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 walking coat of plate armor protects mansions and libraries from encroachment. On a critical hit, the armor wraps itself around its foe, deflecting blows with its foe’s shield while striking out with its foe’s weapons.
Engulfing Strike. On a critical hit, the armor doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the target creature is grappled (escape DC 12). While the target creature is grappled in this way, the armor can use its action to engulf the target. If it is Medium or smaller, the target creature must make a DC 12 Strength saving throw or be incapacitated and restrained. While engulfed in this manner, the armor can attack using the engulfed creature’s weapons, and the armor can benefit from any shield that the engulfed creature wields.
This aerial monster, a mixture of lion and eagle, subsists on a diet of horses and other large beasts it can harvest from the area around its nest. On a critical hit, the griffon claws or pecks at a foe’s face, putting their eyes out.
Blinding Strike. On a critical hit, the griffon doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the target creature must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw or be blinded for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success.
These friendly alligatorfolk spring from the pages of Tome of Beasts. While the subek are friendly and helpful during the dry season, annual floods unlock their violent nature. Woe be unto the adventurers who fail to keep their distance at this time, as they soon learn that of the subek’s bite, claws, thrash, and kick.
Welly Punt. When the subek scores a critical hit with its Thrash attack, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the target creature must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be pushed 15 feet away from the subek.
This dragon from the Creature Codex defends its horde from beyond the grave—especially after a violent, jarring death. When the ghost dragon’s attacks strike true, it opens a narrow alley into the Ethereal Plane that the ghost dragon can enter for the briefest of moments.
Gossamer Opening. When the ghost dragon scores a critical hit, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the ghost dragon can use its Etherealness feature as a bonus action.
This aberration from the Creature Codex is nightmare fuel for your players. This gaunt, smooth-skinned creature flits about on bat wings. Whenever its blows connect squarely, the Wisdom of all nearby foes is impacted, as all intuit the unnatural impact on the Material Plane.
Horrid Disfigurement. When the nightgaunt scores a critical hit, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, all creatures within 30 feet of the nightgaunt have disadvantage on Wisdom saving throws until the end of its next turn.
This legendary foe sallies forth from the wretched tundra of the Tome of Beasts 2 to ruin your players’ lives. When the graknork strikes true, it empowers its Freezing Eye feature, increasing the future threat of significant harm.
Dynamic Rime. When the graknork scores a critical hit, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, it can reroll up to five damage dice of its choice the next time it uses its Freezing Eye feature. The graknork must use the second result, even if it’s lower.
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.