5E Let's Read: Volo's Monsters

I'm pretty sure Titania is the Summer Queen.
There's some interesting discussion of that. Everything I find on Titania and Oberon from history associates them with forests, but not a particular season. And the original title of her seems to suggest she rules over all fae and not a particular court, making her more akin to an empress than just a queen.

But, if you investigate Oberon, you find out a lot more; Oberon was originally tied to forests, but not any particular season. This seems to suggest that his court is one of the biome courts, specifically the biome of forests.

Much of the idea of the Summer tie comes from the Shakespearean play, but the title of the play was an allusion both to the Midsummer's Eve festival and how the play itself plays with the idea of what is and what is not real.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
There's some interesting discussion of that.
Is there?

FWIW I just checked the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, because I remembered it had lists of suggested patrons for the various warlock pacts, and sure enough, it identifies Titania as being the Summer Queen. See page 138.
 
Is there?

FWIW I just checked the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, because I remembered it had lists of suggested patrons for the various warlock pacts, and sure enough, it identifies Titania as being the Summer Queen. See page 138.
Bah! I should have checked there first instead of delving into mythology.
 
Good catch on the SCAG; I always forget that it has that nice little section on Warlock Patrons. Man, I really wish I could play a Warlock in someone else's game.

There are many monsters in this book that would be great to add to the already-published adventure paths; the Deep Scion is one of these, being a perfect minion of the Kraken Society. That is a secret society that has turned up twice now, in Princes of the Apocalypse and Storm King’s Thunder, but neither time was it really the ‘main attraction’ of the adventure, as it were.



The Deep Scion art in Volo’s is pretty good. Of all the ‘stand and pose menacingly’ pictures in the book, this is one of the most menacinglyist of them all! It helps that the guy is a freakish assembly of all that is nasty and grotesque about sea creatures, plus a rather fetching suit of leather armour. He hits the mark for me, which is to say that I feel like washing my hands after looking at it closely for this post.

In terms of background, these guys are a cross between Deep Ones from Lovecraft and Changlings. They are kidnapped - taken from shipwrecks or plucked from the shore - and taken underwater to be converted into a nasty fish monster. This is known to ‘evil aquatic creatures’, which is vague enough to cover a multitude of sins by the DM. The ritual not only makes them horrid physically, it allows them to shapechange back into a normal looking person, to swim and breathe underwater, and it gets some fairly strong combat abilities to boot.

The Scion is in an interesting place as a monster. It has enough character as an assassin from the deeps and shapeshifter, to suit a solo encounter - and its Psychic Screech doesn’t distinguish between friend or foe, so it works a little better this way, mechanically. In addition, they have the skills (Deception, Stealth, etc) to work well as the infiltrator type. However, it is only CR 3. On the other hand, as minions of a greater power, they seem perfectly serviceable to be used in mobs against higher-level players, serving as the Ogres of your campaign if that makes sense. Note that a Kraken will only fail the saving throw against Psychic Screech on a natural 1, so they’ll do perfectly fine as bodyguards for one. Both options are viable in the same campaign of course; note that the Psychic Screech mentally transmits its knowledge of the last 24 hours to its master, so they seem perfectly suited to serve as the transition between the early stages of your story, with an investigation into strange happenings in the coastal village culminating in a fight against the Deep Scion, and the middle, where the players take to the water to find out who was really behind events. This would then lead into fights against Sahuagin swarms or Merrow or whatever.

In combat, they are fairly uncomplicated. It turns into the squamous critter that it is in the picture, then either uses Psychic Screech, which is an AoE save effect that causes stunning for a round, exactly like a Monk fist, or they can use a triple-attack routine for standard looking damage. The Screech is going to be way more scary when there are other monsters around to take advantage of anyone who fails. They are easy as pie to hit, but have very respectable HP, which I think is balanced out according to the monster tables in the DMG. There isn’t much otherwise to note, other than that they swim good.

A pretty simple monster for CR 3, especially as the monsters in this book are more complex overall than those in the MM, but there is a lot to like about these guys for a game set on the coast. I’ve got some thoughts about having them infiltrate Waterdeep’s Dock Ward, with the players asked to investigate the extent of the problem after the Merfolk in the harbour catch one trying to swim into the harbour.

Tomorrow we get the Demons. I’ll see how much space the Babau takes up; we might cover two or three at once, if there isn’t a huge amount to say about it.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Deep Scion's make me wish more monsters were templates. I could imagine an entire ship of these, each with different abilities or powers. Ideally, a few warlocks would be in their ranks along with the simpler rogue and warrior types.

But, the most interesting idea about these creatures is that sometimes the ritual fails. What exactly happens then? The lore implies that the person dies, but what if they didn't? Could there be some Deep Scions that keep their emotions and fight against their aquatic masters? Could they mutate into other creatures? I would like to see this ritual happen to a PC, only for them to be rescued at the last moment by Tritons or the like. Giving the character the powers of a Deep Scion wouldn't pose too much of a problem for balance, the screech is a burden for the party, and the claws don't have to offer much more than a slightly upgraded unarmed strike. The biggest boon would be giving a swim speed and water breathing to a character that didn't have one, and the plot points you could weave from such a "blessing" are numerous.
 
I think that, to have 'Deep Scion Warlocks' or whatever, to give yourself a whole ship full of varied bad guys for that storyline, you'd be best off just using normal NPC statblocks but give them swimming, psionic screech, and aquatic movement. That should cover about everything that your players will notice/care about. In Princes of the Apocalypse they used 'Aquatic Trolls' and 'Aquatic Ghouls': both simply had a swim speed (and the ability to breathe underwater for the Trolls). I always thought that was a very elegant way to handle the situation.

That is an interesting hook for a character; I think that it would actually work best as a Background that gave you the ability to swim underwater and hold your breath; perhaps also proficiency in Athletics or something. Offer that to a selected player before the campaign, and they could perhaps be a survivor of the cult. Even more fun: the character has amnesia, and thus no idea how he came to have gills and webbed feet, but he does know that he fears the deep...
 

dave2008

Adventurer
But then I read their special move, and I was curious how people interpret it. I’m going to try and post it directly:

“Shield Charge. The giant moves up to 30 feet in a straight line
and can move through the space of any creature smaller than
Huge. The first time it enters a creature's space during this
move, it makes a fireshield attack against that creature. If the
attack hits, the target must also succeed on a DC 21 Strength
saving throw or be pushed ahead of the giant for the rest of
this move. If a creature fails the save by 5 or more, it is also
knocked prone and takes 18 (3d6 + 8) bludgeoning damage, or
29 (6d6 + 8) bludgeoning damage if it was already prone.”

So, it says the 1st time it enters the space, but if they fail the save and are pushed ahead of the giant, does the giant get to attack them again as it moves? I don’t think so, as that could end up being 6 attacks against a single creature, potentially dealing 48d6+48 damage, which seems way too big even for a CR 14 creature.

Laying it all out this way, that 1st time it enters line is supposed to prevent multiple attacks correct?
I don't have the book in front of me, but I see it as only two attacks against one creature, not sure were you are getting six:

1) Move 30feet
2) Make fireshield attack (which happens during the move), I don't remember the damage caused
3a) failed save - pushed to the end of the movement
3b) failed by 5 or more - knocked prone and add 18 (3d6 + 8) damage, or 29 (6d6 + 8) if the target was prone when the initial attack was made (step 2)
 

Chaosmancer

Villager
I love the Scion as the secret infiltrator, sneaking into the water every night to report back to its master.

With shapechanging they could be a secret traitor to a criminal organization, working in the background to keep tabs on them and prevent them from stopping the master's ultimate plan.


One thing that causes me a little confusion is that this one and the Sea Spawn, and I think one or two other creatures, present the Kraken as almost a God-like being, which in raw strength may be true, but until this time I'd never imagined them as using mind manipulating magicks or altering a creature's form to create new life.

I like that sort of being, but I always thought the Kraken was more of an aquatic Tarrasque than a vengeful god.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
[MENTION=6801228]Chaosmancer[/MENTION]: They've done more than just alter the kraken's appearance. Although, that being said, Slarkrethel and the Kraken Society go way back, so it may not be a new thing after all.
 

MonsterEnvy

Adventurer
[MENTION=6801228]Chaosmancer[/MENTION]: They've done more than just alter the kraken's appearance. Although, that being said, Slarkrethel and the Kraken Society go way back, so it may not be a new thing after all.
It's not at all. Krakens have always been very intelligent in D&D.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
I think that, to have 'Deep Scion Warlocks' or whatever, to give yourself a whole ship full of varied bad guys for that storyline, you'd be best off just using normal NPC statblocks but give them swimming, psionic screech, and aquatic movement. That should cover about everything that your players will notice/care about. In Princes of the Apocalypse they used 'Aquatic Trolls' and 'Aquatic Ghouls': both simply had a swim speed (and the ability to breathe underwater for the Trolls). I always thought that was a very elegant way to handle the situation.
That's a good point. I suppose it is easy to just rip out the "iconic" parts of something so simple.
 
I've just added a contents list to the first post, which took a not inconsiderable amount of effort thanks to this forum's incredibly wonky post editor. Hopefully this makes the thread more useful for future reference.

Krakens here definitely seem to be being played up as a Big Deal Bad Guy. I think that they envisage one being used in the same role that a Demon Lord or Elder Brain might be - the central bad guy of a campaign. It is weird, because they are kind of just lurking there in the Monster Manual, but with this and SKT they've really highlighted the Kraken's potential. I've been wondering whether we'll be getting a Moonshaes adventure - Fey, Nautical adventures, crumbling castles being fought over by various factions, a new Druid subclass, etc - and if so whether Slarkrethkel will reappear there.
 
There are very few extra-planar monsters in the book, which itself notes that they kept them back for a future effort. So perhaps in a year or two we’ll be back here, talking about Volo’s Guide to Ways to Make High Level Characters Cry. Until that time however, we have a few Demons here to use. They appear to have been selected primarily for their adjacency to the themes of the book; so we get one that combines well with the Bodak, a couple that go well with Gnolls, and one that… well, I’m not sure why the Babau made the cut, to be honest, but it did. Maybe because the Xvart entry also mentions Graz’zt? Tenuous!



The art in Volo’s is basically the same as the above image, only he’s twisting a little to the left. These guys remind me mostly of DOOM, which I recently played; they have a fairly generic ‘demon’ look to them. Technically the image is fairly strong, though the thighs look distinctly undeveloped for a guy with 40ft move. I like the pile of rubble as backdrop, it gives a nice sense of desolation to the image. Overall though, the above image is the better of the two.

These guys arose when Glasya (of Brimstone Angels fame, to me at least) and Graz’zt (of ‘not appearing in Out of the Abyss’ fame) were trading blows. When Glasya slashed Graz’zt with her devilish sword, his demonic blood splattered the ground and rose up again as these guys; presumably why they have blood oozing from various pores in the image. They then helped turn the tide, rout Glasya, and establish Graz’zt as a preeminent Demon Lord. It does occur to me that their weapon attacks are non-magical, so it seems somewhat unlikely that they could have done real damage to an Arch-Devil, but plot trumps mechanics, so nevermind. They could have done lots of Grapple-Push Prone attempts, I guess? :D

They combine the “cunning of a devil and the bloodthirstiness of a demon”, but we are given little clue as to how that should work in practice, and they don’t have any of a Devil’s manipulation powers that I can see. In use, these guys primarily seem suited to spice up a wider Demon fight. I’m a firm believer in the use of Fiends as high level mooks; you can safely put a half-dozen different Fiends down against level 16 players and know that you’ll have a fun, challenging fight that won’t last all evening, unlike using fifty Gnolls or whatever. Though you could use one by itself for a low level party, I’m not sure that these guys have the personality and powers to suit being a solo bad guy - especially when the Cambion is available. Perhaps one could do as a surprise attack, following the players around and then getting the drop on them when they try and take a rest; that also seems like a viable option.

The combat stats on these guys are reasonably interesting. They’re tough, they move fast, they have stealth abilities; they have standard Demon resistances, and they can innately cast some useful spells - Heat Metal is a particularly good one that doesn’t allow a save, so great for hurting a Paladin, Cleric or Fighter of any level. The Babau does little damage with its main attacks, (16 average if both hit), but it does have a rather odd Weakening Gaze that can half the strength-based damage of a character, albeit it is based on a DC 13 Con save. I don’t see that being failed very often by people you’d want to affect, but the Babau can do it for free every time it makes an attack action, so I think that it is designed to be a minor rider to the damage of their attack, one that highlights their tankiness, rather than being a big deal by itself.

Overall, these guys seem good for adding into a combat to complicate matters for the players when they are trying to take down a more powerful Demon, or perhaps for stealthly hunting the players in packs. Their low damage, outside of Heat Metal means that you’ll not really put much hurt on a party with them alone, I think, but they are tanky enough to be annoying to get rid of, and they bring a lot of intriguing abilities to the table. Since my homebrew campaign will be visiting the Abyss soon, I’ll make sure to use these guys to victimise the characters!
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
How exactly do you use a demon in a clever way and unsuspected way without totally disregarding them being instruments of bloody destruction?

In the Babau's case, you take a page from their lore:

On the Black Market is a vial of something called "Graz'zt's Blood", and everyone wants it. Some think it to be a powerful poison, others an arcane reagent tied to the planes and/or warlocks, and a few dwarves fancy it a potent alcoholic brew. However, the truth of the this treasure just so happens to be skin deep. It is, in fact, a vial of the Demon Prince's blood, that somehow made it into mortal hands. Designed so that a Babau will spring forth when the vial is opened, it is intended to spread The Dark Prince's influence in the resulting chaos. And there is an entire ship (or even a fleet) full of the stuff, spreading this foul "brew" across the coast.

Incidentally, how do you pronounce "Babau"? Sometimes these names look like they came out of someone's soup bowl.
 
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Chaosmancer

Villager
Looking these guys over again, they get some nice at will magic.

At-will dispel magic means warded areas never keep them out for long. Any spell 3rd or lower is automatically snuffed and... that includes Magic Circle, the go to "let's summon a demon and get it to work for us/let's keep demons out" spell. This could be an ability they use very rarely, allowing themselves to be summoned by mortals, get them used to making it easy, then dispelling the circle that contains them and ripping into their erstwhile masters.

Any spell higher than 3rd is going to take some time to get through, +1 wisdom means d20+1 needing to get 10+spell level DC... but give them however much time they would need to "take 20" and even the most powerful wards are going to be destroyed by these guys.


Combine this with at-will fear (even with a crappy save, DC 11 is nothing) and a half dozen of these guys could sneak into a magic school to terrorize and kill the students and perhaps bring more powerful demons who can't defeat magic wards along with them.

At will levitate is good too (again crappy save) because I think the caster controls the movement, so levitating a warrior makes them rather helpless against any ranged spear attacks these things make, because they wouldn't be able to close on the Babau to hit them.


Man, the more I think about at-will Dispel Magic opens so many possibilities for Babau to lead the charge on an infiltration, or sneak up to the city walls and slowly tear apart the wards that protect it. Eventually they will roll high enough to break the spell.
 
Some good insights there; I'm really bad at making use of monster spells, so the thought are welcome. :) Of course, Dispel Magic is going to be a good way to shut down a Spirit Guardians right when the party is depending on it...
 
One of the few issues I had with VGtM is that the babau's acidic slime wasn't addressed. It's definitely there in the picture, but it's not mentioned in either the text or the stat block. Granted, it's easy enough to just port over the rust monster's corroding attack which acts in pretty much the same way (other than rusting instead of acidic corroding), but it does seem a rather odd oversight to leave out an ability that has been associated with the babau pretty much since its inception back in 1e (and doesn't appear that it would raise the CR as it doesn't appear on the monster ability chart in the DMG).
 

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