If I, for example, am a hobgoblin warlord, and can raise an army of goblinoids, and I need to defeat, say, a Kraken, what can I reasonably do to make the soldiers of my army able to have any effect on the Kraken? The Kraken has immunity to "bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from non-magical attacks", and does not mention any simple exceptions like silver or adamantium weapons. Are my 1800 waterbreathing hobgoblins, with underwater-capable weapons such as spears, totally necessarily impotent, and should just stay home? Or is there some spell, ceremony, material, magic substance, or other way to make them able to do at least half damage to it?

Fire, acid, poison, catapults, will all be problematic underwater. Thunder could be effective, if there's a reasonable way to equip hobgoblin soldiers with it. (Black powder is not available here, and hard to set off underwater anyway.) But I'm really trying to find a solution that could be applied to/with/by masses of humanoid soldiers who cannot themselves cast any spells, preferably that doesn't cost a ridiculous amount.

I can raise, equip (with normal weapons and armor), and transport (via longship) about 1800 goblinoids. Two spellcasters with Water Breathing cast as a ritual are enough to get them all breathing water for 8 hours or so. How can I make that force able to do something useful in this situation?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean "I need to defeat a Kraken"? Are you defending from it? Or do you need to track and kill it in its natural habitat? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ the people of "Delicious in Dungeon" came up with a novel solution, cast water walk on it, forcing it to the surface and then you can use more things on it. you could even let is suffocate. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question illustrates why those legendary monsters are legendary monsters, and why it takes heroic adventures to take them on. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @John Water Walk can only be casted on willing creatures. Magic weapon is a concentration spell, so with his 2 spellcasters he can only cast on 2 weapons \$\endgroup\$
    – Bacon Hero
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 15:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I forgot they changed the benign spell mechanic. and 2 is spill better than none, especially if you use it crew serviced weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 16:19

4 Answers 4


Craft Wands of Magic Missiles

If you're willing to sacrifice your soldiers, time and money, you might like to consider hiring or kidnapping craftspeople to Craft Magic Items. Specifically, Wands of Magic Missiles because it is an uncommon item which means that it is relatively cheap and easy to make, yet it has high reliable damage few creatures can resist. The cost of creating WOMM is much less than acquiring rare and obscure poisons and it is hundreds of times more effective than acid vials.

A Wand of Magic Missile has:

7 Charges. While holding it, you can use an action to expend 1 or more of its Charges to cast the Magic Missile spell from it. For 1 charge, you cast the 1st-level version of the spell. You can increase the spell slot level by one for each additional charge you expend.

This means that each wand when fully discharged as a Level 7 spell does 9d4+9 force damage at a range of 120 ft. That averages out to 27 force damage per wand.

A Kraken with unrolled HP has 472 hit points, thus if you can craft 18 Wands of Magic Missiles, and each wand is discharged as a level 7 spell, you should be able to kill the Kraken from 120ft away in a single round 50% of the time.

If you fail, use your range to try and escape with all your wands and attempt again the next day. A Kraken can dash swim 120ft in a single turn so leave some goblinoids as bait to slow it down (and also to absorb hits from lightning storms) or strike from the shore.

Crafting WOMMs will require:

XgtE Version pg 128, 129

  1. A formula to create wands of magic missiles
  2. A craftsperson proficient in the Arcana skill
  3. Facing a CR 4-8 encounter each time to gather components for each wand. You have 1800 goblinoids so this should not be a problem. You only need 18 wand users so even if you lose half your army this way it won't matter when you face the Kraken.
  4. 200gp for each wand. 3600gp for 18 wands
  5. 2 Workweeks per wand per craftsperson. 36 weeks for 18 wands worked on by one slave... I mean craftsperson

DMG Version pg 128, 129

You can also find another set of rules on crafting magic items in the DMG (pg 128, 129)

To craft Wands of Magic Missiles that way you'll need:

  1. A formula to create Wands of Magic Missiles
  2. A spellcaster level 3 or higher that can cast Magic Missiles
  3. 500 gp per wand. 9000 gp for 18 wands
  4. 20 days per wand. 360 days for 18 wands with one craftsperson

The creator of the wand must spend one spell slot of the spell's level on the item being created each day of the creation process.

As you can see, the DMG version is more expensive and requires more time but you do not have to risk your army.

The more wands the better!

If you craft 53 wands, you will be able to burst down a Kraken 100% of the time in a single round if every fully charged wand is completely discharged as a level 7 magic missile spell at a non-rolled HP Kraken that round.

In fact, an army with enough magic missile wands can burst down just about anything you come across in 5th edition!

Risk Mitigation

While discharging the WOMM at lower levels over several rounds will result in overall higher damage, keep in mind that this comes at great opportunity costs when fighting legendary creatures. A Kraken will be able to close into your ship in a single dash even if you had casted Magic Missiles from maximum range. Its legendary actions every round and Siege Monster trait means that it can very quickly destroy your ship! So burst it down in as little time as possible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I wander how these wands were crafted before XgtE. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ The perimeters are given in DMG page 128, 129. Following those rules you'll need a level 3 spellcaster that can cast Magic Missiles and 500gp per wand. It will also take 20 days... Maybe I should write down the DMG version in my answer as well \$\endgroup\$
    – Bacon Hero
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 13:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Discharging wands as L7 spells seems impractical. You can get a lot more damage out of them if you fire the spells over multiple rounds. Your solution tells us that "you can kill the kraken 50% of the time in one round" but omits to mention that the other 50% of the time you fail to kill the kraken and it eats your army. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 15:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanB As with all things in war, preparation and tactics go a long way. Ideally, you'll want to put your wand users in a place where if they fail, they can retreat orderly and try again the next day. And while discharging wands as L7 spells may be less efficient than using it at L1 over 7 rounds, it is more effective simply because the opportunity cost of waiting another round could be your longship. So, mitigate your risks and accept that when Alea iacta est, that Alea iacta est \$\endgroup\$
    – Bacon Hero
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 15:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BaconHero Got it, thanks. Maybe slide that into your explanation of why the wands are a viable tactic \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 15:38

Solution 1

Use weapons that do not do bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage. Acid vials are listed in the PHB.

As an action, you can splash the contents of this vial onto a creature within 5 feet of you or throw the vial up to 20 feet, shattering it on impact. In either case, make a ranged attack against a creature or object, treating the acid as an improvised weapon. On a hit, the target takes 2d6 acid damage.

Alchemist's fire is listed right after the acid, but if you fight in the water, fire is not going to work.

Your soldiers are going to have to be brave and a lot of them will get killed. I recommend they stay home. They have to be within reach of the Kraken's attacks and 76 of them have to hit AC 18 with a ranged attack. You can give the army homebrew ballistae or catapults with giant acid vials, but doing that underwater may be tricky.

Solution 2:

Use poisons to cut the Kraken down to size.
Poisons are listed in the DMG page 257. The kraken would be immune to injury poisons, because you can't injure it with your weapons. This leaves you with contact and inhaled poisons. Most of the ones listed in the above link have a DC of 13 or 15, which the Kraken will fail to save against 25-35% of the time. Essence of Ether, Malice, and Crawler Mucus are inhaled or contact poisons that inflict sleep, blindness, and paralysis respectively. A paralysed Kraken cannot defend itself against your acid vials.

If we go by RAW, 1 dose of poison is enough to poison any creature and 10 doses are enough to ensure that it fails its saving throw. If we pay the slightest attention to narrative, your army needs 10 Kracken sized doses of this poison to make sure it fails its saving throw.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind, the Kraken can use Lightning Storm as a regular or Legendary action. I don’t see any evidence that the Kraken must be able to move to use this ability, or can’t employ it underwater, so even a paralyzed Kraken would be extremely dangerous (realistically it could kill several hobgoblins each turn). \$\endgroup\$
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 5:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Obie2.0 can you clarify what improvement to BobTheAverage's post you're suggesting? It's not clear from the first comment. (I've removed the second comment critiquing 5e's rules since it doesn't seem directed at improving/clarifying this post at all.) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 13:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast It is. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 15:41

Make a trap

Damage immunity is not the biggest problem. I can hardly imagine an army of hobgoblins fighting a kraken on equal ground, regardless of the weapons used. Even if they have a way to harm it, it can just swim away. The only plausible scenario is to deceive a kraken and lure it into a trap (not an easy task considering its wisdom and intelligence). An arrogant inexperienced kraken probably doesn't expect any danger from hobgoblins and can fall into such a trap.

Any other damage type can be used

The Kraken description says (MM p.197 including the MM errata):

Damage Immunities lightning; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks

Basically that means that a kraken is immune to lightning damage (regardless of its source) and to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing unless it was caused by a magical attack (spells or features) or a magical weapon.

Any other damage types works well on a kraken:

  • Acid - any acid that deals damage
  • Cold - harsh weather conditions
  • Fire - flame liquid, other hot/incendiary things, nature hazards (a volcano)
  • Force - a pure "magic" force from spells and wands
  • Necrotic - necromanic spells and supernatural creatures
  • Poison - poisons and poisoned weapons
  • Psychic - dealt by spells, bards and supernatural creatures
  • Radiant - clerical spells, smite, etc.
  • Thunder - a concussive damage from spells and bombs

Lore-wise, feel free to describe anything you think makes sense

If your hobgoblin warlord is not a player's character, you don't have to restrict its capabilities by the Player's Handbook. As a DM you can describe anything you think is reasonable in the context of your world. Official books have guides for modelling many in-world interactions, buy they does not encompass all the possible interactions in the game world. If the DM says the kraken was boiled to death being lured by hobgoblins into an awakening volcano, nobody asks him "how many HP per turn was he losing". It is about narrative, not mechanics.

The final plan might be:

  1. Lure the kraken into a confined space
  2. Lock it there
  3. Release acid, poison or boil it to death
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The Monster Manual Errata states that: "Damage Resistances/Immunities. Throughout the book, instances of “nonmagical weapons” in Damage Resistances/Immunities entries have been replaced with “nonmagical attacks.” media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/MM_Errata.pdf \$\endgroup\$
    – Bacon Hero
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ alternative trap in confined space drain water and let it suffocate. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 15:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The Monster Manual says Krakens can breathe air. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 17:14

I would use a grapple tactic. Have the hordes overwhelm the Kraken and then have the elite troops with enchanted and magical weapons.

I would develop a plan to restrain each of the limbs with a magical chain connected to magical anchors. Assuming the warlord is evil, then have your shamans use blood magic to secure the anchors. If not maybe some immovable rods or something.

It sound like you are willing to sacrifice a few hundred hobgoblins to get this done so this seems like a workable solution to me.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The Hobgoblin Warlord is ready to sacrifice hundreds of goblinoids, yes. But he has very limited access to magic. He is sending an emissary to the PC party to see if he can hire them to cast spells (e.g. Water Breathing) that his warcamp does not have, and to help fight, but the party is only 5th level so they will not be the main force. They also have limited ability to make magic items, and probably don't want to take the time to do it. The Kraken and the Hobgoblin are NPCs. The party has found out most of the plot, but they have not decided what part in this drama they want to play. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Creatures can only grapple other creatures up to 1 size larger than them, and I doubt you'll be able to find a Huge goblinoid. Besides a Kraken has Freedom of Movement: The kraken ignores difficult terrain, and magical effects can't reduce its speed or cause it to be Restrained. It ca n spend 5 feet of Movement to escape from nonmagical restraints or being Grappled. @PhilBoncer something's got to give, your players either have to level up and get more stuff or the tribe has to take time to invest in making magic artifacts... A CR23 creature is usually an end game boss, not an early game enc \$\endgroup\$
    – Bacon Hero
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is part of a major campaign story arc, not just an early game encounter. I'm sure that by the time this actually happens, the party will be in the 11-16 tier. Right now, the whole story is in the discovery phase. The Kraken is camped over a shipwreck that contains an Artifact of Great Power. The Hobgoblin Warlord has discovered the legend, and wants to obtain the artifact. In order to entice the characters to help him do that, he needs to have at least the outline of a plausibly achievable plan that could succeed. So I'm asking this question to generate possible plans. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 20:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhilBoncer Sounds like a fun campaign. The Hobgoblin Warlord probably won't find a fast, cheap, easy way to cheese his way to victory though. Maybe the PCs can find a genie that will grant them a wish for thousands of magic arrows, or maybe the warlord can load his ships up with explosives and sail them into the Kraken. It's pretty open ended... \$\endgroup\$
    – Bacon Hero
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BaconHero - This encounter is not(or at least should not be) awarding the party combat experience. It is part of the story. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2015
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 22:37

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