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[5e+] Code Red Monsters

Sage Genesis

Two
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#1
A lot of digital ink has been spilled on the monster design of 5e, particularly how some monsters have certain special abilities which make them more powerful than a simple glance at Challenge Rating would suggest. Rather than rehash all those arguments here I'd much rather do something constructive. I have read through the Monster Manual and made lists to see which monsters have which kind of abilities. This mostly focuses on long-term conditions, save or die, save or lose, etc. We'll call such monsters "Code Red" due to their potential to more seriously impact the game than others. It doesn't include regular version of frightening, poisoning, ongoing damage, grappling, knocking prone, and other "normal" effects.

I share these lists here so that people can use them to make informed decisions. Do your players hate getting dominated by monsters? Then scan the list and avoid those. But on the other hand, if you love the threat of imminent death then by all means pick a monster that can instantly knock you to 0 hit points. These lists are for informative purposes only, I'm not trying to convince you to stop using them or anything like that. I just believe in making good informed decisions.

Finally, this is only from the Monster Manual. I don't have access to additional monsters that might have appeared in adventures. If you know something I don't or spot a mistake, point it out and we'll edit the list.



Can cause death through a method other than ordinary damage mechanics
Angel (Solar)
Beholder
Beholder (Death Tyrant)
Fungus (Gas Spore)
Hag (Night)
Intellect Devourer
Lich
Mind Flayer
Slaad (Red)
Slaad (Blue)
Will-o’-Wisp
Zombie (Beholder)


Can reduce statistics (which might eventually result in death)
Demilich
Demon (Chasme)
Dragon (Shadow)
Golem (Clay)
Intellect Devourer
Mummy (normal and Mummy Lord)
Otyugh
Shadow
Specter
Succubus
Vampire
Vampire Spawn
Wight
Wraith
A: Death Dog
A: Giant Rat (Diseased variant only)


Can inflict a condition that can last indefinitely.
Aboleth
Angel (Solar)
Basilisk
Beholder
Beholder (Death Tyrant)
Devil (Erinyes)
Gorgon
Intellect Devourer
Lycanthrope (all)
Medusa
Mummy (normal and Mummy Lord)
Otyugh


Can inflict a negative condition that can last longer than a minute but does fade over time.
Aboleth
Cockatrice
Flumph
Fomorian
Homunculus
Jackalwere
Lamia
Mummy (Mummy Lord)
Pseudodragon
Shadow
A: Giant Centipede
A: Giant Spider
A: Giant Wasp
A: Giant Wolf Spider
A: Phase Spider


Can instantly reduce a character to 0 hp.
Banshee
Demilich
Hag (Sea)


Can charm, command, confuse, dominate, geas, suggest, or otherwise hijack a player’s control over their own PC.
Aboleth
Beholder
Beholder (Death Tyrant)
Beholder (Spectator)
Cambion
Demon (Yochlol)
Dragon (Green, lair action)
Dryad
Faerie Dragon
Ghost
Gibbering Mouther
Harpy
Intellect Devourer (although technically you’re also as good as dead already when this happens)
Lamia
Lich
Mind Flayer
Mummy (Mummy Lord)
Naga (all)
Oni
Orc (Eye of Gruumsh)
Pixie
Rakshasa
Satyr (with pipes only)
Sphinx (Gynosphinx)
Succubus
Umber Hulk
Vampire
Yuan-ti (all)
Yugoloth (Arcanaloth)
Yugoloth (Ultroloth)
B: Cult Fanatic
B: Mage


Can paralyze, stun, or render unconscious with a duration that can be longer than one round but not exceeding one minute.
Beholder
Beholder (Death Tyrant)
Beholder (Spectator)
Carrion Crawler
Chuul
Couatl
Demon (Chasme)
Demon (Glabrezu)
Devil (Pit Fiend)
Dragon (Brass)
Dragon (Silver)
Drider (spellcasting variant only)
Elf, Drow (normal and Elite Warrior)
Ghoul (and Ghast)
Grell
Hag (coven)
Hag (Night)
Kuo-Toa (Archpriest)
Lich
Mephit (Dust)
Mind Flayer
Modron (Pentadrone)
Myconid (Adult and Sovereign)
Naga (all)
Oni
Pixie
Sahuagin (Priestess)
Satyr (with pipes only)
Sphinx (Androsphinx)
Sprite
Thri-Kreen
Yeti (normal and Abominable)
Yugoloth (Arcanaloth)
Zombie (Beholder)
B: Cult Fanatic


Can Banish, Maze, swallow whole, or otherwise isolate a PC from the rest of the party.
Behir
Death Knight
Kraken
Naga (Guardian)
Purple Worm
Remorhaz
Sphinx (Androsphinx)
Sphinx (Gynosphinx)
Tarrasque
Yugoloth (Arcanaloth)
A: Giant Frog
A: Giant Toad
B: Archmage


Can Plane Shift offensively.
Genie (all types)
Githyanki Knight
Githzerai Zerth
Lich
Rakshasa
Slaad (Death)


Can Polymorph offensively
Faerie Dragon
Hag (coven)
Pixie


Miscellaneous
Ghost; magical aging
Sphinx; lair can cause magical aging, forced time travel, mass plane shifting
 
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2097

Sandra
Validated User
#2
The creatures that have killed party members in our group are:
Owlbear (separate occasions)
Goblins (once)
Young Green Dragon (once)
Stirges (separate occasions)
Intellect devourer (separate occasions)
Medusa (once)

The last three were especially dangerous. Stirges can be really easy if you get the drop on them but they can easily get the group into a death spiral once they're attached.

OTOH, our giant toad fights have been awesome with the swallowed PC barely surviving but surviving and the game was great. The fight vs the intellect devourer was also great but... only the first time. It got old for them. (Though I suspect I'll never tire.)
 
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rakehell

Registered User
Validated User
#3
Monsters that can do these things before players have reasonable access to a means to correct them are especially dangerous, even among the larger group of "Code Red" monsters.

Spoiler: Show

Ability damage and most conditions short of death can be corrected by greater restoration, a 5th level spell available at character level 9. A smaller list of conditions, notably including paralysis, are curable by lesser restoration, a 2nd level spell available at character level 3.

Death is correctable by revivify (3rd/5th), raise dead (5th/9th), reincarnate (5th/9th), resurrection (7th/13th), or true resurrection (9th/17th), depending on elapsed time and access to the remains.

The plane shift spell is 7th level and available at character level 13.

Pretty much anything is fixable by wish, a 9th level spell available at character level 17.

Some undesirable conditions and effects can be ended by dispel magic, a 3rd level spell available at character level 5. Curses are countered by remove curse, at the same levels.


It is unwise to assume a party will have instant access to the corrective spell they need, for a variety of reasons. Removing any of these correctives from the game will make corresponding monsters much more dangerous over the long term than they would otherwise be.
 
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thewoozle

Registered User
Validated User
#4
I had a pretty epic fight with a group of 6th-levels and a purple worm. Two were making death saves in it's stomach and one was desperate enough to try to talk me into misty-stepping inside the wurm to rescue them. Not knowing it's actual health, the out-of-magic druid did the only thing he could, used his longbow, doing the last couple points of damage to the wurm. Soooo close to a TPK.
 

2097

Sandra
Validated User
#5
I had a pretty epic fight with a group of 6th-levels and a purple worm. Two were making death saves in it's stomach and one was desperate enough to try to talk me into misty-stepping inside the wurm to rescue them. Not knowing it's actual health, the out-of-magic druid did the only thing he could, used his longbow, doing the last couple points of damage to the wurm. Soooo close to a TPK.
Oh, wow, that's one of those things that would have me wondering until the end of time if the DM was playing legit with the HP.
 

Sidney

Registered User
Validated User
#6
I think another useful category could be "Monsters with unusual damage outputs".

One of the first TPKs I witnessed was a level 2 encounter that features a few (CR1) imps. The DM assumed they were "ordinary" monsters, but it turns out they're pretty accurate (+5) and inflict 1d4+3 plus 3d6 (CR11 Con save for half) poison damage. That means you have 3 CR1 monsters hitting for 11-12 damage if you're lucky, and (as we saw) for over 20 if you're not.

There's a few other instances of similar creatures (punching way above their weight class) that DMs should pay attention to.
 

Sage Genesis

Two
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#7
I think another useful category could be "Monsters with unusual damage outputs".
Perhaps, but that's much more of a personal judgment call. We know that monsters are designed "lopsided", in the sense that their offensive CRs are higher than their defensive CRs. Who can say exactly which ones deserve to be on there and which ones don't? You might as well say, "All of them except for the Seahorse (because really why does that thing have stats anyway?)."
 

Mr Adventurer

More Daring Than That
Validated User
#8
Shouldn't Cockatrice be in the 'indefinite' category rather than 'fades over time'? IIRC, you fail a save, you get one round and one further save to break out of it, or else you're turned to stone permanently?
 

Moonmover

Registered User
Validated User
#10
The CR2 Intellect Devourer made four separate lists. Do NOT mess with the Intellect Devourer!

To be fair to the little guy, I think the intention is that your only supposed to encounter Intellect Devourers in Mind Flayer lairs. If the PC's are hunting Mind Flayers, they are probably a good ways above Level 2.
 
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