I was recently looking at the template in D&D 5e for half-dragons and then for shadow dragons and I realized that you could truncate and slightly modify the shadow dragon template and use it to make other creatures shadow creatures! The new template is as follows.
Any non-shadow creature can become a shadow. When a creature becomes a shadow, it retains all its statistics except as noted below.
Damage Vulnerability. The shadow has vulnerability to radiant damage.
Damage Resistances. The shadow has resistance to necrotic damage.
Skill Proficiency: Stealth. The shadow’s proficiency bonus is doubled for its Dexterity (Stealth) checks. (Expertise)
Living Shadow. While in dim light or darkness, the shadow has resistance to damage that isn’t force, psychic, or radiant.
Shadow Stealth. While in dim light or darkness, the shadow can take the Hide action as a bonus action.
Sunlight Sensitivity. While in sunlight, the shadow has disadvantage on attack rolls, as well as on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
So let’s look at a cultist with the shadow template applied as a Shadow Cultist. Cultists are in the SRD of D&D 5e and is part of the D&D 5e OGL. You can find the unmodified cultist here.
Medium humanoid (any race) , any non-good alignment
Armor Class 12 (Leather Armor)
Hit Points 9 (2d8)
Speed 30 ft.
Skills Deception +2, Religion +2, Stealth +4
Senses Passive Perception 10
Languages Any one language (usually Common)
Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)
Proficiency Bonus +2
Damage Vulnerability. The shadow cultist has vulnerability to radiant damage.
Damage Resistances. The shadow cultist has resistance to necrotic damage.
Skill Proficiency: Stealth. The shadow cultist’s proficiency bonus is doubled for its Dexterity (Stealth) checks. (Expertise)
Living Shadow. While in dim light or darkness, the shadow cultist has resistance to damage that isn’t force, psychic, or radiant.
Shadow Stealth. While in dim light or darkness, the shadow cultist can take the Hide action as a bonus action.
Sunlight Sensitivity. While in sunlight, the shadow cultist has disadvantage on attack rolls, as well as on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
Dark Devotion. The shadow cultist has advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened.
Scimitar. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) slashing damage.
Notice how the CR doesn’t change. The shadow cultist can’t deal more damage and only has more defenses in dim light or darkness as well as adding a damage vulnerability that is not dependent on light levels. Will I be using this template in the future? Yes! I also figured other people might want this template so here it is!
This is not how I made my Shadow Skeleton that I described in my last RPG Corner. I combined the stat blocks of different creatures and that caused the CR to increase. If I had used this template the Shadow Skeleton would have a CR of 1/4 (the basic skeleton CR) instead of a CR of 1.
Languages Understands all languages it knew in life but can’t speak
Challenge 1 (200XP) Proficiency Bonus +2
Shadow Stealth. While in dim light or darkness, the shadow skeleton can take the Hide action as a bonus action.
Sunlight Weakness. While in sunlight, the shadow skeleton has disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws.
Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.
Shortbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.
Strength Drain. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 9 (2d6 + 2) necrotic damage, and the target’s Strength score is reduced by 1d4. The target dies if this reduces its Strength to 0. Otherwise, the reduction lasts until the target finishes a short or long rest. If a non-evil humanoid dies from this attack, a new shadow rises from the corpse 1d4 hours later.
Dark Disposition. From the darkness, the shadow skeleton reaches out to feed on living creatures’ vitality. They can consume any living creature, but they are especially drawn to creatures untainted by evil. A creature that lives a life of goodness and piety consigns its basest impulses and strongest temptations to the darkness where the shadow skeletons hunger. As a shadow skeleton drains its victim’s strength and physical form, the victim’s shadow darkens and begins to move of its own volition. In death, the creature’s shadow breaks free, becoming a new undead shadow hungry for more life to consume. Then, if the body is not retrieved, the body’s skeleton is raised as a skeleton in five days and the shadow bonds with the skeleton making another shadow skeleton. If a creature from which a shadow has been created somehow returns to life, its undead shadow senses the return. The shadow might seek its “parent” to vex or slay. Whether the shadow pursues its living counterpart, the creature that birthed the shadow no longer casts one until the monster is destroyed.
Undead Nature. A shadow skeleton doesn’t require air, food, drink, or sleep.
Next, Vampire Bats!
Vampire Bat Medium undead , unaligned
Armor Class 15 Hit Points 27 (5d10) Speed walk 10 ft., fly 60 ft.
STR 15 (+2) DEX 16 (+3) CON 11 (+0) INT 8 (-1) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 6 (-2)
Echolocation. The bat can’t use its blindsight while deafened.
Keen Hearing. The bat has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing.
Multiattack. The vampire bat makes two attacks: one with its draining bite and one with its claws.
Draining Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 9 (2d6 + 2) necrotic damage. The vampire bat gains hp equal to half the damage dealt.
Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5ft., one creature. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) slashing damage.
The Mythical Baital!
Baital Medium undead , chaotic evil
Armor Class 13 Unarmored Hit Points 87 (6d8 + 60) Speed 30 ft., fly 60 ft.
STR 10 (+0) DEX 16 (+3) CON 10 (+0) INT 16 (+3) WIS 8 (-1) CHA 8 (-1)
Senses Blindsight 60 ft., Passive Perception 9 Languages Understands any languages it knew in life but can’t speak. Challenge 2 (450 XP) Proficiency Bonus +2
Echolocation. The biatal can’t use it’s blindsight while deafened.
Keen Hearing. The biatal has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) tests that rely on hearing.
Innate Spellcasting (Psionics). The baital’s spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 14). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no components: 3/day each: charm person, suggestion 1/day: dominate person
Charge. If the stag skeleton moves at least 10 feet straight toward a target and then hits it with a gore attack on the same turn, the target takes an extra 9 (2d8) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be pushed up to 10 feet away and knocked prone.
Multi Attack. The stag skeleton makes two attacks, once with its kick and once with its gore.
With a little inspiration from God of War, The Helwalker!
Helwalker Medium undead , neutral
Armor Class 13 (Scrap Armor) Hit Points 136 (16d8 + 64) Speed 30 ft.
STR 18 (+4) DEX 16 (+3) CON 18 (+4) INT 11 (+0) WIS 16 (+3) CHA 18 (+4)
Saving Throws STR +7, CON +7, WIS +6, CHA +7 Damage Vulnerabilities Fire Damage Resistances Necrotic, Psychic Damage Immunities Cold Condition Immunities Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Paralyzed, Stunned Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 13 Languages all languages it knew in life Challenge 5 (1,800 XP) Proficiency Bonus +3
Regeneration. The helwalker regains 10 hit points at the start of its turn. If the helwalker takes fire or radiant damage, this trait doesn’t function at the start of the helwalker’s next turn. The helwalker’s body is destroyed only if it starts its turn with 0 hit points and doesn’t regenerate.
Turn Immunity. The helwalker is immune to effects that turn undead.
Multiattack. The helwalker can make two attacks. These attacks can encompass up to one icy shortsword attack, up to two icy fist attacks, and/or up to one icy touch attack.
Icy Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) cold damage.
Icy Fist. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) cold damage. Instead of dealing damage, the helwalker can grapple the target (escape DC 14) provided the target is Large or smaller.
Icy Touch. The helwalker touches an enemy creature it can see within 5ft. of it. The target makes a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, the target is frozen (treat as paralyzed) until the helwalker deals damage to it, until the end of the helwalker’s next turn, or the target takes fire damage. While frozen the target has vulnerability to fire damage.
The Child of the lord of the tower, The Dhampir
Dhampir Medium humanoid , any alignment
Armor Class 14 Natural Armor Hit Points 100 (15d8 + 40) Speed 30 ft.
STR 16 (+3) DEX 16 (+3) CON 16 (+3) INT 15 (+2) WIS 13 (+1) CHA 16 (+3)
Saving Throws DEX +6, CHA +6 Skills Perception +4, Stealth +6 Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 14 Languages Any 3 languages Challenge 6 (2,300 XP) Proficiency Bonus +3
Regeneration. The dhampir regains 10 hit points at the start of its turn if it has a least 1 hit point and isn’t in direct sunlight. If the dhampir takes radiant damage this trait doesn’t function at the start of its next turn.
Sunlight Sensitivity. While in sunlight, the dhampir has disadvantage on attacks and Wisdom(perception) checks that rely on sight.
Multiattack. The dhampir makes two attacks; either two Longsword attacks, two Light Crossbow attacks, or a Bite and Longsword attack.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., 1 target. Hit: 7 (d6 + 3) piercing damage. When a dhampir makes a successful bite attack they regain 1d4 hit points.
Light Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 80/320 ft., 1 target. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 3) piercing damage.
Dhampirs are the children of a vampire and a mortal. They are usually the spawn of a male vampire and a female mortal. They are not undead, they are a race unto themselves.
Once dhampirs reach adulthood they stop aging, remaining at a youthful beauty (or handsomeness) for the rest of their unnaturally long lives. Dhampirs don’t die of natural causes.
Dhampirs can drink blood for sustenance, but if their mortal parent was present for their upbringing they tend to prefer food over blood.
Finally, the lord of the Tower. Vampire Elder!
Vampire Elder Medium undead , lawful evil
Armor Class 19 (Natural Armor) Hit Points 680 (40d8 + 500) Speed 30 ft.
STR 20 (+5) DEX 20 (+5) CON 20 (+5) INT 18 (+4) WIS 18 (+4) CHA 18 (+4)
Saving Throws DEX +14, WIS +13, CHA +13 Skills Perception +13, Stealth +14 Damage Immunities Necrotic; Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks Senses Darkvision 120 ft., Passive Perception 23 Languages all languages (it’s that old) Challenge 30 (155,000 XP) Proficiency Bonus +9
Shapechanger. If the vampire isn’t in sunlight or running water, it can use its action to polymorph into a Tiny bat or a Medium cloud of mist, or back into its true form. While in bat form, the vampire can’t speak, its walking speed is 5 feet, and it has a flying speed of 30 feet. Its statistics, other than its size and speed, are unchanged. Anything it is wearing transforms with it, but nothing it is carrying does. It reverts to its true form if it dies. While in mist form, the vampire can’t take any actions, speak, or manipulate objects. It is weightless, has a flying speed of 20 feet, can hover, and can enter a hostile creature’s space and stop there. In addition, if air can pass through a space, the mist can do so without squeezing, and it can’t pass through water. It has advantage on Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution saving throws, and it is immune to all nonmagical damage, except the damage it takes from sunlight.
Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If the vampire fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.
Misty Escape. When it drops to 0 hit points outside its resting place, the vampire transforms into a cloud of mist (as in the Shapechanger trait) instead of falling unconscious, provided that it isn’t in sunlight or running water. If it can’t transform, it is destroyed. While it has 0 hit points in mist form, it can’t revert to its vampire form, and it must reach its resting place within 2 hours or be destroyed. Once in its resting place, it reverts to its vampire form. It is then paralyzed until it regains at least 1 hit point. After spending 1 hour in its resting place with 0 hit points, it regains 1 hit point.
Regeneration. The vampire regains 20 hit points at the start of its turn if it has at least 1 hit point and isn’t in sunlight or running water. If the vampire takes radiant damage or damage from holy water, this trait doesn’t function at the start of the vampire’s next turn.
Spider Climb. The vampire can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.
Vampire Weaknesses. The vampire has the following flaws: Forbiddance. The vampire can’t enter a residence without an invitation from one of the occupants. Harmed by Running Water. The vampire takes 20 acid damage if it ends its turn in running water. Stake to the Heart. If a piercing weapon made of wood is driven into the vampire’s heart while the vampire is incapacitated in its resting place, the vampire is paralyzed until the stake is removed. Sunlight Hypersensitivity. The vampire takes 20 radiant damage when it starts its turn in sunlight. While in sunlight, it has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.
Spellcasting. The vampire is a 9th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 23, +14 to hit with spell attacks). The vampire has the following wizard spells prepared:
Cantrips (at will): chill touch, encode thoughts, fire bolt, ray of frost, shocking grasp
1st level (4 slots): burning hands, cause fear, grease, ray of sickness, hideous laughter
2nd level (3 slots): darkness, ray of enfeeblement
9th level (1 slot): power word kill, psychic scream
Multiattack (Vampire Form Only). The vampire makes two attacks, only one of which can be a bite attack.
Unarmed Strike (Vampire Form Only). Melee Weapon Attack: +14 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 9 (1d10 + 4) bludgeoning damage. Instead of dealing damage, the vampire can grapple the target (escape DC 23).
Bite (Bat or Vampire Form Only). Melee Weapon Attack: +14 to hit, reach 5 ft., one willing creature, or a creature that is grappled by the vampire, incapacitated, or restrained. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) piercing damage plus 12 (3d8) necrotic damage. The target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage taken, and the vampire regains hit points equal to twice that amount. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0. A humanoid slain in this way and then buried in the ground rises the following night as a vampire spawn under the vampire’s control.
Charm. The vampire targets one humanoid it can see within 30 feet of it. If the target can see the vampire, the target must succeed on a DC 23 Wisdom saving throw against this magic or be charmed by the vampire. The charmed target regards the vampire as a trusted friend to be heeded and protected. Although the target isn’t under the vampire’s control, it takes the vampire’s requests or actions in the most favorable way it can, and it is a willing target for the vampire’s bite attack. Each time the vampire or the vampire’s companions do anything harmful to the target, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success. Otherwise, the effect lasts 24 hours or until the vampire is destroyed, is on a different plane of existence than the target, or takes a bonus action to end the effect.
Children of the Night (1/Day). The vampire magically calls 2d6 swarms of bats or rats (swarm of bats, swarm of rats), provided that the sun isn’t up. While outdoors, the vampire can call 3d8 wolves (wolf) instead. The called creatures arrive in 2 rounds, acting as allies of the vampire and obeying its spoken commands. The beasts remain for 24 hours, until the vampire dies, or until the vampire dismisses them as a bonus action.
Legendary Actions The vampire can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The vampire regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.
Move. The vampire moves up to its speed without provoking opportunity attacks.
Unarmed Strike. The vampire makes one unarmed strike.
Bite (Costs 2 Actions). The vampire makes one bite attack.
Charm (Costs 2 Actions). The vampire uses its charm action.
And that’s it! I just need to design and fill the dungeon with creatures and traps and oh, would you look at the time, I have some other stuff to do…
Say your player’s characters keep dying? Do you make the encounters easier? Do you relocate the PC’s? Do you keep running them through the gauntlet until a set of characters rises to the top?
In the most recent (at the time of writing) episode of Nevre: Yeodiax (which is set in a future of the setting for Fractured Mountains) I had to decide whether to send the group back to the wilderness, where they keep dying, or keep them in the city, where they have a chance to level up some before heading back out?
My solution was to keep them in the city and send them on a short filler quest to deliver a chest that turned out to be [spoilers]. (If you wish to watch the episode it’s on my YouTube channel linked at the end of this post.)
My solution was to send them somewhere I knew they were more likely to survive. I also toned down the encounters a little, but forgot to take into account that we had an extra player for the session. Survival rates increase greatly with just one more character.
There are many places and times that just pulling the characters out of the fire isn’t an option that allows the players to keep their buy-in. I had the only survivor captured and dragged to the goblin caves near the city, but that’s not always an option.
If I didn’t have somewhere close by to send the characters I probably would have started to tone down the encounters a little. I had already started doing this at the beginning of the campaign. I removed the ability for kobolds to use pack tactics because I had instituted flanking. Getting the characters thinking about optimal placement to both activate flanking and avoid being flanked goes out the window when enemies don’t have to position for advantage.
An easy way to tone down encounters is to have the enemies use bad tactics. Instead of flanking at the start of the battle they just spread out and try to take on characters one to one. The players are then free to disengage and position for advantage if they wish. The only exception to this is that the caster should not be targeted and the monsters that would target them should go after the fighter/barbarian/monk/etc.
So, when it comes to combat, to make it easier for your players either get them to move somewhere that has less difficult encounters or use less optimal tactics against them. There’s also the chance that your players aren’t tactically minded and using less optimal tactics doesn’t change anything. In that case I recommend lowering the CR of future encounters, little by little until you reach a sweet spot. Finding the CR sweet spot is difficult and CR is more of a guideline than a ruler.
Likewise, you can increase the combat difficulty, if the characters are breezing through things that you want to slow them down, by doing the opposite. Start using better tactics. If that doesn’t work then slightly increase the CR.
But what about if they keep failing your skill-based challenges? This is maybe an easier question. There are recommended difficulties for skills in the 5e DMG. Do not scale these up based on level unless someone is proficient in that skill, and then only by one or two. It may seem like the characters are failing a lot, but remember that their ideas on how to handle the situation should give modifiers to the roll.
For example, there’s three doors in front of the characters. Two lead to traps and one leads forward. There is a riddle in front of them which, when solved, tells them which door is the correct one. If the group’s survivalist wants to make the check easier by finding which door has the most air flow coming from beneath it, let him roll and if he succeeds give them a +2 modifier for solving the riddle (or a hint if you don’t want them to roll to solve the riddle).
Happy April Fools! Have I got some great magic items for you! They never break! *bangs item against table* It broke…
These are all auto-attune cursed items built for D&D 5e. When you attempt to identify these items they become attuned to you!
First up on the list, Quarterstaff of Smells! When attuned to this quarterstaff you smell like cow manure no matter how hard you scrub. Once the attunement is broken the smell dissipates in 1d4 days. You feel compelled to never remove the quarterstaff from your person while attuned.
Now, Torch of Neverlight! When attuned to this torch you see bright light as dim light and dim light as…dim light. Both before and after attuning the torch cannot be lit by any means short of being on the plane of fire. You feel compelled to never remove the torch from your person while attuned.
Next, Mask of Forget When attuned to this mask you feel compelled to wear it, DC 15 Wisdom save to resist every dawn. When you don the mask you forget who you are, but you still retain your ability scores and proficiencies. DC 15 Wisdom save to remove the mask, also at dawn. You feel compelled to never remove the mask from your person while attuned.
Another! *breaks coffee mug on floor* Amulet of Never Drunk When attuned to this amulet you cannot get drunk, no matter how hard you try! You can still get alcohol poisoning, so watch out! You feel compelled to never remove the amulet from your person while attuned. (I recommend giving this to the party’s drunken dwarf.)
Finally, Deaf’s Embrace When attuned to this cloak you feel compelled to wear it and call yourself Deaf Himself. While wearing the cloak you are deafened. You feel compelled to never remove the cloak from your person while attuned.
I’ve made a few creatures to be used in the Under Dark for South Reaches. These are creatures that I created for The Fractured Mountains originally. The ones here are the Ankyloslime and the Strange Salamander. These have not been playtested so the listed CR may be incorrect. The links lead to their D&D Beyond page. Continue reading →
[RPG Corner is a monthly post where I talk about something related to Role-Playing Games.]
Teblats appear in a part of Rebuilding Brangmar, and they will probably show up again.
Teblats can take the form of any tiny creature. The creature itself isn’t the teblat, instead the teblat is a parasite that gives the animal protection but also causes the animal to be more aggressive and appear to have a blue aura. This aura grows stronger when they have more temporary hit points and is very dim when they have none.
[RPG Corner is a monthly post where I talk about something related to Role-Playing Games.]
I created a creature based off of a creature in the series Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card called a facemask. Here is a link to the Wikipedia page for the book series: link.I also released the Face-Mask as a homebrew creature on DnD Beyond, the creature’s name in at the start of the stat block is a link.
Face-Masks look and feel like a mass of wet, rotting refuse, but do not be fooled! If they touch a creature they turn that creature into either a living zombie or a freak of nature. Continue reading →
[RPG Corner is a monthly post where I talk about something related to Role-Playing Games.]
Quarterlings (aka Half-Dwarves) are a race that was created by my friend Michael for a D&D game that is going up on my YouTube channel Sword or Sorcery. He created this race in case someone wanted to play the race he and his mother created for a world they are working on together. With his permission I present you with the Quarterling stat block. Continue reading →