Homebrew A Leveled Up Bestiary

Faolyn

(she/her)
Phew! We’re back not non-dragons now. This issue’s Dragon’s Bestiary is all about underground foes. The first of them is the biclops, which I am not converting—it’s literally a cross between an ettin and a cyclops: an ettin with one eye in each head. Since they effectively have two eyes, they don’t suffer from the depth perception problems that cyclopes have. I’m sure you all can make that monster for yourself quite easily, if you really want to.

The monster I’m actually going to convert is called the averx, because I always thought they were kinda neat. They look like foot-tall devils and like to steal things, set traps, and use misdirection to play tricks. Their Intelligence is listed as Genius (18), but when I read their entry, I can’t help but pronounce that the Wile E. Coyote way, all three syllables. But they’d be the one to drop an anvil on you.

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Art by Jim Holloway

Averx
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #172
Created by Costa Valhouli

Averxes are subterranean fey who resemble tiny humans with gray skin, batlike wings, ivory horns, and bright, amber eyes. This devilish appearance leads many to call them “dungeon demons” or “cave devils,” although they are far more mischievous than cruel. They frequently wear crystals as jewelry but rarely wear any other sort of clothing, and they mostly eat mice and food stolen from travelers.

Tricky Thieves. Like many fey, averexes enjoy playing tricks on people. They are expert trap builders and thieves and enjoy stealing from people—especially from people who act in noxious ways. Cavern dwellers who are rude, cruel, or destructive (most often goblins, who tend towards having filthy habits) invite the nastiest pranks from them.

Averxes who build traps often bait them with magic items, especially cursed items. These fey are naturally immune to curses and thus can handle cursed items with impunity, but they know most creatures aren’t as lucky as them.

Crystal Beauty. Averxes live in subterranean colonies of a few dozen individuals. They typically live in crystal-lined caverns. They take as much care of these caverns as pixies take of their flower gardens, spending much of their time polishing the crystals, rearranging them like stones in a Zen garden, and carefully enhancing and shaping their growth. Any intruder who damages these caverns, whether through deliberate mining, accidental breakage, or simply gem collecting, will incite the averexes’ anger. Some averxes prefer to live in constructed dungeons. In these cases, they usually choose to live in rooms that are richly decorated with carvings, murals, and fountains, and they are just as possessive about these decorations as they are with crystals.

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

DC 10. Averxes are tiny, subterranean fey. They are notorious tricksters and trap-builders.

DC 15. These fey typically live in caverns filled with beautiful crystals and gemstones. They are very protective of these jewels, and nothing angers an averx more than damaging or stealing one.

DC 20. Averxes are utterly immune to curses. They are known to use cursed magic items with no problems.

Monster Encounters
Terrain:
caverns, dungeons

CR 0-2 4d4 averxes
Treasure: quartz pendant (25 gp), dungeoneer’s pack, cursed +1 shortsword, oil of slipperiness, unliving rune

Signs
1. Rhymes, random phrases, or insults graffitied on a wall in several different languages but by the same hand.
2. A very delicate trap.
3. Glowing crystals growing out of the wall.
4. A magic item just sitting there, ready to be taken

Behavior
1-2. Trying to steal a character’s belongings.
3. Building a trap.
4. In its lair, rearranging crystals

Names
Balbin, Heyok, Hixx, Inik, Ximon

Averx
Tiny fey

Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)
AC 15 (natural armor)
HP 4 (1d4+2; bloodied 2)
Speed 10 ft., fly 40 ft.

STR 6 (-2) DEX 16 (+3) CON 14 (+2)
INT 16 (+3) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 12 (+1)

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 13
Saving Throws Dex +5
Skills Deception +3, Engineering +5, Perception +2 (+1d4), Sleight of Hand +5 (+1d4), Stealth
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages Common, Sylvan, Undercommon
Immune to Curses. The averx is not subject to curses or cursed magic items.
Innate Spellcasting. The averx’s spellcasting ability for this trait is Intelligence (spell save DC 13). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring only Seen components:
At Will: minor illusion
1/day each: faerie fire, levitate
Polyglot. The averx can read and write, but not speak, all languages.
Ventriloquist. The averx can mimic sounds it has heard, including voices. It can also throw its voice so the sound seems to originate up to 30 feet away from the averx’s actual location. Recognizing the sounds as imitation requires a DC 13 Insight check.

Actions
Crystal Dagger.
Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 piercing damage, or 5 (1d4+3) piercing damage if the averx is Medium sized. The target must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw against poison or be poisoned for 1 minute. While poisoned, the creature hallucinates and is confused. The creature may make a new saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the confused condition on itself on a success.
Enbiggen. The averx can magically change its size between Tiny and Medium. While Medium, it has advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws, and its weapon attacks deal an additional 2 (1d4) damage.
Break (Recharge 6). The averx touches a Small or smaller nonmagical item made of leather or wood and the item becomes damaged, as per the section on Maintenance in the Adventurer’s Guide. If the item is being held or worn, the bearer may make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw; on a success, the item is unharmed.

Bonus Actions
Faerie Step (Recharge 6).
The averx magically teleports up to 30 feet to a space it can see.
Invisibility. The averx and any equipment it wears or carries magically turns invisible until the averx attacks, becomes incapacitated, or uses a bonus action to become visible.

Combat
The averx doesn’t engage in melee combat unless it has no other recourse, preferring hit-and-run attacks, sabotage, and using its magic and Ventriloquism to leading foes into traps and dangerous locations. If it needs to fight, it becomes Medium size and uses its dagger. When encountered in a group, averxes usually flee as soon as one of their number if killed.
 

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Faolyn

(she/her)
This next monster, perhaps appropriately (considering the Dragonlance book being released), comes from Krynn—specifically from the novel The Legend of Huma. It’s the dread wolf, an intelligent undead wolf who does the bidding of their master. The flavor text says that the dread wolf can be the eyes and ears of their creator, and apparently they can be telepathically controlled by their master, although there’s no mechanics for it.

Creating a dread wolf requires the spells animate dead, summon shadow, and dismissal. Most undead and constructs back in 1e and 2e (and maybe 3x, I don't remember) required a bunch of spells in order to create them. And you know, that's something I'd like to see again in D&D and Level Up: spell combinations that can be turned into a ritual that has a greater effect. @timespike, I summon thee! You've already done the multiclass spells; I bet you could do this as well.

AD&D, lemme tell you. They either had the most excruciatingly detailed rules and sub-systems, or just hints of cool things with no mechanics at all.

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Art by Terry Pavlet

Dread Wolf
Cry Wolf!, Dragon Magazine #174
Created by Tim Malto and Richard A. Knaak

Dread wolves look like zombies—half-rotted and covered in bare hide and clumps of matted fur, and smelling like the foulest death—but they are actually intelligent, cunning undead. A pack of dread wolves fights as one, working together to take down even powerful foes.

Controlled Undead. Only a powerful necromancer can bring a dread wolf in to existence—or rather a dread wolf pack, as the spells needed to create them work best on groups of dread wolves. They are created by binding undead shadows into the corpses of a pack of dead wolves. The binding ritual also allows their creator to look through the pack’s eyes and even to control them telepathically. Perhaps fortunately for everyone else, the necromancer’s range is limited to within 50 miles, they can’t create or control more than one pack of dread wolves at a time, and they can't end their bond to the pack or transfer "ownership" of the pack to another person--doing so causes the pack to immediately die and crumble into gore. The creator can, however, add to their existing pack, one dread wolf at a time.

Rotting Death. Dread wolves slobber and froth as if rabid, but their bit transmits a rotting disease rather than rabies. Those who succumb to the bite have their flesh quickly rot away, and even those who manage to survive often suffer from terrible scarring and life-long pain. Those who die, however, are doomed to be transformed into the very shadows that were used to animate the wolves.

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

DC 10. Dread wolves are undead creatures under the control of a powerful necromancer.

DC 15. Surprisingly intelligent, dread wolves travel in large packs and unrelentingly hunt their prey. Their bite conveys a nasty, rotting disease.

DC 20. The dread wolves’ creator can look through their eyes and even take control of an entire pack, directing their actions from afar.

Monster Encounters
Terrain:
any

CR 3-4 3-4 dread wolves

CR 5-10 dread wolf pack

Signs
1. Wolf howls in the night.
2. Wolf pawprints, with droplets of old blood in them.
3. A humanoid corpse, torn to shreds but not eaten; other animals will not scavenge from it.
4. Tufts of fur and rotten flesh caught on thorns and branches.

Behavior
1. Chasing humanoid prey over long distances.
2. Dragging something—or someone—back to their master’s lair.
3. Acting in a very uniform and direct manner; being actively controlled by their creator.
4. Attacking on sight.

Dread Wolf
Medium undead

Challenge 1 (200 XP)
AC 13 (natural armor)
HP 30 (4d8+12; bloodied 15)
Speed 40 ft.

STR 14 (+2) DEX 14 (+2) CON 16 (+3)
INT 7 (-2) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 7 (-2)

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 12
Skills Perception +4
Damage Resistances lightning
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, paralysis, poisoned stunned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 14
Languages understands its creator’s languages but can’t speak
Keen Hearing and Smell. The dread wolf has advantage on Perception checks that rely on hearing and smell.
Pack Tactics. The dread wolf has advantage on attack rolls against a creature if at least one of the wolf’s allies is within 5 feet of the creature and not incapacitated.
Regeneration. The dread wolf regains 5 hit points at the start of its turn. If the wolf takes fire or radiant damage, this trait doesn’t function on its next turn. The wolf dies only if it starts its turn with 0 hit points and doesn’t regenerate.
Stench. A creature that starts its turn within 5 feet of the dread wolf must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, it is poisoned until the start of its next turn. On a success, it is immune to any dread wolf’s Stench for 24 hours.
Turning Defiance. The dread wolf has advantage on saving throws against being turned if it is within 5 feet of another dread wolf.

Actions
Bite.
Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) necrotic damage., and if the target is a creature, it must make two saving throws. The first is a DC 12 Strength saving throw. On a failure, the target falls prone. The second is a DC 13 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, the target catches a rotting disease and its hit point maximum is reduced by 1. As long as it is diseased, then at the end of every hour, the creature must make a new Constitution saving throw. On a failure, its hit point maximum is reduced by 1, and it this reduces the creature’s hit point maximum to 0, the creature dies and its spirit rises as a free-willed shadow 1d4 hours later, the corpse no longer casts a shadow, and the target can’t be raised until the new shadow is destroyed.

Combat
Dread wolves fight like any living wolves do, but unless they are being actively controlled by their creator, they fight to the death.

Dread Wolf Pack
Large squad of Medium undead

Challenge 9 (200 XP)
AC 13 (natural armor)
HP 150 (20d8+60; bloodied 75)
Speed 40 ft.

STR 14 (+2) DEX 14 (+2) CON 16 (+3)
INT 7 (-2) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 7 (-2)

Proficiency +4
Maneuver DC 14
Skills Perception +6
Damage Resistances lightning
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, paralysis, poisoned stunned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 16
Languages understands its creator’s languages but can’t speak
Area Vulnerability. The pack takes double damage from any effect that targets an area.
Pack Dispersal. When the pack is reduced to 0 hit points, it turns into 2 (1d4) base creatures, each of which are bloodied.
Pack. The pack is composed of 5 or more creatures. If it is subjected to a spell, attack, or other effect that affects only one target, it takes any damage but ignores other effects. It can share its space with Medium or smaller creatures or objects. The pack can move through any opening large enough for one base creature without squeezing.
Keen Hearing and Smell. The dread wolf has advantage on Perception checks that rely on hearing and smell.
Pack Tactics. The dread wolf pack has advantage on attack rolls as long as it isn’t bloodied.
Regeneration. The dread wolf pack regains 20 hit points at the start of its turn. If the pack takes fire or radiant damage, this trait doesn’t function on its next turn. The pack dies only if it starts its turn with 0 hit points and doesn’t regenerate.
Stench. A creature that starts its turn within 10 feet of the dread wolf must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, it is poisoned until the start of its next turn. On a success, it is immune to any dread wolf’s Stench for 24 hours.
Turning Defiance. The dread wolf pack has advantage on saving throws against being turned as long as it isn’t bloodied.

Actions
Bite.
Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 19 (5d6+2) piercing damage plus 35 (10d6) necrotic damage, and if the target is a creature, it must make two saving throws. The first is a DC 14 Strength saving throw. On a failure, the target falls prone. The second is a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, the target catches a rotting disease and its hit point maximum is reduced by 5 (2d4). As long as it is diseased, then at the end of every hour, the creature must make a new Constitution saving throw. On a failure, its hit point maximum is reduced by 5 (2d4), and it this reduces the creature’s hit point maximum to 0, the creature diesand its spirit rises as a shadow the following night.
 


Timespike

A5E Designer and third-party publisher
Creating a dread wolf requires the spells animate dead, summon shadow, and dismissal. Most undead and constructs back in 1e and 2e (and maybe 3x, I don't remember) required a bunch of spells in order to create them. And you know, that's something I'd like to see again in D&D and Level Up: spell combinations that can be turned into a ritual that has a greater effect. @timespike, I summon thee! You've already done the multiclass spells; I bet you could do this as well.
Ooh, that is a fascinating thought. Yeah, I probably could do something with that basic concept...
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Who guards the ioun stones? The monsters from this article, that’s who. All elementals from the Plane of Mineral, the creatures depicted in this issue’s Dragon’s Bestiary are all very alien, and some of them are designed to look a lot like viruses and bacteria.

The first of these monsters isn’t that complex. It’s the shard, a living crystal shard. That’s it. It’s kind of a basic monster—it just kind of flies at you and stabs you—but sometimes, that’s what you want in an opponent.

The art is credited to both the article’s writer, Matthew Hardenrader, and to Tom Baxa. It all looks like it could have been drawn by the same person, but only one of the pieces is signed (by Baxa). Do they just have similar art styles, or did Hardenrader send in roughs and Baxa finished them?

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Shard
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #174
Created by Matthew P. Hardenrader

A minor mineral elemental, a shard resembles a quartz pillar between 4 to 10 feet long. They are colorful entities, each one a single color, part cloudy and part transparent. Shards consume only the positive energy of light, which can be found in abundance on certain parts of their plane.

Gemfriend. Shards love gemstones and hate to see them harmed or broken in any way. A cut and polished gemstone is fine—shards even prefer such things—but one ground into dust (such as for wizard’s components), or a large one cut into several smaller gems, is enough to make a shard very angry. Shards will gladly watch gemstones for very long periods of time.

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

DC 10. Shards are minor elemental creatures. They are often summoned to serve as treasure guards.

DC 15. These elementals are harder than diamond, so hard that a nonmagical weapon can easily shatter upon striking it.

DC 20. Shards are pack creatures and can be found in found in huge groups on the Plane of Earth. They only travel to the Prime if summoned.

Monster Encounters
Terrain:
Elemental Earth, caverns

CR 3-4 shard

CR 5-10 2-3 shards
Treasure: 3d4 carnelians, citrines, or onyxes (50 gp each), 2d4 ambers, garnets, or tourmalines (100 gp each)

CR 11-16 4-5 shards
Treasure: 3d4 amethysts, garnets, or tourmalines (100 gp each), 2d4 aquamarines or spinels (500 gp each), and 1 emerald (1,000 gp)

CR 17-22 6-7 shards
Treasure. 3d6 peridots, spinels, or topazes (500 gp each), 1d4 sapphires (1,000 gp each), 1 ruby (5,000 gp)

Signs
1-2. Clusters of gemstones growing out of a wall.
3. A shattered melee weapon.
4. tiny scraps of colorful crystal.

Behavior
1-2. Sunning itself.
3. Watching some gemstones do nothing obvious.
4. Guarding a hoard of gemstones.

Shard
Medium elemental

Challenge 3 (700 XP)
AC 16
HP 44 (8d8+8; bloodied 22)
Speed 0 ft., fly 40 ft.

STR 15 (+2) DEX 10 (+0) CON 13 (+1)
INT 6 (-2) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 11 (+0)

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 12
Damage Resistances lightning
Damage Immunities poisoned, radiant; nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing weapons that aren’t adamantine
Condition Immunities blinded, deafened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, unconscious
Senses blindsight 120 ft. (blind beyond this radius), passive Perception 11
Languages understands Terran but can’t speak
Magic Resistance. The shard has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Pack Tactics. The shard has advantage on attack rolls against a creature if at least one of the shard’s allies is within 5 feet of the creature and not incapacitated.
Radiant Absorption. Whenever the shard is subjected to radiant damage, it takes no damage and instead regains a number of hit points equal to the radiant damage dealt.
Shatter Weapon. If a nonmagical weapon makes a successful attack against a shard, the Narrator should roll a d4. On a 1, the weapon shatters after dealing its damage.

Actions
Multiattack.
The shard makes two slam attacks.
Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d8+2) slashing damage. If the shard moves at least 20 feet straight towards the target before the attack, the target must make a DC 12 Strength saving throw, falling prone on a failure.

Bonus Actions
Color Spin (1/Day, When Bloodied).
The shard spins rapidly in place and emits brilliant colors. Each creature within 5 feet of it must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw, taking 6 (1d8+2) slashing damage on a failed save or half as much on a success. Additionally, each creature within 15 feet must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or be blinded until the end of its next turn.

Combat
Shards attack with little finesse, simply flying at a creature and slashing it repeatedly, then backing off and doing it again. Upon being bloodied, a shard will use its Color Spin and then flee.

Variant: Giant Shard
A giant shard is Large sized and can weigh several tons. It is CR 6 (2,300 XP) and has 104 (16d10+16; bloodied 52) hit points. Its Slam attack inflicts 20 (4d8+2) slashing damage.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
The other mineral elemental I’m converting is the trilling crysmal, which is a close relative of the crysmal from the original Monster Manual II. They look nothing alike, however. The original crysmal was sort of a tripod creature with a head/tentacle thing coming out of the middle of its body. The trilling crysmal is very clearly modeled after bacteriophages and look like awesome little robots. These are giant little robots, seven feet tall, with the ability to shoot splintering diamond darts and to reflect magic. I wish more elementals were as alien-looking as this guy, not just animals or people made of elemental matter.

The trilling crysmal’s description doesn’t explain how or why it trills (nor, for that matter, does it even suggest they make noise or even have the ability to speak, despite their average to high Intelligence score). It also describes them as hunters, but their Diet consists only of positive energy.

The entries in this article lack the Habitat & Society and Ecology sections that 2e monsters typically have, so I’d bet they were converted from a previously-unpublished 1e submission.

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Art by Matthew P. Hardenrader and/or Tom Baxa

Trilling Crysmal
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #174
Created by Matthew P. Hardenrader

The body of a trilling crysmal is dominated by a huge, silvery crystal pillar, which rests on six long, spindly metallic legs, giving them a total height of over seven feet tall. They have no obvious eyes or other sensory organs but this lack barely seems to hinder them as they skitter around the Plane of Earth, unceasingly hunting for prey.

Ceaseless Hunters. Trilling crysmals don’t eat meat, nor do they eat the stony or crystalline material other earth elementals are made of. Instead, they consume the positive energy that animates living beings. Their path is littered with the corpses of their luckless prey. Consuming the positive energy doesn’t kill the victim, it merely knocks them unconscious and severely weakens them, but most crysmals will kill their victim afterwards anyway, if only to prevent it from trying to get revenge later on.

Social. Gregarious by nature, crysmals are as likely to live in small packs as they are to travel alone. Should two packs meet, they join together, share news and information, trade gemstones and jewelry (they care little for other types of treasure), and then split up again, although the new pack’s compositions may be different from before.

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

DC 15. A type of mineral elemental, trilling crysmals hunt down other creatures in order to consume their life energy. Their bodies are so hard that non-enchanted weapons can shatter upon striking them.

DC 20. These elementals get their name from a violently high-pitched sound the can make that shatters glass and stone and rips flesh and bone apart. Their bodies are made of crystal that weakens if it is exposed to strong acids.

Monster Encounters
Terrain:
Elemental Earth, caverns

CR 5-10 trilling crysmal
Treasure: 5 aquamarines (500 gp each), 8 citrines (50 gp each), electrum chain bracelet (100 gp), periapt of wound closure

CR 11-16 trilling crysmal with 2 shards; trilling crysmal with 2-3 gargoyles
Treasure: 7 jets (100 gp each), 5 jades (100 gp each), emerald (1,000 gp), amethyst ring (250 gp), gold armlet (250 gp), necklace of fireballs

CR 17-22 2 trilling crysmals; trilling crysmal with gem-vars
Treasure: 2 spinels (500 gp each), 2 opals (1,000 gp each), diamond (5,000 gp), amber bead necklace (750 gp), sapphire necklace (5,000 gp), figurine of a dragon carved from an emerald (2,500 gp), gem of seeing

CR 23-30 3 trilling crysmals; 2 trilling crysmals and giant earth elemental
Treasure: 2 jacinths (5,000 gp each), ruby (5,000 gp), blue sapphire earrings (2,500 gp), gold band set with opals (2,500 gp), bead of force, instant fortress, ioun stone of absorption

Signs
1. Badly cut-up corpses that look as though they’ve been burned from within.
2. A shattered diamond.
3. A high-pitched thrumming noise in the distance.
4. Glowing crystals growing from the walls.

Behavior
1-2. Hunting; will attack on sight.
3. Creating a giant crystal sculpture.
4. Sitting still, communing with the earth.

Trilling Crysmal
Medium elemental

Challenge 8 (3,900 XP)
AC 19
HP 114 (12d8+60 bloodied 57)
Speed 30 ft., burrow 30 ft., climb 30 ft. fly 30 ft.

STR 18 (+4) DEX 14 (+2) CON 21 (+5)
INT 10 (+0) WIS 13 (+1) CHA 15 (+2)

Proficiency +4
Maneuver DC 15
Saving Throws Str +7, Con +6
Skills Perception +4 (+1d4), Survival +4
Damage Immunities nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing weapons that aren’t adamantine
Condition Immunities blinded, deafened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone
Senses blindsight 120 ft. (blind beyond this radius), tremorsense 120 ft., passive Perception 17
Languages Terran
Acid Vulnerability. If the trilling crysmal takes acid damage, then until the end of its next turn, its AC is reduced to 17 and it is slowed.
Earth Glide. The trilling crysmal can move through nonmagical, unworked earth and stone without disturbing it.
Echolocation. The trilling crysmal can’t use blindsight while deafened.
Magic Resistance. The trilling crysmal has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Reflective Crystal. When the trilling crysmal is targeted by a line spell or a spell that requires a ranged attack, roll a d6. On a 1-3, the crysmal is unaffected. On a 4-6, the crysmal is unaffected and the spell is reflected back, targeting the caster as if it originated from the crysmal.
Shatter Weapon. If a nonmagical weapon makes a successful attack against a trilling crysmal, the Narrator should roll a d4. On a 1, the weapon shatters after dealing its damage.
Spider Climb. The trilling crysmal can use its climb speed even on difficult surfaces and upside down on ceilings.

Actions
Multiattack.
The trilling crysmal makes two attacks, only one of which can be a bite.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 piercing damage plus 10 (3d6) radiant damage, the target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the radiant damage dealt, and the crysmal regains this number of hit points. If the target is reduced to 0 hit points by this attack, it is stable but unconscious for 1 hour, even if it regains hit points, and takes 2 levels of fatigue upon waking up. A construct or undead creature instead dies if reduced to 0 hit points.
Leg Slash. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) slashing damage plus 7 (2d6) force damage.
Diamond Dart (Recharge 5-6). Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 80 ft./320 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (2d4+4) piercing damage, and the target must make a DC 114 Dexterity saving throw. On a failure, the dart bursts into agonizing splinters inside the target’s body, and it is slowed and takes 3 (1d6) ongoing damage. A creature may use its action to make a Medicine or Sleight of Hand check to remove the splinters and end the slowed condition.
Trilling Resonance (1/Day, When Bloodied). The crysmal emits a high-pitched trilling sound that lasts for 1 minute or until it loses concentration. A creature that starts its turn within 15 feet of the crysmal must make a DC 17 Constitution saving throw, taking 13 (3d8) thunder damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one. Creatures made of stone, metal, or other inorganic materials have disadvantage on their saving throw.

Bonus Actions
Leg Slash.
The crysmal makes a Leg Slash attack.

Combat
Trilling crysmals usually attack with leg slashes and bites and use their Diamond Darts against distant foes. If bloodied, it uses its Trilling Resonance and often sinks into a stone surface to stay out of reach while its foes are being harmed by the noise.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Hope all of your pre-New Year's celebrations went great!

And since it's right after the bulk of the winter holidays and just before New Year's, it makes perfect sense that our next monster is a spooOooky Ravenloft monster, along with a preface from the esteemed Dr. van Richten himself. The monsters in this article also all appeared in the first Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix. I’m not sure of the exact timing, but this is clearly an advertisement for that product. Shadow asps were later printed in the 3x Denizens of Dread, where their bite did 1d2-3 damage, plus poison. What was the point of that!?

This is the shadow asp, a serpent whose bite is not only deadly, but will turn you into a shadow when you die. This is one of those monsters for which I’m never quite satisfied with the CR. It’s bite should be hard to resist, but by RAW it can’t because its hit points are super low—unless I give it an insanely high Con score, which also isn’t RAW. And most PCs who are up to raiding the mummy tombs are going to be higher level and probably never get affected by the asp. Sigh. I don’t miss save-or-die, but sometimes you want to make creatures that are ridiculously OP for their size.

Anyway, van Richten wishes you happy hunting!

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Art by Tom Baxa

Shadow Asp
Out of the Mists, Dragon Magazine #174
Created by William W. Conners

Many cultures take great care when they inter their dead, protecting the bodies with mazes, traps, and guardian undead and never-living constructs. But some have learned of a more-deadly tomb protector—the shadow asp. These slender snakes are composed purely of darkness, with no physical form of their own. But their needle fangs are solid enough, and inject a deadly toxin.

Shadow-Makers. Shadow asp venom is insidious. The bite’s location turns first gray, then pitch black, then the blackness spreads. When the victim’s entire body has turned black, they die. Soon, their shadow detaches from its former and rises as an undead shadow, forever bound to the spot where it died and forced to serve as the tomb’s protector.

Dedicated Guardians. These creatures are artificial creatures, formed out of shadow-stuff. Priests of gods of the dead and of graveyards sometimes create them to protect crypts and catacombs. Although they are little more than animals, they seem to understand their jobs and take them seriously and will gladly fight anyone who tries to disturb their tomb.

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

DC 10. Shadow asps are snakes made out of darkness used to guard tombs. While they don’t care about treasure, the tombs they guard are often filled with valuables.

DC 15. These serpents are literally made of shadow-stuff; they are not natural creatures, and as living shadows, they are practically insubstantial. Their bite injects umbral venom and those who die to it rise as undead shadows who are bound to the tomb.

DC 20. The touch of bright light can instantly kill a shadow asp.

Monster Encounters
Terrain:
caverns, ruins, tombs

CR 0-2 shadow asp

CR 3-4 1d4 shadow asps; 1-2 shadow asps and 1-2 shadows; shadow asp swarm

CR 5-10 shadow asp swarm and 1d4+1 shadows

Signs
1-2. With a DC 16 Perception check, a faint slithering or hissing noise.
3. A corpse covered in black puncture marks.
4. A preponderance of shadows, both normal and undead.

Behavior
1-2. Lurking inside of a chest, hollow statue, pit, or other trap.
3-4. On a coffin or coiled around an funerary statue, in a threat position.

Shadow Asp
Tiny construct (undead)

Challenge 1 (200 XP)
AC 15 (natural armor)
HP 4 (1d4+2; bloodied 2)
Speed 40 ft., climb 20 ft.

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

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 14
Skills Stealth +6
Damage Vulnerability radiant
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison; nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing weapons
Condition Immunities grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained, unconscious
Senses blindsight 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages
Amorphous. The shadow asp can pass through an opening as narrow as 1 inch without squeezing.
Light Vulnerability. If the shadow asp ends its turn in bright light, it dies.
Lurker In Shadow. The shadow asp is invisible to darkvision.
Semi-Undead. The shadow asp can’t be turned and takes no damage from holy water.

Actions
Bite.
Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 piercing damage plus 3 (1d6) necrotic damage The target must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or the target’s hit point maximum is reduced by the amount equal to the necrotic damage dealt, and its hit point maximum is reduced by 1 at the end of each minute until the creature is targeted by a dispel magic, lesser restoration, or remove curse spell. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. If the target is reduced to 0 hit points by this attack, it dies and a new undead shadow rises from the corpse in 1d4 hours, the corpse no longer casts a natural shadow, and target can’t be raised from the dead until the shadow is destroyed, and the shadow can’t move more than 300 feet from the place where it was killed.

Bonus Actions
Hide.
If in dim light or darkness, the shadow asp takes the Hide action.

Combat
A shadow asp darts out of the darkness, bites, then retreats again. It fights to the death.

Swarm of Shadow Asps
Medium swarm of Tiny constructs (undead)

Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)
AC 15 (natural armor)
HP 65 (10d8+20; bloodied 32)
Speed 40 ft., climb 20 ft.

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

Proficiency +2
Maneuver DC 14
Skills Stealth +6
Damage Vulnerability radiant
Damage Resistances magical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing weapons
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison; nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing weapons
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, prone, poisoned, restrained, stunned, unconscious
Senses blindsight 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages
Amorphous. The shadow asp can pass through an opening as narrow as 1 inch without squeezing.
Light Vulnerability. If the shadow asp ends its turn in bright light, it dies.
Lurker In Shadow. The shadow asp is invisible to darkvision.
Semi-Undead. The shadow asp can’t be turned and takes no damage from holy water.
Swarm. The swarm can occupy another creature’s space and can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide. It can’t gain HP or temporary hit points.

Actions
Bite.
Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) piercing damage plus 21 (6d6) necrotic damage, or 7 (1d6+4) piercing damage plus 10 (3d6) necrotic damage if the swarm is bloodied, and the target must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or the target’s hit point maximum is reduced by the amount equal to the necrotic damage dealt. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. If the target is reduced to 0 hit points by this attack, it dies and a new undead shadow rises from the corpse in 1d4 hours, the corpse no longer casts a natural shadow, and target can’t be raised from the dead until the shadow is destroyed, and the shadow can’t move more than 300 feet from the place where it was killed.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
There are no monsters for the next several months, but we pick up again the following April—for, of course, for monsters with punny names. Both of these monsters are semi-magical variants on normal animals, so I’m going to present both of them in a single article. The first of these creatures is the battering ram, which is exactly what it says on the tin: a wild sheep with ginormous horns. Battering rams might go well with an earlier April monster, the death sheep. The second is the quakedancer, a six-legged, omnivorous brontosaurus that can cause earthquakes through dancing.

Battering Ram
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #180
Created by Spike Y. Jones

1672258543066.png

Art by Tom Baxa

Battering rams resemble large bighorn sheep, but with oversized and extra-curly horns. Ewes have horns as well, although they’re not as large. Although normally non-aggressive, battering rams become violent towards anyone who seems to be threatening the flock or kids. Strangely, three out of four battering rams are female.

Although they can be domesticated, battering rams view fences and even walls as a natural enemy and will knock them down whenever possible.

The battering ram uses giant goat statistics. It is immune to the paralyzed, petrified, slowed, and stunned conditions, its Ram action has been altered, and it gains the following trait:

Siege Monster. The battering ram deals double damage to objects and structures.

Ram. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d8+3) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature and the battering ram moves at least 20 feet towards the target before the attack, the target takes an additional 9 (2d8) bludgeoning damage and must make a DC 13 Strength saving throw, getting knocked backwards 10 feet and falling prone on a failure, or getting knocked back 5 feet on a success.

*

Quakedancer
The Dragon’s Bestiary, Dragon Magazine #180
Created by Spike Y. Jones

1672258630283.png

Art by Tom Baxa

Quakdancers, also called quakebeasts, quakemakers, and thunderers, are tremendous six-legged reptiles that bear a close resemblance to sauropod dinosaurs. Their middle pair of legs are zygodactyl—two clawed toes pointing forwards, and two pointing backwards—and have oversized knee joints. These solitary beasts are omnivorous and prefer meat, eating vegetation only to fool other herbivores into thinking they’re harmless. To hunt, they hold fast to the ground with their middle feet and rock back and forth. The rhythmic rocking produces a short-lived but nasty earthquake, and the quakedancer can then eat its choice of any of the creatures that are killed or stunned by quake.

The quakedancer uses diplodocus statistics. It is a Monstrosity and its Charisma is 12 (+1). It gains the following new traits and action:

Innate Spellcasting (1/day). The quakedancer can cast earthquake, requiring only Seen components. Its spellcasting ability for this trait is Charisma (spell save DC 12). The casting time for this spell is 1d4+2 rounds.
Sure-Footed. The quakedancer has advantage on Strength and Dexterity saving throws made against effects that would knock it prone.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 16 (2d8+7) piercing damage.
 

ilgatto

How inconvenient
Argh! So I suddenly realized that I was being a bad person and not crediting the artists! So I went back and credited as many artists as I could, but I couldn't figure out who did all of the artwork. Dragon was really bad at saying who did what piece in these early days (they got better later), and not all of the images had signatures.

If you recognize any of the artists that I didn't credit, please let me know!
As to this, I'd say say the gaund = Mark Nelson; the first baku = Jim Holloway; and the flolite = Jeff Dee.
 


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