Seastars with high AC - 5e idea?

Cleon

Adventurer
all of the above.

Updating the Giant Basket Star.

I've added the Capable Clambering, Regrowth, Rudimentary Vision and Water Breathing traits of its little sibling but haven't given it Hold Breath as I didn't see any references to basketstars moving around on beaches or rocks above the shoreline like seastars or brittlestars.

For the "disguise themselves as a mass of vegetation or a 'seaweed tree' " I was thinking:

Plant Disguise. A giant basket star can stay in one place and pose its many-branched limbs to resemble a large mass of aquatic vegetation swaying in the water currents. It requires a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check for a creature to realize the gorgonocephalid is not a treelike growth of seaweed. If the basket star is concealed within a kelp forest or similar flora, observers have disadvantage on this Wisdom (Perception) check.​

Does that seem OK to you?

I like the idea of them using kelp forests for camouflage. That doesn't appear to be a habitat favored by realworld basket stars who like to live on rocks or reefs with open water flowing past them, since they are filter feeders who comb microscopic food particles out of the water passing them. Living in kelp beds is more a brittle star thing.

However, I imagine a giant basket star feeds off way larger food items than the microscopic scraps eaten by their normal-sized cousins, so it (a) favours areas with lots of small fish and the like swimming around and (b) it needs to trick said small animals into thinking its harmless and swim within reach of its arm net. Chasing down a tiny fish would likely burn more energy than it'd gain from eating it. A giant basket star probably only actively pursues meals that are large and slow-moving or immobile (such as dead or injured fish and PCs wandering around underwater!).
 

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Cleon

Adventurer
yeah sounds good - all 5 traits added

Updating the Giant Basket Star with Plant Disguise.

Okay, so mechanically we've only got Actions to finish.

I've been thinking it over, and does it really need separate Arm attacks if it has a Net of Arms attack? It can just grab everything within reach of all its arm branches rather than trying to focus its arms on individual targets.

Also, real-world basket stars exude sticky mucus from their arms to help grip prey, and they coat resisting prey in a clump of mucus to immobilize them.

From Wikipedia's entry for Gorgonocephalus eucnemis:

It ensnares small crustaceans such as the northern krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica), copepods, chaetognaths, jellyfish, and detritus that come within reach. Trapped prey becomes the centre of a "knot" where it is immobilised by the secretion of mucus.​

Can we do anything with that?

I'm also wondering whether we should restrict the effectiveness of its Net of Arms to creatures of a certain size. Maybe have creatures that are too big and/or strong have advantage on their rolls to escape the net, or have it simply be unable to hold them?

According to inverts.wallawalla.edu's entry for Gorgonocephalus eucnemis "The prey of basket star species is said to range up to 3 cm (just over an inch) in size," suggesting it normally eats things about one-tenth to one-twentieth its armspan.

G eucnemis is the largest known species, averaging about 30 cm across but it can go up to an armspan of 70 cm. The central disc if about one-fifth the width of the arms (so 14 cm for the largest specimens).

Now a Gargantuan creature occupies a 20 ft. by 20 ft. space in 5th Edition D&D.

If we assume that's the body disc, then our Giant Basket Star would be about five times wider or 100 feet, meaning its arms cover a 50 ft. radius. If it usually preys on creatures up to 1/10th to 1/20th its armspan, that'd be prey items up to 5 to 10 feet in length, which is either Medium or Large in 5E terms.

That seems about right.
 

Casimir Liber

Adventurer
Great idea - a single Net of Arms attack that works like an Area of Effect attack. Up to size L creatures inclusive. Maybe mix it somehow with the mucus (works like a Web spell?) - could be even more cheeky and make it an auto attack that requires STR or DEX rolls to evade..?

Once grappled - the net of arms does bludgeoning/piercing damage per round and each target is moved closer to the mouth.
 

Cleon

Adventurer
Great idea - a single Net of Arms attack that works like an Area of Effect attack. Up to size L creatures inclusive. Maybe mix it somehow with the mucus (works like a Web spell?) - could be even more cheeky and make it an auto attack that requires STR or DEX rolls to evade..?

I was assuming it'd spread out its Net of Arms and grab any creature that fails a Dexterity save to avoid it. However, I was thinking Huge and Gargantuan creatures would automatically succeed at Escape checks against the grabbing, and Large creatures might gain Advantage on their escape rolls.

Once grappled - the net of arms does bludgeoning/piercing damage per round and each target is moved closer to the mouth.

As per a previous post I wouldn't have the arms do any damage.

Firstly, real world basket stars just trap their food with their arms, they don't seem to crush it (I guess they could stifle their prey if they coat them with a thick enough coating of mucus, but I haven't seen that mentioned in any articles on Gorgonocephalids).

Secondly, if the arms do damage to everything in the Net it'd increase the average damage considerably. For example, if it made five 1d4+6 arm crushes that's another 42.5 damage, which'd more than double the DPR if the bite does 30 or so damage as I proposed earlier.

Oh, I'd have the giant basket star be able to choose whether to pull each target towards its mouth or not. Some real life basket stars will restrain prey in a clump of mucus and hold them in their arms until night falls, then eat them under the cover of darkness. I presume this is to reduce the risk of a passing fish attacking them while they feed.

For our Giant Basket Star, maybe have it be able to choose for each target whether it wants to coat them in mucus and restrain them OR pull the target closer to its jaws?

It'd be clearer if I rough out a description of these Actions.

Don't have time for that right now but might whip something up this evening.
 


Cleon

Adventurer
Better get on with it! I'm not 100% sure what the hit points and AC of the arms and mucus should be, or the saving throws of the grappling and mucus, but the rest looks pretty solid to me:

Multiattack. The giant basket star use Net of Arms and then makes a bite attack.

Net of Arms. Each creature of the giant basket star's choice that is within 50 feet of the basket star is affected as follows:

If the Basket Star is Not Grappling the Creature: The creature must succeed on a DC 17 [?] Dexterity saving throw or be grappled (escape DC 17*)[?]. A giant basket star can grapple as many creatures as will fit within the 50 foot radius of its arms. The creature can also cut themselves free by doing at least 8 [?] hit points of damage to the arm branches holding them (AC ## [?]; immunity to bludgeoning and psychic damage). Damage to individual arm branches does not harm the basket star or reduce the effectiveness of its Net of Arms (the Net has hundreds of branches so losing a few does not hamper it).

If the Basket Star is Grappling the Creature: The grappled creature must succeed on a DC 17 [?] Dexterity or Strength saving throw (creature's choice) or be restrained by sticky mucus, which increases the escape DC of the grapple to 20.* As an action, the restrained target can make a DC 17 Strength check*, bursting free of the mucus on a success. If the Strength check result is 20 or higher they also escape the basket star's grapple, on a 19 or lower they are still held by the Net of Arms. The mucus can also be attacked and destroyed (AC ## [?]; hp 8 [?]; immunity to bludgeoning, poison, and psychic damage), if the damage is 16 [?] or more the creature will also break free of any arm-branches grappling them.
 In addition, the basket star can choose to move any creature it is grappling up to 20 ft. [?] in any direction; it normally pulls the creature inwards towards its bite attack. If the creature isn't restrained they can prevent the movement by succeeding on a DC 17 Strength check (a free action).

* Large creatures have Advantage on escape and Strength checks against the Net of Arms. Huge and Gargantuan creatures automatically succeed on escape and Strength checks against the Net of Arms, so a giant basket star can only net creatures of Huge or larger size if they are dead or incapacitated.
 

Casimir Liber

Adventurer
DC 17 I reckon is right (8 +6 for STR +3 for proficiency)
I'd up the damage from 8 to 15 maybe (8 seems too easy for a character of this level that has gotten ensnared
 

Cleon

Adventurer
DC 17 I reckon is right (8 +6 for STR +3 for proficiency)

Yes, DC 17 is correct for the standard value but I was musing about possibly adding a minor bonus or penalty to make one or two of the checks lower or higher (i.e. DC 15 for the Reflex save). In the current draft I just applied an increase to the restrained escape DC.

I'd up the damage from 8 to 15 maybe (8 seems too easy for a character of this level that has gotten ensnared

It seemed too low to me as well, but I was basing it on the hit points of a giant spider's web (5 hp). Maybe we should use the Troll's Loathsome Limbs as a comparison? Trolls have the same Challenge of 5 as our lad and the limbs take 15 hit points to sever.

I'd considered 10 or 12 damage but wouldn't go up to 15. Cutting through both the mucus and arm branches requires the combined hp of both, which'd be 30 hp if each had 15 hit points. Even 24 hp from the mucus/net having 12 hp apiece seems a little too high to me.

Come to think of it, I was going to require the damage be delivered with a single attack to break the mucus/branches but neglected to put that in. Must remember to include that in the next amendment.

I also wondered about making the mucus (and possibly the arm branches?) immune to piercing damage, so the victims can only free themselves with Escape checks or slashing attacks.

Finally, I haven't decided on an Armour Class for the branches/mucus. A spider's web is AC 10, but that feels too low. The obvious alternative is the base AC 15 of the giant basket star. On one hand that feels slightly high, but on the other hand that follows the precedent of Loathsome Limbs, which have the same AC as the troll to sever. If we do give it an AC a bit lower than the gorgonocephalid's main body I wouldn't have it that much lower, maybe AC 13?

So how about:

A creature can also free themselves from the grapple by doing at least 10 slashing damage to the net with a single attack (AC ## [13? 15?]; immunity to bludgeoning, piercing and psychic damage).​

And:

A creature can also free themselves from being restrained by doing at least 10 slashing damage to the mucus with a single attack (AC ## [13? 15?]; immunity to bludgeoning, piercing, poison, and psychic damage); if the damage is 20 or higher the creature can simultaneously breaks free of the net's grapple.​

For the "victims cutting themselves free" portion of the Net of Arms?
 
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Cleon

Adventurer
You forgot (?):

Bite. Can only attack grappled targets. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit , reach 5 ft., one target. Hit 16 (3d6+6) piercing damage.

Dang it, I forgot the Bite.

We'd amended the average damage up to 30 though:

If it's Challenge 5 and we only give it one damaging attack, we'll need the bite to do something like 30 odd damage right? So, say 15 (2d8+6) slashing plus 15 (2d8+6) bludgeoning.

…yes, that comes out to CR 5 according to the 5e.tools calculator:

Challenge Rating: 5
Offensive CR: 6
Defensive CR: 4
Proficiency Bonus: +3
Effective HP: 145 (10d20+40)
Effective AC: 13
Average Damage Per Round: 30
Effective Attack Bonus: +9
Experience Points: 1,800

Updating the Giant Basket Star with Bite.
 

Casimir Liber

Adventurer
My bad - updated now


Bite. Can only attack grappled targets. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit , reach 5 ft., one target. Hit 15 (2d8+6) slashing damage plus 15 (2d8+6) bludgeoning damage.
 

Cleon

Adventurer
My bad - updated now


Bite. Can only attack grappled targets. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit , reach 5 ft., one target. Hit 15 (2d8+6) slashing damage plus 15 (2d8+6) bludgeoning damage.

Just noticed there's a stray space before a comma - the "to hit , reach" should be "to hit, reach" - and it's missing a colon after "Hit", so I've corrected the Giant Basket Star to:

Bite. Can only attack grappled targets. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 15 (2d8+6) slashing damage plus 15 (2d8+6) bludgeoning damage.
 



Casimir Liber

Adventurer
Yeah sure:
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Giant basket stars are gigantic gorgonocephalids related to sea stars and similar starfish. A basket star has a disc-shaped body from which radiate five long intricately multibranched arms. The body is sharply demarcated from from the arms and contains the five-jawed mouth. The body and arms are covered in a meshed chitin-like material with a pattern akin to chainmail, rendering the creature's hide tough and harder to damage.

Giant basket stars are active marine predators that lie in wait to snare any prey smaller than themselves. The tentacles secrete a sticky mucus to assist with ensaring victims.
 

Cleon

Adventurer
Yeah sure:
------------------------------------------------
Giant basket stars are gigantic gorgonocephalids related to sea stars and similar starfish. A basket star has a disc-shaped body from which radiate five long intricately multibranched arms. The body is sharply demarcated from from the arms and contains the five-jawed mouth. The body and arms are covered in a meshed chitin-like material with a pattern akin to chainmail, rendering the creature's hide tough and harder to damage.

Giant basket stars are active marine predators that lie in wait to snare any prey smaller than themselves. The tentacles secrete a sticky mucus to assist with ensaring victims.

Hmm, it's a bit lacking in pizzazz methinks.

Also, as discussed with the brittle star it isn't chitin:

The armor's calcified not chitinous. Chemically it's the same as an oyster's shell not a beetle's carapace.
Come to think of it, the proper adjective is calcareous not calcified. The latter means "transformed into limey/chalky material" while the former is "composed in limey/chalky material."

How about:

Basket stars, or Gorgonocephalids, are starfish closely related to brittle stars. They have five arms which branch many times into hundreds of thin appendages, so the animal resembles a radiating bush or flower with a disc-shaped body buried at the center. Normal basket stars grow up to a couple of feet across, but giant basket star are monstrously big with arm baskets spanning 100 feet or so and bodies about 20 feet across. Like most echinoderms, they have an external skeleton of small calcareous plates that mesh together, this bony armor gives a giant basket star hide as tough as chainmail.
 Regular basket stars are mainly filter feeders but may also grab tiny animals (fish, crustaceans, etc.) who wander into their arms. When filter-feeding, a basket star rhythmically flexes its arms to sweep food from the water and towards the five-jawed mouth at the center of the beast.
 A Gorgonocephalid's arms can only handle active prey much smaller than itself: the biggest normal basket stars reach up to 2¼ ft. across but can only catch miniscule animals about an inch in length. A giant basket star, however, is so enormous it can manage creatures the size of a horse.
 A basket star's limbs have a thin coating of mucus to trap plankton and other edible detritus. If a snared creature resists capture, the arms exudes more mucus to entangle the victim in adhesive slime. Basket stars sometimes hold cocooned prey to eat later, often waiting until nightfall to feed under the cover of darkness.

Tree of Sticky Death. While normal basket stars are primarily filter feeders the giant basket star is a more active predator. A giant basket star is an ambush hunter. It waits atop a rocky seamount or at the edge of a kelp forest pretending to be part of the local vegetation, then reaches out its arms to snatch at creatures that swim or walk within reach. Giant basket stars will only pursue a meal if they sense it is large and immobile, such as the carcass of a whale. Otherwise they normally only move to find a better perch for catching prey or to retreat from danger.
 
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