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Top Ten D&D Foes (You probably HAVEN’T heard of)

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Firstly, if you haven’t already, go check out my “Top 10 D&D Foes (You Probably Already Heard Of)”… With that in mind I’m about to take a look at the opposite side of the coin. Foes you may not have heard of (or are sorely underused).

You’ve made your way into the depths of an ancient temple that had tapped into a powerful magical leyline. You’ve heard tell that long ago wizards came here seeking the secret hidden away within the swirling maelstrom of knowledge that has erupted here. In the darkness your lantern passes over a single eye staring back at you, and even though it blinks and seems to slink away, you heart sinks as you think: Beholder. You aim to get a better view for a moment, expecting your inevitable death, and are greeted with a slinking humanoid. Its body an amalgamation of chaos and human. It’s eye passes over you and suddenly you realize that you’ve lost something. A secret you’ve kept. “I know!” It says in a strange language. “It was you that killed her while she slept. She didn’t love you, so you killed her…” You rush forward striking the creature violently. Other eyes appear in the room, slinking between ancient pillars. There is no secret safe from these eyes!

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  1. The Nothic. These beasts are the remnants of corrupted knowledge seekers. They sought secrets that were long forgotten and have been punished by Vecna himself. Their gaze is potent. Capable of stealing secrets from their prey as well as rotting them from within. Nothics are a great addition to any long lost magical temple.

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  1. Water Weird. Have you ever wanted to drown your friends… figuratively of course. These are the nasties to do it. They are designed to do it, their primary attack grapples and pulls targets towards their pool of water. They are invisible in water and have a slew of resistances and immunities. Check them out.

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  1. Oni. My favorite Foe of all time is the Ogre Mage and the Oni is just that. They are big and nasty, can deal significant hits with their mighty glaive, and have magic to back that up. They can also shape shift to make themselves into pretty much whatever humanoid they want. They are not only awesome enemies, but they can easily be used as a recurring foe or BBEG.

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  1. Slaad. Imagine the Alien from the Alien movies. Now imagine a frog. Now imagine a vindictive mind bent on furthering their progeny. They plant egs within humanoids that eventually burst out of the chest killing the host… OR they give you a disease that slowly turns you into a Slaad that will likely try to impregnate a humanoid with a chest burster. Awesome, but gross.

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  1. Cranium Rats. A swarm of rats that get smarter them more their are. Their brains are showing. Their brains glow. Oh, and they can control your mind. That’s what they are. Cool.

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  1. The Scarecrow. Yeah sure it’s got vulnerability to fire, but this nasty can haunt your dreams. These scarecrow have a gaze that can send the mightiest character running in fear. Their also constructs which gives them a slew of immunities and resistances.

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  1. Bone Nage. Nagas on their own are pretty cool. However Nagas that have been mummified by Yuan-Ti and enslaved for all eternity to become temple guardians are cooler. These nasty undead have a number of powerful mind altering spells they can use to manipulate any battle. Give them a few Yuan-Ti helpers and your players are in some serious trouble.

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  1. Non-Player Characters. Hidden in the appendices of Volo’s Guide to Monsters there is a section dedicated to Non-Player characters. Many of these are fantastic and that section alone could easily populate a number of spots on this list. Check it out, you won’t be sorry.

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  1. Genies. I love foes that can take on many rolls, and genies do just that. There are a number of options in the Monster Manual and each of them are simultaneously dangerous in the front row and as a powerful magic user. The also come with fantastic lore and amazing sources of inspiration from fiction and folklore alike.

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1. Yuan-Ti Anathema. I really love Yuan-Ti as villains and I could include a number of their entries from the Monster Manual and Volo’s Guide on this list however I have to give a special shout out  to the Anathema. This monstrosity is imposing with it’s huge size and numerous snake heads. It keeps many of the bonuses Yuan-TI usually posses as well as some powerful spells, namely Divine Word. The Anathema sees itself as a God and has the patience of one. Whittle your enemies down and see them driven before you with your Divine Word.

Oresan’s Magnificent Foes: The Bloodsail Scavenger!

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Arrrr me matey! You be seeking some sunken treasure in the depths of the deepest darkest oceans? Well pirate captain Oresan has a story for you… ::cough:: ::Clears throat:: Weird. Sorry about that. Sometimes national talk like a pirate day is every day…

If you couldn’t tell I’m going to talk about a foe I used in an adventure of the High Seas variety. This is my first entry in a series called “Oresan’s Magnificent Foes” in which I will be detailing entries in a personal Monster Manual of sorts. Each entry will include a little blurb about What the foe is, Why it exists, and How I went about creating it. I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any suggestions, comments, or would like to see me create a foe based off something you love (or loathe) please let me know in the comments below.

Bloodsail Gnoll

What? What exactly is a Bloodsail Scavenger?

 

Imagine sailing the open ocean. Your comfortable with the systematic rocking caused by the endless rolling waves. Your not far from shore, trolling along the coastline for schools of fish. You do; however, find yourself scanning the horizons  as the sun begins to set. You know that these waters are infested with the Bloodsail Gnolls, horrific humanoid hyenas that capture forlorn fishermen and merchants. Rumor has it they take those that live back to their bone filled dens and sacrifice them to their god, the Ever Hungering. They keep their prey alive so they are fresh when they are devoured by the Bloodsail clan.

Its said they attack ships near the coast during the early hours of the night. The row out on speedy longboats, using red sails that seem to blend in with the light from the setting sun. By the time you see them coming, it’s already too late. They hulking beats, standing nearly 8 ft tall, have already boarded the boat. They attack with gnarled spears capable of piercing through heavy armor. These sadistic creatures carry nets used for ensuring the capture of living meat. They kill the strong mercilessly and capture the weak; the children and the old. If you have the foresight to give up before they get a chance to fight, your fate is sealed and far worse than a quick death by being run through.

 

Why? Why did I create these Abominations in the first place?

 

I have always loved Gnolls as a foe in my campaigns. They are sadistic and nasty and have a great tribal feel to them. As such I often try to include them in some way. I took it upon myself to run an island hopping adventure in a homebrew setting called “The Shattered Isles” for a few strangers online. Early on in their adventure I wanted to introduce them to something that was going on in the world around them. I wanted this to be subtle and not necessarily centered around something they would have empathy for.

Why not Gnolls? I could have just thrown some regular old Gnolls at the party, however they were level 1 at the time. So i needed to scale them down and give them a bit of High Seas flair.

 

How? Everybody has a process, what was mine?

 

The Bloodsail Scavengers are at their core a standard Gnoll, however they do not share the CR of one. (A Gnoll in the Monster Manual has a CR of ½ whereas the CR of a Bloodsail Scavenger is ¼) I took the hit points and lowered them by about a ⅓. The other abilities are nearly identical in damage and scope, however; I took away their Longbow and replaced it with a net.

The Longbow needed to go. This weapon alone could take early fights and make them significantly lopsided in favor of these ferocious beasts. These Gnolls still have a ranged weapon by throwing their spears as well as the addition of the net. They can use the net to restrain characters and drag them into the depths causing them to drown or to simply restrict their movements.

(Important note about nets: Though they are ranged, their distance is 10/30 which means if they throw the net any distance 10 or beyond they are at disadvantage. This means that their effective range is 5 ft with net without suffering disadvantage; however, to 5 ft is melee range and when you use a ranged attack in melee it suffers disadvantage. All attempts to net a creature are at disadvantage!)

Once again this was the inaugural entry into Oresan’s Magnificent Foes, an evolving Monster Manual of sorts. If you have any comments, suggestions, or have a foe you’d like to see created please let me know in the comments below.

Adventure Framework Part 3: The Pillars of the Adventure or The Art of Leaving Blanks.

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We built this city on Rocks and Rolls. We did! It’s the parody that plays in my head on a nearly endless loop whenever I think of a completed adventure. Following my methods from the previous articles allow you to do just that: make a city. We made a city full of foundations, roofs, and above all else, pillars. That’s the way it should be. The adventure you take your players on is not as simple as coming up with a single idea, a single building. It’s about creating numerous buildings.

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Imagine a city block, and within that block there is a single building. It’s nice. Has some cool features. People come and take pictures occasionally, but eventually people stop showing up. “It was nice the first time I was here…” Now it’s old news. Imagine now that a local man built a coffee shop next door, and a young entrepreneur decided to create a hanging garden. Another builds a building full of studio apartments, a small museum… People nearby that love the building see the potential of the space and create something grand. Before you know it the city block becomes a bustling hub for creativity and community spirit.

 

You, the GM, owned that block. You created the first building. The inspiration. The others: They built on it and created something for themselves. You were successful in spurring their ambition and helped them create their own community. That’s how it works. The GM creates the Building on the empty block, the players fill it up with and make its surroundings come to life.

 

How do we let them build their own city block?

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Top 10 D&D Foes (You Probably Already Heard Of).

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You gather your party and head into the darkest depths of the dungeons. The sirens song of fame and riches pulls you ever deeper. In a particularly dark corner you and your companions turn the corner and are met by a massive unblinking eye, glowing yellow in the dark. As you reach for your weapon numerous smaller eyes illuminate and circle the center. Your friend, a mage, begins casting a spell, and though her motions are familiar the spell crackles fruitlessly  and in an instant she is turned to dust in a brilliant flash of green. The rogue bravely leaps forward and is caught by an invisible force and thrust against the nearby wall collapsing in a lump. You draw your sword a try to take a step forward but you feet are stuck firmly in place. You look down to see your body turning to stone and as you take your last breath before becoming a permanent fixture you see your final companion, a paladin, bow before the beast and offer up his sword to it. You see a ghastly and toothy grin open up into a maw as the beast devours your friend.

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  1. Beholder (Should be higher, but works better with the intro…). You’ve meet the same fate of countless foul hardy adventurers. The Beholder is a fearsome and respected being, and any adventurers worth their weight know to avoid them at all costs. They combine heightened intelligence with willful destruction. Their anti-magic cone emanating from their central eye makes short work of magic wielding foes. Their eye stalks are especially deadly with effects ranging from massive damage that makes it impossible to resurrect your friends to powerful charming effects. They are not to be trifled with.

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  1. Displacer Beast. On your travels, you may have heard tell of many legged cat like beasts that seem to exist between our world and the ethereal plane. The Displacer Beast is a monstrous predator that lashes out at its enemies with barbed tentacles protruding from its back. It’s also blessed with a permanent displacement effect causing players to have disadvantage to strike it with attacks.

medusa

  1. Medusa. You’ve heard the legends of these ancient beings locked away in temples and long forgotten homes. They are surrounded by numerous humanoid statues, their only companions, created by their petrifying gaze. Though not particularly adept at hand to hand combat they are capable in their own rite.

Treant

  1. Treant. The living forests have powerful protectors. The ancient Treants, the awakened watchers of the forest, are powerful entities  are capable of powerful attacks, especially against constructs and walls. They are also each capable of giving sentience to trees in the area giving them potent allies.

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  1. Elementals. Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. The classics. Anywhere there are unstable elemental energies a powerful and chaotic Elemental could exist. They fit a number of roles from powerful siege monsters to balls of swirling energy. They are capable of popping up in many instances and make a great addition to any dungeon.

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  1. Giants. These lumbering titans are powerful and numerous in scope. From the Nordic inspired Frost Giants to the dumb and dangerous Hill Giant, they fit numerous roles. The recent Storm King’s Thunder adventure and Volo’s Guide to Monsters adds a number of unique Giants to the DM’s arsenal.

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  1. Dragons. The come in good and evil kinds. The have breath weapons… Nuff said.

zombie

  1. Zombies. BRRAAIINNSS … The horde of nastys shamble forward. Though they aren’t particularly interesting on their own they often to lead to magnificent mysteries and stories. The Shambling horde of Zombies is a great trope and their Undead Fortitude keeps them coming back from the dead to pester the players. Also, there’s a beholder version… Talk about scary.

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  1. Vampire. One word: Strahd. There is an entire adventure based around the manipulative power of the Vampire. These creatures of the night have a plethora of abilities, legendary actions, and an eternity to plan. Play them smart and ruthless and you have yourself an iconic and memorable story and villian. Their weaknesses are one of their greatest strengths from a story standpoint, giving the players hope to defeat these powerful foes.

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Finally, and although it may be unexpected they are by far the most dangerous enemies in the world surrounding the players… Player Races. Countless of my adventures center around the desires of seemingly normal folk. You can create powerful wizards, destructive barbarians, and devoted and evil clerics. They are the center points of cities and dangerous locales and their ambition knows no boundaries.

Adventure Framework Part 2: Forget What I said, Do what I say! Conceptualizing Your Endgame.

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At the end of my last article (Adventure Framework Part 1: Start at the beginning) I said “You need to set a proper foundation, both for your players and yourself. From this, you set your pillars. The pillars are the stories you will tell. In part two we I’ll delve into the pillar of your adventures and how you should prepare each one.” I was wrong. I skipped a step: The Roof. For those of you that don’t know much about construction the roof is typically added last. You build from the ground up. You start with your foundation making sure it’s strong and level. From there you add your supports; pillars in our case. Then the roof.

Although we have created our adventure foundation, we don’t have enough information to build our pillars. We need more. What is our end game. What kind of materials will we use on top? Is it stone? Would you use the same pillars to hold up a straw roof as you would a stone roof? No. You wouldn’t. A straw hut has a very different foundation, most likely dirt. Though a straw hut and stone building are different in many ways their conceptualization is the same. They have a structure they follow.

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Adventure Framework Part 1: Start at the Beginning

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“A few small, mostly melted candles adorn an old round table at the center of this shadowy room. The candle light flickers lightly as you step into the room through an ornate curtain. The dancing luminescence wicks over numerous porcelain masks covering the walls, their demonic visage accentuated almost seeming alive. A single gold censer hangs from the ceiling, swaying lightly, it’s pungent smoke cascading from it. Sitting at the low table is an ancient man, legs crossed, as he adjusts himself on one of the oversized pillows set around the room. His eyes are glazed and pale white, his beard grey, long, and scraggly. He wears an enormous red turban adorned with silver baubles and ornaments. An ornate red demon mask lies on the table in front of him, his gangly fingers gently tracing its features. His head tilts towards you, looking more with his ears than his eyes. In a raspy yet elegant voice he says: ‘You’ve come! Have you brought it?’ “

This is an introductory event I planned out for an adventure set in a fantastical and far off, foreign land. After gathering some information from the players, I set out to design an introduction to the game WE decided to play. These introductions are an art form that takes practice to get right. They come in many shapes and sizes; though, I much prefer to use these events as an introduction to the game we will be playing. Therefore, when you plan your session 0 this should be the first thing you present to your players. This moment is an accumulation of the story you want to run as well as a representation of what your players ask for in your initial chats about playing the game. (You really should chat a bit with your players before you set up a session 0.) Each introductory event will be different depending on the type of game your players want to play and the story you want to tell.

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Starting Players on the “Right” Foot: A Dungeon Master’s Guide.

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Over a decade ago, there was a defining moment that would shape my Dungeon Mastering career. The moment that nearly all tabletop gamers share has long been burned into my psyche. A reminder. Thinking about it now: my hands clench into a fist, my heart skips a beat, my brow furrows. I feel a swelling of inner rage waiting to barf forward through my fingertips as I type. This moment, that still fills me with anguish and regret nearly 15 years later, could easily have turned me off from the hobby forever. It was the dreaded horrible first game!

No seriously… That’s it. A bad game.

The whole thing lasted around an hour before the Dungeon Master laughed maniacally as my Elven Wizard lied burnt to death on the ground being eaten by ravenous goblins. I was given no choice, no interaction, nothing. He made all the rolls. He decided what I would do. I had no idea what was going on. Nothing was explained. I felt lost…

Why is this moment so important? You may say to yourself: “Hey me, you’re awesome. You’ve been in bad games before and they didn’t leave a lasting effect. What gives?” This part, it isn’t about you. It’s about the countless number of people that will never return to our hobby because of the experience they had. Whether it be with the mouth breathing creeper, the surly rules lawyer, or the “DM vs. The Player” mentality, something turned them off.

We won’t see that person again. 

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