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 this month? 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!
Long ago, this elf failed the trial of a higher power and was transformed. On a critical hit, the drider coats its foe in the truest symbol of its accursed new shape.
Gossamer Netting. On a critical hit, the drider doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the drider encases the target creature in spider webs. The target creature must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw or be restrained for 1 minute. On its turn, the target can use its action to make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw to end this condition.
Due to its ability to polymorph, this monstrosity is the source of a myriad of memes and other Internet jokes. However, can you imagine a mimic that slaps you so hard you become best friends? Frightening.
Then again, who’s to say this article isn’t a cleverly disguised mimic? (You should probably roll for initiative.)
Friendly Impersonation. On a critical hit, the mimic doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the target creature must make a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or perceive the mimic as its ally for 1 minute. This effect ends if the mimic attacks the target creature.
This mid-level mobster can be found in one of the dozen excellent adventures that compose 12 Peculiar Towers. In addition to any Sneak Attack damage, the guild thief exploits openings to purloin valuables from its foe.
Filching Strike. When the guild thief scores a critical hit, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the guild thief rifles through the target creature’s bags, taking 3 (1d4 + 1) possessions at random that aren’t currently in use.
Bearfolk Thunder Stomper
Hot off the presses, find this bearfolk bard in the Book of Ebon Tides. After scoring a critical hit, the bearfolk’s dance is so inspiring that affected allies can reroll failed saving throws.
Heartening Waltz. When the bearfolk scores a critical hit, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, any creature who benefits from the bearfolk’s Warsong feature in the next 1 minute can reroll one failed saving throw against being charmed or frightened.
The river spirit is the second new monster debuted in the Book of Ebon Tides. This fey creature is duty bound to defend a fixed location in the shadow realm—something your players might exploit to their advantage. Little do they know, a critical hit briefly extends the radius, allowing the spirit to surprise them. (Consider using this ability preemptively, especially when the narrative suggests that the river spirit recently won a decisive victory.)
Lengthening the Leash. When the river spirit scores a critical hit, it doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the river spirit can willingly travel up to 600 feet from the bridge or other location to which they are bound, provided the river spirit is pursuing the target creature. This effect lasts for 24 hours, or until the river spirit is slain.
Shadow Goblin Chieftain
The shadow goblin chieftain is the last of the new monsters you can find in Book of Ebon Tides. Already benefiting from both the Stink Eye ability (that imposes disadvantage on attack and saving throws) and the Minion Shield reaction (interposing underlings in the path of oncoming attacks), this natural leader inspires his allies to follow his lead by making extra attacks as reactions.
Exploit the Opening. When the shadow goblin chieftain scores a critical hit, he doesn’t deal extra damage. Instead, the shadow goblin chieftain can order one ally to make a weapon attack as a reaction.
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.