Author’s Note: The updated version of the monster below can now be found at the Free Game Resources page of World Builder Blog. Thank you for all your feedback and please keep it coming!
“It’s supposed to be your enormous, gonzo monster, right? This makes sense.” – Mike Shea, on the D&D fifth edition Tarrasque, as it devoured Joe Lastowski‘s druid while ignoring all fire damage during The Tarrasque Takedown.
This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is hosted by the one and only Scot Newbury over at Of Dice and Dragons. The theme is “Things That Go Bump In The Night.” A great theme, especially for October! With that in mind allow me to (re)introduce you to the thing which bumps the hardest in Exploration Age…
Your party is lost in a frozen, polar wasteland. As you trudge through the thigh deep snow across a countrywide glacier it becomes impossible to tell which way is which in the whiteout. Your entire body has been stiff and numb for weeks as you search for evidence of rumored aberrant ruins.
Suddenly, off in the distance you make out a looming gray shape moving toward you in the frost. It’s probably just another lone yeti. Once the beast realizes it’s outnumbered, it will give you no trouble and disappear into the blinding snow. That’s when you hear it. The low, horrid moan of thousands of dry, crackling voices and animal bleats. All dead. All rotten.
Suddenly, after being numb for weeks, your body feels a chill it cannot shake. The thing lumbering in the distance is getting closer – and is far too large to be a yeti. The moans grow louder as the massive behemoth comes through the snow at a surprising pace. You and your companions begin to run, but the snow is too deep. Still the fear grips your calf muscles, forcing your legs to move though your brain knows it is futile. The dry moans increase and you know the thing is on you. As your own water freezes to your leg, you force yourself to draw a weapon, turning to face the horror behind you. It is a massive pile of corpses, humanoids, monsters, and animals alike, all in different stages of frozen death, all moving as one. It hungers for you to join it. The Lingering Havoc is real.
The Havoc Redux
Many months ago I first introduced the idea of The Lingering Havoc, and then in another post I presented some temporary in-game statistics for The Lingering Havoc in D&D Next. Well, now we have the DM Basic Rules and Monster Manual to give us a better idea of how to create monsters and I have to say that first iteration was way off. So I’ve remade the beast. In this post I’m going to discuss the steps I took to create a Challenge 30 monster for fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons.
When I set out, I knew two things – I wanted The Lingering Havoc to be horrific, and I want it to be a badass.
When I say horrific, I mean this thing should be a bone-chilling nightmare. When my players fight this thing they should feel that pit in their stomachs they first felt when playing a survival horror video game alone in the middle of the night, and the need to look away combined with the desire to keep watching felt the first time they watched a horror movie at a sleepover. I pride myself on being able to occasionally scare the crap out of my adult players and a Challenge 30 undead monstrosity should be when its easiest to do that. The Lingering Havoc’s story in previous blog posts brings a lot of mystery and horror to the table. I have to back that up in the mechanics.
I want The Lingering Havoc to be a challenge for even the toughest heroes. Swaths of destruction should lie in its wake and this creature should be the worst part of adventuring in the South Pole on Canus, which is a pretty unforgiving place to begin with. This thing is undead Godzilla. Strong, tough, and nigh invulnerable. That said, there needs to be some hope of PCs stopping the thing, or there’s no point in making him. I need to make sure The Lingering Havoc is powerful, but not over-powered. So this monster is going to take a lot cues from the Tarrasque. Why? First of all, it’s the only official Challenge 30 monster in fifth edition D&D right now. I could almost just do a reskin, since they’re very similar, but I’ve got visions of something more supernatural and undead mixed with the Tarrasque’s ass-kickery. I’ll break it down more below. Let’s get started.
For your reference
In general the original Lingering Havoc statistics I wrote up are NOTHING compared to the Tarrasque, though I would say only part of The Lingering Havoc’s shortcomings come from the ability scores. The old Lingering Havoc had very high ability scores all around, because I wasn’t sure how proficiency and saving throws worked yet. Now that I can make my big bad monster proficient in some saving throws where it’s lacking, I don’t need to make every single one ridiculously high. This allows me to min max The Lingering Havoc a little more and bring its ability scores more inline with its story. Strength and Constitution are definitely a 30. I’m also going to say The Lingering Havoc has an eerie supernatural presence about it, and so it’s Charisma is going to be high, representing how terrifying and innately fascinating the creature is. The creature has average Dexterity, Intelligence, and Wisdom.
Armor Class, Hit Points, Saving Throws, Senses, Skills, and Proficiency Bonus
As far as Armor Class goes, I think our friend the Tarrasque has a good number for The Lingering Havoc to use. The same goes for hit points – our friend The Lingering Havoc is tough as nails, just like the Tarrasque. As far as saves go, let’s have our undead creature be proficient in Wisdom and Intelligence saving throws, representing its ability to shield its mind, despite average ability scores. Since the thing is big and bulky, lack of proficiency in Dexterity saving throws is one way to bring it down. Again similar to the Tarrasque, let’s give our creature blindsight since we don’t want it to be foiled by a simple 2nd level invisibility spell and because while it has technically has eyes from all the corpses which make up its massive form, all those peepers are in various states of decay and The Lingering Havoc technically doesn’t see through them.
Unlike the Tarrasque, The Lingering Havoc has some skill proficiencies. Not much gets by this beast, so it is trained in perception, and it has incredible endurance and strength when it comes to feats of athletics so let’s give it proficiency in that skill for good measure (just try and grapple this thing).
There are three ways to figure out a creature’s proficiency bonus.
- Look at the creature’s melee attacks and subtract their Strength bonus (Dexterity for finesse attacks) from the overall attack bonus. The remaining number is the creature’s proficiency bonus. If the creature is using a magic weapon to attack, be sure to subtract the weapon’s magic bonus as well.
- If the creature is Challenge 1 – 20, simply look at any character class chart in the Basic D&D rules or the Player’s Handbook. Class level corresponds to a challenge rating when it comes to proficiency. If you like this method, know that creatures with a challenge rating of less than 1 always have a proficiency bonus of +2.
- Divide the creature’s challenge rating by 4. Add 1. If the result is a whole number that’s the creature’s proficiency. If it’s a decimal round up to the nearest whole number and that is the creature’s proficiency. The exception is Challenge 0 creatures, who always have a proficiency of +2.
Many legendary creatures have several damage and condition immunities. The Lingering Havoc is no exception. On the damage side, I gave it the usual nonmagical weapon damage immunities, threw in poison and necrotic on account of it being undead, and then added cold damage as well, since this monstrosity calls the South Pole of Canus home.
When it comes to condition immunities, I gave The Lingering Havoc the same immunities as The Tarrasque (as to not be immediately done in by a single spell) and threw in exhaustion immunity since it seems to be one many undead share. I thought about adding petrification and polymorph to the list, but I didn’t want to make this thing wholly immune to every attack. That would make The Lingering Havoc uninteresting. That’s not a tough battle, that’s me being a jerk. After all what is Legendary Resistance for if the creature never has to roll a save?
The Lingering Havoc has a lot of these, but I wanted to keep them easy to track. The creature has Legendary Resistance which seems to be standard with all legendary creatures. Then I gave it some beefed up defenses after looking at the Tarrasque.
While the Reflective Carapace of the Tarrasque is pretty cool, it’s also very Tarrasque flavor wise. I wanted an equally terrifying and magic nullifying ability for my beastie. I remembered the rakshasa had a cool ability called Limited Magic Immunity. I’ve beefed it up for The Lingering Havoc, making it immune to all spells of 7th level and lower. Yet, The Lingering Havoc already has so many other immunities, I gave it a chink in its armor. Spells which deal fire and/or radiant damage do affect it, even if they are 7th level or lower. Again, this was because I want a scary, but interesting fight as opposed to a total PC slaughterfest. If I wanted a party kill, I’d simply have anvils fall from the sky, crushing them to death, and not waste everyone’s time with an epic battle.
Since The Lingering Havoc is constantly drawing on the life energy of creatures and plants around it, I’ve given it two different healing abilities. The first is Regeneration and the second is Absorb the Dead, in which The Lingering Havoc adds a recently dead creature to its form in order to heal itself. I know the Tarrasque doesn’t have these features, and I’ve heard it bemoaned by many. So I added these in because I think they make The Lingering Havoc a little more challenging and puzzle-like to fight. (Should the cleric cast a big healing spell or hit The Lingering Havoc with radiant damage to turn off his regeneration?) The Absorb the Dead feature not only provides extra motivation for PCs to not die, but also for them to save any innocent bystanders.
Finally, when it comes to the Tarrasque, I have heard about people running encounters with the creature in an open field where the players have an easy time flying out of its reach and acid spalsh-ing it to death. While this is not the way many crafty DMs, like Mike Shea, would run a Tarrasque encounter, The Lingering Havoc roams the open wastes of the South Pole. Most of the time a battle with this creature will be out in the open. So I have given The Lingering Havoc two abilities to give it a leg up in big, open battles. The first is Ice Walk. The snow in the South Pole is deep enough that it’s difficult terrain for most creatures, but not The Lingering Havoc. Ice Walk plus its 40-foot speed give it a leg up on many in a wintry climate. Then to make matters even more difficult for anyone who wants to use a fly spell, The Lingering Havoc has a blizzard swirling around it at all times, making even the air difficult terrain thanks to its Cold Winds ability. Hopefully these abilities, combined with some ranged attacks, will make an open field fight with The Lingering Havoc something to be feared.
All right, onto the good stuff! Unlike the Tarrasque, The Lingering Havoc simply has one melee attack – a super powerful slam which it can use up to seven times in a round. In addition, The Lingering Havoc also has a simple ranged attack which deals piercing and cold damage. It also can slow the escape of any creature by reducing its speed with that same frozen bone shard attack. Once you start a fight with this bad mamma jamma, you better be able to finish it because you ain’t getting away.
Frightful Presence seemed like a must for this creature, and I figured, by looking at the ability held by dragons and the Tarrasque in the Monster Manual, the DC for this ability is calculated by adding 8 + Charisma modifier + proficiency bonus. That’s how I ended up with 22 (8 + 5 + 9).
Since the Tarrasque gets five attacks per turn and has the ability to massively damage another creature it has swallowed, and The Lingering Havoc has only four attacks on its turn and no swallow ability, I figure I’m a little behind in the damage department. Also, The Lingering Havoc is a terrifying undead monstrosity, so it should have at least one attack which deals some necrotic damage. I’ve always loved the monk’s Quivering Palm attack, so I combined it with the beholder’s Death Ray attack to create the vicious Ultimate Death Ray attack. I’m still questioning if this ability is too good, but I like the idea behind it and want to see it in play. It seems better than the Tarrasque’s Swallow, yes, but I think the fact that any fire or radiant spell can injure The Lingering Havoc is more than a fair trade.
I like a little variety in what legendary monsters can do to keep players on their toes. The Tarrasque is a beast, but that guy is also pretty predictable. I wanted to give The Lingering Havoc some options beyond death rays, bone shards, and slams. It seems to me that a gargantuan being made of corpses would be able to break pieces of itself off to fight individually. So if The Lingering Havoc gives up an entire turn’s worth of attacks, it can drop a bunch of wights into the field to distract adventurers and keep them busy. This seems to be a more than fair trade, since wights would be no more than a nuisance for a round or two to high-level adventurers.
In the spirit of offering variety, I gave our new pal a breath weapon. I chose poison, since another damage type would keep players on their toes, because any wight allies would be immune to it, and because it made sense that an enormous pile of corpses would breathe poison into the air. Looking at dragons I figured the DC for this breath weapon is calculated by adding 8 + Constitution modifier + proficiency (8 + 10 + 9 = 27). For damage, I tried looking at the green dragon’s breath weapon entry and scaling it up for a Challenge 30 monster, but I soon realized that a 31d6 or more poison damage followed by three Legendary Actions might wipe an entire party in a round or two, even with some successful saves. So instead I scaled the damage up just a little (it’s no worse than an ancient red dragon’s breath now) and then added a secondary effect. Fail to save against this poison and your character is… well, poisoned. Anyway, take a look at the beast below and let me know what you think.
Gargantuan undead, chaotic evil
Armor Class 25 (natural armor)
Hit Points 676 (33d20 + 330)
Speed 40 ft., burrow 40ft.
Saving Throws Int +9, Wisdom +9
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned
Skills Athletics +19, Perception +9
Senses blindsight 120 ft., passive perception 19
Languages The Lingering Havoc does not speak, but understands all which is spoken to it.
Challenge 30 (155,000 XP)
Absorb the Dead. Whenever the Lingering Havoc kills a creature within 120 feet, the dead creature’s remains join The Lingering Havoc’s form and The Lingering Havoc regains 50 hit points.
Cold Winds. A blizzard is constantly swirling around the The Lingering Havoc. All space in a 120-foot cube centered on The Lingering Havoc is considered difficult terrain.
Ice Walk. The Lingering Havoc can move across and climb icy surfaces without needing to make an ability check. Additionally, difficult terrain composed of ice or snow doesn’t cost it extra movement.
Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If The Lingering Havoc fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.
Limited Magic Immunity. The Lingering Havoc is immune to spells of 7th level or lower which do not deal fire or radiant damage, unless it wishes to be affected. It has advantage on saving throws against all other spells and magical effects, including spells which deal fire and radiant damage.
Regeneration. The Lingering Havoc regains 30 hit points at the start of its turn. If The Lingering Havoc takes radiant or fire damage, this trait doesn’t function at the start of The Lingering Havoc’s next turn. The Lingering Havoc dies only if it starts its turn with 0 hit points and doesn’t regenerate.
Multiattack. The Lingering Havoc can use its Frightful Presence or Death Ray and then makes four attacks, which can be any combination of slam and frozen bone shard attacks.
Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +19 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 32 (4d10 + 10) bludgeoning damage.
Frozen Bone Shard. Ranged Weapon Attack: +19 to hit, range 120/360 ft., one target. Hit: The target takes 20 (3d6 + 10) piercing damage, 9 (2d8) cold damage, and has its speed reduced by 10 feet until the start of The Lingering Havoc’s next turn.
Ultimate Death Ray. The Lingering Havoc chooses 1 creature to which it has a line of effect within 120 feet. That creature must make a DC 22 Dexterity saving throw. On a success, the target takes 55 (10d10) necrotic damage. On a failed save the target is reduced to 0 hit points.
Frightful Presence. Each creature of The Lingering Havoc’s choice within 120 feet of it and aware of it must succeed on a DC 22 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, with disadvantage if The Lingering Havoc is within line of sight, ending the effect of itself on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to The Lingering Havoc’s Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.
Corpse Drop (Recharge 5 – 6). The Lingering Havoc shakes its massive form and 3d4 medium humanoid corpses fall off The Lingering Havoc in a space adjacent to it and rise as Wights under The Lingering Havoc’s control.
Poison Breath (Recharge 5 – 6). The Lingering Havoc exhales poisonous gas in a 90-foot cone. Each creature in the area must make a DC 27 Constitution saving throw, taking 91 (26d6) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. A creature who fails this save is also poisoned for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
The Lingering Havoc 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 Lingering Havoc regains all spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.
Attack. The Lingering Havoc makes one slam or frozen bone shard attack.
Move. The Lingering Havoc moves up to half its speed.
Ultimate Death Ray (Costs 2 Actions). The Lingering Havoc uses its Ultimate Death Ray.
What Do You Think?
So does the beast above match the description given in the narrative? Does it seem like a tough, terrifying fight, even out on the open, frozen wastes? Do you want to playtest this thing? Sound off in the comments!
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