Animals, insects and arachnid. I can’t say I just a lot of them. The arachnid I’ve used so far never had a real impact (maybe that’s just my fault). Animals are also not really the thing you use when you want an epic encounter, so most often the animals that come into play are the ones the druid changes into.
That is why my favorite comes out of the insect category.
The Ankheg. A gigantic bug that you do not want in your house, or on the road to the next village. Part of my love for the creature comes because I did some good researched on it when I wrote my first encounter compendium post “Ankheg: Dead From Below“.
In my head Ankheg’s are something like tarantulas in our world. They exist and as long they do not jump on you everything is fine.
I also really like the idea that they become smart or get a hive mind. The possibilities to use them are endless and that’s why I love them.
What does molds, ooze, and lawyers have in common?
They’re all slime.
Not so many to choose from today but in general Oozes are a lot of fun to use. In most of my campaigns they make a few appearances. They can be in a random hallway, drop from the ceiling or maybe inside a pit trap. All great and deadly.
Sometimes the classics are the best. In the case of oozes that is true. My favorite is the gelatinous cube. I think they are just an awesome invention to mess with dungeoneers and to make traps and rooms interesting.
The fun thin about these cubes is that you don’t see them coming. You can walk through a hallway and suddenly you are stuck in a colorless pudding who tries to eat you.
The best way to use them in later levels is in addition to traps. Or a creature that uses these cubes to guard things.
In a one-shot I once encountered a talking gelatinous cube and that was also a lot of fun!
Liches are the best undead.
We are halfway the thirty-day challenge now starts a series of favorite type of monsters. Starting with undead is a challenge in itself, there are so many. strong and weak to pick from. I reviewed most of them and in the end I had to pick between 3 monsters. So an honorable mention goes to the Dracolich and Dead Knight.
Living in isolation from the world the all-mighty wizard sits in his tower studying his newly acquired tomb of spells. He has all the time in the world since he can’t die, well unless you find his phylactery. My favorite undead is the Lich.
The Lich is a perfect big bad evil guy you can use as the end boss in your campaign. They are evil and want to gain power. To stay alive they need to sacrifice souls another reason to stop them.
Part of defeating the Lich is finding out what his phylactery is. Without destroying it the Lich will just come back to life. So you can create an interesting quest to find out what the phylactery is and how you can destroy it. After that an epic final battle with the party against the lich and his minions can be the perfect ending of a campaign.
There are a lot of possibilities a Lich can interfere with the parties plans (even from earlier levels) so the possibilities are endless.
Liches are awesome.
Ever had a boring NPC? Well I guess most DM’s and players have in the past. Creating a good NPC is a challenge every time and you never know how the players might react.
I think it would be rather pointless to talk about the favorite NPC of my own worlds since you won’t now him. But one of the best and most memorable NPC’s I’ve had in my game comes from Barovia. Strahd von Zarovich.
When Strahd is close he immediately brings a lot of emotion to the table. Fear, anger, sadness or maybe even a change to gain power. Depending on the players and how you play him the story can go a lot of different ways.
He is one of the most famous (and beloved) bad guys in Dungeons and Dragons history. The lore about him dates back to the early 90’s so he has a rich background you can use.
In the Curse of Strahd adventure he is a force you need to overcome. When the party first meets him they don’t stand a chance. But slowly the PC grow stronger and eventually visit his castle where they can finally slay him.
I enjoyed playing Strahd and every time my players had an encounter with him it was a moment to remember.
The trap we are talking about can be rather deadly so use at your own risk.
It might not be a big surprise that one of my favorite traps comes out of my favorite Dungeons and Dragons adventure The hidden shrine of Tamoachan.
The will-o’wisp sandbox: In this trap you see a light flickering around the corner, once you come closer the light moves away always staying just out of sight and behind the next corner.
If the party follows it long enough suddenly they step on a pressure plate, in front of them and behind them a stone wall falls down. They hear a grinding sound coming from above them. Roll for initiative.
Lifting the walls self should be a though challenge. A DC of 20-25 depending on the level. After 3 rounds sand starts to poor into the room. Making the terrein difficult to move in. After a few rounds strength checks are needed to move in the room.
To make matters worse after 1 round the light that the party was following. A will-o’wisp moves back in the room and starts to attack to party. Preferably the ones doing the lifting.
The longer they take to find a solution the more dire their situation becomes. The best solution is probably lifting the gate or teleportation. Let the players be creative but it should be a tense and dangerous situation.
I find this trap very thrilling, but it can be deadly make sure you now what to do when the players die in here. Roll now characters, get dig up a few hundred years later, that kind of things.
A good story can almost always make a location interesting. But some locations are more fun to start with.
Favorite Dungeon Type/Location
Filled with magic and wonder, not one is the same, it is a classic location that needs to be in every campaign. The mystical wizard tower.
Once in sight the hero’s know something is up. Why is this random 8 story high tower standing in the middle of the desert? What is inside? Is it still inhabited, and more important will there be treasure?
This location is the perfect place to dive into the strange and weird stuff of the world. Maybe there are no stairs in the tower. Maybe once inside you see there are no floors above you and you can only use the ladder to go downstairs. After descending a whole session the PC’s reach to main floor again.
The things living inside can be so random as you like. Things created by the wizard like Golems or enslaved pixies, maybe behind a door is a vault filled with golden dolphins. Nothing makes sense and it shouldn’t.
It is the perfect opportunity to use the monsters you want to use but never get the change to and to test the players as well with some nice puzzles or riddles.
And that’s why the wizard tower is my favorite dungeon.
Wizard Tower by jcbarquet
Why The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is awesome
In my few years as a DM I’ve run some of the official adventures of wizards of the coast and of the DM’s guild. But so far Tales from the Yawning Portal had one of my favorite Dungeons.
Favorite Adventure I ran
The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is not without reason one of the most famous Dungeons and Dragon Dungeons. From start to end it has a very distinct feeling of dread.
The party finds themselves inside a gas-filled tomb, this immediately creates a feeling of ‘we need to get out of here and fast’. So unlike many other dungeons the players do not want to take a rest in here.
Furthermore there are a lot of interesting encounters like a talking lobster and a giant snail god. Every room is filled with surprise, wonder, puzzles and a scary feeling of what’s behind the next door?
It is also set up in a way that you can take multiple routes and do not have to do every chamber. I bet that if I would run it for a second group it would be a totally different experience.
It’s a hard dungeon not only for the PC’s but also the players as well, not everything can be solved by just throwing an intelligence check.
All these reasons add to the fact that The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is one of my favorite adventures.