Epic Monsters: Black Shuck (5E)

This entry in Epic Monsters is one I am definitely fond of—a big black dog hailing from the easternmost bit of England, the one and only (or many, as you like) Black Shuck!



Black Shuck is an interesting dog if nothing else. Legends about this canine go back to 1127 and range from it being Satan to a poor fellow’s lonely companion haunting the spot of his death to a terrifying monster that liked to bust into churches to wreck havoc. One thing is for certain: Black Shuck is a great example of localized folklore really taking root. Like the Jersey Devil but much, much older, and also like the Jersey Devil it’s still being spotted here and there.

Design Notes: Like any proper myth many different stories are attributed to or similar to Black Shuck’s and pinning down a definitive one is tricky so I tried to do a catch-all here. I think altogether it’s pretty solid and should make for an interesting encounter or two—toss in a few dire wolves as a screen and let the party spot the cyclops out of the pack, rewarding the first adventurer to do so with a spooky omen about how they might soon perish (utilizing Black Shuck to dole out some plot seeds).


Black Shuck
Large fey, chaotic neutral

Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 76 (8d10+32)
Speed 55 ft.

STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
18 (+4)​
17 (+3)​
19 (+4)​
6 (-2)​
18 (+4)​
14 (+2)​

Skills Athletics +7, Insight +7, Perception +7, Stealth +16
Damage Resistances cold
Condition Immunities frightened
Senses darkvision 90 ft., passive Perception 17
Languages Common; telepathy 100 ft. (images of death omens only)
Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)

Innate Spellcasting. Black Shuck's innate spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 15). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
Constant: pass without trace
At will: divination (indefinite timespan; death omens only)
3/day: fog cloud, hellish rebuke, hunter’s mark

Keen Hearing and Smell. Black Shuck has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

Magic Resistance. Black Shuck has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Terrifying Howl. Black Shuck can use a bonus action to unleash a terrifying howl. Each creature of its choice within 120 feet of Black Shuck that is able to both see and hear it must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature's saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to Black Shuck’s Frightful Howl for the next 24 hours.


ACTIONS
Multiattack. Black Shuck attacks twice.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8+4) magical piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
 
Mike Myler

Comments

Rhineglade

Explorer
Being a fan-geek of all things British, I've actually heard of Black Shuck but I don't think I ever realized it only had one eye ;)
 

trentonjoe

Explorer
I like it! I first read about Black Schuck in a kids mythology book I bought at school book fair. I used it in my game as protector of an ancient graveyard. I just reskinned a hell hound, changed the fire to necrotic and added some HD. I think i like your version better, especially the part about him being the leader of a dire wolf/cyclops pack.
 

Quartz

Explorer
You might want to make it so that Black Shuck's pack is immune to its howl. And it should be able to summon fog.

And for a legendary creature, it has a suspicious lack of Legendary Actions. Misty step and Cast A Spell seem obvious candidates.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
Being a fan-geek of all things British, I've actually heard of Black Shuck but I don't think I ever realized it only had one eye
It wasn't the first thing I read about this creature but it came up more than once (I think--this was originally written many moons ago). That said it appears several times in a few different places so it's not unlikely that you simply were never presented a cyclopean Black Shuck!

I like it! I first read about Black Schuck in a kids mythology book I bought at school book fair. I used it in my game as protector of an ancient graveyard. I just reskinned a hell hound, changed the fire to necrotic and added some HD. I think i like your version better, especially the part about him being the leader of a dire wolf/cyclops pack.
<3!

View attachment 105779

You might want to make it so that Black Shuck's pack is immune to its howl. And it should be able to summon fog.

And for a legendary creature, it has a suspicious lack of Legendary Actions. Misty step and Cast A Spell seem obvious candidates.
Done and done on the first two, but not so keen to legendary actions on a CR 5 creature. I suppose that unicorns and Yestabrod (?) have them and are low challenge rating enemies, but (and I'm guessing here for the latter) they're really intended to be encountered alone while Black Shuck is not.

Also there's apparently a (kiiiiinda tolerable?) song by The Darkness called Black Shuck. :D
 

Quartz

Explorer
Done and done on the first two, but not so keen to legendary actions on a CR 5 creature. I suppose that unicorns and Yestabrod (?) have them and are low challenge rating enemies, but (and I'm guessing here for the latter) they're really intended to be encountered alone while Black Shuck is not.
The tales typically speak of it being encountered alone. But that does give me an idea for a Legendary Action: when struck, it transposes itself with one of its pack. Sort of like the Goblin King power.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
The tales typically speak of it being encountered alone. But that does give me an idea for a Legendary Action: when struck, it transposes itself with one of its pack. Sort of like the Goblin King power.
That sounds like a dope power and an important distinction--in the traditional folklore almost every encounter with Black Shuck is with somebody alone and usually on a road at night. My intention with this creature is for it to fight adventuring parties and not solitary PCs so definitely different than tradition. :)

If you give it Legendary Actions I'd skip the spell (all of its spells and traits are bonus actions, reactions, or require concentration) and go with the misty step/movement, the transposing thing, and probably a bite or maybe something omen-related that gives a creature disadvantage against its Terrifying Howl.

EDIT: Ooh, and up its CR by 1.
 

Robert F

Villager
But, "there can be only one". ;-)

I like it.
I did a (trio) 5e stat-set that consisted of the Moddy-Dhoo, the 3 White Hounds of Anwnn, and Black Shuck as my headliner.
I made him/it cyclopean also. I always considered the 2-eyed rendition as the deviation. But yeah, there's a fair number of 'em to draw from especially if you have even a drop of Anglophile in you. Northern Europe (the British Isles area in particular) are rife with ghostly hounds.
 

Fragsie

Villager
I actually live less than 10 miles from the church you mentioned in the OP, i was surprised to see the local legend here on the boards! looks like a cool and creepy encounter boss :)
 

Dan Collins1

Villager
In these parts (West Yorkshire), they do say Black Shuck is also known as Skriker or Guy Trash. Either that, or he has two cousins what are the spit of 'im!
 

Robert F

Villager
Nice, I had heard of "Skriker", "Squelch", and a number of others, but "Guy Trash" was a new one.

And freaking I love it.

And thanks for the indigenous input you two, it's pretty cool to get commentary from the source, from the "natives" if you will.

Thanks for that.
Peace
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
Is the Stealth skill meant to already factor in Pass without Trace?

I get that the creature is supposed to be stealthy, but for context....a 20th level rogue with 20 dex and an expertise in stealth has a +17. A +16 in any skill is pretty crazy for a 5th CR creature, especially since in theory he casts pass without trace and gets another +10 on top.

If you meant it to include the pass without trace, make sure to note that.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
Is the Stealth skill meant to already factor in Pass without Trace?

I get that the creature is supposed to be stealthy, but for context....a 20th level rogue with 20 dex and an expertise in stealth has a +17. A +16 in any skill is pretty crazy for a 5th CR creature, especially since in theory he casts pass without trace and gets another +10 on top.

If you meant it to include the pass without trace, make sure to note that.
Pass without trace is listed as a constant spell so it is indeed factored in. That's noted where it says "constant". :3
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
Pass without trace is listed as a constant spell so it is indeed factored in. That's noted where it says "constant". :3
Constant is not a normal 5e game term. I would just make it a monster ability:

Ghostly Walk: The Black Shuck is always under the effect of a pass without trace spell (bonus factored in to the skills).


That way you are 100% explicit in game terms what you mean.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
You might want to make it so that Black Shuck's pack is immune to its howl. And it should be able to summon fog.

And for a legendary creature, it has a suspicious lack of Legendary Actions. Misty step and Cast A Spell seem obvious candidates.
FYI is not a legendary creature, it is an epic creature per Mike's series (which doesn't follow the typical D&D definition of epic) ;)
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
Constant is not a normal 5e game term. I would just make it a monster ability:

Ghostly Walk: The Black Shuck is always under the effect of a pass without trace spell (bonus factored in to the skills).


That way you are 100% explicit in game terms what you mean.
Not true! It's just a rare one. Check your guards and wards spell in the SRD. :)
 

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