Today’s monster is the Battlebriar, a plant creature that’s entirely new to me. It exists only on the Monster Manual.
Battlebriars are weaponized biotech! These plant monsters were created to serve as living siege engines. A direct quote from the book: “They can destroy massed formations of lesser troops, storm defended embankments, or bring down fortifications.”
Being plants, these living engines of destruction are surprisingly low-maintenance. As long as a battlebriar has access to water, fertile soil and sunlight, it can live forever. This makes them good guardians in addition to being siege weapons. Fey creatures like to use them to guard their strongholds. Other battlebriar users include Hill Giants, which I found quite interesting. Sometimes they also escape their masters and go live in the wild.
Battlebriars are Unaligned and have Int 3, so PCs are most likely to fight them when going against their masters. A wild battlebriar will likely leave the PCs alone if they don’t provoke it, though of course they might have no alternative if it’s blocking their goal.
We’re given two stat blocks for these things.
The Warthorn Battlebriar is a Large natural animate (plant), and a Level 14 Controller with 141 HP and a ground speed of 6. It has an aura of Grasping Thorns, with a 2-square radius, that makes its area difficult terrain for enemies and deals 5 damage to any that start their turns there. This thing has dozens of branches constantly flailing around!
Aside from a reach 2 claw as a basic attack, it can also fire thorns from those branches in a close burst 2. This targets Reflex, dealing damage an slowing targets for a turn. Furthermore, its claw attacks pull victims towards the monster. Getting away from this thing is quite hard: you’re slowed, in difficult terrain, and when you manage to get away it pulls you back. It also has threatening Reach, and so can make opportunity out to its full reach of 2 squares.
Its big brother is the Earthrager Battlebriar, a Huge elemental animate (plant). It’s a Level 28 Elite Brute with 634 HP, a ground speed of 8 and a burrow speed of 6. It’s made out of vines rather than thorny brambles, so its 3-square aura pulls enemies towards it. It’s the Reach 3 claws that do the slowing. It also has threatening reach, and it can trample - that last bit is how it attacks several characters at once.
It resembles the Tarrasque in its tactics when on the offensive. When used as a guardian, it burrows and uses tremorsense to detect intruders, erupting below them to fight.
The suggested encounter is level 14, a Warthorn being used as a weapon by a party of 2 cyclopes and 3 hill giants.
Living siege engines are always cool, and these are nicely thematic for fey or elemental Earth-themed opposition. I liked them. Like every other MM monster, they need the damage fix, but other than that I see no fault with them. I like that their abilities match their in-world roles. The warthorn is your infantry killer, and the Earthrager with its burrowing and trampling ability makes short work of castles and walls.
The Earthrager is the sort of weapon a mortal or fey army would round up to fight the Tarrasque… or, since it’s elemental, it might itself be a prototype or herald for the Big T.