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Homebrew A Leveled Up Bestiary

Faolyn

(she/her)
The musical spirit is an unusual undead, as it’s a protector and not destructive or vengeful. Which is nice—there’s no reason why undead have to be filled with hatred for the living. It also happens to be the second bard-centered undead I’ve done, which is weird that it’s happened twice. :D

I really like this creature. It has a wonderfully folkloric feel to it.

1661464258045.png

Why did they never sign their art?

Musical Spirit
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #119
Created by Mark DeForest

Musical spirits are believed to be the spirits of fey creatures, bards, or musically-inclined druid who have chosen to remain in the mortal world after their death in order to protect the wilderness and honor it with their music. They resemble drawn, withered, and nearly colorless versions of their living selves, wearing ancient, ragged clothing. They each have a musical instrument and do little but play that instrument.

Night Music. Mostly found in fey woods, musical spirits only appear at night and vanish at the first touch of sunlight. Sunlight, even that produced by magic, doesn’t harm them, and magical sunlight doesn’t banish them. They are guardians of the forest at night, and even the most evil-minded creatures are wont to put aside their dastardly plans when they hear the spirit’s music.

Beastly Herald. Many musical spirits have a companion animal which acts as both guard and herald. It is often a beloved pet that died with the spirit. When the spirit sits and plays, the beast circles the woodlands around it, watching out for danger; when the spirit moves, it moves ahead of it, clearing the path. It resembles a ghost-white version of a normal animal with blank eyes and has the attributes of a beast of CR 1/2 or lower with the zombie template added, and is generally not hostile.

Legends and Lore
With an Arcana or History check, the characters can learn the following:
DC 15. Musical spirits are benign undead who play music in the wilderness.
DC 20. The musical spirit knows thirteen songs of haunting beauty, and is willing to teach these songs—for a price. The thirteenth song gives the one who plays it great magical power.

Musical Spirit Encounters
Terrain:
Feywild, forest, ruin

CR 1-2 Musical spirit

Signs
1-3. The sound of beautiful music in the distance.
4. A pure-white dog, deer, or hawk appears and watches the party.

Behavior
1-2. Playing music alone
3. Playing music to a crowd of beasts and fey.
4. Attempting to teach a young minstrel one of its songs.

Musical Spirit
Medium undead

Challenge 2 (450 XP)
AC 17 (natural armor)
HP 45 (6d8+18; bloodied 22)
Speed 30 ft., fly 40 ft.

STR 12 (+1) DEX 15 (+2) CON 17 (+3)
INT 12 (+1) WIS 16 (+3) CHA 22 (+6)

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 12
Saving Throws Dex +4, Wis +5, Cha +8
Skills Nature +5, Perform +8 (+1d10)
Damage Resistances cold; damage from nonmagical weapons
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, stunned, unconscious
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages Sylvan, the languages it knew in life
Innate Spellcasting. The musical spirit’s spellcasting trait is Charisma (spell save DC 16). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring only that the spirit play an instrument or sing:
3/day: dramatic sting, healing word, gust of wind, harmonic resonance
1/day each: commune with nature, hallow, insect plague, wind wall
Magic Resistance. The musical spirit has advantage on saving throws versus spells and other magical effects.
Speak with Nature. The musical spirit can communicate with beasts and plants.
Turn Resistance. The musical spirit has advantage on saving throws against any effect that would turn undead. It is also unaffected by the dispel evil and good, hallow, and magic circle spells.
Undead Nature. The musical spirit doesn’t require air, sustenance, or sleep.

Actions
Wild Dance.
Each creature within 30 feet of the musical spirit must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or must use all of its movement to dance in its space. It has disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws, and attack rolls made against it have advantage. It can use its action to repeat the save, ending the spell with an effect. At the end of each minute spent dancing, the creature takes one level of fatigue.
The dance lasts for as long as the spirit continues to play its instrument. It may cast spells while maintaining the Wild Dance.
Insect Plague (V; Concentration). A 20-foot-radius sphere of biting and stinging insects appears centered on a point the god can see within 300 feet and remains for 10 minutes. The cloud spreads around corners and the area is lightly obscured. Each creature in the area when the cloud appears, and each creature that enters it for the first time on its turn, makes a DC 16 Constitution saving throw, taking 22 (4d10) piercing damage on a failed save, or half damage on a success. The musical spirit is immune to this damage.

Bonus Actions
Dramatic Sting (V; Concentration).
A target must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw when the spell is cast and at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success or taking 2 (1d4) psychic damage and be frightened of the spirit until the spell ends.

Combat
Musical spirits never initiate combat. If forced to fight, it starts by using Wild Dance and lets the attackers dance themselves into exhaustion.

Variant: The Thirteen Songs
A musical spirit knows thirteen pieces of music unique to it, each one of haunting, otherworldly beauty. All creatures, even supernatural ones, will find the song to be deeply moving and meaningful. The spirit is willing to teach these songs to mortals or fey who are brave enough to approach it—and who pay for the knowledge by performing a great deed for the spirit or the wilderness around it, or by making a sacrifice of some sort. Each song taught requires its own payment. A creature that demands to be taught, refuses to pay the price, attempts to harm the spirit, or is otherwise hostile, will cause the musical spirit to attack.

These pieces of music are difficult to learn. After 8 hours of practice, the character must make a DC 25 check using Performance or a musical instrument. After three successes, the song is learned; these successes don’t have to be consecutive. The song can only be learned directly from a willing musical spirit; the spirit can't be coerced or threatened into teaching the music. The music can’t be recorded through magical or mechanical means, if it is recorded through musical notation, the result will be a hollow, discordant parody of the true song, and a person who learned the song can't teach it to anyone else.

While playing one of these pieces of music, the performer gains a d6 expertise die on their skill check to playand on Charisma checks made against a creature who has heard them play the music (this bonus to Charisma checks lasts for 12 hours after the music was played). This expertise die can be upgraded to a d10, exceeding the usual limit on expertise die.

The thirteenth song can only be learned by a creature that already knows the twelve other songs. While playing this song, the musician can cast a variant of symbol, requiring no components other than playing or singing the music. The musician can choose which symbol to create (but cannot choose the Death option), and the effect does not involve a physical glyph. Instead, it affects all creatures within 60 feet of the musician. It requires concentration, as if concentrating on a spell, and ends early if the musician stops playing. The save DC is equal to the musician’s spell save DC, or 8 + its proficiency bonus + Charisma modifier, if it doesn’t have a spell save DC. The creature can use this effect once between rests.
 

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The musical spirit is an unusual undead, as it’s a protector and not destructive or vengeful. Which is nice—there’s no reason why undead have to be filled with hatred for the living. It also happens to be the second bard-centered undead I’ve done, which is weird that it’s happened twice. :D

I really like this creature. It has a wonderfully folkloric feel to it.

View attachment 259102
Why did they never sign their art?

Musical Spirit
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #119
Created by Mark DeForest

<snip>

Neat! I could see using these as a type of Deathless in an Eberron game.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
I love the side quest concept of a bard searching for one of these spirits to learn a song, which then frees people from the magic of a powerful, evil song.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
More fun fungi! The sashalus is by Ed Greewood and I like to think of it as a relative of the myconid. It’s mobile—more mobile than the average mushroom, at least—and it’s of animal intelligence, and it produces a weird toxin. After the last couple of complex monsters, this carnivorous mushroom is quite simple. It uses the Fungi entry’s Legends and Lore, Signs, and Behaviors.

(I’m still sad that fungi are lumped in with plants. There’s probably enough shrooms to warrant their own creature type.)

Fungi, Sashalus
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #119
Created by Ed Greenwood

Sashalus are ambulatory, carnivorous mushrooms that stand about three to four feet tall. They look a lot like amanita muscaria mushrooms, with mottled greenish-brown caps covered in yellow warts, and pale brown stems. At the base of their stems is a mass of short, rubbery tendrils—the sashalus’ legs. The warts on their caps hide both a mass of tiny eyespots and a couple of dozen short spines. A sashalus can fire these spines at high speed and decent accuracy.

Tough Hunters. Despite their small size, slow speed, and relative weakness, sashalus are formidable hunters. They are attack from hiding, firing spines at warm-blooded prey and waiting until it falls unconscious or becomes too injured to fight back. It then cautiously approaches and, when it is certain it is safe, uses its tendrils to secrete a corrosive acid that dissolves the prey enough to make it edible for the mushroom’s toothless mouth. Sashalus are intelligent enough to artfully arrange treasure (to it, anything shiny) as a lure.

Friendly But Solitary. Sashalus wander alone, without a set lair and only occasionally with a favored hunting spot. On the occasions that two meet, they communicate with each other through touch. If they are of opposite sexes—for sashalus have both males and females—they mate in a manner like that of animals, and the female will eventually give live birth to several tiny young, which they take surprisingly good care of for a year.

Legends and Lore
With a Nature check, the characters can learn the following:

DC 10. The sashalus is an ambulatory, predatory fungus.

DC 15. Solitary hunters, sashalus fire spines filled with a toxin that has varied effects on the creature it hits, such as causing the creature to become confused, fall unconscious, or become too spaced-out to act.

DC 20. Sashalus are about as intelligent as dogs are. They create lures by scattering coins and other shiny items around, as they are aware that many creatures like such things.

Sashalus Encounters
Terrain:
cavern, forest, swamp

CR 0 1 sashalus
Treasure: 10 gp, 35 sp, crystal pendant (worth 35 gp)

Signs
1-2. A few coins in a neat pile.
3. An acid-burned animal skin.
4. A few shed spines.

Behavior
1. Hunting
2. Teaching its young how to hunt.
3. Devouring a dead rabbit.
4. Sleeping.

Sashalus
Small plant

Challenge 1/4 (25 XP)
AC 11
HP 10 (3d6)
Speed 15 ft., climb 15 ft.

STR 6 (-2) DEX 12 (+1) CON 10 (+0)
INT 3 (-4) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 7 (-2)

Skills Stealth +3
Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 11
Senses darkvision 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), tremorsense 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages

Actions
Multiattack.
The sashalus makes two spine attacks.
Spine. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) piercing damage and the target must make a DC 10 saving throw against poison or suffer one of the following effects:
1: The target falls unconscious for 10 minutes or until another creature uses an action to wake it up.
2-4: The target is confused for 1 minute.
5: The target is incapacitated for 1 minute while wracked with convulsions and nausea.
6-7: The target is poisoned for 1 minute and suffers from chills and dizziness.
8: The target takes 1 ongoing acid damage for 1 minute.
A creature (other than one who is unconscious) can make a new saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. Any affect that ends the poisoned condition will also end this effect.
Tendril. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (2d4) acid damage.

Combat
Sashalus prefer to attack from ambush, and will flee if injured. It will fire multiple spines into a single creature at a time.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
The next monster is one that has had surprisingly little traction in D&D, despite being of cultural interest and appearing in bunches of movies, TV shows, video games, and even cartoons: the wendigo. We all know this one—a cruel spirit of winter cold, famine, and cannibalism. The wendigo, of Algonquian-area mythology, appears in two issues of Dragon and in the 3e Fiend Folio (as a template), and that’s about it, as far as I can tell. I really am surprised it hasn’t shown up more. It seems like a shoo-in for a standard monster, like the banshee became.

The first Dragon version is still a humanoid, but with an immunity to anything that affects people (like charm person). The second Dragon version is definitely undead, and the FF version is fey (well, more of a cruel nature spirit, but those things get lumped in with fey all the time). Real mythology is almost impossible to categorize into neat monster types, as wendigo myths seem especially unclear—it may be a physical being, or it may be an immaterial spirit; it may be specifically about cannibalism or it may be a spirit of greed in general; a person may turn into a wendigo if they spend too much time with one; a person may be possessed by one; it may have never been seen as a real creature but was always understood as a metaphor and warning about taboos. Also, while it’s often depicted with animal features like antlers, that’s apparently not part of the original myths—most of those features come via horror writers like King and Blackwood. Interestingly, only one of D&D’s wendigos (Moldvay’s) is illustrated in an animalistic way. Moldvay’s version also has an unusual note—that some wendigos may have been people who entered into a pact with evil forest spirits. Which, nowadays, suggests the fate of some warlocks.

As such, this is a tough monster to convert to keep both the spirit (sorry) of the actual legend and that of the monster blocks.

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Art by... I'm guessing Jeff Easley

Wendigo
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #119, and The Ungrateful Dead, Dragon Magazine #138
Created by Mark DeForest and Tom Moldvay

Wendigo resemble humanoid corpses, easy ten feet tall, with death-pale skin covered in filth, wounds, and lesions and so gaunt as to be skeletal. Their fingers, blackened with frostbite, have been worn into claws, and their eyes are empty sockets that glow with cold light. They smell of decay and rotten meat and exude an aura of freezing cold. Wendigo don’t walk; they float just above the ground, and can move like the wind.

Wendigo remember very little of their former lives. They may feel flashes of emotion when they see someone they once knew, but those emotions—whether good or bad—mostly serve to draw the wendigo’s attention and with that, its hunger. Any trace of their of their personalities is gone.

Unending Hunger. Almost vanishingly rare, wendigo are created when a person, trapped in harsh winter snows, resorts to cannibalism to survive—and more importantly, remains a cannibal even when other food becomes available. These acts transform the person, without them actually dying, into an undead being.

As undead, wendigo are plagued with a hunger greater than even the worst ghouls and vampires. They even go so far as to eat themselves—most chew their lips off and rip chunks of flesh out of their own limbs in a desperate attempt to satisfy their cravings. Wendigos often trail drops of black, fetid blood behind them because of these self-inflicted wounds.

Fears of Winter. Wendigo are creatures of winter, exemplifying the fears of famine, darkness, and freezing to death. Their terrible stare can cause those who meet it to go mad, and their howl disorients the listener and may compel them to go wandering mindlessly into the cold outdoors. If they're lucky, they die from hypothermia before they meet the wendigo's jaws.

Icy Heart. A wendigo’s heart literally turns to ice and is so cold that even the wendigo itself can’t stand it—and yet, at the same time, instinctively knows to protect it. They are only active in the coldest, snowiest times of the year. The rest of the time, they exist in a state halfway between non-existence and hibernation, curled around their icy heart. Only by destroying this heart can the wendigo truly be slain.

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

DC 10. Wendigo are a type of winter undead created when a humanoid resorts to cannibalism to survive, even when it’s not needed.

DC 15. A creature that hears the wendigo’s howl may be compelled to wander into the wilderness.

DC 20. The stare of a wendigo can freeze a creature to the bone, and may even cause that creature to become infected with the wendigo’s cannibalistic hunger.

Wendigo Encounters
Terrain:
forest, tundra

CR 5-10 Wendigo; wendigo with 1-2 ghouls

CR 11-16 Wendigo with ghast and 1d4+2 ghouls

Signs
1-2. Gnawed-on humanoid bones
3. With a DC 20 Perception check, a drop of frozen blood.
4. A terrifying howl in the distance.
5. A person walking mindlessly in the wilderness, wearing inadequate clothing, seemingly unconcerned by hypothermia or frostbite. They can be awakened, but have no understanding of why they were outside.
6. The remains of a fort, outpost, or traveler’s camp that has been destroyed. Within is nothing but bones and, perhaps, a ghoul.

Behavior
1-2. Devouring a humanoid corpse.
3. In wind form, flitting about the trees.
4. Stalking an individual it hopes to turn into a ghast.

Wendigo
Large undead

Challenge 11 (7,200 XP)
AC 17 (natural armor)
HP 135 (18d8+54; bloodied 67)
Speed 0 ft., fly 60 ft.

STR 12 (+1) DEX 20 (+5) CON 16 (+3)
INT 12 (+1) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 19 (+4)

Proficiency +4
Maneuver DC 17
Saving Throws Str +5, Dex +9, Wis +6
Skills Perception +6
Damage Resistances fire, damage from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned, stunned, unconscious
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 16
Languages The languages it knew in life
Frozen Aura. At the start of the wendigo’s turn, each creature within 10 feet takes 5 (1d10) cold damage. A creature that touches the wendigo or hits it with a melee attack takes 5 (1d10) cold damage.
Innate Spellcasting (3/Day). The wendigo can cast wind walk (self only), requiring no components. Its spellcasting trait is Charisma.
Low Ceiling. The wendigo can’t fly higher than 30 feet above the ground, or 60 feet when using its Wind Walk ability.
Magic Resistance. The wendigo has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Rejuvenation. If its heart is intact, a destroyed wendigo gains a new body during the next snow storm. The new body forms within 10 feet of the heart. The wendigo’s heart is Tiny object with AC 13, 5 hp, and is immune to all damage except for magical bludgeoning and force damage. A creature that ends its turn within 5 feet of the heart, touches it, or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it takes 11 (2d10) cold damage.

Actions
Grab.
Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d6+5) slashing damage and 7 (2d6) cold damage. The target is grappled (escape DC 17) and restrained while grappled in this way.
Wandering Call (1/Day). The wendigo roars. All humanoids within a half-mile radius of the wendigo must make a DC 16 Wisdom check or be frightened for 1 minute. If the saving throw fails by 5 or more, the creature is charmed instead. While charmed, it is incapacitated and feels compelled to go wandering into the wilderness for 12 hours. At the end of each hour, and each time the creature takes damage or another creature uses an action to attempt to wake it, it may make a new saving throw, ending the effect on a success.

Bonus Actions
Hungering Bite.
Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target that is grappled, restrained, or unaware of the wendigo’s presence. Hit: 9 (1d10+5) slashing damage plus 7 (2d6) cold damage, and the target takes 7 (2d6) ongoing cold damage. The target may make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
Bone-Chilling Stare (Gaze). One creature the wendigo can see within 120 feet must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw against being frightened, taking 10 (3d6) cold damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one. On a failed save, the target takes one level of strife. If the target fails the save by 5 or more, it is paralyzed until the end of the wendigo’s next turn. A target that succeeds on the saving throw is immune to this wendigo’s Bone-Chilling Stare for 24 hours. A creature that has eaten humanoid flesh at any point in its life has disadvantage on this saving throw.
If the target is reduced to 0 hit points from this damage, it is stable but unconscious for 1 hour, even if it regains hit points. Unless it is subjected to a dispel evil and good, remove curse, or similar effect during this time, it is also cursed. While cursed, it gains the Radiant Sensitivity, Paralyzing Claw, and Bite of a ghoul. although it appears normal and retains its attributes as well as its heritage and class abilities, and it has an insatiable hunger for the flesh of sentient beings. It must make a DC 10 Intelligence saving throw each time it wishes to use one of its heritage or class abilities; on a failure, the hunger is too great and it can’t use that ability. If the creature dies while cursed, it rises as a free-willed ghast the following dusk.

Combat
The wendigo begins combat with its Bone-Chilling Stare, then closes in to attack with claws and bites. When bloodied, it retreats, but it uses wind walk to stalk its victim until a later time. Wendigo prefer to target individuals rather than groups.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
The party is camped in the freezing forests, far from the nearest habitation. The night air shines with frost, and it rimes the chainmail of the fighter.......and they hear a howl in the distance. It is no wolf!
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
A quick one this time, and the final monster from this article: the wood golem guardian. This is another creature I’m surprised isn’t more common. People have made some wacky golems over the decades, but wood seems so basic that you’d think it would be good as a relatively low-level challenge.

As it’s a guardian, use the MM’s entries for Legends and Lore, Signs, and Behaviors.

I’m taking a couple of days off—a friend of mine wants me to convert some monsters for him.

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Artist: Still goin' with Jeff Easley here

Guardian, Wood
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #119
Created by Loran Wlodarski

Carved out of the trunk of a tree that was felled by lightning, wood guardians are usually crafted by druids and left to roam the roam the woodlands to protect them from intruders. They are relatively weak in comparison to many other guardians, but the magic that goes into their construction makes them alive in a way that other guardians aren’t. Wood guardians are rarely set to guard treasure; they are much more likely used to guard either a forest or a specific location within the forest.

Unlike most wooden objects and many plant creatures, wood guardians are not vulnerable to fire—in fact, they manipulate it to a small degree. They can both douse nonmagical flames (which makes them invaluable guardians of any forest prone to fires) and shoot acorn-like pellets made of flame.

Wood Guardian Encounters
Terrain:
forest, settlement

CR 5-10 wood guardian; 2 wood guardians; wood guardian and druid
Treasure: quiver of the hunt, second-light lantern, spell scrolls of conjure minor elementals and water walk

Wood Guardian
Medium construct (plant)

Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)
AC 14 (natural armor)
HP 67 (9d8+27; bloodied 33)
Speed 35 ft.

STR 19 (+4) DEX 9 (-1) CON 17 (+3)
INT 4 (-3) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 5 (-3)

Proficiency +3
Maneuver DC 14
Damage Resistances cold, lightning
Damage Immunities fire, poison; damage from nonmagical, non-adamantine weapons
Condition Immunities charmed, fatigue, frightened paralyzed, petrified, poisoned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages understands the languages of its creators but can’t speak
Berserk. When the guardian starts its turn while bloodied, roll a d6. On a 6, the guardian goes berserk. While berserk, the guardian attacks the nearest creature it can see. If it can’t reach a creature, it attacks an object. The guardian stays berserk until it is destroyed or restored to full hit points.
If a berserk guardian can see and hear its creator, the creator can use an action to try to calm it by making a DC 15 Persuasion check. On a success, the guardian is no longer berserk.
Cold and Lightning Aversion. When the guardian takes lightning damage, it is slowed until the end of its next turn.
False Appearance. While the guardian is motionless, it is indistinguishable from a dead tree.
Fire Absorption. When the guardian is subjected to fire damage, it instead regains hit points equal to the fire damage dealt.
Immutable Form. The guardian is immune to any spell or effect that would alter its form.
Magic Resistance. The guardian has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Actions
Multiattack.
The guardian makes two attacks.
Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 15 (2d10+4) bludgeoning damage.
Fire Acorn. Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, range 30/90 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (3d8) fire damage.

Bonus Actions
Douse.
The guardian touches a nonmagical flame that fits within a 5-foot cube and instantaneously extinguishes it.

Variant: Treant Guardians
Some druids make wood guardians out of the remains of dead treants—sometimes because the treant wishes to continue guarding their forest even after death, and sometimes out of a mocking perversion of the treant’s purpose in life. A treant guardian is CR 6 (2,300 XP), is Large, has AC 19, and 93 hit points (11d10+33; bloodied 46). Its Intelligence and Charisma are both 7 (-2), and it has the following trait:

Siege Monster. The guardian deals double damage to objects and structures.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
The next article I’m working through is actually two articles put together. Charles Saunders wrote Out of Africa for #122, in which he detailed many creatures of various African mythologies and folklore. Roger Moore than statted out those monsters in an attached article called, uh, “Gaming the Dark Continent.” Sigh. His monster descriptions were really brief and also included whether the monster was capable of speech and tool-use, which is just kind of odd to me. I wonder if that was a thing that came up in his games a lot.

DM: As you enter the room, you see a <insert monster>
Player: But can it use tools?
DM: I... I have no idea. The MM doesn't say.

Anyway, the monster I’m doing for this entry is the chemosit of the Nandi people of East Africa. The chemosit has sort of a dual identity. Historically speaking, it’s sort of a one-legged bird-demon thing with a glowing mouth and… nine buttocks. I swear, real-life mythical creatures are so much weirder than anything a game designer could come up with. Anyway, it’s also become cryptid (and taken the name Nandi bear) that was supposedly sighted in the 18th/early 19th century and that kind of looks like a cross between a hyena and Bigfoot. The article has the bird-demon version. Which, let’s face it, is cooler than a Bigfoot thing anyway. The text and art (by the esteemed Jennell Jaquays) even have the butts!

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art by Jennell Jaquays

Demon, Chemosit
Out of Africa, Dragon Magazine #122
Created by Charles R. Saunders and Roger Moore

Chemosits are minor demons of bizarre appearance. They resemble human-vulture hybrids and stand over seven feet tall. They have a single leg and feathered arms, not wings. They carry an iron spear, which is both weapon and cane for them. This spear has a wickedly barbed point and spreads disease. Perhaps strangest of all, their insides are filled with hellish light which spills out when their beaks are open. From a distance and at night, they often look like lanterns in the darkness.

They are often summoned by spellcasters as messengers or saboteurs. Greater demons often exploit their uncannily good vision, or use them as living lamps. On their own, a chemosit’s favorite thing to do is to sing merry songs in the night—and then eat up anyone who comes to investigate.

Chemosit Encounters
Terrain:
Abyss; any

CR 3-4 chemosit

CR 5-10 1-2 chemosits, 1-2 chemosits and 1-2 giant hyenas
Treasure: Iron and ruby necklace (500 gp), cord of spirit stealing

Chemosit’s Spear
At the Narrator’s discretion, the chemosit’s spear remains when the chemosit is killed or banished. This spear has the Heavy trait and inflicts 1d8 damage, or 1d10 damage if when wielded in two hands. On a critical hit, the target must make a DC 13 Constitution save or contract the disease as described in the chemosit’s Spear attack. However, if the wielder is not a fiend, then it must also make a Constitution save when that occurs or contract the disease as well. Resistance or immunity to disease does not protect a non-fiendish wielder unless the wielder is specifically resistant or immune to fiendish diseases. If the wielder has the Chaotic or Evil alignment and dies while diseased, its soul will become a chemosit.

Chemosit
Medium fiend (demon)

Challenge 3 (750 XP)
AC 14 (natural armor)
HP 52 (8d8+16; bloodied 26)
Speed 30 ft.

STR 14 (+2) DEX 10 (+0) CON 14 (+2)
INT 7 (-2) WIS 11 (+0) CHA 12 (+1)

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 12
Skills Deception +3 (+1d6 mimicry), Perception +2, Perform +3
Damage Resistances cold, fire, lightning
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities poisoned
Senses truesight 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Abyssal, Common
Chaotic Evil. The chemosit radiates a Chaotic and Evil aura.
Glowing Gullet. When the chemosit’s beak is open, it sheds bright light in a 60-foot cone and dim light for an additional 60 feet.
Great Leaps. The chemosit’s can jump up to 30 feet horizontally and 15 feet vertically without a running start.
Keen Vision. The chemosit has advantage on Perception checks that rely on vision.

Actions
Multiattack.
The chemosit makes one attack with its spear and one with its bite.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) radiant damage.
Iron Spear. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 10 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) piercing damage, or 7 (1d10+2) piercing damage if wielded in two hands, and the target must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or contract a disease of the lungs. While diseased, is rattled and has disadvantage on Dexterity ability checks, Dexterity attack rolls, and Dexterity saving throws, and on checks made to avoid taking fatigue. The target must make a new saving throw at the end of each of its turns. After 3 failures, the target stops making saving throws and the disease lasts for 7 days. After three successes, the effect ends.
Vaulting Leap. The chemosit jumps up to its Speed horizontally and half its Speed vertically without provoking opportunity attacks. If it’s within 5 feet of a creature at the end of this movement, it may make a melee spear attack against that creature with advantage.

Combat
Chemosits rely on their Great Leaps and Vaulting Leap to move in and out of combat. It uses its Iron Spear on multiple targets in order to weaken them, then concentrates all the attacks on the opponents who seem the weakest. It fights until it feels too outmatched, then bounds away.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I used the tyerkow against my players once, expecting them to realize that something was up but not to know exactly what, and then for it to end in a terrible battle. But, sadly for me, the party’s wizard also had an empty iron flask and, not knowing what exactly they were up against, used it. And it worked. The party had fun talking about how badass the wizard was instead of fighting and I just sat there being sad I never got to have the monster reveal its true skinless form. And now I have to deal with the fact that they have a horrible monster who will briefly be charmed by the wizard whenever he gets around to releasing it.

I can’t actually find much about the tyerkow online—and a lot of what I can find is gaming related and comes back to this issue of Dragon. Even Wikipedia doesn’t have an article that references it by name. The bit of non-gaming information I can find is about “Traditional Medical Beliefs And Practices In The City Of Timbuctoo”, written by a New York doctor, an article on JSTOR that my antivirus throws a fit about when I try to access, and... that's about it. So. I have no idea how accurate this monster is to any real-world mythology. But it's pretty cool, so that’s good enough for me.

Oh, you might notice it has some of its spells aren’t normally on the sorcerer spell list. That’s because I decided that it used the Annihilator archetype from Zeitgeist. It seemed appropriate.

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art by Jennell Jaquays

Tyerkow
Out of Africa, Dragon Magazine #122
Created by Charles R. Saunders and Roger Moore

These vampiric undead are hideous, as they have no skin and their musculature and tendons are plainly visible and glisten greasily in the light. From their backs spring tattered, leathery wings. Like other vampires, they need to drink the blood of the living and burn in sunlight, but unlike them, tyerkow require no coffin during the day, nor do they need to sleep.

Skin-Shapers. Tyerkow living in cities and towns, hiding amongst their prey by wearing the skin of a humanoid they have personally slain, skinned, and magically preserved by imbuing it with a bit of their own spirit. The skin allows them to change their height and even the sound of their voice to match that of the original person—and more importantly, it masks their true nature and allows them to freely walk among living, even in daylight.

Fiendish Creations. In life, tyerkow were beings who allied themselves with dark forces, particularly Archdevils, and they engaged in truly horrific deeds and ritual cannibalism in order to further the fiend’s goals. In exchange for their service, these devils sometimes turn these worshipers into tyerkow instead of imps, and infuse their blood with fiendish sorcerous powers. Whether this is a reward or punishment is up to debate.

Using their charisma and both innate and sorcerous magic, tyerkow often set up charismatic cults dedicated to their fiendish patrons. Others tyerkow simply try to lead enjoyable unlives by wearing the skins of the rich and powerful and enjoying their stolen wealth until it runs out, or setting up elaborate blackmail schemes to keep the money rolling in.

Legends and Lore
With an History or Religion check, the characters can learn the following:

DC 10. Tyerkow are urban undead that drink blood and are harmed by sunlight. They kill humanoids and wear their skin, allowing them to walk safely during the day. They can only

DC 15. Created by fiends, tyerkow are sorcerers of some power. They also feed their own flesh to people, causing those creatures to be enchanted by them, terribly sickened for a long period of time, or to be turned into a zombie under the tyerkow’s command.

DC 20. Tyerkow have few weaknesses besides sunlight, but destroying all of the skins they have made for themselves dooms them to die at dawn, unless it can procure a new skin before then.

Tyerkow Encounters
Terrain:
settlement

CR 5-10 Tyerkow; tyerkow with 1d4 zombies or 1 imp
Treasure: 300 gp, 70 sp, a signet ring from a noble house (worth 50 gp), ivory necklace (250 gp),
bead of tracking, philter of love, potion of poison, spell scrolls of nondetection and phantom steed

CR 11-16 Tyerkow with zombie knight and 2d8 zombies or 1 zombie horde; tyerkow with cult fanatic and 2d4+2 cultists
Treasure: 110 pp, 140 gp, 1,200 sp, aquamarine and pearl pendant earrings and necklace set (earrings and necklace worth 750 gp each), portrait of a famed courtesan by a respected painter worth 250 gp, 2 oils of etherealness, helm of telepathy

CR 17-22 Tyerkow with night hag, lemur band, and zombie horde; tyerkow with malcubus, 2-3 cult fanatics, and 2d6+4 cultists
Treasure: 350 pp, 2,500 gp, small idol of an archdevil made of mithral and gold (worth 2,500 gp), assassin’s ring, devil’s eye ring, 2 potions of animal friendship, scimitar +2 with gold and amber hilt, spell scroll of contact other plane, skull liqueur,

Signs
1. People fearful of a strange disease that seems to strike randomly; some of the sickened people turn into zombies. They haven’t yet realized that all the sick people have eaten meals cooked by the same person yet.
2. People speaking highly of certain individual; they are charmed by the tyerkow.
3. A strange, bat-winged reddish figure flitting about at night.
4. A shredded humanoid skin.

Lair Behavior
1. Practicing magic
2. Preaching to a cult.
3. Holding a fancy party.
4. Cooking a meal; will invite the party to eat up.

Lone Behavior
1. Carefully tending to a new skin or repairing an old one.
2. Stalking a potential victim in order to learn their routine.
3. Tries to stall you with small talk until its zombies arrive.
4. Engaging in a lengthy ritual to appease its patron.

Tyerkow
Medium legendary undead (fiend)

Challenge 9 (5,000 XP)
AC 16 (natural armor; when skinless), 12 when wearing a skin
HP 102 (12d8+48; bloodied 51)
Speed 30 ft., fly 60 ft.

STR 18 (+4) DEX 14 (+2) CON 19 (+4)
INT 17 (+3) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 18 (+4)

Proficiency +4
Maneuver DC 14
Saving Throws Dex +6, Con +8, Cha +8
Skills Arcana +7, Deception +8, Insight +6 (+d4), Perception +6, Persuasion +8
Damage Resistances necrotic; damage from nonmagical, nonsilvered weapons
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 16
Languages The languages it knew in life.
Evil. The tyerkow radiates an aura of evil.
Legendary Resistance (3.Day). When the tyerkow fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead. When it does so, if it’s wearing its skin, the skin cracks and peels, revealing the musculature underneath. If it’s not wearing its skin, its exposed musculature dries and tatters. Its original appearance is restored when it finishes a long rest, although it must spend a few minutes fixing its skin.
Regeneration. The tyerkow regains 20 hit points at the start of its turn if it has at least 1 hit point and hasn’t taken radiant damage since its last turn.
Skin of the Living. The tyerkow wears the skin of a Medium humanoid. While wearing this skin, the tyerkow’s creature type changes to humanoid, it isn’t harmed by sunlight, can’t fly, and can’t use its Horrifying Visage. While wearing the skin, the tyerkow has advantage on Deception checks made to impersonate the skin’s original owner. It takes 10 minutes to don or doff a skin carefully. It can use its action to rip the skin off, but doing so ruins the skin. The tyerkow can only have three skins at a time, and it takes 1 hour to make a new skin.
When not worn, a skin is an object with AC 10 and 5 hit points. It is immune to bludgeoning, poison, and psychic damage.

Spellcasting. The tyerkow is a 9th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 16, +8 to hit with spell attacks). The tyerkow knows the following sorcerer spells:
Cantrips (At Will): altered strike, friends, mage hand, message, pestilence,
1st-Level (4 slots): bane, fog cloud
2nd-Level (3 slots): detect thoughts, hold person, lemure transformation
3rd-Level (3 slots): cobra spit, stinking cloud
4th-Level (2 slots): blight, polymorph
Sorcery: The tyerkow has 9 sorcery points. When it casts a spell that deals poison damage, it can spend 1 sorcery point to cause creatures that are immune to poison damage to take half damage, and creatures that are resistant to poison damage to take full damage. Additionally, the tyerkow can spend 1 or more sorcery points to use one of the following metamagic options:
Delayed Spell: The tyerkow can spend 1 point hold a spell for up to 1 minute.
Distant Spell: The tyerkow can spend 1 point to double the range of a spell, or to increase the range of a touch spell to 20 feet.
Empowered Spell: When it rolls damage for a spell, the tyerkow can spend 1 point to reroll up to four of the damage dice, and can use Empowered Spell even if it has already used a different metamagic option.
Persistent Spell: When the tyerkow casts a spell that has a duration of 1 minute or longer, it can spend 1 point to double the duration, up to 24 hours.
Things Fall Apart. The tyerkow can use its action to touch an object and cause it to decay, as if was suddenly aged by decades or centuries. It can also spend one minute and 1 sorcery point to repair an object of any size that it can see within 120 feet of it.
Tyerkow Weaknesses. If the tyerkow isn’t wearing a skin and starts its turn in sunlight, it takes 20 radiant damage. If all of its skins are destroyed, the tyerkow will immediately begin to take 20 radiant damage at dawn, even if not in sunlight.
Undead Nature. The tyerkow doesn’t need air or sleep.

Actions
Multiattack.
The tyerkow makes two scimitar attacks.
Grab. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8+4) bludgeoning damage, or 6 (1d4+4) damage if the tyerkow is wearing a skin. The target is grappled (escape DC 16) and restrained while grappled in this way.
Scimitar. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) slashing damage.
Horrific Visage (Only When Skinless). Each non-undead creature within 60 feet of the tyerkow that can see it must succeed on a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. A frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the frightened condition on itself on a success. If a target’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the target is immune to this tyerkow’s Horrifying Visage for the next 24 hours. The tyerkow can’t use this ability if it is wearing its skin.

Bonus Actions
Bite (Only When Skinless).
Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target that is grappled, incapacitated, restrained, or unaware of the vampire’s presence. Hit: 9 (1d10+4) piercing damage plus 22 (6d6) poison damage and the target takes 1 level of strife. The target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the poison damage dealt, and the tyerkow regains that number of hit points. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest.

Legendary Actions
The tyerkow can take 1 legendary action, 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.
Cantrip. The tyercow casts a cantrip.
Grab. The tyerkow makes a Grab attack.

Combat
While wearing its skin, the tyerkow fights with humanoid weapons, often scimitars or spears. If without its skin, it uses Horrific Visage, then bites at frightened target. If bloodied, it flies away, will don a new skin, and hunt down its attackers.

Variant: Deviled Meat
The tyerkow can remove some of its own flesh—an act which can only be done once per day and causes brief but not inconsiderable pain—and prepare it in a cooked dish, which they can then feed to someone else. Cooking this dish involves both regular cooking times and effort and a 10-minute ritual to give the dish a special power. If eaten by a humanoid, the dish counts as 1 Supply and the consumer has disadvantage on Deception checks made against the tyerkow for 24 hours. The consumer must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or suffer one of the following effects, determined by the tyerkow when it engaged in the ritual. At the Narrator’s discretion, a gourmand or a creature with proficiency in chef’s tools can make a DC 15 Perception check to notice something amiss about the meal before they finish it.

The tyerkow must use one piece of its flesh for each creature it wishes to affect. A piece of flesh lasts for 1 year before rotting too much to be used in this manner.
  • Ensorcelling Meal. The consumer is charmed by the tyerkow for 24 hours. While charmed, the creature views the tyerkow as a close friend.
  • Muting Meal. The creature loses the ability to speak for 1 hour. It may make a new saving throw at the end of each minute, ending the effect on itself on a success.
  • Sickening Meal. The consumer becomes sickened 2d6 hours later. Symptoms include blurred vision, disorientation, and a drop in body temperature that causes uncontrollable shivering. While sick, the creature is poisoned and regains only half the normal number of hit points from spending a Hit Die, and regains no hit points from a long rest. At the end of each long rest, a creature may make a new saving throw, shaking off the disease on a successful save.
  • Spawning Meal. On a successful saving throw, the consumer is poisoned for 2d4 hours. On a failure, it is poisoned for 2d4 hours and if it remains poisoned the entire time, then at the end of that time it drops to 0 hit points and must begin making death saves. If it dies, then it rises as a zombie under the tyerkow’s control. This meal can also be used to change beasts, giants, and monstrosities into zombies.
Variant: Elder Tyerkow
These tyerkow have been in existence for centuries or even millennia, and have built up huge networks of humanoids and even fiends who owe allegiance to it.

The elder tyerkow is an elite monster, equal to two CR 9 monsters (10,000 XP). It has 204 (24d8+96; bloodied 102) hit points and truesight to a distance of 60 ft. The elder tyerkow has the following additional trait and action:

Blood Frenzy. While bloodied, the tyerkow can take 3 legendary actions instead of 1.

The elder tyerkow has the following additional legendary actions, which it can use only while bloodied:

Elite Recovery. The tyerkow ends one negative effect currently affecting it. It can use this action as long as it has at least 1 hit point, even while unconscious or incapacitated.
Quick Flight. The tyerkow flies up to its speed. This movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.
Arise, Minion! (1/Day; Costs 2 Actions). The tyerkow causes a dead creature to rise as either a mummy or a wight under the tyerkow’s control.
Bite (Costs 2 Actions). The tyerkow makes a bite attack, and may do so even when wearing its skin.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
A truly horrific monster!
A whole mini campaign could be built around this wicked thing, and it would work just as well in a horror RPG.
 

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