4e d&d

Underrated 4E-Original D&D Monsters!

While Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition had many flaws when it came to integrating narrative and gameplay; on some pretty fundamental levels; one advantage of the system was that the simplified monster-creation allowed for a dickton of really interesting brand-new monsters to appear in a small space.

Sadly, due to both a lack of art for many of them and a fundamentally fluff-lite narrative approach for most of its run, almost nobody remembers them.

And that’s what we’re here to talk about today, with the name, a brief description, and the book they come from! So, in no particular order:

Banderhobbs- A horrible vore-frog that lives in the plane of Shadows. They take people away to work in their horrible shadow-mines until they turn into more Banderhobbs! [Monster Manual 3, tho they did come back in 5e’s Volo’s Guide]

Dreambreath Dracoliches- Dragon liches who root their immortality in the plane of Dreams and generally look like something that should be painted on the side of a van [Draconomicon: Chromatics]

Star Spawn- Horrible eldritch monster-avatars of the Stars, summoned by a giant planet that got fucked up by spending too long in the Cthulhu-dimension passing in front of them. They have stats so you can fight the giant planet. [Monster Manuals 2 & 3]

Filth Hags- A type of hag who always comes accompanied by a son she made out of poop. Yes I know they just give it as nonspecific “filth,” but we all know it’s poop [The Book of Vile Darkness. Yes there was a 4e version.]

Accipitridae- A centipede-thing made of grave-dirt and bone, part of a series of undead monsters created from grave-detritus known as Dethritus. There is also the Offalian who is a snake-thing made out of guts. [Open Grave]

Voracia- A giant starfish that eats fairies. Made as one of the edition’s Abominations; giant living weapons designed to fight in the war between the Gods and the jotun-like elemental Primordials. [The Plane Above]

Astral Renders- Another abomination, this giant silver/gold blob monster that doesn’t just eat flesh, but also the barriers between dimensions. To teleport.  [The Plane Above]

Bonewretch Skeletons- Literal dead-baby skeletons [Open Grave]

Orium Dragons- Metallic dragons obsessed with ancient civilizations, their history and lore, and with an obsession with bringing said ancient civilizations back. They breathe acid which turns into snake-vapor monsters. Which then stay around to keep attacking you. [Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons]

Apocalypse Spells- The remnants of apocalyptically deadly/powerful spells that have gained sentience, like shards of the chains of a trapped god or colorless fire from a massive war-ending spell [Monster Manual 3]

Larval Snipers/Larval Assassins/Larval Warmasters- Variants on the basic worm-that-walks monster including snipers made of wasps, assassins made of centipedes, and warlords made of beetles [Open Grave]

Chillfire Destroyers- 4e had this thing where they condensed the Elemental Planes into one big Elemental Chaos, and one of the byproducts of that was that all the elementals (at least at first) were combinations of elements. The Chillfire Destroyer; which is literally an elemental made of ice with fire inside; was one of the cooler; more iconic (In my eyes at least) manifestations of the idea. [Monster Manual 2]

Dragonscale Sloughs- Piles of dead skin and shed scales from dragons that’ve come to undead life. The dragon doesn’t even have to be dead for it to happen, as it mentions they tend to form naturally in the lairs of elder dragons [Open Grave]

Consumptive Swarm- A “demon” that’s actually a swarm of Slaad/chaos-frog larvae mutated into demons by the energy from shard of evil that formed The Abyss (Basically Chaotic Evil Hell). There’s also versions for Efreet and Djinn and a weird thing called a Writhing Crag supposedly made from Ropers and Xorn with a great design and the ability to embed you in stone. [The Plane Below]

Unrisen- People who came back very, very wrong after a Raise Dead spell. You know Pet Sematery? It’s basically Pet Sematery. [Open Grave]

Swarmtongue Worms- While the old gold-coin-mimicking Hoard Scarab came back, they also added another parasite for draconic hordes, grotesque stomachlike wormy-tongued parasites the size of a dwarf. They come in multi-headed versions called Swarmtongue Hydras and are implied to be either relatives of Carrion Crawlers or the result of what happens when the parasites feeding on a dead dragon’s body get bathed in energy from the Cthulhu dimension [Draconomicon: Chromatic]

Dragonclaw Swarms- An “advanced” version of the Crawling Claw enemy that is literally hundreds of severed dragon feet coming to attack you. D&D is silly sometimes [Open Grave]

Quom- Bald-headed two-faced people who were pretty chill until their goddess got exploded by the God/Primordial war. Now they’re searching for all the shards of their Goddess, which is a problem given how many of those have wormed their way into magic weapons or sometimes even people. [The PlaneAbove]

Flesh Cults- One of the coolest new ideas that got only one entry, they’re basically a cult not dedicated to immortality like most undead cults but rather to ˆephemerality, being in the here and the now and that everything ends eventually, with their rituals giving themselves regeneration that makes too much flesh, with it being described as a “perpetual cascade of flesh and organs,” which they then use as weapons and reanimate as temporary quickly-decaying undead servants. Because waste not want not I suppose [Open Grave]

Oubliviae- A new demon lord who looks bland at first, basically a pretty lady with an HR Geiger-armor-body, but her backstory is fascinating. Basically she is the lord of the end of all civilizations; with her layer made from a platonic “perfect” city that she ruined to turn into a reflection of the ruins of every civilization there ever was or will be; and she’s implied to come directly from the Shard of Evil at the heart of the Abyss rather than just being mutated Primordials/other creatures like the rest of the Demon Lords [Demonomicon]

Solkara- One of the few Primordials statted up that isn’t an Elder Elemental Evil with a new coat of paint, she’s suitably honked-up looking; given she’s a humanoid eel-monster with amongst other things three arms attached to two torsos connected at the shoulder and hips, which have two necks that connect to a singular four-eyestalked head. She’s stuck in an iceberg and really, really wants out. [The Plane Below]

This probably isn’t near all of them, so if I missed some, please tell me!

Man I ‘d love to see @bogleech do an article on some of these…

Follow Your Dreams!: Epic Destinies For 5e

Your epic destiny describes the mythic archetype you aspire to achieve. 

Some characters have a clear epic destiny in mind from the moment they began adventuring, while others discover their epic destiny somewhere along the way.

Most people don’t ever come close to achieving an epic destiny. 

Whether they simply failed in their journey, or whether the universe never intended them to gain such lofty heights, is unknown and unknowable. 

Your epic destiny sets you apart from such individuals—you know you’re destined for greatness and you have every opportunity to achieve it.

Keep reading

D&D 5E NPC - Betty Sindall - Hound Master

Art By: Maria Panfilova

Name: Betty Sindall 
Race: Human
Gender: Female
Height: 5ft 7’ / 1.70m
Age: 27
Class: Ranger (Hound Master)

Level: 3

AC 14 (Leather Armour), Hp 24 (3d6 Hit Die), Proficiency+2, Speed 30ft,

Alignment: Neutral 

languages: Common, Halfling,

Ability Scores:
Str 14 (+2) Dex 17 (+3) Con 16 (+3) Int 14 (+2) Wis 17 (+3) Cha 14 (+2)

Attacks: Longbow (+7 to hit, 1d8+3 Piercing damage) or Handaxe (+4 to hit, 1d6+2 Slashing damage)

Spellcasting: 3rd level Ranger, spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 13, to hit with spell attacks +5)

Spells:
1st level (3 slots): Beast Bond, Cure Wounds, Speak with Animals,

Skills: Animal Handling, Nature, Perception, Stealth, Survival,

Equipment: Leather Armour, Handaxe, Dagger, An Explorer’s pack, a Longbow, 20 arrows,

Class Features: Favoured Enemy (Beasts), Natural Explorer (Grassland), Fighting Style (Archery), Ranger Archetype (Beast Master),

PERSONALITY:

Betty Sindall is a strong person who prefers the company of dogs over people. She rarely socializes but is considered charming by those she spends time with.

Ideal: Hounds are just like people, but more loyal.

Bond: When I was young my farther had to sell the family farm due to heavy taxes. One day I’ll buy it back to honour his memory.

Flaw: I find it hard to trust people but when I do I’m ferociously loyal.

Alternate Ways to End Combat in an RPG

Hello, readers! At the moment, I’m super busy prepping a Lovecraft Legacies LARP event, but I didn’t want to fail to offer some DMing advice this week. So I grabbed an old article I wrote for the website GeeksDreamGirl.com. I wrote it with 4E in mind, but it’s lessons translate to any game. Enjoy!

Combat is an integral part of many RPGs. In some, it’s a necessary evil. In others, like D&D, it’s an exciting part of the game. Sometimes, the PCs are facing truly evil and villainous foes that need to be wiped from the face of your campaign world. Sometimes, however, you want to have a battle end in something other than a complete massacre of one side or another. What if the PCs are facing honorable foes who’ve been duped into fighting them? Or what if they’re facing foes who vastly out-number or out-power them? Is a slaughter the only answer? Obviously, the
answer can and should be no.

Here then are five ways to end a fight before the battlefield is drenched in the blood of one side or another. You can use these ways to keep a battle short, or to offer an alternative to simple one-
sided destruction.

A Fight to First Blood

If the PCs are facing honorable foes, or are fighting in a tournament, they may choose to fight to “first blood”, and I’m not referencing any cheesy 80s action films. In 4E D&D, this is an easy
concept: have the players and NPCs agree to fight until someone hits their Bloodied value, and use this as the threshold of when someone finally draws blood on the other.

This has a lot of basis in reality. Knights at tournament wanted to show their prowess at real battle, and first blood was a way to show one’s skill, but to avoid seriously injuring one’s foe. Likewise, a duel that was serious but didn’t need to be to the death would sometimes be fought to first blood. This served as a grim reminder to the wounded – I bloodied you once. Next time might be more fatal.

Holding Out Like a Hero

This is a particular favorite of mine. In it, the PCs aren’t necessarily planning on winning a fight, but only of surviving and holding off foes until a set goal is reached. This is particularly effective for when the king can get to safety if his loyal knights can last ten rounds of combat, or if a wizard needs them to hold until he gets six successes on Arcana checks. Combined with Skill Challenges, this can make for a memorable sequence. Skeletons will keep pouring out of the crypt until the cleric successfully re-consecrates it as a skill challenge of minor actions, or the room will keep filling with water that’s inhabited with shrieking eels until the rogue resets the trap mechanism. It’s up to the party to hold off the skeletons, eels, or what have you.

You can use this device to simulate a scene like Helm’s Deep. The PCs have to hold out a certain number of rounds until the reinforcements arrive. Especially in combination with an ever-increasing number of minions, this can give the proper feeling of literally holding off an army.

Cutting Off the Head

The orcish army feels unbeatable until their leader, Gruzhgarn, is slain. When the necromancer is killed, the undead crumble back to lifeless husks. The wolves will flee in dismay if their alpha is killed. If you make one or more of the enemies the linchpin holding the rest of the monsters together, then you can give the PCs a goal other than simply slaying every monster on the battlefield. Once the leader-type monster goes down, the rest will surrender, flee, return to their home plane, etc. I especially like the feeling of “kill the wizard and his minions will return to the Elemental Plane.” It’s something that makes a logical sort of story sense, and it gives an out to the players.

A variation on this is “this monster is invulnerable until condition X is met.” In my current campaign, a great example was Auntie Mengybone, whom I’ve mentioned in other columns. She was harnessing the life-force of a captive Arch Fey to constantly heal herself, making her effectively invulnerable. Several of the PCs with Controller-type powers kept her busy and away from the other PCs who were freeing the Arch Fey through a skill challenge. Once the Arch Fey was released, she immediately went into retreat mode, leaving her minions to fight the PCs. She didn’t escape, but, if she had, she would’ve likely become a recurring villain in the campaign.

Live to Fight Another Day

There’s an adage that most PCs would rather have their character killed than have them captured. I’m not sure what the psychology around this is, but I agree that it’s true. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to have your monsters behave the same way.

I befuddled my players in my Eberron campaign by having the changeling villain they’d been fighting step back, go defensive, and offer to surrender, but only if the Lawful Good character
promised him mercy. The party was immediately suspicious, but they reluctantly agreed. This let me draw a fight that was already a foregone conclusion to a quick close and keep a valuable NPC
alive for a future sequence. And when the PCs found out later that he’d escaped the prisons of their patrons, they cursed his name – darned, tricksy changelings!

The other trick is to have monsters flee. They might be running for reinforcements, or they might be running for their lives, but sometimes monsters, especially intelligent ones, might choose to abandon a fight that they’re clearly losing. Earlier editions of D&D had complex Morale check systems to help a DM determine whether or not a monster would fight on or drop their weapons, but, nowadays, story is the arbiter of such a decision.

Stop. Just Stop.

I would never suggest that you should declare a fight against the PCs and tell them they’re all dead. But good news! Your monsters don’t have any ego beyond that which you invest in them.

If you’re down to two half-dead orcs, everything else is dead, and the PCs are still in excellent shape, you can call that fight. Sure, the orcs might do a little more damage, but is it really necessary to eke every hit point from the player characters that you can? I think not.

Some DMs, and some players, don’t like this approach. They want to know exactly who did what, who killed whom, and noodle the fight down to each hit point. That’s not my style of game play. If it’s getting late, and I have an important plot point to make before game ends, and this fight is slowing me down, I’ll sometimes call a fight once it’s clear how unlikely it is that the PCs will lose. “Well, the ogre has 15 hit points, and you’re all going to get to attack before he does. Unless you really want to know who kills the ogre specifically, let’s call it. Someone describe for me how the ogre dies.” My players were baffled the first time I did this, but they’ve
come to appreciate it.

In Closing

Not every fight has to be fought to the last HP. Sometimes, there are reasons why a fight should end early, and sometimes it’s just more convenient to move things along rather than dither down to the bitter end. Using this tool, you can make battles more about the story and excitement and less about drudging down to the last hit point.

I shall use Villain’s Menace upon him! With my +3 Flail of Disruption!!!

After an hour I had to coat check my wig. There’s a reason I have short hair…

Also, someone thought I was cosplaying Wonder Woman and I was getting to the level of tipsy where I would spend an hour trying to explain that I was my D&D character…

Wizard Cantrips: From 4e to 5e

Ghost Sound

Illusion Cantrip

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 50 feet
Components: V
Duration: 1 minute

With a wink, you create an illusory sound that emanates from somewhere close by.

You cause a sound as quiet as a whisper or as loud as a yelling or fighting creature to emanate from the target.

You can produce nonvocal sounds such as the ringing of a sword blow, jingling armor, or scraping stone.

If you whisper, you can whisper quietly enough that only creatures adjacent to the target can hear your words.

Chameleon’s Mask

Illusion Cantrip

Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: Self
Components: V
Duration: 10 minutes

Whenever you make a Dexterity (Stealth) Check to Hide or to Remain Unseen, you can choose to make an Intelligence (Arcana) check instead, using that result to determine the outcome of the Dexterity (Stealth) Check.

Spook

Necromancy Cantrip

Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: Touch
Components: V
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

You Touch a Creature within Range. 

Whenever this Creature makes a Charisma (Intimidation) Check, they instead make an Intelligence (Arcana) check and use that result to determine the outcome of the Charisma (Intimidation) Check.

Water Stride

Enchantment Cantrip

Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: Self
Components: V, S

You Speed across a Liquid Surface as if it were Solid Ground.

Until the end of your next turn, you treat Liquid Surfaces as if they were Solid Ground but Difficult Terrain.

Whispering Wind

Illusion Cantrip

Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S

You speak a Message to the Wind and let it carry your words to an audience you choose.

You cause a Breeze to carry a Message of up to 25 Words or a Sound up to 6 Seconds long to a Place you choose.

The Destination must be within a number of Miles equal to your Intelligence Modifier (Minimum of 1) and must be familiar to you, and it must be a Location that the Wind can Reach.

Once you complete the Message or the Sound, the Wind travels at a Speed of 1 Mile Per Hour, until it reaches the Destination, where it conveys the Message or the Sound, regardless of whether anyone hears it.

You may only have One Whispering Wind Active at any one time.

Buffing a Low CR Encounter

Class Levels

The most straightforward method of increasing a low CR creature’s CR is by giving it class levels or by increasing it’s stats using the table in the back of the DMG. It’s a bit tedious, but it makes a more interesting creature once you are finished with it. No one expects the goblin with wizard levels or the kuo-toa with levels in monk!

More of them

Don’t do this one often, but you can always send a large number of low-CR monsters at the party. While adding class levels requires a lot of prep time, lots of monsters requires a lot of wasted in-game time, and that has potential to bore the players. But every once in a while, you can just send a whole bunch of monsters at them. When it doesn’t happen every single session, it’s a fun romp for the players to be able to feel powerful but still run the real risk of damage. Thanks to 5e’s bounded accuracy, more enemy attacks means more potential harm.

Lasting Effects

When players realize that the normally low-level encounter they are facing offers a lasting debuff attached to it, suddenly the encounter becomes more meaningful. They will have to take extra steps to avoid diseases, poisons, magical effects, or injury. For instance, a regular old giant rat is no threat at all at a pathetic CR of 1/8. But the locals have all been suffering from a plague carried by vermin, suddenly a bunch of rats has potential of ruining a PC’s entire day if they fail a save. Melee characters might opt to fight from range or spellcasters might need to burn a higher-than-normal spell slot to take them out quickly. A drow that drops a large creature with a small cut before going after the PCs suddenly becomes a hit away from poisoning a PC with who knows what sort of diabolical substance.

Hazards

Environmental hazards can make advantages for enemies and disadvantages for the party which together can significantly alter an encounter’s CR. If kobolds are firing crossbows prone from high ground and have cover firing upon the PCs in an open area with plenty of traps hidden all over and a lava moat to find a way across, the PCs will take plenty of damage before ever reaching them. Even if they don’t take damage, they will likely waste valuable resources over a handful of kobolds. Carefully tailor your encounters in the enemies’ favor if they are a lower CR than the players, who will have to get lucky or clever to overcome the tipped scales.

Special Abilities

There’s always a handful of abilities that you can throw at the PCs. Whether it’s the ones in the book (shoving, grappling, flanking) or ones you invent as a DM. Matt Colville once defending 4e D&D and its Powers for enemies. They always did something, and in terms of monsters they were occasionally unique to other editions of D&D. Try adding some unique abilities to your lower-level monsters that make sense for that creature. When I ran a game with an Aboleth, I heavily homebrewed some new abilities for it to surprise my players. I gave it a sort of Mind Blast (like a Mind Flayer) that would only knock creatures unconscious, making it easier to capture and enthrall players that got separated. I also gave it the ability to phase through ice as it was in a giant “aquarium” with ice walls, so it could either observe the PCs from its murky water or attack when it chose to reveal itself, or even drag a PC into the tank with it to coat it in its diseased mucous. Admittedly, an Aboleth is not a low-CR monster. But on its own, the PCs would have easily taken it out so I gave this guy plenty of advantages to tip the odds in its favor and the players still pulled through eventually. But I had made an easy encounter into a very challenging one.

Stakes

Increasing the stakes of an encounter can alter how PCs approach a challenge. If players have to stay undetected, then even a bunch of orcs will be a threat to a party trying to sneak by a low-level monster, because it’s no longer about “can they kill it?” but “can they kill it before it has a chance to yell or else sneak by it?” Another option might be a requirement NOT to kill the creatures in an area. Maybe they are breaking into their own allies’ palace for information or to ‘borrow’ some magic item, but have no ill intent against the guards. Killing one might put them at massive fault. A time limit can increase the stakes of an encounter where they actually need to consider “should we waste time to kill these low-level creatures?” Perhaps those low-level creatures need to just be avoided instead so the players don’t spend too many precious rounds dealing with combat. There are plenty of other ways to increase the stakes of a battle, so get creative!

Epic Destinies 5e: Dark Wanderer

“You stride the eerie paths of fate. Until destiny meets you on this road, you’ll roam forever.“

Prerequisite: 21st level, Ranger or Rogue

You left home ages ago, saying goodbye to the comforts that a simpler life might have held. 

Following an unspoken yearning, you took to the road with other vagabonds. 

Your way led along sinister paths and to fateful deeds. 

In time, perhaps you and your companions came to be called heroes. 

Still, dark strands of fortune draw you onward to an unknown end. 

Until that end comes, you wander the world as a shadowy presence, turning up where you’re least expected or most needed.

Keep reading

5

Someone has been a busy bee. Between learning/locking down printing through DTRPG, ordering proofs, freelance writing, freelance graphic design, Red Markets successfully funding, Kickstarter prep, GenCon, and just general 9-5 employment things have been a little hectic. 

So rather than leave you all out to dry I wanted to give you a sneak peek at something we’re working on. Granted, the text is CRAZY rough and hasn’t even been edited once yet but just look at the pretty pictures, pretty layout, and those darn pretty (and balanced) racial stats.

Nereun is something you will (hopefully) be seeing a lot more of in the coming months! It’s a mountainous, arctic, cursed hellhole of a world stalked by immortal Horrors and Cursebeasts. If you like your dark fantasy to be actually dark without going full grimderp then boy oh boy is Nereun for you.

We threw all the core races in the garbage and completely rewrote what most people assume is humanity’s greatest edge in addition to creating five all new races (the zajec being the most vanilla of them all) that live with horrific curses due to their hubris. Isn’t that swell?

The art is by the absolutely wonderful Michael Sanchez (who despite my protests still lacks an internet presence).