Manticores, The face of a man, leathery wings, a tail full of stingers, and rows of flesh and bone rending teeth packed into a nightmare mouth! These classic monsters hail originally from Persian mythology and we’re glad they found their way into Dungeons and Dragons!
Mechanically the Manticore packs a lot of fun into a CR3 frame. You want multi attack? How’s 3 attacks per round work for you? Need a beastie who can fly? 50′ fly speed will do just fine! Need ranged attacks? that tail packed with spines has a 100/200′ range on it! Plus (per the DMG) they like to smack-talk their victims while they are plugging them full of tail-spines!
Heres 5 ways to plug this classic monster into your adventures:
1) Minions need bosses! Every minion needs a boss to cower before. If you’re looking for a cool twist on the standard den of Kobolds have them work for a Manticore. While Manticores aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer (INT 7) they do speak common and they can rend Kobolds limb from limb. It can also make for a neat take on the dungeon boss. Instead of some sinister twisted mastermind you basically have the big-dumb-jock-bully running the place.
2) The solution for what ails ya… if what ails you is flying speeds or steeds: The air is a dangerous place to be in a fantasy setting sometimes. It’s easy to handwave travel dangers once your party gets some wind beneath their wings but Manticores can be a nice tool to make travel dangerous again. “But they’re only CR3,” you say! Once a party is airborne they’re usually high enough levels to drop CR3 monsters in their long rests. True, but Manticores can also hunt in packs and a pack of CR3 monsters with a ranged attack can still cause problems for those higher level characters.
3) Out of the frying pan! Remember that scene in The Hobbit (the book, let’s just all agree to try and forget the movies) where the gang ducks into a cave to weather a storm and wind up being taken captive by Goblins? If not its time for a re-read. Keep Manticore stats in your back pocket (or the back of your DM binder, or a PDF of their statblock on your device) and when your party ducks into a conveniently placed cave – you’re the DM, they want a cave give em a cave- BOOM Manticore den! They’re tough enough to make the encounter memorable without risking a TPK. Make the cave they ducked into a Manticore lair, since Manticore eat their prey whole leaving no bones behind (per the Monster Manual) there’s not a pile of ominous bones in the floor of the cave to warn the party- insert evil DM laughter here.
4) Everybody needs a pet! There are several Giants or Giant-kin who would LOVE to have a Manticore as a pet. Evil baddies also like to chain things up to guard their lairs or better yet… Some evil baddies like to have well-trained guard animals that are kept in a massive empty domed room, with a ceiling that’s say 150′ high… A Manticore on the wing is better than two on chains!
5) Nearly ANYWHERE: There are few creatures you can drop into nearly any biome or area like the Manticore. Crossing a desert? Manticore for you! Cutting your way through a humid swampy jungle? Manticore for you! Crossing a dangerous mountain pass? Manticore for you too!!!! You get a Manticore, and you get a Manticore, EVERYBODY gets a Manticore! With their utility, their ability to fly, and the very little data we have about where they are intended to live; we’re surprised Manticores don’t show up in games more often!
As you’re drawing up your plans for your next game session hopefully you’ll at least leave a little room in your calloused DM heart for a Manticore or seven!