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Actaeon (Elk Centaur)

by Sheldon Morris

The actaeon is a creature embodying the majesty of the elk, in a 9 ft. tall humanoid form. Its head, including a set of impressive antlers, along with its lower legs, are those of an elk. The remainder of its body is shaped like that of a human, and it is fully covered with hide like that of an elk.

Woodland Watcher. The solitary actaeon is always on the watch, well camouflaged among the woodland's terrain and foliage. They are the protectors of the creatures there, ensuring that no undue harm comes to them. When the actaeon encounters one of these vile acts, this otherwise serine and gentle giant springs forth to protect those under its charge, seemingly out of the woods itself. This has lead to folklore of the actaeon being able to enter trees in a manner similar to that of the dryads, although they are false.

Renowned Heroes. Actaeons are part of the woodland community, along with normal forest creatures and other inhabitants such as druids, centaurs, and dryads. Partly due to their fierce bravery, and partly to their rarity, actaeons are renowned heroes within these circles. An actaeon's call for assistance would never be denied by a member of this community.

Large giant, neutral
Armour Class 15 (natural armour)
Hit Points 110 (13d10 + 39)
Speed 40 ft.
16 (+3)|12 (+1)|17 (+3)|12 (+1)|14 (+2)|11 (+0)
Skills Nature +4, Perception +5, Survival +5
Senses passive Perception 15
Languages Common, Sylvan
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)

Innate Spellcasting. The actaeon's innate spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with spell attacks). The acteon can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
1/day each: conjure animals (may also call upon centaurs and griffons), pass without trace

Multiattack. The actaeon makes three melee attacks: two with its spear and one with its antlers.

Spear. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft. or range 30/90 ft., one target.
Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) piercing damage, or 12 (2d8 + 3) piercing damage if used with two hands to make a melee attack.

Antler. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.
Hit: 12 (2d8 + 3) bludgeoning damage.

Polymorph Breath (Recharges after a Short or Long Rest). The actaeon exhales a 10-foot cone of transforming gases. The effect is similar to the Polymorph spell with the following changes. Each creature in the area must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be polymorphed into a normal forest creature (owl, squirrel, deer, etc.) with a CR of 0. The polymorph effect lasts for 1 hour. If the saving throw failed by 5 or more, then the effect lasts for 24 hours.

We get to start off with a bit of a tough one, although I really enjoyed delving into this one, especially since I don't think I've ever used it in a game. The notes and comments will be done roughly in the order of "Creating a Monster Stat Block" begining on page 275 of the DMG since I generally follow that in the conversion process.

I went back and forth between the giant type and monstrosity. The actaeon isn't too different than a minotaur, which is a monstrosity for example, but monstrosities are mentioned as "not truly natural, and almost never benign". That part didn't feel to sit right, while giants appear to be able to be more than just really big humans, including such creatures as ogres and trolls. Thus, giant just felt better.

Ability scores are always tough to gauge. For its STR I took its "Load" values and compared them to various other animals. The actaeon had the same load capacity of a riding horse in the RC, which has a STR score of 16 in 5E. That sounded fine to me. INT is given in the RC so I used that, and the rest I just played around with.

The next step is quite an important one from a design and concept standpoint - what is your expected Challenge Rating for the creature? One of the conversion guides I found online (through a link someone posted here on the Piazza) has a chart comparing Basic XP values to 5E CR values. It suggested a CR of 11 or 12. That seemed too high for this particular creature, and in fact it was too difficult for me to get the actaeon to such an actual CR. So I ended up lowering it to about half that, which is where it ended up falling to anyway.

The conversion guide I just mentioned also has a good suggestion for ACs; 19 minus the AC in Basic should be a good approximation for the AC in 5E. That formula gives 19-3=16. The suggested AC for a CR 6 creature in 5E is 15, so I gave it a +4 natural armour on top of its +1 for DEX, for a total of 15. The 'normal'/most common natural armour bonus range is between +1 and +3.

Its HPs are low, even for a CR 6 creature, however I used a higher "effective" HP value to reflect the additional health of summoned animals through its Conjure Animals spellcasting ability. This is an example of how traits, features, and other abilities can be used to affect the CR calculation.

Speaking of which, I think the spell Conjure Animals does a good job of handling the actaeon's ability to "summon woodland creatures". The spell allows the summoning of "Beast" creature types, but I included centaurs and griffons specifically as a nod to the RC ability. They still fall in the summonable CR ranges of the spell, although treants do not, thus I excluded them.

The ability in the RC of the actaeon being able to "camouflage itself perfectly in light or dense woods" has been translated as equivilent to the Ranger's "Hide in Plain Sight" feature. I think the two concepts are essentially the same so why make up a new feature.

Lastly (for this post anyway), there is the polymorph breath ability. It is indeed "powerful" as it appears in the RC. Too powerful in my humble opinion, and not really 'fun' for the game and the players. I toned it down, i.e. made the successful save actually successful, but also used a 'degrees of failure' mechanic to keep some potency.

This one was a little long (partly because it's a more powerful creature and partly because it's the first one). I may post some additional comments and more details of how some of the stats effect the CR level.