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…)

Yuan-ti Tactics

Yuan-ti are snake-human hybrids, created in the earliest days of civilization, whose culture fell from an advanced, enlightened state into fanaticism and cruelty. They live in a caste-bound society in which those who most closely resemble humans make up the lowest stratum, while the most snakelike constitute the highest and most powerful. One distinctive characteristic they all share is the innate ability to cast suggestion: like Kaa in The Jungle Book, they try to win your trust before they mess you up. Another is that they all have magic resistance, so they have no reason to fear spellcasters more than anyone else.

The most common and least powerful caste are the yuan-ti purebloods. (Counterintuitively, “pure” is a pejorative to the yuan-ti; the more adulterated by reptilian essence they are, the more they’re esteemed.) Their physical abilities are average-ish, with a slightly elevated Dexterity; their Intelligence and, particularly, Charisma are higher, implying a species that approaches combat from a mental angle first. This implication is emphasized further by their proficiency in Deception and Stealth. They have darkvision, suggesting that they’re most at home in dim places and/or most active at night. Along with suggestion, they can cast the cantrip poison spray three times per day (presumably only at its base damage level of 1d12—although they have 9 hit dice, there’s no mention of their spellcasting level). They can also cast animal friendship on snakes, for whatever that’s worth.

According to the Monster Manual flavor text, yuan-ti purebloods often put on cloaks and try to pass for human in order to “kidnap prisoners for interrogation and sacrifice,” so let’s start with that: The yuan-ti wants to kill you, but it doesn’t want to kill you right here and now. Instead, it wants to get you someplace where it can kill you in a way that makes its gods happy.


Blight Tactics

In Dungeons and Dragons, some plants are “awakened”: they possess consciousness and mobility. And, of course, some awakened plants are evil and want to kill you. These are called “blights.”

Being plants, they derive nutrients from the soil, so they don’t need to kill to eat. They attack strictly out of spite. (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.


Drow Tactics, Part 3

The variations on the drow are capped off by a high-challenge spellcasting variant, the drow priestess of Lolth. The priestess’s physical ability scores are unexceptional, although her Constitution is slightly higher than that of a regular drow, making her less exclusively a sniper and more willing and able to get scrappy. Her mental ability scores are all high, however, especially Wisdom and Charisma. She’s distinguished first by her spellcasting ability, second by her Summon Demon ability (which, oddly, is less reliable than that of the drow mage) and third by her use of a melee weapon, a poisoned scourge.

The drow priestess’s Summon Demon ability doesn’t offer the choice between a consistent, lower-power version and a chancier, higher-power version. It offers only one version, which summons a CR 10 yochlol, has only a 30 percent chance of success and deals 1d10 of psychic damage to the priestess if it fails. The drow mage’s summonable demons were low- and medium-challenge fiends, but the yochlol is powerful—more powerful, in fact, than the priestess trying to summon it. The question is whether this gamble is worth spending an entire combat action on. The drow priestess has 71 hp, no more than the drow elite warrior, and her chief strength lies in her spellcasting. Spellcasting takes time.

Here are three possible reasons why the drow priestess might choose to try to summon a yochlol anyway: First, assuming that a +6 attack modifier gives a roughly 60 percent chance to hit, it does an expected 16 hp of damage per round without costing the priestess a single action. Second, it can cast dominate person once per day and web at will. Third, it has 136 hp, allowing it to act as a rearguard to cover the priestess’s escape.