Tactics and Tips
Know Your Enemy (Part 7)
By Eric Cagle

Lore for Will-O'-Wisps, Winter Wolves, Wraiths, Wyverns, and Xorns

Monster Manual IV introduced a sidebar that has since become the norm when new monsters are provided: the Knowledge check. This handy item takes the guesswork out of what a character (as opposed to the player) knows about a given creature and rewards those characters with ranks in the appropriate Knowledge skill. Over the course of the next few installments, we'll provide Knowledge check results for a variety of monsters, starting with some of the most iconic that lack this sidebar.

We're at the end of the alphabet now, as we look into the lore of the will-o'-wisp, winter wolf, wraith, wyvern, and xorn.

Will-O'-Wisp Lore

Will-o'-wisps are clever and insidious creatures that roam swamps and brackish wetlands. They are commonly mistaken for lanterns or torches in the thick mists.

Knowledge (Arcana)

A Peek Behind the Rules Curtain

So how do designers determine the Difficulty Class for Knowledge checks about creatures? The following is excerpted from Monster Manual IV:

The description of the Knowledge skill indicates that in general, the baseline DC of checks to identify monsters and remember one bit of useful information about their special powers or vulnerabilities is equal to 10 + the monster's HD. Every 5 points by which the check result exceeds the DC yields another useful piece of information (PH 78).

As a general rule of thumb, a DC 15 check or higher will reveal all of the base creature's type and subtype traits as defined in the glossary. This often includes information about energy resistance or various immunities. For instance, a DC 15 Knowledge (arcana) check reveals that dragons have high hit points (12-sided HD), all good saves, and have darkvision out to 60 feet and low-light vision. They eat, sleep, and breathe.

Information specific to the creature, such as its type of damage resistance, spell-like abilities, or immunities come with the high DC check results.

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (arcana) can learn more about will-o'-wisps. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.

DC Result

19 This floating, glowing orb is actually a creature called a will-o'-wisp. This result reveals all aberration traits and the air subtype.

24 Will-o'-wisps can fly with remarkable agility. They are completely immune to most spells or spell-like effects, and they attack by inflicting powerful electrical shocks.

29 When startled or frightened, a will-o'-wisp can extinguish its glow, effectively turning it invisible. Although immune to most spells or spell-like effects, they are affected by magic missile and maze.

Winter Wolf Lore

Characters expecting a regular wolf are in for a surprise when they face one of these creatures.

Knowledge (Arcana)

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (arcana) can learn more about winter wolves. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs. Knowledge (nature) can also be used, but all check DCs increase by 5.

DC Result

15 This result reveals all magical beast traits and cold subtype.

20 Like regular wolves, winter wolves can make trip attacks after a successful bite attack. They are remarkably intelligent and can speak Common and Giant.

25 Winter wolves are so named because their bite produces freezing cold. They have a breath weapon -- a cone of cold. Winter wolves are immune to cold and vulnerable to fire.

Wraith Lore

Wraiths, the "cousins" of spectres and other incorporeal undead, inspire the same sort of dread as spectres. Because their victims turn into additional wraiths, adventurers are wise to find ways to combat them ahead of time.

Knowledge (Religion)

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (religions) can learn more about wraiths. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.

DC Result

15 This sinister incorporeal creature is a wraith. This result reveals all undead traits.

20 Animals balk at the presence of a wraith and flee if they come within 30 feet of one. They are highly intelligent and speak both Common and Infernal.

25 The mere touch of a wraith drains the target's Constitution, granting the wraith additional unlife. A humanoid slain by a wraith becomes one itself soon after death. Wraiths are resistant to turning attempts.

30 Wraiths are powerless in sunlight and flee from it. When exposed to sunlight, they cannot attack and can barely move. Larger and far more powerful versions, called dread wraiths, are sometimes seen.

Wyvern Lore

Dumb and brutish, wyverns fill the role of regular dragons, without all the baggage. Wyverns commonly serve as mounts for other evil creatures, making a particularly deadly combo.

Knowledge (Arcana)

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (arcana) can learn more about wyverns. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs. Knowledge (nature) can also be used, but all check DCs increase by 5.

DC Result

15 This large reptilian creature resembles a dragon, but it is in fact a wyvern. This result reveals all dragon traits.

20 Wyverns are clumsy fliers. They have stingers on the end of their tails that deal poison damage and are proficient at grabbing prey.

25 Wyverns are stupid creatures, but they can speak Draconic. Wyverns are often used as steeds for more powerful creatures.

Xorn Lore

Another classic from long ago, xorns are relatively common opponents in the deep, dark dungeons in which characters seem to find themselves.

Knowledge (the Planes)

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (the planes) can learn more about xorns. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.

DC Result

15 This bizarre creature is a xorn, a native of the Elemental Plane of Earth. This reveals all outsider traits and earth subtype.

20 Xorns have all-around vision and can glide through earth and stone as if they were swimming -- they do not leave behind any trace of their passage. Xorns can sense the presence of creatures by the small tremors they produce on the ground.

25 Xorns are immune to cold and fire, and they are resistant to electricity. There are several different shapes and sizes of xorns. Some grow to tremendous size and are known as elder xorns. Xorns ignore most creatures (since they cannot digest meat), unless they carry substantial amounts of metal or stone on them.

Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, Player's Handbook.

About the Author

Eric Cagle cut his teeth at Wizards of the Coast, but now lives the extravagant freelancer lifestyle. Look for his name on D&D, d20 Modern, and Star Wars books. Recent credits include d20 Apocalypse, Races of Destiny, and Monster Manual III. He is also a contributor to the Game Mechanics, Green Ronin Publishing, Dragon Magazine, and this lovely website. Eric lives in Seattle where the coffee is dark and bitter like his goddesses.


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