Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Succubi Suck!

The succubus of 1e AD&D is the stuff of jokes because of the picture. Still, she was a classic femme fatale, able to lure the innocent to their doom with a come-hither gaze, copious charm spells, and a deadly kiss. She suffered from being rather fragile in a toe-to-toe fight (unless she could summon in some help), was yet another good reason for PCs to be constantly paranoid, and, honestly, was eclipsed by the more flexible and dangerous lamia.

When WotC took over,the succubus’ repertoire got broadened. She became the ultimate spy, an expert in such skills as bluffing, intimidation, impersonation, and investigation. Toss in her magical powers and she could become the true power behind the throne, a sort of Grima Wormtongue with more sex appeal.

So, what did WotC do with the succubus in 5e?

Frankly, I’m not sure.

Oh, I have the MM. She (and the incubus) are on pages 284 and 285. The flavor text talks about the succubus infiltrating the dreams of a chosen victim in order to weaken their moral resolve. That might be a fun thing to play, or a neat little side-plot to a more developed adventure (“Why is Brother Anselm always looking so tired these days? And why is he so cranky?”). It’s not, however, the sort of thing D&D adventures are typically made of. Nor is her sleep-invading power defined in any way, so exactly how you thwart it is really up to the DM.

She’s got great Deception and Persuasion skill bonuses (+9) and a good Insight bonus (+5) to back them up. But while those skills are exceptional, they’re hardly supernatural. She can still shift her form. But she’s lost all her magical abilities like suggestion except for her charm power.

Which can only be used on a single person at a time.

And only lasts 24 hours at most.

And then, when it ends, can’t be used again on the same individual for another 24 hours.

A harem of inc/succubi could be a really annoying additional obstacle in a fight; you're here to kill the Grand Warlock, but while you're attempting to put the hurt on him, his whatever-cubi buddies are hanging out in the ethereal, tossing charms and popping into the material world just long enough to drop 5d10+5 points of slobbery kootie damage on someone. But, frankly, is that cooler than a wand of lightning bolts, a flock of pet harpies, or a pair of amorous red slaadi?

To put it bluntly, I’m a bit at a loss as to what I’m supposed to do with this critter. She’d probably be most effective popping in, charming some NPC, then going ethereal while she interrogates her new best friend via her telepathic bond that can bridge planes. Useful, sure, but it would seem you could replace the monster with a nifty spell or two. Like scrying.

Scrying is one of the powers the lamia has, in addition to suggestion. She can also toss geas once per day. Her intoxicating touch, while nowhere near as potent as the old Wisdom-draining one, is a lot more fun and useful than the succubus’ boring kiss (which does nothing but deal damage and can only be used on someone she’s charmed, and even then gives the target another saving throw to break out of the charm).

The only thing that the succubus has over the lamia is the ability to go ethereal. It’s a neat trick that will allow the succubus to escape certain death most of the time (until the PCs get a way to thwart it). Whether that allows for a cool repeating villain or creates an annoying and not-fun headache for the players will depend on careful play by the DM.

As for me, right now I’m tempted to replace every inc/succubus with a lamia. They’re both rated at Challenge 4, the lamia has more neat tricks in her bag, and she’s much more likely to come across as challenging rather than annoying.

1 comment:

Norman J. Harman Jr. said...

I play with people who have been playing D&D for years if not decades. All the "normal" monsters are worthless as they know exactly all about them, often better than I remember. So MM is just a idea source. roll 3 random pages and mix'n'match creatures thereon.