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We Have a Hulk
Wandering Monsters
By James Wyatt

H ere's a pretty much random assortment of monsters, unified only by their basic body shape—that of a hulk.

Umber Hulk

Large Monstrosity
Alignment: Chaotic evil
Level: Medium
Environment: Any underground

It's such a hulk, hulk is even in its name! The umber hulk is one of those classic, iconic D&D monsters. This big brute has powerful claws it uses to dig through stone and earth, a hard chitinous carapace, two large pincers flanking its mouth, and four eyes—two multifaceted insect eyes, and two smaller eyes.

Umber hulks are more intelligent than their appearance would suggest (though I'd put them more toward Intelligence 7 or 8 rather than the 11 they had in the 3rd Edition Monster Manual). They dig to a point adjacent to a well-traveled tunnel or corridor, waiting for prey to happen by, then burst through the wall to attack. They also create pits, deadfalls, and cave-ins to trap hapless victims.

They fight with their great claws, dealing a lot of slashing damage. Worse, looking into their eyes causes confusion—a creature subjected to this effect might wander aimlessly, stand in a stupor, attack a random creature (friend or foe), or babble nonsense, for example. They rarely fight to the death, and they are equipped to flee from a threat they can't handle.

There are rumors of umber hulk cities deep underground. I find them hard to believe. Umber hulks might be cunning predators, but they don't wear clothes, they don't use tools, they don't farm or herd—they're hunters, plain and simple. And solitary, for the most part. The idea of umber hulk cities really seems like a stretch.


Large Monstrosity
Alignment: Chaotic evil
Level: Medium
Environment: Swamp, jungle, and underground waters

A chuul is a hulking creature that looks like a monstrous cross between an insect, a lobster, and a serpent—or so its description says. To my eyes, it looks like a big crustacean—I'm not really seeing the rest. It's a lobster with six long legs and tentacles around its mouth. (Incidentally, it looks a lot like an oversized piscoloth.)

Previous editions have described the chuul as an aberration, but I don't think it qualifies. According to our working definition of aberration, it would have to be "utterly alien," with physiology and psychology "so unlike natural creatures that they are virtually incomprehensible to the human mind." Chuuls have no magical or psionic abilities, and they lack any element of horrific physical transformation. So I've labeled them monstrosities, just like umber hulks.

True to their hulking form, chuuls are strong physical combatants. A chuul attacks with its enormous claws, piercing and grabbing its prey. After a creature is held in a claw, the chuul can bring the creature to its tentacles and paralyze its prey. Because the tentacles can grasp prey, even a creature that resists the paralytic toxin at first is likely to succumb sooner or later, as the tentacles hold it fast.

And chuuls, like umber hulks, are intelligent—or at least that's how they were presented in 3rd Edition (Intelligence 10). They set traps and ambushes, and they create simple underwater lairs that they decorate with trophies from their kills. They hunt all kinds of swamp life for food, but hunt humanoid prey out of murderous hate.

That said, they're monstrosities, not humanoids. They don't have culture, make tools, or live in cities. They rarely appear in groups of more than half a dozen. All that is a fine reason to drop their Intelligence somewhere below 10, maybe even as low as 4th Edition's 4, but more likely in the same 7 to 8 range where I pegged the umber hulk.

Gray Render

Large Monstrosity
Alignment: Neutral
Level: Medium
Environment: Any wilderness

The last in our category of hulking brutes is one that really lives up to the stereotype. A stooped, massive creature with gray skin, long arms, and massive claws that reach the ground, a toothy maw, and a sloped forehead with six small, yellowish eyes. It's barely sentient, with an Intelligence of 3.

True to its name, the gray render is a simple combatant that grabs and tears at its foes. Its six eyes make it particularly perceptive, but that's about all there is to say about its game statistics.

The gray render does have one other interesting feature, though. While it is never found in groups (they even reproduce asexually), it has a strong bonding instinct. It selects one creature (or group of creatures) native to its surroundings, and becomes a sort of bodyguard to that creature. It does all it can to protect and provide for its charge, even if its help is not appreciated or even recognized. It brings its charge a daily offering of meat, and it refuses to harm the other creature, even to the point of retreating if its charge attacks it.

Frankly, that makes gray renders wonderfully useful in encounter building. You never need to fabricate an excuse about why the render is found in the company of a lion, a displacer beast, a unicorn, or a pack of goblins. You simply decide that it has bonded to these creatures, and you have a powerful addition to any other encounter. There are certainly interesting story possibilities inherent in this concept as well. What if the player characters kill a render's charge while it is off hunting? What if a render bonds to the PCs themselves?

What Do You Think?

Previous Poll Results

1) First off, are there creatures I’ve described here that you don’t ever want to see in D&D again? (Check all that apply.)
Lurker (above) 114 10%
Trapper 151 14%
Piercer 233 21%
Darkmantle 84 8%
Green slime 70 6%
Shrieker 85 8%
Ear seeker 620 57%
Throat leech 606 55%
Rot grub 351 32%
Yellow mold 90 8%
Brown mold 65 6%

2) Lurker and trapper: One monster or two? Or are they monsters at all?
Two different monsters, and make them more different. 132 12%
Two different monsters, without significant changes. 77 7%
The same creature, able to lurk on floor or ceiling as it chooses. 296 27%
The same creature, distinguished by sex. 92 8%
The same creature: Lurkers grow up to be trappers. 142 13%
Two different forms of trap. 59 5%
The same kind of trap. 46 4%
Lurkers are monsters, trappers are traps. 35 3%
Trappers are monsters, lurkers are traps. 8 1%

3) Piercers and darkmantles: One monster or two? Or are they monsters at all?
Two different, unrelated monsters. 225 21%
Keep the piercer, get rid of the darkmantle. 84 8%
Keep the darkmantle, get rid of the piercer. 215 20%
Darkmantles grow up to be piercers. 134 12%
Piercers grow up to be darkmantles. 192 18%
Darkmantles are monsters, piercers are traps. 208 19%

4) Green slime: Monster or trap?
Monster. 329 30%
Trap. 685 63%
Neither; get rid of it. 52 5%

5) Shrieker: Monster or nuisance?
Monster, as-is. 141 13%
Monster, and give it some kind of attack. 92 8%
Hazard, with serious consequences besides attracting other monsters. 317 29%
Nuisance, attracting other monsters. 442 40%
Neither; get rid of it. 75 7%

6) Have you used ear seekers, throat leeches, or rot grubs in your game before?
No, I never used them, and I never will. 532 49%
No, I haven’t used them, but I can imagine a circumstance in which I might want to. 249 23%
Yes, I’ve used them because I have an antagonistic relationship with my players. 32 3%
Yes, I’ve used them to reinforce desired player behavior. 74 7%
Yes, I’ve used them for some other reason. 174 16%

7) Yellow and brown mold: Monster or hazard?
Monster, as-is. 152 14%
Monster, and give it some kind of attack. 68 6%
Dangerous hazard. 809 74%
Neither; get rid of it. 42 4%

8) Overall, how do you think the descriptions of these creatures square with their history in the game?
1—I’m choking on spores and/or throat leeches. 23 2%
2—This article is like shrieker noise. 30 3%
3—I think you’re missing the point. 105 10%
4—You have pierced the darkness that has shrouded these monsters from my sight. 607 56%
5—Like a rot grub, you have burrowed right to the heart of what these monsters are about. 296 27%

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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Capacity of manipulate/create tools is important for develop a good intelligence and complex society, maybe the top a umber hulk can reach, is a social insect-swarm one, like ants, collecting strange object of their victims, with a big boss mother or similar. But in the number of ants, the umber hulks simply overhelm anything undergrounds, and many large tunnelling creature can cause giant crumbles. So, be caution.
Give a chuul an intelligence little lower than an umber hulk.
Gray render is one of my favourite, is strange but strong affection to a random creature is very unique among monsters. Why not give them a vindictive berserker rage when is bonded creature is killed and follow tracks capacity?
Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (9/20/2013 11:32:43 AM)



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