D&D 5E Epic Monsters: Grendel (5E)

Today in Epic Monsters we’re visiting upon the epic of Beowulf for a giant like no other: Grendel!

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At first glance I sort of wrote Grendel off as your average ogre or giant but he’s definitely something more. In the story he has tremendously powerful hearing and later on--a good while after he’s already dead--his blood proves corrosive enough to ruin a (maybe magical) sword. He’s definitely not a match for Beowulf (who has appeared elsewhere in Mythological Figures) but certainly no pushover.

Design Notes: Grendel has incredible hearing and I figured that’s worth blindsight (and vulnerability to thunder). Aside from the Toxic Blood trait the rest of this statblock is fairly standard--he’s very strong, can jump around well, and has a variety of (similar) natural weapons. Toxic Blood and Big-Handed Grappling should give adventurers pause and make for a fun fight, and remember that he can always flee to fight again later, maybe back at home. Grendel’s mother plays an important role in the story too and might get a statblock later (not sure yet as she’s written about very nebulously) but until then I’d recommend using a marilith.


Grendel
Large giant, chaotic evil


Armor Class
15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 114 (12d10+48)
Speed 45 ft.

STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
22 (+6)​
15 (+2)​
18 (+4)​
11 (+0)​
14 (+2)​
7 (-2)​

Saving Throws Cha +1
Skills Athletics +9, Perception +8, Survival +5
Damage Vulnerabilities thunder
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, slashing from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities acid
Senses blindsight 60 ft., darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 18
Languages Giant, Olde English
Challenge 9 (5,000 XP)

Big-Handed Grappling. Grendel has advantage on attack rolls against a creature he is grappling and he can use an action to try to pin a creature he’s grappled. To do so, Grendel makes another grapple check. If he succeeds, the creature is restrained until the grapple ends. Grendel only needs one hand to grapple a creature of Medium size or smaller.

Leap. Grendel increases the distances of his horizontal jumps by 20 feet and his vertical jumps by 10 feet.

Superior Hearing. Grendel has advantage on sound-based Wisdom (Perception) checks.

Toxic Blood. When a creature within 5 feet of Grendel hits him with a melee attack that deals piercing or slashing damage, that creature takes 7 (2d6) acid damage.



ACTIONS

Multiattack. Grendel attacks three times.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 15 (2d8+6) piercing damage.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d6+6) slashing damage.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 15 (2d8+6) bludgeoning damage.

Rock. Ranged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, range 250/500 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d6+6) bludgeoning damage.

Thrown Object. Ranged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, range 250/500 ft., multiple targets (determined by object size; make one attack roll per target). Hit: 13 (1d8+9) damage. The damage type depends on the object (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing) and at 100 pounds and every 100 pounds thereafter, the damage increases by 1d8 (up to a maximum of 10d8 at 1,000 pounds). A creature thrown at an object bigger than it takes regular damage, but only takes half damage when thrown at another creature.
 
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I think of the mother of Grendel as something like a ‘weredragon’. It involves Norse tropes relating to the shapeshifting of the berserkr, which itself relates to jǫtunn and trǫll. She seems to include serpentine features, likely relating to the European viper, possibly with lustrous black and silver-gold markings.

Grendel and his mom are probably a kind of giant with shapeshifting ability, who prefer the alternate form.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
Charisma is not the same as being ugly. I have no doubt that Grendel is hideous to look at for a Human, but to another Giant he could be incredibly handsome. You could do with adding some feats and flaws with these characters.

Charisma is both charm and fear. So, in this case, the Charisma bonus normally applies to intimidation checks, rather than persuasion checks.

Old school Comeliness ability, might work better as a trait, granting advantage to persuasion checks but disadvantage to intimidation checks, versus viewers in line of sight.

Oppositely, Hideousness might grant advantage to intimidation checks but disadvantage to persuation checks, versus viewers in line of sight.

The tradeoff seems moreorless a wash, and could be handled under the appearance and personality section, relating moreso to Background.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I definitely consider all Jǫtunn to exhibit higher than average Charisma, often in the sense of terrifying (Intimidation), but for some individuals in the sense of extreme beauty (Persuasion).

This probably includes Grendel and his mom too, in the sense of terrifying.
 
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Rafael Martin

Adventurer
Charisma is both charm and fear. So, in this case, the Charisma bonus normally applies to intimidation checks, rather than persuasion checks.

Old school Comeliness ability, might work better as a trait, granting advantage to persuasion checks but disadvantage to intimidation checks, versus viewers in line of sight.

Oppositely, Hideousness might grant advantage to intimidation checks but disadvantage to persuation checks, versus viewers in line of sight.

The tradeoff seems moreorless a wash, and could be handled under the appearance and personality section, relating moreso to Background.
I think instead of a low charisma, which I don't believe Grendel has, he could have added a flaw like being hideous or terrifying. I would give Grendel an 18 Charisma based on his ability to intimidate the hell out of most folks. That's how it should be, and I think Mike should go back and edit Grendel! Really!
 
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TheFourthBox

Villager
Thank you for another great entry Mike. As usual a few questions / comments:

1) the resistance to non-magical weapons. While I think this makes sense in general, I wonder how this relates to his battle with Beowulf? I didn't pull up your Beowulf, but his he strong enough to take Grendel while doing half damage?
In Beowulf Grendel bewitches all armaments to not harm him. Because if this Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare hands. So the resistance to non magical weapons does make alot of sense in this context.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
In Beowulf Grendel bewitches all armaments to not harm him. Because if this Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare hands. So the resistance to non magical weapons does make alot of sense in this context.
If its only 5e resistance you have to also make it so Beowulf's bare hands mechanically are better than normal ... default normal is worse than the resistance so he would have no benefit by switching to unarmed.
 


Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Beowulf has 6 levels of monk. Problem solved.
They used a different trick they made this cool calculating character have berserking rage ... which I think does work out to make him better unarmed if unarmed is not resisted. (I think I like your idea better tbh)
 
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TheFourthBox

Villager
If its only 5e resistance you have to also make it so Beowulf's bare hands mechanically are better than normal ... default normal is worse than the resistance so he would have no benefit by switching to unarmed.
Yeah I can see that, though there are many ways around that (perhaps he had the insignia of claws?), but unless you plan on having beowulf himself actually fight in the fight, or your players fight them the exact same way Beowulf did, then it's also irrelevant. It's the best way to match the Grendel from myth to be a fun fight in 5e.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Yeah I can see that, though there are many ways around that (perhaps he had the insignia of claws?), but unless you plan on having beowulf himself actually fight in the fight, or your players fight them the exact same way Beowulf did, then it's also irrelevant. It's the best way to match the Grendel from myth to be a fun fight in 5e.
The story was sort of proverb showing how the man is more important than his tools (they did it with both armor and weapons too). To that end the idea of putting monk levels into Beowulf is not bad. The character of Beowulf was cool calculating and brutal doesn't sound much like a berserker more battlemaster/monk to me. As to relevance well a lot of the fun for me about these are scuttled if you're not evoking the story ie what they did.
 
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