• Justin Handlin

Legendary Actions for Low-Level Dungeons & Dragons Monsters

"Legendary actions are one of the coolest, most memorable aspects of fifth edition for me. As a DM, they allow you to make dynamic choices throughout a combat round, not just relying on a single action to make a huge impact. This element of unpredictability keeps the more tactics-minded players guessing as well, which is likely a big reason they come to the table.

Fifth edition’s legendary actions address one of the biggest problems in previous editions: ‘big bads’ often needed a lot of minions to survive more than a couple of rounds against cunning players. This never felt quite right for every ‘boss’ encounter; sometimes a creature is solitary and should be fearsome on their own."

-Legendary Bestiary-

I couldn't agree more. Just having the ability for monsters, regardless of level, to take actions on other characters' turns is just fantastic. It easily gives the feeling of a fast-moving and ever-changing battle. It helps create a flow in an otherwise stagnant turn-based system. Any player who has run a character who can often use a reaction understands this. The LEGENDARY BESTIARY brings a feature that once was the domain of powerful epic bosses, to their low-level minions.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "What about balance"? Well, the team thought of that. What makes the Legendary Bestiary soo cool, is that it doesn't really unbalance the game really at all. Most balancing issues come from failure to understand action economy in Dungeons & Dragon 5th Edition, and how it relates to damage output. The team behind this supplement made sure that damage out was kept to a minimum, or not even present in most of the legendary actions. What they did instead was focus on actions and features that focused more on features that allow them to move without provoking opportunity attacks, or bellow and fear the characters, or increase their defense in some way. In addition, all of the legendary actions are totally in line with the flavor of the monster. These new legendary actions in this supplement apply to CR 1-3 monsters in the Monster Manual.

Let's take a look at a sample from a well-known monster in D&D lore, the owlbear.

The owlbear is well known for its ferocity. But, the 5e stat block doesn't really capture the threat and fear this creature can instill into its enemies. The Legendary Bestiary fixes this by adding a few legendary actions to make it feel a bit more, ferocious.

  • Imposing Figure. The owlbear stands on its hind legs and lets out a roar. Any creature within 30 feet of the owlbear that can see and hear it must make a DC 11 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of the owlbear until the end of their next turn.

  • Overpowering Charge. The owlbear moves up to 15 feet in a straight line toward a creature. The creature must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. If the target is knocked prone, the owlbear makes an attack using its claws.

  • Stubborn Furiosity. The owlbear rerolls its saving throw against one effect causing it to be charmed, frightened, incapacitated, or stunned.

These fantastic legendary actions bring about the creature's strength and ferocity without really increasing its damage. With Imposing Figure we now have a bellowing roar to inspire fear into the characters. This makes it clear that the owlbear is fearsome and not to be taken lightly. To reinforce this theme they also gave it Stubborn Furiosity. This allows the owlbear to reroll its saving throw against a few different effects. Which is great, and would truly make a dynamic change to the fight. Imagine fighting hard, your team is down on their luck, but a spellcaster manages to charm the beast for a moment of respite. Then, it breaks free while they are trying to gather their wits and maybe quickly tend to their wounds. This will be a fantastic addition that they won't see coming.

We can't possibly forget the massive size of an owlbear. This creature loves to push its weight around. The team captured this by giving it Overpowering Charge. Not only does this allow the creature to move on other character's turns, but it forces a creature it smashes into to make a save or be knocked prone. On a failure, it's allowed to make a single claw attack. This is just dangerous for anyone not expecting it. This is one of the few monsters that does get to deal a bit of extra damage. Even, then it is only on the high end of the recommended calculation of damage. Something to cause tremors in your player characters for sure.

Some Dungeon Masters may want to make it clear that these beasties are different than the run of the mill monster of the same name. The Legendary Bestiary team also included a very cool legendary names table the DM can roll on and add it to the monsters name. This makes it clear that it's on a different level. With a name like "The Ancient Owlbear" it stands clear that it's a new breed.

This is certainly a supplement that I consider one of my favorites. Not only does it make the combat more dynamic and engaging. It adds a bit of surprise for the players who have seen the owlbear or any other monster in the book a million times over the years. It changes it up and adds a new level of engagement for everyone at the table. I highly recommend this fantastic creation! You can pick up the Legendary Bestiary Here!

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