Basilisk: A Stone Cold Killer

Basilisks, what are they and how to use them in your DnD game.

“All who behold its eyes, fall dead upon the spot”- Pliny the Elder’s Natural History

basiliskBasilisk from 5e Monster Manual

Looks and behavior

Eight thick legs, a strong tail, a back full of spikes. Most of them have colors between the grey and orange range but other colors of the rainbow have been spotted as well. These monstrosities have a jaw strong enough to bite through stone and bones.

On average they are around 12 feet (3.5 meter) long. But their most notable feature are the eyes. Glowing with a pale green light it could be the last thing a person sees before he’s turned to stone?

The basilisk is a clumsy but cunning monster using underground caves, overgrown forests or just the desert sand to hide itself. When a prey comes close enough he relies on his powerful magical gaze, sometimes it even hisses to draw adventures towards him. By instinct they will avoid creatures without eyes or with a high magical power.

Basilisks are not highly social creatures, typically gathering only in small groups of three to five adults sharing a cave. Adult males are typically solitary hunters and opt to instead dig a burrow large enough for themselves and a potential mate. Larger colonies are not unheard of, and if conditions permit large broods in excess of 20+ adults can inhabit large cave systems.

Basilisks Variants

water_wraith_by_brynnmetheney-d5mmjewBasilisk by Brynn Metheney

Swamp Basilisk

Smaller and more agile in build than their common cousins. These creatures are slightly weaker and may be found in swamps, marshes, or river deltas. Their gaze paralyzes prey rather than petrify, and they drag their prey below water to drown the helpless victim.

Desert Basilisk

Known locally as “Sand Fangs”, this rare subspecies that has a radically different diet. It lies in ambush under the desert sands where it emerges to ambush prey with its gaze. It then sucks the fluids from the victim’s rocky body using two special fangs on its upper jaw. Once drained of fluids the corpse then breaks down into sand.

Crimson Basilisk

Crimson basilisk are subterranean carnivores with a voracious appetite that is only whetted when they get the thing they desire most, blood. They have an even more horrifying way of killing their prey. Instead of turning them into stone they start bleeding from the eyes, ear, nose and mouth. Once they smell blood they go into a frenzy, the only thing on their mind is kill kill kill.

Players toolkit

Adventurers that are looking for a new pet might find the basilisk interesting. Intelligence wise they are about the same as a dog. The only downside is their aggressive temper which makes them almost impossible to train. Instead of capturing an adult one they are better of looking for a basilisk egg and start training them as soon as they hatch.

When you are lucky enough to survive a basilisk fight you are well of collection their eyes, hide, bone and fangs since they are believed to hold magical powers useful for potent petrification magic and can fetch a high price if you fight a buyer.

Dungeon masters toolkit

Low Tier (levels 1-4):

A local wizard/alchemist is looking for a set of basilisk eyes to brew a powerful potion. He is offering a fine reward and rumors say there are some basilisk roaming in the cave system in the south.

For a low tier party a basilisk can be a deadly foe. By knowing what they are looking for they can prepare themselves. If they don’t, well then they deserve to die.

Mid Tier (levels 5-10):

As the party is plowing through the mushy swamp, the 2 player with the lowest constitution hear a “Kssst” sound. If they look up they need to make a constitution saving throw against the basilisks paralyzing gaze. Roll for initiative.

For this encounter I used the swamp variant. You can always change the environment. Use normal ones in caves. Desert ones in… the desert. What makes it a bit more fun in the swamp is that they get dragged under water and if you are wearing heavy armor it can be hard to get out without help. Depending on how hard you want to make it for your players and how many of them got stunned you can add an extra basilisk in the second round.

High Tier (levels 11-16):

Recently a blind monk has appeared in town. He offers a map to a dragons lair if a hero can defeat him and his two basilisks. So far four challengers have been turned to stone and crushed by his strong fists.

For the monk you can use the martial arts adept from Volo’s guide or make a lvl 10 monk. If the PC is turned to stone the monk will smash his statue so he can’t be restored. The monk is not lying about the map. His monastery has been destroyed by a powerful dragon and he seeks allies to reclaim his mountain temple.

Most parties have at least one fighter who loves to duel, so this is an interesting option for those.

Epic Tier (levels 17-20):

As the hero’s enter the dragons lair they notice the first room is guarded. 13 basilisks are roaming this area. The only way to reach the dragon’s lair is through this room.

Players have a choice here. Do we fight and risk detection and lose resources or do we fight an other way through. Invisibility, flying or something else creative. If they don’t kill them they have to pass them again on the way back. In every case it will burn some of their resources.

Next time you use a dragon’s lair, use basilisks. Its sure is a hell of a lot better than the classic kobolds they have encountered a thousand times before.

 

So that’s all for the basilisk, enjoy! You can find more encounter compendium here.

Sources

Ecology of the basilisk

Basilisks – Forgotten Realms Wikia

Basilisk – Wikipedia

Crimson basilisk

Monster Manual p 24 Basilisk

Ankheg: Dead From Below

Ankhegs, what are they and how to use them.

Imagine being  snapped in half by an ant the size of a cow. That is what you get when you step on a Ankheg’s burrow. – The Gnomes Guide To Gardening

Monster_Manual_5e_-_Ankheg_-_Devon_Cady-Lee_-_p21
Ankheg from Monster Manuel by Devon Cade-Lee

The Ankheg is an enormous insect who hunts grasslands and forests. Laying an ambush for its prey it attacks from below using its sharp hooks to grapple his opponent. Once it has you in its grasp it secretes acidic digestive enzymes dissolving its victim thus making the remaining body easier to swallow.

It is not unheard of that a farmer uses an Ankheg to help its land stay fertile. Adapt armorers can even make armor from its shell that almost matches the protection of full plate armor. Armor like that is expensive, rich nobles pay as much as 20.000 GP for an Ankheg armor set. Seems a bit much? Well if you provide the shell yourself the craftsmen might give you a nice discount.

Below you’ll find an Ankheg encounter for every tier of play, enjoy.

Low Tier (levels 1-4):

ankheg_fight_by_guzboroda-d2zi3eg.jpg
Ankheg fight by GuzBoroda

Ambush: As the party is travelling through the forest the character walking in front feels his foot sinking into the ground  make a dexterity DC 12 save. On a success he pulls back in time. On a fail he falls prone 5 feet below into a tunnel, in front of you stands a giant insect ready to attack roll for initiative. If the characters don’t fall in the tunnel the Ankheg will attack a few moments later on the DM’s queue. If the characters did not prepare themselves he gets a surprise round.

This encounter can be very deadly for first (and second) level characters. An average bite attack does 12 damage and grapples its foe. For this reason I do not give a surprise round when someone falls into the Ankhegs burrow. If you use it on a higher level group you can punish your players a bit harder.


Mid Tier (levels 5-10):

Mating ground: As the party is travelling through the woods they hear strange noises coming from over the hill in front of them. If the characters just keep on walking they will find themselves interrupting a mating ceremony. Seven male Ankheg are dancing around a female and guess what they don’t like to be interrupted. If they come within 60 feet the party is spotted and they attack. If they stay further away let them make a stealth check.

This encounter can be completely be avoided by going around the mating ground. Be aware 8 enemies can be overwhelming for some parties but you can always increase their numbers to make it more challenging. 

If you are running a realistic campaign this encounter can only happen in autumn 

High Tier (levels 11-16):

IT’S IN THE BASEMENT: During the night the building (inn/farm) the party is sleeping in partially sinks into a tunnel. The owner knew of the Ankheg but kept him there to fertilize his grounds. What the owner did not know is that Ankheg can brood up to 12 young a year. The lower floor of the building is infested with the mother and its young. If some guests or patrons were sleeping they are in danger!

If you use this encounter remember that they probably don’t wear their armor at night. Three Ankheg per PC should be a big enough challenge.

If you want to make it a bit easier for the PC’s you can let the pass a farm on the road where this attack has just started.

Epic Tier (levels 17-20):

Hive Mind: For a few weeks there has been no news from the towns to the south. Scouts send there have not returned so someone hires/ask’s the PC’s to investigated (or maybe they know a NPC in one of the towns).

Upon arrival in the town they find it totally abandoned. Investigation leads to believe all the villagers were taken. Tracks can be found leading into the forest (or any other place that fits your world). When they follow the tracks they might encounter a small group of Ankheg. The end of the trail brings them tho a giant pile of dirt. An ant hill for Ankheg.

Ankheg Lair

The colony is filled with Ankheg, since the queen lays about 10 eggs a day which hatch after only 1 week its population grows at an immense speed. The queen uses her children to protect her, once a week she can lay a special egg to hatch a royal guard. Currently there are 3 royal guards in the lair, at least one of them stays at the queens side at all times.

 

At epic tier the PC’s should not just have small encounters so here I present a way you could do it. If they do not solve this problem the colony will only expand. The queen might hatch a king who can create more queens in his turn and so on.

In the lair make sure the trow a lot of Ankheg at the PC’s but not all at the same time. It should be a battle from the way in until they kill the queen. Once she is dead most of the surviving Ankheg will flee or just go into a deep rage.

I hope you enjoyed my first encounter compendium post, please let me know what you think and where I could improve.

Cheers!
Sources:

Ecology of the Ankheg

Ankheg – Forgotten Realms Wikia

Ankheg – Wikipedia

Monster Manual p 21 Ankheg