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  1. - Top - End - #691
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Manticore

    Introduction: A monster from Persia, probably mostly remembered for its encounter with Alexander the Great, the Manticore is one of the weird composite beings of which old myths have the secret: an humanoid head with fangs, a lion's body, a scorpion's tail, and sometime wings and spikes. A strangely memorable appearance for a creature so obscure. 5e's version is slightly different, however.

    Art: While the artwork is not the best nor the one that look the most like a living being, it still manage to present the danger and the weirdness of the Manticore. The pose is somewhat awkward: it could work for a Manticore suddenly taking a defensive stance, but it doesn't look like there is much weight on its front limb. Otherwise, the Manticore's body language manages to carry the very feline "try to make itself look bigger to intimidate" tactic pretty well, especially with the wings raised and the tail twisted to up the threatening impression, and a simple look at the Manticore's eyes immediately give the impression this being is intelligent and hostile. While the ranges of teeth are nicely done, the mouth itself is kind of weirdly drawn, though it could be intentional or simply due to the angle.

    Purpose and Tactics
    :

    What set them aside from other flying beasts or the predatory animals they seem to be is, aside from the fact they're sapient beings capable as smart as your typical Lizardfolk (and so are able to use tactics and the like), is that the Manticore does have a ranged weapon in the form of its tail spikes, and this can make all the difference. It can also surprise players who are convinced they're about to fight yet another melee-only beast.

    The fluff section describes the typical Manticore tactics as: 1) if against an inferior opponent, throw one volley of spikes, then land and attack, and 2) if against a superior opponent in an open space, stay flying at a distance and harass them with the spikes. Simple an efficient, those could be all what the Manticore needs, but there more possibilities that shouldn't be ignored: the Manticore picking up rocks, tree trunks, bee/wasp/ant hive or the like between its paws to drop on the enemies, it digging deep holes and hiding them to trap who fall into without having wings, it damaging trees or rock formations to make them fall on the PCs, or it harassing people to coral them toward hazardous environment or the like are all valid options, and in my opinion an interesting way to spice up an encounter.

    Also note the Manticores will hunt in group if the prize is worth it.

    With its flight, its potentially nasty Multiattacks, its ranged attacks, and the tactics they can use, the Manticore is a nice, well-rounded opponent, well-adjusted for its CR of 3. Several Manticores all attacking higher-level PCs could be a memorable fight, as well, and the same can be said of Manticores fighting alongside beings like orcs, hobgoblins, giants and the like. Its AC and HPs, while still decent, do make it a bit squishy for a group, though.

    As a social encounter, the Manticore isn't without interest either. While malevolent, Manticores can speak and are only slightly dumber than the bottom of the humanoid average, and the MM does mention they are sometime open to negotiate with someone if they this can benefit them more than just killing and eating this person. A Manticore could give hints for the PCs' quests, info on the land, introduce them to some of the beings it deals with periodically, or just side quests like "deal with the evil cult that's making my food flee the area" or other things of the same register.


    Fluff
    : The Manticore's fluff is pretty nice. It details its typical battle tactics, the way it hunts and interact with others, be they other Manticores, allies, enemies, rivals or dragons (Manticores having a very Shadowrun approach toward dragons), making the entry ripe with plot hooks and potential adventures. All in all, a nice piece of lore, if nothing ground-breaking, which help the 5e Manticore distinguish itself.

    Hooks:

    Not Me This Time
    : A Manticore has been captured by the soldiers of a nearby military camp, where the PCs currently are following a lead to find evil cultists in the region, and is going to be killed soon. Yet, it pretends it is not the one who massacred those it is accused to have done, blaming the cultists the PCs are searching for. The Manticore is ready to tell where the real perpetrators are, and what it knows about them, as long as someone stay in its cage with it while others are checking if the Manticore say the truth, as guarantee to make sure it won't get killed anyway even if it speak no falsehood. The camp's leader turns to the PCs, asking if one of them would take the risk since it's related to their current adventure...

    The Champion: During a festival, a large man dressed only in a loincloth and fur boots, covered by scars and still in decent shape despite his age (most noticeable thanks to his white hair and large beard, and the fat accumulating on what were sculptural muscles when he was younger) calls himself Brutus the Tall and boasts of his might and combat prowesses. To prove it, he shows the audience the cage of a "savage, rage-filled beast", which gnarls, roars and shake the heavy cages in all directions, and open the door, freeing the Manticore inside. After a somewhat brief but spectacular fight where Brutus overpower the Manticore, it is dragged back to its cage, the audience cheering and throwing coins at the display. In reality, Brutus and the Manticore are working together to put a crowd-pleasing show, both having realized fighting and scavenging in the wild all their lives for little was just not worth it, especially once old age make it more difficult. But how will the PCs react to a monster being released like that, and if they find out about the backstage deal...?

    The Wizard's Apprentice:

    As the PCs are exploring a little-known area, Sand-dweller the Manticore lands near them and ask to speak with them. Sand-dweller, who is smarter than most of its kind (meaning it is in the humanoid average, maybe in the upper limits), has decided to become a Wizard, as it seeks knowledge and power that would set it above its current station in life. Having heard of the feats of the party's wizard, it has decided it wanted to become their apprentice. Sand-dweller is willing to pay for its tuition in any way that it doesn't consider abusive, be it by helping the adventurers in their job, performing tasks for them, or by giving the Wizard treasure it has gathered


    Verdict
    : A pretty good monster which can leave a great impression if used like its entry suggest, or by pushing a bit further.

  2. - Top - End - #692
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I like the idea of a monster, especially one as inhuman as the manticore, seeking out the PCs for an apprenticeship. Really underlines the way the PCs have a reputation in the world.

    As for manticores themselves, I know Eberron takes the angle of them being smart enough to have allied with the Mror Dwarves, especially House Kundarak, for work and mutual protection. They're not "tamed", but they're smart enough to pass up short-term gain (dwarven meat) for long-term reward (being fed by dwarves and paid).
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  3. - Top - End - #693
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I'm wondering if the plot hooks are useful to people or not.

    I'll post the next entry tomorrow or in two days, if there is no discussion for this one.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    I'm wondering if the plot hooks are useful to people or not.

    I'll post the next entry tomorrow or in two days, if there is no discussion for this one.
    Plot hook usefulness varies by creature, as not all creatures fill the same roles. I definitely think it's worth giving some guidance, but it doesn't have to be a plot hook. Ultimately, you're just trying to provide examples or scenarios for usage. That's what the section is getting at, I think. So one could provide an encounter shell (a goblin ambush) or a location (a maze of tunnels beneath a volcano cut by thoqqua) if that made more sense for the given critter.

    I like manticores as enemies, because they're smart enough to be bargained with and will usually have superior movement options to the PCs at early levels. They're a great change of pace for a low-level party that's used to fighting things with negligible intelligence, or for one that's getting a little cocky.
    Last edited by QuickLyRaiNbow; 2017-12-06 at 08:53 AM.

  5. - Top - End - #695
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    I'm wondering if the plot hooks are useful to people or not.I'll post the next entry tomorrow or in two days, if there is no discussion for this one.
    I always enjoy reading them, personally.

  6. - Top - End - #696
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    I'm wondering if the plot hooks are useful to people or not.

    I'll post the next entry tomorrow or in two days, if there is no discussion for this one.
    The hooks are good for inspiration, but I doubt many people directly use them. They can definitely get you thinking about how to apply them or a similar monster though, so I would say they are useful to people. Well, at least to me.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I also like the plot hooks as they provide inspiration that could be used for other monsters as well. They also give a way of seeing how other DMs think, so I learn more from them than just how to use monster XY

  8. - Top - End - #698
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Last edited by odigity; 2017-12-07 at 11:24 AM.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Looks like manticore has burned out. Anybody mind if I do the mephits?
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by the_brazenburn View Post
    Looks like manticore has burned out. Anybody mind if I do the mephits?
    I'm going to do the next monster, aka the Medusa. Probably will post it in a few hours. I think someone else wanted to do the Mephits, though, but I'm not sure.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    I'm going to do the next monster, aka the Medusa. Probably will post it in a few hours. I think someone else wanted to do the Mephits, though, but I'm not sure.
    Right, sorry. I'll do the merrow/merfolk. They're going to be one entry, right?
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by odigity View Post
    Thanks, appreciate it.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by the_brazenburn View Post
    Right, sorry. I'll do the merrow/merfolk. They're going to be one entry, right?
    Hands offsies!

    Quote Originally Posted by QuickLyRaiNbow View Post
    I'm happy to handle both merfolk and merrow, which ought to be twinned anyway, as soon as it's time.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Crap, I should read this more carefully. Okay, then, I'll deal with the... um... minotaurs?
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  15. - Top - End - #705
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I'll take the Mind Flayer, if we're divvying up the rest of the "M" section.
    Last edited by ShikomeKidoMi; 2017-12-07 at 04:06 PM.

  16. - Top - End - #706
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Before we get to the Mind Flayer and the Minotaur, we need someone to handle the Mimic. Volunteers?

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by QuickLyRaiNbow View Post
    Before we get to the Mind Flayer and the Minotaur, we need someone to handle the Mimic. Volunteers?
    I can do it.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    I can do it.
    Cheers! Then ShikomeKidoMi with Mind Flayers and the_brazenburn handling Minotaurs.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Unoriginal View Post
    I'm going to do the next monster, aka the Medusa. Probably will post it in a few hours. I think someone else wanted to do the Mephits, though, but I'm not sure.
    That was DerKommissar, he said that during the Magmin discussion. After we discuss Medusa, if he doesn't show up, someone can shoot him a message asking if he still wants to do them.
    Last edited by ShikomeKidoMi; 2017-12-07 at 05:30 PM.

  20. - Top - End - #710
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by ShikomeKidoMi View Post
    That was DerKommissar, he said that during the Magmin discussion. After we discuss Medusa, if he doesn't show up, someone can shoot him a message asking if he still wants to do them.
    Sounds like a plan.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Medusa

    Introduction: Named after the most famous of the three Gorgons from Greek Mythology, the Medusa is a persistent figure in D&D's monster menagerie, and their iconic petrifying gaze has made adventurers paranoid about the presence of statues for decades.

    Art: An amazing artwork, perhaps one of the best in the book. Between the expression, pose and bearing of the Medusa, which would fit an empress, her clothes and jewelry, which give an impression of justified grandeur, of femme fatale chic, and of mourning of a past glory, and her sculptural, attractive yet inhuman appearance, this drawing manages to perfectly capture the fluff and the ethos of the creature. I actually thought the Medusa depicted was wearing a beautiful steel mask to hide her face at first, when I looked at a downsized version of the picture, only to realize she really was that attractive once I've seen a larger version. My only small regret for this picture is that the hair-snakes aren't emphasized much, being a bit discreet, but it does fit with the way the Medusa is depicted this edition. Still, a 10/10.

    Purpose and Tactics
    : Due to its iconic nature, it's likely the first thing one would check about any Medusa statblock, in any version of the game, is if its gaze attack is up to snuff. For the 5e version, the gaze itself is pretty nice, as the DC is just decently difficult enough, the effects are incredibly dangerous and the PCs won't get immune to it if they succeed it once like some other monster powers. It's just as powerful as something so iconic need to be, while still being fair in the chances the adventurers have to avoid it, notably with the possibility to advert their gazes, which add a tactic consideration to the fight.

    But while the Medusas are mostly known for their petrifying gaze, it's far from the only good thing about them.

    With their decent, if not exceptional AC and HPs, the Medusa is durable enough to show off its capacities. But their true strength, in conventional combat, is that they hit like a brick. Being a surprisingly decently skilled weapon user (though not having the highest to-hit bonus), the Medusa disposes of a longbow with poisoned arrows, great to keep the heroes at long range, and of a shortshort her snake hair, which allows her to deliver the hurt to those who managed to get close enough and avoid the cursed glare, with the Multiattack making those options purely and simply nasty for low-level PCs, and still reasonably dangerous at higher level as it compensate for the less-than-average hit chances.

    Add to this their fairly decent stats and their nice selection of skill proficiencies, and you have a great, well-rounded encounter with someone who's good at fooling and at not getting others get the drop on them, be it in a fight or a conversation.

    In combat, the Medusa should do everything they can to keep the PCs away as long as they're able to, using their stealth and their intimate knowledge of their environment. Traps and secret passages to give the Medusa access to the PCs without them being able to retaliate should abound in a Medusa's lair, as would other ways of controlling the environment (crowded spaces, walls that move, etc). And when the time of the melee arrives, players will probably be surprise by the combination of having to avoid looking, getting restrained in case of failure, and the close combat prowess of their serpentine adversary.

    It should be observed that the Medusa is not very good against magic, however, even if it would be hard for a caster to target them with their more direct spells. Still, beware of AoE and the like.

    Add a few minions who can keep the adventurers at bay, and the Medusa becomes far more dangerous, with the capacity to be a competent leader and even more of an harassing, ranged menace. Add beefy minions who don't have to worry about the Medusa's gaze too much, like golems, and the encounter can become a massacre even for mid-high PCs.

    Outside of combat, the Medusa can be a pretty nice social encounter. As a former Very Important Person, and as an immortal being, there is a lot of things PC could want to learn from a Medusa, be it the past of the BBEG or the location of a lost city. And as a being who wanted others to admire and worship them now reduced to living in isolation, the Medusa has reasons to want to discuss even with a bunch of tomb-robbers who are probably after her treasures, which could open the dialogue between them and the adventurers.

    Something that could be very interesting both for fighting and social encounters would be to pair the Medusa with Boggles from the Volo's, which are born from the isolation and abandonment felt by sapient beings. Both their fluff and their capacities (in particular the Boggle's oil combined with the Medusa's gaze, and the Dimensional Rift combined with the Medusa's lair) work well together, and it's an uncommon pairing that would be fresh and fun to explore.

    Fluff: While the Greek Myths Medusa was either born a monster or cursed into one for being raped/having sex without the person in charge of her approving (the Greeks didn't distinguish between the two, the woman's own consent was not what they concerned themselves with) in the temple of Athena, the 5e's Medusa present a new take on the monster, adding a bit of Narcisse, a bit of Cassandra and a bit of Midas in the mix.

    Medusas are humanoids -male or female- who went to magical entities and asked for the boon of eternal youth and the admiration of their peers. Yet, after a time living as demigods, they end up turning into petrifying, reptilian monsters and force them to live in isolation. They keep the attractiveness and immortality, though, but cannot enjoy it as much as before due to risking to petrify themselves if they indulge in looking at themselves.

    Hooks:

    Evicted!:

    The Medusa Ana-Zora, former Orc Queen, has lived for centuries, millennia even. And for millennia, she has explored, conquered, restored and kept maintained the Great Labyrinth that runs below the capital city, which was built here to contain the ancient evil at the heart of the Labyrinth. And now, some kind of upstart villain in black robes would pretend to evict her? No, ten times no, it won't be tolerated. Now, to see if the traveling sellswords of this era are still so easy to convince to risk their lives for some gold and a few promises...


    The Archbishop's Problem
    :

    At first glance, people could think Bertrand of Olmer is an happy man. And he certainly has many reasons to enjoy life: he is one of the best rhetoric masters of his church, has reached the rank of Archbishop fairly quickly thanks to his charisma and devotion, has not one wrinkle despite being past 50, and, while he's not a Cleric, is often considered one of the best servant of his god in the country. Yet, Bertrand is getting nervous. Hearing of the PCs' feats, he meet with them, and explain his problem: when he was young and foolish, stumbling on a dare into an old cave where an altar had been built, he freed the Efreeti that was contained there. The genie granted him two wishes, and Bertand wished for eternal youth and a great charisma, which he got. Now, though, Betrand is not a fool anymore, and he knows a price will have to be payed soon. He asks the PCs to accompany him on a pilgrimage, where he might fight a solution to his problem, or at least another Wish...

    Success's Scales:

    Ekaterina, a Wizard and adventurer the PCs have had several friendly encounter with, has come back from an expedition a week ago. Yet no one has seen her since, holed in her tower as she is. If visited, Ekaterina will reveal the truth: touching an antique copper jar in a crumbling ruin, she released an old curse, and has been turned into a Medusa... and she loves it! While she's always considered herself plain and without interest, she considers her new form to be incredibly attractive, and the perks of the snake hair and the immortality are simply wonderful! She just needs to deal with that little "risk turning others and herself into stone by accident" business, and she'll have everything she could want. And it would help her a lot if the PCs helped her gather some ingredients for her anti-petrification magic item...

    Verdict: A beyond excellent take on an iconic monster.
    Last edited by Unoriginal; 2017-12-07 at 08:30 PM.

  22. - Top - End - #712
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I agree on the artwork. So, about those 'magical forces' is anyone else thinking Hags? This feels like a hag bargain. The Medusa technically keeps everything it asked for, but it's transformation (usually)* makes it miserable and spreads that misery around as it kills people.

    *I do like your the idea of a Medusa who enjoys their new form.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by ShikomeKidoMi View Post
    *I do like your the idea of a Medusa who enjoys their new form.
    Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by ShikomeKidoMi View Post
    So, about those 'magical forces' is anyone else thinking Hags? This feels like a hag bargain. The Medusa technically keeps everything it asked for, but it's transformation (usually)* makes it miserable and spreads that misery around as it kills people.
    Well, hags aren't mentioned among the beings who grant the Medusa's curse. I think they *could* do it, but they loath beauty too much to create more of it, and while the "boon with a catch" fit them, the "boon" part is too big compared to the "catch". Hags have more what I'd call a folk story pettiness rather than a flair for the grandiose yet tragic fates.

    An hag would make the person turn into some kind of horrible monster like a Gibbering Mouther, not into a sexy immortal killing machine.



    Also, it should be noted that if a Medusa really wanted to have close to 0 downside to their condition, they could just replace their eyes by two Ersatz Eyes (from the Xanathar's).
    Last edited by Unoriginal; 2017-12-07 at 09:21 PM.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I also like the idea of the medusa who makes the most of their curse. I'm imagining a scenario where the PCs walk into the throne room, and there's a hyperrealistic sculpture of one of their friends/relatives/mentors/whatever who went missing. Is the king a psychopath who knowingly decorates with the petrified bodies of his enemies, Jabba-style? Or is his art procurer to blame, and is he evil, unscrupulous or merely credulous? Is the sculptor who sold the work a medusa, or is he just married to one? Are we playing a campaign loosely inspired by the movie Big Eyes? It's too early to be sure.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Sadly, they haven't been reintroduced this edition, but does anyone remember the Lillend? Celestial snake women with bardic abilities and an eye for beauty?

    So, the fun thing is that they're naturally immune to both petrification and poison. It means they make a great partner or jailer for a medusa. You can have your PCs encounter lifelike statuary that flooded the marked which is currently being bought up by a mysterious buyer who turns out to be a snake lady in disguise.... and end up attacking the wrong person, an angel who had captured the medusa and was buying all the statues in the hopes of being able to help the petrified victims. For the most fun, if the PCs attack the lillend, they end up freeing the medusa.
    Last edited by ShikomeKidoMi; 2017-12-08 at 05:20 AM.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Sorry for not being so active atm, but work is killing me! Feel free to do the Mephits...

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    With the discussion about the hooks in general: the evicted hook is a very nice one and likely to be used in my current adventure!

    One question about the archbishop hook: what does it have to do with the medusa? Maybe i overread something...

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by DerKommissar View Post
    With the discussion about the hooks in general: the evicted hook is a very nice one and likely to be used in my current adventure!

    One question about the archbishop hook: what does it have to do with the medusa? Maybe i overread something...
    he's turning into one.

  29. - Top - End - #719
    Halfling in the Playground
    Join Date
    Dec 2016

    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by SharkForce View Post
    he's turning into one.
    Ahhhhh.... i get it! Thanks!

  30. - Top - End - #720
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    QuickLyRaiNbow's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Male

    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by DerKommissar View Post
    Sorry for not being so active atm, but work is killing me! Feel free to do the Mephits...
    No worries. I'll handle mephits when I get home from work, so look for a post in twelve or so hours. If someone feels strongly about wanting to do them instead, let me know.

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