Epic Monsters: Cerberus (5E)

Today on Epic Monsters we visit the underworld which means of course crossing paths with Hades’ guard dog: Cerberus!



This three-headed (possibly as many as 100 heads depending on where you look) canine keeps the dead from escaping the afterlifereally though Cerberus’ claim to fame is his capture by Heracles/Hercules as one of the twelve labors, a story celebrated again and again throughout both Greek and Roman arts. The hero is initiated into the Eleusian Mysteries and then travels into the underworld probably by way of a cave in Tainaron, guided afterward by Athena and Hermes. Once he’s down there Heracles/Hercules runs into Theseus and Pirithous (held captive for trying to rescue Persephone from hellthat whole pomegranate seeds and winter thing) then wrangles the beast. How he does so (and much more) is written about in great length and changes from author to author, but at the end of the day comes back up with Cerberus, typically with Theseus, and sometimes Pirithous too.

Design Notes:This is actually a conversion from Sean K. Reynold’s excellent New Argonauts with a little bit extra tacked in (a breath weapon). He thought a smaller puppified version would be useful for folks and I am in full agreement on thatif you are too here’s a cerberean hound.



Cerberus
Huge monstrosity, neutral

Armor Class
15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 152 (16d12+48)
Speed 50 ft.

STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
22 (+6)
15 (+2)
17 (+3)
7 (-2)
12 (+1)
10 (+0)

Saving Throws Dex +5, Con +6
Skills Insight +5, Perception +7, Stealth +5, Survival +4
Damage Resistances cold, fire, necrotic, radiant
Senses darkvision 200 ft., passive Perception 22
Languages Common
Challenge 8 (3,900 XP)

Ageless. Cerberus cannot suffer from frailty of old age, die from old age, or be aged magically.

Snake-Tail. Cerberus’ uses its Dexterity modifier for attack and damage rolls with its snake-tail.

Three Heads. Cerberus gains double his proficiency bonus to and has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks. In addition, he has advantage on saving throws against being blinded, charmed, deafened, frightened, stunned, or knocked unconscious.


ACTIONS

Multiattack. Cerberus makes three bite attacks and one snake-tail attack.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (1d10+6) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 17 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Snake-Tail. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) poison damage.

Poison Foam (Recharge 5-6). Cerberus exhales a spray of toxic liquid in a 20-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 17 Dexterity saving throw, taking 35 (10d6) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
 
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Mike Myler

Comments

dave2008

Adventurer
In general I like this, but to me, this seems like a "puppified" version of Cerberus. I would expect a legendary monster with a CR in the 15-25 range. Just my thoughts.

EDIT: As always, thank you for another interesting entry.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Off the top of my head, I'm thinking:

Cerberus
Huge beast, neutral

Armor Class 18 (natural armor)
Hit Points 270 (20d12+140)
Speed 50 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
22 (+6)15 (+2) 25 (+7)7(-2)12 (+1) 18 (+4)


Saving Throws Dex +8, Con +13
Skills Insight +8, Intimidation +16, Perception +13, Stealth +8, Survival +7
Damage Resistances cold, fire, necrotic, radiant
Senses darkvision 200 ft., passive Perception 23
Languages Common
Challenge 20 (don't have the chat in front of me XP)

Ageless. Cerberus cannot suffer from frailty of old age, die from old age, or be aged magically.

Juggernaut. If Cerberus fails a saving throw, it can use a reaction to re-roll the saving throw. It must use the result of the second roll.

Magic Resistance. Cerberus has advantage on saving throws against spells and magical effects.

Magic Weapons. Cerberus's weapon attacks are considered magical for overcoming resistances and immunities.

Savage. Cerberus's can use a bonus action to make a bite attack on a creature it has grappled or is prone within its reach.

Snake-Tail. Cerberus’ uses its Dexterity modifier for attack and damage rolls with its snake-tail.

Three Heads. Cerberus gains double his proficiency bonus to and has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks. In addition, he has advantage on saving throws against being blinded, charmed, deafened, frightened, stunned, or knocked unconscious.


ACTIONS

Multiattack. Cerberus makes three bite attacks and one snake-tail attack.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (2d10+6) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) acid damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 16 Strength saving throw or be grappled. A Medium or smaller greater grappled this way is also restrained.

Snake-Tail. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (3d4+2) piercing damage plus 14 (4d6) poison damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 17 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned.

Vitriolic Spray (Recharge 5-6). Cerberus exhales a spray of toxic acidic liquid in a 20-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 21 Dexterity saving throw, taking 59 (17d6) acid damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

LEGENDARY ACTIONS

You know what these are, he gets 3 of them.

Detect. Cerberus makes a Wisdom (Perception) check.
Leap (Costs 2 Actions). Cerberus leaps up to twice its movement. If it lands in an occupied space, each creature in the area must make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw or take 32 (4d12 + 6) bludgeoning damage and be knocked prone. If a creature succeeds on its saving throw it is pushed to an unoccupied space adjacent to Cerberus.

I would like to have more, but the simple ones would change the CR and I don't want to do that at the moment.
 
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Mike Myler

Explorer
Very cool! I've got it in my head that somewhere down the line there'll be a Heracles/Hercules build (which needs to be able to handily defeat Cerberus) but if there's GM in need of a sizable underworld guardian this will definitely fit the bill (and would be an *excellent* addition to The River Styx). ^_^
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
It's weird that it has Advantage on saving throws against being charmed or knocked unconscious. I always thought that was its weakness.
 

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
It seems weird that he (the original stat block) doesn't have Legendary Actions or Lair Actions considering that Cerberus is a legendary mythic beast ostensibly charged with guarding a specific gateway (IIRC). (also, o hai mike)

Oh, and Cerberus is definitely a Monstrosity, not a Beast, if I understand monster types correctly.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Very cool! I've got it in my head that somewhere down the line there'll be a Heracles/Hercules build (which needs to be able to handily defeat Cerberus) but if there's GM in need of a sizable underworld guardian this will definitely fit the bill (and would be an *excellent* addition to The River Styx). ^_^
Yep, I thought that might be an issue. Though I don't know that Herakles needs to "handily" defeat Cerberus.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
It's weird that it has Advantage on saving throws against being charmed or knocked unconscious. I always thought that was its weakness.
That's what multi-headed monsters get in 5E! Which myth are you thinking of for him being charmed? Orpheus and the flute? I think in that one he puts Cerberus to sleep (which can still happen here it's just hard--you'd have to be some kind of legendary musician to pull that off ;) ).

It seems weird that he (the original stat block) doesn't have Legendary Actions or Lair Actions considering that Cerberus is a legendary mythic beast ostensibly charged with guarding a specific gateway (IIRC). (also, o hai mike)

Oh, and Cerberus is definitely a Monstrosity, not a Beast, if I understand monster types correctly.
Yo! Cerberus getting Lair actions off of the Gates of Hades is a little more God of War than we're shooting for here. I can get behind the creature type being monstrosity rather than beast (his parents are definitely monsters).

Yep, I thought that might be an issue. Though I don't know that Herakles needs to "handily" defeat Cerberus.
Aye maybe not handily. I doubt he's going to break CR 18-19 though so Cerberus at 20 is past his grade.
 
Why is the CR less than Strahd?

Certainly, this beast should be higher....it is the guardian of HELL! In comparison, Tiamat is the guardian to the lower levels of Hell if you are on the 1st level....So should Cerberus be equal to Tiamat? Maybe not....but should be higher than CR 8....
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
Why is the CR less than Strahd?

Certainly, this beast should be higher....it is the guardian of HELL! In comparison, Tiamat is the guardian to the lower levels of Hell if you are on the 1st level....So should Cerberus be equal to Tiamat? Maybe not....but should be higher than CR 8....
Cerberus is at the very front of the line in the Underworld--figuring that Tiamat exists in the same metaplanar space (and further down) she ought to be much bigger anyway. And mind you, there are many different cultures with many different kinds of hells.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Why is the CR less than Strahd?

Certainly, this beast should be higher....it is the guardian of HELL! In comparison, Tiamat is the guardian to the lower levels of Hell if you are on the 1st level....So should Cerberus be equal to Tiamat? Maybe not....but should be higher than CR 8....
I generally agree that Cerberus could be higher (see my little modifications to take him to CR 20); however, Cerberus fell to Herakles so in terms of Mike's project we have to keep that in mind. Also, I think Cerberus' primary function is to keep the dead in Hades. Finally, Tiamat is a goddess and Cerberus is never discussed within the ranks of deities. In both of the most famous stories with Cerberus it is defeated by a single mortal (Herakles in one and Orpheus in the other). So I think Mike is probably more on track than either of us. It really depends on how you see Herakles (a potential PC or uber NPC) and Mike would frame him as a PC in this project.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
That's what multi-headed monsters get in 5E! Which myth are you thinking of for him being charmed? Orpheus and the flute? I think in that one he puts Cerberus to sleep (which can still happen here it's just hard--you'd have to be some kind of legendary musician to pull that off ;) )
I was thinking of Harry Potter, where everyone in Gryffindor - dozens of teens and pre-teens - all managed to pull off the same trick. The Weasley Twins went through at least twice, and neither of them had any notable musical talent. Harry references Orpheus by name.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
I was thinking of Harry Potter, where everyone in Gryffindor - dozens of teens and pre-teens - all managed to pull off the same trick. The Weasley Twins went through at least twice, and neither of them had any notable musical talent. Harry references Orpheus by name.
But that wasn't Cerberus - it was Fluffy!
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
I was thinking of Harry Potter, where everyone in Gryffindor - dozens of teens and pre-teens - all managed to pull off the same trick. The Weasley Twins went through at least twice, and neither of them had any notable musical talent. Harry references Orpheus by name.
Ahhh well there it is - I have still not consumed any Harry Potter so that's news to me. :D
 

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
Cerberus getting Lair actions off of the Gates of Hades is a little more God of War than we're shooting for here.
What're you shooting for lol? I probably should have asked up front what this was for.

Fluffy was a Cerberus, just like Lestat was a Dracula. That's just how things go, when you take one mythological example and extrapolate them out to an entire species.

This, right here, touches on my oldest, biggest bugbear (in the sense of pet peeve) with D&D. In your example, Lestat and Dracula (and Cassidy and Strahd) are all Vampires, the set of creatures they belong to is Vampires. They are not Draculas any more than they are Frankensteins. But I'm guessing you're being facetious.

The actual thing that has always annoyed the :):):):) out of me about D&D was this: Medusa was a Gorgon, she belonged to the set of creatures known as Gorgons, Medusa was her PROPER GIVEN NAME. In D&D, you might find yourself up against a Medusa or several Medusas which again is wallbangingly stupid, it is like fighting a Dracula or several Draculas. It's nonsense. Medusas should be called Gorgons. Then to annoy me further, there IS a Gorgon in the game, but it's a mechanical bull that breathes poison and...I don't even know where to start speculating on how the hell that is related to Greek myth. Gahhhhh. Every edition that's come out since I started playing has had the opportunity to fix this and has not bothered.

Edit: oh hey, there's a swear filter!
 
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dave2008

Adventurer
Fluffy was a Cerberus, just like Lestat was a Dracula. That's just how things go, when you take one mythological example and extrapolate them out to an entire species.
I disagree. I have never thought of Lestat as Dracula (or ever heard anyone make that argument). I definitely understand why some would conflate Fluffy with Cerberus, but Fluffy is not Cerberus - like a giant spider is not Aragog. I think it is a bit much to extrapolate Fluffy to Cerberus, especially on these forums.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Then to annoy me further, there IS a Gorgon in the game, but it's a mechanical bull that breathes poison and...I don't even know where to start speculating on how the hell that is related to Greek myth. Gahhhhh. Every edition that's come out since I started playing has had the opportunity to fix this and has not bothered.
FYI, there is a mythological basis for the poisonous bull "gorgon" that is the justification for it in D&D. The first response to that very question in this post get's you to the answer: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/111271/why-is-the-dd-gorgon-a-metal-bull

So, since they had a bull "gorgon" they decided to call the greek gorgons "medusas." You may not like it, but it is semi-reasonable.
 

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