Dungeons and Dragons is littered with dungeons containing enemy encounters. Some of these dungeons may contain the titular dragons; however,most parties start at lower levels and end up facing the same type of enemy over and over again. Orcs, goblins, skeletons, and zombies make the flavour for the majority of new adventurers. Ultimately this flavour is becoming a bit, dare we say, vanilla. It’s monster month at High Level Games so here are three enemy ideas to spice up a campaign. These enemies are all structured as a leader of their respective encounter. A good leader is nothing without their number two, so each enemy also has their second in command to optionally add to each encounter as well.
1) The Mushroom Men in the Bog
An interesting idea to throw at players is that they sometimes may be hired to eliminate monsters that aren’t necessarily evil. The mushroom men in the bog could be an encounter to exercise it. The citizens fear these fungal headed monstrosities that live in the swamp outside of the city, and who better to rid this problem than a group of intrepid adventurers? The party can muck their way through the swamp and confront their quarry only to find that, although the creatures look fearsome and strange, they are actually quite peaceful humanoid creatures.
The inspiration for this encounter are the myconids, a humanoid group of fungi that live in the Underdark. They deplore violence and will gladly treat peacefully with individuals in kind. When the players discover that their enemy is this peaceful and diplomatic it goes against the tropes that they come to expect. An unexpected situation leads to spontaneous roleplaying decisions, which often lead to memorable moments to be talked about.
This particular group of mushroom men are lead by a myconid sovereign, a lawful neutral creature with a challenge rating of two. Myconids gather in circles which are usually twenty or more of their kind. A sovereign is able to bring any large or smaller creature back to life and animate them as a fungal creature called a Spore Servant. A fitting second in command could be a shaman that leads this spore-servant army. The sovereign will be interested in treating with the players, while the shaman may be a bit more interested in feeding the players to her fungal crocodile army. The retinue of mushroom-y crocodiles could also provide engaging enemy encounters for players as they make their way to the myconid civilization.
2) The Ghost On The Spooky House on the Hill
When a party first arrives in a town they inevitably check out the tavern for drink, fun, and quests. It’s very easy for a dungeon master to put an abandoned, secluded house in the town and build an encounter out of it. The townsfolk all steer clear of the ominous house that overlooks the moors, but the adventuring group is drawn to the story of the person in white that haunts the house. An innkeeper can share the building’s folklore with the party and the premise of the encounter builds itself.
The ghost inside the small house is a banshee, a woeful spirit formed out of spite, forever bound to the place of their demise. A banshee has a challenge rating of four, making it a medium difficulty encounter for four level four heroes. Their ability to detect life and move through walls can provide an interesting combat beyond standing still and exchanging blows. The Horrifying Visage and Wail abilities also add some horror to a fight with banshees.
A dungeon master could keep this classic ghost story structure as an encounter of its own, but there’s an opportunity to surprise players in a way they’d never expect. The second in command isn’t really a second in command at all. What if, instead of one ghost, there were two within the house, and they weren’t hostile towards the players but rather were hostile towards one another? Unbeknownst to the players, they venture into the house right as the haunted couple is in the midst of a lovers’ quarrel. They’re throwing objects at one another and screaming all their frustrations out for the entire world to hear. Unfortunately a banshee’s scream isn’t something humanoids enjoy hearing. The players will now have a choice to intervene in the form of combat or as marriage counsellors.
3) The Mighty Morphin’ Giant Rangers
Let’s preface this suggestion by saying an idea like this won’t resonate in a serious campaign. For a session doesn’t take itself too seriously, the Mighty Morphin’ Giant Rangers are a perfect fit. In Dungeons and Dragons there are six types of giants: hill, fire, stone, frost, cloud, and storm. If we stick to the book, giants of different races don’t coexist in similar habitats; putting them together is both unbelievable and silly. However, that shouldn’t stop the potential fun that this idea could provide an adventuring party.
Due to its ridiculous nature, an idea such as this needs a ridiculous setup. Outside of a large city, a sacred temple sits atop a small mountain. Recently this temple has been taken over by a rebellious group of giants who have decided to use this temple as their base of operations. Many heroes have tried to take back the temple and failed, but now it falls onto the shoulders of this party. Will they be able to defeat this unlikely collection of giants?
The challenge rating of these giants vary and some of them are quite high. The lowest is the hill giant with a challenge rating of five. The highest is the storm giant with a daunting challenge rating of thirteen. A higher leveled party is recommended for this kind of encounter. Furthermore due to the silly feeling players should be rewarded for more out of the box thinking. Players should be able to deal with these giants diplomatically if handled correctly, and each giant should have their own unique personality (and maybe for good measure: a unique costume).
The storm giant seems as if they would be the best final encounter for this campaign. The cloud and fire giants are both good candidates for the second in command, but the mood to this encounter has ample room for a rigid power structure to be thrown out the window. Players could meet the enemy’s camp with even more camp. Another line to follow is the players can find enough pieces to build their own ‘giant’ and battle these beasts on an even height. This encounter might have enough humorous hooks be its own adventure with some more planning.
There are many unique monsters hiding in the 5e Monster Manual. Randomly flipping the book open to select something and make it fit in the situation can add memorability to a campaign more than a skeleton or brutish, green-skinned humanoid could ever provide. Messing with the stats and lore for a monster can also provide a few fun twists that a group isn’t expecting. When planning an adventure a dungeon master can add their own flavour to a world, and they can be creative with the monsters they put into their story. Just because Orcs running a city’s bank in D&D seems ridiculous it doesn’t mean a dungeon master can’t make it work. Experimentation breeds creativity, the most fundamental resource in Dungeons and Dragons; a resource we all have a ravenous hunger for.
Justin Cauti is a writer and Twitch streamer. He plays board/roleplaying games on the internet at http://www.playingboardgames.tv. Follow him on Twitter for updates on his boring life and writing projects @LeftSideJustin.
Image Source: Forgotten Realms Wiki Myconid
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.