Irreverent Reading: D&D 5E Monster Manual – The Letters N & O – It’s not if you Owlbear, but how.

Thanks once again for stopping by my weekly feature, Irreverent Reading! It’s where my son and I read the D&D Monster Manual and ponder what we find interesting…

This week we crossed over the 250 page mark, leaving us with a mere 100 pages to go. By my estimation we’re creeping up on 42 hours of actual reading time. Xander is contributing more and more to reading the entries, which is cool.

There was a gory description in the Orc listing that we skipped over this week, and he was like Awwww Dad. And then I reminded him that soon enough he could read it himself if he really wanted to… To my surprise that actually worked. In some ways he’s grown up a lot during quarantine times.

Just the other day he mentioned he might have to meet his second grade teacher over Zoom, but he didn’t seem concerned about it at all. I know for a fact not being with other kids takes a toll on him, but as much as he can be at this age, he’s a realist.

He even told his first grade teacher that he didn’t feel like there was any difference between going to school and distancing learning. He’s still in a place where he loves hanging with us, even though we sometimes have to hold him accountable for his school work. I mean, I guess if there’s a silver lining to this part of his life, it’s that he still thinks Mom & Dad are a lot of fun.

If we are back in lockdown a few years from now, I’m guessing it’ll be a much different story.

But for now, it’s games and reading and screen time FTW.

Hey, let’s talk monsters…

Naga Large
Bone Naga crouched in the upper right corner, ready to strike.

Naga. Xander really, really likes these. I think it’s the art for him more than anything else.

I like them, too. I guess I’m a sucker for the *ancient long-dead civilization created these* trope. Imagine being a Naga. You’re conscious of your origins and know that your reason for existing, in some sense, doesn’t matter anymore. That just feels rife with roleplaying potential. The Guardian Naga is definitely my favorite. A Lawful Good creature that never gets tired of saying, “No, I’m sorry, but you may not have the treasures in this tomb. You seem like nice kids… now run along home.”

Nightmare. It’s weird, but it really bothers me that you can’t create a Nightmare without killing a Pegasus. I mean what to do I care about one imaginary creature over another? But still, it bugs me.

Anyway, Xander has gotten sophisticated enough to appreciate the pun in the name. “Get it, Dad, Night… mare. Night… mare!”

Nothic. The Nothic tucked away in the Lost Mines of Phandelver turned out to be an excellent source of story when I played through it with my main group. It made the calculation that it couldn’t take on the whole party, so it starting trading information for juicy, juicy humiliating secrets.

Each character that willingly offered up a hidden shame to the Nothic (telepathically of course) got something in return. It was great. We got to deepen our understanding of the characters, and I had a great excuse to pass the PCs very relevant in-game information. A particularly juicy secret prompted the Nothic to tell them the location of a well hidden magic item in its lair.

(Honestly, I think it’s a little disappointing when modules are written in such a way that certain items can almost never be found. I like to create little ways for the characters to find out about them when it makes sense in the story. And, now that I think about it, it often involves the characters going out of their comfort zone somehow, like in the example above.)

Also, before we move on, I just want to note that the Nothic gets a top notch illustration.

Ogre. I don’t think I have any ground-breaking thoughts about Ogres, but I do want to point out what a great utility tough they are. They have simple motivations that are easy to keep track of for the DM: KILL!… EAT!, with tactics to match.

Also, you can use them in so many ways as the power of your party grows. Early on Ogres are an effective boss monster. Later, they make an intimidating stiffener for a tribe of Orcs. Against a mid-level party, a band of Ogres might not be an existential threat, but they’ll make for a bruising and resource-draining fight. And at higher levels, Ogres are a great mook for their Giant masters.

It’s worth noting that the only character death I had when I ran Lost Mines of Phandelver was at the hands of an Ogre. (Getting critted by one of these brutes is no joke for a lower level character. Keep that in mind when you’re designing those starter adventures.)

Oozes. Kudos to WotC for organizing these all in one place. If you’re running the kind of dungeon that’s got a Gelatinous Cube, you probably want the Ochre Jelly near at hand, too.

For low-level or low-magic parties, the Black Pudding and Grey Ooze will be a frustrating foe. Watch for the look of horror as they realize that they’re stuck deep in a dungeon with damaged armor and weapons. Know your players and don’t spring these on them unless that’s their kind of fun!

Otyugh. Of course Xander had to love our disgusting pal here. And what’s not to like? Just toss one of these into a cesspit every now and then to keep your players on their toes.

Maybe my favorite thing about this listing is that there’s no effort to explain where they come from at all. The attitude seems to be, in a world with all these creepies and crawlies what’s the big deal about a three-legged garbage monster?

Owlbear. Like the Beholder and a handful of other creatures, I think of the Owlbear as a whole cloth D&DVerse creation. On the one hand, why not just a Dire Bear or something, but on the other, owl-faced murder nightmare!

Sometimes you can get a lot out of a creature just with presentation. When I rolled up a random Owlbear encounter recently, I did something a lot more fun than having it appear at the edge of camp. (Haven’t we all seen that encounter a thousand times?) No, this time the character on watch noticed voles and squirrels darting through camp, then a deer leapt over the campfire followed by a terrified wolf… by the time they heard the Owlbear in the distance, the PCs were hauling ass for a defensible position.

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Dear Reader, we are doing this! Xander is down to his last few days of school. I have tons of respect for how hard he’s worked, especially in the context of all the home school horror stories we’ve been hearing. It wasn’t always perfect, but he gave it everything he had.

I’m sure it won’t always be smooth sailing this summer, but at least there’ll be a ton of gaming.

 

 

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