This is a great request. It comes in as part of a contest I held recently to pick a special attack for the blutgeist monster I created here on the blog. The winner got to put in a request that appeared at the top of the request pile. Whoop whoop!
And here’s what he asked for (geeky nostalgia warning):
I am running Tomb of Annihilation for my group and would love to include a mini boss cameo of Olmec, from that old Nickelodeon show Legends of the Hidden Temple. I’d love to see what you could come up with!
Here are a few more requirements for this design:
- It needs to be a Medium-Hard difficulty challenge for 5 PCs of 9th level.
- Legendary actions are a must.
Who is Olmec?
Olmec is, well, an Olmec, a large stone head with origins in Mesoamerican mythology. On the Nickelodeon show, Olmec served as the keeper of the temple secrets. He may serve the same purpose in Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons, easily fitting into the Tomb of Annihilation. In that module, he really fits well into either in the Fane of the Night Serpent or the Tomb of the Nine Gods.
So what challenge rating do we need to set for a creature that falls somewhere between Medium-Hard difficulty for 5 PCs of 9th level? Let’s do a little math, shall we?
- On page 82 of the DMG, there is a chart for XP Thresholds by Character Level. According to this chart, Medium Encounter Difficulties are 1,100 per PC and Hard difficulties are 1,600. The average of the two is 1,350.
- Multiplying 1,350 by 5 (the number of PCs in the party) we come up with 6,750 encounter experience.
- We want Olmec to be a solo encounter, therefore I need to award him a CR that’s close to that 6,750 number. And that’s CR 11 (7,200 XP).
Now that we know Olmec’s target CR, it’s a matter of building a creature that fits that Challenge Rating. But how tough are CR 11 monsters?
Fortunately, my favorite chart in the whole book, Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating (page 274 of the DMG) tells us exactly how to design those features.
Here is what Olmec normally needs to have to be a CR 11 monster:
- Proficiency bonus of +4.
- AC (or effective AC) of 17.
- HP (or effective HP) of 221-235.
- Attack Bonus (or effective Attack bonus) of +8.
- Damage/Round of 69-74.
- Save DC (if he uses more spells than attacks) of 17.
Now, keep in mind that the offensive CR does not have to equal defensive CR. So long as the average is CR 11, we’ll be fine. Usually, I like to keep the two sides as close together as possible to prevent awkward imbalances. But after doing a rough draft of Olmec, I realized that to get his defensive side to match a lot of his flavor (and keep him from getting nerfed early on) I probably need to bump his defensive CR up to 15 and take his offensive CR down to 7. Here’s what that means for us:
- Proficiency bonus of +4
- AC (or effective AC) of 18.
- HP (or effective HP) of 281-295
- Attack Bonus (or effective Attack bonus) of +6
- Damage/Round of 45-50
- Save DC (if he uses more spells than attacks) of 15
I think all of that sounds pretty good. He might not be able to deal tons of damage, but at least he won’t go down in two turns.
Breaking it all down
Okay, Olmec is essentially a talking Olmec head that doesn’t move. So what does that mean for stats?
Olmec is a pretty big head. I think I’ll go with Large on size. That will give him 1d10s for hit dice.
I’m leaning towards Olmec being a construct and will probably base a lot of his powers on stolen golems and similar magical constructs. This means lots of immunities and resistances.
Olmec will serve its creators without question, who I’m guessing will be evil yuan-ti. His alignment is lawful evil.
We know from the Dungeon Master Guide that stone objects have a natural AC of 17 as does the stone golem from the Monster Manual. And it just so happens that 18 is our target AC anyways. However, Olmec’s Dexterity (see below) is going to change things up a bit and drop it down to 13 (which is the delta between the stone golem’s Dexterity penalty and Olmec’s). That gives us 5 effective AC we can make up in special traits such as magic resistance, shield, etc.
I’m expecting at least a pair or trio of damage immunities plus bludgeoning, piercing, slashing resistances. That means that his hit points are effectively 150% more valuable than a normal creature’s hit points (for details, check out page 277 of the DMG). Also, I want to give him some Legendary Resistances that will help him out since he’s immobile. Each Legendary Resistance we give him is worth 30 hit points normally, but effectively 45 with the other resistances. Pretty expensive! Let’s do a little reverse engineering on the hit points to figure out what his base hit points need to be and whether or not we should actually include legendary resistance:
- To start, we need to divide our target hit points 300 (I bumped it up for the lower AC) by 1.5. That leaves us with 200.
- Then, after that, we need to subtract the 90 hit points we earn from three legendary resistances. That leaves us with 110. I’m not crazy about a number that low, so I think I’d rather keep the high hit points and scrap the legendary resistance.
- He’s got 200 hit points for now.
Olmec can’t move. He’s a permanent fixture on a temple wall. So his movement speed is 0.
So what about abilities? I’m going to base Olmec’s abilities roughly on the Stone Golem which is probably the best creature that’s similar to Olmec.
- Strength is 22. I kept Olmec’s Strength in line with the stone golem. I’m not so worried that he’ll use it a lot (Olmec should never get in melee range since that’s going to be one of his chief weaknesses), but this will help for stuff like Strength saving throws and potentially biting those who get too close.
- Dexterity is 1. We know from other immobile creatures (such as Funguses) that things that can’t move have lousy Dex. This will be Olmec’s biggest weakness so we might want to make up for it on the backend.
- Constitution is 22. This is slightly higher than the stone golem’s, but there’s a reason why I choose 22. 22 gives a +6 to hit points per hit dice and I want Olmec to have 17 hit dice (that makes his final hp 195). Why? Because all golems have a number of hit dice equal to their AC. And I just like a nice, clean design like that.
- Intelligence is 16. This gives Olmec a +3 Intelligence modifier. With the +4 proficiency bonus, that means his spell save DC will be 15 which is perfect.
- Wisdom is 12. 12 seems to be the popular number for Wisdom in most creatures, so I think we’ll put him there. That also gives him a +5 to Wisdom saving throws (if he’s proficient, which he probably will be).
- Charisma is 18. I don’t want Olmec getting banished easily, so I’m going to beef up his Charisma. Plus, he’s a charming dude!
If I give Olmec three saving throw proficiencies, that’ll bump his effective AC up. So I’m just going to give him two. But which two? He’s immune to almost all conditions that Consitution, Wisdom, or Charisma would affect. Intelligence saving throws are rare and usually only deal psychic damage, which he’s immune to.
That leaves us Strength and Dex. Strength is good because he should be virtually immovable (I’ll buff that up even more in his special traits). He can’t move, so it doesn’t make sense for him to be good at Dex–he’ll have to use counterspells to protect himself from Dex magic. Therefore, I think I’ll dump his second save in Cha to help him against goofy spells like banishment.
I think Olmec could use Perception to spot pesky rogues, but beyond that, he’s good.
Let’s give Olmec the same bag of immunities as stone golems. So that’s poison, psychic; bludgeoning, piercing and slashing from nonmagical attacks not made with adamantine weapons.
Similarly, we should give Olmec the same condition immunities as stone golems plus those relevant to his immobile status. That means charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, and poisoned. Also grappled, prone, restrained seems to make sense, too, since he’s just a face sticking out of a wall and none of those effects should stop him from biting and/or casting spells.
Olmec needs darkvision for sure. His passive Perception is 15 (prof. bonus plus Wisdom modifier).
Olmec will have at least four languages to match his high Intelligence. To fit with the campaign, I think Common, Abyssal, and Draconic fit since he’s probably going to be around some yuan-ti. And we’ll throw in Infernal just for the hell of it.
Olmec is CR 11 worth 7,200 XP.
Here comes the fun part. There are a few things we need to make him a total construct. Stone golems have immutable form, magic resistance, and magic weapons. So we’ll include those. Magic resistance offers an effective +2 AC bump, but we have some room thanks to Olmec’s lousy Dex.
I think giving Olmec an innate ability to block incoming attacks (a la the shield spell) that gives him a +3 AC til the start of his next turn.
Finally, I gave Olmec a new trait I fashioned which makes it difficult to use Strength saving throws on him.
Olmec will also be a spellcaster focusing mostly on ranged attacks and area control and defensive spells to keep people away from him. I’ll save most of his spells for area control and let him use his actions to be the real damage dealers.
How does Olmec attack? Okay, here’s what we already know about him:
- Olmec doesn’t want PCs to get near him. So ranged attacks are preferable.
- However, his Dex sucks. So we need to make his attacks magical saving throws so he can lean on his Intelligence.
- Therefore, Olmec’s powers should be similar to beholder/spectator eye rays.
Taking this idea, I suddenly imagined Olmec being in a very narrow hallway, using rays to really smash the PCs.
How much damage should Olmec’s rays deal? We need Olmec to deal 50 damage per turn. I think giving him multiattack using two rays sounds good, and he can also use a ray a third time with one of his legendary actions. That means each ray should deal an average of 16.67 damage. With d6s that’s 4-5 damage dice, d8s that’s 3-4, and d10s is right around 3. I’m going to go with 3d10 which feels perfect for his main damage dealing ray (which is just like the spectator’s wounding ray).
Just in case creatures get close enough, Olmec can also bite them. Because why the hell not?
Legendary Actions and Reactions
I think we can keep this nice and neat. We’ll give Olmec three legendary actions allowing him to use one of his rays. Also, I like the idea of him being able to blow back creatures with his mouth. That should cost two actions. And for a third option, he can cast a cantrip. Finally, since this is a throwback to old-school Tomb of Horrors, I think giving him a legendary eye ray that teleports characters outside of the dungeon would be freakin’ hilarious (in an evil DM sorta way).
And if you remember from before, I tossed in a shield-like power for his reaction.
Regional and Lair effects?
The only thing that’s really missing here are regional and lair effects. But since he’s going into a pre-made adventure, I think we can leave those out for now. However, my recommendation would be giving Olmec more powers that kept PCs from reaching him.
Putting it all together.
Okay, now that we have all the design notes in place, it’s time to assemble Olmec and check our math. Here goes!
Large construct, lawful evil
Armor Class 13 (natural armor)
Hit Points 195 (17d10 + 102)
Speed 0 ft.
Abilities Str 22 (+6), Dex 1 (-5), Con 22 (+6), Int 16 (+3), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 18 (+4)
Saving Throws Str +10, Cha +8
Skills Perception +5
Damage Immunities poison, psychic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks not made with adamantine weapons
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages Abyssal, Common, Draconic, Infernal
Challenge 11 (7,200 XP)
Immovable. Olmec has advantage on Strength saving throws. In addition, he is immune to any spell or magical effect that would affect his movement (such as expeditious retreat or levitate).
Immutable Form. Olmec is immune to any spell or effect that would alter his form.
Magic Resistance. Olmec has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Magic Weapons. Olmec’s weapon attacks are magical.
Spellcasting. Olmec is a 6th-level spellcaster. His spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 15, +7 to hit with spell attacks). Olmec has the following wizard spells prepared:
- Cantrips (at will): fire bolt, mending, message, poison spray
- 1st-level (4 slots): grease, sleep, unseen servant
- 2nd-level (3 slots): darkness, flaming sphere, hold person, web
- 3rd-level (3 slots): counterspell, dispel magic
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (4d6 + 6) bludgeoning damage.
Eye Rays. Olmec shoots two of the following magic eye rays at one or two creatures he can see within 120 feet of him. He can use each eye ray only once on a turn.
- Paralyzing Ray. The target must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
- Wounding Ray. The target must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, taking 16 (3d10) necrotic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
- Telekinetic Ray. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or Olmec moves it up to 30 feet in any direction. It is retrained by the ray’s telekinetic grip until the start of Olmec’s next turn or until Olmec is incapacitated. If the target is an object weighing 300 pounds or less that isn’t being worn or carried, it is moved up to 30 feet in any direction. Olmec can also exert fine control on objects with this ray, such as manipulating a simple tool or opening a door or a container.
- Fire Ray. The target must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 17 (5d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
- Slowing Ray. The targeted creature must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the target’s speed is halved for 1 minute. In addition, the creature can’t take reactions, and it can take either an action or a bonus action on its turn, not both. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself with a success.
- Fear Ray. The targeted creature must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
Shield. When Olmec is hit by an attack, he can use his reaction to create an invisible barrier of magical force that appears to protect him. Until the start of his next turn, he has a +3 bonus to his AC, including against the triggering attack.
Olmec can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. Olmec regains spent legendary actions at the start of his turn.
Cantrip. Olmec casts a cantrip.
Eye Ray. Olmec uses one of his eye rays.
Blow Wind (2 Actions). Olmec blows a line of strong wind 60 feet long and 10 feet wide from his mouth. Each creature in the area must succeed on a DC 18 Strength saving throw or be pushed 20 feet away in a direction following the line.
Teleportation Ray (3 Actions). Olmec targets one creature he can see within 120 feet of him. The target must succeed on a DC 15 Charisma saving throw or be teleported to a location within 500 feet of Olmec’s location. It can be a place Olmec can see or one he can visualize (such as the front entrance of the temple or a prison cell).
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Photography by Nickelodeon.