Yugoloth Tactics: Merrenoloths

The lowest-level of the yugoloths in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is the merrenoloth, and it’s something I haven’t come across before: a low-level monster that nevertheless has lair actions with regional effects. Merrenoloths normally pilot ferryboats on the River Styx (meaning, I suppose, that Charon is the head of their guild), but they can be summoned and hired to captain vessels on other planes. When a merrenoloth accepts such a contract, the vessel becomes its lair.

The lair actions don’t do much to protect the merrenoloth itself; rather, they protect the vessel under its command, allowing the merrenoloth to restore hit points to a damaged vessel, speed it away from pursuers (or toward another vessel it’s pursuing) or interfere with flying attackers. The merrenoloth itself, in fact, would rather not fight at all—it would rather just do its job. Consequently, it will never come to the aid of another creature. It engages in combat only if threatened directly.

When it is threatened, it defends itself partly by spellcasting and partly by striking with an oversize oar, which it seems to wield as a finesse weapon, judging by its attack bonus and damage. Its ability contour is interesting: part spellslinger, part melee shock attacker. But it doesn’t have much in the way of damaging ranged spells; its strongest offensive gambit is gust of wind, which it can use to try to shove enemies overboard. I say “try to,” because its spell save DC of 13 is not impressive; even low-level fighting classes will beat it at least half the time. On the other hand, it affect an area 60 feet long and 10 feet wide, so it’s usable against several foes at once, at least one of whom is likely to fail their save. Continue reading Yugoloth Tactics: Merrenoloths

Devourer Tactics

Don’t let the neotenic proportions in the illustration in Volo’s Guide to Monsters fool you: devourers are big and mean enough to pick you up and stuff you inside their own ribcages. Which they do. It’s a thing.

Fiends, though not technically demons, devourers seize humanoids and consume them body and soul, transforming them into undead creatures of power proportional to what they possessed in life.

Devourers have extraordinary Strength and Constitution; their Charisma is also very high, but they’re melee-oriented brutes first and foremost. With above-average Intelligence, they’re going to be fairly good at guessing who’s going to be susceptible to which of their abilities, though these guesses are by no means infallible. With 120 feet of darkvision, they’re not creatures you’re ever going to encounter in broad daylight—strictly at night, indoors and/or underground. (According to the flavor text, they aren’t even found on the material plane all that often.) Continue reading Devourer Tactics

Demon Tactics: Maurezhi and Dybbuks

Maurezhi, according to Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, are demons formed from the corrupted souls of elves to lead packs of ghouls and ghasts. The connection to elves is interesting, because as I note in my article on ghoul and ghast tactics, whether or not their claw attacks have an effect on elves is a key feature distinguishing ghouls from ghasts. (Ghouls’ claw attacks have no paralyzing effect on elves; ghasts’ claw attacks do.)

Upon consuming the corpse of a humanoid it’s slain, a maurezhi has a brief window of opportunity during which it assumes his or her appearance and can convincingly pass as that person, with the help of its proficiency in the Deception skill. Almost immediately, however, this body begins to rot away, and after just a day, something is clearly not right; by a few days later, the maurezhi sheds it, like a skin it’s outgrown. The ideal maurezhi encounter therefore takes place very soon after it’s assumed a new appearance, and any delay is going to have an effect on its strategy.

Maurezhi have high Charisma, but this doesn’t figure into any of their attacks, only their deception skill. Combat-wise, they’re shock attackers, with exceptional Dexterity that functions as their primary ability for both defense and offense. Since ghouls and ghasts are also shock attackers, and since maurezhi will typically be encountered leading packs of them, there should be enough baddies to go around for an entire group of protagonists; the ghouls and ghasts go straight for the ones they want to eat, while the maurezhi zeroes in on any other opponent who might present an obstacle to that and tries to take him or her out in a round or two. Continue reading Demon Tactics: Maurezhi and Dybbuks

Demon Tactics: Sibriexes

Sibriexes are fiends—demons, to be specific—but there’s also something distinctly aberration-like about them. Partly, it’s their Lovecraftian body-horror appearance; partly, the fact that they move only by floating; and partly, the fact that their mere presence is toxic to living things.

Their ability contour is bizarre: extraordinary Constitution and mental abilities alongside merely average Strength and almost nonexistent Dexterity. From this we can conclude that they’re heavily dependent on magic and make no effort to avoid attacks—“psychic brutes,” if you will. We’ve seen this before in one other monster: the githzerai. Githzerai, however, are highly mobile. The sibriex is a slow-moving juggernaut.

Despite their extraordinary Wisdom and Charisma, sibriexes don’t have much reason to stay and chat, nor do they have proficiency in any social skill that suggests what kind of conversation they might engage in. Therefore, I’d say, a sibriex that weighs the odds and finds itself outmatched simply never bothers to engage. The upshot of this is that a sibriex encounter should always be Deadly (see “Encounter Difficulty,” Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 82); throw in a handful of minions if you need to. When it does engage, it uses its telepathy to tell the player characters what it’s going to do to them, in nasty, dripping detail. Continue reading Demon Tactics: Sibriexes

Orthon Tactics

The first thing that leaps out at me about orthons—described in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes as “infernal bounty hunters”—is that they’re proficient in all of the “big three” saving throws: Dexterity, Constitution and Wisdom. I run across monsters with two of these three saving throw proficiencies fairly often, especially when looking at monsters with higher challenge ratings, but I’m not sure when I last saw a monster with all three of them. Put these together with Magic Resistance, and the takeaway is that orthons are utterly unafraid of spellcasters. They don’t even go out of their way to take spellcasters out quickly. They’re indifferent to them, which, if anything, is scarier.

Orthons are called into play when an archdevil wants an enemy dealt with, dead or alive. They’re brutes, with extraordinary Strength and Constitution, but their Dexterity and mental abilities are far from shabby. They’re expert in Perception, Stealth and Survival—consummate ambush attackers. They’re immune to fire and poison, can’t be charmed, never tire, and are resistant to cold and to physical damage from nonmagical, nonsilvered weapons.

They have 120 feet of darkvision and 30 feet of truesight, so they prefer strongly to attack at night or in a darkened location. But even in daylight, they have the Invisibility Field feature, which lets them turn invisible as a bonus action! An orthon will always use this feature before launching an attack in anything less than total darkness—and even in darkness, if its target has darkvision. Thus, it will always make its first attack with unseen-attacker advantage. Continue reading Orthon Tactics