Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wicked Wights and Knavish Kenku - Gussying Up D&D 5e Monsters #2 - With Bonus Zombies

Only my second Gussying Up 5e Monsters post and I'm already breaking the rules I set for myself, taking a swipe at Kenku, which aren't in the Basic PDFs, but are in the Princes of the Apocalypse Adventure Supplement PDF (those of you playing the Antagonist Relations drinking game can take a swig for "Zack breaks a self-imposed rule). *Update* Thomas also took a crack at the Kenku after he came across them in the 5e game he's playing.

As with the previous entry, some caveats. I haven't play-tested these so they're entirely theoretical. It's changes I like, so I'll probably make use of them when I use the creatures in 5e and update the posts with any notes or discoveries.

What are you waiting for, it's Wight time?! (those of you playing the Antagonist Relations Drinking Game can take a drink for that groanworthy turn of phrase)






Wight

Looking over the Wight stat block from pg 50 of the DM D&D Basic Rules (v0.3) makes me flash back to the Banshee, though with only 7 resistances and immunities (and that's only because the resistance to non-silvered weapons is split into three, for bludgeoning, piercing and slashing), though it's life drain seems a little complex. I'm not a huge fan of the Sunlight Sensitivity, but it makes some thematic sense and isn't too hard to grok or roll with, so I'm willing to leave it alone. So, we're to the actions already, where, as I noted above, the life drain seems a little complex.

So, in no particular order, here are my issues with the Wight attacks.

  • The wight always gets two attacks
    • Two longbow attacks. Okay, nothing special, but this lets them be a threat when not in melee range.
    • Two longsword attacks. Okay, again nothing special, the Wight is an undead warrior.
    • A longsword attack and a Life Drain attack. So, the signature, most terrifying feature of the Wight is optional? Why would the GM ever choose to have the Wight make two longsword attacks then? I get that they do more damage, but aside from deciding to pull the punches and not life drain a PC into death, why wouldn't you use the signature feature of the creature? This needs fixing.
  • Life Drain is a solid paragraph and uses its own mechanic for reducing hitpoints, instead of relying on a pre-made mechanic like, oh say, exhaustion. 
    • Now, peeking at a few other Undead (none are in the basic packet, but the Specter and Vampire Spawn are in the Princes of the Apocalypse Adventure Supplement PDF) I can see that this Life Drain mechanic is at least re-used, so that's a plus. I also just gave my revised Banshee an exhaustion causing mechanic, so I want to consider whether or not to change this up, revise it or replace it.
    • By the book Wights are CR 3 monsters, so two of them would be a "medium" challenge for a party of 6 3rd level PCs. Figure that you throw in some zombies at meat shields and/or former wight victims and you got yourself a fight, so let's assume that a 3rd level fighter is taking on a wight while the rest of the part battles the other wight and zombies.
    • If we assume our lvl 3 fighter rolled poorly on HP and only has a CON mod of +1, then we're looking at 24 HP minimum. Give that fighter chainmail (per starting equipment) and that gives you an AC of 16, that means the Wights +4 Life drain attack only has a 40% chance of hitting.
    • When the Wight does hit, the fighter gets a CON save DC 13 (which she would have proficiency in, giving her a +3) giving her a 50/50 shot at saving and not suffering the Life Drain effect.
    • So our Wight has to hit with Life Drain 5 times to take out the 3rd level fighter of modest CON.
    • Now, I realize that the Life Drain becomes more dangerous for a CON +0 Wizard with 14 HP and 12 AC, but if the party is doing its job, that Wizard shouldn't be one-on-one with the Wight for long.
    • The effects of the Life Drain last until the PC takes a long rest, which make it potent and long lasting, but so does Exhaustion.
Not really sure I have a great solution to this, so I'm just going to throw out some options.
  • Leave Life Drain and Longsword attacks as is, give the Wight a nasty ranged option like...
    • Cursed Elvish Arrow (1/day)
      • The elvish wight makes a Longbow attack but on a hit add 1d6+2 necrotic damage and DC 13 CON check, if the target fails the save then the target takes damage the Wight gains bonus HP = to that amount of damage. The effect ends when the target dies, the wight dies or the target receives healing from a magical source.
    • This is pretty nasty, but I kinda really like it. (if it's not obvious, take a drink if you're playing the Antagonist Relations drinking game for that...)
  • Combine Life Drain and Longsword and 13th Age it up a little. 
    • Lifedrinker Longsword - Melee Attack (2x a round)
      • +4 to hit, reach 5ft., one target
      • Hit 6 (1d8+2) slashing and necrotic damage
      • Natural 16+ - The target must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or its hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. This reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.
    • Now the Wight has a 20% chance to attempt a Life Drain on each attack. To keep things from getting too deadly, I removed the two-handed, extra damage option.
    • Bonus, you could then make the Wight's sword a minor magical item, without a +1 bonus unless the PCs did terrible things to learn how to use it.
  • Substitute a level of Exhaustion in for the Life Drain verbiage. Leave the CON save, just have the result be a level of Exhaustion instead of HP max being reduced. Works for the Lifedrinker Longsword and plain vanilla Wight Life Drain attacks, and given that a PC needs to hit lvl three of exhaustion before they take disadvantage on attacks and saves, it would give PCs some time to figure out that bad things are going to happen.
Other Wight things... How can you ignore this glorious tidbit?
A humanoid slain by this attack rises 24 hours later as a zombie under the wight’s control, unless the humanoid is restored to life or its body is destroyed. The wight can have no more than twelve zombies under its control at one time.
So, all wights should have some zombies, because if the PCs are the badasses, then the other humanoids that the Wight has come across are certainly going to end up as wight zombies. So give every Wight 2d6 zombies. And then use this table to random up some Wight zombies, swapping out whatever special power below in place of the standard zombie Undead Fortitude power... Sprinkle one in for every 4 or so normal zombies, just to keep things interesting.

WTF is up with that Wight Zombie?

  1. Knight - Give that zombie an AC of 18 and Plate Mail, or 17 and Scale Mail. It goes without saying that if the PCs want to wear or sell that armor they're going to need a lot of bleach, boiling water or scrubbing. Don't you dare let them use prestidigitation or some other cantrip, this armor has been fouled beyond the scope of cantrips.
  2. Rogue - The first time this zombie hits, it does an extra 1d4+1d6+1 damage with a last, instinctive sneak attack with a dagger. Make it up to the PCs by giving them a pointy dagger (duh) and one of the following 
    1. 50gp,
    2. a dose of poison 
    3. a fine bottle of wine, worth at least 10gp, maybe two? Maybe an outfit of fine clothes to go with that?
    4. caltrops and a climber's kit 
    5. blowgun needles and a mirror
    6.  antitoxin (if you're cruel you'll prick them with poison when they rifle the backpack and give them 2 doses...)
    7. a bag of 1,000 ball bearings and a set of manacles
    8. a crowbar and hand crossbow (no bolts)
    9. a silvered dagger (undoubtedly the one they get stuck with...hey, if they think on their feet, maybe they'll pull that dagger out of their side and use it on the Wight...)
    10. Three items from your favorite trinket table plus 1d6 gp for every PC in the party
  3. Swordsman - Watch out! That zombies got a sword. Change its attack from the slam to 
    • Instinctive Sword Swing
      •  +5 to hit, reach 5ft., one target
      • Hit: 7 (1d10 + 2) slashing damage - obvs the zombie is swinging its long sword two handed.
    • Give the PCs a bonus longsword and a tool that a soldier would carry, like a hand axe or shovel, or maybe even a portable ram if you want your players to start looking at doors funny or they don't have a rogue.
  4. Sorcerer - When the zombie is reduced to 0 hp or fewer all PCs within 10 ft. need to make a DC 13 save (type in parentheses) or 
    1. Take 2d4+2 fire damage (DEX)
    2. Take 1d8+2 lightning damage (DEX)
    3. Take 1d12 poison damage (CON)
    4. Take 2d4+2 psychic damage (WIS)
    5. Take 1d4+2 thunder damage and be knocked back 5 ft. (CON)
    6. Take 1d6 cold damage and have their speed reduced to 10ft until the end of their next turn.
    • Needless to say, since they don't use components or have spell books, sorcerers don't have any fun loot for the PCs. Sucks to be them.
  5. Barbarian - Just give the zombie 33 HP instead of 22 and let it make 2 slam attacks a turn. And different loot
    1. a shrunken elven head (or halfling, if your players don't like elves)
    2. a large and dented tin tankard
    3. a crudely skinned and tanned animal hide
    4. a great axe
    5. a warpick (embedded in the zombie barbarian's chest, natch)
    6. an unthinkably delicate glass unicorn. worth 5gp and the PCs should suspect it's magical since it survived the fight, but of course it isn't.
  6. Lizardfolk - Don't worry about the lizardfolk being native to the Wight's encounter area, that's not the point. Swap in the following attack for the slam.
    • Rotten Jaw Bite
      • +4 to hit, reach 5ft., one target
      • Hit 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage
      • DC 8 CON check or take 1d4+1 poison damage and gain the poisoned condition, save ends
    • you can strongly suggest to your players that the bite will also give them horrible diseases and even follow through on that if you like.
  7. Gnome (or Halfling or Human/Elf child if you're feeling really cruel) - Don't change any stats or add anything, but take away Undead Fortitude just the same. My experience is that players are just creeped out small undead. Bonus, creepy tiny loot!
    1. A ragged stuffed owlbear
    2. A handful of humanoid teeth (2d8+1)
    3. A copper locket with a family portrait, the zombie is obviously on of the family members depicted.
    4. Two desiccated mouse carcasses tied together by their tails.
    5. A small chalkboard, piece of chalk and simple book of dwarven grammar.
    6. A key labelled with "Treasure Chest" on a piece of ribbon.
  8. Bard
    • During combat the zombie groans loudly and constantly. Spellcasters within 15ft. of the Zombie need to make INT saves, DC 10 to cast any spells that require a standard action. Give the zombie a ridiculously fancy hat and a random musical instrument. (for the Antagonist Relations drinking game, take a drink for "Zack makes fun of bards")
    • If I was going to give any of these zombies back the Undead Fortitude ability, it would be this one...

Kenku

*Update* Thomas also took a crack at the Kenku after he came across them in the 5e game he's playing.

The Kenku stat block in 5e is pretty simple. If you don't have the Monster Manual, you can find it on page 21 of the Princes of the Apocalypse Adventure Supplement PDF. So let's take a look. Ambusher is not that great, as I complained in the Bugbear post, I'm not a fan of monster abilities which rely on ambushing the PCs in the first round. Mimicry is pretty flavorful, though the best bit is hidden up in the languages section up above, namely "Languages understands Auran and Common but speaks only through the use of its Mimicry trait". So, instead of speaking like any other humanoids, I'm imagining Kenku speaking in a weird mimic sing-song as they mimic the voice they heard speak each word the first time they heard it. That should unnerve the players, plus if you have the PCs hear the Kenku before they spot them, they might think it's dozens of things all trying to speak at once instead of just a few.

So, what to replace Ambusher with? We could steal the Double-Team template from the Bugbears, but tone it down to 1d6 and let it apply to ranged attacks as well, call it Battle-Flock?
  • Battle-Flock
    • Trigger: Natural even miss
    • If the target is engaged with at least two opponents the target takes 1d6 damage on the miss.
That doesn't really feel that sneaky when applied to Kenku, though, so why not look to the Rogue class and see if there's anything good to pilfer (those playing the Antagonist Relations drinking game can take a drink for that poor pun)? Cunning action looks good but feels a little broad to give whole hog to a monster, but what about...
  • Sneaky-Bastards
    • Kenku can take a bonus action on each of their turns in combat, this action can only be used to take the Hide action, to make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, or take the Use an Object action.
Now, that looks pretty good. It doesn't let them disengage as a bonus action, leaving that the domain of goblins, but it does fit the Kenku as sneaky thieves, letting them hide after shooting their bow or letting them take their disengage action and then hide or best of all, letting them attempt to steal from the PCs... Sneaking up, say, on a ranger using a longbow and stealing all the arrows from her quiver or the long sword from her sheath? (for those continuing on with the Antagonist Relations drinking game take a drink for "Zack uses ellipsis") 

What other fun can we have with the Kenku?

Lots of them use staffs in the pictures you see of Kenku, so why not have a Kenku Staffmaster every now and then? Give it some more HP, bump it's AC slightly (treating the offhand end of the staff as a shield for no particular reason)

Kenku Staffmaster

Medium humanoid, chaotic neutral
Armor Class 14
Hit Points 26 (6d8)
Speed 30 ft.

STR 10 (+0) DEX 16 (+3) CON 10 (+0) INT 11 (+0) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 10 (+0)
Skills Deception +4, Perception +2, Stealth +5
Senses: passive Perception 12
Languages: Languages understands Auran and Common but speaks only through the use of its Mimicry trait
Challenge 1/2 (100 XP) I'm guessing at this here....

Sneaky-Bastards
Kenku can take a bonus action on each of their turns in combat, this action can only be used to take the Hide action, to make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, or take the Use an Object action.

Mimicry.
The kenku can mimic any sounds it has heard, including voices. A creature that hears the sounds can tell they are imitations with a successful DC 14 Wisdom (Insight) check.

Actions

Quarterstaff Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8+3) bludgeoning damage
Natural even hit: Target needs to make a DC 11 DEX save or be knocked prone

Blowgun Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 25/100 ft., loading, one target: Hit: 1 piercing damage.
Natural odd hit: Target needs to make a DC 11 CON save or take 1d4 poison damage.

***

The Staffmaster makes a good leader to toss in amongst a flock of Kenku, but that Mimicry power has me thinking, so how about we take the Staffmaster, tone down the combat actions and make a Kenku Spellparrot that players will really...love? (for those continuing on with the Antagonist Relations drinking game take a shot for "Zack uses ellipsis, again, for no good reason") 

Kenku Spellparrot

Medium humanoid, chaotic neutral
Armor Class 13
Hit Points 26 (6d8)
Speed 30 ft.

STR 10 (+0) DEX 16 (+3) CON 10 (+0) INT 11 (+0) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 14 (+2)
Skills Deception +4, Perception +2, Stealth +5
Senses: passive Perception 12
Languages: Languages understands Auran and Common but speaks only through the use of its Mimicry trait
Challenge 1 (200 XP) I'm guessing at this here....

Sneaky-Bastards
Kenku can take a bonus action on each of their turns in combat, this action can only be used to take the Hide action, to make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, or take the Use an Object action.

Mimicry.
The kenku can mimic any sounds it has heard, including voices. A creature that hears the sounds can tell they are imitations with a successful DC 14 Wisdom (Insight) check.

Actions

Quarterstaff Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) bludgeoning damage

Shortbow Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 80/320 ft., loading, one target: Hit: 6 (1d6+3) piercing.

Spellparrot - Bonus action
The Kenku Spellparrot can attempt to cast any spell with verbal components that it could hear during the since the end of its last turn. The Kenku makes a CHA check with a target number = 10+spell level or 12+spell level if the spell has material components.

Countersong - Reaction 1/day
The Kenku can attempt to counter any spell with verbal components that in can hear. It makes a CHA saving throw against the spellcaster's spell DC.

***

Okay, so the Kenku Spellparrot is probably a little complex, and it would require you making your players wait a moment while you double-check verbal and material spell components, but man, after they run into one Kenku Spellparrot they're going to be wondering if there's a spellparrot hiding in every flock of Kenku they come across. And if you don't want the Spellparrot to stand out, just swap out that quarterstaff for a shortsword.

Four Ways to Use Kenku

  1. A band of kenku mercenaries are hired to plant evidence on the PCs, they attack, use their Sneaky-Bastards bonus action to plant the incriminating evidence and then flee, pretending to be overwhelmed/demoralized.
  2. Undead kenku under the thrall of a banshee? Mimicking the banshee wail? My players will never forgive me after I use this.
  3. The PCs come across a wizard's tower they need to get into, the door only opens when the wizard says his own name. Will the PCs remember they ran across Kenku in the woods nearby and will they think that maybe the Kenku are good enough mimics to fool the spell?
  4. A small village asks for the PCs help, the once kind minor noble has now become cruel, not coming out of his fortified tower, but demanding, loudly, that the villagers bring more coin and grain. If the PCs investigate the noble is imprisoned/dead by the Kenku flock who are taking all the coin and grain.

Assorted Kenku loot + plus roll three or four times per Kenku on your favorite trinket tables

  1. A crystal arcane focus
  2. A small copper bell
  3. An empty glass bottle
  4. A gilded scroll case with the gilding flaking off
  5. The pearl buttons from a set of fine clothes
  6. 1d4 fishing hooks
  7. A small silver holy symbol
  8. An hourglass
  9. a Magnifying glass
  10. A steel mirror
  11. A brass merchant's scale
  12. A signal whiles
  13. The signet ring of a minor, but infamous, noble
  14. 3d10 counterfeit platinum pieces
  15. A silvered spear point
  16. A glass eye
  17. A silver flute
  18. Jeweler's tools
  19. A green dragon's scale
  20. 1d100+23 large glass marbles



1 comment:

  1. Update, two wights might be too much for a party of four 3rd level PCs, though that might not actually be true since I rolled 3 critical hits on PCs during that combat, with one of those being a 2nd natural 20 after a PC spent inspiration to force me to re-roll the 1st natural 20. I missed with my Cursed Elvish arrow, which given how the rest of the combat played out, might have been for the best. I also missed with the Rogue zombie sneak attack power, so I used a GM Intrusion to make it land. I used the Lifedrinker longsword option for the Wight Life Drain and it was easy to roll with in the combat.

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