Homebrew A Leveled Up Bestiary

No shame - the publication was exclusive to RPGA members, and wouldn't have been in stock at your store.
Yeah, I was briefly in the RPGA (didn't go to enough conventions to keep up the membership), and ended up with a few issues. They were starting up Living Jungle around the time I was a member, so I ended up with a lot of Malatra stuff.

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No shame - the publication was exclusive to RPGA members, and wouldn't have been in stock at your store. (Towards the end it did get merged into Dungeon, but at that point it was basically the original magazine in name only, just used to publish d20 mini-games.) I've only read (non-Dungeon) issues posted on DM Guild, myself.
Huh--I didn't know that. Well, that's OK then.


I play Terraria, which for those who don’t know it, is a video game similar to Minecraft in many ways but with 2D graphics, and potentially a lot more things that want to kill you. One of the things about that Terraria (and about many other similar games) is the idea that the more valuable the metal, the better it is for making things. I.e., swords and armor made of gold do more damage and provide more protection than swords and armor made of iron.

Which brings us to the following Spelljammer monster: the metagolem—or, I guess, the metaguardian. The more valuable the metal, the better their AC, movement, and damage. There’s a whole table for it as well, which oddly doesn’t include mithral or adamantine. I’ve streamlined it a bit. Also, the better the metal, the higher-level they count as when it comes to piloting a Spelljammer helm. Since that’s not important in 5e’s Spelljammer, just be advised they can attune to a helm.

Metaguardians, according to the Habitat/Society section, have a fondness for one another and like to relax together. They also like to join parties of adventurers and are “surprisingly amiable.” As constructs go, they’re pretty chill. Still, they have to follow their creator’s orders and thus may just pretend to be chill in order to follow those orders. They may not have free will, but they can be pretty devious.

Hmm. Metaguardians are self-aware. Does that mean that they have meta-awareness of themselves? Is their name a pun?


Art by Tom Baxa

Guardian, Metaguardian
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine 159
Created by Troy Denning

Metaguardians are constructs made out of metal (they are hollow, not solid), exquisitely sculpted to look like short, squat humanoids of indeterminate heritage: there’s a bit of dwarf, a bit of halfling, a bit of gnome, and a bit of something else in there. There are four types of metaguardian. The weakest are the bronze metaguardians, where the details of their sculpting are picked out in copper and tin. The next are the steel metaguardians, who have silver and iron details, then the platinum metaguardians, who have gold and electrum details. And finally there are the ultimate metaguardains, who are made of a swirling alloy of mithril, adamantine, and strange extraplanar metals.

Willing Minions. Unlike most guardians, metaguardians are actually quite intelligent and can speak, although they are still built to follow their creator’s commands unquestioningly. One of their tasks is to man spelljamming helms, as their innately magical nature allows them to control such a helm. However, spelljamming is not the metaguardians only task (especially for groundling wizards).

They are sent to complete any number of tasks for their controllers. However, they never speak of their tasks, unless expressly given permission to do so, and will take any means necessary to accomplish the task. There have been reports of metaguardians committing acts of sabotage, leading rebellions, and hiring assassins and mercenaries in order to help them finish their job.

Social Constructs. Metaguardians are surprisingly friendly constructs, although they are often distrusted because it’s nigh impossible to determine the guardian’s true motivations. They are especially friendly with each other. Should two metaguardians meet, they will work together and help each other accomplish their goals. Their proscriptions against talking about their tasks don’t seem to prevent them from telling each other about it. Metaguardians who lose their masters will often join together, creating small and very secretive societies.

Walking Treasure. Metaguardians never use weapons and only use magic items if they are useful in fulfilling their goals. Despite being hollow, each one consists of over a quarter of a ton of often highly valuable metal.

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

DC 15. Metaguardians are a rare form of guardian made of valuable metals

DC 20. Although they lack free will and obey their orders without question, metaguardians are quite intelligent and can exercise a lot of ingenuity in how they go about following those orders.

Metaguardian Encounters
CR 5-10
bronze, steel, or platinum metaguardian

CR 11-16 bronze, steel, or platinum metaguardian with mage or priest; ultimate metaguardian
Treasure: 400 gp, noble cloak trimmed with owlbear fur-like feathers (500 gp), dust of sneezing and choking, spell scroll of charm person

CR 17-22 2 bronze, steel, or platinum metaguardians; 1 ultimate metaguardian and 1 bronze, steel or platinum metaguardian; 1 ultimate metaguardian with archmage or high priest
Treasure: 2,000 gp, necklace of fireballs, oil of slipperiness, wings of flying,

1. Relaxing in a storm, hoping to get hit by lightning.
2. Approaches the party and offers to hire them for a job.
3. Engaging in an act of sabotage for its creator.
4. Hunting a target for its creator.
5. Trying to steal or purchase an item for its creator.
6. Planning out a kidnapping for its creator.
7. Acting as an ambassador for its creator.
8. Approaches the party in the hopes of learning more about them.

Bronze Metaguardian
Small construct

Challenge 8 (3,900 XP)
AC 30
HP 135 (18d6+74; bloodied 68)
Speed 20 ft.

STR 17 (+3) DEX 9 (-1) CON 19 (+4)
INT 10 (+0) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 15 (+3)

Proficiency +3
Maneuver DC 14
Skills Deception +6, Insight +4, Perception +4
Damage Resistances
Damage Immunities
lightning, poison, psychic; damage from nonmagical bronze weapons.
Condition Immunities charmed, fatigue, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., truesight 10 ft., passive Perception 14
Languages one language its creator speaks
Immutable Form. The metaguardian is immune to any effect that would alter its form.
Inscrutable. The metaguardian is immune to divination and to any effect that would sense its emotions or read its thoughts. Insight checks made to determine the metaguardian’s intentions are made with disadvantage.
Lightning Absorption. When the metaguardian is subjected to lightning damage, it instead regains hit points equal to the lightning damage dealt. Any lightning damage it takes in excess of its hit point maximum becomes temporary hit points.
Powerful Build. The metaguardian counts as a Large creature when determining its carrying capacity and the weight it can push, drag, or lift.

The metaguardian makes two slam attack
Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d10+3) bludgeoning damage.
Fireball (3rd-Level; V, S). Fire streaks from the metaguardian to a point within 120 feet and explodes in a 20-foot radius, spreading around corners. Each creature in the area makes a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) fire damage on a failed save or half damage on a success.
Fly (3rd-Level; V, S, Concentration). The metaguardian gains a fly speed of 60 feet.
Magic Missile (1st-Level; V, S). Three glowing arrows fly from the metaguardian simultaneously, unerringly hitting up to 3 creatures within 120 feet. Each arrow deals 3 (1d4 + 1) force damage.
Stinking Cloud (3rd-level; V, S, Concentration). A noxious cloud fills a 20-foot-radius sphere within 120 feet. It’s area is heavily obscured. A creature in the area that needs to breathe and aren’t immune to poison must make a Constitution saving throw or use its action to retch and reel. A moderate wind disperses the cloud after 4 rounds and a strong, after 1 round.
Web (2nd-Level; V, S, Concentration). Thick, sticky webs fill a 20-foot cube within 60 feet, lightly obscuring it and making it difficult terrain. The webs must either be anchored between two solid masses (such as walls) or layered 5 feet deep over a flat surface. Each creature that starts its turn in the webs or that enters them during its turn makes a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. On a failure, it is restrained. A creature can escape by making a DC 15 Strength check. Any 5-foot cube of webs exposed to fire burns away in 1 round, dealing 5 (2d4) fire damage to any creature that starts its turn in the fire. The webs remain for 1 hour.

Recharge (Recharges After A Short or Long Rest).
When the metaguardian is hit by an attack that inflicts lightning damage it can choose to regain a spell it has already cast with its Spellblast trait instead of regaining hit points.

Spellblast. If the metaguardian is damaged by an attack, it can cast one of the following spells: fireball, fly, magic missile, stinking cloud, web, as a reaction and without the need for material or seen components. Its spellcasting trait is Charisma (spell save DC 14, +5 to hit with spell attacks). Once it casts one of those spells, it can’t cast that spell again until it completes a long rest or it uses Recharge.

Metaguardians are clever fighters, using sound tactics wherever possible. They will always flee a losing battle unless their death would bring about the resolution of their orders.

Variant: Rarer Metals
Metaguardians made out of rarer and more expensive metals are more powerful than bronze metaguardians.

The steel metaguardian is made from steel and iron, with embellishments of tin and silver. It is CR 9. It has 150 (20d6+80; bloodied 75) hit points and its armor class is 16. Its speed is 30 feet and its slam inflicts 19 (3d10+3) bludgeoning damage. They take damage from nonmagical weapons made of cold iron.

The platinum metaguardian is made from platinum and gold, with embellishments of electrum. It is CR 10. It has 165 (22d6+88; bloodied 82) hit points and its armor class is 19. Its speed is 40 feet and its slam inflicts 30 (5d10+3) bludgeoning damage. They take damage from nonmagical weapons made of gold.

The ultimate metaguardian is made from adamantine and mithril, with embellishments of white gold. It is CR 13. It has 187 (25d6+100; bloodied 93) hit points and its armor class is 23. Its speed is 50 feet and its slam inflicts 47 (8d10+3) bludgeoning damage. They take damage from nonmagical weapons made of adamantine.


I wish it were later in the month, because up next is an undead, and more specifically, an undead with folkloric roots—the ankou, of Breton, Cornwall, and Wales. The ankou is a psychopomp—appearance-wise, it’s your standard Grim Reaper, plus a black cart pulled by black horses—and according to some myths, is the very first person to die in a year and therefore has to escort the soul of everyone else who dies that year to the afterlife. Some myths say that every parish has its own ankou, which is actually kind of an interesting way to divvy up the workload.

Although as is typical for D&D, the monster has little to do with the actual myth. Here, it’s was a “miserly farmer or peasant in life” who killed their own family out of greed or let them die of hunger rather than share food with them and now is doomed to collect souls for... presumably its masters, who dwell in Tartarus/Carceri. At least that's where it goes when its banished. I guess miserly and murderous nobles and merchant-class individuals produce other types of undead.


Art by Tom Baxa

The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #162
Created by Spike Y. Jones

Ankou are undead who were so miserly in life that they allowed people to die rather than share even a fraction of their wealth. In death, they have been cursed with unlife and a hunger for lifeforce—but they can only return to the Material to gather souls for their new fiendish masters and cannot take any for themselves.

Reapers. Ankou look much like the classical image of the Grim Reaper, and may indeed be the genesis of that image. They are emaciated and clad in dark clothes, usually with a cloak or broad-brimmed hat that hides their fiery eyes, and wielding a farmer’s scythe. They are always followed by an invisible cart pulled by an equally invisible beast of burden, usually a horse, mule, or ox. It seems that the ankou’s station in life determines the quality of the animal. To those who can see invisible things, the cart is run-down and the animal is so thin and ill-looking as to be nearly dead. Although it can’t be seen or touched by living beings, the cart’s creaking and the animal’s clopping hooves can be easily heard, even from a distance.

Soul-Takers. Ankou are allowed to roam the Material only at night. Any corpses they find or make are hauled into the cart. At dawn the ankou and its cart are pulled back to the Lower Planes. Perhaps fortunately, living creatures and objects other than corpses can’t be placed in the cart or use it to travel to the underworld. When an ankou is finally slain, its and its cart are pulled into the Lower Planes, screaming as they go.

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

DC 15. These undead are created from the souls of beings whose greed led to other creature’s death. In undeath, ankou are charged with gathering souls for the underworld.

DC 20. Ankou are filled with hatred but have no true memory; if it fails to kill a target before dawn banishes it back to the Lower Planes, it won’t try to pursue that target the next night.

Ankou Encounters
Terrain: forest, grassland, ruin, settlement

CR 3-4 Ankou.

1-2. The sound of a creaking, ox-drawn cart.
3. A line of footprints that stop abruptly; nearby are wheel ruts that fade to nothingness.
4. Blazing red eyes in the dark.

Medium undead

Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)
AC 15 (natural armor)
HP 68 (8d8+32; bloodied 34)
Speed 20 ft.

STR 22 (+7) DEX 10 (+0) CON 18 (+4)
INT 12 (+1) WIS 15 (+2) CHA 17 (+3)

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 17
Skills Perception +5 (+1d4)
Damage Resistances cold, fire
Damage Immunities necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, fatigue, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, unconscious, strife
Senses darkvision 60 ft., truesight 10 ft., passive Perception 18
Languages the languages it knew in life plus either Abyssal or Infernal
Ankou Weaknesses. Neither the ankou or its cart can cross running water. If the amkou starts its turn in sunlight, it is transported back to its home lower plane. It can’t return to the Material Plane until the next dusk at the place from which it was banished. If dispel evil and good is cast on the cart, both the cart and the ankou are banished as if in sunlight.
Eldritch Cart. Difficult terrain doesn’t impede the movement of either the ankou or its cart and beast of burden.
Turn Resistance. The ankou has advantage on saving throws against any effect that turns undead.
Undead Nature. The ankou doesn’t require air, sustenance, or sleep.
Unearthly Strength. The ankou’s weapon attacks deal an extra die of damage (included below).

Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (2d10+7) necrotic damage. If the ankou scores a critical hit, the target takes a level of fatigue.

Bonus Actions
Frightening Gaze (Gaze, Recharge 5-6).
The ankou targets one creature it can see within 10 feet of it. The target must succeed on a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. The frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect 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 ankou’s gaze for the next 24 hours.
Scythe. The ankou makes a scythe attack.
Summon Cart. The ankou summons its cart, which appears in an empty space within 30 feet of it.

If the ankou is wielding a melee weapon and can see its attack, it adds 2 to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it.

The ankou rarely challenges groups of travelers, unless they seem weak.

The Cart of The Dead
The ankou’s cart is an extension of the ankou, not separate objects. It travels at a pace of 30 feet and the ankou can’t move more than 50 feet away from it. The cart and the beast that pulls it are invisible and intangible, but not inaudible, and neither of them can affect anything or take actions or be affected by attacks or magical effects. An inanimate object placed in the cart becomes invisible and intangible as well.

If the ankou places the corpse of a humanoid that has been dead for 10 minutes or less and the corpse remains in the cart until dawn, the corpse is destroyed and the soul is transferred to one of the lower planes. If the ankou is slain before then, the corpse reappears. The ankou can’t place live humanoids in the cart. While the corpse is trapped in the cart, any attempt to bring it back to life has only a 50% chance of working.


Here’s another wonderful article on undead by Tom Moldvay, this one on shadows. He points out that the AD&D shadow was invented for the game and wasn’t based on any particular legend. It was more about hey, you’re in a poorly-lit dungeon, there’s going to be shadows, so have them attack. He also mentioned that when shadows were introduced in Greyhawk, Supplement 1, they were specifically called out as not being undead, but that they became undead when Gygax wrote the Monster Manual. Honestly, I kind of wish that they had remained not-undead. That might have been really cool and have opened up the possibility of another monster category for 3x onwards, of Spirits or Animated Things or Never-Born.

Moldvay gives us a few undead in this article, none of which seem as insubstantial as shadows are. But they’re still pretty cool. The first monster is the skotos (Greek for darkness or shadow). It’s based on the shades of Hades in Greek legend—specifically, those who have escaped from Hades. They fill the same sort of niche as the Returned from Mythic Odessey of Theros, but of course the skotos are hungrier, and evil. As Moldvay says, “They can be of any […] evil alignment, for only evil creatures would voluntarily leave the afterlife to prey upon the living.” I guess that would depend on the quality of the afterlife, though. Hades was a very lifeless, colorless place, according to the myths. I’d hardly say someone was evil for wanting to escape it.

Out of the Shadows, Dragon Magazine #162
Created by Tom Moldvay

In many worlds, the afterlife is a dreary place. The damned and blessed go to their just rewards, but for the majority of people who never made a true mark on the world, their afterlife is a gray place indeed. There, the dead wait, and wait, and wait until they are admitted into a better realm, are reborn, or until the world ends. But some manage to escape back into the world of the living.

Neither Living Nor Undead. Skotos are not undead per se; nor are they fiends. Rather, they are actually souls that have been tainted by centuries or millennia of bitterness and disappointment while waiting for a better afterlife. Skotos resemble wild humanoids with feral expressions that hold none of their original personalities, and all of color has been leeched from their bodies, leaving then entirely ash-gray—save for their eyes, which glow sickly yellow, green, or orange, but only when they smell blood.

Hungry for Blood. On those rare occasions when a door between the Waking World and the afterlife open, dozens of skotos escape at the same time. They form packs, descending en masse on any wounded creature they see, shredding it to pieces and lapping up every last drop of blood they can. Strangely, they only attack a wounded creature. Should they come across someone who is hale and hearty, they may follow that person, waiting for it to be injured so they can pounce. Because they care only for blood, their predations often attract the attention of ghouls and other scavengers that feed on the corpses they leave behind.

Unlocked Memories. A skotos that has consumed blood has their memories of life awakened, if only for a few minutes or hours, and for a brief time they feel alive again. Once sated, skotos wail and sing dirges to the sky, lamenting the loss of their life and their transformation to their current state and crying out to the gods they believe have abandoned them… until they once again grow hungry and forget who they were.

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

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

DC 10. Skotos are dead souls that have escaped from the afterlife. They avoid temples, crypts, and other places were the dead are buried, lest they get dragged back to the underworld.

DC 15. Skotos thirst for blood because blood allows them to remember their previous life. When they smell blood, they go into a berserk frenzy.

DC 20. When a skotos’s body is killed, its soul returns to the afterlife it came from.

Skotos Encounters
caverns, forests, grasslands, hills, mountains, ruins

CR 1-2 3-4 skotos

CR 3-4 1d4+4 skotos; 4 skotos and 1 ghoul
Treasure: 3 agates (10 gp each), bronze mask (worth 50 gp),

CR 5-10 2d8+8 skotos, 1d4+4 skotos with necromancer
Treasure: copper bracelet (50 gp), obsidian earrings (50 gp), feather token (boat)

1. Glowing eyes in the night.
2. A bloodless corpse that has been torn to pieces.
3. The scent of ash, dust, and old blood in the air.
4. A wailing lament in the distance.

1. Chasing down an injured animal or traveler.
2. Engaging in a poorly-performed religious ritual.
3. Following some travelers from afar, waiting for one of them to get injured.
4. Drinking the blood of a just-slain creature.

Medium undead (fiend)

Challenge 1/2 (XP)
AC 14 (natural armor)
HP 22 (5d8; bloodied 11)
Speed 30 ft.

STR 16 (+3) DEX 17 (+3) CON 10 (+0)
INT 9 (-1) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 7 (-2)

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 13
Skills Stealth +5
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, paralyzed, unconscious
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages The languages it knew in life.
Blood Frenzy. The skotos gains a d4 expertise die on melee attack rolls against bloodied creatures.
Keen Smell. The skotos has advantage on Perception checks that rely on smell.
Pack Tactics. The skotos has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the skotos’ allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn’t incapacitated.
Turn Resistance. The skotos has advantage on saving throws against any effect that turns undead.

Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) piercing damage plus 4 (1d8) necrotic damage, and the target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage dealt, and the skotos regains hit points equal to that amount. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. If the target is reduced to 0 hit points by this attack, it dies.

Bonus Actions
Shadow Stealth.
The skotos takes the Hide action.

Blood Rush.
If the skotos reduces a creature to 0 hit points with its bite, it may move up to its Speed and make a bite attack on another creature.

Skotos attack viciously and fight to the death. When slain, its soul returns to the afterlife from which they escaped.


Up net is the sluagh (sloo-ah). Like probably many other people, my first introduction to these creatures was from Changeling: the Dreaming (I actually played a pooka). Like many other creatures of Celtic legend, they are somewhere between fairies and undead. The name itself means “host” or “army” and they literally a swarm of undead or fairies (or undead fairies) that fly in huge flocks and can pick up a person and fly them away to… somewhere else. Perhaps another part of the land; perhaps to somewhere worse.

Tom Moldvay’s sluagh is dark in color but is not a shadow. It’s described as looking like a “black sprite.” Ravenloft also had a black sprite, but that was another name for the fey they called baobhan sith (which has little to do with the mythical baobhan sith) and honestly, it’s not quite as cool as the sluagh is.

According to the article, “sluagh are sometimes led by other types of undead,” and Moldvay really plays up the “army” nature of this fey’s name. 20 sluagh will be led by a wraith lieutenant; 40 sluagh will have a vampire captain, and 80 sluagh will have a lich commander. This is a pretty cool visual—give your high-powered undead a few sluagh swarms and see how it goes.

Out of the Shadows, Dragon Magazine #162
Created by Tom Moldvay

From the distance, a roiling thundercloud moves across the sky, moving impossibly fast. Only when it draws near is it possible to see that the thundercloud is actually a great flock of tiny sprite-like fey—accompanied by a dozen or more flying zombies.

A sluagh resembles a sprite, but dark and shadowy, with iridescent black wings. They sport wide, needle-toothed grins and wield arrows and swords made of blackened metal. Where sprites are born from trees and other fruit- or nut-producing plants, and pixies are born from flowers, sluagh crawl out of rotting corpses and piles of filth. Their bites cause nasty, inflamed boils.

Army of the Dead. Sluagh are often in the employ of powerful undead and undeath-minded noble fey and have the task of gathering soldiers for them. They take to such a task with glee, as with a touch they can turn a corpse into a loyal, flying undead, and they love nothing more than making corpses. Even without a superior to give them orders, the sluagh are eager to kill and most swarms have a few zombies among them. If they have no one to battle, they often fight amongst themselves. Strangely, they never turn on undead; they seem to have a love and reverence for such beings, almost as strong as the love that pixies and sprites have for sylvan nature.

Stolen By Faeries. Sluagh travel in huge flocks that blacken the sky, looking for mortals to toy with. When they spot one, they descend en masse and swoop that person up and carry them away. Such people are rarely seen again alive; those who manage to escape bear the scars of having survived sadistic torture.

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

DC 10. Sluagh are evil-minded fey creatures similar to sprites. They travel in swarms, like tremendous flocks of starlings or crows.

DC 15. Almost more undead than fey, sluagh can create turn a corpse into a zombie with just a touch. A flock of sluagh is usually accompanied by several zombies.

DC 20. Many sluagh are employed by powerful undead such as liches and vampires.

Monster Encounters
forests, hills, mountains, Shadowfell

CR 0-1 1d4 sluagh; 2 sluagh and 2 zombies

CR 3-4 swarm of sluagh; swarm of slugah and 1d4 zombies

CR 5-10 2 swarms of sluagh and zombie horde; swarm of sluagh and necromancer
Treasure: platinum chain (250 gp), dagger of venom made of blackened silver mined from the Shadowfell, faerie love letter

1. A wheeling flock of small bird-like creatures against the evening or night sky.
2. Running tracks that stop abruptly.
3. A dead slugah.
4. A corpse covered in hundreds of tiny bite marks.

1. Fighting one another while other sluagh watch and cheer indiscriminately.
2. Sent out to make zombies; will attack on sight.
3. Spying for their master; will attack if disturbed.
4. Torturing a person or animal they have captured.

Tiny fey (undead)

Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)
AC 13
HP 3 (1d4+1; bloodied 1)
Speed 10 ft., fly 40 ft.

STR 2 (-4) DEX 17 (+3) CON 12 (+1)
INT 10 (+0) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 14 (+2)

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 13
Skills Perception +2, Stealth +5
Damage Immunities necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception
Languages Common, Sylvan
Evil. The sluagh radiates an aura of evil.
Sunlight Sensitivity. While in sunlight, the sluagh has disadvantage on attack rolls, as well as on Perception checks that rely on sight.

Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 piercing damage plus 3 (1d6) necrotic damage.
Shortbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 40/160 ft., one target. Hit: 1 piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) poison damage, and the target is slowed until the end of its next turn. If the poison damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, the target is stable but poisoned for 1 hour, even if it regains hit points, and is asleep while poisoned in this way.
Recruit (Recharge After a Short or Long Rest). The sluagh touches the corpse of a humanoid that has been dead for less than 24 hours and animates it as a zombie with a fly speed of 40 feet. The zombie is under the sluagh’s control for 1 week and then turns back into a corpse, unless another creature exerts control over it with a spell such as animate dead. At this time, the zombie loses its fly speed.

Sluagh typically target a single individual for special attention, ignoring other attackers. Since they usually travel with at least one zombie and often many more, sluagh rely on their zombies to attack other creatures while they focus on one. They prefer to capture a target and fly away with it so they can play with it later then face an entire group of combatants.


Swarm of Sluagh
Medium swarm of Tiny fey (undead)

Challenge 3 (50 XP)
AC 13
HP 55 (10d8+10; bloodied 27)
Speed 10 ft., fly 40 ft.

STR 2 (-4) DEX 17 (+3) CON 12 (+1)
INT 10 (+0) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 14 (+2)

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 13
Skills Perception +2, Stealth +5
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, slashing
Damage Immunities necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained, stunned, unconscious
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception
Languages Common, Sylvan
Evil. The sluagh radiates an aura of evil.
Sunlight Sensitivity. While in sunlight, the sluagh has disadvantage on attack rolls, as well as on Perception checks that rely on sight.
Swarm. The swarm can occupy another creature’s space and move through any opening large enough for a Tiny creature. It can’t gain HP or temporary hit points.
Innate Spellcasting (1/Day). The swarm can cast plane shift (to Shadowfell only), requiring no material components. The entire swarm and one creature it is grappling with Carry Away can travel to the Shadowfell. Its spellcasting ability for this trait is Charisma.

Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 0 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (4d6) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) necrotic damage, or 7 (2d6) piercing damage plus 3 (1d6) piercing damage if the swarm is bloodied.
Shortbows. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 40/160 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (4d6) piercing damage plus 21 (6d6) poison damage, and the target is slowed until the end of its next turn. If the poison damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, the target is stable but poisoned for 1 hour, even if it regains hit points, and is asleep while poisoned in this way.
Recruit (Recharge 5-6). The sluagh touches the corpse of a humanoid that has been dead for less than 24 hours and animates it as a zombie with a fly speed of 40 feet. The zombie is under the sluagh’s control for 1 week and then turns back into a corpse, unless another creature exerts control over it with a spell such as animate dead. At this time, the zombie loses its fly speed.
Carry Away. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 0 ft., one target. Hit: the target is grappled (escape DC 13). The swarm then flies up to its speed in any direction, carrying the grappled target with it. If the swarm takes any damage while it is grappling, it takes half the damage (rounded down) and the other half is dealt to the grappled target. The swarm can only have one creature grappled at once.


Level Up doesn’t have mind flayers and while khalkoi have a similar vibe they also have a very distinct niche which makes them (IMO) hard to use for more general purposes. And aboleths are very, very big. So what do you do if you want to have a very alien but generally humanoid-sized entity? Well, here comes the spell weaver. Updated for 3e in Monster Manual II, spell weavers are multi-limbed creatures that have a fondness for magic items and can cast spells using only “complex arm and hand gestures”. There’s a whole series of tables for determining first how many offensive, defensive, and utility spells they get, what their max spell level is, and then what actual spells they have, and they have to use one arm per level of the spell to gesture with when casting these spells (meaning they can cast up to 6th-level spells), and then they have a spell point system for casting spells where they have a number of spell points equal to their number of hit points, and each spell costs as many points as its level. Plus they have a host of innate abilities and a magic item usable only by them called a chromatic disk which lets them cast even more spells.

It’s an enormously complicated sub-system for a monster that probably got far less use then it deserved. Fortunately, in Level Up, we can just say “they’re sorcerers who use somatic components only.”

I’ve never played a sorcerer before. One thing I’ve learned by making the spell weaver is, we need more minor metamagic options.

The description has the following line: “Spell weavers have left written messages for humans, but such messages are often cryptic and confusing. Infrequent alliances with humans in order to acquire magical devices have been reported, however.” When I reread that line to do this conversion, I was suddenly struck with the idea that they are oddly similar to the FriNn guys from the old Yamara comic in DragonMirth. Except those guys spoke, were tall, and I don’t think they every used mag. But big eyes, very alien-minded, multiple arms (I think), and hired Yamara to retrieve a (presumed) magic item. They have different creators, of course, and they’re not that similar—but for some reason they just seemed to mesh in my mind.


Art by Ed O'Connel

Spell Weaver
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #163
Created by Ed O’Connell

Spell weavers hail from another plane, one that is much more highly magical than this one. They can travel to and from their home plane with ease, but seem to prefer this one to their own. Their purposes on this plane, however, are all but unknown.

Alien. Spell weavers have a roughly humanoid build, but their shape and size are the only thing they share with actual humanoids. Their pale hide, which ranges from yellow-gray to blue-gray to off-white, is faintly pebbled. Their eyes are huge and multifaceted, and dominate their faces; they have only very small nostrils and a thin mouth. Their long neck allows them to twist their birdlike face in any direction. Their most notable feature is their three pairs of arms which end in delicate, long-fingered hands, with which they seemingly can pluck magic right out of the air. They stand about five feet tall. Spell weavers reproduce by budding.

Spell weavers are completely silent. They don’t speak and communicate amongst themselves with an all but impenetrable telepathy; attempts to communicate telepathically with them often fail, usually disastrously. While they sometimes will write to communicate with other creatures, their messages are often as cryptic and confusing as the rest of them.

Spell weavers have the unsettling habit of finding out-of-the-way spaces in areas of magical interest and just standing there, invisibly, for months on end. If disturbed, they respond with murderous anger. But if undisturbed, they eventually just leave, without having caused any harm. Since they have no eyelids, it’s impossible to tell if they are sleeping or simply watching.

Magic Hunters. Spell weavers possess a keen interest in magical items and phenomena of all kind. A group will organize a raid of extreme cunning and hellish ferocity in order to steal an item that has piqued their interest. This is the only time they will be seen in groups on the Material Plane; normally, they are quite solitary. They appear to be far more social on their home world. On occasion, a spell weaver will ally with a humanoid in order to acquire a magic item.

Chromatic Disks. Each spell weaver carries one or two chromatic disks, strange magic items that seem to be made of glowing, multicolored plastic. The spell weaver uses these disks to cast spells. Every time something other than a spell weaver has attempted to use one of these disks to cast a spell, or even examine it too closely, however, it explodes.

Magic Item: Chromatic Disk
Each spell weaver carries one or rarely two chromatic disks. They are foot-wide disks that shed bright light to 5 feet and dim light to further 5 feet, and shifts through all the colors of the visible spectrum (and some not visible to human eyes). If a creature other than a spell weaver attempts to use a chromatic disk, or casts identify, legend lore, or a similar spell on it, the disk explodes. All creatures within 30 feet of the disk must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw, taking 18 (4d8) force damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one.

It takes a spell weaver 8 hours to create a new chromatic disk and requires transmuting a Common, Uncommon, or Rare magic item.

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

DC 15. Spell weavers are intelligent beings from another plane who collect magic items. They got their name from their apparent ability to weave spells out of thin air.

DC 20. They sometimes seem to have no interest in other creatures, but other times are violently destructive.

Spell Weaver Encounters

CR 5-10 Spell weaver; spell weaver with hound guardian or bolt-thrower
Treasure: 100 gp, 1,250 sp, feather token (tree), eversmoking bottle, focusing eye, of secrets potions of climbing and water breathing, ring of free action, staff of the python, wand of secrets

CR 11-16 Spell weaver with shield guardian; spell weaver with 2 clockwork sentinels
Treasure: 200 pp, 550 gp, bag of holding, clockwork calendar, magic mirror (pocket), marble of direction, potions of growth and greater healing, wand of binding

CR 17-22 3 spell weavers
Treasure: 5,000 gp, box of bees, fizzy lifter, inkpot of the thrifty apprentice, plague doctor’s mask, portable hole, scroll of create food and water, That Which Spies From Infinity’s true name, wings of flying

1. A note written in an unknown script; if comprehend languages is used on it, the message is rambling and bizarre.
2. A rash of thefts of magic items.
3. Strange, slightly glowing runes written on a wall; trying to read the runes causes a headache and weird dreams.
4. A strangely-shaped footprints near a mangled body that has been stripped of magic items but not other valuables.

1. Invisible, standing still, and doing nothing; will attack viciously if disturbed.
2. Attacking a group of travelers for a single minor magic item.
3. Approaches the party in disguise; hands them a note asking to hire them for a great deal of money in order to procure a magic item.
4. Infiltrating a building to steal an item.

Spell Weaver Lair
A spell weaver’s lair is usually very odd-looking and located in an improbable location.

1. In a tremendous subterranean geode.
2. In a forest, in a mutated tree.
3. In the air, on a floating platform disguised as a cloud.
4. In a room made of the magically-shaped ribcage of an enormous skeleton.
5. In a golden cart pulled by construct horses.
6. Underground, on top of a huge mushroom.
7. In a magically-hidden room in a public library.
8. In an crystal minaret that periodically teleports to a new location.

On the inside, a spell weaver’s lair is extra-dimensionally large and contains eight 10-foot-tall pillars covered in indecipherable magical runes, on which they place the magic items they find. Looking at or touching the runes causes headaches and strange dreams, and a creature who tries to read the runes must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw. On a failure, the creature suffers one of the following effects:

1: The creature is confused for 1 minute.
2: The creature is rattled for 1 minute.
3. The creature is incapacitated for 1 minute, and while incapacitated, its speed is 0.
4. The creature is unconscious for 1 minute.

An affected creature may make a new saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success.

Spell Weaver
Medium aberration

Challenge 8 (3,900 XP)
AC 19
HP 121 (22d8+22; bloodied 60)
Speed 30 ft.

STR 11 (+0) DEX 16 (+3) CON 13 (+1)
INT 17 (+3) WIS 17 (+3) CHA 23 (+6)

Proficiency +3
Maneuver DC 14
Saving Throws Con +4, Int +6, Cha +9
Skills Arcana +6 (+1d6), Perception +6
Damage Immunities psychic
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, strife, stunned, unconscious
Senses blindsight 30 ft., passive Perception 16
Languages understands Common, Deep Speech, Draconic, Undercommon, Sylvan, and two others but doesn’t speak, telepathy 120 ft.
Aberrant Nature. A spell weaver doesn’t need sustenance.
Shielded Mind. The spell weaver is immune to any effect that would sense its emotions or read its thoughts. Wisdom (Insight) checks made to ascertain the spell weaver’s intentions or sincerity have disadvantage. A creature that attempts to read the spell weaver’s thoughts must succeed on a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw. On a success, the target is rattled for 1 minute. On a failure, the attempt fails and the creature takes 18 (4d8) psychic damage and a short-term mental stress effect.
Limited Telepathy. Using telepathy, the spell weaver can magically communicate with any other spell weaver within 100 miles of it.
Magic Resistance. The spell weaver has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Mystic Defense. While the spell weaver is wearing no armor and wielding no shield and isn’t incapacitated, its AC includes its Charisma modifier.
See Invisible. The spell weaver can see invisible creatures and objects that are within 60 feet of it.
Sense Magic. The spell weaver senses magic within 120 feet of it at will. This trait otherwise works like the detect magic spell but isn’t itself magical
Sorcery Points. The spell weaver has 15 sorcery points. It regains all spent sorcery points when it finishes a long rest. It can spend its sorcery points on the following options:
Distant Spell (1 pt.): When the spell weaver casts a spell with a range of 5 feet or more, the range is doubled. Alternatively, a Touch spell gains a range of 20 feet.
Heightened Spell (3 pts.): When the spell weaver casts a spell that forces a saving throw, it can make one target roll at disadvantage on its first save against the spell.
• Persistent Spell (1 pt.): When the spell weaver casts a spell that has a duration of 1 minute or longer, the duration is doubled, to a maximum of 24 hours.
Quickened Spell (2 pts.) When the spell weaver casts a spell that has a casting time of 1 action, it can change it to 1 bonus action.
Spellcasting. The spell weaver is a 11th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting trait is Charisma (spell save DC 17, +9 to hit with spell attacks). It knows the following sorcerer spells and requires only somatic components to cast them:
Cantrips (At Will): arcane muscles, calculate, fire bolt, light, prestidigitation, shocking grasp
1st-Level (4 slots): disguise self, false life, magic missile, shield
2nd-Level (3 slots): levitate, scorching ray, web
3rd-Level (3 slots): clairvoyance, dispel magic, fireball
4th-Level (3 slots): dimension door, polymorph, wall of fire
5th-Level (2 slots): cloudkill, passwall, telekinesis
6th-Level (1 slot): eyebite

The spell weaver makes six slam attacks, or it casts a spell and makes two slam attacks.
Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +6, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 bludgeoning damage, or 6 (1d6+3) bludgeoning damage with arcane muscles.
Planar Shield (Recharges After a Short or Long Rest). The spell weaver creates a magical field around it in a 100- foot radius sphere. Within this area, teleportation and traveling to other planes isn’t possible. Additionally, attempts to target the spell weaver or any other creature in the shield through divination magic or magical scrying sensors fail while this field is up. Once this field has been activated, it remains activated for 1 minute or until the spell weaver dismisses it (no action required).
World Weave (1/day). The spell weaver returns to its home dimension from the Material Plane, or travels to the Material Plane from its home dimension. A spell weaver may take up to six individuals with it, but a creature other than a spell weaver that travels in this manner must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or take 18 (4d8) necrotic damage and be poisoned for 1 hour. On a successful save, a creature takes no damage but is poisoned until the end of its next turn.

Bonus Actions
The spell weaver magically turns invisible until it attacks or casts a spell, or until its concentration ends (as if concentrating on a spell). Any equipment the spell weaver wears or carries is invisible with it.
Chromatic Disk (Recharge 6). The spell weaver casts a spell without using a spell slot. Each time it does so, it must roll a d10. On a 1, the disk breaks.

Cast Cantrip.
If the spell weaver takes damage from a spell, it may cast a cantrip. To do so, the spell weaver must see the attacker and must have a chromatic disk.

Weave Spell (Recharges After a Short or Long Rest). If the spell weaver sees a creature within 60 feet cast a spell, it can make an Intelligence check with a DC equal to the caster’s spell save DC. On a success, the spell fails, the spell weaver regains one spell slot of its choice, and it may immediately cast a cantrip.

Spell weavers remain invisible until ready to attack, then use their most powerful spells. If overwhelmed, they retreat until they can use World Weave to escape to their home plane.


Dragons, sapient constructs, gray-goo oozes, undead, magic-thieves from another dimension… what we need now are fish. Yep, just a fish. A giant archerfish is a nice change of pace from all the power-laden supernatural monsters from recent entries.


Giant Archerfish
The Dragons’ Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #165
Created by Tim Malto

The giant archerfish, like its tiny cousin, is capable of spitting powerful jets of water at creatures in order to knock them in the water. Giant archerfish aim for creatures who are in trees that hang above the water or are in boats. Once its prey is in the water, the fish swallows it whole.

Giant Archerfish
Large beast

Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)
AC 13
HP 19 (3d10+3; bloodied 9)
Speed 0 ft., swim 40 ft.

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

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 13
Skills Perception +3
Senses passive Perception 13
Water Breathing. The archerfish only breathes water.

Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) piercing damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 13). Until this grapple ends, the archerfish can’t bit another target.
Spit. The archerfish spits water at a creature within 30 feet that is not underwater. That creature must make a DC 13 Strength saving throw or fall prone.
Swallow. The archerfish makes a bite attack against a Medium or smaller creature it is grappling. If the attack hits and the archerfish has not swallowed another creature, the target is swallowed and the grapple ends. A swallowed creature has total cover from attacks from outside the archerfish, it is blinded and restrained, and it takes 5 (2d4) acid damage at the beginning of each of the archerfish’s turns. If the archerfish dies, the target is no longer swallowed.

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