D&D Monster Monday: Chimera

The chimera stands over your battered body, its lion head baring its fangs as it looks down on you. Savoring its victory. Your last moments consist of burning, screaming agony as its red dragon head unleashes a torrent of flame upon you. 

Choosing creatures for an encounter is a fun exercise for some DMs while for others it can be a nerve-wracking decision. There are a plethora of creatures to choose from between the various 5e books. That’s not even taking into consideration all the 3rd party books and supplements!

What if instead of making a decision you just chose a bunch of them and smashed them together?

Enter the chimera. A creature that is part goat, part red dragon, and part lion. A creature with air superiority, fire breath, and deadly natural weapons. They’re terrifying creatures to stand face to face with and they have zero mercy due to the demonic magics that created them.

So today let’s smash together the Monster Manual and look at the jack of all trades gone wrong, the chimera!

5e chimera artwork. A creature with the head and wings of a red dragon, head and claws of a lion, and head and hooves of a ram
The 5e artwork tries to drive home the natural origins of the three creatures. Credit: WotC.

Chimera Lore

Chimeras are the result of the Demogorgon deciding to fuck shit up after he was summoned to the Material Plane. He took a look around the place and decided that the beasts and other common creatures weren’t exciting enough. So to shake things up he smashed a few of them together.

The Demogorgon is a demon lord so it’s not like he cares about the ethical implications of doing this. However, this has caused multiple problems. For starters, he shook up the entire ecosystem of the material plane by creating a new apex predator.

Yet that’s not even touching on how this affected the chimera itself. Having three different, conflicting creatures smashed together also mixed their worst personality traits. It created a stubborn, territorial, greedy monstrosity that kills and takes well past its needs.

Fortunately, the chimera didn’t inherit the dragon’s intellect like it did their greed and ferocity. People have used food or treasure as bartering tokens to work with chimera or keep them as servants for quite some time. As long as the chimera’s desires are met, it will gleefully serve in a villain’s evil plot.

Chimera Stats and Abilities

You can find the chimera’s statblock on page 39 of the Monster Manual.

Stats

Size: Large monstrosity
AC: 14 (natural armor)
HP: 114 (12d10 + 48)
Speed: 30 ft., fly 60 ft.
STR: 19 (+4)
DEX: 11 (+0)
CON: 19 (+4)
INT: 3 (-4)
WIS: 14 (+2)
CHA: 10 (+0)

The chimera is blessed with a great ability score array. Its high STR serves as a strong baseline for its melee attacks and offensive prowess. While its DEX is low, it still ticks off two out of three of the common saving throw abilities checklist which is encouraging.

Its high Con and subsequently high HP is the only thing that is keeping this creature together though. 14 AC without any resistances or immunities is abysmal for a CR 6 creature.

Due to its draconic wings, the chimera is quite fast. Its flying speed doubles the walking speed of the typical adventurer making retreating or fleeing an ill-advised option for someone that’s being hunted by a chimera.

While the chimera’s INT is atrocious, it’s not a huge issue in most scenarios. This creature exists to hunt, fight, and kill through brute force. It is not a dragon, it’s a beast.

Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills

Skills: Perception +8
Senses: darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 18
Languages: understands Draconic but can’t speak
CR: 6 (2,300 XP)

Their Perception is ridiculous. These creatures are phenomenal guards provided that you can continue to appeal to their desires. 18 passive Perception with darkvision is such a fantastic combination that even a rogue may have trouble sneaking past or hiding from a chimera.

CR 6 is fair for this creature. It’s a bit tricky to balance because all of its power lies in its offenses. Its defenses are just so god awful.

Actions

Multiattack. The chimera makes three attacks: one with its bite, one with its horns, and one with its claws. When its fire breath is available, it can use the breath in place of its bite or horns.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) piercing damage.

Horns. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d12 + 4) bludgeoning damage.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) slashing damage.

Fire Breath (Recharge 5–6). The dragon head exhales fire in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 31 (7d8) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Look at that action economy! Every round the chimera can unleash three attacks, one of which is an AoE when it can use Fire Breath.

As far as damage is concerned, the chimera deals 32 damage without Fire Breath and an average of 84 (calculated with the assumption that two targets fail the safe completely) when Fire Breath is recharged. That is a boatload of damage!

All in all, the variety of damage and short-range option in their kit makes the chimera’s action list a bright spot in their statblock.

Chimera Strengths

Phenomenal Damage and Action Economy

Three attacks per turn is powerful, especially when each attack uses a different damage type. The chimera’s action economy is strong it may be their greatest strength as a combatant.

Sure, most of the time when a combatant is resistant to one of the physical damage types they’re resistant to all three of them. It’s still nice to have a variety of options in the off-chance that the chimera is against someone with an exploitable weakness.

32 damage is a solid number already, but being able to boost that number to upwards of 84 damage when the chimera can use Fire Breath is strong. If this creature can get a good combo off with its Fire Breath they’ll be an enormous threat to the party.

the 4e chimera artwork. The eyes of each head look lifeless and demonic
4e nailed the demonic origins of the chimera’s design. Credit: WotC.

Fantastic Maneuverability

60 ft. of flying speed is a great boon even for a creature without the Flyby trait. Sure, provoking an opportunity attack or two isn’t great with the chimera’s sub-par defenses. However, it’s a risky investment that, if played well, can prevent a ton of incoming melee damage from the party’s frontline.

The chimera can also leverage its flying speed to get into the perfect position to unleash its Fire Breath when it is available. They can fly above the party, bypassing their frontline to rain terror from 15 ft. above the party’s backline. Grouping up against a chimera is a huge mistake that it can effortlessly punish.

The chimera’s speed also means that escaping or retreating by foot isn’t an option for the party. If the chimera has them on the ropes they’ll need to unleash coveted resources to bring it down. Resources that might’ve been necessary further along in the adventure.

Chimera Weaknesses

Abysmal Defenses

Thanks to its high Constitution the chimera has a solid amount of HP. However, at CR 6 the party will have spells, features, and a decent damage output so you need more than just “a lot of HP” to get by as a creature.

14 AC isn’t a high threshold for a level-appropriate adventuring party to hit. Yet again, it’s not the end of the world to be a creature with a lot of HP and mediocre AC.

The main problem with the chimera is its lack of defensive options. It has no traits, no resistances, no immunities. Nothing. If the party can quickly burst the chimera down it will have no chance to showcase its amazing offensive abilities.

Susceptible to Crowd Control

This creature is the definition of a glass cannon. While it’s great at its job, it’s shit out of luck when it’s crowd controlled. Especially if the saving throw is taking advantage of the chimera’s low Dexterity.

While their Constitution is superb and their Wisdom is decent, the lack of condition immunities puts the chimera in a tight spot. It has no damage mitigation to fall back on, so in the case of a chimera being crowd controlled it becomes a sitting duck thanks to its low AC.

Illusions will also mess with a chimera quite well due to its abysmal INT. If your party has access to or regularly utilizes illusions, your chimera is going to have a tough time against them.

How to Play a Chimera

Utilize Your Flying Speed

The chimera’s lack of defenses is a real concern. However, if we leverage the chimera’s flying speed we can squeeze out a little extra defense from their statblock.

Playing the chimera like a striker would entail swooping down, using their Multiattack, and then flying out of range of melee attackers. Thus preventing melee units from being able to reach the chimera.

There is the risk of being subjected to attacks of opportunity with this maneuver due to the chimera’s lack of the Flyby trait. However, by removing a melee attacker’s ability to attack the chimera on their turn will give them a boost to their survivability.

The melee combatant’s only option is to pull out a ranged weapon and hope for the best. In most cases this will mean that the melee unit will deal less damage. Especially if, for example, they’re using a crossbow without the Crossbow Expert feat.

This strategy has a lot of risk factors. For example, the Sentinel feat will shut this tactic down easily. However, if the chimera can pull it off they’ll enjoy some additional survivability throughout the fight, resulting in higher damage output.

chimera from D&D 1e the ram and lion heads look particularly silly
Ram’s just vibing. Credit: WotC.

Breathe Deep

Operate the chimera with the understanding that you have no defenses to rely on. You need to go full throttle on laying a smackdown on your enemies to succeed with a chimera.

Kill them before they can kill or crowd control you.

Use the chimera’s Flame Breath whenever it is available. Thanks to their flying speed, you should have no issues getting into a decent position to unleash it anyway. If you have to suffer an attack of opportunity to do so, so be it. You need to play a bit risky because your time is limited.

Stalling isn’t an option. Use your flame breath to rain hellfire upon the party and unleash as much damage as possible before your chimera is taken down.

5 Chimera Plot Hooks

  1. Restoring Balance – A circle of druids has found a demonic creature that is disrupting the forest’s ecosystem. The creature kills for pleasure, oftentimes not even taking a single bite out of the charred remains of the animals it slaughters. Something must be done to preserve what’s left of the fauna.
  2. Precious Cargo – A smuggler is looking for an escort to deliver a baby chimera. This is valuable cargo, and the smuggler has reason to believe that they’re being watched by another interested party.
  3. Trial of Blood – Every year the city holds a tournament for adventurers, mercenaries, and knights to compete against deadly beasts for a grand prize. This prize has yet to be claimed since the tournament holder’s prized chimera stepped into the ring.
  4. A Cure – The demonic magics that created a chimera were thought to be permanent. However, a recent discovery may make it possible to return the tortured creatures to their real bodies. There’s just one problem though, the sage that discovered this method needs a test subject…
  5. Disappearing Sheep – A farmer has been losing a sheep out of their flock each week. Strangely enough, there is no evidence as to what took the sheep or where it was taken to.

Conclusions

The chimera is an interesting creature to use. Its a textbook striker-type creature. To pilot it well you’ll need to duck in and out of combat while you dish out tons of damage. After all, you can’t rely on the chimera’s defenses to hold down the fort for long.

It has solid lore and is a great vessel for introducing demons and demonic influence into a campaign. You could start a whole campaign by having the party deal with gnoll raiding parties and slowly showcase how demons are influencing and destroying the Material Plane. A chimera is yet another example for this storyline.

Plus, you could easily use its statblock as a baseline for a different breed of chimera by swapping heads and body parts out. You’d have to play with the numbers and mechanics a little, but each head only requires a single attack (plus a special attack to swap with Flame Breath).

The chimera is a fun creature to use. While it does have its problems, it’ll still strike fear into the hearts of the party once they witness its terrifying Flame Breath and Multiattack. I mean, what more can you ask for out of a creature?

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