Modron Tactics

I was a huge math nerd as a kid. I think I must have been just 5 or 6 years old when I first got my hands on Flatland, and I drank it up like a parched man in a hot desert (having no idea until many years later that it was an allegory for classism and sexism in Victorian England), and the discovery of a quasi-sequel called Sphereland (sadly, not in print right now) delighted me even further.

So maybe you’d expect me to be more into modrons than I am. But when a reader recently told me he planned to run a campaign in Mechanus, the plane of pure law, and thought he wasn’t doing the modrons justice, I had to confess: I hate them. I have a great appreciation for silliness, but modrons have always struck me as just too silly, like whoever came up with the idea of Mechanus envisioned it as something out of The Phantom Tollbooth or Donald in Mathmagic Land.

Modrons are constructs, automata with vaguely mathematically inspired bodies and weirdly humanoid faces (with, in the illustrations of the fifth-edition Monster Manual, disturbingly full lips). The more advanced the modron, the more it can multitask, and the more authority it has over other modrons. All modrons possess natural armor, above-average Dexterity, 120 feet of truesight, and the features Axiomatic Mind and Disintegration.

One of the many peculiarities of modrons is that they’re denizens of an outer plane, yet their challenge ratings top out at 2. How many low-level adventurers are going to travel to Mechanus? I wonder whether these creatures must exist at least primarily for the sake of background decoration. They’re not going to pose a challenge to the player characters who encounter them except in great numbers—legions. Continue reading Modron Tactics

Sahuagin Tactics

Sahuagin are fierce, amphibious fish-men that live underwater but emerge periodically to raid coastal settlements. Although the Monster Manual says they “dwell in the deepest trenches of the ocean,” that’s a bit far for even a creature with a 40-foot swimming speed. Those ocean trenches are as far from the coasts as the highest mountains are, and you don’t often hear about the yeti of the Himalayas spending an afternoon staging a raid on Kolkata, or the Tatzelwürmer of the Alps popping down to Genoa for some late-night ravaging. These are distances of hundreds of miles we’re talking about. So chances are, any sahuagin that player characters encounter are going to be denizens of shallower depths. Maybe they’re the border reivers of the ocean kingdom.

When they come ashore to raid, they do so at night, as implied by their 120 feet of darkvision. They can’t come far inland, since their Limited Amphibiousness gives them only four hours of air breathing before they have to return to the water. Unlike, say, merrows, sahuagin can move about on land as easily as any other humanoid.

In this environment, they’re basic brutes. Their Multiattack gives them one weapon or claw attack and one bite attack. Since their armor class doesn’t include a shield, we can presume that they wield their spears two-handed for the greater damage. Continue reading Sahuagin Tactics

Merrow Tactics

Not to be confused with ordinary merfolk, merrows are larger-than-humanoid monstrosities, the descendents of merfolk warped by demonic influence in the ancient past. Since they’ve bred and survived since then, we can consider them evolved creatures despite their supernatural origin.

Merrows are water-dwelling creatures, drawn to coastal areas with a lot of marine traffic, where they prey on anyone and anything weaker than themselves. While they can breathe both air and water, they flounder about at a pitiable 10 feet per turn on land, but in water, they swim at a brisk 40. Their exceptional Strength and very high Constitution place them in the brute category, eager to get up close and personal with their prospective victims. They’re not that bright, but they can tell when they’re getting beaten. They also have darkvision, so the hours from twilight to dawn are particularly dangerous times to be messing about in boats where merrows roam.

Most humanoids are strongest on land and weak in the water; merrows are strongest in the water and weak on land. It’s a given, therefore, that when merrows attack, their first and foremost goal is to pull their opponents into the water. Continue reading Merrow Tactics

Meenlock Tactics

Meenlocks are the unseeliest of the unseelie fey: deformed, sadistic, dark-dwelling predators. They look like a cross between a lobster, a stag beetle and Jeff Goldblum in The Fly (toward the end of the movie, not the beginning). They’re halfling-size and not very strong, relying on Dexterity-based shock attacks, psychic terror and a paralyzing touch to take down victims quickly. They may also hunt in groups.

Because of their Light Sensitivity feature, which gives them disadvantage on attacks and Perception checks in bright light, meenlocks shun daylight. However, because the frightened condition requires their prey to see them in order to suffer disadvantage from their Fear Aura feature, total darkness isn’t ideal, either, unless their prey has darkvision. Thus, meenlocks are most active at twilight, though they’ll also be drawn to the dim light of torches and campfires at night.

Dim light also allows meenlocks to take full advantage of their Shadow Teleport feature, even in view of creatures with darkvision—both the space it’s teleporting from and its destination must be in dim light or darkness, regardless of whether these spaces are unobscured or only lightly obscured to an onlooker. Because this is a recharging feature, available on average one turn out of three, Shadow Teleport is more useful as an ambush tactic than as an escape tactic—it simply isn’t reliable enough for the latter. The fact that it’s a bonus action means that it can be combined with an attack, and a meenlock will usually use this bonus action first, then attack as a follow-up action. Continue reading Meenlock Tactics

Fey Tactics: Darklings, Quicklings and Redcaps

Volo’s Guide to Monsters offers a number of new possibilities for deep forest encounters and conjure fey summonees, and today I’m going to look at three of them: darklings, quicklings and redcaps.

Darklings are the rogues of the fey world, inhabiting not just woodlands but also caves and catacombs. They’re high in Dexterity, above-average in Constitution and below-average in Strength, marking them as snipers and shock attackers that must choose their battles carefully. If they can’t manage their mischief with secrecy and stealth, they’ll have to compensate with numbers. But nothing in the Volo’s flavor texts suggests that they’re prolific, so secrecy it is. Fortunately for them, they’re proficient in Acrobatics and Deception and expert in Perception and Stealth.

They have 120 feet of darkvision topped off with 30 feet of blindsight; they’re also light-sensitive, giving them disadvantage on attack rolls and Perception checks in bright light. Dim light is ideal for them, but they can function capably in total darkness—even, to a certain extent, in magical darkness.

They have only one attack: a simple dagger strike, either melee or ranged. Built into this attack, however, is extra damage when they attack with advantage—a partial equivalent of the Sneak Attack feature. The most straightforward way for them to attack with advantage is to strike in darkness against a target who lacks darkvision. Continue reading Fey Tactics: Darklings, Quicklings and Redcaps