D&D 5E Epic Monsters: Hodag (5E)

This week’s Epic Monsters entry comes to us from the heartland of Dungeons & Dragons, hailing specifically from Rhinelander in Wisconsin—I could only be referring to the legendary Hodag!

Hodag BANNER 5e.jpg

An 1893 newspaper claimed this creature had the, “head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end,” and if the locals were to be believed it was, “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth.” This was all a hoax by what seems to be a fairly clever prankster by the name of Eugene Shepard who cleverly saw to it that dynamite was used to slay it. He got greedy though, ‘capturing’ another hodag in 1896 which he used to scare folks at the first Oineda County Fair (making it move via wires) until some scientists from the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. said they were coming to check it out—at which point the jig was up. Rhinelander County however has embraced the hodag! It is the local school mascot, there are numerous sculptures of it throughout the area, and they proudly claim they are the ‘Home of the Hodag’.

Bonus Tie-In! The hodag appears in a number of Paul Bunyan stories.

Design Notes: There’s precious little about the hodag’s abilities and defenses which makes it a bit of a blank slate. With a body like that though I immediately started thinking grappler! A little something extra for the adventurers that get wise to its wrestling tactics (tail spikes) and some motivation not to just pile onto it (musk spray) ought to do it. For my CR calculators out there: this fella came in at 4.5 by the DMG’s reckoning and 4.083333 according to the Blog of Holding’s rubric. Can’t wait to throw one of these at a group and watch the ensuring chaos as it latches onto a mage!

Medium monstrosity, unaligned
Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 75 (10d8+30)
Speed 30 ft., climb 20 ft., swim 20 ft.

STR-||--+ DEX-||--+ CON-||-+ INT-||+ WIS-||--+ CHA
17 (+3)-|- 16 (+3)-|- 16 (+3)-||- 3 (-4)-|- 14 (+2)-|- 13 (+1)

Skills Athletics +7, Perception +4, Stealth +7, Survival +4
Damage Resistances acid, psychic, thunder
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 14
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)

Keen Sight and Smell. The hodag has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight or smell.
Magic Resistance. The hodag has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Natural Grappler. The hodag has advantage on attack rolls against a creature it is grappling. The hodag can use its action to try to pin a creature it has grappled. To do so, it makes another grapple check. On a success, the creature is restrained until the grapple ends. In addition, the hodag is able to grapple and restrain creatures up to two sizes larger than it.
Tail Spike Regrowth. Although only three are visible at any time, the hodag has nine tail spikes. Used spikes regrow when the hodag finishes a long rest.

Multiattack. The hodag attacks once with its bite and four times with its claws, or it attacks three times with its tail spikes. If the hodag is grappling a creature, it can only attack once with its bite and twice with its claws.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8+3) piercing damage.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) slashing damage.
Tail Spikes. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 50/100 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8+3) piercing damage.

Musk Spray (Recharge 6). When the hodag takes 10 or more damage from an attack or spell, it can use its reaction to spray a foul musk in a 20-foot radius. Creatures in the area (except for the hodag) must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 minute. At the end of each of its turns, a poisoned creature makes a new saving throw to end the effect.
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler


Guide of Modos
Update: the Musk Spray bears an uncanny resemblance to Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy, another Wisconsin original, which masks its poisonous quality with the sickly sweet aroma and taste of girly beer.

I like this one; it’s got some nasty surprises and a little bit funky. I might change the forelegs to something resembling humanoid shoulders and arms, perhaps an opposable digit on the claws. That way can rear up and grapple. Might be a bit too gonzo tho. If I wanted to go full gonzo: The musk is Axe Bodyspray

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