This week’s monster has been around since the elder days of D&D. Come and meet the one monster that’s a song of ice and fire, D&D’s Remorhaz.
Normally it’s not a good thing when an encounter runs hot and cold, but when you’re talking about Remorhazes, when things start cooling down, they really start heating up. This is a monster that comes out of the mind. Drawn by Erol Otus, the Remorhaz is one of those monsters that originates before D&D had officially coalesced into AD&D and its 1st Edition. Premiering in Dragon Magazine #2, as part of the issue’s creature feature, the Remorhaz was originally described as a monster on par with the Silver Dragon. Armed with fire breath, and a massive 75% magic resistance, the remorhaz is a fiery creature that dwells in the frozen landscapes.
When 1st Edition rolled around, the remorhaz appeared in the very first Monster Manual where it was one of the few monsters with a special critical hit attack–when it rolls a natural 20 it swallows an adventurer whole and kills it instantly. And disturbingly, the monster manual also lists what happens when the remorhaz is aroused; it secretes an internal substance that causes it to emanate intense heat–so much so that any creature in contact with its surface takes 10d10 points of damage. No save.
1st Edition Remorhazes are no joke.
2nd Edition remorhazes, retain their deadly fire abilities, including the 10d10 points of damage for touching its surface, and the natural 20 swallow whole insta-death. It also is known for burrowing under the snow, and, like most monsters in 2nd Edition, its parts can be used to create magical items–including a potion made from its secretion that can create heat-related magical items.
A 3rd Edition remorhaz, on the other hand, is much more of a grappler. With the change to the way monsters were constructed in 3rd Edition, the remorhaz gains the improved grab and swallow whole abilities, which make it much more deadly–being Large or bigger was huge, so to speak, in 3rd Edition, and with the remorhaz clocking in at Huge, that meant it could pretty reliably pin down any foe unlucky enough to get close to it, forcing them to take 8d6 damage each turn they’re in contact with it. And while they could no longer swallow foes whole and instantly kill them, they still deal massive amounts of damage.
4th Edition Monsters are brutes. The incredible heat coming off of them extends out to a 10 foot radius aura, dealing 10 damage to any creature starting its turn nearby. Like other editions, swallowing its enemies whole is the signature move of the remorhaz, dealing 20 points of damager per round, which is fairly low, all things considered, for 4th Edition. But its other attacks gave it some area effects–a trample attack and a blazing burst of heat that it can deploy against groups of foes.
5th Edition Remorhazes are associated closely with Frost Giants. They are trainable (as they had been in previous editions) and can sometimes be found as guardians of a powerful jarl. Or as natural predators in the arctic regions of a world. As in 4th Edition, their heat is much less intense–dealing only 3d6 (or 10) points of damage to a creature touching it–but their swallow whole attack is much deadlier overall, dealing massive amounts of bite damage as well as the typical digestive damage.
These monsters are fairly straightforward to run, but bear in mind that they can burrow–and a popular technique is to emerge from the ground, bite a foe, swallow it, and then retreat underground to digest it away from its prospective meal’s party members.
Remorhazes add a lot of frozen flavor when you’re in the north. They’re a great way to indicate that players are entering ‘dangerous ground’ because you can have them rampage around and also escape fairly handily if you don’t want to wipe your party unexpectedly.