Dark Sun Bestiary (Part 5: Monsters of the Verdant Belt 1/4) | New Monsters for Fifth Edition

The Dark Sun bestiary conversion continues. Currently, I’m working through the MC12: The Dark Sun Monstrous Compendium – Terrors of the Desert. Specifically, I’m dividing the creatures up by the random encounter tables.

First, are the monsters of the verdant belts.

Verdant Belts

Athas is an arid world, but it is not entirely waterless. In various places, springs and underground streams bubble to the surface, forming small pools around which a verdant belt of vegetation grows. These are the creatures found in those regions.

 

cloud-ray-ben-wootten
Art by Ben Wootten.

Cloud Ray

Through the skies and clouds of Athas slowly fly these deadly giants. Cloud rays can sometimes be seen crossing the evening sky.

Cloud rays have a broad, flattened body and flap their huge pectoral fins to aid their psionic flight powers. They are speckled-brown on top and drab olive and white underneath.

Sets of ridges protect the creatures’ eyes. They have four jet-black eyes, two mounted on each side of the snout and the other two on each side of the cranial bulge. Down the back from the bulge runs a spine that becomes a long, thin, whip-like tail that ends in an appendage known as a zip. The zip is comprised of razor-sharp, barbed ridges that grow at the tip of the spine. The interior mouth or maw (20 + feet across) is lined with row upon row of razor-sharp cartilage ridges.

The zip is also used in a complex signaling system that is only understood by other cloud rays.

Cloud rays wander aimlessly through the Athasian skies always searching for their next meal. On rare occasions, they land on the ground and may be mistaken for an outcropping rock. Those hapless enough to be standing on a ray when it decides to become airborne may become its next meal. A cloud ray’s preferred diet consists of devouring other flying creatures.

They have a special fondness for rocs, pterrax, and flying humanoids. The ray has no true stomach, preferring to swallow prey whole and grind the victim to liquid on its interior jaw ridges to help aid with digestion. After a good meal, cloud rays will sometimes psionically dream travel while their meal digests. Cloud rays have territorial respect for others of their species and, with very few exceptions, do not intrude into another ray’s air space.

They are solitary beings except when they seek a mate. Females have a gestation period which lasts over 3 years. They bear live young while airborne. The male catches and supports the young ray on his back for the first year of its life while the female forages. After the young cloud ray learns to fly and becomes self-sufficient, the three go their separate ways.

Although innately psionic, cloud rays become infuriated when a psionicist contacts them. It drives them into a tremendous rage, and they will do anything they can (except land) to capture and devour the offending psionicist. The Dragon is the only creature in the world that cloud rays truly fear.

A single cloud ray could easily provide an entire settlement with enough meat and raw materials for 2-3 months. The chances of this occurring are slim at best. These creatures are fierce and feared for good reasons. Entire villages have been reported decimated by a single cloud ray on the hunt. The effect of the creature hovering close over buildings and flapping its massive wings has the same effect as the most deadly sandstorm. The zip alone can easily destroy most buildings in a few swipes.

Cloud Ray

Gargantuan monstrosity, unaligned


Armor Class 14

Hit Points 420 (24d20 + 168)

Speed 0 ft., fly 60 ft.


Abilities Str 25 (+7), Dex 18 (+4), Con 24 (+7), Int 2 (-4), Wis 14 (+2), Cha 7 (-2)


Saving Throws Dex +10, Con +13, Wis +8

Skills Stealth +10, Perception +8

Senses passive Perception 18

Languages

Challenge 19 (22,000 XP)


Dive Attack. If the cloud ray is flying and dives at least 30 feet straight toward a target and then hits it with a melee weapon attack, the attack deals an extra 36 (8d6) damage to the target.

Innate Spellcasting (Psionics). The cloud ray’s innate spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 16). It can innately cast the following spells requiring no components.

  • At will: control winds, shield
  • 3/day: telekinesis
  • 1/day: dream

Actions

Multiattack. The ray makes two attacks: one with its bite and one with its tail zip.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +13 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (3d8 + 7) piercing damage. If the target is a Huge or smaller creature, it must succeed on a DC 21 Dexterity saving throw or be swallowed by the cloud ray. A swallowed creature is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the ray, and it takes 21 (6d6) acid damage at the start of each of the ray’s turns.

If the ray takes 50 damage or more on a single turn from a creature inside it, the ray must succeed on a DC 23 Constitution saving throw at the end of that turn or regurgitate all swallowed creatures, which fall prone in a space within 10 feet of the ray. If the ray dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse by using 20 feet of movement, exiting prone.

Tail Zip. The ray whips its tail, creating a massive thunderclap. Each creature in a 20-foot cube originating from the ray must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 27 (5d10) thunder damage and is pushed 20 feet away from the ray. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage and isn’t pushed. In addition, unsecured objects that are completely within the area of effect are automatically pushed 20 feet away from the ray. The tail zip emits a thunderous boom audible out to 1,000 feet.

 

allosaurus
Art by Amazon.com

Drake, Fire

Drakes are gargantuan, reptilian monsters that use Athas as their personal hunting grounds. Drakes comprise a very powerful, nonintelligent group of creatures on Athas. However, they are not stupid. If natural instinct, cunning, and ferocity were measurable, drakes would surpass many other creatures. They are feared for their size, speed, and devastating abilities in combat, the latter due, in great part, to their very powerful psionics.

Many on Athas consider the drakes to be second only to the Dragon in this category. Drakes are not natives of Athas. The first drakes used tremendous psionic powers to travel from their home elemental planes to Athas, where they found a world much to their liking. Many generations of drakes have been born on Athas since that time.

Humans and humanoids comprise the mainstay of their diet. They will eat inix and mekillots when available and erdlu if necessary. Drakes prefer the taste of carnivore flesh over any other type of meat.

Fire drakes are the evilest and malicious of the drakes. They enjoy inflicting pain for the pleasure of watching their victims writhe in agony. A fire drake’s greatest delight comes from torturing a potential meal.

Fire drakes are large, spiny, reptilian creatures with pebblelike skin. Each pebble is actually a scale. They are red-and-black mottled, similar in color to the dying embers of a fire, and their skin is very glossy. Fire drakes have four legs. The front two are smaller with very sharp claws, while the back legs are longer and thicker.

Fire drakes prefer to live near natural volcanic action or in areas where they can bask all day in the hot Athasian sun. At night, they retreat to an area of safety or bury themselves under the hot sand. They do this to insulate themselves from the cool evening air. Fire drakes seem equally at home in the moist heat of the Hinterlands and the dry desert wastes.

The flakes of hide are valuable spell components for fire-based magic. The unusual pebble hide of the fire drake is shed once every three years or after being damaged, and new scales begin to grow underneath.

Fire drakes are carnivores, feeding mostly on humanoids, kanks, and other animals. They will eat erdlu only after the creature has been burnt. The hide of the fire drake is the most highly prized of all the drakes as it tends to make the wearer immune to some of the sun’s devastating effects.


Fire Drake Armor

Armor (scale mail), uncommon

While nonmagical, fire drake armor provides the wearer resistance to fire damage.  In addition, anyone protected by a fire drake hide (either wearing it or riding in a vehicle covered by it) needs only half the amount of water a day, depending on their activity.

Drake, Fire

Gargantuan elemental, neutral evil


Armor Class 21 (natural armor)

Hit Points 370 (20d20 + 160)

Speed 30 ft.


Abilities Str 28 (+9), Dex 10 (+0), Con 26 (+8), Int 3 (-4), Wis 19 (+4), Cha 13 (+1)


Saving Throws Dex +7, Con +15, Wis +11, Cha +7

Skills Perception +11

Damage Immunities fire, poison

Condition Immunities charmed, poison

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 21

Languages

Challenge 21 (33,000 XP)


Innate Spellcasting (Psionics). The drake’s innate spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 19). It can innately cast the following spells requiring no components.

  • At will: blurcontrol flames
  • 3/day: mass suggestiontelekinesis
  • 1/day: gaseous form

Mental Defenses. The drake is immune to any effect that would sense its emotions or read its thoughts, including divination spells. Even wish spells and spells or effects of similar power cannot affect the drake’s mind or gain information about it.


Actions

Multiattack. The drake makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +16 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 44 (5d12 + 8) piercing damage plus 10 (3d6) fire damage, and if the target is Large or smaller it must make a DC 22 Dexterity saving throw or be swallowed by the drake. A swallowed creature is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the drake, and it takes 28 (8d6) fire damage at the start of each of the ray’s turns.

If the drake takes 40 damage or more on a single turn from a creature inside it, the drake must succeed on a DC 25 Constitution saving throw at the end of that turn or regurgitate all swallowed creatures, which fall prone in a space within 10 feet of the ray. If the drake dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse by using 20 feet of movement, exiting prone.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +16 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d8 + 8) slashing damage.

Sphere of Fire (Psionics) (1/Day). The drake conjures a magical 50-foot diameter sphere of flames which appears in a space within 120 feet of it. Each creature that enters or starts its turn in the sphere takes 22 (4d10) fire damage from the flames and catches fire. Even after the creature leaves the sphere, someone must take an action to douse the fire, or the creature will continue to take 5 (1d10) fire damage at the start of each of its turns. The sphere remains as long as the drake concentrates (as if concentrating on a spell), up to 1 minute.

 

locust-swarm-isotxart
Art by ISOTXART on DeviantArt.

Insect Swarms, Athasian

The insects of Athas are of a hearty breed, and insect swarms are among the most deadly plagues that this world has ever been subject to. There are two insect breeds which form swarms in the deserts of Athas. The first type is a variant of the common locust, while
the other is a smaller version of the kank.

Locusts

The locusts of Athas are approximately 8 inches in length and look very much like large, brown grasshoppers. They have five-inch-long wings which grant them extremely fast flight speeds and excellent maneuverability.

Swarms gather together very rarely, usually only one time every three or four years. Those most affected by these swarms are the nomadic herdsmen, who often lose entire
herds of kank or erdlus to these terrible insects.

From afar, a locust swarm appears as a small dark cloud which moves quickly across the desert. The swarm usually covers an area of approximately 100 square yards.

Aside from the danger that these swarms present to the population, Athasian insect swarms also devastate miles and miles of vegetation and plant life.

Despite their devastation, the insect swarms do produce one useful side effect they kill large numbers of the rodents and small mammals breeding on the Athasian deserts. The other type of swarming insect is a small species of the kank. This small cousin of the kank is about five inches in length and sports three-inch-long wings on its back.

Mini-Kanks

Swarms of mini-kanks are slightly smaller (75 square yards) than swarms of locusts but move more quickly across the desert.

Variant: Insect Swarms

The insect swarms listed here use the same swarm of insects stat block found in Appendix A of the Fifth Addition Monster Manual with the special characteristics described below.

Swarm of Locusts. Locusts have a flying speed of 40 ft. and no climbing speed and its bites attack deals 20 (8d4) piercing damage, or 10 (4d4) piercing damage if the swarm has half of its hit points or fewer. A swarm of locusts is CR 1.

Swarm of Mini-Kanks. Mini-kanks drain blood from their targets. The kanks’ bites deal necrotic damage instead of piercing damage, and the target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage taken. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.

 

tchowb-michael-vondracek
Art by Michael Vondracek.

T’Chowb

The t’chowb is a particularly deadly little creature that delights in draining intelligence from those smarter than itself.

A t’chowb is a tiny, humanoid creature with a leathery, gray skin. It has beady, red eyes and a purple ridge along the skull. It is hairless, and its head looks entirely too large for its small body.

A t’chowb ordinarily does not speak any language, but it does gain the ability to speak one of the languages known by its victims.

A t’chowb is a solitary creature because it doesn’t like anyone or anything except the feeling of power it gets from becoming smarter. A sated t’chowb is a genius and uses its newfound intelligence in whatever manner best suits it.

The t’chowb can be found in cities or on the trail or almost anywhere else that intelligent beings gather.

T’chowb

Tiny monstrosity, neutral evil


Armor Class 16 (natural armor)

Hit Points 10 (4d4)

Speed 30 ft.


Abilities Str 3 (-4), Dex 16 (+3), Con 10 (+0), Int 2d4 + 10 (varies), Wis 14 (+2), Cha 11 (+0)


Skills Perception +6, Stealth +7

Condition Immunities charmed

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 16

Languages any 1d4 languages, telepathy 60 ft.

Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)


Innate Spellcasting (Psionics). The t’chowb’s innate spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 12). It can innately cast the following spells requiring no components.

  • At will: blurinvisibility
  • 1/day: dream, longstrider

Mental Defenses. The t’chowb is immune to any effect that would sense its emotions or read its thoughts, including divination spells. Even wish spells and spells or effects of similar power cannot affect the t’chowb’s mind or gain information about it.


Actions

Ego Whip (Psionics). Ranged Spell Attack: +4 to hit, range 90 ft., one creature. Hit: 7 (2d4 + 3) psychic damage.

Mind Drain (Psionics). Ranged Spell Attack: +4 to hit, range 30 ft., one creature. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) psychic damage, and the target must make a DC 12 Intelligence saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the target’s Intelligence score is reduced by 1 and the t’chowb’s Intelligence score increases by 1 and it gains all the memories, skill and tool proficiencies, and languages of its target. The target becomes a mindless husk if this reduces its Intelligence to 0, and it is permanently incapacitated. After that, only a greater restoration spell or similar magic can return the creature’s Intelligence score to normal. On subsequent turns, the t’chowb can use its bonus action to drain another point of Intelligence from the target as long as it remains within 30 feet of the target. The target can use its action to sever the connection by making another Intelligence saving throw, ending the effect on a  success.

The t’chowb’s increase in Intelligence wears off after 24 hours.

 

agony-beetle-tiberiu-soos
Art by Tiberiu Soos.

Beetle, Agony

This harmless looking, black scarab beetle psionically lives off the pain and agony of its victims, hence its name. The agony beetle has a hard, black-veined, chitinous shell that is marked by dark, transverse lines. The shell protects a pair of wings. Six hooked legs are used by the beetle to attach itself to the skin of humanoid or beast. An elongated snout contains a retractable tendril. The agony beetle uses a pair of stubby antennae to sense vibrations as it does not have eyes.

Agony beetles tend to live near water sources where they hope to encounter prey. A pain-devouring creature, the agony beetle never ingests solid food for sustenance, only an
occasional sip of water. They will not hesitate to attack members of their own species but are often no match for other insects more evolved for combat.

Old stories claim that agony beetles originally escaped from a sorcerer-king’s torture chamber. It is more likely that they were (and are) drawn there for obvious reasons. They are not edible and serve only the darkest needs. Halflings sometimes use the beetles in slings and throw them into trespassers’ clothing; it shortens the hunt without harming the meal.

Agony Beetle

Tiny beast, unaligned


Armor Class 13 (natural armor)

Hit Points 5 (2d4)

Speed 5 ft., fly 15 ft.


Abilities Str 2 (-4), Dex 12 (+1), Con 10 (+0), Int 1 (-5), Wis 7 (-2), Cha 3 (-4)


Skills Perception +0, Stealth +3

Condition Immunities charmed

Senses blindsight 30 ft., passive Perception 10

Languages –

Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)


Crawl (Psionics). While the beetle is in the same space as a Small or larger creature, it can attempt to go unnoticed while crawling on the creature. The target must make a DC 11 Wisdom saving throw. If the creature is incapacitated, it automatically fails this saving throw. On a successful saving throw, the target notices that the beetle is crawling on it. Otherwise, the beetle goes unnoticed and can make its bite attack against the target with advantage. The beetle remains undetected until it attacks the creature or another creature points the beetle out to the target.

Mental Defenses. The beetle is immune to any effect that would sense its emotions or read its thoughts, including divination spells. Even wish spells and spells or effects of similar power cannot affect the beetle’s mind or gain information about it.


Actions

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +0 to hit, reach 0 ft., one Medium or smaller creature in the same space as the beetle. Hit: 2 (1d4) necrotic damage. The target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage taken, and the beetle gains temporary hit points equal to that amount. While the beetle has temporary hit points from this attack, the beetle’s AC is 18 and it has advantage on its attack rolls and Dexterity (Stealth) checks. These benefits last for 1 hour.

Next: Bog Waders, Erdlands, B’rohgs, Id Fiends, Earth Drakes, and Water Drakes

Art credited individually.

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