Holy heck. The entire month of May got away from me. Sorry about that, readers.
Anyway, today it’s back to business, with the deep scion from Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Technically a humanoid but giving off serious aberration vibes, the deep scion is the product of a pact with a great undersea power—one made under duress, at the point of drowning, so the terms aren’t nearly as favorable as those granted to warlocks. Not only transformed but brainwashed as well, the deep scion can take the form of its previous self, but it no longer considers its previous self to be its true self; that identity is lost.
Deep scions have two forms, “humanoid” and “hybrid.” The hybrid form is its “true” form, having humanoid torso, legs and arms but crustacean claws, tentacles (non-prehensile) emerging from its head and a mouth that DEAR GOD WHAT IS THAT THING? In its humanoid form, it moves at a humanoid-typical 30 feet on land and, like other landbound creatures, swims at only half that speed. In its hybrid form, its walking speed is 20 feet, but its swimming speed is 40 feet. If it can, a deep scion maximizes its movement by using its Shapechanger action in the middle of the turn in which it travels from land to water or vice versa, taking this action at the moment it reaches the shoreline. This way, even if it’s used its full walking movement to reach water, once it transforms, it still has another 10 feet of swimming movement left to go.
In combat, deep scions are pure brutes, with exceptional Strength and very high Constitution. However, their expertise in Deception makes this as formidable a weapon in social encounters as their battle axes are in melee. They also have proficiency in Insight, Sleight of Hand and Stealth. Deep scions are spies as well as warriors; they fight only when their cover is blown. As I’ve said before, it’s easier to punch someone after fooling them has failed than it is to fool them after punching them has failed.
They have 120 feet of darkvision, which is useful not only for skulking around at night but also in the watery depths where sunlight doesn’t penetrate. These two backdrops—nighttime and underwater—are the deep scion’s preferred combat settings. If confronted on land during daylight hours, it runs like hell toward the nearest body of water to make its escape. It doesn’t cover its escape by turning hybrid, then issuing a Psychic Screech: the two full actions this operation takes is too much of a delay.
In water, on the other hand, Psychic Screech is the first action a deep scion takes in combat. It’s a once-per-encounter ability; there’s no reason not to use it right away, against as many enemies as possible. Thus, if it isn’t within 30 feet of all its foes already, a deep scion first moves toward them until it’s within 30 feet of its farthest opponent, then uses Psychic Screech.
After issuing its screech, the deep scion closes with an opponent and starts mauling. Ideally, it would like to attack a stunned opponent for advantage on its rolls; however, it’s likely that in the intervening rounds between its Psychic Screech and its next action, a non-stunned opponent will close in and engage it. That can’t be helped, unfortunately. If an enemy engages, the deep scion simply has to slug it out. At least in the water, its enemies will have disadvantage on attacks with all but a handful of thrusting weapons.
An oddity about the deep scion is that it’s a suitable boss enemy only for low-level adventurers, who aren’t likely to have obtained the kind of magic necessary to breathe underwater and consequently may not even be able to pursue it if it tries to swim away. They can hold their breath and dive in after it, but this puts a cap on how long they can fight and how far they can go. Nevertheless, except at night, combat on land is much less desirable: although a deep scion can do almost as much damage with two battle ax strikes as it can with one Bite and two Claw attacks, its foes won’t be saddled with the disadvantages of fighting underwater. At least in darkness, its darkvision gives it a small edge over opponents without it.
If a deep scion faces off against player characters who are more experienced than level 3, it’s going to realize fairly quickly (after being only moderately wounded—reduced to 46 hp or fewer) that it’s outmatched, and it will try to strike a deal to get out of the situation. It has no intention of adhering to any such deal, but with its proficiency in Insight, it can make a good educated guess about what the PCs want and offer it to them in exchange for its freedom, and with its expertise in Deception, it can make its case convincingly. Against a party of level 2 or 3 PCs, it will fight until it’s seriously wounded (reduced to 26 hp or fewer) before Disengaging, then Dashing off into the deep.
Next: Mordenkainen’s yugoloths. (Mordenloths?)