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I think crauds are a new monster. At the very least they’re one I haven’t met before.
Crauds are giant crawdads! These crustaceans are about the same height as a halfling, but bulkier. They tend to show up in large numbers in maritime and coastal areas that have suffered extensive environmental damage such as from pollution or overfishing.
In these circumstances they’re very aggressive and voracious man-eaters, raiding ships and villages with terrifying frequency. If a craud “army” shows up at your village or town, they’ll keep showing up every few days until either all of them or all of you are dead.
This causes some scholars to speculate that crauds are the vengeance of Melora made manifest and sent against those who despoil her coasts. Others defend the more mundane explanation that crauds attack sapients because their usual food sources have been driven to extiction by the environmental damage. In a world where the goddess of nature is real, though, is there any difference?
I guess non-distressed crauds normally stay mostly underwater and feed on fish and such. They’re non-sapient but have good teamwork instincts and a somewhat “hive-like” social organization where certain individuals known as Kings can direct other crauds via patterns of flashing colors and lights in their carapaces.
Sometimes an unscrupulous sea-borne villain like a pirate captain will manage to catch a craud king, torturing it in specific ways to direct its “subjects” to attack interesting targets. Coastal druids and clerics of Melora know gentler ways to secure the cooperation of these crustaceans.
Crauds are Medium Natural Beasts with the Aquatic keyword. They have darkvision, and move at speed 6 on land or in water. The effects of the Aquatic keyword haven’t changed, but in this book they’re written down on all the stat blocks as a trait: aquatic creatures can breathe underwater, and when fighting underwater gain a +2 attack bonus against non-aquatic opponents.
Impalers are lithe and quick on their feet, usually arriving at the head of a craud “army”. Their job is to tie up the opposition until their stronger cousins can arrive. They’re cautious, and become more so after being bloodied, preferring to focus on already weakened opponents.
Impalers are Level 3 Skirmishers with 51 HP. They fight using claws and some sort of pointy appendage that allows them to make an Impale attack. It has Reach 2, deals light physical damage, and inflicts ongoing 5 damage (save ends).
Impale is an encounter power, and the claws are a bit underpowered too. But the Scissor Claws at-will ability allows the impaler to make two claw attacks, and if both hit the creature immediately recharges Impale and uses it as a free action. That’s a lot of damage if everything hits.
And when the impaler misses with an attack, Scuttle allows it to shift 2 squares as a free action. So if that any component of that claw/claw/impale combo fails to hit, the beast can try to get away safely.
These are the “stronger cousins” the impalers are waiting for. Their claws are so huge they can crush a human torso, or bludgeon that human with enough force to send them flying. When they arrive, they engage the impalers’ opponents and free the impalers up to scuttle around and be skirmishers.
Crushers are Level 4 Brutes with 70 HP. Their claws do surprisingly little basic damage, but a hit with them also grabs the target. Crushers can grab one victim at a time, and can inflict automatic damage to them with a minor action. Once per encounter they can also use Hammerclaw to backhand a fool, dealing heavy damage, pushing 1 square, and knocking them prone.
If the crusher reduces anyone to 0 HP by any means, Red Tide gives them a +5 bonus to their next damage roll. This is an incentive for them to target enemies previously softened by impalers.
Craud Kings are imposing specimens whose shells are covered in bio-luminescent organs. Signals from these organs direct other crauds and boost their morale in a fight. There might be some magic involved here, as some of their light patterns have an effect on humanoids too. The creature is also a pretty good fighter itself, so its ideal location is at the forefront of the melee surrounded by loyal subjects. The best way to influence a craud force is to influence its king, as discussed in the Lore section.
Kings are Level 5 Soldiers with the Leader tag and 67 HP. Their lights project an aura (3) named Blood in the Water, giving allies a +2 bonus to attack bloodied targets.
Their claws do good damage and slide the target 1 square. Claw Flurry (recharge 5+) allows them to attack twice, and if a slid enemy ends up adjacent to one of the king’s allies, the ally gets to make a free attack too.
By changing the pattern of its lights, the King can use the Angler’s Lure ability as a minor action. This is a charm attack that does no damage, pulls the victim 3 squares, and marks it for a turn.
Finally, when the king is bloodied it prompts all of its allies to act For The King. All allies within 5 squares of the wounded sovereign immediately shifts 4 squares closer to the king and make free attacks against any enemy they end up next to.
If this had been a 3e-style entry, I’d probably have glossed over it entirely. Giant crawdads, yawn. The varied stat blocks to make them more interesting, as does the “nature’s vengeance” aspect of their lore. That’s a handy adventure hook built right into the monster entry.
I’m sure you could complete the lineup seen here with custom-made artillery crauds that fire high-pressure water jets. Or maybe you could use the “controlled by pirates” angle to pair them up with pirate musketeers.