Dungeon Crawl Classics: Monster Stat Blocks

Stat blocks are honestly one of the most infuriating things in any game. For me. Because I’m weird.

They are supposed to be a neat, orderly summation of everything you need to run a monster, but in OSR-style games they are too terse, in 4th edition D&D they look like something from a graphing calculator, and even in 5th edition D&D they unintentionally obscure the most important piece of running any monster: their tactics. But IMHO, 5th edition comes close to getting it right, so I’m gonna ape that in this column, which could be alternately titled, “Here’s some monsters from Rappan Athuk for use in your Dungeon Crawl Classics game.”

Because for my home game, I’m running Rappan Athuk using the DCC system. I wonder how many characters will die?

Suitably death metal

Suitably death metal

The Necromaner & his Wife

Ulman Dark and his wife Kanndra are two oddballs that live in a little fishing village-turned-fort near-ish to one of the many entrances to the Dungeon of Graves. I’ve turned them into nefarious villains in my campaign, so here’s their stat blocks. Ulman, especially, is interesting because he shows how I’ve worked to simplify a spellcaster in DCC rules, but in so doing decided to jettison all sense of the randomness of magic in order to make him playable and effective as a villain. Don’t worry: as you’ll see a little later on in this article, I’ve got a goblin spellcaster who relishes the chaos of DCC-style magic!

Ulman Dark, the Necromancer

Medium, Chaotic; Spd 30; Init +1

AC 10; Saves Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +6; HD 6d4+6 (21 hp)


Ekim’s Mystical Mask: The mask helps defend the caster against baneful magical spells. All spells cast directly at the wizard suffer a -2 penalty to their spell checks. Area-of-effect spells or other magics that are not targeted directly at the mask wearer are unmodified. The caster’s face takes on a faceted, quartz-like appearance while this mask is in effect.

Spells: This cultist’s patron is Orcus, Demon Lord of Undeath. Their caster levels is 2 and their casting check is 1d20+5.

  • Scorching ray (R 80 ft, CT 1 action, Save Reflex vs. spell check for half). The caster can  launch three rays, at the same target or different targets. Each ray does 1d12 + CL damage. Additionally, each target must make a DC 15 Reflex save or catch fire. Each round thereafter the target suffers an additional 1d6 damage until it succeeds on a DC 15 Reflex save to extinguish the fire. Flammable objects on the target (e.g., scrolls or tomes) have a 75% chance of catching fire unless protected.
  • Sequester (D 1d24 hours per CL; CT 1 action, Save Will or Skill check vs. spell check when appropriate). A single building-sized area is secured: doors and windows are magically sealed (DC 18 to open, 15 hp) and up to 4 portals are considered trapped (find/disable DC 18; 1d12+CL fire damage). An alarm alerts the caster of anyone entering the area.
  • Undead horde (CT 1 action). 1d3 skeletons appear to aid the necromancer. They have the following stats:
    Skeleton: Spd 30, Init +0, AC 9, Saves +0, HD 1d6 (3 hp), Shortsword 1d20 melee (1d6 damage), Dagger 1d20 ranged (1d4 damage, range 10/20/30).

Atk crit 1d6, table I

  • Staff 1d20+1 melee (1d6)
  • Light crossbow 1d20+1 ranged (1d8, range 90/180/360)

Kanndra Dark, bounty hunter

Medium, Chaotic; Spd 30; Init +5

AC 17 (scale armor); Saves Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +2; HD 3d8+4 (18 hp)


Invisibility (3/day): Kanndra can become invisible as a bonus action, three times per day. Her invisibility lasts up to 5 rounds or until she attacks.


Atk crit 1d8, table III

  • Shortsword 1d20+6 melee (1d6+3, Backstab 1d16+3)
  • Javelin 1d20+7 ranged (1d6, range 30/60/90)

Without digging too deep into minutiae, you can see that I relied heavily on the 5th edition D&D monster stat block, but reduced line-count by putting certain things all in one line. Size, alignment, speed, and initiative bonus are line one, because that stuff gets referenced a lot; it’s foundational to the character or to combat. Defense is the theme of the next line, so it includes Armor Class, saving throws, and then Hit Dice and hit point info. A theoretical next line would include any resistances, immunities, or regeneration-style powers since they all influence Hit Dice and hit points.

A break sections by a line and don’t label the sections, but the next one is always “traits” like auras or non-combat specific abilities, such as spellcasting. Another hard line and then we get the attack area, which includes critical die, critical table, and then a listing of the attacks the creature can make. If you see notations of 2d20+X, that’s the signifier that the creature can make two attacks with that weapon/thing, not that you add the two dice together. I’m not sure I like this notation, but it’s how DCC tends to denote action dice, and it’s way less wordy than a line for Multiattack, so I’m keeping it. For now.

*Caveat: Crit dice and table, and occasionally damage and attack notations largely come from Critters, Creatures & Denizens. While I don’t go full bore into that book’s mechanical additions to the DCC game — like listing all attribute scores, calculating land speeds and carrying capacities, and so on — I do find monsters a little underpowered in the DCC RPG core rulebook, so yeah.

Undead hordes

Undead hordes

Undead

GHOUL

Medium, Neutral; Spd 25; Init +1

AC 11; Saves Fort +1, Ref +2, Will -1; HD 2d10 (10 hp)


Feeding: Each ghoul must consume one full humanoid of its own size class every 5 days or it degenerates into a basic zombie and forever loses its awareness. Otherwise these creatures are treated as zombies.


Atk crit 1d6, table U

  • Claw 1d20 melee (2d6 plus paralysis)

Paralysis: These vile creatures let the dark energies flow from their rotting flesh into their victims at the lightest touch. Targets get a Fortitude save against a DC of 10. Failure indicates the victim is unable to move for 1d4+2 rounds. Repeat the save each round to break free.

GHAST

Medium, Chaotic; Spd 25; Init +3

AC 13; Saves Fort +2, Ref +5, Will +1; HD 4d10 (20 hp)

Resistance Damage Resistance 4 (ignored by +1 or better magic), Spell Resistance 4, Turn Resistance +2


Contagious Stench: Anyone that approaches within 10 feet must roll a Fortitude save against a DC 12 or suffer 2d6 Stamina damage (which heals normally at 1 per day of rest) the first time they encounter a ghast. They are then immune to this effect for 24 hours. If this damage is sufficient to kill the victim they will reanimate as a zombie within the next 1d6 rounds.

Feeding: Each greater ghoul must consume two full humanoids of its own size class every 5 days. As long as they have been feeding properly, all greater ghouls have damage and spell resistance equal to their hit dice.


Atk crit 1d8, table U

  • Claw 1d20+1 melee (1d5 plus paralysis)
  • Shortsword 1d20+1 melee (1d6)
  • Javelin 1d20+1 ranged (1d6, range 20/40/60)

Paralysis: These vile creatures let the dark energies flow from their rotting flesh into their victims with the lightest touch. Targets get a Fortitude save against a DC of 14. Failure indicates that the victim is unable to move for 1d6+4 rounds. Repeat the save each round to break free.

REANIMATING SKELETON

Medium, Chaotic; Spd 30; Init +0

AC 9; Saves Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +2; HD 6d6 (25 hp)

Resistance Slashing and piercing weapons deal half damage


Atk crit 1d6, table U

  • Claw 1d20+3 melee (1d3)
  • Shortsword 1d20+3 melee (1d6)
  • Shortbow 1d20+3 ranged (1d6, range 25/50/75)

Reanimation: The bones are animated independently of the skeleton itself. When this skeleton is killed, it collapses into 1d4 shards of bone that continue to attack. The shards use these stats:

  • Shard: Spd 10; Init +0; AC 9; Saves +0; HD 1d6 (3 hp); Claw 1d20 cannot crit (1d3 damage)

Now you see some resistances, as well as a few cool powers. Contagious Stench is one of those things that makes the ghast unique, and while it isn’t an attack — and thus shows up in the “Traits” area of the stat block — it can kill people and turn them into zombies, which is scary. Especially for low-level, low-Stamina dungeon crawlers! The reanimating skeleton has a neat thing in its attack area where, if it is destroyed, the shattered remains continue to attack!

The Mausoleum & Graveyard entrance to Rappan Athuk

The Mausoleum & Graveyard entrance to Rappan Athuk

Fliers

Flying creatures are nasty, but they don’t have to be complicated! Here’s a gargoyle, and it uses the Aerial Predator trait described in chapter 1 of Critters, Creatures & Denizens to give it that flying edge. I don’t worry about acceleration, deceleration, and hover speeds because that’s stuff I can handle on the fly (or just ignoring it).

GREEN GUARDIAN GARGOYLE

Medium, Chaotic; Spd 30, fly 30; Init +0
AC  15; Saves Fort +5, Ref +0, Will +0; HD 2d8 (9 hp)

Resistance Mundane weapons deal half damage and have a 50% chance of breaking after dealing damage


Stand Still: When standing still they are completely motionless, and it cannot be discerned whether one is alive or an inanimate statue.


Atk crit 1d6, table III

  • Claw 1d20+4 melee (1d4+3)

Aerial Predator: Any flying creature that hunts by swooping down on unsuspecting targets applies this rule. They may dive from a distance equal to at least 100ft, but no more than twice their fly speed. All damages from this attack are multiplied by two. After the attack, the critter must succeed at a reflex save against a DC of 5, +1 per 100ft of the drive. Failure means their speed is reduced to 0 and they must land. Success means they can fly off at half their normal fly speed, even with their kill as long as they can carry the weight.

Dumb goblins are fun goblins!

Dumb goblins are fun goblins!

Goblins

GOBLIN GRUNT

Small, Chaotic; Spd 20; Init -1

AC 12 (leather armor); Saves Fort +1, Ref +0, Will +0; HD 1d6 (3 hp)


Born to Skulk: If you practice anything long enough then you are bound to get better at it, and goblins are no exception. Goblins gain a +2 bonus on stealth checks from having to live their lives constantly avoiding the cook-pots.

Infravision: Goblins can detect heat signatures out to 60ft, but suffer a -1 penalty on all actions in strong light.


Atk crit 1d6, table III

  • Shortsword 1d20-1 melee (1d6-1)
  • Shortbow 1d20 ranged (1d6, range 25/50/75)

Bold in Numbers: Because of their cowardly nature goblins have learned to attack in large numbers when they cannot avoid fighting; for every 5 goblins in the combat, they gain +1 to attacks and damage. This bonus applies to their morale checks as well.

GOBLIN CULTIST

Small, Chaotic; Spd 20; Init -1

AC 10; Saves Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +2; HD 3d6 (15 hp)


Infravision: Goblins can detect heat signatures out to 60ft, but suffer a -1 penalty on all actions in strong light.

Spells: This cultist’s patron is Azi Dahaka (DCC 330). Their caster levels is 3 and their casting check is 1d20+4.

Flaming hands (R 15 ft, CT 1 action). Roll 1d4:

  1. Failure. Body hair scorched and take 1 damage.
  2. Spell produces a blast of fire that burns a single target within range for 1d6+CL points of damage.
  3. Spell produces a blast of fire that burns up to three targets within range for 1d6+CL points of damage. All targets must be within 10’ of one another.
  4. Spell produces a blast of fire that burns up to three targets within range for 2d6+CL points of damage. All targets must be within 10’ of one another.

Snake trick (CT 1 action, Save Will vs. 1d20+4 if item is held by unwilling creature or is a magic item). Roll 1d4:

  1. Failure, spell lost. The caster’s wounds weep clear ooze—an offering to Azi Dahaka that leaves the caster parched and dry. Anytime the caster takes a wound, he loses 1 additional hp due to the seeping ooze.
  2. The caster transforms a non-magical object, up to the volume of a spear, permanently into a snake of like size. The object must be within 50’. If in the hand of an enemy, the snake immediately strikes (Atk +5, dmg 1d4+1 plus poison (Fort DC 18 or 1d6 Str)) before slithering away.
  3. The caster transforms 1d3 non-magical objects, each up to the volume of a spear, permanently into snakes of like size. The objects must be within 100’. If in the hands of enemies, the snakes immediately strike (Atk +5, dmg 1d4+1 plus poison (Fort DC 18 or 1d6 Str)) before slithering away.
  4. The caster transforms 1d12 non-magical non-living objects, or one magical object, each up to the volume of a spear, permanently into snakes of like size. The objects must be within sight. If in the hands of enemies, the snakes immediately strike (Atk +5, dmg 1d4+1 plus poison (Fort DC 18 or 1d6 Str)) before slithering away.

Atk crit 1d6, table I

  • Spear 1d20+1 melee (1d8)
  • Shortbow 1d20+1 ranged (1d6, range 25/50/75)

So in this case, I kept some of the randomness of spellcasting, because goblins are notoriously dumb and chaotic, and thus they succumb to patron taint, corruption, and wild spell misfires all the time. I could’ve just built this guy as a Player Character spellcaster, but that’s super-convoluted in play. Instead, I just picked 4 results off of the noted spells (making sure one was a failure), and dropped them on a list for a 1d4 dice roll. This way, the goblin might fail and do something crazy, but they are more likely to cast the spell successfully. By reducing all the info, though, I’m also able to tailor which successful results I use for the spellcaster, and that gives them a unique feel. I also didn’t pick as many spells as I should have: a goblin cultist would normally have 1 patron spell, plus somewhere close to 3 other spells from levels 1 and 2 based on this guy’s hit dice. That’s because I’m reducing the spells they do have to mostly successful rolls, and only one of them results in “Spell Lost,” so the chances of this guy successfully casting flaming hands multiple times are high. That makes this goblin a viable opponent, retains a touch of randomness, and gives him a unique “feel” regarding his spells vs. another spellcaster with potentially the same spells, but who might get different results pulled from the Spell Check table.

Whew!

Simple Foes

The next two are very simple.

OGRE

Large, Chaotic; Spd 40; Init +0
AC  13; Saves Fort +4, Ref +2, Will -2; HD 5d12+10 (42 hp)


Night Vision: Ogres can see just as well by starlight as they do during the daylight hours.


Atk crit 1d4, table G

  • Fist 1d20+3 melee (1d8+2 plus bite, reach 10 ft)
  • Club 1d20+3 melee (1d10+2, reach 10 ft)

Bite: If the ogre hits with his fist, the target must make a DC 14 Reflex saving throw or be pulled within 5 feet and subject to biting that deals 1d6+2 damage.

MAUL SKELETON

Medium, Chaotic; Spd 30; Init +0

AC 9; Saves Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +2; HD 6d6 (21 hp)


Resistance Slashing and piercing weapons deal half damage


Atk crit 1d6, table U

  • Claw 1d20+3 melee (1d3+2)
  • Two handed metal military flail w/ 3 balls 1d20+3 melee (2d4+4)
  • Javelin 1d20 ranged (1d6+2, range 30/60/90)

That’s about as simple a stat block as you can get in my version (a human bandit might remove the “Traits” section and therefore be slightly simpler). I gave the ogre something fun to play with in regards to having a bite that is contingent on them hitting with a fist, which in the narrative of the game is a violent grab, jerking the target in close and taking a chunk out of them with its fanged maw, then tossing them aside. I thought about making it automatic or requiring an attack roll rather than a saving throw…still not sure about that.

Dumb Ogre

Dumb Ogre

Conclusion

So, what do you think? Did I overcomplicate the game? Did I simplify the presentation? Did I move too far away from the low-math, free-form style of Dungeon Crawl Classics (or OSR games in general)? Did I completely break the game balance of monsters?


If you enjoyed this article, please comment, like, and share! We publish supplements, campaign accessories, and adventures for Dungeons & Dragons at Dungeon Masters Guild as well as other OSR games and Cortex Plus at DriveThruRPG.

We use affiliate links for products in our articles. That means we get a few cents from any products you buy when visiting those links, but you don’t get charged any extra. This helps us keep the lights on, and we truly appreciate your support.

Send feedback and connect with us on FacebookTwitter, or Google+, or email us via our About page.

neuronphaser is an editor, eCommerce consultant, web producer, and analyst living in sunny Hollywood, CA. He's been playing tabletop RPGs of all kinds since 1985.

Tagged with: , ,

Leave a Reply