My apologies, readers: Between putting out the second edition of Live to Tell the Tale, going car-buying, and then coming down with some not-the-flu-yet-still-distinctly-flu-like bug, I haven’t had a very productive March, blog-wise. But let’s see what I can still jam out under the wire.
I’ve got quite a few reader requests queued up, and the one that’s been in the queue the longest is the banderhobb, yet another monster that supports Sam Sykes’ dictum, “Frogs are seriously bad news, man.” The banderhobb’s froglike appearance is a little misleading, since it’s not amphibious, nor can it leap, although it can attack targets with its tongue. Instead, it’s a deadly combination of powerful brute and relentless hunter, which stalks its prey in the dark.
And don’t let the term “brute” fool you: even though it possesses extraordinary Strength and Constitution, it doesn’t lack Intelligence and in fact has a fairly high Wisdom, high enough for it to choose its battles and its moments. It’s also expert in Stealth, and it has 120 feet of darkvision. These traits, plus its Shadow Stealth and Shadow Step features, indicate that it strikes from hiding rather than charging brazenly into battle.
According to the lore in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, a banderhobb is the creation of a malicious mage or fey creature, called to serve as a thief, kidnapper or assassin. It doesn’t live very long and so, despite its high Wisdom, has no survival instinct to speak of; it exists only to fulfill its orders. If a group of player characters encounters one, it will be on the hunt, its quarry either a non-player character or one of the PCs themselves. (In rare instances, it may be hunting an object rather than a person.)
The banderhobb is strictly nocturnal—it has nothing to gain and everything to lose from operating in daylight. In addition to its basic movement, it has Shadow Step, which combines an attack action with up to 30 feet of teleportation into a place of obscurity, and Shadow Stealth, which lets it Hide as a bonus action. There are two ways to apply this combo. One is an attack: The banderhobb teleports into a dark or dim space, Hides as a bonus action (yes, this is in the middle of an action, but the Player’s Handbook doesn’t say you can take a bonus action “before or after” your action, it says, “You choose when to take a bonus action during your turn, unless the bonus action’s timing is specified”—and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about fifth-edition Dungeons and Dragons, it’s always to interpret the rules absolutely literally!) and then attacks from hiding with advantage. The other is a retreat: Engaged in melee with an opponent, the banderhobb makes one last counterattack out of spite, then teleports away to a dark or dim space and Hides as a bonus action, so that its opponent gets no opportunity attack against it and has to go looking for it again.
You’re probably already starting to see the banderhobb’s behavior pattern coming together. The last thing to look at is its three attack options: Bite, Tongue and Swallow. Really, we should list them as Tongue, Bite and Swallow, because that’s the order it will use them in.
Tongue is a melee attack with a 15-foot reach. A fully successful Tongue attack not only does damage but also yanks the target adjacent to the banderhobb and grants it a bonus bite attack. Note that if the banderhobb has just used the Shadow Step/Shadow Stealth combo, it’s used its bonus action already and can’t use it again to Bite, so that movement combo ideally should be used either to set up a Tongue attack in the following round or to position the banderhobb adjacent to its target, so that it can make a Bite attack immediately.
Bite is a close-range melee attack. A fully successful Bite attack against a Large or smaller creature grapples and restrains its target. This grapple won’t be easy to break, because—oops—Volo’s made a mistake. It based the difficulty class to escape this grapple on the banderhobb’s Strength. But the banderhobb also has proficiency in Athletics. Why would it be proficient in this skill, except to make it a better grappler? It seems to me that the escape DC should be 18, not 15. [ETA: Changed my mind about this. Things you do with just your tongue don’t really count as “Athletics.”]
What it does next depends on whether it’s been sent to kill or to abduct. If it’s been sent to kill, it straightforwardly repeats its Bite attack, with advantage, since the target is restrained. If it’s been sent to abduct, it moves on to Swallow. This entails another Bite attack—again, with advantage—and a success means the target is swallowed.
Here’s an interesting thing about being swallowed by a banderhobb: It doesn’t kill you! A creature reduced to 0 hp by the banderhobb’s digestion becomes unconscious but stable. In other words, once the banderhobb swallows its abductee, its work here is done, and it leaves, taking its alive-but-unconscious quarry back to home base. Is it smart enough to Disengage on the way out? Probably not, but then again, it doesn’t need to: it can Shadow Step away to avoid opportunity attacks, and then just run. With Constitution 20, it can probably sprint longer than you can.
As for battlefield positioning, it neither shows nor requires much subtlety. As a brute fighter with a moderate armor class and a decent reservoir of hit points, it really doesn’t care who or what gets up in its grille. All that really matters is that it’s where it needs to be to chomp down on its designated target. It won’t even bother attacking anyone else unless an enemy is preventing it from getting at that target. That’s the situation in which it will perform the “spite bite”/retreat combo described above.
No matter how much damage a banderhobb takes, it won’t retreat until it’s done what it was sent to do. Conversely, as soon as it has done what it was sent to do, it’s out of there. It Shadow Steps if necessary to avoid opportunity attacks; otherwise, it simply Dashes back to its master. If it was sent to steal something, the encounter may be over and done with before the PCs even realize what’s going on: it materializes in the shadows, nabs the loot with its tongue, then skedaddles immediately.
Next: faerie dragons.