Monster Analysis: Gators (Labenda Swamp)

Thanks to @p_agurcia for this art piece!

  • First Appearance: 2-17 Harvest Close
  • Encounter Appearance: 2-20 Labenda Awaits
  • Armor Class 14
  • Speed 30 ft, 50 ft swim
  • Passive Perception 10
  • Suggested Average, Max HP: 85, 135
    • Croc 1: 123 taken, 14 HDYWTDT by Fjord
    • Croc 2: 95 taken, 18 HDYWTDT by Yasha

Although they were equally referred to as gators as well as crocs, game mechanically speaking, both names essentially serve the same purpose. To align with the Monster Manual, we’ll refer to them as Giant Crocodiles.

Unlike the lone crocodile the Stubborn Stock fought in the Victory Pit, the two crocodiles the Mighty Nein fought in the Labenda were very much in their element. The Labenda Swamp provided the crocs terrain to swim though and spots to perch on to attack, while also limiting the party’s movement. With their +5 stealth, they blended in with the other trees and logs, allowing the second croc to sneak up on the party mid-round 1. Add the young kenku the party had to protect on top of fending off two hunters in their natural environment, and the challenge became much more difficult than what the Victory Pit could ever offer.

The crocodiles each had two attacks: one to whip prey with its tail, and another to bite and clamp down upon its planned meal. In round 3, we saw one of the crocs let go of a grappled Nott to smack her with its tail before attempting bite her again, softening up the meal first.

The Encounter

The bog was difficult terrain for all of the Nein except Jester’s duplicate, forcing them to take twice as long to get where they needed to go and reconsider what actions they could take. Molly, for example, readied himself for a melee fight by lighting up one of his scimitars with Rite of the Dawn, but only used his turns to cast his Devil’s Tongue spells, Enthrall and Vicious Mockery. None of the main casters got within melee range of the crocs, for that matter; Jester, Fjord, and Caleb all stayed away and cast ranged damage dealing spells. The physical damage dealers all got within melee range after using their first round to dash in, though Beau used her first attack to throw a star and then get closer. This left Nott and Yasha as the crocs’ primary targets.

Kiri fell quickly in the first round, dodging a bite but losing consciousness to a tail attack. Despite remaining unconscious until the third round, the Mighty Nein’s assault provided an ample distraction until Jester gave her a healing word in the third round, just in time for Kiri to watch Yasha take out the first crocodile.

It’s probably not an exaggeration to call Caleb’s Haste on Nott this encounter a lifesaver. Besides inflicting an additional 15 damage thanks to the extra attack action she was able to take each turn, the Haste bumped her AC up by one to 18. After the crocodile knocked her unconscious with its tail in round 3, its bite fell just shy of enhanced armor class, failing to force two failed death throws to Nott’s tally.

The Aftermath

Despite the majority of the Nein leaning toward leaving the distress call to its own devices, Jester’s curiosity and the party’s support would lead to their meeting of theirs, yours, and our kenku daughter, Kiri (and the hundreds of critter art pieces that are so cute that we're going to die). Through their conversation with her, they learned of the darkened skies not through the army’s propaganda, but the direct effect the shadow of war had on a refugee from the conflict. Despite her family abandoning her to escape the terrors of both the swamp and the nearby residents, the Nein would learn that the crocodiles were very proficient hunters; sadly, only Kiri’s parents and one sister are still unaccounted for.