• Justin Handlin

Bloodied and Bruised: Dynamic Combat Monster Manual Options

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Do you want to make your Dungeons and Dragons combat feel more dynamic? Do you want your players and their characters to "feel" the progression of battle as they exchange blows with the enemy? If so, then you need to check out Bloodied & Bruised! New options for your D&D Monster Manual!

The “bloodied” condition, originally from Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, is used to signify how a creature is faring in a combat scenario. A creature becomes bloodied when it reaches half of its hit point maximum (rounded down), which acts as a way of communicating the state of an opponent in a fight. Telling the players the creature they are fighting is bloodied shows them how far along in the fight they are and whether they should be planning a retreat or going in for the kill. Today we discuss a product that includes clever details and features to deliver a dynamic battle in your Dungeons & Dragons game!

The bugbear chief nurses a gushing wound in her side before issuing an order of retreat to her allies.
A bright light forms around the angel’s dying body, blinding everyone near it as it passes on from the world of the living.
With blood streaming down its torso, an enraged hill giant slams its fists into the ground and causes the earth around it to quake.

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Bloodied & Bruised by our good friend and legend Anne Gregersen on the Dungeon Master's Guild is a series providing new combat actions for the creatures in the 5e roster. When pushed to their limits in combat, these monsters, critters, fiends, and foes gain new abilities that aid them in battle, or perhaps spell their doom depending on the circumstances. Bloodied & Bruised takes inspiration from the "bloodied" condition from 4e, making entirely new combat actions that can completely change the nature of a fight.

In addition, Bloodied & Bruised also introduces several new mechanics such as "death throes", "frailty" and much more to the game. Marking the demise of certain creatures with a grand explosion, heavy fall, or other unique effects to make the slaying of a great monster a truly unique experience. Below are some fantastic examples from a variety of CR levels that can really give you a sense of just how much more dynamic the combat feels.

Displacer Beast

When bloodied at 42 HP, the displacer beast has the following features. New Ability: Disengage. While bloodied, the displacer beast can take the Disengage action as a bonus action. New Ability: Grace of the Cat. While bloodied, the displacer beast cannot be knocked prone. Trigger Ability: Cornered. When first bloodied, the displacer beast can make a melee attack against a creature within range as a reaction.

Related Article: How to Make your D&D Combat more Dynamic with One Simple Technique

Iron Golem

When bloodied at 105 HP, the iron golem has the following features. Ability Recharge: Poison Breath. When first bloodied, the golem’s Poison Breath ability is recharged. Frailty: Malfunction. While bloodied, the golem doesn’t work as optimally. Its speed is lowered by 5 feet (to a minimum of 10 feet) and it cannot take reactions. New Ability: Overheating. While bloodied, the golem overheats to maintain efficiency. Any creature who touches the golem or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it takes 5 (1d10) fire damage. If a gallon or more water is dumped on the golem, this trait is suppressed until the end of the golem’s next turn. Strength: Scalding Weapons. While bloodied, the golem’s weapon attacks deal an additional 7 (2d6) fire damage. If a gallon or more water is dumped on the golem, this trait is suppressed until the end of the golem’s next turn. Death Throes: Arcane Boom. A small arcane explosion happens as the golem falls to the ground. Each creature in a 10-foot radius of the golem when it expires takes 12 (5d4) force damage.

Hill Giant

When bloodied at 52 HP, the hill giant has the following features. Frailty: Frustrated. The giant is frustrated by its injuries. At the start of each of its turns, it must succeed on a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw or attack whatever creature is closest to it. If two or more creatures are within the same distance of the giant, it chooses its target at random. New Ability: Ground Smash. As an action while bloodied, the giant can hit the ground at its feet, making the earth shake. Each Medium or smaller creature standing within 15 feet of the giant when it hits the ground must succeed on a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone. After using this ability, the giant can make a single melee attack as a bonus action. Death Throes: Timber. The giant falls in a random direction, provided it isn’t prone. Roll a d8 to determine which direction the giant falls when it dies. The area where it lands becomes difficult terrain, and the giant takes up a 15-foot square of space. Each creature standing in the area must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the dead giant lands on the creature. The creature takes 17 (5d6) bludgeoning damage, is knocked prone, and is restrained under the giant’s body. The creature must use an action and 10 feet of movement on its turn to make a DC 17 Strength (Athletics) check, freeing itself from beneath the giant’s body on a success. If a creature succeeds on the Dexterity saving throw, it takes no damage, isn’t knocked prone, and is pushed 5 feet out of the giant‘s space into an unoccupied space of the creature's choice. A creature that cannot move or chooses not to move suffers the consequences of a failed saving throw.

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When bloodied at 29 HP, the owlbear has the following features. New Ability: Pack Tactics. While bloodied, the owlbear has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the owlbear’s allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn’t incapacitated. Strength: Made It Angry. While bloodied, the owlbear has advantage on saving throws against being charmed, frightened, knocked prone, and stunned. Trigger Ability: Cornered. When first bloodied, the owlbear can make a melee attack against a creature within range as a reaction.


When bloodied at 29 HP, the veteran has the following features. New Ability: Battle Presence. While bloodied, the veteran has two reactions per round. New Ability: Parry. While bloodied, the veteran can use its reaction to add 2 to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the veteran must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon. Trigger Ability: Cornered. When first bloodied, the veteran can make a melee attack against a creature within range as a reaction.

The bloodied condition is one of my favorite features from 4th Edition. Allowing this mechanic to bleed into your game will not only make your battles more exciting and memorable. But, will ensure that as the DM you're easily communicating the progress of the battle to the players in a natural way. Crit Academy highly recommends getting Bloodied & Bruised - Monster Manual for every DM's Toolkit!

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Character Concept: Balifra Stoutale, Female Dwarf

Description: Her skin has the orange glow of too much sun. She dresses in collared shirts and wears a proper scarf over her head. She wears her white hair down. Her brown unseeing eyes seem to look past you.

Personality: She has always had a great fascination with Tabaxi culture. She always tries to repair and not replace it. It was this mentality that drove her into the Animal Trainer business.

History: She was a bastard born out of an affair, and her mother always resented and mistreated her for it out of spite. Her parents enrolled her in an adept school at a young age so that she could practice her druidic talents. She hopes to save up enough money to one day pay a cleric to cure her.

Motivation: She has a passion for adventuring and risk, and to reunite with her old friends

Monster Variant: Solar Mephit

Origin: Magma Mephit

Lost/Changed Features: Evil Alignment, False appearance, fire breath, New spell list. Death burst does radiant damage.

New Features:

Spell List: dancing lights, light

Solar Flare. When the mephits hit points drop below half its maximum, it releases a flare of blinding light. Each creature within 30 feet that can see the mephit must succeed on a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or be blinded. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the start of each of its turns.


Radiant Burst (Recharge 6). The mephit releases a burst of glowing celestial light in a 10-foot cube. Each evil-aligned creature must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw, taking 4 (2d4) radiant damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one. Each good-aligned creature gains 4 (2d4) temporary hit points that last for up to 1 minute.

Encounter: Anti -Magic Chamber

PC’s enter a room with magical runes that generate an antimagic field. The casters have to work to complete a series of skill challenges to dispel/interrupt the antimagic runes. Additionally, these runes are guarded by mechanical traps. So in addition to a skill challenge for the casters to overcome, the traps also have to be disabled, before or during the disabling of the magical runes. As if the challenge wasn’t enough, you want to include some sort of other hazard, monsters being the obvious choice. Some other considerations is a ritual being completed, maybe sacrificial, or an enemy is escaping, or kidnapping a hostage. Or another trap that fills the area with poisonous gas.

Magic Item: Trident of the Tides

Trident, very rare (requires attunement)

You can breathe air or water and gain a swim speed equal to your speed while you hold this trident.

The trident has 10 charges. Wielding it, you can use an action to expend 1 or more of its charges to cast one of the following spells from it, using spell save DC 15 (attack +5): Control Water (4 charges), Shape Water (1 charge), Tsunami (10 charges), Watery Sphere (4 charges).

The trident regains 2d4 + 2 expended charges daily at dawn. If you expend the last charge, roll a d20. On a 1, the trident turns into coral and loses all magical properties.

Related Article: Create Magic Items on the Fly!

Dungeon Master Tip: Every DM Sucks! From: Snickelsox on twitter

Every single DM sucked to begin with. Don’t judge yourself against the legends in our games. Take your time, research the best you can, and have a good time. Like every other skill, it takes time and mistakes to become awesome at. Don’t give up, you can do it!

(the matt mercer effect is a great example)

Player Tip: Pact of the Arrow

Arcane Archer with Pact of the Blade Warlock

The goal of this build is to build a highly versatile ranged archer class.

Starting off with fighter picking up Archery to grant us a +2 bonus to hit with our ranged weapon attacks. Then we go at least three levels to gain the Arcane Archer archetype. This will allow us twice per short rest to boost our damage or help with battlefield control from the options available to us with arcane shots. Then multiclassing into warlock to get the pact of the blade and take the improved pact weapon to allow us to conjure a bow that increases our attack bonus and damage by +1. We now have a +3 to hit with our attacks. This bonus is equal to legendary magic weapons. Just to give you an idea of how potent it is. What is also cool is that the weapon becomes a spellcasting focus too.

Also, we can now use our warlock spell slots to cast eldritch smite, which can stack with some of our arcane shots. To top it off, both the Arcane shots and warlock slots regenerate on a short rest.

Also...did we mention you can stack hex on top of the bonuses you already get? Smiting paladins better watch out!

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