D&D Monster Monday: Firenewt Warrior

Take a relaxing bath in the hot springs they said. You deserve a break after saving the village they said! Well, now we’re surrounded by a band of firenewt warriors. Great!

I was flipping through Volo’s this week to find a perfect creature to feature. I’ll be upfront in saying I wanted to showcase something cute looking and I couldn’t choose between the firenewt or the grung. So in a truly professional fashion, I flipped a coin and here we are.

Firenewts are, well, newts that have an intense attraction to hot climates and locations such as hot springs, volcanoes, or any area with hot and wet conditions. While they’re immune to any form of fire damage, they’re also still amphibious newts so they can still thrive in the water.

Firenewts need to have an intense source of heat nearby them at all times. Even just a week away from such a climate causes them to be sluggish and they will eventually go into forced hibernation.

All of this sounds cute until you get to the part about them being militant cult-like followers of a super-evil fire elemental. Yeah, things are about to get interesting here.

Grab your towels because it’s time to wade into the hot springs in Volo’s Guide to Monsters to find the firenewt warrior!

They look adorable until you realize they’re armed. Credit: WotC.

Firenewt Warrior Lore

A firenewt community consists of a network of tunnels dug into the earth in a hot location. Firenewts will dig towards large sources of heat such as lava or hot mud. Once they find such a heat source they will direct the hot liquid throughout the tunnels they dug, heating the entire community.

These spicy amphibians blindly follow the Prince of Evil Fire, Imix and because of that, firenewt society trends towards being wrathful, cruel, and warlike.

Warlocks of Imix are typically seen as leaders in firenewt society as they have a direct connection to Imix. They lead squads of firenewt warriors on raids and battles to obtain treasure, land, and resources for their community. They also preach that successful firenewt warriors will be “touched by the Fire Lord” and be granted god-like powers in battle.

Firenewts have no need or desire for prisoners, often sacrificing those they capture. Generally, though, they will slay everything and everyone in their way. Volo’s states that “if two groups of firenewt come upon each other . . . a bloody battle is the usual result”. They will fight until there is only one group remaining.

Firenewts have a symbiotic relationship with the monstrous beast, the giant strider, which is a large bird/reptilian-like creature that firenewts ride as a mount. This creature can breathe fire and travel vast distances.

Firenewt Warrior Stats and Abilities

You can find the firenewt warrior’s statblock on page 142 of Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

Stats

Size: Medium humanoid (firenewt)
AC: 16 (chain shirt, shield)
HP: 22 (4d8 + 4)
Speed: 30 ft.
STR: 10 (+0)
DEX: 13 (+1)
CON: 12 (+1)
INT: 7 (-2)
WIS: 11 (+0)
CHA: 8 (-1)

Let’s start with the good since we don’t have all that much of it in this part of the statblock. The firenewt warrior’s base defenses are quite decent. 16 AC and 22 HP at CR 1/2 is pretty good, especially since they have immunity to fire damage. They’re not going to be easy for a low-level party to take down at the very least.

Their ability score spread is quite awful. It’s somehow worse than the goblin’s which is a whole CR tier lower than it! The firenewt warrior doesn’t have a single ability score higher than a +1. While thankfully both of these +1’s are in common saving throw abilities, that bodes poorly for their damage output.

Sure, it’s nice that they have a relatively (for a 1/2 CR creature) decent chance of making important saving throws. However, it’s not so nice that they had to essentially sacrifice their potential damage output to get that perk. Seriously, I’d take the goblin’s array over this one for a low-CR creature any day.

Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills

Damage Immunities: fire
Senses: passive Perception 10
Languages: Draconic, Ignan
CR: 1/2 (100 XP)

Immunity to fire damage is to be expected. I mean, they’re called firenewts for a reason. Still, it’s an extremely common low-level damage type for spellcasters thanks to commonly-taken offensive spells like Fire Bolt and Burning Hands.

Their passive Perception honestly isn’t bad for their CR. What’s surprising is that a creature that is known for digging tunnels and mining doesn’t have darkvision. Presumably, this means that the tunnels and sluices in their homes are well-lit making it tough for a party of adventurers to sneak around.

CR 1/2 is an o.k. rating for them. I think they are definitely on the lower end of the spectrum for sure though.

Traits and Abilities

Amphibious. The firenewt can breath air and water.

I was pretty surprised to see that firenewts don’t have any swim speed even though they can live perfectly fine underwater. They even seem to have semi-webbed hands and feet!

Giving them swim speed could be a great homebrew opportunity. Thanks to their fire immunity they could even swim through lava. Oh, the fun you could have with swim speed in a volcano with a low-level party!

Actions

Multiattack. The firenewt makes two attacks with its scimitar.

Scimitar. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) slashing damage.

Spit Fire (Recharges after a Short or Long Rest). The firenewt spits fire at a creature within 10 feet of it. The creature must make a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw, taking 9 (2d8) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

At first, I was hyped up to see a CR 1/2 creature with Multiattack. That’s some solid action economy value. However, after taking into account their +3 to hit and 4 damage per Scimitar attack it’s not all that spectacular.

To put this into perspective, the orc which is also a CR 1/2 creature, can deal 10 damage with their single attack per turn at +5 to hit. Over two attacks the firenewt warrior can dish out 8 points of damage at +3 to hit. Sure, not all same-CR creatures are equal, but that’s a decent difference at this level of play.

Spit Fire is a unique rechargeable action for the firenewt warrior. While it’s a better option than their Multiattack in both average damage output and the fact that it deals at least some guaranteed damage, it’s still not fantastic.

Spit Fire‘s 10 ft. range is pretty poor, plus it only targets a single creature, unlike other breath weapon attacks. The DC 11 Dexterity saving throw is also not very threatening. This wouldn’t be an issue if it had maybe a recharge time of 4-6, but it requires an entire short or long rest to use this ability again.

It’s the firenewt warrior’s strongest attack, but that’s not saying much.

Firenewt Warrior Strengths

Decent Defenses

There’s not a whole lot to talk about here that I haven’t already mentioned. Regardless, the firenewt warrior’s primary strength is their respectable defenses.

16 AC is great for a creature with a +1 Dex modifier. They’re seriously well-armored when you take that into account. Their 22 HP is also quite good for a CR 1/2 creature. They’re not going to go down without giving the party a good fight.

While I still don’t love their ability score array it does at least give them a fighting chance to make saving throws against a low-level party. Would I prefer them to have a +2 or +3 in Dexterity instead of this? Absolutely, but beggars can’t be choosers.

The 3e firenewt warrior artwork is adorable. Still deadly, but look at that face! Credit: WotC.

Average Damage

8 damage per round isn’t the greatest average damage for a CR 1/2 creature, but it’s not the worst either. If anything it’s at least average. It’s also nice that their primary source of damage is a Multiattack so they can at least have two attempts per round at dealing a bit of chip damage to the party.

Thanks to their decent defenses prolonged combat with a few firenewt warriors could prove to be deadly for a low-level party.

Spit Fire while it has its issues does have a couple of benefits going for it. For starters, it’s at least guaranteed damage. Even if the target makes the save they still take half damage. It also has quite a bit of variance in its damage output thanks to its 2d8 roll. A lucky roll could prove to be deadly for a low-level PC.

Firenewt Warrior Weaknesses

Spit Fire Needs Some Love

Its damage is pretty decent, but it’s a bit too restricted. Most breath weapon-stye attacks (such as the half-red dragon’s) have a recharge rate so Spit Fire should be no exception to the rule. However, it also only targets one creature with its attack and the creature has to be no more than 10 ft. away from the firenewt.

I think that being able to only use Spit Fire so infrequently is too harsh. It should at least target a few creatures in a small line or cone if it should have that long of a recharge rate.  Alternatively, you could instead have it target one creature but increase the range.

Regardless, it’s a flavorful ability with quite a bit of damage potential, but in its current state, I think it hurts more than it helps. I’d rather be able to use the action more frequently and deal less damage than have such a high-variance attack be usable once in an encounter.

Mediocre Ability Scores

Can our fiery lizard friends please get a +2 modifier?

It reaaaally sucks not having more than a +1 modifier in a creature’s offensive ability. WotC is even taunting me with this ability score spread with the 13 in Dexterity. Just one more lousy point and this creature would have +1 to AC, to hit, and damage and be a fantastic creature.

On the other hand, that additional +1 would practically make firenewt warriors better orcs thanks to Multiattack. As-is their Multiattack is the definition of quantity > quality.

I feel like there are a lot of cool design features in this creature’s statblock but the low-CR hamstrung the implementation of these designs.

How to Play a Firenewt Warrior

Show No Mercy

Firenewt society takes few prisoners. Those they do take are worked to death in the mines and then eaten by the firenewts.

What? I’ve never said D&D is a happy feel-good game.

Due to their blind obedience to Imix these firenewts are going to throw themselves at the party until either they or the party are destroyed. If they succeed then they will become “touched by the Fire Lord” and have the ultimate honor of firenewt society bestowed upon them.

Firenewts will keep charging at the party until they are physically unable to. They’re not particularly bright so they won’t be able to easily tell who the largest threat is at first glance, but give it a round or two and they’ll be able to adjust and set their sights on an ideal target to charge towards.

AD&D was wild. Credit: WotC.

I’m Not Throwing Away My Shot

Let’s be real, each firenewt warrior is only going to have once chance to use their Spit Fire before either they kill the party or the party kills them. That’s just how firenewt raids work. Two sides charge in, one stumbles out.

Spit Fire’s average damage isn’t much more than the firenewt warrior’s Multiattack. Combining this knowledge and the single-use limitation of Spit Fire gives us an idea as to exactly how it should be used.

Spit Fire isn’t an attack that’s meant to weaken a target or group of targets. Spit fire is your finishing move. It’s guaranteed damage. Whenever a firenewt sees an enemy on the brink of death they’re going to run towards it and huck a molten loogie in their face hoping that it kills their target.

On the other hand, a firenewt may also use Spit Fire as a “last stand” attack. They know they’re going down so they’re going to desperately try to take their enemy down with them.

Wait for the perfect shot and then blast an ideal nearby target with that firey spit!

5 Firenewt Warrior Plot Hooks

  1. Business is Closed – Tourists once flocked to the resort in the mountains due to its fantastic hotsprings. Unfortunately due to a band of firenewts forcing their way into the mountain, the hot springs have been closed to the public. The business is barely staying afloat these days.
  2. The Lost Striders – A group of firenewts is feverishly looking for three giant striders that broke out of their pens. These creatures are valuable to their community. Help them locate their mounts and they’ll gladly let you pass through their territory unharmed.
  3. The Leak – Travellers coming from the mountains claim that the nearby volcano has ben leaking molten lava from its base. It doesn’t appear to be an eruption. It’s as if someone dug a bit too deep into the mountain.
  4. The Cold-Snap – As you explore the presumed abandoned cave system you come across dozens of sleeping firenewts. They appear to have fallen asleep as they were going about their daily lives. What could have caused them to fall asleep so suddenly?
  5. Sacrifices to Imix – A farming village was recently attacked by firenewts. While these creatures are known to take very few prisoners it appears as though they’ve taken a few of the villagefolk with them. Act quickly and you might be able to save them!

Conclusions

Everyone wants to find a new creature to use as their low-level stand-in for their next campaign. It’s the folly of the DM. We think that goblins, orcs, etc. are ” boring” or so overdone so we seek out something more interesting.

The firenewt warrior is a creature that I pegged as being potentially more interesting than one of these previously-mentioned low-level staples. Flavor-wise they’d be a fantastic choice for running a campaign that starts in a hot location like a volcano or a mountain with hot springs.

I still think that they’re decent choices for CR 1/2 creatures, but there’s plenty to not like about them. For example, their damage output is potentially quite low due to their inaccurate attacks and the low saving throw DC of Spit Fire.

Firenewt warriors may not be the strongest creatures on their own, but if you teamed them up with their lore-canon Giant Strider mounts you could have yourself a very fun group of creatures to work with against a low-level party.

Previous Monster Monday – Half-Red Dragon Veteran

Next Monster Monday –  TBD

If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!

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