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D&D: Five of the Deadliest Low-Level Monsters

4 Minute Read
May 16 2023

Think an encounter with low-level monsters means you’re relatively safe? Think again. These are five of the deadliest low-level monsters.

Low-level monsters conjure up an air of “the starting zone.” You might expect to see the odd fire beetle or kobold bandit, but in general, these are fights you can expect to win. And without too much trouble, often.

After all, these are supposedly fights for characters just learning to be adventurers. Not if you run into these monsters though. These are five of the deadliest low-level monsters. They can wipe out a whole party with just a bad die roll or two. So beware if you find yourself facing one of these.

Swarm of Rot Grubs

These monsters, found originally in Volo’s Guide to Monsters are one of the deadliest low-level monsters in the game. As they originally appeared, their bite would infest a creature with 1d4 rot grubs, each of which would deal 1d6 piercing damage (per rot grub, again!) until the target is reduced to 0 hit points at which point it dies instantly.

Only two things can save you: fire damage dealt on the first turn you get bitten or a cure disease effect. Otherwise, they burrow into your heart inevitably and kill you. Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse tried to present a gentler version of the monster (though the Volo’s Guide monsters are still included in the game), reducing the damage dealt each turn (so you might not die on round 2) and allowing a save to avoid the initial attack.

However, once you fail, you take 1d6 per round until you hit 0 hit points and instantly die. Even the nerfed version can still kill a character, and stand a great chance of wiping out a low-level character in a round or two.


Shadows might only be Cr 1/2, but these monsters are absolutely among D&D’s deadliest. They are resistant to most types of damage and are hard to see in dim light or darkness. But what really makes them deadly are their Strength Draining slam attacks. Every time a Shadow hits a target, they take 2d6 + 2 damage, which is already hefty, but it also reduces a target’s Strength score by 1d4.


If the target hits 0 Strength, the target dies instantly. And often, as you lose Strength, you’re losing the ability to keep fighting these monsters off.


Skulks are another lurking threat. These are naturally invisible monstrosities that count among the deadliest monsters in D&D because they can’t normally be seen. But also, they’ll have advantage, which makes them both more likely to hit, as well as a special extra damaging effect if they have advantage. A Skulk deals 1d4 + 4 + 2d6 damage if it has advantage, which it will because it’s invisible. On average, that’s about 13 points of damage.

This means that not only is it hard to hit, or even see coming, but it also can one-shot a low-level Wizard or even Cleric. Anyone who has a d8 hit die or less will be taken out in a single hit.

Skull Lasher of Myrkul


The Skull Lasher of Myrkul is quite a low-level monster. It’s especially deadly because not only is the Skull Lasher a powerful melee combatant with 32 hit points, and the ability to make two melee attacks that deal around 22 damage if both hit. But it’s also a 3rd-level spellcaster, making the Skull Lasher especially deadly.

It can cast Misty Step, teleporting adjacent to a squishier PC, and then just take them out with their Iron Skull Flail.


Finally, the Quickling. These evil fey are malicious little killers. What makes them one of the deadliest low-level monsters is their blinding speed, which gives them three abilities. For one, their movement speed is 120 ft, meaning a Quickling can launch a hit-and-run attack on a party and can outrun many melee characters.

On top of that, anyone attacking a Quickling does so at a disadvantage unless it’s incapacitated or its speed is 0.

And deadliest of all, they can make three attacks, at +8 to hit. Even against higher-level targets, they’ll still likely hit. But against low-level characters? A quickling can deal potentially 24 damage in a round, which is more than enough to drop all but the toughest of low-level characters.

Good luck if you find yourself facing any of these foes!


Author: J.R. Zambrano
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