So, it looks seems legendary action are headed for the junk bin. This is part of the ongoing redesign of how NPC stat blocks are written in Dungeons and Dragons 5e. The latest and clearest example of this is the Time Dragon in Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse. I’ve been reading a lot of discussion about the topic. The crux of the issue is that legendary actions are being replaced with a set of reactions. Creatures get 3 reactions per round, limited to one use per turn.
Some people feel like legendary actions never worked well. Others feel like they were key to balancing the action economy for a boss fight in a way that newer solutions won’t accomplish. Other point at legendary resistances as the real problem.
Legendary Actions vs. Reactions
I’m not going to come down cleanly on one side of the argument or another here. I don’t exactly like the removal of legendary actions, but I don’t hate the replacement with extra reactions either. Some of these reactions work the same way as their legendary counterpart. See the Slow Time reaction:
Slow Time. Immediately after a creature the dragon can see ends its turn, the dragon targets a creature it can see within 90 feet of itself that is weakened by its Time Breath. Until the weakened effect ends on the target, its speed becomes 0, and its speed can’t increase.Time Dragon reaction from Morte’s Planar Parade
“Immediately after a creature the dragon can see ends it’s turn”, is the same trigger as a legendary action has. The Time Dragon has other reactions that can trigger in the same way that other reactions trigger. That can be from taking damage, being attacked or any other relevant game event. In this way switching to reactions lets creature have more flexibility in what it can do off of it’s turn.
The Downsides of Reactions
There are downsides though. There are a fair number of things in the game that take away reactions. WotC has already proposed a solution to the largest threat, shocking grasp. Under current edition rules shocking grasp takes away all of a creature’s reactions. The rewritten One D&D version only takes away opportunity attacks. The slow spell, already a bit of a sleeper hit in 5e, will become even more powerful. It prevents a creature from taking reactions. I would a Time Dragon all of those extra abilities. There are a number of class features that take away reactions as well.
It was very hard for players to prevent legendary actions from occurring. Now they’ll have options. This is great from an interactivity standpoint. I like the idea of players be able to prepare ways to counteract the monster’s abilities. That said, It has to be something the players work for. Otherwise, a monster is much weaker than written.
I run a ton of combat. High level monsters are already woefully underpowered compared to a party of appropriate level. Consequently, I throw several times the number of monsters suggested into combat. Even so, I have a hard time making high level fights seem dangerous to the players. As the work on One D&D continues, high level creatures need to be given some protection against having their reactions stripped.
Looking for stat blocks for characters like Mordenkainen, Szass Tam and Themberchaud? I’ve got them here.