Cryptids have fascinated not only me, but the world for thousands of years. The thought of creatures staying just outside of our sight through chance or intention is mystifying and intriguing. In the real world, myths of Bigfoot are not only a huge money maker, but something that real scientists have looked into. Now, the idea of mythical beings of frightening ability that stalk in the small hours of the night sounds like it would be right up a game master’s alley. Of course, cryptids have been around on the tips of people's tongues for as long as people have had the ability to communicate. Which spawned many myths and legends throughout history that are recognizable today, such as the kraken. Without further ado, here are some of the most interesting cryptids that would fit amazingly into a number of campaigns.
1) The Nunda
Described as “the size of a donkey,” the Nunda is a massive cat that is said to stalk Tanzania. It's said to be stronger than a lion, capable of killing a man with one fell swoop of its massive paws. According to statements made by witnesses of this terrifying beast, it's fur is often dark grey or black, and it is only seen at night. Unlike other big cats, the Nunda is supposedly rather aggressive, attacking not just individuals, but entire Tanzanian tribes by itself.
This particular cryptid would fit excellently into a forest or jungle themed adventure; being incredibly stealthy, and terrifyingly aggressive, the Nunda could be the rangers proverbial Moby Dick at the lower levels. In order to stat this badass, I would start with a lion (for reference, I’m using the 5e Monster Manual) and increase its strength to 19, its dexterity to 16, and its constitution to 16. I would also make its intelligence five and its wisdom 14, then increase its bite attack to 2d8+4 and its claw attack to 2d6+4. I would also give it proficiency with intimidation and some extra hit points. Fun fact: the Nunda has had fur samples attributed to it, and might be considered a real animal. Also, now that you’ve probably already decided it's pronounced “none-da,” I will inform you it's pronounced “Noon-duh.”
2) The Ahool
The Ahool is a giant bat with a monkey or gorilla face that supposedly hunts its prey in Indonesia. With a wingspan of 3.7 meters (or twelve feet) the Ahool is over twice the size of the world's known largest bat. They’re supposed to be omnivores and will stalk their prey like most bats do. There is no solid evidence of its existence (like most cryptids). But lets face it: looking at a massive bat with a chimp-like face that wants to do anything remotely close to attacking you is pretty damn terrifying.
Much like the Nunda, the Ahool would work well in a jungle or forest setting. I would assume that its type would be monstrosity as opposed to beast. Instead of having them be the major focus of a part of your adventure, I would just add them in as a part of the flora and fauna of the world. This would make a really cool companion or familiar for someone in the group and would add so much “spice” to the situation. When statting, I would start with a giant bat. Decrease its size to medium and make its hit point max 12. Keep most of the stats but change its intelligence and charisma to four. Increase the base speed to 20 to account for it's more monkey like legs and its fly speed should be about 50 mostly in part to the fact that it's pretty heavy because of its monkey-like attributes.
3) The Loch Ness Monster
Is it really a conversation about cryptids until someone brings up Nessie? For those of you who don’t already know about this legendary creature, the Loch Ness Monster is a huge aquatic animal living in Loch Ness of Scotland. It supposedly has a long snake like neck with a rather blob-ish body and four massive fins at it's side. No accurate description of its size has been given, but the general term “large” has been dubbed. However her shape is often disputed. Most consider her how I described her above, but there are others who claim that she is far more serpentine, like a massive snake without the fins that would propel itself through the power of violent spasms. (Haha very funny I know, but actually underwater snakes are super hilarious to watch.)
A common theory with Nessie is that she is actually a plesiosaurus, leftover from the Cretaceous Period. As such it seems reasonable to start with that stat block. For the most part, I wouldn’t change much, perhaps make its armour class 15, make its dex 16, the intelligence 5 and its size should be huge instead of large. I would also increase swim speed to 60. In case you haven’t figured it out from my use of the words “aquatic” and “loch,” Nessie is a cryptid best suited for an oceanic or aquatic themed adventure. If you want to add some mystery to the reveal of everyone's favourite sea monster, you could use the name of a different, however similar cryptid found in Canada: the Ogopogo. Arguably much more fun to say.
4) The Jersey Devil
In New Jersey, U.S.A, there is a myth about a bipedal creature with a goat's head, bat wings, hooves for feet, and a forked tail that kills local children. It was supposedly spawned from the unholy acts of a witch and the devil himself. This little guy is said to be incredibly fast and has a terrifying screech that chills the blood of even the bravest of souls.
The JD would work superbly in an urban or horror setting. Now, to give it stats, I would start with a harpy. Change its type to fiend, increase its base speed to 60 and its fly speed to 80. Its dexterity should be 20, intelligence eight and its charisma a resounding 3. Give it the stealth skill and the intimidate skill. Change the claws attack to do 1d6 and exchange the club attack for a kick that does 1d6 as well. Instead of luring song, give it a frightful presence ability that activates on a screech similar to an adult dragons. It might feel like overkill, but this is a baby stealing devil that needs to scare off parents long enough to steal babies. It's what makes it unique. Give it the infernal language instead of common.
5) The Snallygaster
Besides having the most “what the hell” name on this list (that you still pronounced more easily than Nunda), the Snallygaster is also probably one of the most terrifying. The Snallygaster is a dragon-like beast that is said to roam the hills around Maryland, specifically the Washington D.C. area. It sports a metallic beak that is lined with razor sharp teeth. Its skin is scaled with feathered wings and a singular eye in the middle of its head. In the tales, the Snallygaster feasts on the blood of its victims. However, in order to accumulate victims, it snatches them up with tentacles that it can retract from its mouth or chest (depending on the story).
Now, while this one may seem rather foreign, he’s not really much stranger than a humanoid tentacle monster that eats brains and reports to a hive mind, now is he? Our Snallygaster needs some stats though, so let's start with what he's compared to: a dragon. A young red dragon to be specific. First things first, let's drop that breath weapon and replace it with tentacles. The spell Evard's Black Tentacles is a good base for it. Obviously if the Snallygaster wants to use its bite attack, it must first retract the tentacles. As such, if a creature is still being grappled by the Snallygaster when it retracts its tentacles, the creature must make one final saving throw to attempt to escape, or be swallowed by the Snallygaster. While in there a creature takes 2d6 acid damage per round and if the Snallygaster takes more than 25 hit points of damage from a creature inside of it, it vomits it up. The Snallygaster can only swallow one creature at a time. I’d also remove the blindsight and the common language.
Truly there is a good reason that cryptids have held the attention of the world for so long. They’re a massive mystery and rather terrifying to the less curious of us. But in a world of gods and monsters, these will fit right in. Of course, with names like Snallygaster and Ahool, they may get bullied a little.
Jarod Lalonde is a young role-player and writer whose passion for both lead him here. He’s often sarcastic and has a +5 to insult. Dungeons and Dragons is his favorite platform. Although he’s not quite sure if it’s Cthulhu whispering to him in the small hours of the night, or just persistent flashbacks to the Far Realm.
Pic Reference: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3239479/scientists-to-test-water-of-loch-ness-for-dna-to-find-out-once-and-for-all-if-nessie-is-real/
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.