The monsters of Dungeons & Dragons are often the most important part of any adventure. From the ghosts of Death House, to the dragons of The Rise of Tiamat, monsters of all shapes and sizes can make or break the DND experience. Sometimes, monsters can be used to create a new experience by experimenting with the capabilities that a creature has in a game. The point is, you can do a lot with the monsters in the game to create unique narratives and interesting encounters that make the game worth it. But, what happens when a monster in the game can’t provide you with what you, as a Dungeon Master, need from the game?
Well, the answer, of course, is homebrew.
It’s no secret at this point that homebrewing things is my favorite thing to do for the game and that passion for creating new adventures doesn’t stop at the monsters that populate the world that I’ve created. For today’s article, I’m going to be walking through the process for creating a new monster for the game, something that I’ve actually already had the opportunity to employ in a session.
If you want to see the monster that I create for the article in action, I implemented it in the opening of a new DND podcast which you can go and listen to here.
I don’t know about you but I’ve always found the idea of a monster that functions as sort of a puppet master to be quite terrifying. And that, precisely, is where I started when conceptualizing this creature. I came up with the idea a few months ago when Wizards of the Coast and Adobe hosted a Monster Creation contest. I entered with this drawing that I made using some of the monster parts contestants were supposed to use as a base:
Many of the abilities and lore behind this thing started from this drawing. First, I wanted it to have the ability to control its victims like a puppet master. Then, I wanted it to have the ability to create terror and bend reality in the minds of its potential victims. I also rather enjoyed the prospect of creating a sense of terrifying finality of what this thing does to the person and how powerful it can be to unassuming creatures.
And that is where it began.
As a part of this process, I began by thinking about the kinds of creatures that have similar abilities or abilities that could be modified to work for what I intended. And then I thought about one of the newest monsters to come in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. Within the supplement book for the game, there are tons of new monsters, including one called the Oblex. The Elder Oblex was what I used specifically as part of the inspiration for some of the abilities it has. I also used the Mindflayer and the stat block for the Mage to round out the roster.
The Elder Oblex has the ability to create clones of their victims that are an extension of itself. It can take the memories and abilities the victim has and use that to its advantage. The Mindflayer has a variety of psionic abilities and, given enough modification, you could say that it has the ability to create illusions around itself in the minds of those unfortunate to cross its path. Those abilities are the groundwork for the power this monster will have.
To create the hit points for the monster, I took an average of the hit points of the Elder Oblex, Mindflayer, and Mage and I simply rolled the stats for the monster using the same “four-dice” method that people typically use for player characters. Within the context of the campaign that I was starting, this process actually worked really well to match up with some other parts of the opening adventure. I was able to work the creation of the monster into the lore of the campaign as well.
The next part of this process was to look at the abilities of the monsters to combine or rework them to work for the puppet master theme that I was going for. The first of these abilities is one called “Puppet Strings,” which coincides with an action it has called “Control Corpse.” The “Puppet Strings” ability is derived from the “Sulfurous Impersonation,” ability of the Elder Oblex. Another of these abilities is one called “Reality Warp” which is derived from the psionic abilities the Mindflayers possess. The Mage was thrown in for a little bit of flavor and it later became something integral to the lore around this monster for the campaign that it was created for. The Reality Warp ability has more of a narrative purpose than a mechanical one but could impose disadvantage on ability scores if a Dungeon Master so chooses. The Multiattack and Claw Attacks are standard affair for stronger DND monsters, as it is for the two monsters that make up different portions of this newer being.
Here the Stat Block that I created for this monster:
You can find the template that I used for this at the following link from DM’s Guild:
Now, I didn’t want to reveal a whole lot about this creature and the lore that it fit into because there are a number of things that I have yet to reveal within the campaign. If you want to create monsters such as this, it is always a good idea to have a specific idea of what you want to create, what concepts you want to explore, and what narrative you want to craft. However, if you do plan on creating monsters, I would suggest considering the thematic implications of the abilities/attacks that you put on the monster. I only say this because there are many people who create a new monster/creature by simply reskinning pre-existing things. When you’re reskinning something, make sure to consider the realisticness of what these creatures can do and how those things match up with the kind of creature you’re creating/narrative you’re crafting.