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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Link to previous thread
    As the last thread was shut down due to charges of necromancy, I am starting a new one to wrap up the alphabetical reviews. Below I am simply copying the instructions from the last thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Professor Gnoll
    Though this thread was started by Mr. Consideration, and is largely composed of his reviews, anyone is free and encouraged to review a monster. Reviews consist of the following parts:

    Introduction: A brief introduction on the monster, and sometimes an explanation of their history in D&D.
    Art: What is the art of the monster like? Considerations include quality of artwork, creature design, sense of scale, and how well the artwork conveys the monster's feel.
    Purpose and Tactics: How does the monster fight? How should it be used to build an encounter? Are its abilities interesting to use and fun to fight?
    Fluff: What's the background of the monster like? Is it interesting? Is it conducive to plot? If you have any ideas of how to change the fluff of the monster to make it more interesting, put them here.
    Hooks: A collection of your ideas on how to use the monster in a campaign and build quests around it. This is perhaps one of the most important parts of the thread, and you are encouraged to plunder other people's hooks for ideas. Try to come up with some interesting ones!
    Verdict: Your rating of the monster. Good, bad, or mediocre?

    After each rating, there's a short discussion where people suggest their own ideas for using the monster, come up with ideas to improve the monster's fluff or combat abilities, and generally throw around ideas.

    With that said, it's time to get finish reading the Monster Manual!
    I'll do the wight next, and after that, we only have a few more of the main body statistics left, especially as zombies and yuan-ti have already been done. I think there's some room left for discussion of some of the creatures in the appendix, as well as for comparisons of potential mounts, animal companions, and familiars, but I could see why people might not want to do so thorough an analysis of the appendix in its entirety.
    Last edited by VoxRationis; 2019-09-11 at 01:35 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    DwarfFighterGuy

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Can't wait til you've finished your wight up...

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Wight

    Introduction
    The wight mostly comes from Tolkien. As the Monster Manual points out, the word used to simply mean "man," but has come (largely, I think, because of Tolkien's barrow-wights) to refer to these undead. They're intelligent undead that hate the living and have dangerous life-draining attacks, but none of the panache (or power) of the vampire or lich.

    Art
    The art is serviceable, if not to my tastes. It gets the core idea of the monster across fairly well, but it's very 3.5-ish in its design, very busy and flashy in its appearance. In fact, I think the wight here might be modeled on Morthos the warlock from Complete Arcane. If you put this creature in the same picture as, for example, the wizard at the start of Part 3 of the PHB (page 199), or the adventuring party with the middle-aged cleric woman that crops up, there would be a jarring contrast. The wispy hair, the decayed nose, and the pallid skin work well; the blood-red lips and the underbite do not. The wight does not eat its victims and does not have a bite attack. It doesn't need an orc jaw and having one detracts from the sort of gaunt, faded appearance of the rest of the face.

    Fluff
    The fluff contains the typical undead spiel of needing to snuff out the spark of life in all living things, but it also goes into how these monsters are created. Apparently, if you die and you are sufficiently self-centered, you can make a call to Orcus and get immortality while retaining your free will, which sounds like a good enough deal that these things should be all over the place. I mean, there's no end of selfish and destructive people in the world; if that were an option in real life, I would expect there to be vast numbers of wights running around. There's not a lot of romance to this idea, in my opinion. It's just another way the recently dead can become the recently undead, and it doesn't have the same sort of "hateful remnant of a fallen people" horror and tragedy that the barrow-wights had. It's just someone who was a jerk in life being a jerk in death.
    Wights are noted here as intelligent and free-willed even when they work for others, which provides good fodder for interactions with the undead that aren't purely combat encounters. It should be possible to talk them into or out of a course of action, though such attempts would have to be based on appeals to the wights' self-interest or broader goals, rather than concepts like justice or fairness. Wights also are capable of working together and therefore can have their own politics and social dynamics either offscreen or as hooks for PCs to manipulate.

    Purpose and Tactics
    Those of us who were used to older editions, with such things as negative levels or flat-out level drain, remember well the wight, and feared it, for it could kill your character automatically in one round when you first encountered them. More dangerously, the wights of old could self-replicate through this process, giving rise to much theorizing that one of the more significant threats to civilization in D&D was simply wights getting out of hand.
    Today, however, the wights are somewhat less existential of a threat. Crucially, their life draining ability works on one's maximum hit point total rather than levels directly, and they no longer spawn other wights, potentially ad infinitum, when they finish off an opponent. Instead, they create zombies, which are tough in this edition, but of more limited potential than other wights. In some ways, I like this better. It makes a certain intuitive sense that a creature with a create spawn ability would make things weaker than itself, from both a perspective of social power (why would something intelligent create a minion of power sufficient to challenge or supplant it?) and from one of metaphysical power (if it had enough magical power for itself and a number of copies of itself, why didn't it just use more of the magical power and be stronger?). The zombies also take 24 hours to rise, which feels more tonally appropriate, in my opinion, but is less tactically interesting. The writers might as well have only put the create spawn feature in the description, rather than the stat block, as those zombies aren't going to be showing up to any fights. It's also worth noting that life drain, as far as I can see, doesn't actually benefit the wight in any way, as it did previously, so it shouldn't be used as the only attack.
    With resistance to nonmagical, nonsilvered weapons and 45 hit points, the wight isn't delicate, but it doesn't have particularly strong saves or a high AC. Only the most unoptimized characters will have less than a 50% chance to hit it with their primary attacks, even at 1st level. Unlike many undead, the wight has a ranged attack, a longbow, which affords it a measure of tactical versatility, but the last thing it should be doing is getting into an exchange of ranged fire. Its most devastating attacks are melee, and killing opponents with arrows wastes potential minions. What the bow is good for is either a fallback option when it's not possible or practical to close with the enemy or as a method of quickly breaking concentration as battle commences. Wights have a respectable +4 Stealth and can hide, sending zombies ahead in order to make clerics break out their protection spells and the like. Then the wight fires off a couple of shots to break concentration before ideally moving back to cover. The wight provides tactical intellect that its zombies lack, rotating them in and out to prevent them from being focused down (and an unfocused zombie is likely to keep on ticking, even at 0 hp), before moving in itself to attack weakened individuals, hoping to get a couple kills with life drain. Only brand-new wights should be found alone; the first goal of any new wight should be to spawn a posse of meat shields.
    Alternatively, at higher levels, wights can be used as minions, rather than as commanders, though they should still have their own zombie underlings. In such an instance, the wights can be more aggressive in melee, hoping to make greater use of their ability to reduce maximum hit points, reducing the effectiveness of healing and making whatever is the centerpiece of the encounter that much more threatening.

    Hooks
    • After a law office suffered a collapse that caused the deaths of many of its occupants, the streets nearby have become curiously unsafe.
    • The Old Kings in the ancient barrows outside of the bustling city of Coetby have been unleashed by a civil engineering crew who were leveling the area for planned expansion of the city. Now half the local peasants are saying "I told you so" and the other half are saying "Ah! Run for your lives!" The Old Kings and their retainers bear outdated weaponry but have managed to overwhelm the flintlock-bearing militia nearby, and are marshaling their troops for an assault on unfortified Coetby. Fortunately, a sage who remembers the old sagas believes that two of the Old Kings buried here were mortal enemies in life. If they could be identified and their enmity stoked, the ancient army could be weakened enough to allow their descendants to hold them off.


    Verdict
    A fairly attractive afterlife option, all things considered. They also make for versatile opponents in different levels of play.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Thanks for making the new thread! Wights are fun, because they're an excellent excuse to have a very definitely dead villain come back for another round of shenanigans, now with different tricks, or to make a party consider the consequences of their actions - especially the more murder-hobo ones. You could probably make specific higher-CR wights by sticking sunlight sensitivity, being an undead, life drain, and a boatload of HP on whatever stat block you want. I don't think there's any reason a nonhumanoid sapient couldn't become a wight?

    Edit: Also, does anyone have any particular desire to do the Will-o'-Wisp? I'm a big fan of their folkloric origins, so I was hoping to do them?
    Last edited by NoxMiasma; 2019-09-15 at 03:07 AM. Reason: Forgot to say ask about next entry

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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Jumping ahead a bit, but another potential hook with Wights is that, according to the relevant fluff, they are often in the employ of Wraiths. A lone Wight could work well as a false flag villain before the true mastermind is revealed.

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    NecromancerGirl

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Will-o'-Wisp

    Introduction

    Will-o'-the-wisps, as they're commonly known, are ghost lights. In most folklore, they're not even creatures at all. One interesting variation, however, is that they're the visible light from the ember from Hell lighting the way of a sinner's spirit condemned to wander the earth. That spirit is known as "Jack-o-lantern." Interesting stuff!


    Art

    This creature is a glowing ball of light in a forest or swamp setting. The artist drew a glowing ball of light in a forest or swamp.

    Really, there wasn't much more they could do, given the subject matter.


    Fluff

    Wisps are, in D&D, evil souls who died while wandering a place with a lot of magic. They mostly don't speak, but when they do it's in an almost imperceptible whisper in a language they knew in life. They like to lure travelers into traps, and work with other evil beings to do so. They like to be nearby when creatures die.

    There's... just not a ton here to work with.


    Purpose and Tactics

    Wisps have three purposes:

    1. To serve as a gotcha-trap during an exploration step;
    2. To serve as mooks to back up a bigger, badder creature;
    3. To coup-de-grace PCs during an encounter with other foes.


    They have zero tactics besides "move next to you, deal 2d8 lightning damage until you're down, drain your life when you are." They can't talk and likely can't be reasoned with, and their invisibility ends when they attack or drain life.


    Hooks

    • Strange lights have been seen in the marsh.
    • Strange lights have been seen in the forest.
    • Strange lights have been seen on the old battlefield.



    Verdict

    An incredibly disappointing implementation of a very cool old legend. As is, the will-o'-wisp would almost be better suited to a spell or an environmental hazard; the legend of Jack-o-Lantern, meanwhile, can certainly be better represented than by a glowing ball of light. This definitely feels like an entry that was included as a sacred cow from a previous edition, a pet favorite of someone's at WotC, or both.

    If you need some cannon fodder to back up an evil solo and don't want to use the more common spirits for whatever reason, this is an okay choice. Otherwise, skip over to wraiths and read about something cool.
    Last edited by tsuyoshikentsu; 2019-09-15 at 12:21 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #7
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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    I think you are selling the Will-O-Wisps short.

    Keith Amman over at "The Monsters Know What They're Doing" had an interesting write up on Will-O-Wisp tactics. He talked about using them to lure players into traps/environmental hazard then, when they can't fight back, using their incredible speed to zoom in and swarm a character.

    I'd also add two more interesting qualities of Will-O-Wisps and the tactics they could use.

    Incredible Mobility

    Will-O-Wisps can move 50ft a round and hover perfectly. There is absolutely no reason for them to be near the ground, which can put melee characters at a severe disadvantage, or to cluster together, which makes them difficult to take down with area effects.

    Intelligence

    It's easy to forget the Will-O-Wisps are intelligent. A group of 4-5 Will-O-Wisps working together could come up with a smart plan for taking down a group of adventurers.

    My proposal would be for the Will-O-Wisps to use hit-and-run tactics. As the group journeys through the swamp or forest, have the Will-O-Wisps hit the group, go invisible, and then dash 100 ft away. To make it especially annoying, use this to deny characters any kind of rest. As the rest of the swamp drains their resources, the Will-O-Wisps stop them from recovering. Play them like a pack of hyenas ever-circling the party, just waiting for the critical moment when they are weak enough to take down.

  8. - Top - End - #8
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    Imp

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    With Will-o'-Wisps, their folkloric origins are actually pretty interesting - a lot of different places have the right environment for spontaneously flammable swamp gas, so they are also known by a lot of other names - ghost-lights nearly anywhere, kitsune-bi, or foxfire in Japan, Thai Naga fireballs, fools fire, hinkypunk, hobby lantern, or Jack-o'-Lantern in medieval England

    Another thing is that Will-o'-Wisps have the highest Dexterity score of any creature in 5e, beating out demon lords, archdevils, and elder air elementals. 28 Dex could probably dodge bullets, and is a Will-o'-Wisps only source of AC.

    There are also a lot more options for plot hooks - the fluff suggests that Will-o'-the-Wisps will often serve hags, oni, cultists or black dragons, so a suspicious increase in Will-o'-Wisp activity could be one of those monsters moving in. Another option could be to have the players approach a small town, with streetlights glowing in the evening - until they swirl from their glass lanterns and begin draining life, that is. Alternatively, a Will-o'-Wisp is sapient and capable of speech, so perhaps the players have to track down Jack of the Lantern, a particular Will-o'-Wisp rumored to have made deals for his soul in life, and then escaped from the Hells - maybe for information, maybe for a hunt.

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    NecromancerGirl

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by TripleD View Post
    Incredible Mobility

    Will-O-Wisps can move 50ft a round and hover perfectly. There is absolutely no reason for them to be near the ground, which can put melee characters at a severe disadvantage, or to cluster together, which makes them difficult to take down with area effects.
    The reason for them to be near the ground is they have absolutely zero ranged attacks and draw OAs like anything else. If they can attack so can the melees; if they can't due to ranged, the ranged attackers get free shots.

    Intelligence

    It's easy to forget the Will-O-Wisps are intelligent. A group of 4-5 Will-O-Wisps working together could come up with a smart plan for taking down a group of adventurers.

    My proposal would be for the Will-O-Wisps to use hit-and-run tactics. As the group journeys through the swamp or forest, have the Will-O-Wisps hit the group, go invisible, and then dash 100 ft away. To make it especially annoying, use this to deny characters any kind of rest. As the rest of the swamp drains their resources, the Will-O-Wisps stop them from recovering. Play them like a pack of hyenas ever-circling the party, just waiting for the critical moment when they are weak enough to take down.
    They can't attack and turn invisible on the same turn, as both require an action.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by tsuyoshikentsu View Post
    The reason for them to be near the ground is they have absolutely zero ranged attacks and draw OAs like anything else. If they can attack so can the melees; if they can't due to ranged, the ranged attackers get free shots.
    I'll be honest, I don't think a Will-o'-Wisp actually cares about oppurtunity attacks? It's immune to lightning and poison, resists everything else except radiant and magical weapon damage, and has 19 AC. Also, 50 ft fly speed and incorporeal movement gives it some fun cover options, such as retreating through the ground or a tree.

    Quote Originally Posted by tsuyoshikentsu View Post
    They can't attack and turn invisible on the same turn, as both require an action.
    A fair point, but any undead with 120ft darkvision is going to prefer to attack at night, and that range means they'll see the players coming, and could pick a 'bait' Wisp to be the lure, while the rest of the group stays invisible. Or, if they are cooperating with another monster, for those tasty tasty death energies, one or more wisps could be bait for the other monster's ambush. Also, in a party where not everyone has darkvision (hey, it does happen!) a Wisp's Variable Illumination feature could be used for shenanigans, especially if they are the only light sources.
    Last edited by NoxMiasma; 2019-09-15 at 09:51 PM. Reason: mistyped

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    The WoW doesn't have a lot of intrinsic abilities to make it tactically interesting because it's not supposed to be fighting people fairly in an even environment. What makes it tactically interesting is that by the time it's attacking anybody, it's lured the party into quicksand or gotten someone lost as they tried to head back to camp, or is teaming up with a bigger monster in order to pick off the weak and injured.

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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by tsuyoshikentsu View Post
    The reason for them to be near the ground is they have absolutely zero ranged attacks and draw OAs like anything else. If they can attack so can the melees; if they can't due to ranged, the ranged attackers get free shots.
    So between:

    1. Hover 20 feet in the air, zoom in, attack a PC, zoom back (drawing a single melee weapon attack in the process), then zoom back to where they are only exposed to ranged attacks and spells.

    and

    2. Stay on the ground, attack a PC, expose themselves to every martialís full attack action, along with ranged attacks and spells.

    youíre going with option #2?

    Quote Originally Posted by tsuyoshikentsu View Post
    They can't attack and turn invisible on the same turn, as both require an action.
    Never said they would. They attack, then turn invisible and run away the next turn. Given the high likelihood of surprise they PCs likely wonít get an attack in anyway.

  13. - Top - End - #13
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Anyone want to do the wraith?

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    PirateWench

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Iíve got some time today, I can work on it.
    Quote Originally Posted by krugaan
    All it takes is once:

    "Grandpa, tells us that story about the Ricalison the Great again!"

    Hours later...

    "... and that, kids, is how he conquered the world with dancing lights."

  15. - Top - End - #15
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    PirateWench

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Wraith

    Introduction

    Wraiths are traditionally apparitions of a person, especially one who is going to die soon, with a burial shroud covering more of them until the point of death. They are also seen in Tokienís Ringwraiths, especially when you see them in their spiritual form when Frodo puts on the ring. The fluff of their creation also seems to take inspiration from Tolkien, being people who were too consumed with themselves to pass on.

    Art

    Itís painted in an Impressionist style, which helps convey the impression that this is a humanoid figure whose parts are dissolving and reforming in ominous winds. The crown serves as a callback to Tolkienís wraiths being kings, but also that the people who become wraiths are self-centered enough to consider themselves worthy to be a king, even if one of the Dead.

    Purpose and Tactics

    The first thing to understand here is that a wraith is not going to last in a straight fight. Theyíve got a nice list of resistances and plenty of condition immunities, but a very low AC and saving throws even as they have a respectable pool of hp. The specters are similar. Wraiths thrive on hit and run tactics, using their incorporeal nature to strike an enemy and fade through objects to escape. Or, more importantly, to send itís specters to do so, because the wraith doesnít need to get its hands dirty. While itís more of a fluff ability, having the wraith walk by the person relying on a torch to extinguish it can both add a sinister feel but also debuff PCs without darkvision until they get more light.

    Unlike most undead with spawning abilities, the wraithís is not reliant on the wraith itself being the killer. And with 60 ft fly speed with incorporeal, itís very easy for this monster to duck in, make a specter off a freshly killed enemy, and leave again. This drastically changes the equation for a dungeon with humanoids like goblins, because now a party has to deal with potentially twice the number of enemies. Note that they do not require line of sight for this ability.

    The ideal environment for a wraith is going to be a ruin or cave complex with honeycombed tunnels. They want to be able to pass through walls easily, and even remain within the wall as they create specters. Focus firing becomes less useful than normal, as killing enemies one at a time allows a wraith to make specters out of them just as quickly. Short rests are not an option against an enemy that can attack you from anywhere. If you want to rest against a wraith, you must leave its domain, preferably into the sunshine where it is left vulnerable if it tries to follow. Long rests are especially nice, since those hit and run attacks from wraith and specters will wear down a partyís maximum hp.

    The best companions for a wraith are going to be humanoids or undead, depending on if you want to present a wraith growing an army or who already has one.

    Fluff

    In terms of what they are, wraiths are pretty standard undead fare. Hatred, want to kill life, etc. But their method of creation is more unique. They are a spontaneous undead that is created when someone dies who is consumed by negative energy, usually thanks to intense hatred, greed, and other self-centered emotions. This greatly opens up potential fights, as you can have an otherwise weak humanoid arise as a wraith.

    The blighted landscape a wraith leaves is like a soft lair effect. If the undead is established in a region, travelers will need to bring supplies. No animals to hunt, no plants to forage. A wraith living near humanoids might passively push them to raid villages to obtain supplies to live.

    Despite remembering parts of its former life, donít count on mercy. A flicker of memory could spark a wraith to let someone live, but it could just as easily bring them to focus their hatred on that person, or wish to bring them into its control.

    Hooks

    Goblin or orc raiders are pillaging settlements, but the party finds them gaunt and starving.
    After a corrupt Noble is put to death, crops are dying and menacing apparitions are seen throughout town.
    The party is slaying bandits on a routine mission, but ghostly versions continue to harass them long after the crew is dead.
    Quote Originally Posted by krugaan
    All it takes is once:

    "Grandpa, tells us that story about the Ricalison the Great again!"

    Hours later...

    "... and that, kids, is how he conquered the world with dancing lights."

  16. - Top - End - #16
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Alright, undead block is complete, time for the Wyvern!

    Introduction: In real-world folklore, these creatures are dragons with two legs and two wings, making them one of the most biologically plausible mythological beasties around. They were common as a heraldic motif, appearing either as a charge on the shield itself, or as a supporter, holding that shield up. Generally wyverns are not associated with fire, instead being connected to disease or poison.

    Art: I'm honestly a big fan of the Wyvern's art in 5e. Though it lacks any other elements in the picture to grant a sense of scale, the almost cobra-like neck is a very fun touch for a venomous reptile, and the little sketch that shows how goofy the head looks from the front is a very fun little addition. The stinger on the tail is a bit simple however, as while it has a visible venom sack, the hollow stinger itself just extends smoothly from the tail, which is not super anatomically accurate to how anything with a stinger works in real life. The wings are very good though, and look like the artist actually remembered how wing phalanges work.

    Fluff: In 5th Edition, wyverns are lesser dragons, related but distinct from "true" chromatic and metallic dragons. They are described as aerial hunters, but then as living in 'tangled forests and caverns' which probably describes preferred nesting habitat, because a flying creature the size of a horse needs a decent open area just to get those huge wings open. They swoop down on prey from the air, never fighting on the ground at all if they can help it, though they are unlikely to eat on the wing. I feel like these wyverns move more like a bat does when on the ground, rather than like a bird, mostly due to their slow 20-ft land speed.

    They are described stubborn hunters, pursuing prey until something easier comes along, or until seriously wounded. This approach makes sense in response to slippery prey, that hides in a space the wyvern cannot fit into. However, real-world predators do not work like that, preferring to back off nearly immediately if something goes wrong in their hunting approach, rather than risk starving, because injured predators cannot hunt. A grounded wyvern, either with a wing injury or gravid/clutching, is likely highly aggressive and starving, and would probably go after anything it can get to.

    Notably, wyverns can be trained as flying mounts, but they are aggressive carnivores, and even when raised from the egg may kill and eat their handlers, but are powerful mounts to any skilled enough and willing to take the risk.

    Purpose and Tactics: A wyvern has several notable skills and features, which inform their preferred hunting approach. They are proficient in perception, and possess the Flyby Attack feature, meaning their movement in flight does not provoke opportunity attacks.EDIT: wyverns do not possess flyby. Taking this into account, and comparing their 20 ft ground speed with their 80 ft flight, a wyvern will overwhelmingly prefer to fight in the air, using that fly speed to swoop upon opponents, and making a Multiattack, before flying back out of range of reprisal. However, that multiattack has options - the Bite and Stinger both have a 10ft reach, and the same weapon damage (though Stinger has a nasty poison rider), but the claws do more damage. Wyverns likely default to bite/sting, using the 10ft reach to avoid opportunity attacks from anything other than a reach weapon or spell.
    A wyvern has only 5 intelligence and lacks any languages, so can likely determine that a character in shiny metal armour is likely a hard target, but probably doesn't understand or recognise things like Mage Armour or Unarmoured Defense, and definitely has no idea how to determine a 'soft' target for it's venomous Stinger beyond "In reach and annoying me". In an enclosed space, the claws might be used as an opportunity attack, taking advantage of the higher damage.

    Wyverns are more difficult encounters in places that emphasise the importance of flight, and environments such as a narrow bride over a steep ravine maximise their advantages, while minimising what a party of adventurers can bring to bear, and a wyvern likely knows that. They are probably also fond of open plains, where there is nowhere for prey to take cover, and not much can outrun an 80ft flying speed.

    There is also the possibility of a wyvern serving as a mount to an NPC character. A wyvern is definitely an independent mount, barring the influence of magic, so a mounted wyvern-rider would likely make considerable use of readied actions, and carry a polearm with reach in order to make best use of the wyvern's features. Consider also a spellcaster with a wyvern mount, who takes advantage of a wyvern's preferred swoop-cycle to stay mostly out of any opponent's reach.

    Plot Hooks: Wyverns have the potential to serve a number of different roles in an adventure. They are suitable as boss monsters, mounts for antagonists, wild beasts on a random encounter table, and their eggs are serviceable McGuffins to send players after.
    • The Knights of the Scaled Wing: these knights are in fact a group of bandits, former deserters who made off with an egg clutch in their escape from the army, and the apprentice handler with them has managed to raise some (adjust number to party level) to adulthood and train them to the saddle. They use their draconic mounts to terroris ethe countryside surrounding their hideout, a great blackstone spire rising from the Old Forest. cna the heroes put an end to their extortion? (consider using a skill check or flat roll to see if any wyverns may turn against their riders and eat them)
    • Widen the Gene Pool: although tamed wyverns can generally be persuaded to breed with limited mauling, the limited number of breeding pairs means that new blood is required to prevent the impact of inbreeding. The players have been hired by a noble/order of knights/local government/invading army with wyvern-riders/etc to retrieve intact eggs safely from a wild nest, from as far away as possible. Each egg would fetch a considerable sum of money, but sneaking past a pair of agitated wyverns is difficult work, and safely moving eggs, each the size of a grown halfling, down a cliff is no easy task, and once the word gets out about what the PCs are transporting, they may have to defend their cargo against opportunistic thieves, or the agents of rival nations.
    • A Pony Wyvern of My Own! A personal quest for a character who really wants an impressive mount, they must first acquire a genuine live wyvern egg, hatch it properly, and then safely train the baby draconic to the saddle and bridle. Hope you have Animal Handling!
    • An Army of the Skies: The fabulous floating cloud kingdom of Cirrus seeks to conquer the world beneath, for few plants grow in soil of solidified cloud. Their knights ride the lesser dragons, and hurl javelins of lightning upon the armies of the gounded nations. Can the players halt the conquering of the world below? (this may possibly involve hijacking an enemy wyvern)
    Last edited by NoxMiasma; 2019-09-26 at 03:56 AM. Reason: Done messed up reading

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Awesome work ^

    Now for the true debate: do you pronounce it like why-vern or whi-vern?

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Magicspook View Post
    Awesome work ^

    Now for the true debate: do you pronounce it like why-vern or whi-vern?
    Why-vern. I've never even heard it pronounced the other way.
    Quote Originally Posted by krugaan
    All it takes is once:

    "Grandpa, tells us that story about the Ricalison the Great again!"

    Hours later...

    "... and that, kids, is how he conquered the world with dancing lights."

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    I've always said it ['wɪ.vəɹn], no "h" on the first syllable.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Wyverns do not have Flyby Attack. They can replicate it with a bite/sting routine, but if they do a claw substitution for more damage, they will provoke. Only a cornered wyvern would resort to its 5ft-reach, AoO-provoking claws, or one which wants to move in for the kill.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaos Jackal View Post
    Wyverns do not have Flyby Attack. They can replicate it with a bite/sting routine, but if they do a claw substitution for more damage, they will provoke. Only a cornered wyvern would resort to its 5ft-reach, AoO-provoking claws, or one which wants to move in for the kill.
    Ahh heck, how did I miss that, I'll just edit that real quick.

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    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by NoxMiasma View Post
    They are described stubborn hunters, pursuing prey until something easier comes along, or until seriously wounded. This approach makes sense in response to slippery prey, that hides in a space the wyvern cannot fit into. However, real-world predators do not work like that, preferring to back off nearly immediately if something goes wrong in their hunting approach, rather than risk starving, because injured predators cannot hunt. A grounded wyvern, either with a wing injury or gravid/clutching, is likely highly aggressive and starving, and would probably go after anything it can get to.
    While true, wyvern isn't real-world predator. It's D&D predator, and D&D predators (and any other creature) fully heals after taking long rest. Their typical hyper-aggressiveness make sense when you take that into account.
    It's Eberron, not ebberon.
    It's not high magic, it's wide magic.
    And it's definitely not steampunk. The only time steam gets involved is when the fire and water elementals break loose.

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    Flumph

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by JackPhoenix View Post
    While true, wyvern isn't real-world predator. It's D&D predator, and D&D predators (and any other creature) fully heals after taking long rest. Their typical hyper-aggressiveness make sense when you take that into account.
    Provided they have something to eat & drink

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Magicspook View Post
    Provided they have something to eat & drink
    See, when you look at that bit of the long rest rules, the more cautious predator behaviour makes sense. Honestly, hyper-persistent predators are a personal peeve of mine, because wild animals are generally only going to persist in a fight if they are corned or looking after young. There are plenty of ways to have a oredator that won't slow, rest, or give up in D&D - its called making undead! Having creatures that try to keep an avenue of retreat and won't necessarily stand there to be slaughtered by players makes any combat much more interesting, both for player and DM.

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    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by NoxMiasma View Post
    See, when you look at that bit of the long rest rules, the more cautious predator behaviour makes sense. Honestly, hyper-persistent predators are a personal peeve of mine, because wild animals are generally only going to persist in a fight if they are corned or looking after young. There are plenty of ways to have a oredator that won't slow, rest, or give up in D&D - its called making undead! Having creatures that try to keep an avenue of retreat and won't necessarily stand there to be slaughtered by players makes any combat much more interesting, both for player and DM.
    No, that bit of LR rules is exactly why the persistence make sense. If the predator can't kill its prey, it won't eat, and it won't heal. They do have motivation to keep fighting. A predator that give up at the first sign of trouble is dead predator in D&D.

    Win? No long-term consequences for being wounded in a fight.
    Run? Any damage suffered will stay, and you will be weaker and less capable of hunting other prey.
    It's Eberron, not ebberon.
    It's not high magic, it's wide magic.
    And it's definitely not steampunk. The only time steam gets involved is when the fire and water elementals break loose.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by JackPhoenix View Post
    No, that bit of LR rules is exactly why the persistence make sense. If the predator can't kill its prey, it won't eat, and it won't heal. They do have motivation to keep fighting. A predator that give up at the first sign of trouble is dead predator in D&D.

    Win? No long-term consequences for being wounded in a fight.
    Run? Any damage suffered will stay, and you will be weaker and less capable of hunting other prey.
    Also, flying predators in D&D tend to apply bird of prey logic, which only works if you take into account birds of prey generally hunt things that can't fight back in any meaningful way. If an owl hits a mouse, that's a dead mouse, the only thing the mouse can do is hide. In D&D land a wyvern is typically going to hunt something like a sheep or cattle, but the same logic doesn't apply because grazing animals can't just run down a hole.

    An actual animal that size that can fly is going to be an ambush predator the same way a tiger is an ambush predator. I like the suggestion of attacking things on bridges, or narrow valleys where prey only has a few ways it can run.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    The Xorn
    Introduction
    The xorn ("zorn"? "khorn"? "ksorn"?) is an older monster, as its appearance might suggest; its threefold radial symmetry has an element that speaks to older, weirder sorts of fantasy fiction that informed the earlier editions of the game more than the present one. It also speaks to older styles of gameplay, as I'll speak to later.

    Art
    This creature is drawn to look alien, imposing, and unpleasant. Without in-character or out-of-character knowledge to the contrary, those who see the xorn are likely to assume it is a hostile monster and attack.
    The arm in the front looks as though it was drawn from a study of an actual arm, but the problem is that the humanoid body plan which carries actual arms doesn't favor the same sorts of arrangements as the xorn body plan does. A humanoid arm is much better in one horizontal direction than it is the other, because the entire humanoid body plan is set up in that fashion. The xorn is supposed to operate equally in all horizontal directions. Its elbows and shoulders shouldn't look like those of humans, because they have to bend in different ways.
    I am unsure as to what the study of the two eyes is meant to suggest. One has a slitted pupil, the other a round one. Is the xorn not actually symmetrical? Do the different eyes have different pupils? Or do different xorns have different sorts of eyes?

    Lore
    The lore for the xorn is straightforward and understandable. There's not a lot of nuance to it, but it doesn't really need to have it. The idea that the Elemental Plane of Earth is replete with gems and precious metals raises some questions, though. If you put biological organisms (and despite the "elemental" tag, the xorn, being a creature that needs to eat, seems to be a biological organism) in an environment filled with their food, they multiply until the food becomes scarce or depleted. Are xorns comparatively recent in the history of the universe, such that they have yet to expand to fill the EPoE? Are gems and metals regenerated by the plane or some force in it? Indeed, what happens to the matter that a xorn consumes?

    Purpose and Tactics
    The purpose of this monster is not really to provide a tactical challenge; rather, like the rust monster, it's there to impose lasting costs upon the party, or at least offer tradeoffs that another group of 2d8 goblins and a bugbear would not. The xorn desires the same sorts of things the party does (gems and precious metals) and will potentially attack the party for them, but is not inherently evil and will also trade for them. It therefore raises a question to the party members: how much value does one assign to those piles of gold and bags of gems?
    The difficulty here is that the game has shifted since the days of first edition. Combat is almost always preferable to resource depletion in 5th edition, because any combat that one survives can be healed from in eight hours at most and more likely over a one-hour lunch break. Therefore, unless the party is so low-level that a xorn (or perhaps a small group of them) is likely to TPK them, a fight always costs less than yielding material resources, and moral considerations are more likely to stay the party's hand and lead them to treat with a xorn than aversion to combat is.

    That said, tactically, the xorn does have abilities that can challenge the party. With both darkvision and tremorsense, it can function in environments that the party has trouble with. Its ability to seamlessly move through the earth prevents the party from catching it out in the open. If the xorn even has 5 feet remaining of its movement in a round, it can sink right down and prevent reprisal (it will attract opportunity attacks, but these will be a fraction of the harm that comes from direct exposure to a party's full roster of attacks and spells). Its resistance to nonmagical piercing and slashing damage, combined with a robust 19 Armor Class, means that the xorn has a great degree of survivability. Indeed, since a xorn doesn't particularly want to kill the party under most circumstances, that survivability means that the party may lose an encounter with a xorn without any fatalities on either side. A xorn could simply bowl over a weaker party member who carries a lot of gold or gems, take the treasure, and run, accepting some damage and healing later. Its attacks are not particularly strong, though it does have four of them.

    It should be noted that the xorn is an alternative candidate for summoning by Conjure Elemental, being of equal CR to the earth elemental. Generally speaking, however, I would consider them to be of lesser utility than earth elementals, as they are less resilient and lack the double damage against structures which allows the earth elemental to break sieges so easily. They are cleverer, so use of them for more intricate tasks might be appropriate, but their hunger could make them unreliable.

    Hooks
    • Economics: A pack of xorns got into the royal treasury, in which the reserve of gold that anchors the kingdom's economy rested. With that reserve now depleted, what will back measures of value? The new Minister of the Exchequer (the previous one having been executed pour encourager les autres) is seeking the aid of cunning and discreet heroes who will help lead the realm into a new financial age.
    • Underground Railroad: While traveling, the party comes across the Isle of Nincasu, whose proud sorcerer-lords have built matchless towers of alabaster with the bound service of a number of xorns, who are paid only in gem-fare barely sufficient to sustain them for the next day's work. The abject misery of the xorns reaches the ears of even those who are wholly alien to them; can the party seize control of the elemental portal the Nincasuans use to mine gems for the xorns, high in the tallest tower, suspended in a cage of ebony and mithril, and keep it open long enough for the exodus?

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    I love the idea of trying to free enslaved Xorns back to the plane of earth! Another idea is, Xorns in the Material Plane really want to go back to the Plane of Earth, so a Xorn could act as a questgiver, trading information to the party in exchange for a spell to send it back home - Plane Shift or Gate or Banishment could all work.

    Also, should we also review the appendix blocks? A lot of the animals are very simple, but there's a couple of giant animals that are sapient because Tolkein did it, as well as the Blink Dogs, Winter Wolves, and Worgs and stuff. Though I kind of want to make a list of all the different animals you can reskin a statblock as, to be honest.

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    Zombie

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual, III: Journal of Arcanobiological Studies

    Updated collection thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/shows...1&postcount=36

    FYI, I believe all that's left is:

    • Vampire
    • Yetis
    • Yugoloths

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