Copyright 2008 Wizards of the Coast

This post is part of a series! Go here to see the other entries.

Panthers are real-world animals, and something like them has been in the game since the beginning. In 4e, they’re only on the Monster Manual.

The Lore

This is another one of those Monster Manual entries that focuses on fantastical versions of a mundane animal. The implied setting of D&D does have mundane panthers, but the book notes that they mostly hunt small game and avoid contact with people.

However, that setting also has supernatural panthers touched by the energies of the Feywild and Shadowfell. These are larger, stronger, and have no problem stalking humanoids that blunder into their hunting grounds. They have powers that are thematic to their home planes, and can move between them and the world at sunrise and sunset.

The Numbers

We get two stat blocks here, one each for fey and shadow panthers.

Fey Panther

This is a Medium Fey Beast, and a Level 4 Skirmisher with 54 HP. It has trained Perception and low-light vision, and moves with a ground speed of 8 and a climb speed of 6.

The fey panther’s basic attack is a Bite that also allows it to shift 1 square on a hit. Its Charging Pounce ability allows it to deal extra damage and knock the target prone on a charge.

Finally, it can also use fey step like an eladrin, teleporting 5 squares once per encounter.

These abilities add up to a fighting style where the panther tries its best to not stay engaged with a single target, using the shifts from its basic attack and the teleport from Fey Step to make sure it’s always in position to charge someone without receiving opportunity attacks.

If you really want a mundane panther, you could remove Fey Step from this one and maybe lower its level to 3.

Spectral Panther

Real-world black panthers are jaguars with a specific gene that makes them all black. D&D black panthers come from the Shadowfell!

Spectral panthers are Medium Shadow Beasts, and Level 9 Lurkers with 76 HP. They run at speed 7, and oddly seem to lack a climb speed. They have trained Perception and low-light vision.

Their name comes from the ability to assume a Spectral Form as a standard action, which turns them insubstantial and gives them a +5 bonus to Stealth (bringing the total up to +19), but makes their attacks deal half damage. Once in this form, they can use another standard action to turn Invisible. Both conditions can be ended as a free action, and invisibility also ends when the panther makes an attack.

They attack with their Claws, and when an enemy moves or shifts into an adjacent square they can also use a Tail Spike as a reaction. Both attacks deal extra damage if the panther has Combat Advantage against the target.

Overall, the spectral panther is slightly sub-par as a lurker, because it takes two turns to become invisible and the combat advantage bonus damage isn’t big enough to make up for that. You’re probably better off sticking to insubstantiality for repositioning, and relying on flanking and such to get combat advantage. Or you could change Spectral Form so it makes the panther invisible right away.

Sample Encounters and Final Impressions

We have a single sample encounter here, along with the usual statement that lots of intelligent humanoids end up keeping supernatural panthers as pets and attack animals.

The encounter is level 9: 2 spectral panthers, a dark stalker, and a pair of shadar-kai warriors.

Panthers are… okay, I guess. Their existence is a cool bit of color, but they don’t make immediately want to use them in an encounter like other monsters here did.