D&D: Five Monsters that Make Players Groan
Dungeons & Dragons is home to monsters of all shapes and sizes – but these five might garner some groans when they show up on your tabletop.
The pages of the Monster Manual are ripe with possibilities. From kobolds, orcs, and goblins, to dragons, beholders, and gray renders. There’s no shortage of friends to make or foes to fight. In fact, sometimes you start off fighting something, then you give it a name. And suddenly, this weird goblin or beholder that your party “adopted” is the one thing in the world you’d die for.
Of course then there are the others. The ones that when you see their minis hit the table, you groan, roll your eyes, and prepare for an hour and a half of torture and tedium.
Every player loves getting treasure. It’s a big part of the game. You explore dungeons, you loot treasure. Everyone has a good time.
Until a Rust Monster comes along and helps themselves to your party’s shiny new sword. Or whatever other piece of their hard-earned equipment it can reach.
Sure, some editions tried to make it so that they only affected non-magic weapons. But even then, Rust Monsters represent a deep player fear: losing their gold pieces. Did you invest a lot of money in buying a suit of plate mail for your character? Hope you roll well on your save, or all that gold is basically gone.
Ghouls represent another end of the groan-inducing encounter spectrum. They don’t take away your rewards for the game. They instead take away your ability to actually play the game.
Ghouls come with a natural paralyzing attack. Which is a threat, on its own, for sure. And if you’ve ever been DM for a party with monks, you know how awful it can feel to lose a turn. But ghouls often come in packs. Which means you’re just a few bad rolls from a scenario like this:
DM: Alright, Player A, your turn, make a save.
Player A: Nope. Still paralyzed.
DM: Player B?
Player B: Same here.
DM: The ghouls make their attacks.
And so on.
On a similar note, let’s talk about Ghosts.
The big reason they’re here is that you can effectively lose your character in a single save.
And it’s not even a save or die effect, it’s save or age by 1d4x10 years. But unless you’re playing like an Elf or a Dwarf this is a huge impact on the character. Even if you’re not immediately thrust into old age, you’re still going to have the entire core of the character changed in a flash.
And if you’re playing something like a half-orc? Man, one bad roll and you’ve aged out of existence. Which, don’t get me wrong, D&D is a deadly game, but this one feels like insult to injury.
Whether you name yours Bodak Horseman or Tom Bodak from Motel 6, these deadly creatures do what Ghosts don’t. In fact they do what most 5E monsters don’t. They feature an actual save or die effect. Now, save or die effects are uncommon in 5th Edition.
Most have a save or take damage and if that damage reduces you to 0 hit points, you die. Some have save or you’re dead effects, but the DCs tend to be low. Now, technically the Bodak’s ability reduces your hit points to 0 (if you fail by five or more), so it’s hard to do, but it’s a save you have to make each round at the start of your turn, and it doesn’t cost an action for the Bodak. That’s just what you get for playing. And if you fail, you’re instantly out of the fight, and if you’re not up by the end of your next turn, you’ll take 5 necrotic damage from its Aura of Annihilation.
So a single turn against a Bodak might look like this: roll low on a Con Save, fall unconscious. The Bodak attacks you while you’re down, causing you to be critically hit, taking two failed death saves. You fail to roll a 20 on your turn, and either because they were busy, or similarly at 0 hp, or you were next in the initiative, nobody can revive you, at the end of your turn you take damage, and fail your third and final death save.
It can add some tension, but, especially in 5th, death effects like this can just feel mean.
Sea Monsters (All)
Are you on a boat? You’re getting attacked by Kraken. Or giant sharks. Or sea serpents. Or aquatic hydras. Or Lacedons (aquatic ghouls). And then you’re fighting in the water and in addition to fighting literally every sea monster the DM could find in the monster manual, you are also drowning.
What’s the monster you love to hate? Least favorite monster? Ever had an encounter that made you flip the table in frustration, let us know below!