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!