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Level Up (A5E) A Leveled-Up Bestiary: Volume Two


So Monday and Wednesday were eaten up by permanency. But Friday brings a monster. And with this continuation of monsters of the Greyhawk god Iuz, now we’re getting a plant!

OK, we’re actually getting a fungus (shakes fist at whichever writer decided to lump fungi in with plants). Actually, its art makes it look more like a slime mold, and the vast majority of slime molds aren’t even fungi but their own things entirely. But we’ll go with the text and say it’s a fungus. A fungus from the Abyss. That is classified as a plant. (sigh)

(You may have noticed I sometimes overthink my monsters. This is one of those times.)

This is the dirtwraith, which is related to Iuz only inasmuch as his priests brought some home after a trip to the Abyss. Which now makes me imagine a demonic border guard asking the priests if they have anything in their luggage to declare. The dirtwraith’s Ecology section informs us that they’re considered a delicacy by demons (no word on if devils share their tastes) but they’re deadly poisonous to mortals.

The dirtwraith is a parasitical organism, since it grows on, and presumably sucks nutrients from, trees—but it also animates them as well. It’s a fungus that surrounds itself with parasiticized, animated bushes and trees! Well, the 2e version can only animate its own tree, but I find that boring.

Here’s what I’m doing: certain species of fungi have a mycorrhizal network that attaches itself to tree roots over a large distance, turning those roots into sugar for itself and eventually killing the tree in the process. So how big is it? Well, the largest mycorrhizal network in the real world is the Humongous Fungus (Armillaria ostoyae) in Malheur National Forest in Oregon. It covers 3.7 square miles, may weigh as much as 35,000 tons, and may be as much as 8,000 years old.

Now think about that: a being that is measured in miles that hates you and everything good and decent in this world. This almost certainly isn’t what James Jacobs imagined when he came up with the dirtwraith, but I do not care. It’s too awesome an idea to pass up. I gave them the limitation “can only animate one tree at a time, which is probably the only reason they haven’t taken over the world yet.

Now think of the alkilith demon. It’s in 5e (Mordenkainen Presents, also Tome of Foes, IIRC), but it’s not Level Up. So if you haven’t read either MPMM or ToF, the alkilith is basically a fungus demon that can grow around any door or window and turn it into a portal to the Abyss (in 2e, it was just a fungus demon envoy/assassin drawn hanging around a window). So… yeah, I’m stealing that idea as well. This is a plant/fungus/slime mold that basically infects a forest with demonic energies, turning it a focal point for Abyssal energies. I honestly don’t know if this should be a monster, a region, or an exploration challenge. I’d say “why not all three?” but I’m feeling lazy and will only do the monster—well, one part of the monster. Any tree in the forest can turn out to be another body for the dirtwraith to take over.

(You may want to say that dirtwraiths can only create weak spots capable of allowing planar travel once they reach a certain size, or their presence only makes it easier for casters to summon demons—unless you want an area of your world chock-filled with demons, of course.)

The stats below are for a single dirtwraith-animated tree, not for the entire dirtwraith. How to kill the entire dirtwraith for once and for all, since burning it with fire won't work? Good question.


Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #270
Creature by James Jacobs; art by Carl Critchlove

The name dirtwraith comes from a common but incorrect belief that these fungi are undead that spontaneously form out of the dirt that surrounds a decaying body. This is quite wrong, as dirtwraiths are actually fiendish beings from the Abyss. They are similar in form to slime molds: pale yellow spherical lumps connected by thick, fibrous strands. They grow mostly underground, but entangle themselves with tree roots. They grow quickly as well, and a single dirtwraith can take over most of a small forest within a few decades

Widespread Threat. A dirtwraith spreads throughout a forest, inexorably growing underground and infecting tree after tree. Its presence is difficult to tell at first by any but the most trained eyes, but eventually it becomes obvious as the trees and larger bushes become covered in foul-smelling moldy fungi that form rounded lumps and nets of thin tendrils—and not only that, but the forest’s leaf litter will be covered in the fungus-covered skeletons of unlucky animals and travelers alike. Usually, by the time the dirtwraith is this visible, it’s too late and the forest is beyond most mortal ability to save it.

Portals to the Abyss. Dirtwraiths are dangerous beings, and not just for their physical prowess. When a dirtwraith becomes significantly large enough, it warps the land around it, turning it into a mirror of the lower planes. The land itself becomes corrupted. Native plants and animals become warped and evil and demons begin to be able to claw their way through into the mortal world. Before a century is up, a single dirtwraith can turn a patch of the Waking World into a fully-fledged outcropping of the Abyss.

Climate/Terrain: subarctic, temperate, subtropical, tropical; Abyss, forest, jungle

Legends and Lore
With an Arcana check, the characters can learn the following:

DC 15. Dirtwraiths are fungi that originated in the Abyss. On the Material Plane, they infest and animate trees.

DC 20. A dirtwraith is a single, vast organism that can easily infect an entire forest. Although it only manifests as a single animated tree at a time, it can animate any tree in the forest at any time it wants, and destroying one tree doesn’t destroy the dirtwraith.

Dirtwraith Encounters
Challenge Rating 5-10
dirtwraith; dirtwraith, cult fanatic, with 2-7 cultists; dirtwraith with 2d4 dretches or violet fungi; dirtwraith with shadow demon; dirtwraith with 2 bright orbs; dirtwraith with 1d4+1 fungal zombies; dirtwraith with 1d4 dreamer’s morels
Treasure: 250 gp, 780 sp, 7 onyxes (50 gp each), damaged plate armor, vial of shadow elf poison (250 gp), scroll of enhance ability, potion of frost giant strength

Challenge Rating 11-16 dirtwraith with shambling mound; dirtwraith with cultist execrator or high priest, ogre zombie, and 2 fungal zombies; dirtwraith with 3 hellhounds; dirtwraith with vrock
Treasure: 2,100 gp, gold holy symbol (250 gp), 3 vials of (un)holy water (25 gp each), masterwork hooked bastard sword made of fiendish metal (has advantage on attack rolls against celestials with creatures that are Good or Lawful), 2 potions of superior healing, ring of protection,

1. The forest is filled with sickly or dead trees that are covered with a film of yellowish mold.
2. Foul-smelling, lumpy yellow mushrooms growing everywhere
3. Sensitive characters notice the amount of demonic energy in the area
4. Strange tracks. With a DC 15 Nature check, they were left by animated trees

Huge plant (fiend); Challenge 5 (1,100 XP)
15 (natural armor)
HP 85 (9d12+27; bloodied 42)
Speed 20 ft.

STR 18 (+4) DEX 6 (-2) CON 16 (+3)
INT 5 (-3) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 14 (+2)

Proficiency +3; Maneuver DC 15
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing
Damage Immunities fire, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned
Senses tremorsense 120 feet, passive Perception 10
Languages understands Abyssal but doesn’t speak

Chaotic Evil. The dirtwraith radiates a Chaotic and Evil aura.

False Appearance. While motionless, the dirtwraith is indistinguishable from a normal fungus or tree.

Networking. While motionless, the dirtwraith is aware of anything touching the ground or a tree it has infected within its forest. If the dirtwraith is reduced to 0 hit points, it will respawn in a new tree in 1d20 minutes.

Sporepuff. When the dirtwraith is reduced to 0 hit points, it releases a cloud of spores. All creatures within 10 feet of the dirtwraith must make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 minute. A creature may make a new saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

The dirtwraith makes two slam attacks.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (3d6+4) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a plant creature, it must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or be charmed by the dirtwraith until the start of its next turn. If the target is not a plant, must make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or take 3 (1d6) necrotic damage. The target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage dealt, and the dirtwraith regains that number of hit points. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. If the target is reduced to 0 hit points by this attack, it dies.

Animate Plant. The dirtwraith magically animates a plant it can see within 60 feet, turning it into an awakened shrub or awakened tree, save that the shrub or plant’s Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores are 1 (-5), it is immune to fire damage, and it has 24 temporary hit points. The plant obeys the dirtwraith for 1 hour or until it is reduced to 0 hit points. When an animated plant is reduced to 0 hit points, it dies and the dirtwraith takes 5 damage.

Dirtwraiths attack relentlessly and to the death, as they know that they can simply animate a different plant should this current one be destroyed.

At the Narrator’s discretion, awakened trees and corrupted treants may spontaneously appear in the dirtwraith’s forest, once-normal trees given life by being possessed by demonic spirits. These trees have no loyalty to the dirtwraith, as they are too infused by the selfish evils of the Abyss, but they also don’t act against the dirtwraith.

Demon-trees have Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores of 4 (-3), are resistant to fire and necrotic damage (losing vulnerability to fire damage, if applicable), and have the following trait:

Chaotic Evil. The demon-tree radiates a Chaotic and Evil aura.

New Region
Oh, what the heck. Here, have a region as well. Or rather, a region template. Pick a forested region and use that region’s terrains, increase the tier by +1 (maximum Tier 4), use its weather and base traits, and add the following traits:

Dirtwraith Weald
This forest used to be thriving, but no longer. The air is thick and oppressive with the smell of sour decay, of blood and burnt flesh, and of cruel madness and the dying trees groan under the weight of heavy fungoid growths that suck the life out of them. The fungus is the cause: it’s a dirthwraith, a demonic entity that has spread its tendrils to take over the forest, turning it into a gateway into the Abyss and a haven for demon-kind. The fungus grows, slowly, forever perverting the natural world.

Dirtwratih wealds usually start as Tangled Woods, Feywoods, or Unrelenting Marshes.

Chaotic Evil. The entire region radiates an aura of Chaos and Evil. This affects mortals in many ways:

• The area contains no natural havens except for fiends; for them, the entire region is a haven. Magic, such as a tiny hut spell, can still be used to create a haven.

• A creature with the alignment of Good or Law must make a Wisdom saving throw against the Weald’s tier upon entering the region or become rattled for as long as it remains within the Weald. It may make a new saving throw each time it completes a short or long rest, ending the effect on itself on a success.

• If a creature attempts to cast a spell from the good or law schools that is not also in the chaos or evil schools, it must make a concentration saving throw first. The DC is 10 + the spell’s level. On a failure, the spell fails and the spell slot is lost.

• If a creature attempts to use Channel Divinity to turn a fiend, the fiend has advantage on its saving throw.

Demon Home. If the Narrator rolls for encounters and the result is a monster encounter and the dice came up an odd number, substitute a CR-appropriate demon or other fiend. Supernatural exploration challenges should be substituted for circumstance- and creature-based exploration challenges.

Journey Activities. Attempts to Pray to gods that are not Chaotic or Evil automatically fail. Checks to Hunt and Gather are made with disadvantage, as most normal animals have been killed and most plants have been taken over by the dirtwraith.

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This issue’s Dragon’s Bestiary is the result of a monster-making contest that ran in #254, and the monster I’m choosing from it is the visceraith, or bone spirit. It’s effectively an undead, free-floating nervous system with some attached organs. I’m sure you’ve all seen a picture of the disembodied nervous system, often with a caption of how it’s us without the meat suit, That’s basically what the visceraith looks like. Although the visceraith also glows.

However, it’s a polite undead; it wears a skeleton (probably not its original one), and concealing clothing on top of that, so as not to alarm people. That’s because the visceraith’s primary goal is to just live its unlife in peace: “The bone spirit resides where it can lead a secluded existence, though it might hire servants or find companions. Living residents in the home of a visceraith are usually treated well, but the bone spirit is not above murder to protect its identity.” That last sentence seems like a reach, like they really wanted to give the PCs a reason to come kill it.

As such, the visceraiths is a perfect moral dilemma monster. It’s a magic-using undead, not too different from a lich in concept, and therefore quite likely to be seen as an abomination against the gods and nature. But it’s not harming or feeding off of anyone, not corrupting anything by its mere presence, there’s no real reason to imagine that it’s going to snap one of these days, it’s generally nice to the help, and basically just wants to live its unlife as pleasantly as possible. It didn’t even perform foul rituals to become undead; it just happened because it was strong-willed in life. Do the players kill it just because?

And at the same time, because it’s basically a person, albeit a creepy-looking one, you could also have it as a bad guy for completely human reasons.

A note: The visceraith has the ability to snap bones magically. Since, as far as I can tell, Level Up doesn’t have rules for this, I’m using the DMG’s “Lingering Injury” table as my basis. My assumption is spells like cure wounds and lesser restoration don't fix broken bones--you need something like regeneration or greater restoration to do that. If you prefer lower-level spells to be able to fix a break, you can do that as well.

Also, I picked the void maw cantrip from To Save A Kingdom—it’s on A5e.tools.


Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #271
Creature by Richard Sanders; art by Dennis Calero

Visceraiths are one of the most gruesome-looking undead. They are a disembodied nervous system to which internal organs are attached, all glowing with a faint green glow. They are formed randomly when an arcane spellcaster tries to save their life through their magic, but die anyway—the caster’s desperation for life causes it to rise as an undead.

Bone-Wearers. These undead are rarely found in their true form, as they lack any sort of structure and have very little physical strength. Instead, they prefer to wrap themselves around skeletons for support. They often modify these skeletons, using their innate magic to create interesting shapes for themselves, and often tools and weapons made out of bone. Their ability to control bones has a darker side to it, though. With just a gesture, they can snap a person’s bone like a twig.

Living Their Best Unlife. Unlike many other intelligent undead, visceraiths have no particular negative feelings towards the living, other than perhaps a faint jealousy because they can’t take part in all the things they used to. Most visceraiths simply want to exist in peace and continue as many of the activities they used to enjoy as they can.

Stay Hidden. Visceraiths are aware of how disturbing they look—many can’t even look at themselves with anything other then visceral horror. While wearing a skeleton, they can at least pretend that they chose their unlife, like a lich did, but even then it can be difficult. They typically keep themselves wrapped up well, wearing cloaks, robes, and gloves along with magical disguises so they never have to look at their glowing nerves and organs. Visceraiths hate the idea of other creatures seeing their true selves and will do anything to avoid exposure—even resorting to killing those who see their true form.

Climate/Terrain: any climate; settlement

Legends and Lore
With an Arcana check, the characters can learn the following:

DC 15. Visceraiths are rare undead beings that comprise a nervous system and various organs. They wear other creature’s skeletons to give them a solid form. In life, they were wizards or other arcane casters and they have retained their spellcasting even after death.

DC 20. These beings mostly try to continue to live as they did before they died. They typically shun other undead, preferring the company of the living, although they will go to great lengths to keep their secret.

Visceraith Encounters
Challenge Rating 5-10
visceraith, visceraith with apprentice mage and grimalkin; visceraith with commoner mob; visceraith with guard squad
Treasure: 300 gp, 6 carnelians (50 gp each), gold locket with a picture of the visceraith pre-death (75 gp), noble clothes and matching hat and glove (100 gp), masterwork longsword with gilded hilt, +2 wand of the war mage, glamoured padded leather

1. People speak of “that weird wizard” who goes about completely covered in a cloak and gloves.
2. People who claim that “that weird wizard” has been magically breaking people’s bones and want revenge against them.
3. A slight green glow from ahead.
4. A strangely astringent smell.

1. Doing important research; ignores intruders unless interfered with.
2. Teaching spell theory to an apprentice.
3. Offering to hire the party to engage in some shady activity; pays well.
4. Pretending to be alive and engaging in Normal Human Activities.

Medium undead; Challenge 7 (2,900 XP)
13 (14, natural armor when wearing a skeleton, 17 with mage armor)
HP 75 (10d8+30; bloodied 37)
Speed 30 ft.; fly 30 ft. (when not in skeleton)

STR 16 (+3) DEX 16 (+3) CON 16 (+3)
INT 16 (+3) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 16 (+3)

Proficiency +3; Maneuver DC 14
Saving Throws Str +7, Int +7, Wis +4
Skills Arcana +6 (+1d4), Deception +6, Insight +4, Perception +4, Persuasion +6
Damage Resistances damage from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities cold, poison, radiant
Condition Immunities charmed, fatigue, paralyzed, poisoned, unconscious
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 14
Languages the languages it knew in life

Amorphous. When the visceraith is not wearing a skeleton, it can move through an opening as narrow as 6 inches wide without squeezing. Without a skeleton, the visceraith has disadvantage on all Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws.

Don/Doff Skeleton. It takes 1 minute for a visceraith to insinuate itself into a skeleton and animate it, but it can leave the skeleton as an action.

Radiant Glow. Unless the visceraith is completely covered, it sheds dim light to a 5 foot radius. Additionally, melee attacks made by the visceraith inflict an additional 4 (1d8) radiant damage (included in the attack).

Spells. The visceraith is a 10th level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 14, +6 with spell attacks). It has the following wizard spells prepared:
Cantrips (At Will): dancing lights, mage hand, minor illusion, prestidigitation, void maw
1st-level (4 slots): charm person, disguise self, mage armor, magic missile
2nd- level (3 slots): blindness/deafness, hold person, invisibility, suggestion
3rd-level (3 slots): counterspell, fear, haste, lightning bolt
4th-level (2 slots): dimension door, phantasmal killer
5th-level (2 slots): modify memory

Turn Resistance. The visceraith has advantage on saving throws against any effect that turns undead.

Undead Nature. A visceraith doesn’t require air, sustenance, or sleep.

The visceraith makes two dagger attacks.

Bone Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4+3) piercing damage plus 4 (1d8) radiant damage.

Bone Control (Recharges After a Short or Long Rest). The visceriath targets a creature within 60 feet of it. The target must make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or one of its bones breaks. The creature takes 5 (1d10) force damage and one level each of fatigue and strife. On a success, the creature takes 5 (1d10) force damage but its bone isn’t broken and it doesn’t take any fatigue or strife. Until the bone is healed with time or magic, the target suffers from the following effect:
• Arm: The target can no longer hold anything with two hands and can only hold a single object at a time.
• Jaw: The target can’t speak or eat solid food.
• Leg: The target’s speed is halved, it falls prone after using the Dash or Sprint action, and it has disadvantage on checks and saving throws made to balance or to avoid falling prone.
• Rib: Whenever the target attempts an action in combat, it must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the target loses its action and can’t use reactions until the start of its next turn. On a critical failure, the target takes one level of fatigue.

The visceraith can also use Bone Control to shape one or more inanimate bones in a 5-foot square that are not part of a living creature, as per the stone shape spell.

Horrifying Visage. Each non-undead creature within 60 feet of the visceraith when it is unclothed and not inside a skeleton that can see it must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. A frightened creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, it is immune to this visceraith’s Horrifying Visage for 24 hours.

Absorb Bone (Recharges after a Short or Long Rest). The visceraith holds an unbroken bone to its body, where it is absorbed, and the visceraith regains 11 (2d10) hit points.

Blindness/Deafness (2nd-Level; V). One creature the visceraith can see within 30 feet must make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, the creature is either blinded or deafened (visceraith’s choice) for 1 minute. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success.

Dimension Door (4th-Level; V). The visceraith teleports to a location within 500 feet. They can bring along one willing Medium or smaller creature within 5 feet. If a creature would teleport to an occupied space, it takes 14 (4d6) force damage and the spell fails.

Hold Person (2nd-Level; V, S, M; Concentration). One humanoid the visceraith can see within 60 feet must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or be paralyzed for 1 minute.

Invisibility (2nd-Level; V; Concentration). The visceraith is invisible for 1 hour. The spell ends if the visceraith attacks, uses Bone Control, or casts a spell.

Lightning Bolt (3rd-Level; V, S, M). A bolt of lightning 5 feet wide and 100 feet long arcs from the visceraith. Each creature in the area must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw, taking 28 (8d6) lightning damage on a failure or half as much damage on a success. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success.

Magic Missile (1st-Level; V, S). Three glowing arrows fly from the visceraith simultaneously, unerringly hitting up to 3 creatures within 120 feet. Each arrow deals 3 (1d4+1) force damage.

Phantasmal Killer (4th-Level; V, S; Concentration). One creature the visceraith can see within 120 feet must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw when the spell is cast and at the end of each of its turns or take 22 (4d10) psychic damage and become frightened. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success. A target that succeeds on its initial saving throw takes half damage.

Void Maw (Cantrip; V, S). Ranged Spell Attack: +5 to hit, range 60 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (2d6) necrotic damage. If the target is an inanimate corpse or a Tiny or smaller nonmagical object, it disintegrates into nothing. If this creature is reduced to 0 hit points by this spell and fails its final death saving throw, it is disintegrated.

Counterspell (3rd-Level; S).
When a creature the visceraith can see within 60 feet casts a spell, the visceraith attempts to interrupted it. If the creature is casting a 2nd-level or lower spell, the spell fails. Otherwise, the visceraith must make an Intelligence check against a DC of 10 + the spell’s level. On a success, the spell fails, and the spellcasting creature can use its reaction to try to cast a second spell with the same casting time so long as it uses a spell slot level equal to or lower than half the original spell slot. If the visceraith casts counterspell with a higher spell slot, the interrupted spell fails if its level is less than that of the counterspell.

Visceraiths avoid melee combat unless desperate. They start off combat by using bone control to weaken the strongest-seeming martial combatant, then rely on spells.

New Parts
Visceraiths are capable of modifying the skeletons they inhabit, adding on new parts for reasons of either usefulness or aesthetics. Some potential parts are as follows:

Beast Skull. The visceraith gains either a Bite attack (+5 to hit, 1d8+3 piercing damage plus 1d8 radiant damage) or a Ram attack (+5 to hit, 1d6+3 bludgeoning damage plus 1d8 radiant damage)
Beast Claws. The visceraith gains a Claw attack (+5 to hit, 1d6+3 slashing damage plus 1d8 radiant damage).
Beast Legs. The visceraith’s speed increases to 40 ft.
Giant Bat Wings. Even though these wings are nothing but skeletal fingers, lacking wing membrane, they allow for a Fly speed of 30 feet.
Manticore Tail. The visceraith gains a Tail attack (+5 to hit, reach 10 feet, 1d8+3 piercing damage).
Ogre’s Rib Cage. The visceraith’s natural armor increases by 2.

Different Shapes
Although most visceraiths choose a humanoid skeleton for their body, there is nothing stopping the visceraith from taking over the skeleton of any other type of Small, Medium, or Large creature. It gains that creature’s size and speed, and if applicable, replaces its dagger attack with a physical attack appropriate to the skeleton, such as claws or a bite attack.


This time around, we have a dragon… et. It’s the mole dragon, and it’s about 5 feet long and doesn’t have a breath weapon, so don’t get too excited. But I kinda like them. They’re just a bunch of grumpy old jerks who eat metal, meaning they’re probably going to be fun to roleplay. A bit like xorn who yell at clouds.


Mole Dragon
Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #272
Creature by James Wyatt; art by Carlo Arellano

Mole dragons are distantly related to true dragons, and it’s obvious upon seeing one. These five-foot-long creatures are, as their name suggests, mole-shaped—they have a low-slung body with oversized digging claws, almost non-existent eyes, and small, close scales that glitter like mica. Rough gemstones often get embedded in their hide, turning the mole dragon into a walking treasure hoard.

Grumpy. Mole dragons have a well-deserved reputation for their dour personalities and how readily they hold grudges, even for years. Less well known is their willingness to forgive—at least, to forgive those who are willing to bribe them with gemstones and precious metals, their favored foods. Part of the reason for their unpleasant personalities is how often they come into conflict with dwarfs and other deep-dwelling mining people, who value metal and gems as much as the mole dragons do and are just as unwilling to part with them. Mole dragons get along far better with people like the grimlocks, who are less obsessed with valuable ores than dragons are.

Earthbound. These dragons are closely tied to the underground realms in which they live. They are capable of shaping stone as if it were soft clay, and can even form it into elementals to fight for them. Some scholars believe they are a distant relative of earth dragons, and that they are, in some way, a form of essence dragon themselves—simply not a physically impressive one.

Climate/Terrain: cavern, dungeon, Underland

Legends and Lore
With an Arcana check, the characters can learn the following:

DC 10. Mole dragons are not true dragons, but a small dragon-kin, similar to way wyverns are related to dragons.

DC 15. With a strong affinity to earth and stone mole dragons constantly burrow deep below the earth. They eat gemstones and ores and will fight to take them from other creatures.

DC 20. Mole dragons generally dislike others of their own kind, but are known to strike alliances with subterranean peoples like kobolds and grimlocks.

Mole Dragon Encounters
Challenge Rating 0
mole dragon
Treasure: 2 lapis lazulis (10 gp each), 1 quartz (10 gp)

Challenge Rating 1-2 mole dragon and 2d4 kobolds; mole dragon and kobold drakerider; mole dragon and 1d4+4 grimlocks; mole dragon and two ratling scavengers
Treasure: 120 sp, 2 obsidians (10 gp each), potion of healing

Challenge Rating 3-4 mole dragon, 1d4+4 grimlocks, and revilock
Treasure: 95 go, 2 jaspers (50 gp each), citrine (50 gp), 8 quartz (10 gp each), 2 potions of water breathing,

1. A smooth-walled circular tunnel, 5 feet wide
2. The sound of someone grumbling to themselves in the distance
3. The sound of digging and scraping behind a stone wall
4. A notice of a bounty placed for mole dragon hides

1. Fighting a small group of dwarfs for possession of vein of ore
2. Guarding a hidden cache of precious metals and gems
3. Approaches the party, offers them information in exchange for gems and gold
4. In a bad mood; attacks on sight

Darzchin, Goldtooth, Kreteurig, Tazanthe, Zlahavi

Mole Dragon
Medium dragon; Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)
15 (natural armor)
HP 22 (4d8+4; bloodied 11))
Speed 20 ft., burrow 20 ft.

STR 14 (+2) DEX 12 (+1) CON 12 (+1)
INT 10 (+0) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 12 (-1)

Proficiency +2; Maneuver DC 12
Skills Engineering +2, Perception +3, Stealth +3
Condition Immunities blinded
Senses darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 30 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages Draconic, Undercommon
Innate Spellcasting. The dragon’s spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 11). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
At will: earth barrier, stone shape
1/day: conjure minor elementals

Magic Resistance. The dragon has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Tunneler. The dragon can tunnel through earth and solid rock, leaving behind a 5-foot diameter tunnel.

Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10+2) piercing damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 12). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained and the dragon can’t bite a different target.

Mole dragons generally start by casting conjure minor elementals before they fight in order to turn the odds in their favor. They flee if bloodied, burrowing away as quickly as they can.


We’re moving on from Dragon Magazine proper to the Dragon Magazine Annuals—the first one, at any rate (the other AD&D annuals don’t have monsters I want to convert). So for the 1996’s annual, we have the elghonn. The elghonn is listed as a unique entity, and one greatly feared in the Underdark, but it’s given no history or motivation beyond hunting things, nor any sort of identity that could be discovered, should it be defeated by the PCs. There’s nothing that suggests it’s a unique creature other than the Organization section in its statblock. Which is a shame, considering that the second Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix—the one filled with unique beings, each with a rich history and plot hooks galore—had been released three years earlier. I know this article wasn’t written by anyone who worked on that MCA, and this writer may never have even seen it, but I should have hoped that, as a unique creature, it would have been given at least a bit more to it.

Well, what this means is that I’m turning it into a species. I mean, if D&D could turn all sorts of unique mythical creatures into species, then so can I, right?

When I make monsters and NPCs for my own game, I usually give them abilities from whatever class or archetype they’re “supposed” to be. I strongly suggest that if you use an elghonn, you make it your own by giving it some cool assassin maneuvers.

With this entry, we bid a fond farewell to AD&D—starting with the next entry, we’re moving into 3rd edition. Hello monster types, attributes and skills, and nicely-organized statblocks, goodbye habitat/society and ecology sections.


The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine Annual #1
Creature by Keith Strohm; art by James Holloway

The word elghonn means “death” in a dialect of the Undercommon language, and that’s what these creatures leave in their wake. They are fiends of the hunt, seemingly existing only to track down, capture, or slay other creatures, both for their own purposes and for hire. Even among fiends, they are extremely rare, and it’s even rarer that there’s more than one on any given Prime Material world at a time.

Elghonn are humanoid shapes draped in heavy cloaks that trail off into shadows; all that is visible under the shadow of their hoods is a pair of glowing red eyes. Should an elghonn's hood be removed, the eyes are the only thing a mortal viewer will be able to remember afterwards—should they live to tell the tale, that is. To those who can see them and not have their minds blank out in terror, an elghonn is a conglomeration of mouths filled with gnawing teeth and rasping tongues, set in a body made of raw musculature.

Hunters of the Damned. Archfiends and gods have the knowledge needed to summon an elghonn and the force of will needed to command it to track down prey on their behalf. However, elgonn have been known to simply show up when someone has eluded all other hunters for long enough. They only hunt two types of beings: those beings who are wanted by a truly evil master, and those beings who themselves are truly evil. They never stoop to hunting mere outlaws, but they may show up if a cruel dragon or tyrannical overlord is terrorizing a countryside.

This leads some people to think that elghonns are in fact good beings. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. While on the hunt, they gladly murder anyone who comes near—the closer they are to meeting their prey, the more bodies they leave behind. And should anyone come to thank them for killing the dragon or overlord, the elghonn will kill them as well.

If an elghonn kills a creature with a bounty on its head, it will show up to claim the bounty. What it wants or does with the reward is unknown.

Hunters of the Dark. Elghonn are almost never found on the surface—they even stay underground when in the Abyss or Hell, except on those layers shrouded in darkness. Legends say that elghonns are cursed by the gods of the sky and of heavenly bodies, and are doomed should one of those gods see them above ground. Elghonns simply respond to those legends by slaying the one who said them.

Climate/Terrain: any climate; Abyss, Bleak Gate, cavern, dungeon, Hell, Underland

Legends and Lore
With an Arcana check, the characters can learn the following:

DC 15. Elghonn are fiendish bounty hunters. They invariably choose what prey they track and will not allow anyone to hire them. They are immune to nonmagical damage, although magical weapons harm them. They can see through even magical darkness.

DC 20. These fiends coat their weapons with virulent poisons, and their jagged swords sap the strength from their victims.

Elghonn Encounters
Challenge Rating 11-15
650 gp, 7,000 sp, vial of gold dust (250 gp), fine gold chain hung with gilded teeth (250 gp), salamander cloak, 2 potions of superior healing, scroll of teleportation

1. A group of corpses, all with a rictus of terrified pain on their faces; with a DC 15 Investigation check, they’ve all be slain by the same blade
2. A single corpse, horribly tortured and pinned to a wall with crossbow bolts
3. The sound of hissing and gnashing teeth
4. Shadows hanging in the air like mist.

1. Tracking prey; will attack on sight
2. Hiding in shadows, sizing up the the characters
3. Torturing its target before killing it
4. Approaches the party and demands to know if they have seen its current target; will attack if given any resistance

Legendary medium fiend; Challenge 13 (8,400 XP)
18 (full plate)
HP 178 (21d8+84; bloodied 89)
Speed 50 ft.

STR 19 (+4) DEX 16 (+3) CON 19 (+4)
INT 16 (+3) WIS 15 (+2) CHA 18 (+4)

Proficiency +5; Maneuver DC 17
Saving Throws Str +9, Dex +8, Wis +7, Cha +9
Skills Insight +7, Intimidation +9 (+1d6), Investigation +8, Perception +7, Stealth +9 (+1d6), Sleight of Hand +9
Damage Immunities poison; damage from nonmagical weapons
Condition Immunities poisoned
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive
Languages Abyssal, Infernal, Undercommon, telepathy 120 ft.

Deadly Poison. As part of making an attack, the elghonn can apply a debilitating poison to their weapons (included below on the crossbow action). The elghonn carries 3 doses of this poison. A single dose can coat two melee weapons or up to 10 pieces of ammunition.

Evil. The elghonn radiates an Evil aura.

Legendary Resistance (3/day). If the elghonn fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead. When it does so, it wards itself with its blade. Until the end of its next turn, it can only attack twice with its Biting Blade.

Magic Resistance. The elghonn has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Piercing Darkvision. The elghonn’s darkvision penetrates magical darkness.

Regeneration. The elghonn regains 10 hit points at the beginning of each of its turns as long as it has at least 1 hit point.

Shadow Stalker. The elghonn has advantage on Stealth checks made in dim light or darkness.

The elghonn makes four biting blade attacks

Biting Blade. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d10+4) slashing damage plus 11 (2d10) necrotic damage, and the target must make a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or take one level of fatigue. The creature cannot be brought below the 6th level of fatigue from this attack. This level of fatigue goes away after the creature completes a short or long rest.

Heavy Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, rage 100/400 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d10+3) piercing damage plus 18 (4d8) poison damage and the target is poisoned for one minute, and while poisoned, takes 9 (2d8) ongoing poison damage.

If the elghonn is wielding its biting blade and can see its attacker, it adds 4 to its AC against one attack that would hit it.

Legendary Actions
The elghonn can take 2 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. It regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Move In Darkness. The elghonn takes the Hide action and moves up to half its speed.

Channel Darkness. A 10-foot-radius area of magical negative energy surrounds the elghonn until the beginning of its next turn, spreading around corners. Creatures in the area can’t regain hit points.

Create Darkness (Costs 2 Actions). The elghonn creates a 20-foot-radius sphere of magical darkness originating from a point it can see within 60 feet. Darkvision can’t penetrate this darkness. The darkness lasts for 1 minute or until the elghonn uses this action again.

Elghonn enjoy inflicting their targets with fatigue or ongoing poison damage, letting them go, and then tracking them in order to revel in the fear and pain they cause. Once they have done caught up with their prey they wade into battle and fight in melee combat. They only retreat if near death, or if bloodied and in combat with creatures that it is not actually tracking.


And now for our first 3e monster! This is the raknakle, a creepy barrow-dwelling fey, from an article on creatures of the Pomarj, in Greyhawk. I don’t know all that much about the setting or the location. Is Pomarj pronounced Pomarge, Pomarze, or Pomary? You never can tell with a J.

Anyway, this thing successfully feels very fey-like. Among other things, the only thing it eats are the huckleberries from a single bush that grow at the top of its chosen hill, which is very folkloric. That’s already quite a difference from the more traditional 1e/2e fey-folk, which, even when Chaotic Neutral tricksters, were often written in a way that made them feel like any other humanoid or demi-human, just cutesy or nature-oriented. Anyway, raknakles have a nasty ability to curse targets with unluckiness that lets them hit way above their CR—I had to tone it down quite a bit. Originally, it lasted for a day, and if it wasn’t reversed before then, the cursed character had to make a second save or suffer from a potentially serious accident of the DM’s choice.

Anyone else miss it when monsters and spells had affects that could last for days? I know they’re annoying when actually used in game—back in a 2e-era game, I once had a player who immediately threatened to suicide her character when she was hit with a blindness—but it seems like sometimes, terrible curses should last longer than a minute or two.


The Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #274
Creature by James Jacobs; art by Carlo Arellano

Raknakle resemble pointy-headed, potbellied hobgoblins, completely hairless save for tufts of hair on their shoulders and the backs of their hands and feet. Their skin is a pale, translucent gray, and their hair only a bit darker. Their necks are twice as long as they should be, but their most unnerving feature is their lack of eyes—they have deep, empty sockets that emit pale yellow smoke that smells of honey.

Barrow-Dwellers. These fey live under rounded hills, the type that often form around long-forgotten burial mounds or buried ruins. They can walk through the earth as if it were thin air, and thus there is little evidence of their existence.

While the raknakle lives there, these hills are barren, with only tall, dry grass and a few scraggly bushes that, oddly enough, grow berries regardless of the time of year or weather conditions. The berries are the only thing the raknakle eats—it only needs a single berry a day to survive—so it guards them from all comers. Should its bushes be destroyed or picked clean, the raknakle will soon starve to death.

Hill Haunts. When a person gets too near to a raknakle’s home, the fey begins wail like a ghost, using magically-summoned mist to conceal its home. With its empty eyes, cadaverous skin, and ability to walk through solid earth, most people who live near to the fey’s hill think it haunted.

Climate/Terrain: subarctic, temperate; The Dreaming, hill, ruin, tomb

Legends and Lore
With an Arcana check, the characters can learn the following:

DC 10. Raknakle are fey that live under hills. Although they lack eyes, they seem to be able to perceive their surroundings just fine.

DC 15. The eyeless gaze of a raknakle bespells a curse or unluckiness on those who meet it.

DC 20. The only thing that raknakle eat are the berries that grow on its hill. They will stop at nothing to revenge themselves upon a person who eats them.

Raknakle Encounters
Challenge Rating 0
raknakle; raknakle and 1 or 2 boars or giant badgers
Treasure: 100 sp, 650 cp, 4 agates (10 gp each), bronze statue of a horse (25 gp)

1. Nothing but dry grass and berry bushes
2. Ghostly wails
3. With a DC 13 Perception or Survival check, footprints that disappear into a hillside
4. Local tales tell of an eyeless ghost that curses people

1. Dancing around its berry bush
2. Trying to escape a group of goblins it cursed
3. Watching the characters from hiding
4. Gathering coins and valuable objects for its treasure hoard

Anwir, Brona, Dolion, Jolon, Tajana

Medium fey (shapechanger); Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)
HP 9 (2d8; bloodied 4)
Speed 30 ft., burrow 30 ft.

STR 9 (-1) DEX 16 (+3) CON 10 (+0)
INT 12 (+1) WIS 13 (+1) CHA 14 (+2)

Proficiency +2; Maneuver DC 13
Skills Insight +3, Nature +3, Perception +3, Stealth +5
Condition Immunities blinded
Senses blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), passive Perception 13

Earth Glide. The raknakle can burrow through nonmagical, unworked earth and stone without disturbing it.

Innate Spellcasting. The raknakle’s spellcasting trait is Charisma (spell save DC 12). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
1/day each: animal friend, fear, fog cloud

Melee Weapon Attack: +1 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 (1d4-1) bludgeoning damage

Hurl Rock. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4+3) bludgeoning damage

Change Shape. The raknakle magically takes the shape of a Large tree, or changes back into its true form. Any equipment it is wearing is absorbed by its new form. In tree form, its speed is 0 and it can take no actions or reactions other than to return to its true form, but it retains its senses.

Unlucky Gaze (Gaze; Recharge 5-6). The raknakle targets one creature not under the effect of a raknakle’s Unlucky Gaze within 60 feet and forces it to make a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw or be cursed. While cursed, the target takes one level of strife and for the next minute, whenever it makes an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw, it must roll a d4 and subtract it from the total. The curse ends early if the target rolls a natural 20 on any of those roll, and the level of strife goes away after the creature completes a short or long rest.

If the raknakle is attacked or has to make a saving throw, it adds 2 to its AC or its saving throw, possibly turning a hit on an attack into a miss or a failed save into a success.

The raknakle starts its attack by throwing rocks and using its Unlucky Gaze, and ducks into and out of earth in order to gain cover from attackers. It retreats if forced to fight in melee combat.


Here’s the skittermaw, a bitty little tentacular horror, because there can never be enough tentacular horrors in the world. It’s small and pretty weak, but that just means they’re good as having as pest monsters in the lair of a fiercer horror, or for using aberrations on lower-level PCs.

But here’s the thing. A few issues after this one (in #280), there’s a monster called a ragewing, which is incredibly similar to the skittermaw. They’re both Small aberrations, they both are empathic, the skittermaw is poisonous while the skittermaw is a different type of poisonous (it’s from an article on radioactive monsters/aliens from the Barrier Peaks), and where the skittermaw causes panic, the ragewing incites rage. The differences are minor: the skittermaw is a bit more tentacular and has wings; the ragewing is more intelligent and is Chaotic Evil. Both monsters were by James Jacobs; I wonder if he hadn’t realized he had made two very similar critters (maybe one had been submitted way before the other and he had just forgotten) or if this was intentional. So anyway, I’ve blended the two monsters together a bit.


The Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #274, and Invaders of the Barrier Peaks, Dragon Magazine #280
Creature by James Jacobs; art by Carlo Arellano

About the size and weight of a large watermelon, these bizarre creatures resemble an upside-down spider’s head with a pair of leathery wings attached. They have six multifaceted eyes on their bellies, while the top half of their body sports a pair of twitching, slavering spider fangs. Behind the fangs is a writhing tangle of long, maw-tipped tentacles used to both deliver stings and to communicate amongst themselves. Their body is supported by a mass of long, spindly legs, and they have a long, rat-like tail. Despite their awkward appearance, skittermaws move with a fluid, almost hypnotic grace.

Spidery Psychics. Despite their bestial appearance, skittermaws are fairly intelligent beings and have mild psychic abilities, allowing them sense other creature’s emotions and to project their own.

From Poisonous Lands. Skittermaws only dwell in lands that have been blasted by strange magical radiation. The first of them seem to spontaneously generate from that burst of radiation, although it’s more likely that long buried, dormant eggs hatch when exposed to this radiation. Later generations are produced via eggs. They breed in large numbers, and few creatures exist that can cull their numbers—the magical radiation that spawns them usually kills or maims other living creatures in the area, making those places void of most life. As a result, skittermaw packs are always on the move and always looking for prey.

Magic-Finders. As creatures born from magical radiation and accidents, skittermaws are attracted to magic items. When a flock finds a new item, particularly a permanently-enchanted item rather than a consumable, it surrounds the item, seemingly content to bask in its presence.

Climate/Terrain: any climate; Bleak Gate, cavern, dungeon, ruin, tomb, Underland

Legends and Lore
With an Arcana check, the characters can learn the following:

DC 10. Skittermaws are small aberrations with the ability to read and alter other creature’s emotions.

DC 15. These creatures can only be found in areas subjected to large amounts of magical radiation and pollution. They seem to be spontaneously generated by these effects.

DC 20. Although easy to kill, skittermaws usually travel in flocks. They remain in constant telepathic contact with one another.

Skittermaw Encounters
Challenge Rating 1-2
1 skittermaw

Challenge Rating 3-4 2 skittermaws

Challenge Rating 5-10 3-5 skittermaws.
Treasure: boots of speed, ring of swimming, wand of enemy detection.

1. The corpses of a group of creatures that seem to have killed each other; with a DC 15 Investigation check, several of the corpses have strange puncture marks on their bodies.
2. Tiny footprints of a creature with too many legs.
3. The sound of skittering and buzzing.
4. What looks like a flock of large birds closing in on the party.

1. As travelers, approach, they take wing and attack.
2. Flying around looking for new prey.
3. A single skittermaw, attached to a humanoid and telepathically giving it orders.
4. Hovering around a half-buried magic item, absorbing its magical aura.

Small aberration; Challenge 2 (450 XP)
HP 22 (4d6+8; bloodied 11)
Speed 40 ft., climb 40 ft., fly 40 ft.

STR 8 (-1) DEX 14 (+2) CON 14 (+2)
INT 6 (-2) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 14 (+2)

Proficiency +2; Maneuver DC 12
Skills Insight +2, Perception +2, Stealth +4
Damage Resistance fire
Senses darkvision 30 ft., passive Perception 14

Languages telepathy 120 ft. (can transmit emotions and thoughts but not words)

Detect Magic. The skittermaw can detect the presence of magic items within 100 feet.

Empathic. The skittermaw has a d6 expertise die on Insight checks made to determine a creature’s emotion.

Pack Tactics. The skittermaw has advantage on attack rolls against a creature if at least one other skittermaw is within 5 feet of the creature and not incapacitated.

Spider Climb. The skittermaw can climb even on difficult surfaces and upside down on ceilings.

Toxic Blood. A creature that touches the skittermaw’s blood or hits it with a weapon attack while within 5 feet of the skittermaw must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned until the end of its next turn.

The skittermaw makes one bite attack and two tentacle attacks.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4+2) piercing damage, and if the target is a creature, the skittermaw attaches itself to it. While attached, the skittermaw has advantage on tentacle attacks made against the creature. A creature can use an action to detach it by making a DC 12 Strength check, and it can detach itself as a bonus action.

Tentacles. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature it is attached to. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage plus 5 (1d10) radiant damage, and the skittermaw regains a number of hit points equal to the radiant damage. Additionally, creature must make a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw or suffer from one of the following effects (roll a d10):

1-2. The target is charmed by the skittermaw, and while charmed, it will resist attempts to detach the skittermaw.

3-4. The target is charmed by the skittermaw, and while charmed, views all creatures other than the skittermaw to be its enemies.

5-6. The target is charmed by the skittermaw, and while charmed, can communicate empathically with the skittermaw and views it to be a trusted ally.

7-8. The target is frightened, overwhelmed by the skittermaw’s projections of bloodthirst and hunger.

9-10. The target is confused, and when randomly choosing a creature to attack, it will never attack the skittermaw.

The target may make a new saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. The condition also ends early if the skittermaw dies or is detached from the target’s body.

Light Pulse (Recharges After a Short or Long Rest). The skittermaw emits a burst of light with a radius of 15 feet. Each creature in that area must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be rattled and confused until the end of its next turn. A creature that is blinded automatically makes its save.

Skittermaws shy away from combat, but if forced into it, they lash out with their tentacles and bite. They flee if bloodied.

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