Monster Analysis: Victory Pit, Round 3

The final round of the Victory Pit of Harvest Close! As this is the last fight for both The Mighty Nein and the Stubborn Stock, we’ll take this opportunity to discuss the tournament as a whole, and how the creatures used in the tournament reflects on Zadash and the Dwendalian Empire.

Hill Giant

Thanks to @BlackSalander for this art piece!

  • Encounter Appearance: 2-18 Whispers of War
  • Armor Class 13
  • Speed 40 ft
  • Suggested Average, Max HP: 105, 160
  • 146 damage taken, 13 HDYWTDT by Nott

Hill giants are the smallest, least intelligent, and lowest ranking giants in the giant hierarchy, called the Ordning. To a hill giant, anything smaller than it is viewed as both inferior and potential prey. Within the rankings of the hill giants, the largest giant is the ruler of their primitive domains. They have no culture, use old animal skins for clothing and uprooted trees for weapons, and have developed a ridiculous constitution from treating just about anything as food. Though they are very dim-witted, a hill giant that feels as though it has been tricked or prodded is a dangerous threat to not only the source of its rage, but to anyone else it can reach until its attention is distracted by something else.

The hill giant The Mighty Nein faced was driven into a rage-like state called Frenzied Soul prior to entering the Victory Pit. This granted him a legendary action once per round, called the Furious Mash. (He did the mash, he did the furious mash. It was a Zadash smash…) This granted him a single extra attack at the end of another creature’s turn, at his choice. From a meta standpoint, this extra attack action gives the DM a little bit more strategy to play with, allowing the lone giant to choose an appropriate moment to strike rather than just letting the party gang up on him and prepare for a single opportunity to act. Although Beau and Yasha’s Sentinel feats never came into play, this also afforded the giant an option to counter being unable to move.

What the hill giant lacks in intelligence, it makes up for in brute strength, which it employs in the forms of club strikes and thrown rocks. Matt rolled really well, downing Molly in a single strike and nearly killing Yasha outright. In order to die immediately and skip going unconscious, a character has to take enough damage to take them to zero hit points plus their total hit points. In Yasha’s case, she would have to take 42 damage plus whatever she had left after the hill giant struck her the first time, which would likely have been in the single-digits, but more than one. She took 43.

A D&D Rules Aside

Because we are, well, us, the whole business about Yasha nearly perma-dying got us thinking: which character would have outright died from that combination of strikes, 23 and 43? Our first thought was Caleb, of course, with his 25 max HP.

But!

In D&D 5e rules, a character doesn’t outright die from taking a melee hit while they’re unconscious, they just automatically fail two death saves out of three. Why is that important? As we discussed last week, Caleb didn’t go into this fight unscathed, he was down two hit points after Jester healed him 14 points, putting him at 23/25 HP. Therefore, if he took the combination of hits that Yasha took, he would have gone to exactly 0 HP on the first hit, and auto-failed two death saves on the second….but not die (yet). Had Caleb gone into that fight at full health, the first hit would have taken him to 2 HP, and the second hit would have super killed him.

So who would die from that combination of strikes? Jester and Nott, with their 31 max HP, would die on the second strike. Molly’s survival depends on what he rolled for his amplified Blood Maledict damage on himself earlier in the battle (and assumes that he didn’t take the hit that knocked him out. He would be deader than Jacob Marley if he took the 26 damage hit, then that 23 that causes him to auto-fail two death saves, then the 43 hit that forces him to fail the remaining save). If he rolled a 1-3, he survives. If he rolled a 4, the second strike takes him to -41, which is his lowered HP from his Crimson Rites. Beau barely survives (but unconscious) the second strike with 2 HP to spare. Fjord, with his 41 plus 10 temporary hit points, goes unconscious on the second hit and deals 10 cold damage to the hill giant. And now, back to your regularly scheduled battle analysis!

The Mighty Nein

Thanks to @joshua_mock for this art piece!

The Nein began the battle by firing at the hill giant from a distance, hoping to stay out of the way of his big club. They learned early on, however, that the giant also has painful ranged option; in this case, thrown rubble. Caleb’s use of the arena’s cover, stacked with his mage armor and bolstered with a reactionary Shield spell, ensured that he didn’t take enough damage to down him. (Thrown boulders deal more damage than a club strike, on average.) Molly, not knowing of the giant’s legendary Furious Mash, opted to go into melee to start making a dent in the angy sack of hit points. His 22 points of damage was immediately countered by a 26 damage mash, rendering him unconscious. Beau attempted a new weapon in the first round, a throwing star, and critically hit the giant. Fjord used his considerable hit point pool to get into melee range, as did Yasha with her significantly fewer hit points.

After Nott and Jester hit the giant, the giant delivered the club strikes that would render Yasha unconscious and nearly dead. After an Eldritch Blast from Fjord, the giant delivered a blow that took Nott down to less than half health, and the party started looking for options to not just damage the giant, but give TM9 a leg up lest the giant easily pick off the remaining members, one by one. Nott attempted Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, but the giant shrugged it off. Caleb’s Sleep spell in the third round was a gamble, desperately hoping that the giant had taken enough damage to be affected by it while understanding his only alternative for damage were piddly cantrips. His last remaining offensive spell paid off, giving the party time to regroup, bring Yasha and Molly back to their feet, and prepare to finish the creature.

Flightless Wyvern

  • First Appearance: 1-15 Skyward
  • Armor Class 13
  • Speed 20 ft
  • Darkvision 60 ft, Passive 14
  • Suggested Average, Max HP: 110, 169

Wyverns made multiple appearances in the first campaign as steeds for bandits and patrols. Even without an aerial advantage, the venom from a wyvern’s tail is renowned for its lethality. In the Victory Pit, several members of the Stubborn Stock were downed by its potent stinger.

Captive Gladiators

Each creature rounded up for the fight had noticeable scars from abuse and disadvantages placed upon them for the entertainment of the crowd. The banderhobb, otyugh, winter wolves, minotaurs, displacer beasts, and giant crocodile were all completely out of their element, fighting in broad daylight when they are used to hiding in and striking from the places that provide them camouflage. The wyvern’s wings were cut, preventing it from escaping and eliminating its ability to fight in its element, the air. The hill giant was prodded with spears, enraged to the point of lashing out at whatever it could see. Only the paired owlbears entered the arena with no real disadvantage, and they tore through the Mountain Makers.

Guildhead Yedaka Brigman informed the party that most of these creatures were retrieved by the Righteous Brand, usually to redirect their destructive energies from either the soldiers themselves or the empire’s citizens who would come to harm from their presence. Many such creatures flooded over from the wilds of Xhorhas. The special chains, likely provided courtesy of the Cerberus Assembly, pacified even the victorious creatures into unconsciousness when brought close.

While we have no details for how long the Victory Pit has been a staple of the Harvest Close Festival, it is clear that glorified “pest control” has the sanction and blessing of all circles of power, as well as the demand and enjoyment of all levels of class. Perhaps the Dwendalian Empire is not necessarily more civilized than Xhorhas, despite what they’d like to believe. The brutality of a gladiatorial ring and the glorification of what essentially amounts to dramatic public execution speak to the harshness of the cultures. Welcome to Wildemount.