Yuan-ti Suck

At least, the do in 4e. Yuan-ti used to put the fear of Zehir in me in previous editions though, what happened? Yuan-ti are supposed to be odious, insidious creatures that worship the god of darkness with an unhealthy obsession with enslaving and frankensteining every creature they come across. They should be loathed and feared but in 4th edition they’ve been reduced to “Generic Monster that deals ongoing poison”. Wow WotC, what a way to drain the awesomeness.

I’m thinking about it now and one of the reasons I think they were so fearsome in previous editions is because each yuan-ti defied any one role, having lots of interesting choices and features. There were no roles back then, no strikers or controllers, so the monsters pretty much had a bevy of options and what you used and the way you played them basically defined what kind of role they took in battle. In 4th edition, and to their credit, the designers have separated the tactics commonly used by the monsters into roles, denying some creatures some features in order to have them solely focus on others. This has made for a great streamlined and more variable combat setting. The 3.5 yuan-ti abomination had Produce Acid, an effect that deals damage to you when you hit them, something in the realm of a skirmisher or brute power now. But they also had Baleful Polymorph so they could turn you into a tiny useless viper, definitely something of a controller power in 4th edition. Okay, so what does the 4e yuan-ti abomination look like that WotC has written? They’re a soldier: they deal ongoing 5 poison damage and mark you as their basic melee, they can pull you and grab you as a minor and then they can bite you for poison damage and ongoing 10 poison damage when they have you grabbed. That’s it.

Simplicity is important in 4e. I get it. But the once-terrifying abomination has become nothing more than a re-skinned hook horror. There’s nothing in there at all about darkness, there’s nothing in there about their unholy zealotry, and if you knew you were going up against them and forgot to get some (relatively easy to come by) poison resistance, that’d pretty much be the only thing to get really worried about.

Enough griping. I’m changing them. I’m fixing them. And I’m posting them up here for you to bring the fear back into your players’ hearts when they find out they’re dealing with yuan-ti.

Some notes on the improvements:

  • The new Produce Acid is almost just like the babau’s aura, and this is a nasty thing on a soldier. Marking a PC and then damaging them for hitting back is mean, but so are yuan-ti; they’re insidious and cruel and this feature is perfect for them.
  • Devour Minion is going to be great for when the abomination is surrounded by his pureblood devotees (stay tuned for those); they’re going to keep the big one up and swinging because Zehir won’t let you into Samaragd if you just died without protecting one of his children. I took it, ironically, from the Tiamat’s Red Hand monster theme. Shouldn’t I have used the Snaketongue Cultist monster theme? Actually there are some nice features in that one too, but this one made more sense I felt for the imposing abomination. He is, after all, an abomination.
  • Deeper Darkness was how they got you in previous editions. It sucked to be in the dark, and that’s where the fear comes from. These creatures are born from darkness. They need darkvision, and they need to abuse those who don’t have it.

I want to throw a lot more into the abomination, but I’m going to withhold the temptation. I don’t feel like this is too complicated of a monster right now; it’s just complex enough to keep the PCs nervous, but if they come prepared they should be able to match this guy, and now, feel better about themselves for taking down a more fearsome foe.

Instead of inundating you with all my other design edits to one of the most detestable creatures in D&D, I’ll be feeding them to you piecemeal, so check back for more revolting and molting vipers later!

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