Recent reports about a 5E rules update have floated the idea that monsters will lose access to critical hits. They say monsters don’t need the extra damage.
Maybe monsters shouldn’t deal extra damage on critical hits… because that’s boring. Maybe monsters should do cooler things when they crit.
Some Kobold Press monsters already take this enlightened approach. Tome of Beasts has the fate eater, herald of blood, and corrupting ooze, all of whom impose dreadful effects when they roll a 20 on their attack. Tome of Beasts 2 has the infernal centaur, tembril, and holler spider, each of whom foist deadly consequences when they crit.
(Might similar monsters lurk in the shadows of Tome of Beasts 3, shipping in November 2022? Order now to be among the first to find out!)
Let’s create some pernicious, intriguing, or destructive consequences for monstrous crits! Try these along with any other playtesting you might do, and tell us how they work in the comments!
This land shark is the scourge of all who live within its hunting grounds. The most vicious bites from its many rows of teeth make creatures susceptible to damage from subsequent nips.
Traumatic Bite. When the bulette scores a critical hit, it doesn’t deal extra damage. The target creature must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or is vulnerable to piercing damage until the end of its next turn.
Swarm of Rats
This throng of squeaking vermin gnaws at the ankles and calves of those unfortunate enough to come across them. When enough of these rats bite true, their diseased incisors infect the target with cesspool-ridden maladies.
Sewer Sickness. When the swarm scores a critical hit, it doesn’t deal extra damage. The target creature must succeed on DC 10 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 minute. If the target fails its saving throw by 5 or more, the target is poisoned for 1 hour.
This six-tusked dinosaur comes from the pages of Tome of Beasts, where it’s often in conflict with elephants. The ngobou is known for stomping anything in its path—whether crops, creatures, or intrepid adventurer. This crit could easily be applied to any similar big, stompy creature.
A Kick Away. When the ngobou scores a critical hit with its Stomp attack, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the target creature must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be pushed 15 feet away from the ngobou.
This jovial prankster drake from Tome of Beasts spends most of its days keeping the peace or gossiping about its favored public house. It only fights to protect the peace of its home, using its breath weapon to rapidly stun its foes on a critical hit.
Belching Bite. When the drake scores a critical hit with its bite, it doesn’t do extra damage. Instead, the drake’s breath weapon automatically recharges if it’s not already charged. If the breath weapon is already charged, the drake can use it as a bonus action.
The dhampir is the offspring of a vampire and a humanoid that can be found in Creature Codex. Torn between its two parents, the dhampir often can’t help but demonstrate its vampiric tendencies when it bites a living foe.
Diminishing Bite. When the dhampir scores a critical hit with its Bite attack, it doesn’t do extra damage. Instead, the target’s maximum HP is reduced by the amount of necrotic damage dealt. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest.
This sandy construct can be found burrowing between the pages of Tome of Beasts 2. When its slam strike true, the apaxrusl can avoid the vindictive brunt of any immediate return blows.
Pure Grit. When the apaxrusl scores a critical hit, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, it rolls 2d12 when using its Shifting Sands reaction and uses the higher result. This lasts until the end of the apaxrusl’s next turn, when the Shifting Sands reactions resumes functioning as normal.
About Benjamin Eastman
Benjamin L. Eastman was introduced to D&D by his four closest friends—who immediately betrayed his trust by sacrificing his first character to a demonic artifact. Undeterred, he’s played all manner of RPGs in the intervening years. In addition to writing Warlock Lairs and monsters for Kobold Press, he’s contributed to the Stargate RPG and Americana, and co-authored DMs Guild adventures including Baby Tarrasque. He is perhaps proudest of the bar brawl—his first published monster in the Creature Codex.