MTG Mechanics into D&D Rules: Menace

I wanted to make a separate post about this from my other creative posts because this mechanic has been rather challenging to translate from Magic into Dungeons & Dragons.

I’m sure if you’re following the content I produce you’re familiar with the MTG mechanic Menace, as exemplified here by a rather menacing goblin from Magic Origins, the set in which Menace was fires introduced:

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“Menace (This creature can’t be blocked expect by two or more creatures.)”

In MTG terms, Menace is both a mechanic of forcing more creatures into combat when they are available, and of preventing blocking when there is only one creature available. From a flavour standpoint, it’s about fear, and needing an ally to fight a particularly fearsome foe.

In D&D terms, this is kinda difficult to translate. Does it make a single creature afraid of a character with Menace if that creature has no allies? Is the fear applied automatically? My initial planning resulted in the following ideas:

“A creature attacking a character with Menace:”

  • “must have an ally within 5 feet

    that isn’t incapacitated or suffer disadvantage on attack rolls against the character with Menace.”

  • “is frightened by the character with Menace unless they have an ally within 5 feet

    that isn’t incapacitated

    .”

  • “suffers -5 on attack rolls against the character with Menace unless they have an ally within 5 feet that isn’t incapacitated.”

  • must pass a DC13 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened by the character with Menace. This save can be attempted again at the end of the affected creature’s turn. If the affected character has an ally within 5ft

    that isn’t incapacitated, it gains advantage on this saving throw.”

  • must pass a DC13 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened by the character with Menace. This save

    can be attempted again

    at the end of the affected creature’s turn. If the affected character has an ally within 5ft

    that isn’t incapacitated

    , it does not need to make this saving throw.” 

There were a few core parts of the Mechanic that were in the spotlight for this design:

Two or more blocking creatures

How do I treat 2 creatures as blocking together in D&D, where combat is very different to in Magic. Having an ally within 5 feet seems appropriate, as  in grid format, that means the 2 creatures are adjacent, and most likely fighting the same creature. I actually based this part on the Pack Tactics rule on several creatures in D&D, which seemed like the most appropriate starting point.

Saving throw or no saving throw?

This was a tricky point. The card mechanic is that “you need an ally or you can’t block this” but D&D has the option for saving throws. This being the case, allowing saves seems wiser, as it makes sense that more powerful creatures with a higher Wisdom score aren’t so easily afraid of a character with Menace. 

Having an ally in range negating the need for the save seems to match the mechanic more closely than it does the flavour, but with the extra flavour-y mechanics added by including the save in the first place, it doesn’t seem like this is a loss, and streamlines the mechanic more.

Fear, disadvantage, or something else?

In the flavour, a creature unable to block a creature with Menace is afraid of the menacing creature. Inability to block in Magic is something I tend to translate to D&D as having a negative affect on a character’s attack rolls.

The immediate solution for this type of rule is giving the creature disadvantage, however with the flavour of Menace, the Frightened effect seems more appropriate as it adds another element to the character’s apparent fear. I also toyed with just adding a negative to the roll (or rather, subtracting from the roll total), but felt this went to over-complicate the mechanic when there are already ideal rules in place to implicate here.

MENACE: The finalised D&D mechanic

A creature attacking a character with Menace must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of the character with Menace. At the end of each of its turns, the affected creature can make another Wisdom saving throw. On a success, the creature is no longer frightened.

If a creature would be affected but has at least one ally within 5 feet of it and isn’t incapacitated, the creature is not affected by this ability.

Implemented on a magic item:

I started working on Menace because I was designing Chitinous Cloak for my next Zendikar Equipment post, so here’s an example of my Menace rule used on that item (also being a little preview for the next equipment post!):

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Chitinous Cloak
Wondrous Item – Uncommon
You gain a +1 bonus to AC.
While wearing this item, creatures that attack you must succeed on a DC13 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of you. At the end of each of its turns, the affected creature can make another Wisdom saving throw. On a success, the creature is no longer frightened.

If a creature would be affected but has at least one ally within 5 feet of it and isn’t incapacitated, the creature is not affected by this ability.

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