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Dungeon Denizens
Wandering Monsters
By James Wyatt

I n discussing buglike monsters last week, I touched on the carrion crawler, one of the iconic dungeon scavengers of D&D. It’s a small step from there to the really ooky things—slimes and similar beasties. Without further ado...


Gelatinous Cube

Type: Ooze
Level: Low
Environment: Dungeons and caverns

A gelatinous cube is a Large (10 feet on a side) cube of quivering, transparent protoplasm that travels slowly along dungeon corridors and cave floors, absorbing carrion, creatures, and trash. Inorganic material it takes into its bulk remains trapped and visible inside the cube’s body. Cubes tend to grow to fit the available space, so a cube inhabiting a dungeon originally built by giants might be 15 feet or 20 feet on a side. There is theoretically no upper limit to the size of a gelatinous cube.

A gelatinous cube attacks by slamming its body into its prey. Its sticky substance then draws the creature into its bulk and begins a slow process of digestion that leaves only inorganic matter behind.

Gray Ooze

Type: Ooze
Level: Low
Environment: Any underground

Gray ooze is a slimy horror that inhabits subterranean places. It closely resembles wet stone or flowstone formations. It slides, drips, and oozes along cavern floors in search of food, including metal and carrion, as well as any living creature it can catch. Its substance is highly acidic, dissolving metal quickly—including weapons that strike it. It gathers its substance together and lashes out like a snake to attack potential prey.

Mimic

Type: Monstrosity
Level: Low
Environment: Any underground

A mimic is a subterranean creature that can alter its pigmentation and shape to appear as an inanimate object of stone, wood, or metal. The most common form of mimic, true to its name, usually imitates nearby objects such as doors or chests, making themselves virtually indistinguishable from the copied object. Thus, a room with a mimic might seem to have two chests on the floor, two doorways in the wall (where the mimic’s body copies both the wooden door and the stone frame), or two stone basins. They have enough intelligence to imitate objects they know creatures are likely to touch or interact with. Its total volume is about 150 to 200 cubic feet.

A mimic secretes a sticky substance that causes any creature touching it to become stuck fast. It pummels a stuck creature with a heavy pseudopod. They are carnivorous and eat anything they can catch.

A rare few mimics are more intelligent than their kin and willing to negotiate for food. Both kinds of mimic are thought to be the creation of a long-forgotten wizard.

Ochre Jelly

Type: Ooze
Level: Low
Environment: Any underground

An ochre jelly is a dark yellow slime that flows along floors, walls, and ceilings in subterranean areas, looking for flesh or plant matter to consume. (They far prefer flesh.) Its acidic substance dissolves flesh with horrifying speed.

Lightning and slashing attacks do not harm the creature, but instead divide it into two smaller oozes with identical attacks.

Otyugh

Type: Aberration
Level: Low
Environment: Urban or any underground

An otyugh is a disgusting and horrifying creature that feeds on offal and rubbish, supplementing that diet with fresh meat when it’s available. It sometimes lives in an uneasy truce with other monsters, acting as a guard for them in exchange for a steady supply of food. It lives in piles of filth, usually in dungeons near other subterranean creatures but occasionally in city sewers or refuse piles.

An otyugh’s body is bloated and covered with brownish-gray, rocklike skin. It stands on three legs and has three tentacles—two long ones tipped with rough, thorny pads, and one short protrusion that contains the creature’s three eyes. In the center of its mass is a gaping mouth filled with sharp teeth. It attacks with its two longer tentacles and its bite, both slashing and grabbing with the tentacles. When it grabs a creature, it might smash it against the ground, bite it (with a bonus), simply squeeze it to death, or even use it as a shield against other creatures’ attacks.

Despite all appearances, otyughs are about as smart as ogres. Though they don’t speak or understand any languages, they have a limited telepathic ability that allows very simple communication—barely enough to negotiate agreements with other monsters. Even this limited contact with an otyugh’s alien mind can be enough to make stalwart adventurers recoil in horror.

Roper

Type: Monstrosity
Level: High
Environment: Any underground

A roper is a Large (9 feet tall) monstrosity that can alter its basic shape to appear as a tall cone-shaped heap (strongly resembling a stalagmite or natural column) or a large, almost flat hump on the ground. Its body has a stony covering that gives it excellent protection but is nevertheless flexible. It has a single yellow eye, almost invisible when closed, and can open a huge, gaping maw lined with sharp teeth to devour its prey. Six small bumps about halfway up its body are the source of the ropelike strands it uses to snare prey.

A roper moves very slowly, though it can climb smooth walls and ceilings with ease. To capture prey, it propels long (up to 50 feet) strands of a sticky excretion to ensnare creatures that wander too close. The sticky enzymes covering these strands sap the strength of living creatures they touch, allowing the roper to slowly drag their prey into its maw. Breaking free of the strands requires significant effort, though they can also be severed. A roper can extrude a new strand moments after one is severed, and it can have six strands active at any one time.

A roper eats primarily meat, but it takes anything it can grab into its stony maws and can digest most substances. A gizzardlike organ inside the creature holds anything it can’t digest, including platinum and gems. (Other metals are slowly dissolved by its digestive juices.)

Ropers reproduce asexually and are usually solitary except in areas that are exceptionally rich in prey, where as many as three may be found in one large cave.

What Do You Think?

That’s a pretty disgusting assortment of creatures. Do these descriptions fit with their history in D&D?

 OK, I can’t bring myself to ask about these three creatures separately. Do these descriptions of the gelatinous cube, gray ooze, and ochre jelly fit with your sense of the iconic D&D creatures?  
1—They’re disgusting, and not in a good way.
2—These are not the oozes I know and love.
3—Sure, they’re slimes, but not quite there.
4—They are more or less on target.
5—Yep, they are what they’re supposed to be.

If you think one of them is particularly better or worse than the others, let us know in the comments!

 How does this description of the mimic fit with your sense of the iconic D&D creature?  
1—It bears no resemblance to a mimic.
2—That is clearly something disguised as a mimic.
3—I can see mimic from here.
4—Sure, I recognize that as a mimic.
5—It is the best of all possible mimics.

 How does this description of the otyugh fit with your sense of the iconic D&D creature?  
1—I am repulsed and annoyed.
2—It’s sorely lacking.
3—It’s getting there, but it needs more work.
4—Yeah, I recognize that as an otyugh.
5—Aaugh! I can hear it in my MIND!

  And how about the roper?  
1—I am repulsed and annoyed.
2—It’s sorely lacking.
3—It’s getting there, but it needs more work.
4—Yeah, I recognize that as a roper.
5—It has me by its tendrils!

Previous Poll Results

How well does the ankheg described here match your sense of the iconic D&D creatures?
4—Yeah, I recognize it as an ankheg. 346 48.8%
5—Gah! An ankheg! 271 38.2%
3—Could be sort of like an ankheg. 74 10.4%
2—It may be a burrowing bug-monster, but it's not an ankheg. 14 2.0%
1— I'm disgusted, and not in a good way. 4 0.6%
Total 709 100.0%

How well does the carrion crawler described here match your sense of the iconic D&D creature?
4—Yeah, I recognize it as a carrion crawler. 322 45.5%
5—Gah! A carrion crawler! 322 45.5%
3—Could be sort of like a carrion crawler. 42 5.9%
2—It may be a paralyzing bug-monster, but it's not a carrion crawler. 15 2.1%
1—I'm disgusted, and not in a good way. 6 0.8%
Total 707 100.0%

How well does the purple worm described here match your sense of the iconic D&D creature?
4—Yeah, I recognize it as a purple worm. 323 45.3%
5—Gah! A purple worm! 294 41.2%
3—Could be sort of like a purple worm. 77 10.8%
2—It may be a giant tunneling worm, but it's not a purple worm. 11 1.5%
1—I'm disgusted, and not in a good way. 8 1.1%
Total 713 100.0%

How well does the rust monster described here match your sense of the iconic D&D creature?
5—Gah! A rust monster! 382 53.6%
4—Yeah, I recognize it as a rusty monster. 273 38.3%
3—Could be sort of like a rust monster. 41 5.8%
2—It may be a buglike critter that rusts things, but it's not a rust monster. 9 1.3%
1—I'm disgusted, and not in a good way. 8 1.1%
Total 713 100.0%

How well does the stirge described here match your sense of the iconic D&D creature?
4—Yeah, I recognize it as a stirge. 329 45.7%
5—Gah! A stirge! 311 43.2%
3—Could be sort of like stirge-like. 53 7.4%
2—It may be a blood-sucking mosquito-bat, but it's not a stirge. 20 2.8%
1—I'm disgusted, and not in a good way. 7 1.0%
Total 720 100.0%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
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