A 5E rules update 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!
Ah, the iconic vampire. When employing monstrous crits, the vampire can recover uses of its Legendary Resistance ability—or recover hit points.
Blood Hunger. On a critical hit, the vampire doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the vampire regains one use of its Legendary Resistance. If it has all uses available, it regains 20 hit points instead.
Another icon, the mighty kobold is the namesake of a particular third-party publisher. When using monstrous crits, the kobold impairs their foes’ attacks, protecting draconic allies long enough to retreat—or move to more advantageous ground.
Dragonfire. On a critical hit, the kobold doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the target creature’s eyes are filled with blue flames. The target creature has disadvantage on attack rolls against kobolds, dragonborn, and other draconic creatures until the end of its next turn.
The mightiest of kobolds is found within the Creature Codex. To live long enough to sit on the throne, this small but fierce monarch has learned the wiles of a rogue and the legerdemain of a wizard. With critical hits, the king kobold employs the best of both worlds.
Quickened Claws. When the kobold king scores a critical hit with a weapon attack, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, it can cast a cantrip it knows as a bonus action.
Kobold War Machine
This construct rolls in from Tome of Beasts 2 with one to three kobolds at the wheel. This vehicle, truly the work of a demented (or ingenious) kobold inventor, maims foes who fail to dodge its onrushing wagon.
Flattener of Feet. When the kobold war machine scores a critical hit with its Spiked Wheel attack, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the target creature must succeed on a DC 17 Constitution saving throw or have its speed reduced by 15 feet. This effect lasts until the creature receives a successful DC 17 Wisdom (Medicine) check or completes a short or long rest.
Shadow Fey Forest Hunter
This elven tracker haunts the Tome of Beasts. Often a companion to the Wild Hunt, critical hits inspire additional uses of misty step, allowing the hunter to rapidly pursue its prey.
Recharging Blow. When the shadow fey scores a critical hit with its rapier, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the shadow fey draws its shadow unto itself, regaining one daily use of misty step. This has no effect if the shadow fey has its maximum daily uses of misty step.
This tiny, flightless dragon is found in Tome of Beasts 2—if only you could get the book open. Originally bred to root out nests of rats and rodents, these arcane tricksters learned they could be almost as helpful at opening locks as a knock spell. Following a critical hit, the dragonette is inspired to further greatness at its true calling.
Skeleton Tongue. When the dragonette scores a critical hit, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, it has advantage on ability checks involving its Tongue Pick feature for the next hour.
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.