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Top 5 Dungeons and Dragons monsters for a low-level campaign

by Ouroboros on May 2, 2016
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While the forty-odd year history of DnD has produced many hundreds of monsters to pick from, usually first level adventurers are oftentimes stuck fighting the same old somewhat-boring low-level monsters, never really being truly challenged until they reach higher levels.

So this is a quick list of five low-level monsters that you should add when creating your next DnD adventure. Accompanied by a couple of explanatory notes/suggestions for the budding DM.

Dungeons and Dragons – and pretty much all pen-and-paper RPGs in general – is made great by many aspects. For some it’s the role-playing aspect, for others it’s the gathering together with like-minded humans and spending some IRL time together but for many others it’s mainly about smashing, bashing, slicing, dicing, crushing, piercing, burning, freezing, electrocuting, poisoning, dissolving or otherwise, killing monsters. Even though we try our hands at as many digital replacements for DnD as possible, nothing can really compete with the combination of the upper mentioned aspects.

And while the forty-odd year history of DnD has produced many hundreds of monsters to pick from, usually first level adventurers are oftentimes stuck fighting the same old somewhat-boring low-level monsters, never really being truly challenged until they reach higher levels.

So this is a quick list of five low-level monsters that you should add when creating your next DnD adventure. Accompanied by a couple of explanatory notes/suggestions for the budding DM.

Bugbear

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Despite whatever mental image you might’ve already conjured in your head for some weird bear-insect chimera, a bugbear isn’t that. Although I’m pretty sure there has to be some sort of spider-bear abomination in one of the many monster manuals out there. (Let me know in the comments if there is, and where)

Usually people will go with the classic kobolds, orcs, goblins or hobgoblins as their main cannon fodder. That is totally fine, those are classic staples of the game much like skeletons, zombies and Rodents Of Unusual Size are, but bugbears are an interesting spice to add to the mix.

They’re rather strong, travel in gangs or bands and really like to keep quiet. When they attack they prefer to ambush and can coordinate their attacks. A great challenge for a party in the beginning stages of learning how to work as a team.

Carrion crawler

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This one should be a staple for any sort of adventure that takes place under ground. And seeing how most dungeons tend to be subterranean in nature, adding one of these creepy crawly overgrown centipedes shouldn’t be a stretch for most settings.

Keep in mind that even though they can put up quite a fight for a low-level party, they’re not big on loot, so you’ll teach the party a solid lesson. They’ll learn that getting away with their characters still alive is reward in itself!

Assassin vine

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One of the more unassuming monsters you can add to your adventure for more than just a splash of “what the fuck?!” and potential strangling death. The assassin vine can be placed in pretty much any sort of forest/swamp/jungle setting and as it name entails, it kills motherfuckers. Not only kills them, but is also big into recycling so it uses their bodies as fertilizer. We can add that one to the list of Uses for a corpse.

So in case you’re DMing a more foolish type of crazy risk-taking party, let them run into an assassin vine and then see them Spot check any plant in a 20-meter range from that moment onward.

Mimic

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Wonderfully devious and difficult enemy to take down, especially if you play it right. Find a way of making the players think that they might actually be dealing with a human until it’s too late and you can spring the mimic trap on them.

Due to the pervasiveness of Internet memes and jokes – as well as the official Monster Manual image – the mimic disguised as a large chest could be, and should be, considered a cliché as far as adventure-writing goes.

So think a bit outside the chest *ba dum tss* when creating a mimic encounter, it’s going to be guaranteed fun.

Rust monster

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A great way of teaching your players about the precarious nature of material possessions within a high-magic fantasy world… by dissolving them while they wear them.

Not only will they learn to care for their current level gear but it will also make them truly appreciate any masterwork or magic item. It’s also a great way of relieving the party of some of their cash if you’ve fucked up in the first couple of adventures and gave them too much money. The rule of thumb is that if they can make it rain ale in the tavern, or can buy a fucking ship, they have too much money.

Besides the chance of acting as a bit of a reset for an over-giving DM, the rust monster also poses a nice challenge to the party and should make for some interesting tactics in fighting it. This is especially true if your players rely a bit too much on plate armor to absorb damage, a rust monster encounter will make them change their entire play-style from that moment onward.

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