Glossary of Creature Special Attacks
Ability Score Loss (Su)
Some attacks reduce the opponent's score in one or more abilities. This loss can be temporary (ability damage) or permanent (ability drain).
Ability Damage: This attack damages an opponent's ability score. The creature's descriptive text gives the ability and the amount of damage. If an attack that causes ability damage scores a critical hit, it deals twice the indicated amount of damage (if the damage is expressed as a die range, roll two dice). Ability damage returns at the rate of 1 point per day for each affected ability.
Ability Drain: This effect permanently reduces a living opponent's ability score when the creature hits with a melee attack. The creature's descriptive text gives the ability and the amount drained. If an attack that causes ability drain scores a critical hit, it drains twice the indicated amount (if the damage is expressed as a die range, roll two dice). Unless otherwise specified in the creature's description, a draining creature gains 5 temporary hit points (10 on a critical hit) whenever it drains an ability score no matter how many points it drains. Temporary hit points gained in this fashion last for a maximum of 1 hour.
Some ability drain attacks allow a Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 draining creature's racial HD + draining creature's Cha modifier; the exact DC is given in the creature's descriptive text). If no saving throw is mentioned, none is allowed.
Breath Weapon (Su)
A breath weapon attack usually deals damage and is often based on some type of energy (such as fire). Such breath weapons allow a Reflex save for half damage (DC 10 + 1/2 breathing creature's racial HD + breathing creature's Con modifier; the exact DC is given in the creature's descriptive text). A creature is immune to its own breath weapon unless otherwise noted. Some breath weapons allow a Fortitude save or a Will save instead of a Reflex save.
A creature with this special attack can crush an opponent, dealing bludgeoning damage, after making a successful grapple check. The amount of damage is given in the creature's entry. If the creature also has the improved grab ability (see Improved grab), it deals constriction damage in addition to damage dealt by the weapon used to grab.
Energy Charge (Su)
This ability bestows vital energy at a touch, and happens automatically when a melee or ranged attack hits. Each successful energy charge bestows one or more positive levels (the creature's description specifies how many) on living creatures. Unless otherwise specified in the creature's description, a draining creature loses 5 hit points for each positive level it bestows. A creature may not have more positive levels than its Constitution bonus (minimum 1).
An affected creature gains a +1 competence bonus on all skill checks and ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws, and gains one effective level or Hit Die (whenever level is used in a die roll or calculation) for each positive level. A spellcaster gains one spell slot of the highest level of spells she can cast and (if applicable) one prepared spell of that level. These gains persist until the positive level goes away.
Positive levels remain for 24 hours or until removed with a spell, such as restoration. After 24 hours, the positive level automatically goes away.
Undead react to positive levels the way nonundead react to negative levels. An undead character with negative levels at least equal to its current level is instantly destroyed. After 24 hours, an undead must make a Will save (DC 10+ 1/2 attacker's HD + attacker's Cha modifier). (The DC is provided in the attacker's description.) If the saving throw succeeds, the positive level goes away with no harm to the creature. The afflicted creature makes a separate saving throw for each positive level it has gained. If the save fails, the positive level goes away, but the creature's level (or HD) is also reduced by one.
Energy Drain (Su)
This attack saps a living opponent's vital energy and happens automatically when a melee or ranged attack hits. Each successful energy drain bestows one or more negative levels (the creature's description specifies how many). If an attack that includes an energy drain scores a critical hit, it drains twice the given amount. Unless otherwise specified in the creature's description, a draining creature gains s temporary hit points (10 on a critical hit) for each negative level it bestows on an opponent. These temporary hit points last for a maximum of 1 hour.
An affected opponent takes a -1 penalty on all skill checks and ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws, and loses one effective level or Hit Die (whenever level is used in a die roll or calculation) for each negative level. A spellcaster loses one spell slot of the highest level of spells she can cast and (if applicable) one prepared spell of that level; this loss persists until the negative level is removed.
Negative levels remain until 24 hours have passed or until they are removed with a spell, such as restoration. If a negative level is not removed before 24 hours have passed, the affected creature must attempt a Fortitude save (DC 10 1/2 draining creature's racial HD + draining creature's Cha modifier; the exact DC is given in the creature's descriptive text). On a success, the negative level goes away with no harm to the creature. On a failure, the negative level goes away, but the creature's level is also reduced by one. A separate saving throw is required for each negative level.
Fear (Su or Sp)
Fear attacks can have various effects.
Fear Aura (Su): The use of this ability is a free action. The aura can freeze an opponent (such as a mummy's despair) or function like the fear spell (for example, the aura of a lich). Other effects are possible. A fear aura is an area effect. The descriptive text gives the size and kind of area.
Fear Cones (Sp) and Rays (Su): These effects usually work like the fear spell.
If a fear effect allows a saving throw, it is a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 fearsome creature's racial HD + creature's Cha modifier; the exact DC is given in the creature's descriptive text). All fear attacks are mind-affecting fear effects.
A gaze special attack takes effect when opponents look at the creature's eyes. The attack can have almost any sort of effect: petrification, death, charm, and so on. The typical range is 30 feet, but check the creature's entry for details.
The type of saving throw for a gaze attack varies, but it is usually a Will or Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 gazing creature's racial HD + gazing creature's Cha modifier; the exact DC is given in the creature's descriptive text). A successful saving throw negates the effect. A monster's gaze attack is described in abbreviated form in its description.
Each opponent within range of a gaze attack must attempt a saving throw each round at the beginning of his other turn in the initiative order. Only looking directly at a creature with a gaze attack leaves an opponent vulnerable. Opponents can avoid the need to make the saving throw by not looking at the creature, in one of two ways.
Averting Eyes: The opponent avoids looking at the creature's face, instead looking at its body, watching its shadow, tracking it in a reflective surface, and so on. Each round, the opponent has a 50% chance to not need to make a saving throw against the gaze attack. The creature with the gaze attack, however, gains concealment against that opponent.
Wearing a Blindfold: The opponent cannot see the creature at all (also possible to achieve by turning one's back on the creature or shutting one's eyes). The creature with the gaze attack gains total concealment against the opponent.
A creature with a gaze attack can actively gaze as an attack action by choosing a target within range. That opponent must attempt a saving throw but can try to avoid this as described above. Thus, it is possible for an opponent to save against a creature's gaze twice during the same round, once before the opponent's action and once during the creature's turn.
Gaze attacks can affect ethereal opponents. A creature is immune to gaze attacks of others of its kind unless otherwise noted. Allies of a creature with a gaze attack might be affected. All the creature's allies are considered to be averting their eyes from the creature with the gaze attack, and have a 50% chance to not need to make a saving throw against the gaze attack each round. The creature also can veil its eyes, thus negating its gaze ability.
Improved Grab (Ex)
If a creature with this special attack hits with a melee weapon (usually a claw or bite attack), it deals normal damage and attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking attacks of opportunity (see Grapple, page 155 of the Player's Handbook). No initial touch attack is required.
Unless otherwise noted, improved grab works only against opponents at least one size category smaller than the creature. The creature has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use the part of its body it used in the improved grab to hold the opponent. If it chooses to do the latter, it rakes a -20 penalty on grapple checks, but is not considered grappled itself; the creature does not lose its Dexterity bonus to AC, still threatens an area, and can use its remaining attacks against other opponents.
A successful hold does not deal any extra damage unless the creature also has the constrict special attack. If the creature does not constrict, each successful grapple check it makes during successive rounds automatically deals the damage indicated for the attack that established the hold. Otherwise, it deals constriction damage as well (the amount is given in the creature's descriptive text).
When a creature gets a hold after an improved grab attack, it pulls the opponent into its space. This act does not provoke attacks of opportunity. It can even move (possibly carrying away the opponent), provided it can drag the opponent's weight.
Paralysis (Ex or Su)
This special attack renders the victim immobile. Paralyzed creatures cannot move, speak, or take any physical actions. The creature is rooted to the spot, frozen and helpless. Paralysis works on the body, and a character can usually resist it with a Fortitude saving throw (the DC is given in the creature's description). Unlike hold person and similar effects, a paralysis effect does not allow a new save each round. A winged creature flying in the air at the time that it is paralyzed cannot flap its wings and falls. A swimmer can't swim and may drown.
Poison attacks deal initial damage, such as ability damage or some other effect, to the opponent on a failed Fortitude save. Unless otherwise noted, another saving throw is required 1 minute later (regardless of the first save's result) to avoid secondary damage. A creature's descriptive text provides the details.
A creature with a poison attack is immune to its own poison and the poison of others of its kind.
The Fortitude save DC against a poison attack is equal to 10 + 1/2 poisoning creature's racial HD + poisoning creature's Con modifier (the exact DC is given in the creature's descriptive text). A successful save avoids (negates) the damage.
When a creature with this special attack makes a charge, it can follow with a full attack-including rake attacks if the creature also has the rake ability.
A creature with this special attack gains extra natural attacks when it grapples its foe. Normally, a monster can attack with only one of its natural weapons while grappling, but a monster with the rake ability usually gains two additional claw attacks that it can use only against a grappled foe. Rake attacks are not subject to the usual -4 penalty for attacking with a natural weapon in a grapple.
A monster with the rake ability must begin its turn grappling to use its rake - it can't begin a grapple and rake in the same turn.
Ray (Su or Sp)
This form of special attack works like a ranged attack (see Aiming a Spell). Hitting with a ray attack requires a successful ranged touch attack roll, ignoring armor, natural armor, and shield and using the creature's ranged attack bonus. Ray attacks have no range increment. The creature's descriptive text specifies the maximum range, effects, and any applicable saving throw.
If a creature with this special attack hits with the specified natural attack, it latches onto the opponent's body and tears the flesh. A rend attack deals damage equal to the creature's natural attack + 1-1/2 times its Str modifier. The creature's descriptive text gives the exact amount.
Sonic Attacks (Su)
Unless otherwise noted, a sonic attack follows the rules for spreads (see Aiming a Spell). The range of the spread is measured from the creature using the sonic attack. Once a sonic attack has taken effect, deafening the subject or stopping its ears does not end the effect. Stopping one's ears ahead of time allows opponents to avoid having to make saving throws against mind-affecting sonic attacks, but not other kinds of sonic attacks (such as those that deal damage). Stopping one's ears is a full-round action and requires wax or other soundproof material to stuff into the ears.
Swallow Whole (Ex)
If a creature with this special attack begins its turn with an opponent held in its mouth (see Improved Grab, above), it can attempt a new grapple check (as though attempting to pin the opponent). If it succeeds, it swallows its prey, and the opponent takes bite damage. Unless otherwise noted, the opponent can be up to one size category smaller than the swallowing creature.
Being swallowed has various consequences, depending on the creature doing the swallowing. A swallowed creature is considered to be grappled, while the creature that did the swallowing is not. A swallowed creature can try to cut its way free with any light slashing or piercing weapon (the amount of cutting damage required to get free is noted in the creature description), or it can just try to escape the grapple. The Armor Class of the interior of a creature that swallows whole is normally 10 + 1/2 its natural armor bonus, with no modifiers for size or Dexterity. If the swallowed creature escapes the grapple, success puts it back in the attacker's mouth, where it may be bitten or swallowed again.
As a full-round action, a creature with this special attack can move up to twice its speed and literally run over any opponents at least one size category smaller than itself. The creature merely has to move over the opponents in irs path; any creature whose space is completely covered by the trampling creature's space is subject to the trample attack.
If a target's space is larger than 5 feet, it is only considered trampled if the trampling creature moves over all the squares it occupies. If the trampling creature moves over only some of a target's space, the target can make an attack of opportunity against the trampling creature at a -4 penalty. A trampling creature that accidentally ends its movement in an illegal space returns to the last legal position it occupied, or the closest legal position, if there's a legal position that's closer.
A trample attack deals bludgeoning damage (the creature's slam damage + 1-1/2 times its Srr modifier). The creature's descriptive text gives the exact amount.
Trampled opponents can attempt attacks of opportunity, but these take a -4 penalty. If they do not make attacks of opportunity, trampled opponents can attempt Reflex saves to take half damage. The save DC against a creatures trample attack is 10 + 1/2 creature's HD + creature's Str modifier (the exact DC is given in the creature's descriptive text). A trampling creature can only deal trampling damage to each target once per round, no matter how many times its movement takes it over a target creature.