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If I run a 5e game for a crow-man party who naturally have all-day flight as part of their basic movement modes, which existing published monsters / encounter types am I left with who have either flight or ranged abilities that are equally dangerous as their melee abilities?

Basically, can I cobble together encounters out of the existing flyers/traps/social/archers for those levels (5-13) or am I going to need to get creative and modify/create new monsters and encounters to fight this party?

In other words,1 are there a significant number of enemies in dnd 5e that can present a credible challenge despite not having flight, if facing a flying party? There are all manner of spellcasters and the like who can in the edition I'm most familiar with, but I'm uncertain about 5e, especially at the levels I'm referring to.

There were about ten ways to find enemies fitting specific criteria in 3.5e (searchable monster databases with definable keys, lists people made etc). I don't know enough about 5e resources to find such means myself, but I'm assuming here they exist - and that people familiar with them will help me (and presumably, other people) avoid having to go and count things by hand ourselves.

I first looked through the bestiary by hand and was like, wait, surely, there's a better way. Then I found a bunch of broken searchable monster 5e databases, and a forum thread arguing about aarokocra. At that point I decided not to reinvent the wheel.


1 Text from this point onwards collated from comments from original querent for context. Comments have seen minor revisions for the sake of clarity

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking us to just go and count the number of monsters that either have a fly speed or a ranged attack? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jun 2 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov there were about ten ways to do this in 3.5e (searchable monster databases with definable keys, lists people made etc). I don't know enough about 5e resources to find such means myself, but i'm assuming here they exist - and that people familiar with them will help me (and presumably, other people) avoid having to go and count things by hand ourselves. \$\endgroup\$ – user2754 Jun 2 at 20:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ What have you tried? It would go a long way to tell us how you tried to solve this problem yourself and where it didn’t work out. Right now it just looks like “someone do this search task for me”. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jun 2 at 20:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question is still too broad, although I empathize with you in terms of the challenge. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 3 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast At this point, I do agree with you; further pings to the querent haven't gotten much in the way of a response, so I feel like I've done all the good I can do here. It's a shame, because I think there's a decent question in there somewhere, but...alas. \$\endgroup\$ – L Cooper Jun 3 at 22:15
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I'm going to get all old-school on you and say

Looking through the bestiary by hand is the better way.

Yes, DnDBeyond has a decent search function that will find you flying CR 5-13 monsters. But it's never going to have you notice the Roper and think "oh, I can totally re-skin a few into a grove of whomping willows outside the cave entrance." Or help you browse past a Blink Dog and think "ooh, what if there were a pack of blink-koalas that teleported up, grappled, mauled, and teleported away just before the scrum hits the ground?" Or have you realize "wait, a hill giant throwing rocks from in the forest has plenty of range and has cover...!"

The Monster Manual isn't that long and is art-heavy: it doesn't take very long to skim through. Ten minutes flipping quickly through it with the thought "how can I challenge my flyers" front-of-mind will, in my experience, pay off much more handsomely than using DNDBeyond to find the list "dragons, air elementals, bone devils, beholders, chimera, cloaker, deva, djinn...."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I do actually agree with you, but in my experience, it's much easier and faster to flip through the MM in its physical form; if the querent doesn't have the physical book, it might be slightly more annoying of a browsing experience. \$\endgroup\$ – L Cooper Jun 3 at 21:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LCooper absolutely agree, which is why I (the grandchild of a bookbinder and child of bookstore-owners) still buy physical copies of my RPG books. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 4 at 0:36
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The encounter builder at dndbeyond allows you to filter enemies by movement type and challenge rating. This isn't going to give you a percentage, but I believe it will solve the actual problem you're dealing with, which is building combat encounters for flying creatures in 5e.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is useful thanks - whatever I was looking at originally, it wasn't this. I guess I was also asking a second question - are there a significant number of enemies in dnd 5e that can present a credible challenge despite not having flight, if facing a flying party? There are all manner of spellcasters and the like who can in the edition i'm most familiar with, but i'm uncertain about 5e, especially at the levels i'm referring to. \$\endgroup\$ – user2754 Jun 2 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user2754 It sounds like your overall question is just along the lines of "how to find resources for enemies in 5e that are similar to x,y,z resources from 3.5?" Is that correct? If so, revising your question to focus on finding those resources (so you can do the research yourself) would be a great way to go! \$\endgroup\$ – L Cooper Jun 2 at 20:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user2754 Also, as a side note, the reason most of the searchable databases are broken is probably because WoTC cracked down on unauthorized publications of their material when they launched their own site (which, imo, has a much cleaner UI and better user experience anyway) \$\endgroup\$ – L Cooper Jun 2 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, to be honest, I simply don't know which resources exist for 5e or if they resemble the 3.5 ones at all - what you've linked is not where I would have looked or what i'd have expected at all. Thus this question. \$\endgroup\$ – user2754 Jun 2 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user2754 It should be noted that recommendation questions are off topic. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jun 2 at 20:37
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If you are looking mainly to challenge your players, you can use all of them. Enemy group composition is only one part of designing combat encounters

This folds in with all of the usual advice that allowing flying PCs doesn't need to mean that all in-game obstacles become trivial. Many monsters can be equipped with ranged weapons scaled to suit the desired encounter difficulty, and this will largely fix the "they flew out of range" problem. You can grant a flying speed to any creature you wish through spells, magic items, environmental effects, or DM fiat. The movement-type-only changes mostly won't affect CR, while changes in weapons and damage output will change it in predictable ways.

You can also design encounters in which flying is not that helpful. Or impossible! Encounters that are underwater, are in rooms with ceilings 10 feet high or lower, or have environmental hazards dangerous to fliers can all add challenge, and interest, for your flying PCs. I used to really regret letting my player with a Warlock character have a flying broom. These days, he's always at least a little bit hesitant to get on it in a fight-- sometimes that makes things harder, not easier, for him.

If you're looking to set the game in the sky, things only change a little bit

If you want a setting where flying is really the only option most of the time, and so only flying enemies are workable, you still have most of the same choices as above. Enemies that can't fly on their own can still have Fly cast on them, use magic items, or ride flying creatures or vehicles.

If all of the PCs can fly, and all of their enemies can fly, then flying easily becomes almost a non-factor in combat. Characters just use their flying speed instead of a different one, and the narrative backdrop is a bit different. Using aerial enemies is awesome for delivering an airborne theme, but my experience has been that a bold theme loses its novelty long before you will run out of flying monsters.

In summary: The ability of all PCs to fly most of the time does not impose a very strong constraint on what monsters you can throw at them.

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Flight or ranged abilities are not the only way to threaten flying PCs

Consider the setting in which the combat takes place. For example, let's say the PCs are attacked inside a building or dungeon with a roof 10ft high. In that context, flight makes little or no difference to the combat. Now, consider how often a typical adventuring party is indoors, either in town, in a dungeon, or so forth.

Alternately, consider climbing opponents. For example, flight won't necessarily protect you from a vampire spawn, despite it being a melee-only monster without flight. If the only available spaces to fly are near walls, the vampire spawn can chase the PC.

Ambushes or traps are another way to threaten flying PC. Consider spiders in real-life - many spider species feed primarily on flying prey, despite lacking flight themselves, because they can strew hard-to-detect sticky webbing across popular flight paths. A spider-like monster in D&D could certainly use a similar tactic to ensnare a flying PC.

Cover also matters. Many melee opponents may be able to force a situation where the flying PC has to choose between being useless and being within reach simply by creating or moving to cover - especially if other PCs, or NPCs or resources the PCs want to protect, are within reach of them. For example, if they're trying to rescue captives from a band of hobgoblins, what will they do when the hobgoblins start dragging the captives into their tents, and the PCs can no longer hit them without entering or destroying the tent first?

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Consider a place

I understand that the answer may be a little inaccurate. But D&D implies the presence of dungeons in which you do not need to fly completely. Also, battles by themselves do not have to take place in open territory all the time. Also, most of the spellcasters in their arsenal have spells with a distance. In addition to everything else, there are trees behind which a squad of ravens simply will not see the enemy, and will be forced to come to a closer distance.
There is also a small chapter devoted to battles in the air in Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

Approximate enemies of suitable danger

If we are talking about monsters, then my advice is casters. For example Yugoloth. If we are talking about a more mundane, that is, humanoids are the Archmage.
Hobgoblin (Devastator) will do the same.

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