavor text and the ability contour tell us the same thing: The spawn of Kyuss is a largely mindless brute. Its Strength is very high; its Constitution exceptional; its Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma dismal. This is a creature without any flexibility or independent judgment, or even much of a self-preservation instinct.

As an undead being, the spawn of Kyuss is driven by a compulsion—in its case, the desire to spread its parasitic infection to other beings. This is all the spawn of Kyuss does; it’s all it can do. Other than its attack actions, all of its traits are passive. One of its attacks, Claw, is just an ordinary melee attack that happens to do some extra necrotic damage. The other, Burrowing Worm, is an attempt to infect another creature by propelling a parasitic maggot at them. If the target fails their saving throw, the Burrowing Worm continues to deal damage to them. The spawn of Kyuss’s Multiattack action comprises two Claw attacks and one use of Burrowing Worm.

That’s it. Continue reading Spawn of Kyuss Tactics

Conjured Creature Tactics

Today’s post is as much for players as it is for Dungeon Masters, because creatures summoned by conjure animals are as often found fighting alongside player characters as against them. And, in fact, the tactics relating to conjured creatures are player tactics as much as they are creature tactics, if not more so.

Conjure animals—along with the closely related spells conjure woodland beings and conjure minor elementals—is sometimes referred to as a “broken” spell. It’s not necessarily that the spell is excessively powerful; in fact, as we’ll see, it comes with a built-in hitch that can have just the opposite effect. Rather, it’s the fact that this hitch encourages casters to summon as many creatures as possible, causing combat to bog down badly—over and over and over again. So one of the things I’ll talk about is how to keep this from happening.

It behooves any player whose PC learns conjure animals (or conjure woodland beings or conjure minor elementals) to read the spell description very closely, because it doesn’t necessarily do what you think it does. Unlike, say, find familiar, these spells don’t give you the privilege of choosing what kind of creature shows up. They don’t even let you dictate how powerful the summoned creature(s) will be. The only thing you’re assured of is how many creatures show up. Continue reading Conjured Creature Tactics

Shadar-kai Tactics

If eladrin are the elf-kin with the strongest remaining connection to the Feywild, shadar-kai are those whose nature has been shaped by the grim Shadowfell. Three types are described in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes: the shadow dancer, gloom weaver and soul monger.

Shadow dancers are shock troops optimized for operations in darkness. They can function in dim light, but bright light hobbles them severely, so they’ll never willingly choose to fight in daylight or comparable illumination. Dexterity is their one outstanding ability, which they rely on for both offense and defense, and they’re proficient in Stealth, predisposing them to ambush.

Although they’re tough, their stat block is short, not especially complex and mostly passive. Their two standout features are Shadow Jump and Spiked Chain (which they can use three times as a Multiattack action).

Shadow Jump is a mobility feature and action economy enhancer that lets shadow dancers teleport from one dark or dimly lit point to another up to 30 feet away. Depending on the environment and the positioning of combatants, they can use this trait either to engage in melee or to disengage from it. Shadow Jumping to engage is a more desirable tactic when fighting in total darkness, as we’ll see in a moment. Continue reading Shadar-kai Tactics