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5E Let's Read: Volo's Monsters

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Making a Vargouille swarm is relatively easy going by the differences between a bat and a bat swarm. Simply up the numbers until it's whatever CR you want it to be, probably 3-5. Something like 75 hps and 40 dpr should work. Then give it the swarm damage penalty when it gets to half hp. If you are feeling particularly nasty, you can then make it's Kiss a bonus action to boot.

Anyway, the random pigyback on a demonic summons is perhaps the most useful bit of the Vargouille. Adding more meat to any encounter with demons, and providing a way for Demons to escape rituals intended to bind them.
 
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dave2008

Adventurer
I really like the idea that you can get (uncontrolled) hitchhikers when summoning/conjuring critters, particularly fiends and fey. It fits my desired DM goal of PC's creating problems for PC's to solve later.

If I have one complaint about the vargouille, (much like the dretch, mane, and lemure) it would really be nice if they made a swarm of vargouilles version to go with the singleton to challenge higher level groups with. I could just run 20 at a time, but that is a lot of tracking to do.
Ask and you shall receive, I give you the Vargouille Swarm
 
Ask and you shall receive, I give you the Vargouille Swarm
Dave,

Thank you. Now my demons can channel Blackheart from the old Capcom Marvel Superheroes game (people I used to play against would remind me that I could make BH do something other than summon a swarm of ground demons or summon a swarm of flying demons, but for the life of me, I could never see why).
 
Continuing the theme of underwhelming monsters, the Vegepygmy is basically a less interesting Myconid.



I like the art for these guys. It’s kind of creepy and weird, without going too far into actual horror mode. The weird texture on the Thorny’s back is also neat.

Back in the Olden Times, when the world was still young, TV was in black and white, and books were carved on stone slabs, there was a module called Expedition to the Great Barrier Peaks. It was basically a ‘theme park’ dungeon; there was no rhyme or logic to the contents, just a bunch of fun and weird stuff tossed together. If you’ve ever made a dungeon without bothering to work out where the toilets are, why all the monsters are together, and how they get food and whatnot, then you’ve made something similar; but Barrier Peaks was also a bit gonzo, with Sci-Fi elements. The Vegepygmies - aka Mold Men - were, I think, inspired by Olden Times films like The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers; weird alien creatures that fell from the sky and infected people. Their inclusion here is a little odd - it seems like they’d only use these guys if they updated and expanded Barrier Peaks, and in that case they could just provide their statblock there.

The Vegepygmies are, well, plant people. They are created by Russet Mold, like to eat meat, and reproduce by infecting humanoids or giants. They cannot speak common, but have a language, so magic should let the players speak to them. The book otherwise gives us essentially no hints of what Vegepygmies want or do, so you’re on your own if you want to think of something to use them for. I guess that they’ll fit decently well as a semi-random encounter in a Forest or Underdark adventure, being just a random group that your players could meet. They also often co-exist with Myconids, with whom they would presumably communicate by means of the latters’ communication spores. So that would allow you to add some colour to a Myconid settlement; these guys are more like normal humanoids - and have statblocks more useful for combat - if those are things that you want from a Myconid settlement. Otherwise, the Vegepygmies are likely to be either bad guys in the forest - killing woodsmen and reproducing from them - or just a group that the players stumble upon in the Underdark. You could certainly use them as a standard roleplaying encounter and as a quest giver, but I’d make sure that you have a plan for how the players are going to communicate with them first, since mime is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

There are three statblocks here: the CR 1/4 Vegepygmy, which is basically a Goblin without Nimble Escape, the CR 2 Vegepygmy Chief, and the Thorny, which is as CR 1 dog version. They all share the Vegepymy traits of Plant Camouflage and Regeneration, the latter of which is kind of annoying to have on a swarm opponent. Keeping track of which Vegepgymy has regained 3 HP a round or not seems tremendously tedious, but it is certainly a distinctive racial trait. They all have Stealth scores as well as the Plant Camouflage, so clearly some element of ambushing is implied from that. The basic Vegepygmy is, as I mentioned, a Goblin but with Regeneration instead of Bonus Action Disengage. They also have resistance to Piercing and Lightning; I can see Piercing as some sort of tough plant thing, but Lightning? The Chief is just stronger, tougher version which gets a couple attacks a round and can use a spore attack to do AoE poison to those nearby. It’s pretty interesting to have an AoE on a leader for a weak race, especially one to which the Vegepygymies are immune. Finally, the Thorny is a bit weird; it gets a rule to do extra damage when being grappled, rather than when it grapples something, and it also does not have Athletics trained. Read literally, this means that the Thorny wants to be the recipient of an enemy grapple, and then lose the contest. Strange. It does not get any kind of pounce or knockdown attack, unlike most dog-like creatures. If I were inclined to use this guy, I’d be tempted to give him Athletics training and make his Bite attack also do an opposed grapple check, since then it would be a little more interesting.

To be honest, these guys are just sort of there. I’m not very excited by them, even if their statblocks do have some interesting elements and they appear to work in a relatively unique way.
 

werecorpse

Villager
I think the desire to stick to the S3 description of the creatures (which were odd but not particularly interesting) seems to override the need to make them more interesting. Really there should be room for a few types of anthropomorphised plants but you gotta make them different and interesting, especially when they are competing in the same CR market as the vast array of humanoids. For mine these, the various blights and the myconids are all just a bit dull. They seem like they should be more interesting than they are. They all need work, until then treants and shambling mounds are my go to plant people.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
The purpose of the Regeneration ability on the Moldies is similar to the Undead Fortitude ability on a Zombie:
You can knock them down, but unless you do a specific thing, they will get back up. If you are finding the minutiae of adding +3 hp every turn to a bunch of minions to be too excessive, then ignore it until they get knocked out. At higher levels, one hit is likely to knock them out anyway.

They are also smart enough to potentially harness the power of the Russet Mold that spawned them, weaponizing it in general, and/or purposely spreading it to different areas to either expand a colony or make new one. I'm not totally underwhelmed by them, but perhaps "zombie outbreak" fatigue is generating a general meh, as it does in real life after so many horror flicks. I could see a few plot points featuring them, but not an entire adventure.

The Thorny is disappointing all over. Big enough to be a mount, but not fast enough to warrant doing so. Also, Spikes that trigger on an attack that nobody is going to bother using against them. The only option then, would be to change them. Firstly, make the spikes also trigger on any melee attack that hits them, secondly, give them some kind of ability that roots The PCs next to them. A vine or goo grapple is obvious, but an emanation of sticky spores that make the area around them into difficult terrain is also a thematic option. With changes like those, suddenly the Thorny has a purpose: A front-line roadblock for the Vegepygmies to hide behind (and a rather impressive one for the CR range), allowing them to launch their sling-stones, spears, or pots of mold with impunity from afar.
 
There is indeed quite a few 'Plant People' in the game now; Blights, Treants, Dryads, Vegepygmies, Myconids, Shambling Mound, and tomorrow we'll get the Wood Woad. I used the Blights in Curse of Strahd - which contains a couple bigger variants to draw on - and they were fun, but admittedly very simple. There is also a couple servants of Zugghtmoy in Out of the Abyss which can be used as higher-level versions. I think that 'plant people' is actually a surprisingly hard plot hook to make work; you can use Hobgoblins or Orcs in just about any plot that Humans could work in, i.e. all of them; but the Plant peoples all seem so... passive, that it is harder to get traction with them, plot wise.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
I don't have much to say about the Veggies, but Blights are a personal favorite of mine.

I didn't know Curse of Strahd had improved versions of them, so I'll be looking that up, but when I do an adventure with Blights I tend to do a few things.

It is very "zombie plague" -esque, in that the Blights are gathering corpses to feed a growng Golthias Tree. Generally I give the tree a massive pool of hitpoints, decent armor, and just use it's actions to spawn minor Blights, making it a war of attrition.

Another thing I did was draw on some anime inspiration (Inuyasha had "The Tree with the Human Faced Fruit" which is very similiar to Golthias) and gave it a powerful servitor. The one time I got to use it, it was a simple woodsman who I gave levels of Druid, but I represented his magic and power coming from a thorny plant monster growing inside of him, so Thorn Whip was literally a limb of this creature coming out of his arm. I'm a fan of body horror, and it got the right feel for my players to start freaking out.

Another GM made it hard to actually kill the thing (in theory) by requiring the roots be burned by Blessed Oils to prevent the Tree from simply regrowing.

So, really at the core, it is a different version of the zombie or cult style adventure. What would really help is some really good stats for the Golthias, I've made stuff up a few times, but that and some more powerful Blights are all that's missing to make them a full adventures worth of trouble.
 
I didn't know Curse of Strahd had improved versions of them, so I'll be looking that up, but when I do an adventure with Blights I tend to do a few things.
So Curse has a full statblock for a Tree Blight, which is a CR 7 bruiser with 149HP and up to five attacks a turn. It's good fun. It also, in chapter 14 'Yester Hill' describes a Gulthias Tree; it doesn't get a statblock, but instead defensive stats, as it is envisaged that the players will fight off the defenders then try to destroy it. It has AC 15, 250HP, immunity to bludgeoning, piercing, and psychic damage. It regrows after a couple months if the right things (digging up the roots, casting a hallow spell) are not done. Nothing too controversial really, and your version is probably more powerful.

There is also Baba Lysaga's Hut, which is a walking hut (yes, really) that comes in at a mighty CR 11, and can do an amazingly huge amount of damage with 60ft melee attacks. I've used it a couple of times in combination with Baba Lysaga herself, and the hut is always much more impressive to the players. You'd need to reflavour it a bit, but ultimately it is an angry tree.
 
You can have an NPC that the party likes be infested by one of these, doomed to turn into one if they cannot prevent it. It requires so many conditions, though - no remove curse spell available, no sunlight to prevent the transformation - that I think you’d really only manage to make it tense if the party had that quest at a very low level, or were already totally out of resources when they met the victim, and it was already night time. I think that this will work if you really want it to, but don’t be surprised if the party can instantly stop the transformation and thus remove any tension from the Vargouille’s presence.
I'm AFB so I can't check on the other conditions (doesn't sunlight just delay the transformation?) but I have to say, I don't think Remove Curse is an easy condition to fulfill. Of the four classes that can cast Remove Curse in 5E (cleric, paladin, warlock, wizard), two of them (warlock and wizard) have a limited spell list with lots of pressure on it (Hypnotic Pattern, Fireball, etc.) and I can honestly say I've never seen a member of either class select Remove Curse as one of their spells known, in 5E. Another of the four (paladin) only gets Remove Curse at 9th level. That means that for a party composed of 1st through 8th level PCs, the only feasible way to Remove Curse is if you happen to have a 5th+ cleric in your party. Bards, druids, and paladins don't cut it here.

I'd guesstimate that a good 60% of PC parties would find a Vargouille curse a challenging thing to stop. Maybe they try to keep the victim in sunlight as much as possible while the wizard hurriedly researches Remove Curse over the course of three to four weeks. (AFB, but does the curse even take three weeks to kick in?) Or maybe they have to go looking for a treasure with a Remove Curse scroll.
 
There is indeed quite a few 'Plant People' in the game now; Blights, Treants, Dryads, Vegepygmies, Myconids, Shambling Mound, and tomorrow we'll get the Wood Woad. I used the Blights in Curse of Strahd - which contains a couple bigger variants to draw on - and they were fun, but admittedly very simple. There is also a couple servants of Zugghtmoy in Out of the Abyss which can be used as higher-level versions. I think that 'plant people' is actually a surprisingly hard plot hook to make work; you can use Hobgoblins or Orcs in just about any plot that Humans could work in, i.e. all of them; but the Plant peoples all seem so... passive, that it is harder to get traction with them, plot wise.
Passivity can be a strength. As a DM, I would have a tough time explaining why there are hundreds of hobgoblins showing up outside of town, with dozens more arriving every day, and yet the hobgoblins haven't already taken over. But I have no problem saying that there are all these weird human-shaped plants growing everywhere, with spears, and not only is it starting to creep people out but also people have started going missing and a kid said he saw one of the plants actually come to life and kill his dog, and then the next day there was a plant shaped like his dead dog!
 
I'm AFB so I can't check on the other conditions (doesn't sunlight just delay the transformation?) but I have to say, I don't think Remove Curse is an easy condition to fulfill. Of the four classes that can cast Remove Curse in 5E (cleric, paladin, warlock, wizard), two of them (warlock and wizard) have a limited spell list with lots of pressure on it (Hypnotic Pattern, Fireball, etc.) and I can honestly say I've never seen a member of either class select Remove Curse as one of their spells known, in 5E. Another of the four (paladin) only gets Remove Curse at 9th level. That means that for a party composed of 1st through 8th level PCs, the only feasible way to Remove Curse is if you happen to have a 5th+ cleric in your party. Bards, druids, and paladins don't cut it here.

I'd guesstimate that a good 60% of PC parties would find a Vargouille curse a challenging thing to stop. Maybe they try to keep the victim in sunlight as much as possible while the wizard hurriedly researches Remove Curse over the course of three to four weeks. (AFB, but does the curse even take three weeks to kick in?) Or maybe they have to go looking for a treasure with a Remove Curse scroll.
Interesting thoughts. Perhaps I'm influenced by having lots of Clerics and Paladins (as in, almost always at least one of each) in my groups. I also didn't realise that Druids didn't get it. For sure though, a lot of these things will go up and down in effectiveness based on party resources, and you're right to raise the point that this could be really tough as a result.

Regarding passive creatures, I would observe that a bad guy race that is just loitering around, being vaguely annoying, doesn't really excite me all that much. Sounds like pest control, not epic storytelling! If we got even a hint of some kind of... I don't know, Vegepygmy World Domination Plan, like growing a massive Russet Mold or whatever, then they would be the kind of guys that could drive a storyline, not just be targetted by the players due to their proximity.
 
Regarding passive creatures, I would observe that a bad guy race that is just loitering around, being vaguely annoying, doesn't really excite me all that much. Sounds like pest control, not epic storytelling! If we got even a hint of some kind of... I don't know, Vegepygmy World Domination Plan, like growing a massive Russet Mold or whatever, then they would be the kind of guys that could drive a storyline, not just be targetted by the players due to their proximity.
Ah, I see what you mean. Strategically passive, not just passive in the moment. That doesn't really have anything to do with their being plant creatures though.

Your comment reminds me of Githyanki and Githzerai. If Githyanki had just been some random 3 HD creature in the Fiend Folio, with stats but no lore on motivations or goals, we'd have no interest in them today. Instead they got this cool rivalry with Githzerai and a vendetta against their ex-overlords the Mind Flayers, with a hint of a vast ancient Mind Flayer civilization; also a social organization centered around Knights with cool astral plane silver swords, and a lich queen, and alliances with red dragons, etc. There's no hint of a World Domination Plan but there is a hint of what Githyanki culture is like and what they want, and since what they want (silver swords and red dragons and killing mind flayers and Githzerai) is something cool, Githyanki come across as cool.

Volo's Vegepygmies are no Githyanki, I agree with that. I think Volo's does hint that they might be space travellers from the Barrier Peaks, and the Russet Mold connection is kind of interesting to me, and I can definitely see how Vegepygmies are interesting mechanically (an army or even a squad of Vegepygmy mercenaries would be very cost-effective), but first they need to have some kind of lore other than "jungle savages who might be from space." Personally I think I'd go with "autonomous avatars of a more intelligent creature; said creature is in hibernation after its incomplete, mostly-unsuccessful mutiny on a high-tech spaceship. Hibernation will last until the vegepygmy remote avatars complete their assigned task, which is aimed at securing re-entry to said vessel and defeating the original crew and taking control of the vessel." I don't know offhand whether the scenario is more interesting if the original crew are also a bunch of plant creatures, or if they are normal humanoid creatures and The Creature is more like the alien found in Alien, hijacking their vessel.

I think I'd make The Task be something biotech-flavored, since the vegepygmies seem to be into that kind of thing what with the Thornies. Ideally it's something that triggers off something the PCs do so that it's their fault when The Creature wakes up and begins making progress toward its goal: Nice Job Breaking It, Hero is what I'm aiming for. I'd search my old books on Athasian halfling bio-magic for inspiration; maybe The Creature has spawned an artificer unit which has been crafting a neural booster helmet for the past thousand years (used for cracking the cockpit access password interlocks via side channels) and the Vegepygmies provide security and raw materials (e.g. humanoid brains) to keep the artificer unit functioning. As for how to make that the PCs' fault, well, one obvious ploy that comes to mind now is to make the Vegepygmy home site have been taken over by Githyanki just as the artificer was on the verge of completing its task (say, within three months of completion). The Githyanki are carefully studying the site because of their own historical interest in biotech, and they've sequestered all the artificer's tools where it cannot reach them. They use their red dragons to keep the vegepygmies under control while they study, and they have the artificer unit locked up and interrogate it on a regular basis. A Vegepygmy finds the PCs and persuades them via pantomime to defeat the Githyanki and free the artificer in exchange for a reward, such as giving everybody in the party darkvision (a simple operation for the artificer).

Three months later, The Creature retrieves its neural booster and moves on to the next phase of its plan: it gains access to the cockpit but finds that the controls have all been sabotaged by the crew. To repair the ship it will need lots of artificers, which means lots of brains. So it unlocks the ship's arms locker using the neural booster and starts passing out laser weapons to Vegepygmy remotes, which it churns out by the dozens. It has to build a whole industrial civilization now which requires taking over lots of territory and eating lots of brains, and now the PCs are responsible for starting an interplanetary invasion.
 
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I must say, the idea that you've provided there is pretty compelling, and exactly the sort of thing that this thread is all about. It gives the Vegepygmies a narrative and purpose, which makes them more interesting than the book. I'd run that adventure, for sure.


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The Wood Woad is a really interesting monster, who offers a lot of versatility to the DM, and can be used as both ally or enemy.



The Wood Woad art in the book is nice; it manages to be both charming and threatening at the same time. I also really like how the shield is actually formed from its arm.

So the Wood Woads are plant creatures that are brought into being by a ‘primeval’ ritual, in which a living sacrifice has their heart cut out and their body and blood used to anoint a tree. A short while later, one of these will grow and become a guardian spirit, obedient to the commands that it is given. The text notes that this does not need to be evil, if the victim is willing; I mean, I wouldn’t describe it as good, even so, but I can see the logic behind it being an act of sacrifice undertaken by primitive communities. This means that you can have the Wood Woad be created by Good Druids, or by Evil Druids, either of which might be jolly helpful for your storyline. I always like the idea of Druids, but they can be tougher to bring into a storyline than a Wizard, if only because they don’t tend to hang around cities and hand out quests.

The Wood Woad is a Lawful Neutral protector spirit, which will show no free will and no mercy in protecting its assigned target, usually a grove, forest, or person. They are also immortal, powered by the soul of the person who died, and this can lead to them outliving the thing that they were assigned to protect; at this point, they will take to wandering around, seeking out a nature-themed individual or thing to follow. That gives you an obvious way to have one of these turn up in your game; I used this myself already, when one player’s downtime featured him and a group of woodland creatures taking on a hag who was poisoning a forest. The Wood Woad is a really nice NPC option, being mostly but not entirely silent, and having an innate desire to find something new to protect; good if your storyline features a grove being attacked, and the players can help avert the damage. Alternatively, they can make good allies for an evil druid; note that there is a CR 12 Archdruid in the back of Volo’s.

So, the statblock for these guys is another one of the simple-yet-interesting ones in Volo’s. It’s commonly noted that the monsters in the Monster Manual were poor at moving and attacking; for example, the Balor can either attack or teleport, not both. The Wood Woad is much more nimble, able to exchange 10ft of movement to teleport between trees, once a turn. This is a really nice and characterful ability, and in a forest will let you make the players afraid of the trees. They get Plant Camouflage and Regeneration, the latter of which is surprisingly strong at 10hp per round, but unlike most monsters in the game the Wood Woad is actually Vulnerable to Fire, so don’t expect them to last long if the party includes an arcane caster; a Fireball would take 2/3rds of the HP of the Wood Woad off in one go, by my quick calculations. Meanwhile, the Wood Woad gets two club attacks for plenty of D4 damage, so is no slouch in the damage department.

The Wood Woad is another good entry from Volo’s. Plenty of narrative material to use here, a cool and characterful image and backstory, and a statblock that gives you a simple but memorable and unique combat routine.
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
The Wood Woad gives an interesting moral dilemna for the players.

They are tasked with protecting an individual as they head through a dark forest for an ancient ritual. The person is happy, talking to the players about how the ritual will protect this sacred grove of trees deep in the heart of the forest. Hopefully the players even come to like this person.

Then the Dryad who performs the ritual (you want a consistent performer for an ancient ritual and they are forest spirits) begins to cut out there heart. The players realize at least some of what is going on. Do they accept the persons choice to sacrifice themselves to protect the forest, or do they try and find another way? Can they cleanse the forest of evil and remove the need for this ritual?

Lot's of interesting potential here.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
The Wood Woad is yet another example of a lowly commoner having a ritual performed on them and becoming a much stronger monster. One of the recurring themes of Volo's to be sure.

I am tempted to make a Redwood Variant of the Wood Woad: Resists fire, and regeneration shuts down with Poison damage. Just because Fire is too commonly used by players (where as poison is relatively rare), and Sequoia trees are my go to for insanely long-lived forests. Something that makes more sense if you have ever been to California.

Being the (un)willing servant of the trees is one way to use the Wood Woad, but perhaps there is another way. A Wood Woad has a hole in it's chest where it's hart would be. In theory, something could be placed inside the hole to take control or corrupt it. Likewise there is still a corpse buried below the tree roots that spawned it. A necromancer could get a hold of the body, and do unscrupulous things to it, distressing the Wood Woad. What are the consequences of such a defilement? Maybe it's just symbolic, but horrifying and intrusive none the less. Perhaps the Wood Woad slowly rots, going to nearest town/druid circle looking either for help or destruction while in a rage. Maybe this breaks a pact that was established long ago, angering a fey court and triggering a magical invasion.

Lots of possibilities from what is essentially a tree with a club.
 
The Xvart are another obscure humanoid race from prior editions, though I understand that they had a lot more traction than most of their peers, as far as general awareness goes. They remind me of the kind of race that would turn up in Farscape or Star Trek: the Weird Race of the Week.



The image for the Xvarts is fun. They’re just standing there, showing the slight but noticable differences between the members of the race, and it is one of the images that pays a lot of attention to their equipment, with both having different but equally odd clothes and weapons.

The bulk of this long entry is devoted to describing the demigod Raxivort, his theft of a magical macguffin from the Demon Lord Graz’zt, and his subsequent creation of the Xvart as a form of body-double. It’s highly entertaining, and I think would make for a fine adventure in your campaign; perhaps the players actually meet Raxivort, while travelling through Pandemonium, or perhaps they are contracted to find the macguffin from him, which might involve dealing with the Xvarts. The sterile and artificial creations of a petty and greedy individual, the Xvarts are created in the shape of their creator, mental flaws and all. They’re wee creepers, basically, fearful of humans and other races, and generally driven only by the need to eat and a desire for shiny things.

The Xvarts regard their creator with inappropriate awe, but who can blame them really, and as a result they tend to assume that all the downturns they experience are due to his anger. To placate him, they’ll try collecting giant bundles of treasure, which mainly serves to make him turn up and collect it, without doing anything in return. This is both hilariously sad, and also a definite way for your players to meet him; a tribe of Xvarts could be easily bribed or tricked into summoning him, if enough treasure is provided. After all, what else is money for in 5e? Raxivort also sometimes is summoned by a particularly covetous individual who exchanges treasure for warlock power.

I’m going to digress briefly to comment on Warlocks and patrons. You might question how the Demon Lords or other individuals - who are distinctly killable - could really give that much power. In the Brimstone Angels series, we see a Cambion (CR 5) granting quite a lot of power to a Warlock, and it is definitely implied that the Warlock in question could actually defeat her patron, were they to fight. The explanation behind all of this is apparently that the patron is not granting their own power, but instead acting as a conduit between the Warlock and the plane - the sixth level of Hell for the Warlock in Brimstone Angels, Pandemonium for the Xvarts - and thus the patron’s ability to be killed doesn’t matter. However, the patron does matter somewhat - Brimstone Angels also mentions that some poor Warlocks get tricked into making a pact with an Imp or other weakling, and suffer from a distinct bottleneck in the conduit of power. What all of this means for Warlock patrons like Undead and Kraken, I don’t know; perhaps you could suggest that they are drawing on the Negative Energy Plane, the Feywild, the Far Realm and the… plane of Water?

The statblocks for the Xvarts are fairly standard; we get a CR 1/8 Xvart who looks a lot like a Goblin, albeit with less combat ability, and a CR 1 Warlock with what seems to be a minor variation on the Typical Warlock Spell List (Burning Hands, Eldritch Blast, Invisibility, Expeditious Retreat, and Scorching Ray, for example). Both have a pair of shared traits, namely the ability to speak to vermin (good way of explaining their combat minions) and Low Cunning for bonus-action disengages.

I’m quite taken with these guys because they come with a lovely build in storyline, with them and their demigod having lots of potential for a slightly comedic plane-hopping adventure.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Xvarts have been a lot of things over the years.
They started out as some kind of being that was half-way between a Kobold and a Goblin (both of which have gone their separate ways). Later they were repurposed into Gnomes who were experimented on by Fomorians, and made a pact with some Hags to escape.

Anyway, the most interesting thing about Xvarts is their master Raxivort, who is explicitly a demigod instead of a fiend (at least now), but still grants warlock pacts to his direct offspring, who worship him, instead of making them clerics or something like that. In contrast, Graz'zt is supposedly still more powerful than him, yet isn't a god of any kind yet?

This is the kind of thing that makes me loathe the design lore for Warlocks in 5e. They overlap too greatly with clerics, which doesn't make sense. Why would a divine being make a pact when they can have worshipers, what is the gain for them at that point?

Oddly enough though, I'm OK with warlock patrons being "killable" and relatively weak. Fiends aren't mortal in the sense of the word as we know it. Sure, you can spill all the blood out of their body and cause their life functions to stop, but all that accomplishes under normal circumstances is sending their "spirit" back to their home plane where they can reform another body to creep back out later. And I always figured that gaining souls via pacts and other means was one of the best ways for them to up their status and ascend the ranks of fiendhood. With pacts being a way to "cheat the system" of the afterlife and divinity to gain something similar, but not quite as desirable or potent, as a proper worshiper. Other beings are either incredibly powerful when they attempt something like this (CR20+), or incredibly ill-defined to the point where they don't have stats. So no individual warlock is going to be able to take them out, and having a group of PCs save their comrades soul like this is a fitting capstone to a campaign.
 
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I was very surprised and very happy to see xvarts get updated in Volo's. I've loved the murderous little smurfs since they were swarming everywhere in the Baldur's Gate CRPG...
 

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