Crag Cats are a relatively new addition to the D&D catalog of monsters. They take the stealthy element of cats, even larger cats, and turn it up to 11 with a magical twist.
These creatures, officially monstrosities, are a relatively low challenge rating for a magic cat-beast larger than a horse. Of course, between their intelligent tactics and the possibilities of a pack of the creatures, these Crag Cats can be genuinely dangerous. While these cats are capable of dangerous ambushes and underhanded tactics, their magical abilities can also be a fascinating addition to the plot of any campaign.
Did you know that the first instance of Crag Cats in D&D was in the adventure Storm King’s Thunder?
Crag Cat Stats
So, what can a Crag Cat do? Here are their basic stats and abilities:
- STR 16 (+3), DEX 17 (+3), CON 16 (+3), INT 4 (-3), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 8 (-1)
- AC: 13 (natural armor)
- Hitpoints: 4d10+12 (34 avg)
- Speed: 40 ft., climb 30 ft.
- Skills: Perception (+4), Stealth (+7)
- Senses: 60 ft. of darkvision, and 14 Passive Perception
- Challenge Rating: 1
These stats are pretty standard for what Crag Cats are: a big cat. However, what makes them special is their ability to resist magic.
To start with, the cats have the power of Nondetection; they cannot be targeted or detected by any divination magic or perceived through magical sensors of any kind. When it comes to magic, these cats are less identifiable than ghosts. Moreover, they have Spell Turning. The cats have advantage on the save of any spell that directly targets them and only them, and if they succeed on the save, the spell is bounced back to affect the caster instead. That includes particularly nasty spells like Disintegrate and Imprisonment.
When it comes to combat, Crag Cats have two main melee options: Bite and Claw. The former does 1d10+3 piercing damage, and the latter does 1d8+3 slashing damage. Both have +5 to hit. However, these cats can also make use of their bonus actions. If a Crag Cat moves at least 20 feet straight toward an enemy, they can use Pounce. If they successfully hit with a claw attack, the target has to make a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. If the target fails, the cat can make a bonus bite attack.
Environment & Behavior
Crag Cats live primarily in mountainous terrain, though officially, they can be at home anywhere (except for the deep forest). At the end of the day, they are quintessentially large cats built for camouflage in rocky terrain and the snowy world. However, their behavior is a little more sinister than an ordinary snow leopard. These cats have a taste for human flesh.
Being magical creatures, their intelligence is a little higher than the ordinary beast, and they use that to lure people into ambushes with a cry that sounds like a human scream and track people until they camp for the night, exhausted. While these cats are still animals, they have enough intelligence to pull dangerous moves. They might look like cats, but they behave like predators designed to hunt people.
Often, the Crag Cat will be encountered on its own. Despite being only a CR 1 encounter, you can expect to face environmental or situational difficulties if you face these monsters in their own territory. Crag Cats are likely to attack the party when they’re on thin ledges or in crevasses where the cat can use its climb speed to its advantage. Crag Cats don’t have a high hit-point total, but if they can get back to total cover between their turns, that low hit point won’t matter.
These cats are also excellent at picking their battles. If you or your party camp out in the mountains, you should be sure to set up watches. Crag cats might also try to attack you while you’re sleeping, and while a single cat might not pose too much of a risk to a mid-level party, a pack of them surprising you in the night might. Remember that Crag Cats have Nondetection, and your DM might rule that means the Alarm spell doesn’t work on cats.
For players looking to strike back against Crag Cats, the tactics are simple. Don’t rely on magic. Crag Cats can be effective, but if you can tailor your tactics to avoid rather than overwhelm their magical defenses, you can reduce them to the effectiveness of dire wolves. In fact, dire wolves might even be a little more effective than Crag Cats with their ability to use pack tactics.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll be trivial, but it does mean you can use more traditional anti-beast tactics against them. Fog Cloud, traps & pits, keeping the party together, and readied actions can all be perfectly effective against these cats without having to face their ability to reflect spells and hide from magic.
Crag Cats Out of Combat
While these cats certainly have their place as an encounter for low- and mid-level parties, they can actually be more interesting outside of a traditional encounter setting. The cats’ complete and permanent nondetection creates an excellent opportunity for hiding things, either for the players or the DM. Having a massive cat swallow a key item and run away is a great plot point, especially if that item is magical.
As a DM, you might even consider what would happen if a Lich’s phylactery found its way inside one of these cats. That CR 1 might get boosted a lot higher.
Nondetection isn’t the only homebrew opportunity here either. Crag Cats are Large, which means they can be used as mounts by smaller creatures. Spell-resistant cat cavalry could make for a critical save or a deadly foe. While Crag Cats can be an interesting foe, they can be a lot more interesting woven into a campaign than a one-off combat encounter.
Crag Cats might be a new addition to the D&D universe without much lore, but they are definitely a monster rich in potential. Spell reflection combined with nondetection makes a creature perfect for ambushing magic users, especially in groups. While Crag Cats are still vulnerable to a suite of spells, including aoes, they are an excellent tool in the DM’s toolbox for handling specific kinds of magic users.
Mages who rely heavily on divination or save-or-suck spells will definitely be forced to improvise and think on their feet when facing these cats, and the cats can even be a way for your players to solve problems. After all, a Beholder vs. several of these cats could be a very interesting fight.
Even putting aside the potential for homebrew and nonstandard use of these cats, Crag Cats can make excellent challenges for lower-level parties who might be able to take the cat in a straight fight but will be challenged when there are additional environmental challenges. Consider including a Crag Cat ambush alongside an avalanche or in a survival-oriented campaign where freezing to death is a real danger.
However you decide to include these spell-reflecting cats, as long as you lean into the situation and into the concept, you’ll be able to create a vivid and memorable encounter.