D&D 5E Wandering Monsters 6/11/13: Riddle of the Sphinx


I think the key thing that the write-up missed was how sphinxes are guards of things people are meant to get access to.

So, instead of maybe making the object impossible to access if the riddle is failed, why not do it the opposite way - open up the way or make it easier.

Also, I don't see how they are going to be effective against a whole party. If sphinxes need to guard a specific item, portal, or whatever they need some ability to lock down the party which isn't really hinted at in this description. To that end, I would suggest one part "claws and eats victims" and one part stealthy, using terrain and flight to hit and run or distract them from their goal and wear them down.

Also, if they're going to use teleportation on the PCs, then why not use it as a tactic to get rid of them? Sort of a "Oh, crap this fight is going poorly, I'd better teleport them." Seems like the first instinct should be eat them, and if they start to lose that front then teleport them away - where they might come back but then the sphinx can build defenses, maybe even the extent of thinking up another riddle or making them prove themselves worthy of another try at the first.

And lastly (I have explicitly NOT looked at the original lore but) aren't sphinxes meant to guard the dead? I could see them as guarding things the gods want protected ON world as opposed to how angels might protect things off plane. I guess this probably relates back to what I said in the beginning, that what sphinxes guard is ostensibly meant to fall into the right hands, and to that end they guard places like tombs of dead wizards, or places of magical power, or other curios, which are meant to go to the deserving - but act as living guardians of the dead, dead places, and/or forgotten discoveries?

log in or register to remove this ad


First Post
I wonder if, instead of being placed by a god, sphinxes just spontaneously appeared where Hidden Things were placed. They'd be almost like Riddles Made Flesh, the physical embodiment of the world's barriers and obstacles: they exist to test the mettle of all beings, culling the "unworthy" and making the "worthy" stronger.

On that vein, I wonder if Lammasu and Shedu couldn't be rolled into it as alternate androsphinxes.

Li Shenron

For me this article possibly presented the best concept of a Sphinx so far. It fairly well tied with the real-world mythology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sphinx) which is what I would really want to see more often the case with D&D monsters.

I like having monsters with an "ecology" that is simply totally different from a regular species. A monster the existance of which has a purpose that's not just eat and breed... It's not important if they are created by gods, that can be left more open.

I also really like that they outcome of an encounter with a Sphinx is not binary, instead there are 3 possible outcomes: reach the trophy (whatever it is), survive, die. If you solve the riddle / pass the test, you reach the trophy. But I actually like that if you don't manage that, there is no other (short-term at least) way to get it, because killing the Sphinx doesn't help.
Last edited:


In the dawn of time, when gods walked the lands, sphinxes were spun from sand to guard important locations. But then the gods receded, many artifacts were lost to the sands of time, or were stolen by thieves, or were retrieved by those worthy, leaving many sphinxes without purpose and forgotten. Now some sphinxes still guard the original secret or object for which they were born, their power intact. Other sphinxes have waned over the centuries in power and purpose, and suffer an identity crisis. Some maintain their purpose by discovering new items or locations or secrets to guard (wizards and viziers seek out such sphinxes to bargain with). Others stay where they are, guard nothing, and go mad. Others forsake their guarding heritage, wander off and seek intelligent prey to ambush, eating victims that fail the sphinx's tests.

I could live with this. I liked the column, except for the no-breeding part. One of the best things I ever did in 3e was a half-sphinx template (actually, the best bit was the lamia/gynosphinx sample character, but anyways...).


"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
I wonder if, instead of being placed by a god, sphinxes just spontaneously appeared where Hidden Things were placed. They'd be almost like Riddles Made Flesh, the physical embodiment of the world's barriers and obstacles: they exist to test the mettle of all beings, culling the "unworthy" and making the "worthy" stronger.
Ooh, I like that a lot. But I like my fantasy to follow more fairy-tale logic.


Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Cross-posted from the Warlock thread:

I want to play a Warlock who gets his power through a pact with a Sphinx.

I am thinking he got his power as the "prize" for solving a riddle, and fears someone else will solve the riddle again some day, losing his power to the new winner. He doesn't know where the Sphinx was sent next, so travels the world looking for it (to either defend it, or capture it, or trap it somehow, so that nobody else can get to it again to solve the riddle). And when someone attempts to solve the riddle and fails, they are slain and the Sphinx appears in a new location. So I can see finding the sphinx again, only to lose it's location as someone else fails before he arrives.


This strikes me as one of the better rethinks we've seen in Wandering Monsters (and maybe the best). I think they recognize a real issue with sphinxes and came out with new creature story that hews closer to the mythological source material than the traditional D&D material does.

I think this kind of selective rethinking is worthwhile. A new story that's marginally (and debatable) better than the old story isn't enough. There has to be something wrong with the old story and the new story has to be significantly better. 4e had quite a number of rethinks that didn't live up to that test.

That being said, I do think they should provide at least a nod to the old story. Maybe something to the effect of "Some sages tell of sphinxes straying so far from their divine mission that they lose access to their divine secrets and become little more than monsters." Most DMs will do what they want and don't care if the monster manual says otherwise, but there is clearly a portion of the population who appreciates it if the monster manual provides approval to the way they run their game. At the very least, it would be helpful to provide a bridge to help a new DM adopt the new sphinx story while explaining why earlier sphinxes behaved more like monstrous road bumps.


Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads