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The Mythic Odysseys of Theros setting book introduced the Mythic Monsters mechanic, where certain legendary creatures have a Mythic Trait that activates when they are reduced to zero hit points. Going into Mythic mode usually refills some of the monster's HP and enables some extra Legendary Actions that make them more powerful, but in a few cases introduces new mechanics that change the rules of the fight. Mythic Traits are always optional; the DM can ignore a creature's Mythic Trait to make it a normal Legendary creature.

The general form of these is:

If [monster name] is reduced to 0 hit points, it doesn't die or fall unconscious. Instead, it regains [however-many] hit points. In addition...

and then some monster-specific rules text.

My question is, assuming the DM intends a monster to be Mythic, is there a way to kill it without activating the Mythic Trait?

Now, I'm not looking for a list of methods for how to accomplish this. I know there are a small number of ways to avoid reducing a monster to zero HP. As a few examples, massive damage is unlikely to work on a creature that starts out with HP in the multi-hundred range, but there's Power Word Kill, which says "If the creature you choose has 100 hit points or fewer, it dies." The Maces of Smiting or Disruption have similar language, provided the monster in question is of the correct type.

Would these methods actually bypass the "reduced to 0 hit points" phrasing, allowing you to kill a Mythic monster without dealing with its second phase? Or does "dies"/"destroyed" trigger Mythic mode, just like reducing it to zero HP?

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    \$\begingroup\$ How do the characters know that such a monster has mythic traits? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 at 1:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Does dying cause a creature explicitly to drop to zero hit points? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kryomaani
    Jun 1 at 3:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast That is utterly irrelevant. The question isn't whether the players know they ought to kill the monster via non-hitpoint means. The question is whether doing so would end the fight or not. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 at 3:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AllanMills Petrification would end an encounter but it's explicitly not a kill, since it's actually a condition in the book. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 at 3:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: What are Mythic Actions? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 at 18:17

6 Answers 6

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Mythic Trait triggers only at 0 hp

Game features do only what they say they do. It is difficult to damage Rogues, between their Uncanny Dodge against attacks and Evasion against area effects. But magic missile, for example, will do full damage to them because it is neither an attack nor an area effect. Neither of the rogue's protective features will trigger against magic missile.

Similarly, Mythic Trait explicitly triggers when the Mythic creature is at 0 hp, only. Being killed or destroyed is not the same thing as being at 0 hp and neither will trigger Mythic Trait.

A creature can die without having been reduced to 0 hp first, if a feature says that it outright kills the creature. See Does dying cause a creature explicitly to drop to zero hit points? (link provided by Kyromaani). As argued in the answer there by fortyCakes, if dying was the same thing as being reduced to 0 hp, there would be no reason for the druid's Wild Shape ability to end when "you drop to 0 hit points, or die". This phrase is not redundant because dying does not put you at 0 hp and either situation will independently trigger the end of Wild Shape. The same wording is used for the end condition of the spells animal shapes, polymorph, and true polymorph. Similarly, a feature that causes the immediate death of a Mythic creature (such as your suggestion of Power Word Kill) will not trigger the Mythic Trait because the death occurs when it is at a positive hp total, and once dead the former creature has neither a hp total as a creature nor the Mythic Trait.

As far as the meaning of 'destroy', the word is used 56 times in the PHB, typically with its natural English meaning. However, it is used as a game mechanic in the cleric's Destroy Undead class feature (PHB p. 59). No DM I know has the undead that are destroyed by a cleric become 0 hp and start making death saves - rather, 'destroyed' bypasses their hp total and imposes a state change.

Thus, it is possible to kill or destroy a Mythic creature without triggering Mythic trait so long as their death or destruction is immediate and does not have to pass through 0 hp first. In this case, the Mythic Trait will never trigger. What follows are some suggestions for how you might do that.

Mace to da Face

Both Maces you cite have similar phrasing:

If [the target] has 25 hit points or fewer after taking this damage, it is destroyed.

Note that it does not say that 'if the target has 25 hit points or fewer after taking this damage, it is reduced to 0 hp'. Presumably the target is still at its potentially positive hp total when it is destroyed. As you suspect, this would bypass any effects that trigger at 0 hp. A mythic construct or mythic undead hit by one of these maces could, if between 1 and 25 hp, be destroyed without triggering their Mythic Trait. (Your mace might take the creature from more than 25 hp to fewer than 1 hp in one blow. In that case, it is a separate question whether the destruction or the Mythic Trait would trigger first, and if the latter, whether that would protect the creature from destruction.)

Thomas Markov notes that, at the time of writing, there are no Mythic constructs and only one Mythic undead, so these these maces may be of little utility as is. However, if you can true polymorph a non-construct, non-undead Mythic creature into the appropriate type for your mace they could be destroyed without triggering the end of the true polymorph at 0 hp (I would suggest doing the construct if that mace is available, since it does not get a Wisdom save against the Smiting). However, this creates its own timing question. It is clear that dying does not set them to 0 hp. But it is not clear whether being destroyed also counts as dying. Thus, if 'destroying' the true polymorphed creature means that it simultaneously dies, and since that would end its polymorphed state, would that then negate its destruction as it was no longer a creature type that the mace could affect? That is a separate question as well.

How tired is it?

Consider the spell sickening radiance, where:

When a creature moves into the spell’s area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, that creature must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take 4d10 radiant damage, and it suffers one level of exhaustion

If you can force the Mythic creature to remain in the Area of Effect of this spell (or cast multiple copies of it), accumulating six levels of exhaustion results in instant death, irrespective of current hp total. A good list of other effects that can cause exhaustion can be found here, although most of them would be difficult to weaponize against your Mythic foe. Finding some way to have the creature contract cackle fever or sewer plague while it was in the sickening radiance might be the most straightforward of your options.

How small is it?

If the Mythic creature is smaller than 2' in diameter, or if you can get it there with reduce, polymorph, and/or other effects, you might be able to pop it into a sphere of annihilation:

The sphere obliterates all matter it passes through and all matter that passes through it.

Anything that doesn't entirely fit within the sphere has a save to avoid damage, and takes force damage if it brushes against the sphere. But anything smaller than the sphere itself is, by my reading, 'obliterated', which to me means death / destruction regardless of hp. YMMV, since it could be argued that the creature gets a Dex save regardless of size and so the sphere can only be used to damage, not obliterate, creatures.

No, really, how small is it?

Can you pop it into a bag of devouring, preferably after it has used up all its legendary actions but before its turn? If so:

Any creature that starts its turn inside the bag is devoured, its body destroyed.

How small does it need to be to fit inside the bag? Interesting question, because unlike a bag of holding, this bag does not have its dimensions specified. Further:

When part of a living creature is placed in the bag, as happens when someone reaches inside it, there is a 50 percent chance that the creature is pulled inside the bag.

Note that there is no size limit specified, so presumably if you can trick or coerce a Gargantuan mythic creature into just reaching inside the bag you have a chance of devouring it, hp notwithstanding. No mechanism is given for using the bag offensively, so it is not clear how big the mouth of the bag is for when you try to pop it over someone's head or other body part, or what sort of attack roll or contested check that might entail.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In your mace section you should note that there are no mythic constructs, so the mace of smiting wont work ever, and there is only one mythic undead, so the mace of disruption wont work against 16 of the 17 mythic monsters. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 at 17:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I mean, there are no currently printed mythic creatures, but it's not impossible that there could be in the future, or a DM could design their own mythic construct (Talos the Bronze Giant, anyone?), so I don't really object to saying those maces would work provided your mythic is of the right type. "It can't work ever" is overstating the case a bit. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 at 18:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym Sure, but to me, "here's how this works with the existing official material" is a generally more valuable observation than "here's how it works if your DM happens to homebrew these specific circumstances". Not that the latter is valueless, just that the former seems much more likely to be encountered at the table of play. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 at 18:24
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Disintegrate can kill it

This is in addition to Kirt's excellent answer, which covers all the cases that sidestep the issue of the Mythic effect triggering at all.

Two effects want to happen at the same time, when an effect that outright kills at 0 hit point affects the monster, like disintegrate:

The target is disintegrated if this damage leaves it with 0 hit points. A disintegrated creature and everything it is wearing and carrying, except magic items, are reduced to a pile of fine gray dust.

The moment this spell reduces the monster to 0 hit points, you have now two effects racing to be resolved: the mythic trait wanting to restore hp to it, and disintegrate, wanting to turn it to fine grey dust.

The core rules do not say how to resolve such a situation, so normally it will be up to the DM to decide which of the two happens first:

  • If they decide the mythic healing happens first, the monster will escape being turned to dust, because they then are not at 0 hp anymore.

  • I they decide the monster is turned to fine grey dust first, by the time it would gain hit points back, it is too late and the monster is dead.

By an optional rule in Xanathars Guide to Everything (p. 77), if there are multiple simultaneous effects that stack at the same time during a player's turn, the player gets to decide the order in which they happen:

In rare cases, effects can happen at the same time, especially at the start or end of a creature's turn. If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster's turn, the person at the game table - whether player or DM - who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen.

If your table plays using these rules, then the player whose character is using disintegrate on their turn can decide the monster is turned to fine grey dust.

Technically the trait is still triggered, so it would not be possible to avoid triggering or activating it. It however is possible to kill the monster without the mythic trait kicking in (it is just not guaranteed, especially not when it's the DM's call).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The Disintegrate might not necessarily be on a PCs turn if it’s a Readied action or a trap. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jun 1 at 7:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM, yes, in such a case it will be the DM to make the call. I'll clarify the text. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 at 7:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think disintegrate would work, because of the pesky leaves it with phrase. After Sage Advice 2.0, this seems to be interpreted as the spell 'waiting' until all other effects have resolved, checking the final hp total, and only turning to ash if the hp are then zero. This explicitly protects barbarians with relentless endurance & druids under wild shape from disintegration. It seems like the Mythic Trait would operate the same. See the discussion here \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 3 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt: I can see that there is some reasonable room for doubt. The Q&A you link has as its top answer the conclusion that there is no general rule, and that the rule about timing from Xanathar is the best general solution we have. Until SAC (which is also only ruling advise, not core rules) explicitly makes a case of it. For what its worth, I think it also is a more elegant solution than defining the order of what wins arbitrary effect-by-effect (as shown by the flip-flopping of SAC). \$\endgroup\$ Jun 3 at 18:42
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The Rules

You ask:

Would these methods actually bypass the "reduced to 0 hit points" phrasing, allowing you to kill a Mythic monster without dealing with its second phase? Or does "dies"/"destroyed" trigger Mythic mode, just like reducing it to zero HP?

By the rules, yes, if you can bypass 0 hit points, whatever effect you got, takes effect.

Let's look at Arasta:

Armor of Spiders (Mythic Trait; Recharges after a Short or Long Rest). If Arasta is reduced to 0 hit points, she doesn’t die or fall unconscious. Instead, she regains 200 hit points. In addition, Arasta’s children immediately swarm over her body to protect her, granting her 100 temporary hit points.

Power word kill (for instance) says:

If the creature you choose has 100 hit points or fewer, it dies.

The spell is just a kill button, no hit points involved.

If Arasta is at 100 HP or fewer, and you hit her with power word kill, then Arasta is toast. The mythic trait does not contain any provision for death other than ending up at 0 HP, and power word kill just kills something. Assuming you can actually hit her when she's below 100, she dies.

How to do it

I'm going to avoid a laundry list of similar ways to bypass 0 hit points, because you say:

Now, I'm not looking for a list of methods for how to accomplish this.

But in my head, it's a song Fifty Ways to Kill Your Monster, you know, "Use power word kill, Bill / Just use disintegrate, Kate / Just set yourself free.", etc, 'cause maybe there aren't 50 ways to do it, but I think there's a lot.

Can you count on it?

Can you count on this working? Probably not. These are mythic creatures, after all. The stuff of legends. The rules serve the game, and all that. The DM can certainly jigger the rules a bit to suit their purposes.

However, these insta-kills are great tools to have in your belt. Cause if you're going after creatures of mythic proportion, you're going to need everything you can bring.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This was just a pleasure to read. Thank you for making the discussions here entertaining. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 3 at 8:26
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Chill Touch

In cases where the rules use the "regain X hit points" wording, then Chill Touch's secondary effect should effectively prevent it.

As per the spell's description:

... and it can't regain hit points until the start of your next turn.

This has a major benefit over the sword of wounding in that it applies to all healing (not just the damage inflicted by the sword) but has the same limitations (probably won't apply to HP "resets" and certainly not to the Tromokratis.)

If the creature is reduced to 0 hit points while under the effects of Chill Touch, the "mythic" action is technically triggered but the creature would still be at 0 hit points (having regained none), not dead, and not unconscious.

In this case, I would look to the rules of Death Saves and "Damage at 0 Hit Points"

Whenever you start your turn with 0 hit points, you must make a special saving throw, called a death saving throw

Damage at 0 Hit Points. If you take any damage while you have 0 hit points, you suffer a death saving throw failure. If the damage is from a critical hit, you suffer two failures instead. If the damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum, you suffer instant death.

I suppose the creature would still act (including mythic actions) while throwing Death Saves.

So it technically doesn't completely prevent the mythic trait, but it helps.

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    \$\begingroup\$ May be worth mentioning that of the 17 mythic monsters released so far, only three use the term "regain". Thirteen monsters use "resets", and one (Tromokratis, as you mention) remains at 0 HP but conscious. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Jun 2 at 19:57
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A Sword of Wounding will work on Arasta, Hythonia, and Dullahan, and maybe on the mythic dragons.

Fizban's Treasury of Dragons introduced a change in language for the mythic traits, and one of the mythic introduced in Theros has a unique mythic trait. But, for three of the published mythic monsters, the Sword of Wounding can prevent the mythic feature from triggering. The Sword of Wounding states:

Hit points lost to this weapon's damage can be regained only through a short or long rest, rather than by regeneration, magic, or any other means.

So if Arasta, Hythonia, or Dullahan are reduced to 0 hit points entirely via Swords of Wounding, their mythic trait would not trigger because their traits all specify that the hit points are "regained":

If Arasta is reduced to 0 hit points, she doesn’t die or fall unconscious. Instead, she regains 200 hit points.

If Hythonia is reduced to 0 hit points, she doesn’t die or fall unconscious. Instead, she sheds her skin, regains 199 hit points, and moves up to her speed without provoking opportunity attacks.

If the dullahan is reduced to 0 hit points, it doesn’t die or fall unconscious. Instead, it regains 97 hit points.

The effect of a Sword of Wounding would prevent these creatures from regaining hit points when their mythic traits were triggered.

Now, the mythic creatures published in Fizban's use different language. For example, the Ancient Dragon Turtle's feature reads:

If the dragon turtle would be reduced to 0 hit points, its current hit point total instead resets to 350 hit points, and it recharges its Steam Breath.

"Resets" is different from "regains", but it is up to the DM is this resetting of hit points counts as regaining for the purpose of the Sword of Wounding effect.

There is one last mythic creature we haven't addressed yet, Tromokratis. The Sword of Wounding trick probably won't work:

When Tromokratis is reduced to 0 hit points, it doesn’t die or fall unconscious. Instead, the damage creates cracks in its carapace, revealing its hearts. Tromokratis has four hearts: two on its chest, one on its back, and one at the base of its tail. A heart has an AC of 22 and 100 hit points.

Here it doesn't appear as though the Tromokratis is regaining hit points, so the Sword of Wounding won't help.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you suggesting that if all the damage you deal to a mythic monster is done by swords of wounding, then it can't regenerate? Because that may be so, but "beat it down using only this specific magic weapon" may actually be harder than fighting its mythic mode.... (Also technically you haven't prevented it from activating its Mythic Trait, you just ensured that the regained hit points don't prevent it from immediately dying, but I accept that this is ridiculous nitpicking.) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym Your observations are correct. It works, but it maybe does not make the fight easier. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1 at 18:27
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Not usually

In practice, Mythic monsters are supposed to have 2 bags of HP, and an upgraded version of themselves afterwards.

Their design quite obviously comes from 4e, when Solo monsters when "bloodied" would gain new abilities, and often do things at the moment of being bloodied.

Here, the 0 HP rule seems to prevent "blowthrough"; any damage past that point is culled. And its is worded without reference to "bloodied", a 4e game term.

Techniques that attempt to exploit the low HP total before their HP are reset, or prevent the HP regain, are quite plausibly going to be ignored by the DM.

Now, there are still ways to kill something dead without doing HP damage, or referring to their HP total, which are probably fair game. However, some DMs might even have phase 2 still occur, as if you reduced the creature to 0 HP, and clear all status conditions.

All of this is meta-game; Mythic monsters are 2 versions of the monster in serial, not a puzzle box around avoiding a 2nd phase. You should expect attempts to bend the rules into a puzzle box to fail at a table.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps it is because I haven't played 4e, but it doesn't seem that this design comes "quite obviously from 4e". Rather it appears to be a common variation on the Sequential Boss, which is a trope far older than 4e. If it is important to your answer that the design of Mythic Trait is explicitly derived from 4e, you may want to include more support to establish that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 3 at 21:33

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