During this season of spookiness, D&D Dungeon Masters everywhere have horror-filled adventures dancing in their heads. Plans of deadly traps and terrifying dungeons fill their dreams. Yes, this is the season for horror themed one-shots, but there's one thing that plagues DMs seeking to run such games — what type of monsters to use.
There is no shortage of demons and ghouls, but don't you want something a little more out of the box? Instead of settling with the boring demon lord or beholder, why not choose a more fitting creature? Here are a few monsters that fit the Halloween season the best.
Picture this: you're in an old house that creaks and groans every so often. You're alone, yet you swear you hear footsteps that aren't your own and the sound of a door opening and closing. You begin noticing things. Pictures along the wall having been knocked from their perch and random items seemingly moving of their own violation. In the world of D&D, there's only one logical conclusion. Ghosts.
While not the strongest creature in the Monster Manuel, ghosts can be incredibly atmospheric. A ghost can subtly create the feeling of unease through the use of unexplained sounds and disappearing objects. These creatures are perfect for creating a spooky environment.
Mimics aren't the traditional "horror creature" but they have the potential to create a truly terrifying encounter. Typically, mimics reside within dungeons, taking the appearance of a chest or other loot to draw in an unwitting adventure for their meal. They can, however, be used in other locations.
Many forget that mimics aren't mindless monsters. They're scarily smart and known for using a myriad of tactics to deceive their prey. It wouldn't be a stretch to have one of these creatures take up residence in a town, leading to several missing persons and an adventuring party being called in to investigate. Having your players hunt down a shapeshifting creature, while it hunts them, is the perfect horror scenario that would make John Carpenter proud.
8/10 Flesh Golem
The story of Frankenstein's monster is one of the most iconic tales of horror to date. The idea of a mad scientist mashing together an assortment of human body parts to make a "living" amalgamation was, and still is, a unique concept that never fails to send shivers down your spine. So much so that Wizards of the Coast decided that it would be a perfect monster to include in D&D.
A flesh golem is a horrifying abomination created from assorted humanoid parts. It functions exactly like the typical golem, meaning that it wouldn't be surprising for its creator to lose control over their creation. Having a group tasked with hunting down this fleshy automaton would be the perfect homage to Mary Shelley's masterpiece.
Vampires are one of the most iconic monsters to grace folklore. In nearly every part of the world, there's some myth regarding these blood-sucking creatures. Even today, vampires have a large presence in pop culture, making them perfect addition to a Halloween-themed one-shot.
Vampires are unique in the fact that they can be a throwaway encounter and the "big bad" of the session. With their ability to charm and control others, it would make for an interesting scenario for a group of adventurers to enter a town under a vampire's influence. They could notice subtle hints that everything isn't what it seems, leading to a confrontation with the vampire.
It's a commonly believed notion that Night of the Living Dead was one of the pioneering movies in the horror genre. While not the first, this movie brought the genre much more acclaim than its predecessors. It's also the movie that popularized zombies and the ensuing destruction that they can cause.
Having your players survive against a throng of zombies is perfect for a horror one-shot. Sure, zombies aren't very powerful on their own, but flooding the map with these creatures to give the impression of a horde is the perfect fix. This session could be a simple survival scenario or even a mystery where the players need to discover the origins of this outbreak and stop it before it spreads.
The story of a person losing control and turning into a wild animal under the full moon is a tale as old as time — and just as prevalent in modern-day folklore as the vampire. Where a vampire is often depicted as refined and elegant, a werewolf is feral and brutal in its methods, hardly above an animal when under the influence of the moon.
You could have the classic scenario that directly pits the party against a pack of werewolves, or you could add a flare of mystery. Having your players enter a town to discover a mangled body is a great segue into discovering that a werewolf is living in the town. You could even have the werewolf be one of the party members and task the group with discovering who it is.
While having a big-name monster being the star of a movie or game, it's always the unassuming entity that makes the biggest impact. A scarecrow is such an entity. In D&D, scarecrows function much like a golem, lying in wait to exact its master's command.
For your one-shot, describe how your players, having slain a hag, make their way back to town, crossing a large field with several scarecrows set up throughout. Every once in a while, have your group roll a Perception check, describing how they swear that one of the scarecrows has moved. Not only does this set up an eerie atmosphere, but most of your table won't know that scarecrows can be incredibly vindictive when their masters are killed.
While not an iconic Halloween monster like a ghost or vampire, mummies are still a viable choice for a Halloween-themed D&D session. It's a simple matter to have an NPC or PC find some kind of relic or treasure from a crypt or tomb and take it back with them. This, in turn, would summon the relic's bandage-wrapped owner back from the dead with an unswayable desire for revenge.
Stephen Sommers' The Mummy is the perfect example of such a narrative. Sure D&D mummies work differently than Imhotep, but the beauty of being a DM is that you can make changes to an already existing creature to fit your campaign. If you want a mummy with the power of a sorcerer, then do it. It's your story and this would make for an interesting encounter.
2/10 Green Hag
There are of course creatures that are actual witches, such as the Barovian Witch and the Blood Witch, but these beings are more cultish than the stereotypical witch. Yes, they can manipulate the arcane forces, but this is typically through a warlock-like pact. Ironically, the most witch-like creature in D&D is a hag. Specifically, a green hag.
Green hags dwell deep within dark and misty forests and have a penchant for causing despair. They thrive off manipulating others with the promise of power and wealth or mimicking the voices of an injured individual to lure a good Samaritan, or even an unsuspecting child, to their doom. If these types of hags aren't the perfect creature to play a witch, then there isn't one.
1/10 Oni Mage
Have you ever heard of the Bogeyman? It's a creature born from nightmares that thrives on fear. It's the creature that hides under your bed or in the dark basement of your childhood home. It has no definite shape as it looks like whatever will scare you the most and, in D&D, it's known as an oni mage, or simply an oni.
In the world of D&D, oni are monsters that haunt the dreams of man. They use magic to hide their true selves, gaining the trust of their victim before inevitably betraying and devouring their target. Sending your players on a quest to uncover the reason behind the disappearances of a local town's children would be a fantastic way to incorporate an oni, as they prefer much younger prey.
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