D&D 5E Epic Monsters: Mari Lwyd

Well here we come, innocent friends, to ask leave, to ask leave, to ask leave to sing—Epic Monsters has a haunting holiday tradition for you with Mari Lwyd!

Mari Lwyd DnD 5E banner.jpg

In South Wales there has been a tradition for at least the last two centuries where around Christmas or New Years (depending on the village) a group of four to seven men go about town at dusk. At each dwelling they knock on the door, present a hooded, ribboned, and sheeted horse-skull-on-a-pole monstrosity, sing a request for entry (sometimes with musical accompaniment), are sung a denial, and the songs continue in a pwnco (musical battle!) until they’re let in for food and drink. Sometimes making Mari Lwyd is a community event, and sometimes it is accompanied by a set of stock characters (Punch, Judy, Merryman, Leader) that go about doing haunting-esque things like brushing the front of a house down, putting out the embers in fireplaces, and the like. Once inside Mari Lwyd goes about spreading chaos, frightening kids and anyone else it can find as the Leader restrains it. There’s a lot of conjecture about Mari Lwyd’s name and origins, but it seems like a pre-Christian tradition related to other hooded animal traditions that appear throughout Britain and Europe that refer to various kinds of mares, later on saddled by scholars with associations to the Virgin Mary after Christianity spread across England.

Design Notes: This seems like probably the most kickass holiday tradition ever, but a couple dudes rolling about singing with a horse skull made into a puppet isn’t exactly 100% solid monster material so its statistics are going to go a little bit off the book. Mari Lwyd is getting the basic ghost goodies but has no need for the ethereal bits so those are left behind on the wayside, and then it’s getting some poltergeist-y traits and attacks for the sowing chaos aspect. It of course needs something for the singing stuff, and Melodic Forbiddance ought to do the trick. Let’s do the numbers! The DMG cruised in at 5.25, the Blog of Holding in strong agreement at 5.3, so a final CR of 5.

Mari Lwyd

Large undead, lawful neutral
Armor Class 14
Hit Points 91 (14d10+14)
Speed 0 ft., fly 50 ft. (hover)
8 (–1)​
18 (+4)​
13 (+1)​
9 (–1)​
16 (+3)​
11 (+0)​
Saving Throws Int +2, Cha +3; Proficiency +3
Skills Perception +6, Performance +6
Damage Resistances acid, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 16
Languages Common
Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)

Incorporeal Movement. Mari Lwyd can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object.

Innate Spellcasting. Mari Lwyd’s innate spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 14). Mari Lwyd can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
At will: invisibility, telekinesis, vicious mockery

Melodic Forbiddance. Mari Lwyd cannot enter an occupied dwelling until it has asked for and been given permission by the inhabitants. When doing so, Mari Lwyd knocks on the front door and uses an action to ask for permission to enter through song, making a single Charisma (Performance) check opposed by an Intelligence (Performance) or Charisma (Performance) check made by each inhabitant. On a failure, Mari Lwyd repeats this action on its next turn with a cumulative +2 bonus. After a third failure, Mari Lwyd gives up and moves on to the nearest dwelling. On a success, Mari Lwyd barges into the dwelling and uses its Wreak Havoc attack. If Mari Lwyd takes damage while using this trait, the trait's effects immediately end and Mari Lwyd can enter the dwelling on its next turn.

Unnatural Talent. Mari Lwyd has advantage on Charisma (Performance) checks.

Multiattack. Mari Lwyd attacks twice and casts a spell, or it uses Frightful Presence and Wreak Havoc.

Bite From Beyond. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8+4) force damage.

Frightful Presence. Each creature of Mari Lwyd's choice that is within 45 feet of Mari Lwyd and aware of it must succeed on a DC 14 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 Mari Lwyd's Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.

Wreak Havoc (Recharge 5–6). Mari Lwyd telekinetically pulls and pushes upon everything within 30 feet. Unattended objects in the area become hazardous projectiles that deal an 3 (1d6) bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage (determined by the object) to other creatures in the area. Each creature in the area (other than Mari Lwyd) must make a DC 14 Strength saving throw or be thrown 20 feet in a randomly determined direction, taking 7 (2d6) bludgeoning damage upon landing.

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

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