Copyright 2010 Wizards of the Coast

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

Behemoths were introduced in the first Monster Manual. As you can see there, they’re basically fantasy dinosaurs. Most of them resemble the dinosaurs we learned about as kids, but the “official” association is tenuous enough that behemoths don’t have to change to conform to newer scientific developments.

The Lore

The book gives us a couple of poetic paragraphs about how behemoth steps thunder through the landscape and so on. They’re nice.

The new information here is that behemoths are always in demand for use as war beasts, so specimens young enough to train are a hot commodity. Capturing one is not easy though, because mommy behemoths fight their hardest when protecting their nests and their young. Some of them also live in really hard to reach places.

Even “tame” behemoths aren’t 100% safe. There’s always a chance they’ll flip out and turn on their handlers, and then escape to the wild after killing them. This could happen in the middle of a battle, in which case the behemoth will attack enemy and former ally alike until it can run off.

The Monsters

We get three new behemoth species here. They’re Natural Beasts as usual, and since we have a focus on behemoths that can be used as weapons they all have the Mount keyword in addition to the usual Reptile keyword. Their other traits vary per stat block, and their levels range from mid- to late- Heroic.

Bone Crown Behemoths

This is an old-school triceratops. I understand the science on those has moved on by now, but this is one of the advantages of behemoths over realistic dinosaurs. Their size is Large.

Bone crowns are herbivorous but extremely aggressive and ill-tempered. They’re a favorite of hobgoblins and troglodytes, who train them for use as unstoppable, tank-like cavalry. The “poetic” imagery in the text describes these things charging through infantry formations and coming out the other side adorned in soldier guts hanging from their crowns as if they were pennants. As you might have guessed, they have a relatively high chance to flip out and turn on their riders in the heat of battle.

Bone crowns are Level 6 Soldiers with 71 HP and Speed 7. Their basic (and only) attack action is a Head Butt that damages and marks for a turn. When used in a charge it also pushes 1 square, and when used in an opportunity attack it knocks prone.

They also have a couple of triggered actions: Threatening Bash allows them to attack a marked enemy that shifts as an interrupt. Insult to Injury is their mount power, and adds their “push 1 square” effect to their rider’s charge attacks.

Use pseudo-cavalry tactics for these: charge in from a distance, crash into the PCs, and then stay around to step on them and pin them down while your skirmishers and atrillery have fun. It’s better if the charge comes in from a flank and hits the squishies, but since the PCs aren’t an army that’s difficult to arrange.

Skinwing Behemoth

One of those giant pterodactyls. They nest in craggy mountains, and thieves often try to steal their eggs to sell to kingdoms looking to start or maintain an air force. A lot of these thieves get killed by enraged skinwing parents.

These Large behemoths are Level 7 Skirmishers with 79 HP. Their ground speed is a pitiful 2 (clumsy), but they fly at speed 8 (hover). That clumsiness means a downed skinwing will do everything in its power to take flight again as soon as possible… even abandon its rider.

Their basic attack is a bite with no special effects, but they have the famous Flyby Attack power that allows them to fly their speed, make an attack at any point, and not provoke opportunity attacks from their target. The Strafe trait allows the rider to make a basic attack in place of their mount’s bite during this maneuver.

The skinwing can also enhance a flyby attack with its Grasping Talons (recharge 5+), which allow it to grab the target if the main attack hits. They can then Drag Off the victim, carrying it with them while the grab lasts.

Skinwings fight by doing constant flyby attacks, and carrying victims off to be dropped from a great height when they can. Skinwing cavalry will coordinate with ground forces to do the same thing in a maximally inconvenient way. PCs would do well to knock them off the air as soon as possible and prevent them from taking off again.

Spirehorn Behemoth

I don’t think this Huge creature has an analog in the real world. At size Huge, they’re so big they can mount platforms transporting up to a dozen people, and they have big horns. They are the perfect vanity ride for your typical barbarian chieftain or hobgoblin general, so there is high demand for eggs and even for healthy adults. Lots of people die trying to get those.

Their actual battlefield use depends on the personality of their owners. Some are used like thrones and sit in a palace somewhere. Others are mobile fortified command centers that hang at the back of a fighting army. And others are siege engines at the front lines, transporting troops instead of a single big ego or command staff.

Spirehorns are Level 9 Elite Brutes with 234 HP. They confer the Beastmaster trait to their rider, giving them a +1 to AC and Reflex. I guess only the person actually directing the spirehorn gets the bonus. Their speed is 6.

A spirehorn’s basic attack is a gore with no special effects, and it can make Double Attacks. Once per encounter it can build up some speed and Trample, moving twice its speed. It can enter enemy spaces during this move and makes a free attack on each enemy whose space it enters.

You’re likely to see these used in battle as living siege towers, or as carriers for enemy leaders. In either case they’re going to be priority targets.

Final Impressions

Dinosaurs are awesome even when they’re called Behemoths, and with the ones in this entry plus the others we’ve seen before you have enough assemble a full force organization table for a fantasy army that uses most of them in different roles.

I think we even have enough “war beasts” at this point to make themed armies. Here’s an example:

  • Dragonborn use behemoths!

  • Hobgoblins use mammalian megafauna, dire wolves, and giant bats!

  • Elves use fey panthers and griffons!

  • Dwarves ride dire boars!

  • Kobolds use giant bugs!

  • Humans use horses and hippogriffs!

And everyone uses drakes because most of them are so common and easily tamed.