Monster Analysis: Roc (Arbor Exemplar)

  • First Appearance: 1-26 Consequences and Cows

  • Encounter Appearance: 2-66 Beneath Bazzoxan

  • Armor Class 15

  • Speed 20 ft, 120 ft flying

  • Advantage on sight-based Perception checks (+4)

  • Suggested Average, Max HP: 248, 400

    • No damage taken, turned into a bat via Polymorph

    • 11 damage to baby roc

Rocs are big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big they are. In D&D terminology, rocs are the largest size classification in the 5e Monster Manual, Gargantuan, which describes a creature at least 20 foot by 20 foot or larger. With a wingspan of around 200 feet, the roc definitely fits in that category.

Rocs live for centuries, and reproduce infrequently. Their nests are made up various mishmashed objects, ranging from trees to carts to entire ships. (The vessels may contain the valuables of their previous owners, though rocs take no interest in shiny objects). They tend to avoid settlements and places with easy cover, preferring to target much more solitary and vulnerable prey out in open landscapes.

While not necessarily intelligent creatures, the persistence of an angry roc is not to be underestimated, even in a different form. What it lacks in cunning, it more than makes up for in raw strength, heartiness, speed, and the piercing eye of a predator from the skies.

Had the Mighty Nein been a little more stealthy, they could have avoided encountering the roc altogether (but what’s the fun in that?). While they could have turned this into a battle, it wasn’t their best option. Even with seven of them and three moorbounders, the odds of one of them getting grappled and carried off to the roc’s nest to be its midmorning snack were badly in favor of the roc with its +13 attack and DC 19 to escape being grapple. If someone was to escape the grapple, they’re potentially 120 feet in the air by the time their turn comes around, so they have nowhere to escape to. Additionally, plenty of resources were exhausted just trying to climb the tree, let alone engaging against the hostile wildlife.

The Nein elected to use and abuse Polymorph to shrink the gargantuan roc into a tiny, angry bat, turn Caleb into a giant eagle, and to give Jester the best leaf costume ever. Fjord also got to put his Relentless Hex eldritch invocation to use for the first time, allowing him to teleport out of the roc’s talons and onto its back… just in time to be thrown to the ground when the roc was turned into a bat. With the Baned roc fixated on trying to bite Jester, Caleb and Beau explored its nest to find a solitary, massive, hungry baby roc, as well as some scavenged goods.

Despite taking damage through falls, pecks, and talons, the Nein eventually escaped, with 10 minutes remaining on the persistent bat’s form. After it turned back into its powerful self, the adult roc spent presumably the rest of the day searching for the individuals who trespassed on its nest, turned it into a bat (and kept stuffing it into a cloak), and (although not yet learned), smacked its baby with a stick. Fortunately for the Nein, they were able to traverse the remainder of the Barbed Fields to Bazzoxan without drawing the attention of the vengeful roc of the Arbor Exemplar, though the threat remains should they choose to trek back across the wastelands.