Continuing in the vein of last week’s monster, we’re going to look at dragonspawn. Wizards of the Coast has put out some good info on dragons, and even provided a couple of drakes. But so far, they haven’t released an official product that updates dragonspawn for 5E. So we’re going to look at one dragonspawn–Greenspawn Razorfiend–that has both 3E and 4E versions. We’ll use those two versions as guideposts as we build a 5E version.
You can find the 3E version of the Greenspawn Razorfiend in the 3E adventure, Red Hand of Doom. Here’s the stat block:
And you can find the 4E version of the Greenspawn Razorfiend in Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons. Here’s the stat block:
What’s interesting is to see the differences between the two editions. Of course, the mechanical aspects of 4E were so vastly different from previous editions, there are naturally going to be differences there. But if you look closer there are deeper differences. 3E has an acid breath weapon; 4E instead gives the dragonspawn a ranged “spittle” attack, and makes it both acid and poison. 3E mentions a “spring attack,” but 4E just mentions that it can jump 4 squares (which is 20 ft.). When you look at the ability scores, there are also some interesting differences. The Strength and Wisdom scores are similar, but the Constitution and Dexterity scores on the 4E version are much higher. The 4E version is very stupid, but has a high Charisma…? Both versions have wings, but don’t mention a fly speed. The 3E version mentions a swim speed and waterbreathing, but the 4E version doesn’t say anything about it being aquatic.
So before we start our custom build process, we know a few things. The greenspawn has wings with sharp edges, and a breath weapon which is acid or poison damage. It’s Strength, Dexterity and Constitution are very high, it’s Wisdom is above average, but it’s Intelligence and Charisma are either average or below average (that 4E high Charisma doesn’t make sense to me). The greenspawn can’t fly, but it can jump really far. We know it’s a relatively high-level monster, probably Tier 2 (5th-10th level) or Tier 3 (11th-16th level).
So as a reminder, here’s our steps for building a custom monster.
- What the H*ll Is It For? (Roles)
- Who’s Going to Fight This? (PC level)
- How Hard Is the Fight? (Encounter Difficulty)
- What Sh*t Makes It Special? (Traits)
- What’s the Defensive CR? (HP & AC)
- Adjusting Defensive CR
- What’s the Offensive CR? (Damage Per Round & Attack Bonus)
- Adjusting Offensive CR
- How Does the Special Sh*t Affect Defensive/Offensive CR? (Adjust CR for Traits)
- Final Tweaking
- What the H*ll Is It For? We know that this monster is a skirmisher (because it says so in the 4E version). A skirmisher is a melee fighter that deals a lot of damage, but is also highly mobile. Oddly, though, it also has a ranged attack. Whether we use it as a breath weapon, or just a ranged attack, it’s unusual for a skirmisher. Usually breath weapons are a recharge attack. The 4E version of this monster has a regular ranged attack–but it also appears to be created for higher level PCs. So my take is that the greenspawn uses its breath weapon, then uses its melee attack (wingblades). Since it can jump far, it will either disengage and jump away, or use its jump to get to another opponent.
- Who’s Going to Fight This? We are building a monster for a Tier 2 party. Tier 2 is 5th-10th level. I’m shooting for the mid-range of Tier 2, so 7th-8th level.
- How Hard Is the Fight? This is really interesting. The 4E version of this monster is worth 1600 XP. It’s labeled as a level 13 monster, but if we look in the DMG on page 82, a deadly encounter for a level 7 PC is 1700. Meaning this would be a really hard fight for a level 7 PC…but it’s possible. That’s for one level 7 PC. If we target 8th level PCs, a hard encounter is 1400 XP per PC. Four level 8 PCs would give us 5,600 XP. I think this dragonspawn qualifies as a hard encounter. A CR 6 monster has 2,300 XP, and 2 of those would be 4,600 XP. We could fill out an encounter with other creatures to make 5,600 XP. So we’re going to build it as a CR 6 monster.
- What Sh*t Makes It Special? (Traits) Dragonspawn are not natural creatures. They are created by dark rituals that infuse a dragon’s egg with the blood of animals or monsters. But 5E doesn’t seem to have subtypes at this point, so we’ll just go with “dragon” as the type. Our Greenspawn Razorfiend should have some of the traits and abilities that green dragons have. All green dragons have the Amphibious trait, which means they can breathe air and water. Let’s give our greenspawn Forest Camouflage, which gives it advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks to hide in forested terrain. We’ll give it Standing Leap also, since both 3E and 4E versions mention its superior jumping ability. Green dragons are treacherous, manipulative, and scheming. Rather than brute force, they prefer to use trickery, seduction, and manipulation to bend the wills of their foes–corrupting them even as their victims are unaware of their corruption. But the greenspawn razorfiend is a fighter. How can we reconcile this? For attacks, we’ll give it a wingblade attack, a pounce attack, and a breath weapon attack. Now the 3E version has acid breath, and the 4E version has acidic poison spittle. Green dragons in 5E are strictly poison (acid is for black dragons) so the breath weapon is poison damage. But since green dragons are beguiling and manipulative, let’s have the poison breath also bestow a status effect. We’ll call it Beguiling Toxin. It’s a poison cloud, which also bestows a weakening effect that I’m stealing from gold dragons (I don’t understand why metallic dragons get to have one damage breath and one status condition breath–that just seems unsportsmanlike). The attacks will be listed in Actions, and none of the traits we picked have any effect on the CR. So we end up with:
Amphibious. The greenspawn can breathe air and water.
Forest Camouflage. The greenspawn gets advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks to hide in forested terrain.
Standing Leap. The razorfiend’s long jump is up to 20 ft. and its high jump is up to 10 ft., with or without a running start.
- What’s the Defensive CR? Now for the hard part. It’s likely to be with some of its friends. So we’ll make it a CR 6 monster. Remember, Defensive CR is HP and AC. CR 6 gives us a proficiency bonus of +3, an AC of 15, and HP of 146-160. This creature is Large, so it uses a d10 for hit dice. It’s going to have a high Constitution, say a +3 bonus. So we’ll use 153 (18d10 + 54) HP. That fits into our range. This monster also has a high Dexterity, also a +3 bonus. With a proficiency bonus of +3, that means its AC is 16 (not 15). But we only bump to a different line in the table if the listed AC varies by 2. So we stick with AC 16.
- What’s the Offensive CR? We’ve given this monster three special attacks, right? Wingblade, Pounce, and Beguiling Toxin. Remember, Offensive CR is Attack Bonus and Damage per Round. And if a monster has special attacks that are limited in use, you add up max damage from all attacks over 3 rounds, then take the average. The greenspawn is really strong, so its Strength score gives it a +4 bonus. That means its attack bonus is +7. That’s only 1 higher than the standard attack bonus of a CR 6 monster. For damage per round, we have to add up damage for the wingblade attack, the pounce attack, and the breath weapon attack. For the breath weapon attack, we assume that at least two people are hit with the attack, so that’s 70 damage for the breath weapon (that’s 35 [10d6] times 2). The Pounce attack includes one claw attack for 13 (2d8+4) damage, and a bite attack for 15 (2d10+4) damage if the target is prone. The wingblade attack is 22 (4d8+4) damage. If we do the math, that means 120 damage over 3 rounds, so the average is 40 damage per round. That’s in the range for a CD 6 monster.
- How Does the Special Sh*t Affect Defensive or Offensive CR? Short answer–it doesn’t, because none of our non-attack traits have any effect on CR according to the DMG.
- Final Tweaks. We don’t really need any.
Okay guys, here’s what we end up with. EDIT 10/17: After getting some feedback, I tweaked the stats in the stat block and revised the text above.
That’s it for today, folks. Have fun with your dragonspawn!