5E Let's Read: Volo's Monsters


One thing I'd love to do with the Firenewt/Giant Strider combo, is to have the rider use their AOEs while mounted, healing their mount in the process. It can also hit itself with its psuedo-fireball.

The imagery of a cavalry unit that constantly set off explosions on top of themselves, and gets advantages for doing so it super amazing.


One thing I'd love to do with the Firenewt/Giant Strider combo, is to have the rider use their AOEs while mounted, healing their mount in the process. It can also hit itself with its psuedo-fireball.

The imagery of a cavalry unit that constantly set off explosions on top of themselves, and gets advantages for doing so it super amazing.
If I were ever to DM, this is something that I would absolutely have happen.


Possibly a Idiot.
Let me start out by saying that Fire-eating (the ability to absorb elemental damage and get stronger) is one of my favorite mechanics, and it needs to be more used, especially in elemental creatures.

A minor quibble is that Warlocks of Imix don't get Create Bonfire or Control Flames (I don't care if that's not a Warlock spell, it works better than Light!) I suppose that is a casualty of not printing spells in the statblocks, and the "One splat per character" rule for the Adventurers League. For those of you who need the rules for them, the Elemental Evil Player's Guide (free PDF) has both. Kind of makes me wish there was a Volo's Player's Guide so I didn't have to share this book with my players. Another quibble is that they don't have a "Firelance" statblock for one of the elite firenewt warriors that are supposed to be riding the Striders. I suppose you could start by slapping a breastplate on one and arming them with a lance, or maybe a trident, but that's hardly enough to justify calling something "elite". At any rate, these creatures demand to be disassembled and rebuilt in interesting ways.

Now, what sets Firenewts apart from nearly every other fire-themed minion you will use is the fact they are amphibians. Having a fire-themed creature for your water based campaigns and encounters is a spectacular blindside against most PC groups. The alchemic nature of their Spit Fire even gives justification for using the ability underwater. Combined with their innate fire immunity makes for some great set-pieces. These guys can pop up anywhere: Underwater Volcanos, Above-ground Volcanos, Geysers, Hot Springs, Desert Oases, the Neverwinter River, the steam pipes in a sewer system. Basically anywhere there is water and/or fire laying around in mass quantities.
I'm a little late today, whoops!

There are some creatures in the game that don't seem suited to combat encounters at all, but instead are designed for roleplaying encounters, such as the Sphinx, or for scenes that evoke wonder. The Flail Snail is, I think, one of the latter.

The above image depicts one of the mounts in the Neverwinter MMO. It isn't the worst one in that game - a title which surely goes to the Giant Crab, atop which the rider just sort of awkwardly stands, like a colossal fool. The picture in Volo's is really nice, with beautiful colours and a real sense of stickiness about the whole thing. It makes for an image that both attracts and repels simultaneously, which I think is pretty interesting.

These critters are large elementals, presumably meaning that they are native to the Plane of Earth, but the appendix indicates that you can find them in Swamps, Forests and Underground, so they presumably wander through portals and then sort of spread out. A day in the life of a Flail Snail apparently consists of oozing along, eating everything on the ground that it passes over, with a preference for gem and crystal deposits. As they do so, they leave behind a trail that can be turned into glass windows and objects, which is pretty fun to incorporate as a world-building element. It's as dumb as, well, a giant snail, and it cannot speak, so we're not to imagine some grand culture here.

The Flail Snail's shell can be harvested (upon death, I think it is safe to say), and it is useful for creating Spellguard Shields, shields that in general have anti-magic properties, and Robes of Scintillating Colours. So I guess that they must be hunted down a lot, given that the going price for the shell is 5,000gp; I imagine that you'd get conflict between such hunters, and whoever is harvesting the glass trail, which is one potential use for these guys as a plot hook.

The statblock for this guy is really impressively huge, being more complex than any of the NPC ones in the back, and longer than the CR 10 Froghemoth opposite. It is CR 3, and its defences seem pretty standard for that, although it is truly slow at 10ft. It has five flails, and can attack with them of them on an attack action, reaching out to ten feet for 6 damage per hit. Somewhat complex is the rules for taking damage, wherein the Snail loses a Flail whenever 10 points or more of damage is taken on a turn. This, combined with the Antimagic Shell, means that you'll be more pushed to read this on the players' turns, rather than on your own. This latter property is fun, and can reflect spells back at casters, or make big bangs, as well as generally giving disadvantage to cast the spells in general. The Flail Snail finishes this heady array of powers with Scintillating Shell, allowing it to start a private disco that can Stun attackers, and will give them disadvantage to attack.

Now, I think that having one of these just sitting in a cave, waiting for your players to kill it, is going to be tragically misusing them. I think that far more benefit can come to your campaign if the players find themselves driven to defend the Flail Snails. Part of the reason for me saying that is their death throes, in which they retract into the shell and begin wailing for several minutes, being heard out to 600ft; they can be healed by the Regenerate spell to stop the process. This honestly sounds like a way to either make your players feel bad, for killing something that then cries piteously as it dies, or as a way to draw them in to find poachers killing off some of these magnificent critters. Picture the scene: as they wander through the swamp, they can hear one of these dying in the distance, and maybe even arrive in time to heal it and drive off whatever attacked it. That leads into a whole segment - who is killing the Flail Snails? How do the party feel about that concept? Do the hunters have useful information that the party can use, and will they overlook this activity in order to get it? Does hunting Flail Snails differ from hunting Cows?

Rangers and Druids can be tough to give personalised stories to - 'protect nature' seems more of a downtime goal than an adventuring one - but this might be the perfect way to let them do just that in game, while also generating a way for players to explore how their characters feel about nature and their place in it.

These things are still mad as balls, though.


Possibly a Idiot.
So that's where Iarno got his staff from. I can see many wizards sending their apprentices out on quests to find these beasts and deliver their bounties back to the tower. In fact, glass can make a decent enough weapon or tool when metal isn't in abundance. In a setting like Dark Sun, these creatures would be among the most valuable alive.

However, it occurs to me that this snail could form a symbiotic relationship with a much faster or bigger creature. Take the Dragon Turtle, for instance. The Snail could spend some time cleaning off the Dragon's shell, and then when the PC's attack the turtle, they get some nasty feedback as some of their spells start misfiring due to having the Snail in the path.


Yeah, this is definitely one of those creatures your party is supposed to feel like heels for killing.

Unfortunately, a party may have little trouble with their spell reflecting shield. The snail only does odd things to spells when it succeeds the saving throw. Even with advantage with a -3 to Dex the only thing saving it from a fireball is it's immunity to fire, Lightning bolts would still probably roast it.

But yeah, best thing about this creature is that it is more valuable to one group alive rather than dead, and I'd love to make this a dwarf or gnome domesticated creature. Put a snail in some abandoned tunnels, let them eat and harvest the glass to sell to outsiders.

It's interesting to see how many domesticated and semi-domesticated creatures are in this guide.


Possibly a Idiot.
Enough about living Flail Snails: Dead ones add all kinds of nasty to other encounters too.

Firstly, the shields from a freshly dead snail will make any paladin-esque or cleric NPC brutal. For those of you who are running an Elemental Evil campaign, add them to members of the Black Earth cult. Or just add them to bodyguards of any important target your party will be fighting for some spice.

Secondly, consider adding a Flail Snail zombie. At first blush an elemental zombie seems absurd, but we have beholder zombies, which were a partial inspiration. The Snombie can basically just sit around in a corner being all rotted and hiding in it's shell, acting as a lighting rod of sorts, dispersing AoE attacks aimed at your undead minions. And using it's Scintillating Shell to blind the PC's while other undead eat their brains.
The next beastie was one of the previewed pages, so everybody reading along at home can take a direct look at what we’re dealing with here. The Froghemoth is one of the weird monsters that came out of early D&D experiments with Sci-Fi, and the flavour text highlights that.

There was a lot of discussion about the art for the Froghemoth when it was first previewed, and it is fairly typical for the art in Volo’s: nicely done, well textured and coloured, but not very exciting. The creature is just so dang weird that it is hard to imagine how you could have done them much better, at least without using a whole action scene as the backdrop, and I think that the art gives you a nice sense of how these guys look.

The flavour text for these fellows is actually pretty short, all things considered: they live in Swamps, Bullywugs worship them, they are really crappy parents, and they are rumoured to come from strange metal cylinders. The best part of this for adventure writing is probably the Bullywug connection, as the stuff about cylinders is very vague, presumably a reference to the original D&D module. I guess that you could spin the cylinders idea out into a wider plot, but you’d really be on your own for that process.

The Bullywugs are an oddly prominent element in 5th edition, as I think that they get used a lot by people wanting a low-level swamp adventure, especially good for hex-crawls. In addition, there is a bunch of them that turn up in Hoard of the Dragon Queen. The Froghemoth gives you an excellent boss monster for a swamp adventure, but is perhaps a bit too tough for the natural level range of an adventure that focuses on Bullywugs themselves, at CR 10.

Let’s move onto the stats. The Froghemoth, like most really big things in the edition, are easy to hit but fairly tough. It has a really odd nerf built in, whereby if it takes lightning damage then it is really reduced in ability for a round; this is likely to cause some angst for DMs who dislike players metagaming. On the other hand, it does give you the ability to put one up against a low-level group, if you also place a lighting rod or something similar in the combat arena.

When the Froghemoth swings in anger, it does so in fairly impressive fashion: it has a multi-attack routine consisting of two tentacles (reach 20ft, so getting around kiting concerns a little), then either a tongue or a bite. The tongue can trigger the bite if it works, while the bite is basically a do-damage-and-swallow effort that only has 5ft range. So, adding that together, the Froghemoth slams twice, then tries to bite someone, dragging them closer first if it has to. The swallow is more explicit than these usually are, stipulating that the victim is restrained and blinded (big hit for spellcasters, still a pain for weapon users) and the beastie will potentially vomit up swallow victims if they do enough damage on a single turn to it. It is my impression that being swallowed in 5e is not actually that scary, and that whenever it happens the person involved usually keeps contributing as normal to the combat, which is probably a lot easier and less frustrating than other options.

Overall, I think that the Froghemoth is a fine and interesting combatant, and will be a really fun boss monster for a level 4 party who need to strike while it is being electrocuted.


Possibly a Idiot.
The ability to keep up to 6 targets restrained, preferably underwater, can cause more than a bit of panic in the PC's.

The thing about Froghemoths, is that they are at the Challenge Rating where they shouldn't be used alone. The unfortunate thing about Froghemoths is that their "natural" allies are the Bullywugs, which are mechanically simple, and too dumb to make effective spellcasters (though I suppose you could cheat and dissect the Grung for their statblocks). Consider, instead, making them the beloved pet of a Sea Hag Coven or a young Black Dragon. The Froghemoth then becomes a waterborne meat-shield for the more mechanically interesting creatures, which is really the best it can hope to be. Just swap out the Lighting Bolt Coven spell for Fireball or the like.
Yeah, the Froghemoth and the Bullywugs are just too distant in CR to work perfectly together; but adding in a couple Bullywug Swamp Sorcerers or whatever shouldn't be too hard, if we can just use some of the NPC statblocks in the back of the book.

I'm probably going to add one of these to Castle Naeryatar in Hoard of the Dragon Queen since they look fun; might need to give the Lizardfolk there something huge as well, so that if the players do go for the civil war strategy then I can have a Godzilla clash going on in the background.

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The Frogemoth and the Banderhob are two creatures that I want to use, but as experiments of a mad mage, so I really want to change them visually into something horrendous, and then just use the statblocks.

While I understand the historical reasoning behind it, that shock susceptibility is brutal. I see plenty of reason to remove it if a party has easy access to lightning damage, because it really nerfs them down to "bigger ogre" only able to make a single attack a turn and their AC plummeting to a 12.

Still, a low-level party who is clearing a bullywug den could potentially fight a single frogemoth and come out ahead if they make use of it. Which lets the party really feel awesome for overcoming a massive single enemy
Yeah, that was the best that I could come up with for the Froghemoth, myself: a boss fight with a built-in nerf button that a player has to stand on each round. The fun part would be adding something that made the 'lightning button' difficult to stand on - like archers, or spikes that come up if a certain other button isn't pushed each round...

I never ran or played 4e much, but I did like it's idea of complex arena combats - reminded me a lot of cool computer game fight scenes - and often try to incorporate them in my 5e games. The problem is that they can turn into session-dominating beasts very easily, whereas standard 'fight three bad guys in a corridor' are quick and seem about as satisfying to the players. Ho hum.

Pharblex Spattergoo, bless his cotton little socks, has an excellent name that should be stolen. The names for humans in the Forgotten Realms tend to be unbearable, but the monster NPCs have solid ones. Sadly though I'm away from my copy of Hoard, so cannot check his stat block out at the moment.

Edit: Another possibility for the Froghemoth is just to toss a trio of them at the players, from different directions, when they are around level 10. On the guess that they'll know about the Shock Susceptability, you can be sure that the players will be able to shock at least one a turn - which will give them an interesting decision each round as to where to allocate their lightning bolts. That could probably leverage their ability for a fight that is more tactical than the pure statblock would suggest.
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Pharblex Spattergoo, bless his cotton little socks, has an excellent name that should be stolen. The names for humans in the Forgotten Realms tend to be unbearable, but the monster NPCs have solid ones. Sadly though I'm away from my copy of Hoard, so cannot check his stat block out at the moment.
He's a 6th level druid with AC 15 and 59 hp, which only amounts to CR 3, sadly. In my game, the PCs hit him when he was sleeping. He never really got to do anything. But he posthumously got revenge when the party almost TPKed themselves after the rogue triggered the poison gas trap while exploring the caves. That was fun ...

That being said, bullywugs are included in the customizing NPCs table in the DMG, so you could easily make some higher-CR bullywugs using the generic NPC stats from the MM and Volo's.
We now move onto the Giants, of whom we have six. It is worth noting that [MENTION=6801060]Demetrios1453[/MENTION] has an interesting thread where they are providing full writeups for alternative giants, primarily ones that are tougher than standard and good for ‘elite’ encounters. Go check it out! Meanwhile, we have six Giants to consider ourselves, all of which are ‘odd’ in some way. They’re not the ‘chieftain’ statblocks that you might expect, but instead tend to represent outsiders or religiously-mad versions of the base Giants. We begin by looking at the Cloud Giant Smiling One.

I think that the giant types in Volo’s are new, so sadly we won’t have any useful or interesting previous edition versions to draw on for images. The art in Volo’s for the Smiling One depicts it floating and gesturing; the complex body motions reminds me a little of Classical Indian dance. An abstract swirl tries to hint at a background, while the Giant herself is fairly androgynous, both of which combine with the mask to give a nice air of mystery.

So these chaps are fond of Memnor’s role as a trickster god, and they use magic and misdirection to achieve the same outcome that all Cloud Giants aspire to - wealth. This idea is also seen in the Harlequins of Warhammer 40,000, who worship the Laughing God, wear masks, and use misdirecting technology to protect themselves in battle; considering the many similarities between the two, I’d be inclined to suggest that the Harlequins were the inspiration for this monster entry.

In order to let them actually interact with players in a meaningful way, the Smiling One gets a Change Shape ability that is very broadly worded, letting it easily infiltrate or evade as required. Interestingly, the Giant retains all of its stats in the new form, meaning that it could pretend to be a Cat but still dish out whopping Giant damage; however, the entry gives you no hints as to how to handle its attacks if the new form doesn’t include either a boulder or a morningstar, which is a bit of a troubling omission. As always, the DM is given the freedom to decide what suits; but some hints as to whether it gets loads of bonus damage or not if it is no longer Giant sized would have been helpful. However, the roleplaying-scene potential of this guy is strong, with a huge Deception score of +11, and a whole bunch of fun spells that can let it spread chaos and confusion.

The mission statement - wealth acquisition - and weird powers of this creature inclines me to suggest that you treat it like a comics villain. What would Giganta or Lex Luthor do with these powers? The answer is probably going to involve breaking into a bank and then framing the players for it. [1] Really, these guys seem perfect for all kinds of shenanigans in cities, with a surprise ending leading to a boss battle the players were not expecting. Especially fun since Giants are not things that you can easily bring into urban adventures. In a Cloud Giant adventure, these guys are probably most interesting if used in the ‘false innocent’ trope, but I’m a bit leery of that one myself: encouraging your players to be suspicious and murderous towards any prisoners that they meet in dungeons is really driving them down the murderhobo path. Otherwise, they might work well if you use one as an untrustworthy middleman between the Cloud Giants and the humanoid civilisation that the players are near - a combination of a grand vizier and an ambassador, if you will. Really, these guys are about as useful as any ‘deceitful clever shapeshifter’ in driving plots, but with the added bonus of being able to lob boulders if enraged.

In combat, the Smiling One is basically a Cloud Giant with levels in Arcane Trickster or Bard - it can cast a few illusion and control spells, it can do more damage it if has advantage on attacks. It isn’t particularly sneaky, oddly, but it can use magic to try and cover the distance. This will be one of the monsters that your DM ruling on how ‘invisible’ and ‘hidden’ interact will really matter though, with only a +1 to Stealth and the Invisibility spell. Shapechanging back into Giant size takes a round, as with most (all?) monsters of this kind, but I usually handwave that to instant just for the dramatic potential of having it transform and then immediately start swinging in its ‘true’ form. They are a little tougher than normal Cloud Giants, and like them are not resistant to Lightning damage, no matter how obvious that’d seem, so expect it to stay up a couple of rounds even against dedicated efforts. I don’t know if their spellcasting will be that important to a combat, to be honest, since they don’t have any really powerful ones, so you’ll likely have something that swings for massive damage on the first turn and then fights like a normal Cloud Giant thereafter. Saying that, Cloud Giants do hella damage, especially with the Fling attack from Storm King’s Thunder, so don’t feel bad about just wading into melee.

[1] Bank robbery is a fun thing to bring into D&D - I once had my players meet a Dao who was mid-way into breaking into the extra-dimensional vault that their bank used, and they took the opportunity to trade non-interference in his robbery - and a bagful of gems - for vital plot information and his promise to leave their own vault alone.


Possibly a Idiot.
When talking about Giants, there is one aspect of the stat blocks I adore, and that is the fact they have a proper ranged attack, even though they are traditionally melee brutes. Well most of them have one anyway.

Smiling Ones, in particular, have all kinds of potential do to their many moving parts: Innate Spellcasting, Bardic Spellcasting, Threatening Melee and Ranged attack options backed up by a "sneak attack" like mechanic, and Change Shape to top it all off. You can have it fill practically any combat roll you need it too. It has enough staying power to be the Frontline Brute, and enough finesse to be the sneaky Ranged Support. It can even be the healer or controller of a higher level group. Heck, it can fill any out of combat roll you need it to as well: An opportunistic healer when the party desperately needs some more spell support. A scholar at a Bardic College who just happens to know the answer to that obscure riddle everyone has been having trouble with. A superspy. Anything basically.

One change I would make to them however, is turning Vicious Mockery into a bonus action for them. That spell is so much fun in play and it's a pity that they would only really consider to use it while shapeshifted into something that doesn't have any weapons.

But as far as supervilians go, these things aren't Lex Luthor or Giganta, they are strait up Loki. Heck, Loki is even giant! (Albeit a Frost Giant who likes to hang around in human size for some reason, so the connection still stands!)
We now move onto the Giants, of whom we have six. It is worth noting that [MENTION=6801060]Demetrios1453[/MENTION] has an interesting thread where they are providing full writeups for alternative giants, primarily ones that are tougher than standard and good for ‘elite’ encounters. Go check it out! Meanwhile, we have six Giants to consider ourselves, all of which are ‘odd’ in some way. They’re not the ‘chieftain’ statblocks that you might expect, but instead tend to represent outsiders or religiously-mad versions of the base Giants. We begin by looking at the Cloud Giant Smiling One
Thanks for the mention! And to tie it in with our current subject, I'll be starting on my cloud giant variants once I get back home to my books here in a few days...

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One thing to note, if I understood the lore correctly, they will be wearing that mask fairly regularly, declaring themselves to be untrustworthy.

Any party that succeeds on a roll asking what that mask means is going to be suspicious of these guys from the moment they step on stage. Flip expectations then, make them an actual innocent party. They have a plot in motion, but it is completely irrelevant to the plot the PCs are investigating. Someone else is trying to blame them for something they have not done.

So now you have an untrustworthy NPC who the party may be trying to prove is innocent, and they can get up to all sorts of mischief in the meantime while investigating the plot that they actually care about
Thanks for the mention! And to tie it in with our current subject, I'll be starting on my cloud giant variants once I get back home to my books here in a few days...
No worries - they make an obvious resource to mention at this stage!


One side effect of this thread structure is that the entries that people want to mention are not always the one under current discussion. We’ve had scattered commentary about the Devourer and Bodak since we did them, for example, while the Fire Giant Dreadnought first sparked debate back on page 6, with confusion over how its shield ability works. This fella is all about the shields, as the Volo’s art makes clear:

Since I’m struggling to find any relevant pictures, here is the one from the book. It is… okay. I mean, the detail is good, but it just really doesn’t excite me as much as a 20-foot tall melee monster should. The pose is terribly static, and the armour texture is not very crisp. Oh well.

The Fire Giants are all about the foundry - they really love their metallurgy and blacksmithing. This requires both strength, to be able to manipulate the materials, and intelligence, to know when and how to do so. The Dreadnoughts are the Giants who have extra brawn but less brains, and thus get relegated to pushing stuff around. [1] Happily however, their immense strength allows them to claim a somewhat good place in the Ordning, unlike their peers who lack both brawn and brains. The main thing that this entry makes me wonder is what a Fire Giant with brains but not brawn would look like; some kind of a fire wizard? If we ever get an Alchemist or Artificer class then I would imagine a Fire Giant could be given abilities from it to make a pretty interesting entry.

The flavour section for these guys is really short. They push stuff around the foundry with their shields, which seems a bit impractical but sure. They are used to send a strong message by accompanying delegations. When faced with enemies, they pour coals into their shields (a detail that I think could have been used to spice up the image) and then smash people into paste. That’s kind of it. Unless your game involves a lot more Fire Giant social tensions than I think it likely will, you will get most use out of these guys as a combat encounter.

Speaking of combat, let’s discuss its stats. The Dreadnought is brutally simple, to be honest. It gets a few more HP, and +3 AC, compared to a normal Fire Giant. The +3 is a bit odd, but I guess that diminishing returns applies to shields, and presumably if it stows a shield to toss a boulder then it goes down to +2. It can pick three options on its turn: to hit someone with a shield, doing a fair amount of damage but not all that much more than a normal Fire Giant; to toss a boulder, for the same damage as a Fire Giant, or a Shield Charge, which is the real highlight here. The reason that I am mentioning the Fire Giant so much here is because the Dreadnought is a whopping FIVE levels of CR higher than its kin, but the statblock doesn’t really support that in many areas. The Shield Charge, however, makes the difference: the Dreadnought can go 30ft in a straight line, getting a free attack on every non-giant whose space it enters, and if they fail a strength saving throw it will push them the rest of the way. That sounds a lot of fun, but be prepared for to reorganise the combat spacing of people at the end of the move! If the victims really fail the roll, they will get knocked prone and then take bonus damage.

This is all great fun, but unfortunately I’m not sure that Fire Giants have much ability to take advantage of battlefield control tactics like those. Some friendly Hell Hounds might be able to bound up and breathe fire, I guess, but the Giants themselves are basically just big Fighters, and they are superior in melee. The Dreadnought doesn’t have the speed or teleportation powers to reliably use this ability to bring the party back-line into melee either. It seems to me that this will turn out the same way as a bad Reinhart charge in Overwatch: he’ll drive loads of people before him, and then get instantly murdered by them all before they turn to take on his allies. Of course, a bad guy who confidently charges in - with a really impressive mechanic for doing so - and then gets cut down by the party will probably be extremely satisfying for the group Barbarian to deal with, so your players will probably enjoy it!

[1] In game terms, +2 STR and -2 INT - or 25->27 and 10->8, respectively. That difference is pretty minor to be honest, but I guess that they don’t have a lot of room to work with in the stat ranges, and INT especially is one of those stats that matters a lot more in stories than in gaming.


Possibly a Idiot.
The Fire Giant Dreadnought is a fright train come undone. The proverbial Hard Place on the other side of the Rock. When I first saw this picture I envisioned them as a living extension of a dungeon wall, forcing the PC's into traps. And that's how you should use them really. You could send them out as political envoys or living siege engines, but these things shine at home, in the narrow under-volcano tunnels next to their foundry where they can make the best use of their charges. In fact, just have it toss the PC's into the forge, it's simple, flavorful, and what they do for a living.

Dreadnoughts also pair well extremely well with Arcane Casters like Sorcerers and Wizards. Not only can the Dreadnought benefit from some kind of AoE knockdown, or a magical wall, they can herd the PC's into tighter formations where AoEs will be more effective. And they are immune to Fireball. Which is nice because Fireball will also ignite some of the coal piles laying around the forge, giving the Dreadnought something else to push the PC's into.

The main thing that this entry makes me wonder is what a Fire Giant with brains but not brawn would look like; some kind of a fire wizard?
The new UA Forge Domain fits fire giants like a glove, they already favor WIS over the other Casting Stats. Technically they also have brawn, but they are giants, so whatchagonado?