Manticore: A True Freak of Nature

Manticores love the taste of human flesh. That’s why, on trips through the mountains, I always travel with human guards.

Marthok Uldarr, dwarf copper merchant

That could actually be a fun basis for an encounter. Hopefully that one little blurb doesn’t completely overshadow the actual lore.

Lore: A Wicked Predator

Manticores are among the most sinister killers in the wild. They hunt in packs, working together to defeat a stronger foe; afterwards, they would share the meal. They aren’t intelligent, despite their ability to communicate in Common. While fighting, they’ll mock and torment their foes, offering to kill them quickly if they beg to the beast. However, should it decide that someone may be of value to them alive, they will let them go, provided that they can provide it a sacrifice to make up for its lost kill.

A wicked master may earn a manticore’s service, provided they treat it and feed it well. Sometimes, it fights in the air for armies of orcs or goblins. Others, it will serve as a hunting companion of a hill giant chief or guard the lair of a lamia. For an evil enough leader, the manticore could become akin to a savage trusty hound.

Like a savage hound, the manticores have fierce territorial disputes with other animals. The list is an extensive one. Chimeras, griffons, perytons, and wyverns are just a few. While they are ferocious, chimeras are terrified of dragons and do all they can to avoid them.

Sensible.

This lore is… fine. It isn’t exceptional, but you can do some fun stuff with it. Even if half of those leave the manticore itself as nothing more than an accompaniment piece to a larger, more interesting villain. Still, it has potential. A manticore could perhaps manipulate the party into trying to kill a nearby dragon in order to make its territory larger and safer. Or maybe the party can try to actually tame a manticore for some quest.

Tell me players wouldn’t go for it. You know they would.

Design: KILL IT!! KILL IT QUICKLY!!

Fucking shit, this thing is horrifying!

I am NOT a fan of its mouth. The rest isn’t much better, but it’s the mouth that gets me.

The manticore is yet another classic fantasy monster. As such, I feared its design would be predictable and boring. Boy howdy, was I not expecting this!

Each of its animalistic features seem to clash with each other. The lion’s body and fur pour onto the dragon’s wings and the mane almost seems to consume the human head (not to mention that damn mouth and the chilling teeth). Brambles from the dragon’s body poke out from all over, as if they’re trying to rip their way free. All the while, the human face is being warped and twisted by both lion and dragon, distorting it into a horrific nightmare. It gives the monster a much more disturbing appearance than other iterations have had.

Plus, the thing just looks fucking evil! This thing isn’t just gonna kill you, it’s gonna rip you apart slowly and it’s gonna enjoy every god damn second of it! Just look at its eyes! Those little yellow spheres just radiate malice!

Overall, this is a very strong design. It still holds true to the core features of the classic monster while managing to do its own thing. It’s genuinely frightening and compelling.

Stats: Ooh, Spikey

Unfortunately, the this is where the monster becomes significantly less interesting.

Once again, we have another simple slugfest. Its AC and HP aren’t particularly high, and none of its attacks are all that deadly; if it weren’t able to attack thrice per turn, the manticore would hardly be a threat.

Its only really interesting ability is its tail spikes. The manticore can hurl up to twenty-four of these at their victims. After a long rest, it can grow them all back.

Yup. That’s the most interesting part.

Placement

Overall, this is a fine monster. It has some decent lore and an absolutely incredible design. Unfortunately, the stats are just so underwhelming and boring. A sour note to end on.

With all that in mind, let’s put the Manticore on the Best of the Bestiary!

  1. Beholder
  2. Death Tyrant
  3. Dragon Turtle
  4. Green Dragons
  5. Red Dragons
  6. Blue Dragons
  7. Black Dragons
  8. White Dragons
  9. Silver Dragons
  10. Couatl
  11. Behir
  12. Aboleth
  13. Sea Hag
  14. Lamia
  15. Bronze Dragons
  16. Brass Dragons
  17. Copper Dragons
  18. Gold Dragons
  19. Chuul
  20. Kuo-Toa
  21. Gibbering Mouther
  22. Kraken
  23. Intellect Devourer
  24. Chimera
  25. Death Knight
  26. Fomorian
  27. Bone Devil
  28. Dracolich
  29. Faerie Dragon
  30. Lich
  31. Magmin
  32. Kobold
  33. Kenku
  34. Hobgoblins
  35. Night Hag
  36. Green Hag
  37. Ankheg
  38. Hook Horror
  39. Storm Giant
  40. Hill Giant
  41. Empyrean
  42. Efreeti
  43. Grimlock
  44. Dao
  45. Cloud Giant
  46. Manticore <——————
  47. Drow (all four of ’em)
  48. Shadow Demon
  49. Marilith
  50. Drider
  51. Aarackockra
  52. Azer
  53. Demilich
  54. Spectator
  55. Hydra
  56. Marid
  57. Harpy
  58. Werejackal
  59. Half-Dragon
  60. Cambion
  61. Fire Giant
  62. Animated Armor
  63. Banshee
  64. Basilisk
  65. Yochlol
  66. Bulette
  67. Cloaker
  68. Darkmantle
  69. Doppelganger
  70. Ghoul and Ghast
  71. Ettin
  72. Pit Fiend
  73. Erinyes
  74. Chain Devil
  75. Bearded Devil
  76. Barbed Devil
  77. Spined Devil
  78. Ice Devil
  79. Djinni
  80. Nalfeshnee
  81. Glabrezu
  82. Chasme
  83. Grell
  84. Barlgura
  85. Horned Devil
  86. Balor
  87. Shadow Dragon
  88. Werebear
  89. Lizardfolk
  90. Vrock
  91. Dretch
  92. Gnolls (all three)
  93. Goristro
  94. Hezrou
  95. Manes
  96. Frost Giant
  97. Weretiger
  98. Werewolf
  99. Duergar
  100. Quasit
  101. Dryad
  102. Flumph
  103. Goblin
  104. Wereboar
  105. Wererat
  106. Githyanki
  107. Planetar
  108. Imp
  109. Clay Golem
  110. Flameskull
  111. Displacer Beast
  112. Carrion Crawler
  113. Githzerai
  114. Grick
  115. Invisible Stalker
  116. Rug of Smothering
  117. Bugbear Chief
  118. Bugbear
  119. Flesh Golem
  120. Vine Blight
  121. Twig Blight
  122. Needle Blight
  123. Bullywug
  124. Hellhound
  125. Ettercap
  126. Gas Spore
  127. Cockatrice
  128. Lemure
  129. Homonculus
  130. Solar
  131. Deva
  132. Gorgon
  133. Hippogriff
  134. Griffon
  135. Cyclops
  136. Centaur
  137. Ghost
  138. Fire Elemental
  139. Water Elemental
  140. Air Elemental
  141. Stone Giant
  142. Deep Gnome
  143. Dinosaurs (All six of them)
  144. Iron Golem
  145. Stone Golem
  146. Earth Elemental
  147. Galeb Duhr
  148. Helmed Horror
  149. Flying Sword
  150. Crawling Claw
  151. Violet Fungus
  152. Shrieker
  153. Gargoyle
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