Last Updated on November 9, 2023
Large Monstrosity, Lawful Evil
- Size: Large
- Creature Type: Monstrosity
- Alignment: Lawful Evil
- STR 17 (+3), DEX 16 (+3), CON 17 (+3), INT 7 (-2), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 8 (-1)
- Armor Class: 14 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 68 (8d10 + 24)
- Speed: 30 ft., fly 50 ft.
- CR (XP): 3 (700 XP)
- Senses/Languages: Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 11 / Common
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
- Damage / Condition Resistance / Immunity: None
- Skills: None
- Saving Throws: None
Tail Spike Regrowth. The manticore has twenty-four tail spikes. Used spikes regrow when the manticore finishes a long rest.
Multiattack. The manticore makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws or three with its tail spikes.
- Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) piercing damage.
- Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) slashing damage.
- Tail Spike. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 100/200 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) piercing damage.
What Is a Manticore?
A manticore is a large, CR 3 monstrosity with a human-like head and face, the body of a big cat, and the leathery wings of a dragon. It also has a barbed tail that ends in a cluster of long quills like a porcupine, which the manticore can shoot at its enemies from a distance.
While not especially intelligent, manticores nevertheless possess a low cunning and speak the common tongue. They often taunt their victims, demanding they surrender in exchange for a quick death or use their voices to lure enemies into ambushes.
They are disdainful, pride-fueled creatures, believing themselves superior in strength to anything smaller than they are and smarter than everything else.
Manticores can attack enemies from up to 200 feet away using their tail spikes. While their “ammunition” is limited, a manticore can still shoot quills at a party for eight straight rounds (shooting three spikes per round with a +5 to hit) before it needs to make a decision whether to close to melee range.
Even if the players do have ranged attack options at their disposal, manticores have solid AC (14) and a sizable hit-point pool.
Also, their 50-foot flying speed means that a manticore in its favorite terrain can easily emerge from behind some rocks, fire a volley of spikes at its prey, and be back into three-quarters (or even full) cover on the same round.
Then, they rinse and repeat until they’re out of tail spikes.
Then, when a manticore does close to melee range, it brings a hefty claw-claw-bite multi-attack to the party, which can dish out about 20 points of damage every round.
How To Defeat a Manticore
As a budding 1st-level adventurer, fighting a manticore can be a seriously challenging prospect.
Unless you have serious ranged capabilities (a ranger with a longbow or a warlock with Eldritch Blast), your party might seriously struggle to even tag the beast.
At a point in the game when a manticore has a chance to down a 1st-level sorcerer or wizard with a single tail spike, having to weather a hail of three of them every turn with no way to meaningfully close the distance can feel like a nightmare.
In these situations, the best tactic is probably to get under cover — indoors, ideally somewhere you can take pot shots at the manticore without it getting a full view of you.
Although, keep in mind that it can move faster than most characters in all three dimensions, so just getting behind something isn’t a permanent solution.
Fight at Range or Close the Gap
Next, if your party lacks ranged damage or control options, you’re going to have to find ways to close the gap.
Still, for a low-level party (especially if you’re facing more than one manticore), the best option may not revolve exclusively around combat.
Play on the Manticore’s Ego and Arrogance
The manticore’s combination of stupidity and a complete belief that it’s the smartest creature in the world is probably a more potent weapon in your arsenal than any sword or arrow.
Get a manticore talking — whether you’re making a long-winded surrender speech, offering it something, or simply playing to its vanity — and you may be able to force it to land.
Now, they still have pretty high Wisdom, but if you’re looking for a way to give an opening to the party barbarian (ideally carrying a big net), a clever bard may be able to get you there.
Of course, if you’re spotted, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get a second chance. And, with that 50-foot flying speed, you’d probably need a horse to put any meaningful distance between you and it.
Honestly, the best way to survive a manticore encounter might not be to outrun the beast; it might simply be to outrun your least favorite NPC.
Why You Need To Run a Manticore Encounter in Your Next Campaign
I cannot express just how much I love the manticore in D&D 5e, not just as a monster, but as a piece of game design.
When I run D&D for low-level play, I have four broad categories of enemies that I like to cycle through (or just throw at my players all at once):
- Undead (like ghouls, skeletons, and zombies)
- “Monstrous” non-humans (like gnolls, kobolds, or goblins)
- Cults (sometimes working alongside the “monstrous” humanoids above)
- Flying alpha predators (like griffons and perytons but especially manticores).
I think each of these groups acts as a thesis statement for what I like about low-level (1-5, otherwise known as Tier I) play in D&D 5e.
I feel like this could be a whole article in and of itself.
So, let’s break down exactly why I think manticores are such a well-realized part of the D&D 5e Monster Manual, why they’re so fun to use (and roleplay), and how you can use them to their fullest potential.
For a creature with such a simple stat block, manticores actually give a dungeon master a fair amount of stuff to do.
I think this actually makes them a better “teaching monster,” both for DMs looking to get the hang of running combat (one manticore is a lot easier and arguably more interesting to run than half a dozen goblins) and players.
This only works, however, if you play the manticores as cunning creatures. I’m not saying they’re smart. They’re not smart.
They’re vain, prideful, greedy, and petty. They want to dominate, terrorize, kill, and feast upon weaker creatures, but they’re also not dumb beasts like a wolf or a bear.
Their stupidity is a very human kind of stupidity, and I think that makes them not just really fun to roleplay (and run in combat) but very easy for your players to hate.
It takes some finesse, however. Charge straight in with a manticore and even a low-level party will burst them down in a few rounds.
Fighting the Manticore
When the attacks begin in earnest, it’s all about starting with the tail spikes. The manticore can cheerfully pepper the party with them from cover.
If it kills someone or knocks them unconscious, it swoops down and drags their body away. If it doesn’t, it backs off, stalking the party over a series of days like a wolf or a lion.
Also, if the party proves numerous or strong enough to pose a real threat (or starts to hunt the manticore), the manticore leaves, visiting the territories of its neighbors to assemble a hunting pack.
The next time the players rest, they hear more than one voice calling to them from beyond the edge of the fire. The last thing the players are going to think before the spikes start flying is, “Why didn’t we just stay home?”
- About Author
- Latest Posts
I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.