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20 August 2018

All About Monstrous Player Characters


It’s Saturday night. The players of my Yatar group have gathered around the table, prepared to face the wilds of Zaza Isle: Poisonous plants, cruel creatures, and an insane grung tribe. However, there’s a new face at the table, my friend, Anthony, and he won’t be portraying a normal player character. We’ve planned something special. As everyone settles (for the second time), I recap last session’s events, reminding them of their unpleasant airship crash, dead crewmates, and grung enemies. The party ended the last session in their makeshift camp, constructed between enormous, steady trees and smoldering airship wreckage. As we begin, their characters converse about the next course of action: They need to assault the grung village and recover what remains of their crew. The plan starts to take shape, but then, from the thicket surrounding them, they are attacked by grung! Venomous, wooden arrows fly, red-skinned spear wielding tree-frogfolk charge in, and a burly grung riding a bulbous, giant frog leaps into the fray. Following them all is another red-skinned grung who commands this force. It’s Dung-Ziki, as portrayed by Anthony. The combat dies down after the party is surprisingly overpowered and taken captive by the grung. En route to their village, the party escapes thanks to the dramatic spawning of a red slaad. Dung-Ziki returns to the village and its ruler, Chiefess Vung, who scolds him (an act done in front of the players, not their characters) and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t return with all the party intact. Dung-Ziki solemnly leaves, bowing a final time before the chiefess’ throne of skulls and bones, but he doesn’t plan on returning. Not on Vung’s side, anyway. It’s time to introduce this new player character, a monster of the jungle, to the rest of the party. It’s going to be difficult, but it’s going to be awesome.
________________

I’m a stout believer that any intelligent creature in Dungeons and Dragons can be turned into a player character race. Goblins and giants, dragons and derro, beholders and birdfolk, and many more. However, you need to have the right dungeon master, player, and campaign.

In this week’s edition of Legendary Lessons/Musing Over Monsters, I’ll be discussing monstrous player characters in D&D; specifically, what they are, when to use them, and how to implement them. In addition, I’ll espouse ideas about a few monsters that could make compelling player characters.

Let’s roll.

What are Monstrous PCs?


Wizards of the Coast has introduced a wide variety of playable races into fifth edition D&D. Players can choose from classic fantasy races like humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings, to unique and scarce races such as triton, yuan-ti, and genasi. Compelling characters, interesting plots, and epic stories can be found in each playable race, but sometimes players - and DMs - can be left wanting something unordinary to play with. This is when monstrous player characters charge into the playing field.

Monstrous player characters are any race that is not defined as playable per Wizards of the Coast but does exist in the Dungeons and Dragons multiverse. This category includes azer, beholders, devils, fairies, giants, and more. Pick up the Monster Manual, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, or Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and flip to the monster section; almost anything found within is, by definition, a monstrous PC. It is worthy to note that with the latter two books, Wizards of the Coast gave stats to a few notable typically monstrous races, including goblins, kobolds, orcs, and yuan-ti. They are, however, still considered monstrous PCs.

Simply thinking about this concept may have your mind spinning. When my players approach me with an idea as irregular as this, my first thought is, “No, no, no. Why in the world would a grung survive in society? Think of all the troubles it would have in cities! How would it communicate with the common folk? Who would trust a grung?!?” 

But alas, I calm myself, look the player in the eyes, and pledge that I’ll make it work - under a few conditions.

When to Use Monstrous PCs


We’ve already established that your player wishes to play a monstrous PC in your campaign. Being a DM and understanding that the world your group parades and fights across is living, breathing, and has societies and cultures of its own that either despise or kill most creatures on sight, monstrous PCs might be a hassle. You know this. Your player might not. Thus, before they embark on this arduous journey, they need to comprehend the consequences that might be in store while playing a monstrous PC.

  1. Monstrous PCs may cause other players and their characters discomfort. Before creating your creature posing as a PC, you should both ask for your group’s permission, especially if the creature is wacky. I’m dreaming up something like a tiny beholder, a crippled dragon, or an awakened dire bear. Don’t just parade into session zero with a flamboyant monster; ensure it’s okay with the players of the campaign first.
  2. There will be roleplaying consequences for playing a monster. Especially in the beginning of a campaign, a monstrous PC might not be welcome in town - or even killed on sight. What militia would allow an ogre to jolly through their village? Would a lord surrender to the whims of a ‘friendly’ gnoll? The answers are none and no. This phenomenon should gradually disappear as the character becomes renowned across the land, assuming they’re doing good and not evil.
  3. The stats of a monstrous PC will not be superior to those of an already playable race; they will be on par with them. Unless you want to anger your entire group or everyone is playing a statistically powerful monstrous PC, do not bolster the stats of this special type of character. In addition, don’t give it any insane abilities. These disabilities can be worked in via roleplaying to give the PC more flavor. For example, the tiny beholder’s eye stalks were severely charred not too long ago, causing their powers to fade. Perhaps the dragon’s wings are badly torn and their flying speed is 5’ (hilarious to imagine, I know).
If the player understands these terms and the group is on board, it’s time to create the monstrous player character.

How to Implement Monstrous PCs


‘Tis time to get creative, folks. To create a monstrous player character, you need to think unusually but also within the realm of reason. First, it’s important to not give the race too many or too powerful special abilities. One or two interesting actions or skills should do; think about dwarves’ innate resistance to poison, elves’ proficiency with a longsword, or dragonborns’ breath weapon. All of these are great examples of how powerful monstrous special abilities should be. Second, don’t cut and paste another race, change its appearance, and call it a monstrous player race. Give it unique benefits, a little blurb of lore even, and provide information about it in your world.


Let’s demonstrate this process in action.

I’m not going to use the grung druid example I’ve referenced multiple times throughout the article; instead, I’m going to build a character I want to play, but will probably end up being an NPC in one of my campaigns.

Xoriat, The Frenetic Frenzy


My favorite monster is the beholder, and I’d love to play one, especially in a strange role. Before we get to that, let’s design the ‘beholder’ race.

Let’s start with a bit of lore. This lore should communicate to the players what the creature is and what part it plays in your world. “Beholders are fleshy, spherical creatures with a massive central eye and a patch of eyestalks sprouting from their body. They range from tiny spheres to large hunks and hover above the ground using natural telekinetic powers. Most beholders are vain, feared by society, and live in the depths of the Underdark. However, some have been known to rise to the surface to control criminal organizations, interfere in everyday life, and become familiars of powerful spellcasters."

Using this as a baseline, players should be able to come up with an interesting reason for their beholder to even want to become an adventurer. Perhaps his master was killed, but he has her spellbook? What if all of his eyestalks are missing and he's come to the surface to bargain for peace and a way to get them back? Maybe she's tired of being bullied by a nearby beholder hive and seeks to forge an alliance with adventurers to destroy them. It'll take a bit of thought but that's what comes along with wanting to play as a monster.

With their general lore finished, we move on to their traits. These are aspects like stats, age, weight, and special abilities. For beholders, usually powerful monsters, we need to tone down their innate characteristics without removing them entirely. To move, they need to float, but they shouldn’t be able to fly. Thus, climbing cliffs and such will be difficult for them. Their eye rays should do something, but not too much. Let’s take a look.

Beholder Traits


Beholders have a variety of innate abilities.

Ability Score Increase: Your Intelligence increases by 2.
Age: Beholders mature quickly and live to be incredibly old. Most beholders die around the age of 120.
Alignment: As most beholders care only about themselves, their race tends to be more chaotic than not. They also have no qualms about hurting other creatures for their own benefit, either by killing or enslaving them. Thus, the majority of beholders are Chaotic Evil or Chaotic Neutral, though exceptions do exist.


Size: The diameter of a beholder ranges wildly between 2 feet to 30 feet. Most of this has to do with the beholder's age, diet, and environment. Most playable beholders will be around 2 feet to 4 feet in diameter.
Speed: Beholders will their body to move rather than walking or flying. Your walking movement speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision: Accustomed to a life in the deepest reaches of the world, beholders have the ability to see in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Levitation: Beholders float above the ground using magic created inside their spherical shape. While walking, standing, or running, you float 5 feet above the ground.
Bite: Beholders possess a maw full of sharp teeth. You can use your action to make a melee attack with them using your Strength modifier. They deal 1d6 + STR modifier Piercing damage.
Eyestalks: Typical beholders have 10 eyestalks capable of powerful abilities. However, as a PC, you only have a single capable eyestalk. You may choose or roll on the following list of abilities to grant this eyestalk:
  1. Telekinetic: Using this eyestalk, you can wield a single melee weapon as any other humanoid character would. Instead of using your Strength modifier to hit and deal damage, you use your Intelligence modifier.
  2. Energy Blast: As an action, this eyestalk can shoot a beam of energy that deals 1d12 + your INT modifier in Force damage.
  3. Charm: As an action, you can cast charm person with a DC equal to 8 + your INT modifier + your Proficiency bonus.
  4. Blind: As an action, this eyestalk can shoot a thin, black ray that causes a single target to go blind with a DC equal to 8 + your INT modifier + your Proficiency bonus.
Languages: All beholders innately know Common and most speak Undercommon due to their life amongst Underdark entities. You know both.
Common Names: Bakavlack, Dortex, Halas, Nevrek, Xoriat, Zus.

And there it is: A beholder playable race! It’s unique, maintains its monster abilities, and isn’t too powerful. As a disclaimer, I have not playtested this yet (I might soon), so perhaps there are a few builds that can be completely broken using it. However, you wouldn’t be playing this in Adventurer’s League, but a home game, so it’s not too bad.

Back to Xoriat. He’s going to use this race and choose the telekinetic eyestalk variant. His class? Barbarian. Xoriat is going to wield an immense, stone maul using his eyestalk when he soars into battle, prepared to crush any who insult his antimagicless central eye or missing nine eyestalks. I’ll spare you the details of Xoriat’s background; how he was thought into existence by a dying beholder who was being assaulted by a legion of duergar; how Xoriat went into a frenzy just to survive, thrashing duergar with his teeth, losing nine eyestalks and his ‘parent’ during the combat; how he became a...barbarian. That’s for another day. Perhaps when I play him in an actual D&D campaign…

But there! We have it: A fully fleshed out monstrous player character. I hope you enjoyed the creation process and I hope it inspired you. Was it not enough? Well, that’s okay...

Crazy Monstrous PCs


Not inspired yet? Prepare to feel inspired. Here’s a list of monstrous PCs I’d greatly enjoy to play or DM for. Feel free to leave your own ideas in the comments.

  1. Kiboko Darkstone, a stone giant warlock cast out from his society for making a pact with an elder fey. He’s roamed the rocky landscapes for years, searching for those who will accept him and his fairy patron. Can he find friendship in material beings?
  2. Tinglewing, a faerie dragon sorcerer descended from the line of Tiamat. She struggles with the urge do forgo her goodly nature and give into to Tiamat’s desires. How can she break her bloodline’s evil curse?
  3. Kramerj, an ogre bard who’s learned how to play war drums - and use their sticks - to perfection during battle. His tribe was slaughtered in a battle with fire giants, and he was taken as their plaything, a jester in the court of fire giant loyalty. Luckily, a group of adventurers saw his gentle and musical nature and freed him from the giants. Can he survive in a world without his kin, in a world full of hatred for his appearance?
  4. Silent Fang, a gnoll monk devoid of Yeenoghu’s constant call. She was born in a roaming horde of gnolls, one that she quickly left after witnessing multiple mass killings of innocents. Deaf to the Gnoll Father’s screams, she couldn’t partake in the feasting of innocents and pointless slaughtering of countless others. Can she step out from her understanding monastery and find a life amongst others?
  5. Coralius Neficus, a barbed devil fighter forced to live on the Material Plane for a thousand years by his superiors. He must learn to survive alone in the wilds, or work with the creatures of the world, lest he dies and becomes mere dust in the wind. Can he live out his sentence?
  6. Kuunavus, a gold dragon wyrmling druid destined to preserve the Circle of the Moon by her ancestors. Her parents and clutch were killed in an attack by the Dragonblood Cult; somehow, she hid from their attack underneath a leafy tome about the Old World. Once they were finished, she emerged from her family’s lair, tome beside her, and entered the world. With druidic knowledge, can she avenge her family’s death at the claws of the Dragonblood Cult?
  7. Russ Ell, a vegepygmy rogue who stole his tribe's cure to russet mold disease and decided to assist those afflicted with the foul sickness. Though he cannot speak, his demeanor seems kind. Folks are mystified by this moldfolk's desire to help them; is there a deeper reason for his sudden kindness - or madness?
  8. Magaricus, a myconid wizard who's mastered the mixing of weird and exotic fungi to amplify his spells. She rarely leaves the study of her mentor, a powerful archmage, but has an aching to interact with the outside world and share her strange plant-arcane-magic mix. Will she ever see the light of day, or will her mentor keep her locked in his tower forever?
  9. Goooothanis, an imprisoned aboleth mystic able to control a humanoid indefinitely. He is actually controlling a dwarf fighter, slowly leading the party to his cage deep in the Underdark. Can he keep up the facade long enough for the party to free him, and will they be benign to this aboleth who only wishes to be free of chains once them find him?
  10. Chi-cothi, a githyanki storm zealot barbarian who utilizes the psychic storms of the Astral Plane to disorient and destroy his enemies. She's on a mission to recover a lost gith blade somewhere on the Material Plane - before a group of gith she sees as foes. Will she find allies in her quest, or be forced to face her people alone?

In Summary


Monstrous player characters have the possibility to be dramatic and interesting. From beholder barbarians to giant warlocks, the range of compelling player characters is limitless. Remember:
  1. Monstrous player characters are PCs that don’t use the races standard to PCs, such as humans, halflings, tieflings, dragonborn, and goliaths.
  2. Only use monstrous player characters when you know your player(s) will be able to handle and enjoy what can be an arduous task.
  3. Creating monstrous races isn’t too difficult; try not to give the race too many special or unique abilities, but don’t carbon copy another race and rehash it as a monstrous race.
And, if you're not feeling up to creating playable monster races yourself, you can check out this fantastic supplement on the DMs Guild that provides statistics for all of the creatures in the D&D 5E Monster Manual: Monstrous Races.

Expect the next article to be about monsters again, as we’re continuing the rotation and heading back to Musing Over Monsters. Although this was a blend of Legendary Lessons and Musing Over Monsters. Nonetheless, which monster(s), though? Well, they come in many colorful varieties and some are more prominent than others. 

Let’s delve into the less famous hues, shall we?

Until next time, farewell!

Eager for more RJD20? Begin here, subscribe to the RJD20 newsletter, and explore RJD20 videos on YouTube.

Check out Villain Backgrounds Volume I, a supplement that crafts compelling villains.

Please send inquiries to rjd20writes@gmail.com.

15 August 2018

Acute Adventures: Down the Wishing Well


Townsfolk who wander near Westport’s wishing well have been experiencing strange occurrences: Feverish dreams, rampant sleepwalking, and more. A wizard of Westport suspects the worst, and calls out for adventurers to delve into the wishing well to discover the source of this peculiarity.

New adventure today, folks. It's based on last week's article all about aboleths.

It involves a crazy halfling wizard, scaling a deep well, and fighting an immature and vengeful aboleth. 

Here's the link to the .pdf of Down the Wishing Well, if you'd like to read/print it.

Enjoy!

Down the Wishing Well


Townsfolk who wander near Westport’s wishing well have been experiencing strange occurrences: Feverish dreams, rampant sleepwalking, and more. A wizard of Westport suspects the worst, and calls out for adventurers to delve into the wishing well to discover the source of this peculiarity.

NPCs


  1. Talon Windrite: An eccentric halfling wizard
  2. Traechnaa-vu: A relatively young but blind aboleth. She occupies the wishing well of Westport and seeks to blind as many residents as possible, trying to find a specific citizen.

Part I: The Wizard’s Suspicions


Something foul is afoot in Westport and Talon Windrite believes he knows the source. Anyone who answers his call (seen on sign posts, message boards near the town) will be welcomed into his short, stone tower. Once inside, the halfling explains the strange occurrences in Westport and how they all stem from the town’s wishing well. Folk are experiencing terrible dreams, random sleepwalking, and some are going blind. Talon suggests that the PCs delve into the wishing well. He suspects something arcane and malign to wait below. If treated fairly, he will give the party 10 potions of waterbreathing. If the PCs are not interested in this odd situation, he’ll curse them, throw them out, and start the search for others that’ll help.

To give flavor to Talon’s tiny tower, use these details about it:
  • The entryway in the tower requires those taller than halflings to duck; the ceiling within is only about 5 feet tall.
  • Scattered about the few, openly connected rooms of the tower are tables with scrolls, potions, and spell ingredients such as bat guano, sand, and crystals sitting on them.
  • Holding a prominent location in the tower is a broken wand made of wilting, white wood. Its hung above a fireplace espousing purple flames.

Part II: Scaling the Well


The wishing well sits in the town center, amidst a bazaar of food, cloth, and metal trade. During the day, it’s quite busy; at nighttime, the bazaar is silent. The well is 10’ in diameter, 300’ deep, and carved straight down into the stony ground. Scaling it will require the PCs to survive a barrage of psychic attacks from the aboleth, as well as combat a few of her minions.
  1. 50’ down, the aboleth assaults two PCs with a long range, 3rd level sleep spell.
  2. 100’ down, the aboleth casts hold person on a single PC (WIS DC 16). This causes them to fall; someone catch them!
  3. 150’ down, a dominated roper awaits intruders. Its primary goal is to pull PC’s off their scaling equipment.
  4. 200’ down, the aboleth casts hold person on a single PC (WIS DC 16). This causes them to fall; someone catch them!
  5. 250’ down, three chuuls attack the party.
The bottom of the well is filled with water. It’s about 2’ deep. A single, large passageway leads to the aboleth’s lair. As the PCs move toward it, the aboleth will barrage their minds, saying:
  1. “I only do this because of what’s been done to me.”
  2. “I can’t see myself; you must understand my pain.”
  3. “Leave my lair or face my wrath.”
  4. “I feel your every step. If you come forward, you will never move backward.”
With that final line, the party will reach the end of the passageway.

Part III: The Lair Below


About 60’ down the passageway, the water deepens to 3’, and the corridor opens up to a large chamber covered in a thin veil of otherworldly mist. Traechnaa-vu and five chuuls await the party here. She is an aboleth with half the hit points. She will allow her chuuls to assault the party head on, then she will attack from afar, behind a patch of 10’ tall stalagmites. The aboleth will fight until her chuuls are killed, then she will attempt to parley with the party. She doesn’t want to die; she’ll plead with them, asking if they know someone with a golden falchion, a gravelly voice, and the body of a lithe orc.

This half orc is the one who slaughtered her parents and left her blind. She believes he lives in Westport and desperately wants him dead. She offers to bless the party with her parents memories and show them her parents lair. She is true to her word.

Aftermath


The party can kill the aboleth, ridding Westport of the strange dreams and problem in the well. They can also listen to the aboleth and attempt to find the half orc, get her parents’ memories, and discover their lair. Does the half orc live in Westport? What memories did her parents possess? Where is the lair? That’s up for you to decide.

Eager for more RJD20? Begin here, subscribe to the RJD20 newsletter, and explore RJD20 videos on YouTube.

Check out Villain Backgrounds Volume I, a supplement that crafts compelling villains.

Please send inquiries to rjd20writes@gmail.com.

06 August 2018

Aboleths: Deities of the Deep




Listen. Follow. Attack. Kill. The voice continued in the barbarian’s head, drowning out all other thoughts. Her legs kept moving despite her best attempts to cease all movement; her head remained steady and forward facing even though she tried to lower it; her greataxe stayed firmly held in her hand though she tried to drop it. Listen. Follow. Attack. Kill. The voice bellowed again, shattering another piece of the barbarian’s sanity. She felt herself fading. The final front, her mind, and consciousness waned with every word. The beast of the deep was taking her, taking all of her, knowing with her body and abandoned mind, it could easily tear her party apart. Her pace quickened as if anticipating the proximity of the slimy creature. Listen. Follow. Attack. Kill. The barbarian’s eyes went white and her body completely stiffened. Nothing real was left inside, no mind, no heart, no soul. ‘Twas gone. Dead, as her party soon would be... at her puppet hands.
______________

Yep. You read that correctly; that was not a story from one of my home games or my own personal musings during prep. That was a piece of fiction. A story.

That’s because I’ve never used aboleths. Ever. None of my friends have used aboleths. And aboleths aren't featured as the primary antagonists in any official, modern adventure, although they are present. Today, we’re going to change that.

This week’s incarnation of Musing Over Monsters is about aboleths, creatures of immense power that live in the world’s deepest trenches and coral covered caverns. 

We’ll start out learning how they first appeared in Dungeons and Dragons, then we’ll uncover their juicy lore bits. Afterward, I’ll relate a few slimy aboleth NPCs, plot hooks, and campaign ideas to you thirsty adventurers and DMs.

Let’s roll.

Aboleth Edition History


Aboleths have existed since the beginning; inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft these eel-creatures first appeared in the 1E module, Dwellers of the Forbidden City, in which they were one of many monsters that the party could pit against each other. Other beasts included yuan-ti, bullywugs, and bugbears. They were the most powerful things you could recruit. 1E expanded on the aboleth in Dragon magazine, creating multiple subraces like the grand aboleth, the ruler aboleth, and even the noble aboleth. 2E included the aboleth in the Monstrous Compendium Volume II and the Monstrous Manual. Their psionic abilities are explained in detail in The Complete Psionics Handbook and a new variety appears in the infamous Night Below: An Underdark Campaign, the savant aboleth. 

3E doesn’t truly build on the aboleth, but 3.5 does, in which the aboleth receives its own chapter in the wacky and wonderful book, Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations. To learn in depth about the aboleth, view some awesome art, and immerse yourself in illithid, beholder, and other aberrational lore, check out this tome of knowledge. In it, the aboleth was given aerial, amphibious, and stygian varieties. 4E included the aboleth in its primary Monster Manual, in which the aboleth lasher, slime mage, servitor, and observer are detailed; all of these are great additions to the aboleth pool. Finally, 5E gave us the current version of the aboleth in the first Monster Manual. And, in two 5E adventures, aboleths are present - but I won't spoil where. Thus, as the aboleth progresses in age, it gains more and more subtypes and varieties for DMs to use in our campaigns, but it doesn’t happen. Aboleths remain relatively unused. Perhaps their description and lore will change folks’ minds.

Aboleth Lore and More


Aboleths are large, fish-like creatures ranging from 15 to 20 feet long. These creatures never stop growing as they age, a pinnacle few reach: infinity. Some folk would describe them as fat eels with insect appendages, though I’d argue that their body is akin to a worm, segmented, slimy, and thick. Sprouting from their faces are multiple antennae; they also have fins across their body, from their tail to the dorsal on their back. Their most defining feature is their face, which is dotted with three glowing eyes and slithering with a mess of tentacles. They’ll eat anything. 


Aboleths have strong memories, being able to remember the entirety of its ancestors' memories; in some cases, they can relieve their ancestors’ lives as well, especially in vivid dreams. They also have psionic powers, similar to illithids. In addition, aboleths are able to release a foul, grey fluid that transforms air-breathing creatures into an aquatic thrall. A terrible fate for an adventurer.

Aboleths are self-centered. They assert they were one of the first beings in existence and see all other creatures as subservient to them. Due to this, they have no gods, believing their own kind are as powerful as the planar entities that they claim to have witnessed the creation of. Their cities are located deep underwater, in areas of extreme pressure and danger, such as trenches in the ocean or remote areas of the Underdark. Reaching an aboleth city is an extraordinary feat; surviving inside it is an impossible task.

Aboleths are credited with creating the chuul, a race of crab creatures with hardy armor and a will to get things done.

In my world, aboleths descended from krakens. Krakens that emigrated from the depths of the ocean to the bowels of the Underdark slowly transformed, shrinking to fit their cramped caverns. They also learned from the beasts surrounding them: illithids and beholders, drow and duergar. Over time, they became less and less like their kraken ancestors and became their own being: the aboleth. Still, some aboleths warrant their existence to krakens and hold them as high as their own folk and deities.

Aboleth Story Beats


Do you desperately want to include an aboleth or an aboleth inspired story beat in your campaign but you can’t think of how to accomplish this? Don’t worry, I have you covered. Ponder over the content below and attempt to drop them into your adventures. I’ll warn you, though: Aboleths are bound to wriggle their madness and tentacles into the hearts and minds of your PCs and NPCs. Use them with care.

NPCs

  1. A relatively young but blind aboleth named Traechnaa-vu. She occupies the wishing well of a coastal town called Westport and seeks to blind as many residents as possible. When she was but a tadpole, adventurers stormed her birther’s lair. Only she escaped; during the combat, though, a scimitar struck true and caused her vision to completely fade. The aboleth learned to thrive in the deep passages of the Underdark, dominating creatures of lesser intelligence. She always remembered her ultimate goal: To avenge the death of her birthers and curse all humanoids with the plight of blindness.
  2. A parrot dominated by an aboleth. The aboleth can embody the parrot at times, causing its voice to deepen and body to grow tentacles.
  3. A barbarian controlled by an aboleth. Her party was annihilated at the hands of the aboleth and his minions a few days ago, and she is returning to town claiming to be the only survivor. She’s ‘searching’ for more heroes to avenge her fallen friends. Will folks be able to see through her facade?

Plot Hooks

  1. A young aboleth inhabits a town’s wishing well. Those who wander too close or drink from its waters have horrible nightmares and fits at night.
  2. Squads of chuul are killing all the wildlife inside a local jungle. They leave strange eggs inside their corpses, leading some to believe they’re attempting to breed. However, they aren’t chuul eggs, but the eggs of a new aboleth abomination.
  3. A village of undersea-living triton is dominated by an aboleth. It utilizes the usually friendly fishfolk as assassins in its sahuagin horde.

Campaign Ideas

  1. A cabal of aboleths attempts to raise the first kraken from the deepest trenches of the ocean. They need assistance in the form of power and wealth. Their minions, sahuagin, kraken cultists, dominated triton, chuul, and beasts from the Elemental Plane of Water rampage across coastal areas, enact evil plots and prepare for the return of the world’s oldest kraken.
  2. A party of adventurers failed to defeat an ancient aboleth horror. The aboleth raised the party as thralls with a conscious of their own; while performing tasks for this aboleth, the party constantly attempts to free themselves from the being’s yolk. This campaign would have to be kind of an ‘evil’ campaign, as they aboleth most likely would want the party to do innately evil things - although it could be spun. Perhaps the aboleth despises sahuagin, triton, merrow, and more…

In Summary


The aboleth is an interesting creature. Innately fishy, capable of powerful psionics, and able to remember back to the dawn of time, this monster can be a formidable foe. Remember:
  1. Aboleths have existed since D&D’s first edition and are inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
  2. Aboleths are immense, fish-like beings that wield psionics, can create thralls with ease, and societies in deep sea trenches.
  3. The aboleth can be the source of a brilliant villain, whether it's the aboleth itself or a thrall of the being; and it can be a great catalyst for an adventure.
Until next time, farewell!

Eager for more RJD20? Begin here, subscribe to the RJD20 newsletter, and explore RJD20 videos on YouTube.

Check out Villain Backgrounds Volume I, a supplement that crafts compelling villains.

Please send inquiries to rjd20writes@gmail.com.

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