Monster Analysis: Howlers

  • Encounter Appearance: The Search for Grog

  • Armor Class: 16

  • Speed 40 ft

  • Suggested Average, Max HP: 90, 144

    • Howler 1: 91 damage taken, 5 HDYWTDT by Percy

    • Howler 2: 91 damage taken, 30 HDYWTDT by Vex’ahlia

    • Howler 3: 99 damage taken, 21 HDYWTDT by Vex’ahlia

    • Howler 4: 101 damage taken, 12 HDYWTDT by Percy

Howlers are fiends that stalk the planes of Pandemonium, but they are often found on the Lower Planes as more powerful fiends like to “domesticate” them and train them as war hounds. They respond only to brutal training which forces them to recognize the trainer as the pack’s undisputed leader. The trained pack then follows the leader without question. Both wild and trained packs rely on speed, numbers, and their mind-numbing howl to corner and devour prey. The fear they instill only makes the prey taste better.

Since Vox Machina wasn’t promptly ambushed by another fiend on top of the howlers, it’s probably safe to assume that this particular pack was a wild one. They still displayed the classic tactic of howler packs: surround the prey, stun everything you can, then take advantage of the staggering, terrified prey. In this case, the howlers only managed to stun three members of Vox Machina and friends, but it did succeed in taking Percy, Pike, and Bertrand almost entirely out of the fight. Thanks to a high initiative, Bertrand was able to get a few quick strikes in before cowering in fear, but Pike was left completely helpless, and Percy only got to clean up after Vex, Keyleth, Lieve’tel, and Scanlan all but obliterated all four creatures.

Before they could do so, however, the howlers managed to deal a huge amount of damage: their rending bites dealt massive psychic damage to all targets (standard howlers only deal the additional damage if the target is frightened), and any hits on the frightened and incapacitated members of Vox Machina were auto-crits. Thankfully, Lieve’tel was able to minimize the damage in those cases with judicious use of Sentinel at Death’s Door, and Pike’s extremely high AC kept her from taking any damage whatsoever. Since the howlers were fairly spread out, they only got to make use of their Pack Tactics and take advantage on a single round of attacks against Lieve’tel, but Scanlan was able to neutralize one hit with a Cutting Words.

Ultimately, the four howlers were no match for a mostly-level-20 Vox Machina and friends with a wide array of extraordinarily powerful items, even down two original members. This fight served as a warm-up and reminder of old abilities before going up against the real danger: the Void card’s chosen guardian of Grog’s soul.