Summon Boredom Elemental

Long story short: I have an introductory AutoCAD class that is required for the degree I am pursuing. I also use AutoCAD most every day, all day, and have for close to 20 years now. Thus was born:

 

monster

Cute, ain’t he? It’s like the smoke monster from Lost and Krumm from Ahh! Real Monsters got it on and had themselves an abominable baby boy. Since I went to all the trouble of trying not to fall asleep, I figured I might as well stat the little darling up for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.

 

Ravenous Cloud

Huge Elemental, neutral

Armor Class 15

Hit Points 130 (20d8+40)

Speed 40 ft., Fly 40 ft. (hover)

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Str 20 (+4) Dex 14 (+2) Con 14 (+2) Int 8 (-1) Wis 16 (+3) Cha 11 (+0)

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Skills Perception +9, Stealth +8
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities exhaustion, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained, unconscious
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 18
Languages Auran, understands Common but doesn’t speak it
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)

Special Traits:

Cloud Form The ravenous cloud can pass through spaces occupied by other creatures and stop there. Any creature within the cloud’s space has disadvantage on any ability checks and attacks that rely on normal sight. It can also pass through openings as small as 1 inch in diameter.

Actions:

Multiattack The ravenous cloud can make 2 slam attacks and one bite attack on its turn.

Slam: Melee weapon attack, +8 to hit, reach 10 ft, 1 target. Hit: 16 (3d6+6) bludgeoning damage

Bite: Melee weapon attack, +6 to hit, reach 5 ft, 1 target. Hit:  26 (4d8+8) piercing damage

Scan: In place of its slam attacks, the ravenous cloud may scan its surrounding for invisible foes. This acts like see invisibility with a range of 120 feet but only lasts for one round. (Recharge 4-6 on 1d6)

Hailing from the elemental plane of air, ravenous clouds are alpha predators from that windswept realm. On their home plane, their primary prey are invisible stalkers and even when found on the Prime Material they prefer that above other meals. As their name implies, though, ravenous clouds are constantly hungry and will stalk and devour whatever they can.

 

Unlike invisible stalkers, ravenous clouds are not easily summoned and bound by spellcasters. Sometimes an attempt to summon an air elemental goes awry and a ravenous cloud appears, usually attacking and devouring the summoner. More often these monsters slip through places where the veil is thin between the plane of Elemental Air and the Prime. They are dumb, hungry brutes with whom negotiation in impossible. They can be distracted with prey of their favored sort, however, and are capable of enough low reasoning to be intentionally redirected in that way.

 

Ravenous clouds are not tactically savvy, choosing enemies seemingly at random but with a strong preference for those that use stealth or invisibility. If there is an invisible stalker within sight of the ravenous cloud’s scan ability, it will attack that enemy regardless of what other threats are present.

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Wicked Wednesday: Lord Black

 

This week I present an established villain in the Valley of Tombs “Massive Multiplayer Table Top RPG” convention game I run — coming soon to TotalCon! — which is illustrative, I think, of the kinds of bad guys I find interesting in RPGs. The stats are for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, but I think Lord Black can be easily converted to any version of D&D or related game.

 

Not all souls that haunt the Valley of Tombs were interred there. Long before the Valley was cut off from the wider world, some chose to rule there in life rather than rest there in death. Perhaps it was the promise of treasures both rich and powerful from ages past. Perhaps it was a kinship with the Other World that rests so close to This World in the Valley. Or perhaps it was simply the fact that few dared claim the Valley, making it appear at least as an easy mark for a would-be dominion lord.

 

The man that is now known as Lord Black was one such would-be ruler. The lesser son of a lesser house whose inheritance has been squandered by his elder brothers, he took what feeble bodyguard he could muster and led them to the Valley, which was even then so many centuries ago famed for its terrors and treasures. “If I die in my quest to be a king,” he said, “then at least I can be buried as one.” His last act as scion of his house was to slit the throats of each of his siblings as they slept.

 

The Valley is an unforgiving place even in the height of summer. In the depths of winter it is as brutal and cold as the frost trolls that come down from the mountains to hunt. The self styled Lord of the Valley lost half of his retinue in the first winter, and would have lost all had they not turned to the Wedigo’s Feast for sustenance. The hardest and cruelest survived, however, and with the spring thaw they sought their vengeance on the Valley and the few good people that inhabited its outskirts. They robbed graves and raided tombs, demanded tribute and captured slaves. By the waning of summer, the Lord Black To Be had erected a motte and bailey and called it a palace. This winter, he would not starve, even if he had to eat all his slaves.

 

It was at the autumn equinox that Madra Nocht came to see the young lord. The wicked, ageless night hag came to him in her true form, as twisted and black as his heart. She disparaged his “palace” and insulted his honor and when he tried to hew her down she cast him on his face and laughed. “You desire power,” she said, “and power I can give.” “What price?” “A small thing, just your heir.” “I have no wife, let alone an heir!” “You will one day,” she promised, “but he will be mine. You will never pass your lordship down. But if you agree, you will never need to.”

 

He agreed.

 

Who knows what twisted pleasure Madra Nocht gained from her bargain with him, who she now dubbed Lord Black. No mortal can fathom the madness of her race, ancient and vile as it is. No matter her reasons, she told the newly minted Lord Black where there were tribes to conquer and where he could find the tools to do so. She gave him keys to the richest tombs of kings long dead that she had also crowned. Over the course of years, Lord black plundered and conquered, destroyed and constructed. He slew giants and dragons and warred with centaurs and goblins. He raised towers and razed churches. Never did he take a wife, or even avail himself of any slave-girl, for he ever feared what might happen should he produce an heir. Not to the heir, mind you, for Lord Black cared nothing of any other, even a theoretical son and heir. No, he saw treachery in madra Nocht’s gifts and feared the completion of the contract would end his prosperity.

 

And so it would have remained had it not been for the Pilgrim Maid. Her name is long lost to history. Only Lord Black and Madra Nocht know it now, and neither will speak it — he because it pains him too much, and her likely because she does not care to remember such trifles. She came with a flock of pilgrims to visit the resting place of their living god. Lord Black’s knights took them as slaves and when they brought the most beautiful of them to him as his share — as they always did, and he always sent her to the dungeons — he was enchanted and sent her to his kitchen instead. In time, she went from his kitchen to his hall and eventually to his side and finally, married, to his bed.

 

Had Madra Nocht, tied of the wait, cast a spell on him or given the Pilgrim Maid a love potion? Who knows the truth besides Madra Nocht? The result was the same and within a year of the wedding the now Pilgrim Lady gave birth to a son. The child was not yet swaddled when Madra Nocht appeared to collect her due. Lord Black resisted her with the power he had gained but to no avail. Her might was greater. As Madra Nocht took the child, the Pilgrim Lady cursed him for his lies and treachery and, finding the chirurgeon’s blade attacked him. He stabbed her through the heart with his ancient sword in his rage.

 

Madra Nocht left with the child and Lord Black told all that both mother and babe had died in childbirth. Wracked with guilt, Lord Black raised a cathedral to his wife’s god and prayed for forgiveness. No answer came. On the babe’s would-be first birthday, Madra Nocht delivered to Lord Black the child’s bones, scraped as they were by her butcher’s knife. He fell into madness then, becoming a terror to his own people. Over many years, he drove them away, murdered them and tortured them. Only the hardest and most evil men stayed in his employ, making him even harder and more evil himself.

 

Finally, devoid of all holdings bust the cathedral and all followers but murderous cannibals, Lord Black died of wrath and grief in his befouled cathedral. His men dined on his flesh and then fell on their swords. Such was the end of Lord Black’s rule.

 

Or, it would have been if not for Madra Nocht. The night hag came to Lord Black’s tombs and breathed foul unlife into his butchered corpse. When he rose, he knew that he would forever haunt the Valley he had sought to rule and with an unhallowed gesture woke his servants, their dead bellies still full of his flesh.

 

Ever since, Lord Black the wight and his army of ghouls and ghasts have haunted the Valley of Tombs and sought to spread fear, death and grief to any who dare venture or settle there. He especially targets good clerics and other servants of light.

 

Game Rules:

 

Lord Black is a special wight (see Monster Manual page 300) with exceptional abilities. His statistics are per a regular wight except as follows:

 

AC 18 (Plate Armor of Radiant Resistance)

Hit Points 60 (8d6+24)

Speed 20

STR 18 (+4) DEX 14 (+2) CON 16 (+3) INT 14 (+2) WIS 16 (+3) CHA 15 (+2)

Skills History +5, Intimidation +5, Perception +6

All Attacks +6 to hit with a damage modifier of +4 instead of +2.

Modified CR 6

 

Lord Black wears a suit of Plate Armor of Resistance to Radiant Damage and a Ring of Invisibility, and his sword is a Sword of Life Stealing. In addition, mortal creatures killed by Lord Black rise as ghouls rather than zombies.

 

Lord Black is always accompanied by at least 4 ghouls and 1 ghast, and possibly more if he is expecting a large group or otherwise dangerous opponent(s).


Despite his hatred of living things and irredeemably corrupt nature, Lord Black can be reasoned with and may even ally with characters that can promise to destroy Madra Nocht permanently (a difficult task indeed). Her true destruction would destroy Lord Black as well, freeing his tormented soul.

Wicked Wednesday: Madra Nocht

Madra Nocht is a night hag who dwells in the Valley of Tombs, between the growing frontier towns of Threshold and Minehold. She is a creature of pure evil and she is as cunning as she is wicked. She is also immortal, endless and ageless. Her schemes touch nearly everything in the Valley, either as her handiwork or her allies, or something to be discarded or destroyed.

 

Her cabin is located aside a gently flowing stream. It is a small simple structure with an herb garden and a porch on which a dog sleeps. Only upon closer inspection can visitors see that only poisonous plants grow in the garden and the dog is in fact a three-headed Death Hound gnawing on too-small bones. By then it is too late, for Madra Nocht emerges from her dwelling, soul sack hanging at her side and wickedness glinting in her eyes. She may not attack the trespassers immediately — she is very likely not to, in fact — but she is a predator to be sure and is sizing up her prey. No mad beast, Madra Nocht needs pawns and servants, sport and playthings and she will take pains to determine which her visitors may be. Unlike some of her kind, she never hides her gruesome visage behind an illusion of beauty. She revels in the terror she creates and loves nothing more than the moment of horror when her victims first see her — except perhaps their last, terrified gasps for breath.

 

Madra Nocht needs not eat or sleep. She never does the latter, and is always up late into the night ranging from dream to dream in search of nightmares to empower and innocents to torture. She sees and manipulates them through her cauldron. The former, she does indulge on occasion. Usually, she limits her indulgence to children (which she has the local goblin tribes snatch from their beds for her) but she may make an exception for particularly troublesome guests. If she or her Death Dog subdues a would be hero, she devours them slowly over days, keeping them alive to watch her cook their flesh and feed their bones to her pet until the last thing they see is a fork coming into their eye. But that is a rare fate, reserved for the most egregiously uncouth Madra Nocht is an immortal and a power and she demands respect.

 

As stated, she needs servants to carry out her will in Valley, willing and otherwise. She threatens, promises and cajoles, lies and manipulates and entices. She has much to offer, from wealth for the greedy to hope for the forlorn to simple desire for survival. When that does not work, she shreds off pieces of a victim’s soul and holds it as ransom until some particular deed she might need done is complete. Attacking her is both futile and suicidal: if threatened, she simply escapes into the Ethereal Plane where dreams and nightmares live. If one can manage to kill her before she can escape, she is not destroyed: her body turns to smoke and she is trapped in the Ethereal until the next new moon. In either case, she follows such a defeat immediately with revenge. She hunts through the land of dreams until she finds her attackers and slowly, with horrifying pleasure, turns all their hopes to ash and eats away at their souls until they are but husks of themselves, at which point she commands these empty vessels to do such horrid and vile things that whatever is left of the victim goes mad with guilt and terror.

 

Game Rules: Madra Nocht is a fairly typical Night Hag as presented in the Monster Manual (page 178) with a few minor but significant tweaks. In addition to the usual night hag innate spellcasting abilities, Madra Nocht is an accomplished ritualist and brewer. She can cast nearly any spell that is available as a ritual and can brew any potion. She never uses potions herself and rarely uses ritual spells for her own benefit; rather, these are tools she uses to bribe would be servants and punish those who defy her. Also, Madra Nocht may plane shift at will between the Prime Material and the Ethereal only. She may do so as a bonus action if she is wounded and automatically does so if she is reduced to 0 hit points.

 

In addition to the normal effect of her Nightmare power, anyone affected by it becomes a sort of thrall to her. She cannot control their actions but gains the ability to read their minds, scan their memories and use their senses from afar. A victim who takes psychic damage from the ability gains a level of exhaustion is addition to the other effects and anyone reduced to 0 hit points by the power becomes a wight under Madra Nocht’s control.

 

Madra Nocht is considered CR 7 for defeating her in a single encounter or adventure, but given that she is immortal and driven by revenge, characters may gain XP for defeating her more than once (DM’s discretion) on a separate occasion.

 

Her pet is a Death Dog (page 321) with three heads (and therefore three bite attacks) rather than two. The save DC on it’s disease is 14 Constitution and it causes 2d6 permanent damage rather than 1d10. It has a CR of 2.

 

At Carnage Con, Madra Nocht used her nightmare power and threats to consume the soul of a part member in order to cajole them into attacking a group of harpies who were preying on Madra Nocht’s goblin servants. This is an example of the kinds of thing she might require PCs to do for her, rather than just try and kill them outright.

Wicked Wednesday: Monster Manual Impressions

It has been a couple weeks since I finally got my hands on the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Monster Manual. While I am not going to do a full review, I do have some thoughts on the book as I prepare my convention hexcrawl The Valley of the Tombs for the Carnage Convention in Killington, VT next month.

 

First and foremost, the book is beautiful. The art is top notch (although there are a few re-used pieces, which is not necessarily bad but was unexpected) with a vibe that, like the PLayer’s Handbook, evokes AD&D 2nd Edition more than it does 3.5 or 4th Edition D&D. Just look at this Dragon Turtle illustration:

That’s not to say there aren’t more modern styles of images, such as this ghoul:

 

but the vast majority of monsters fit the high fantasy novel cover vibe of 2nd Edition rather than the video game concept art (and I absolutely DO NOT mean that in a negative way) of 3.5 and 4th Edition. As a lover of 2nd Edition, this pleases me. There is enough variety, I think, to keep everyone happy, though individual illustrations may or may not please. For example, I pretty much hate the Kraken:

It is ugly and doesn’t look a thing like a Colossal Squid of Doom.

 

One thing I found problematic with the 5E MM, especially as I worked to populate the above mentioned Valley of Tombs, was the poor indexing of the monsters. There is no list of monsters by terrain type — or even type in general. Nor is there a list of monsters by Challenge Rating, though a PDF is available on the Wizards of the Coast Web Site. Above all else, a game manual, particularly a Monster Manual, is a tool and it should, in my opinion, be designed for maximum utility both in play and during preparation.

 

On the subject of utility, I really like the statistic (stat) block layout for the 5E MM. It is clean and easy to read with minimum need for reference to other books outside of spell or spell-like ability descriptions (which is a fault, but a minor one). Even high level, highly dangerous monsters are described in relatively simple stat blocks, as evidenced by the Tarrasque:

Compare that to the Pathfinder RPG Tarrasque and you can see what I mean (note the list of Feats you have to look up in addition to all the basic monster stats).

 

The addition of an animal/beast and an NPC appendix are also great, except that it is difficult to find what you are looking for sometimes based on the alphabetizing choices made (ex: all the giant versions of regular animals are listed under “giant x” rather than “x, giant”).

 

One place where the 5E MM pales in comparison to the AD&D 2E version is the lore, or “fluff” that it presented. Lore is certainly presented, and some of it is good, but it does not evoke the complex quality of the old 2E flavor text. I understand that books are different now. If nothing else, layout is different and far fewer words fit on a page. The 2E MM was crammed full of text under a very brief stat block and a small illustration, while the 5E MM uses larger fonts and bigger spacing and much far bigger illustrations. Therefore, in order to fit as many monsters as possible in the book, the text sometimes suffers. That said, so far I have not run across any flavor text I feel is objectively poorly written, though I do find some changes in the lore to be circumspect (Merrow are now demons, rather than aquatic ogres?).

 

Overall, I like the book very much and it invigorates my enthusiasm for 5E. I am especially excited to be running 5, 4 hour session of 5E at Carnage. If you are in VT between November 7 and 9th, be sure to come and check it out!

 

AFTERWORD: I wanted to apologize to me reader (that’s a joke, son) for the sparse updates. Between taking engineering courses, fall baseball for my son and a little bit of writer’s block/insecurity, I have not been great about updating. I’ll make an effort to do better. Thanks for reading!

Wicked Wednesday: Vicious Variants pt 3

Here is the final group of variant creatures from the Starter Set. Since last time, not only has the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook dropped, but so has the adventure Hoard of the Dragon Queen and with it a web supplement including all sorts of new monsters. There is in fact only a small amount of overlap between the Starter Set monster list and the ones from the PDF supplement, so in total there are over 60 D&D 5E monsters with which to create adventures already! As such, this exercise seems superfluous, but I am enjoying the creative process so I will finish it off here. After this week, Wicked Wednesday will focus on new creatures, NPC villains, tricks and traps and other wholly original perils.

 

Orc, Berserker

 

Orcs are known for their savagery, but some of their kind truly embrace their wild side. Bred and trained by shamans who learn dark secrets from the orcs’ montrous gods, Berserker Orcs are stripped of all desires but for battle. When not in combat, they seem slothfull and dull, massive tattoo covered orcs standing stupidly outside a cave or drooling with idiocy as they look into a camp fire. But the moment battle begins, something emerges from deep with the Berserker’s mind, a wild rage coupled with such martial precision that Berserker Orcs have been dubbed Tiger-Boars by those that have faced them and lived. Once they have destroyed their enemies and the battle is over, Berserker Orcs return to their witless state until the next battle.

Game Rules: Berserker Orcs as much stronger than other orcs. They have Str 20 (+5) and Con 18 (+4) and 30 hit points (4 HD). Berserker Orcs are skilled dual weapon fighters and use a battle axe, morningstar or longsword in each hand with no penalty (+7 to hit, d8+5 damage each). Their wild mental state makes them immune to charm, fear and sleep effects of all kinds and they have advantage on Wisdom saving throws to resist all other mind affecting magic. A Berserker Orc is CR 2 (450 XP).

 

Owlbear, Flying

 

The only thing more terrifying than a 2000 lb raptor-ursine hybrid bearing down on you is one doing so from the sky. Very rarely, an owlbear is hatched with fully functional fore-wings. These creatures quickly become the apex predator in an area and drive out everything short of dragons. Flying owlbears and griffons compete over hunting grounds and will usually attack one another immediately (the loser, who is likely to flee when half its hit points are gone, moves onto another area).

Game Rules: Flying Owlbears are exactly like their land bound kin except they have a fly movement speed of 80 ft.

 

Skeleton, Fossil

 

Bone is hard, but stone is harder. The calcified remains of the ancient dead can, too, be reanimated by powerful necromantic forces, whether by the whim of some demonic being, in the service of a mortal practitioner of the dark arts, or simply the thin border between the Prime Material Plane and that of Negative Energy. While some Fossil Skeletons are recognizable in form, many are strange and evoke a long forgotten age when wicked serpent folk ruled over the brutish ancestors of modern peoples. There is something of the primordial time in the cruel, if dull, wit of Fossil Skeletons, something savage and primal.

Game Rules: Fossil Skeletons do not wear armor scraps as normal skeletons do, but posses AC 14 due to the natural hardness of stone. In addition, Fossil Skeletons do not suffer from vulnerability to bludgeoning attacks and in fact have resistance to slashing and piercing attacks. Their Hit Dice equal 4d8+8 (27 HP). They are most often armed with spears (+4 to hit, 1d8+2 damage) but are sometimes unarmed (1d6+2 damage). Fossil Skeletons are CR ½.

 

Spectator, Larval

 

Imagine a bulbous globe of slimy flesh, covered in viscous ooze, with one worm like appendage protruding from the top. At the end of this appendage is a single, unblinking eye that glows with foul magic. Now imagine this globe sits on the shoulders of a humanoid form, perhaps a goblin or an innocent miner or even your fellow adventurer, where the head should be. The Larval Spectator is the immature form of a full grown spectator. Spectators lay eggs inside the skull of a dead or dying victim, which hatch within hours and begin to devour the brain. After a day, the brain bursts the skull, having been completely transformed into the Larval Spectator. Only a single engorged eye of the host’s head remains, now on a prehensile stalk. The Larval Spectator is able to control the host body and attempts to locate other Larval Spectators, because only when four Larval Spectators come together — each with a different eye stalk power — can a full grown Spectator form, at which point it is drawn into the Far Realms where it belongs.

Game Rules: Larval Spectators are essentially one quarter of a full grown version of the abomination. When a Larval Spectator is created, it possesses only one of the full grown Spectator’s eye stalk powers (roll 1d4 to determine which). It has no bite attack, though it may attack with unarmed strikes, including grappling, nor can they create food and water (they are slowly devouring the host corpse to which they are attached). Also, they only have 2d8+2 (13) hit points. The CR of a Larval Spectator is 1.

 

Stirge, Swarm

 

When a party of adventurers stumbles across a nest of stirges and must fight off a dozen or so of the blood suycking monsters, it constitutes a bad day. When those same adventurers manage to find and disturb and entire colony of stirges, it is positively apocalyptic. Stirge Swarms usually form during the colder months, when stirges leave their relatively small nests in favor of caverns, ruins and other unattended places. It is believed they do so in order to go into hibernation, reducing their body temperatures like bats to make it through the lean season.Unlike bats, disturbed stirges are immediately consumed by hunger for blood and attack whatever is nearby (other than stirges) in huge numbers. Most Stirge Swarms include thousands of individual stirges but some have been recorded including over a million stirges. The larger the swarm, the more likely it will not be sated by whatever is in the immediate area and will flow like a black river of death into the night sky, in search of the closest feeding ground, be it wild herd or rustic village.

Game Rules: A Stirge Swarm is not a monster, it is a natural disaster. Individual Stirge “encounters” are a constant threat, of course, including 6-12 stirges attacking any given part on any given round on the periphery of the swarm. Anyone entering the swarm is unable to fully resist and takes 5d4+13 damage whenever they start their turn within the limits of the swarm. Of that damage, the initial 1d4+3 is piercing (the rest is due to blood loss). If a character is somehow immune to piercing damage in a way that completely avoids the initial damage, the character avoids all damage for the round. A Stirge Swarm can be dispersed if the PCs cause a total of 100 points of damage over no more than 4 rounds (if 4 rounds go by and 100 damage has not been caused, remove only the hit point total damage from the  first round of damage. The Stirge Swarm is immune to piercing, resistant to all other weapons as well as spells that require a to hit roll or have a line area of effect. One the upside, the Swarm is vulnerable to fire and poison damage. If a Stirger Swarm is dispersed, treat it as a CR 3 encounter.

 

Twig Blight, Kindler

 

When a wild fire ravages a forest, many twig blights are destroyed along with ordinary plants. However, for some the fire changes them and although it destroys them like the others, they seed as they die. These seeds grow into Kindler Twig Blights, who resemble their parentage in all ways but one: Kindler Blights thrive in fire, much to the surprise and terror of otherwise experienced adventurers who would use flame to stamp out the monstrous plant creatures.

Game Rules: Kindler Twig Blights posses immunity to fire, both mundane and magical. In addition, if a Kindler Blight is damaged by magical flame it becomes itself a torch and causes an additional 1d6 fire damage on any successful hit or to any creature that begins its turn in contact with the Kindler Blight (such as when grappling). In all other ways they are identical to regular Twig Blights.

 

Wolf, Alpha

 

Although no more than animals, wolves suffer a terrible reputation among the common folk of the world. Due to their predatory nature and their chilling howls in the night and mist, many people attribute evil to the wolf. It is true some elder, darker breeds of wolf do serve evil, such as the warg, there are also wolves that are noble and good. Alpha Wolves are one such breed, though in reality they are not a breed apart such as wolves but rare wolf pups that are blessed with great power, wisdom and nobility. As they grow up, they naturally take command of their packs, and often attract the attention of good fey, druids and rangers. Their primary interest is in preserving their native habitat and protecting other wolves, but they do so by combatting evil wherever it infects the wild. They are great enemies of the aforementioned wargs, as well as werewolves and other evil wolves and wolf like creatures. they may aid good characters who serve similar interests, or direct their packs to destroy those that oppose them.

Game Rules: Alpha Wolves are Neutral Good. They are Large creatures with 6d8+12 HD (43 HP) and possess the following stats: Str 14 (+2), Dex (14 (+2), Con 15 (+2), Int 8 (-1), Wis 16 (+3), Cha 10. Their bite is at +6 to hit and does 4d4+8 damage. Against evil creatures, it is considered both magical and silvered. In addition, an Alpha Wolf may expend an action to bolster all allies within 30 feet, allowing them to recover 1 HD immediately and granting +2 on their next attack roll, saving throw or skill check. This ability has a recharge of 5-6. An Alpha Wolf is CR 2.

 

Zombie, Bursting

 

The corpse of the villager shambles forward. It is bloated by decay, stomach distended and eyeballs bulging. It is not until your sword is already swinging that you realize that its mouth is sewn shut or that its nose and ears and sealed with great globs of wax. You try and stop your swing but it is too late. As soon as the steal cuts into its sallow torso, blood and bile and something far more foul spew everywhere. You can barely hear your own screams as you collapse and frantically try and wipe the noxious goo from your skin. Bursting Zombies are used by wickedly clever necromancers as traps, knowing that adventurers are often quick to fight when confronted with undead minions. Filled with one of many possible dangerous compounds and sealed against”leakage” the Bursting Zombie is essentially a walking trap.

Game Rules: Bursting Zombies are like other zombies in most ways and retain their usual abilities and limitations. However, when a Bursting Zombie takes damage, roll a d20 and compare the result to the total amount taken by the bursting zombie. If the d20 roll is under 20 AND less than the total amount of damage suffered, it is immediately reduced to 0 HP and explodes. A Bursting zombie reduced to 0 HP always explodes. Every creature within 10 feet of the bursting zombie is affected by the substance with which the zombie was filled. Possibilities include poison gas (Constitution DC 12 save or be poisoned for 10 minutes), alchemists fire, green slime, rot grubs, explosive powder (3d6 fire damage, Dexterity DC 13 save for half), and others. The base CR for a Bursting Zombie is ½, but my be increased for especially dangerous explosive attacks.

 

Wicked Wednesday: Vicious Variants Part 2

Let’s continue with our Vicious Variants to get more use out of the monsters provided in the Starter Set.

 

Giant Spider, Wicked

 

As terrifying as they are, most giant spiders are simply animals: merciless predators indeed, but motivated only by hunger and other base responses. The Wicked Giant Spider is different — it is an intelligent, malevolent being, motivated by greed, hatred for all things that walk on fewer than eight legs, and, yes, hunger — an insatiable thirst not merely for blood, but also the fear that consumes the victim as it is devoured paralyzed but alive.

Game Rules: Wicked Giant Spiders are highly intelligent and have the following ability scores: Int 14 (+2), Wis 12 (+1) and Cha 10 (+0). They are telepathic and can communicate with any creature within 100 feet, regardless of language, and have blindsight to 60 feet. Wicked Giant Spiders do not produce webs and lose the Web Sense and Web abilities. It does have a special ability called Fascination (Rechard 5-6): As an action, the Wicked Giant Spider may use its telepathic ability to fascinate any living, sentient creature within range. The victim must make an Intelligence saving throw versus DC 12 or be paralyzed. Maintaining the fascination requires concentration by the Wicked Giant Spider. Wicked Giant Spiders are invariably evil and tend to also be chaotic.

 

Goblin, Winged

 

No one is sure where Winged Goblins came from. One theory posits that they were created by a witch who sought evil and highly mobile minions. Others believe they are a mutant offshoot of true goblins, exposed to some arcane energy that spawned a handful of Winged Goblins that bred true. In any case, Winged Goblins inhabit similar terrain as their earthbound cousins, from underground caverns to jagged badlands to dark forests. Winged goblins rarely interact with “normal” goblins, and when they do it is usually in conflict. Very rarely, a goblin tribe will have a Winged Goblin chief or shaman.

Game Rules: Winged Goblins are exactly like other goblins, including their Nimble Escape ability, save for two differences: first, they are able to fly at a speed of 30 feet, and second their wings prohibit the use of armor (AC 13 instead of 15). Winged Goblins rely heavily on ranged weapons, for obvious reasons, and may also use an action to make a diving attack with a melee weapon, which, if successful, does an additional d6 of damage. Note that due to the force of their collision, the goblin takes half of the total damage from the attack. For this reason, some refer to Winged Goblins as Suicide Goblins.

 

Grick, Arboreal

 

The grotesque monster known as the grick has a tree dwelling cousin that makes remote, dark forests as dangerous as any winding cavern.

Game Rules: Arboreal Gricks have Forest Camouflage — granting advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks in forests — instead of Stone Camouflage. In all other ways they are exactly like other gricks.

 

Hobgoblin, Bogeyman

 

Most hobgoblins live in the highly militaristic clans of their kind and enforce a (not undeserved) stereotype as a disciplined, mighty goblinoid warrior. But not all hobgoblins are made for living in that rigid caste system, and while most of these are culled early on, a few escape hobgoblin society and live alone in the dark places of the world, away from their kin and on the fringes of civilized lands. Unfortunately, their disdain for organized society that caused their exile in the first place did not tame their wicked hearts, and these hermit hobgoblins, in their depredations, become the stuff of tales meant to terrify children into behaving. They become Bogeymen.

Game Rules: Bogeyman Hobgoblins reject their militaristic call. They do not posses the Martial Advantage ability, have an AC of 12 (leather armor) and carry only a short sword (+3 to hit, 1d6+1 damage). However, they have mastered skulking and sneaking (Stealth +6 and Perception +4/14) and are capable of making a sneak attack as a rogue (+1d6). They have a black magic in them and can cast Charm Person (save DC 12; recharge 5-6), which they often use to draw innocents away from their homes before slaying and eating them. Bogeyman Hobgoblins are Chaotic Evil.

 

Nothic, Blinding One

 

Not all secrets of the multiverse come from dark sources, but even the righteous truth is far beyond the mortal mind to comprehend.. Just as the common nothic was once a wizard who peered too deeply into the unknown abyss, a Blinding One Nothic was once a divine, good spellcaster that sought forbidden truth in the heavens. Having flown too close to the sun, the Blinding One was consumed by the radiant truth and turned into a overflowing vessel of divine power.

Game Rules: Blinding One Nothics are similar to their arcane cousins in most respects. They have an Int of 10 and a Wis of 13 (+1) and Religion +3 instead of the Arcana skill. Instead of the Rotting Gaze ability they have a Blinding Gaze: if a single target within 30 feet fails a DC 12 Wisdom save, the victim take 1d8 radiant damage and is blinded for one round. A Blinding One Nothic retains the Weird Insight ability but the knowledge gained by the Nothic is always a secret the victim has told no one, which the Nothic immediately exposes in mad whispers. Blinding One Nothics are chaotic neutral — they were once good but have been driven completely mad.

 

Ochre Jelly, Goblin Jar

 

Not a monster specifically, these are small clay jars filled with Ochre Jelly and used as grenade like weapons by goblins. The clay jar is bound with rope which leaves a short “tail” by which goblins swing and throw the jar (+4 to hit, range 10/30 feet). When the jar lands, regardless of whether it hits, it shatters, releasing a Tiny sized Ochre Jelly. Tiny Ochre Jellies have 5 hp and do only 1d6 damage on a successful attack. They have advantage against any enemy hit by the jar from which they were released. Ochre Jellies from jars that did not hit are released and immediately move toward the nearest jelly in order to merge with it. If 4 Tiny Jellies merge, they form a small jelly (10 hp). If two small jellies merge, they form a medium jelly (pseudopod does 16d+1 plus acid and 20 hit point) and if 2 medium jellies merge they form a large jelly (per page 60 LMoP). The DM should increase the XP award of the goblin encounter by one full CR level..

 

Ogre, Hagborn

 

Normal ogres are a race of marauding giants. They are a true breeding race (though one shudders to imagine the coupling) with their own culture, such that it is. Hagborn Ogres are not ogres at all, nor are they giants, but they are often mistaken for true ogres due to their size, malevolence and stupidity — each of which rivals or exceeds that of the true ogre. As their name implies, Hagborn Ogres are the spawn of hags, a race of monstrous humanoid witches of terrible cruelty and wicked cunning. When a hag uses deceit or magic to trick a noble soul into wedding her, a Hagborn Ogre is always conceived on the wedding night (before the hag reveals herself and the father is either murdered and devoured or is able to escape). A year later, on the anniversary of the deed, the Hagborn Ogre is born. Hagborn Ogres have the same coal black eyes and dark green skin of their mothers and are always massive in size and musculature. They retain some semblance of their father, often facial features or the color and texture of their hair (unkempt as it often is). Hagborn Ogres are unflinchingly devoted to their horrible mothers.

Game Rules: Being of more magical stock, Hagborn Ogres are slightly less dim than normal Ogres (Int 6 and Wis 10). Their parentage also gives them greater Strength (21) and they have 10 HD (hp 80). Most Hagborn Ogres wear chainmail armor (AC 16) and wield giant greatswords (+8 to hit, 4d6+5 damage) and javelins. While fighting in defense of his hag mother, a Hagborn Ogre has advantage against the character or creature that last attacked her. If she is killed, he falls into a raging despair, fighting at disadvantage until he is killed or all enemies are destroyed. It is extremely rare but not unknown for an orphaned Hagborn Ogre to seek out his father, either for vengeance or in an attempt to join his family.

Wicked Wednesday: Vicious Variants, Part 1

Like Magical Monday, Wicked Wednesday is a (hopefully) weekly column of D&D 5th Edition information dedicated to monsters, traps and other vile tricks for the Dungeon Master to use against his player characters. Like that column, initially Wicked Wednesday will focus on information in the Starter Set and the Basic PDF, but expand to include new information as it is released both in print and on line. I hope to see you back here every Wednesday for monsters and mayhem!

 

With weeks yet before the release of the PHB and months before the Monster Manual ships, Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Dungeon Masters must make due with the relatively short list of creatures found in the Starter Set adventure Lost Mine of Phandelver.

 

In order to expand the potential enemies available to the Dungeon Master in his quest to provide fun and interesting (and deadly!) challenges for his players, I will, in this installment of Wicked Wednesday and the next couple weeks, provide Vicious Variants for most of the creatures present in the Lost Mines adventure. Rather than new creatures cut from whole cloth, these will be (as the name suggests) variant versions of the Mines adversaries, with just a tweak or two to keep them interesting and surprising but maintaining the utility of the stat blocks provided in the adventure.

 

So, without further ado, I give you Vicious Variants, Bugbear to Giant Spider.

 

Bugbear, Nightkin

 

All bugbears prize stealth and ambush as their favored means of engaging their enemies, but the Bugbear Nightkin becomes the darkness itself. Born with night black hair and white, pupiless eyes, the nightkin are considered gifts from the dark goblinoid deities. They often lead ambushes or serve as scouts for war parties, and can be found working as assassins for all manner of evil humanoids (and humans!).

Game Rules: Nightkin Bugbears do not possess the Brute ability. Instead, they use the Sneak Attack ability as a rogue (1d6 additional damage when granted advantage) except they gain the bonus with any melee weapon. In addition, Nightkin are considered invisible when in dim light or darkness.

 

Commoner, Mob

 

The simple folk of small towns and villages that dot the landscape are generally well meaning, if somewhat suspicious of strangers. Occassionally though, commoners will turn from genial regular folk into an unruly, and ultimately deadly, mob. Sometimes, fear or jingoism are used to created a Commoner Mob, while other times it is the work of more sinsiter and magical forces. In any case, once a mob has formed and set itself against the party, it can be very dangerous indeed.

Game Rules: A Commoner Mob is considered a swarm —  a group of like creatures acting as a single entity. Huge in size, the mob may overwhelm a victim by occupying is space and dragging the victim to the ground or tearing him limb from limb. A Commoner Mob makes a grapple attack against any character in its space with a total bonus of +6. If it succeeds, the victim is grappled. An incensed mob may cause 2d6 damage to a victim that starts its turn grappled in this manner. Commoner Mobs are considered 9 HD creatures and have 45 hit points. They take only half damage from non area of effect attacks. If a mob is reduced to less than half its maximum hit points, it disperses and no longer poses a threat (though individual commoners may,at the DM’s discretion). A Commoner Mob is a CR 1 (200 XP) “creature.”

 

Cultist, Mad

 

Some would say all cultists are mad, given their propensity for worshipping foul entities hidden from plain sight. The Mad Cultists, however, goes far beyond the usual disregard for life and polite society of his peers. Truly a zealot of some unknowable monstrosity beyond mortal understanding, the Mad Cultists has been touched by that twisted power and made far more dangerous for it.

Game Rules: The Mad Cultist possesses a zeal that grants a bonus action each turn. This action may only be used for the Attack, Dash or Help actions. In addition Mad Cultists may summon supernatural might in service to their dark gods. On a single attack, the Mad Cultists hs advantage and on a successful hit will do an additional die of damage (1d6). If the cultist misses, his dark patron is displeased and he takes 1d6 damage. Mad Cultists are CR ¼ (50 XP).

 

Doppleganger, Skinmaster

 

The inscrutable dopplegangers act in the wider world towards an unknown purpose. Most are sinister, shadowy figures, hidden in plain sight and only engaging in open combat when all other options have failed. The Skinmaster is different. A warrior trained in shifting its shape for defense, Doppleganger Skinmasters serve as guardians and champions among the shapeshifters. They are occasionally hired out to others, but only when the clients interests align with those of the shapeshifters. Given that dopplegangers engage in decades and even centuries long plots, however, often even such clients have no idea what role they play in the Dopplegangers’ plans.

Game Rules: Doppleganger Skinmasters do not posses the multiattack action. Instead, once per round as a bonus action, they may choose one type of attack. They have resistance to this type of attack until the choose to change the type. There is no time limit to the ability nor a limit on the number of uses. If the skinmaster is knocked unconscious, however, the resistance goes away.

 

Evil Mage, Enchanter/tress

 

Not all magic is the destructive variety. Many masters of the Arcane choose a more subtle path, allowing them to manipulate others with words as sweet as nectar and as deadly as venom. And enchanter or enchantress can be a sly con artists on the city streets, or an advisor to a chieftain or king. He or she can have the ear of every thief in the Guild, or manipulate the very faith of the clergy of a great cathedral. While not particularly dangerous themselves in direct combat, these masters of manipulation are often guarded by charmed and duped minions of great skill and might.

Game Rules: The enchanter/tress has a Charisma of 16 (+3) and is proficient in both Deception and Persuasion (+5 each). He or she knows the following spells: Cantrips=dancing lights, mage hand, prestidigitation; 1st level=charm person, sleep; 2nd level=hold person, suggestion.

 

Flameskull, Deathskull

 

The vast majority of Flameskulls are created from the remains of dead evil wizards, but some few are forged from the remains of evil clerics. Unlike a Flameskull, however, a Deathskull is not the creation of a mere mortal spellcaster, but that of a demon or other dark entity worshipped by the mortal who is to become the Deathskull. Beings such as these are not gods and they cannot command legions of fallen angels. Instead, they must forge their own harbingers from the remains of those who foolishly followed them in mortal life. As such, all Deathskulls are tormented mockeries of life, who desire only to bring pain on the living and are bound to serve one final, single command of their creator, usually as a guardian or an assassin.

Game Rules: Deathskulls were clerics in life rather than wizards. As such, their Int is 10 and their Wis is 16 (+3). They are proficient in Wisdom saves. They cast clerics spells rather than wizard spells: Cantrip=thaumaturgy; 1st level=Inflict wounds, shield of faith;2nd level=hold person, spiritual weapon; 3rd level=dispel magic.

 

Ghoul, Infectious

 

One wonders: how are ghouls made? Some scholars believe they are wicked mortals cursed to an unlife of continued evil. Others contend that it is the act of cannibalism that transforms a mortal into a ghoul. Still others believe ghouls are a true breeding, subterranean race, not undead at all but so connected to negative energy that they appear to be in the eyes of clerics and other divine casters. The truth is far more insidious, however: ghouls are the victims of a horrible disease, an infection that transforms them into flesh eating monsters from normal mortals. Most of the time, once transformed, a ghouls is no longer infectious. But some few remain that way into their unlife and any they scratch with their filthy claws will also become infected and be doomed to rise as a ghoul.

Game Rules: Against the Infectious Ghoul, any character that fails their Constitution save and is paralyzed may also become infected and shortly transformed into a ghoul as well. In such cases, the character makes a second Constitution save at DC 15. If this fails, they die and emerge from their paralyzed state as a shoul. If they fail the saving throw with a “1” they emerge as an Infectious Ghoul. Infectious Ghouls are CR 2 creatures (450 XP).

 

Next week, I tackle Giant Spiders to Owlbears!