Manticore Tactics

I didn’t realize when I chose it—to be honest, if I don’t have a theme I’m following or a request to fulfill, I choose these monsters more or less at random, although I tend to favor the old-school ones—but the manticore is the first creature I’ve encountered whose tactics are already laid out in the Monster Manual flavor text:

A manticore begins its attack with a volley of tail spikes, then lands and uses its claws and bite. When outdoors and outnumbered, it uses its wings to stay aloft, attacking from a distance until its spikes are depleted.

Given the manticore’s stat and feature profile, these tactics make sense. The Tail Spike is a strong attack with good damage and a generous range, and the manticore can hurl three in a single Multiattack action. Its Strength, Dexterity and Constitution are all very high, suiting it equally for ranged and close-in combat. It stands to reason that it would use its strongest, safest attack first, then close in to finish off injured enemies. (more…)

Gorgon Tactics

The gorgon is an underutilized monster, a good enemy for intermediate-level parties. Thematically, it fits in well alongside golems and other constructs. Yet it’s categorized as a monstrosity, and reading between the lines of the Monster Manual flavor text, it’s evidently meant to be an evolved creature, so it will have the same survival instinct as any other monstrous beast.

Gorgons are high-Strength, high-Constitution brutes, and their Intelligence is animal-level low, so they’re indiscriminate brutes. Their senses are keen, though (Perception +4), so it’s hard to slip past one unnoticed. They feed by petrifying their prey, then smashing it into gravelly Grape-Nuts that it can consume. They’re not evil per se, but they are apex predators, and once they’ve locked on to potential prey, it takes a lot of damage to get them to reconsider their plan.

The gorgon attacks when the distance between itself and its target closes to between 30 and 40 feet. At that moment, it charges forth (movement) and makes a Gore Attack (action), using the Trampling Charge feature to try to knock its target prone. If it succeeds, it gets to strike again with its hooves as a bonus action. (more…)

Drider Tactics

I’ll wrap up “Drow Week” with the drider, a centaur-like monstrosity with the head and torso of a drow and the thorax and abdomen of a giant spider. (In both centaurs and driders, the torso of the humanoid replaces the head of the beast, creating a creature with, presumably, two whole cardiopulmonary systems. We’re probably better off not thinking about this too much.)

Driders, according to the Monster Manual flavor text, are debased creations of the goddess Lolth, presumably produced with some frequency as pious drow fail the challenges of the Demonweb Pits. The text says nothing about whether driders reproduce to create new generations of driders; I’m going to go on the assumption that they don’t, meaning that they’re not evolved creatures. Because of the means of their creation, they may or may not have a strong self-preservation impulse—some of them may even have a death wish.

Driders are fighting machines. They have high Strength, high Dexterity and exceptional Constitution, suiting them for any sort of combat—ranged or melee, ambush or assault, swift or prolonged. They have a triple Multiattack with either longsword or longbow and can replace one of either of those attacks with a poisonous bite. However, based on their proficiency in Stealth, let’s say they prefer to start combat with a surprise attack. Their Spider Climb ability allows them to maneuver along walls and ceilings, and their Web Walker ability lets them ignore movement penalties from the webs of giant spiders. (They do not, however, have the ability to create webs themselves. Why not, I wonder?) They’re strictly nocturnal and/or subterranean, having both 120-foot darkvision and Sunlight Sensitivity.


Mimic Tactics

Since the days of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, the mimic has been one of the dirtiest tricks a dungeon master can pull on incautious players: a “door” or (usually) “treasure chest” that turns out to be a carnivorous monster. How on earth could such a thing evolve? At some point in prehistory, the mimic’s ancestors must have disguised themselves as natural objects, using octopus-like camouflage, only later adopting the forms of manmade objects after exposure to humanoid beings. This suggests a unique, specialized intelligence, akin to the ability of parrots and certain other birds to mimic speech . . . but one that’s used to lure and capture prey.

With strong physical ability scores across the board but especially high Strength and Constitution, the mimic is a “brute” creature adapted to close-range fighting. Yet it also has high proficiency in Stealth, along with darkvision: this is an ambush predator as much at home underground as aboveground. It has a sticky surface with which to ensnare its prey and advantage on attacks against any creature it’s caught this way.

The mimic’s particular combination of features is so calculated, there’s really only one way for it to behave: (more…)

Doppelgänger Tactics

Invasion of the body snatchers! Doppelgängers are shapeshifting humanoids (though the fifth-edition Monster Manual categorizes them not as humanoids but as monstrosities) that take on the appearance of other beings for fiendish purposes.

Doppelgängers have high Constitution and extremely high Dexterity, making them scrappy fighters. Their self-preservation instinct is strong, and they’re unusual among monsters in having a high Charisma, along with proficiency in Deception and Insight. They can’t be charmed, they can Read Thoughts, and they have the Ambusher and Surprise Attack features in addition to their Shapechanger power. All these abilities synergize to make the doppelgänger a sucker-puncher par excellence.