Setessan Hoplite? More like Jumphard!

Setessan Hoplite (ok, actually Setessan Champion.
Setessan Champion – Magic the Gathering: Theros Beyond Death

I know, I know. I’m not really going to make that title work ever, but I’m sticking with it. I just used a Setessan Hoplite from Mythic Odyssey of Theros for the first time this week and they were a blast in combat. I had the players on their heels for most of the match, dropped a few of them to zero, and was able to make tactical maneuvers around the battlefield.

Mythic Odyssey of Theros is based upon the similarly named expansion to Magic: The Gathering, Theros Beyond Death. There is no card with a matching name in the set, so I pulled an image for one that I thought was probably a close match. Mythic Odyssey of Theros has this to say:

Most Setessan hoplites begin their training as hunters, making them skilled in traversing the woods and adept at both guerrilla tactics and archery. Their strategies often emulate the favored servants of Nylea—especially wild beasts like wolves and lynxes. Typically a few soldiers harry an enemy while the rest capitalize on their foe’s distraction.

MOT, p. 229

The Setessan Hoplite in D&D swings well above it’s weight as a CR 4. I have to wonder if the CR was miscalculated. The stat block lists their average damage as 6 for the scimitar and 7 for the longbow. This seems to ignore the addition 3d6 of poison damage that both attacks do. So, that’s more like 17 and 18 damage respectively. I’m not going to look into it much more closely than that in order to maintain plausible deniability

Setessan Hoplite: Final Thoughts

What I will say is that these NPCs are great team players. They offer great damage both in melee and ranged combat. Their Pack Tactics ability gives them advantage when allies are in close quarters. Additionally, with two attacks and relatively high AC, there’s not a lot of soft spots her. I’m thinking of modeling a higher level named NPC based on their format as well. More to come on that, maybe on the blog.

Wanna know what other monsters are on my Hotlist? Or, maybe instead of the deadliest you want monsters that provide interesting challenges in and out of combat? Check out my Blocklist.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Demogorgon?

Regarding Demogorgon, in mid-December I boldly tweeted:

True story, though: I was wrong. I still don’t get how to run Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons, the Sibilant Beast, and Master of the Spiraling Depths (MtF, p.144). The crux of my problem is this: nobody wants to look at him, and if they don’t, his most potent weapon is useless. On top of that, the rest of his weapons aren’t all that good either.

According to encounter creation rules, Demogorgon is a beyond deadly encounter for 4 level 20 characters . In my experience, this fiend performs way below expectation, and possibly the least threatening of the Demon Lords. Here’s where the problem lies:

Gaze. Demogorgon turns his magical gaze toward one creature that he can see within 120 feet of him. That target must make a DC 23 Wisdom saving throw. Unless the target is incapacitated, it can avert its eyes to avoid the gaze and to automatically succeed on the save. If the target does so, it can’t see Demogorgon until the start of his next turn. If the target looks at him in the meantime, it must immediately make the save.

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, Page 144

As Willy Wonka would say, “It’s all thereblack and white, clear as crystal!” The PCs can just look away. The fiend gets to use the gaze twice as a legendary action (only twice! on a CR 26 monster! yeesh!). For one glorious combat I misread the rule and though I could ignore the part about looking away, and just confuse and stun players at will. Yeah…but nope.

You might say, “But, Voivode, when they look away they have disadvantage on attacks, and grant advantage when attacked!” I’d agree that’s true, but how many level 20 PCs don’t have some relatively easy way to invoke advantage and making it a wash? Very few. It’s AC is 22, which is pretty good, but still relatively beatable. The +17 attack mod helps too, but combined with a decent-but-not-great 406 HP, it’s all just not enough. By comparison, a tarrasque at CR 25 has more HP, more resistances, a higher AC, and 3 (count ’em 3) legendary action that the PC can’t just choose to ignore.

OG Demogorgon
Demogorgon as depicted in OD&D

Honestly, this naughty boy would go on my Blocklist if he weren’t so much drama. The best I can recommend when you’re building an encounter is to make sure it happens in his lair. He might as well have few extra trick (and they are only tricks) from his lair actions and that way, when he gets his ass kicked, he can sleep it off in his own bed.

Wanna know what other monsters are on my Hotlist? Or, maybe instead of the deadliest monsters that provide interesting challenges outside of combat? Check out my Blocklist.