The coming insanity is BDC’s fault…
We started with a demon that doesn’t get into your head, but, once you’re faced with it, it will be hard to wrap your head around: The Maurezhi.
But, now, let’s get into the meat of the matter. These are not just creatures that freak you out. The rest on our list are monsters that get into your head and turn your encounter upside down! And the ones on our mind today (pun intended) do so by getting eye contact!
You’ve heard it said that the eyes are the window to the soul. But, in this case, the monster’s eyes are the windows into YOUR soul! And, although it’s polite to make eye contact when meeting someone new, in the case of these three monsters, it’s best NOT to!
Now, there are plenty of gaze attacks that we could have included. But we left off the Medusa and the Basilisk that simply turn you to stone. We also skipped the frightful Lich and the demons Ultroloth and Oinoloth which bring a whole new level of horror. No, there were only three that stood out to me; creatures that could dig deep into the past of your conscious, stop you in your tracks or absolutely kill you with a look!
NOTHICS: EYES ON YOUR SECRETS!
This becomes a cautionary tale quickly; especially if you happen to be a wizard. Why? Well, if you know wizards, they are heavy into lore, magic items and new spells or magic. They must always be learning more about something. This, of course, draws them into contact with cursed items, spells gone wrong or just simply magic that you just shouldn’t be messing with.
For a while now, we’ve been told that the creature known as a Nothic was the result of wizards that looked too deep into the abyss (not that Abyss) of arcane knowledge and paid the ultimate price. Transformed into these pitiful creatures, they are destined to haunt places of high magic and vaults of ancient tomes. They have lost all knowledge of who they once were and have simply given into the need to know more and attain more power.
But what makes them of considerable interest here is there abilities attained from this grisly transformation. These repulsive creatures (seen below) possess a hard to miss attribute: a single starring eye. But, the Nothic, unlike most other creatures with gaze attacks, can only ‘target’ one creature with their unique abilities. And, its a good thing.
Firstly, they are content to skulk in the shadows and stalk a party silently and indefinitely. For one of the strange results of this metamorphosis is that they are driven by the compulsion that there is a way out; a way to cure them. For the most part, none are sure if this is a true assumption or simply a part of the curse, in other words, there is no cure and it’s simply a way to torment the Nothic more. Whichever is true, they are pushed to find a way back. And they will tag along with a party for a while looking for worthy adventurers that might be able to help them heal.
More than likely, they will use their ‘Weird Insight’ gaze (?) attack to target one hapless character in the hope of delving deep into their past and their secrets. This can be a touchy thing even among friends, so play the Nothic carefully. The DM would need to know a great deal about their party’s back stories and secrets they’re hiding, of course. This may take a group who is comfortable with their character and the story that’s playing out. If your party isn’t keen on a lot of backstory and doesn’t give you a lot to work with, the Nothic is not for you or your adventurers.
If the targeted party member fails in a contest between their Charisma/Deception and the Nothics Wisdom/Insight, the monster gets a tasty little secret or fact about them. This is low CR creature so it might be best in early dungeons or adventures. And, although the Nothic gets advantage on the contest, once the party grows in levels, that contest will become a joke unless you level up the Nothic. And, if you want to use this creature at higher levels, you will have to do just that. Just make the contest as challenging as you can.
If the ‘Weird Insight’ comes up bust and they are thrust into combat, they will pull out their SECOND gaze attack (?); ROTTING GAZE. Once more, they must target one creature and the Constitution saving throw is only a DC12 (unless you advance it a bit), but, if the save is failed, 3D6 necrotic damage is coming their way. They have a pretty good AC (15) seeing that their Dexterity is a 16 which makes them a quick little target. They also have claws, so watch out! They do have a 13 Intelligence, so they can be reasoned with and, possible, bargained with making them excellent NPCs. This especially works as a cautionary tale if you have a spell caster, especially an extremely power hungry, nosey wizard or even a lazy warlock who’s looking for short cuts.
UMBERHULK: SMARTER THAN YOU THINK
One of the most ‘go to’ creatures in dungeons since Gygax, the Umber Hulk has seen its fair share of adventures. Their strength and power alone makes them a danger to any beginning party, but there is much more to this monster than meets the eye (yep, another pun).
The pure size and raw muscle this creature brings to a fight causes many to mistake it as a super dumb creature who is just acting out of its own natural order. But take a step back and realize that this creature is smarter than some townsfolk! With an Intelligence of 9, it’s not far off the average human. In fact, they have their own language and seem to value precious metals and will be known to halt their onslaught if offered such. There are rumors of actual Umber Hulk civilizations deep within the earth. Maybe this is where all that metal ends up, but for what purpose, no one has lived to tell.
What’s at interest here are their smaller, second set of eyes between their big bug-like peepers. This creatures CONFUSING GAZE works more like other gaze attacks. The PC must be able to see the Umber Hulk’s eyes and, even then, it’s up to the creature if they force them to make a DC15 Charisma saving throw. For most party members, this is a problem since many builds use Charisma as a dumpstat.
If the PC fails the save, they are incapacitated till the beginning of their next turn where they will either have to avert their eyes or make the save all over again (or for the first time, whichever). On top of having the incapacitated condition, the DM then rolls a D8 to determine the PCs actions for that turn. An incapacitated creature can’t take ACTIONS or REACTIONS. This means no ‘Attack of Opportunity’, no using spells or abilities to ‘react’, no nothing.
In the meantime, the Umber Hulk can either run or maul you, its choice! With great claw and mandible attacks for a CR5 creature, it can quickly mess up a hapless adventurer!
THE DEATH STARE: THE BODAK
You definitely do NOT want to get into a staring contest with this guy! The Bodak, although only one more CR than the Umber Hulk, can be much more deadly.
Strangely enough, their origins go back to Orcus again. Like Doresain and the Maruezhi, these creatures pledged their undying (another pun, sorry) devotion to the Demon Prince of the Undead. In fact, there were seven particular devotees who became the first BODAKS by carving the Mark of Orcus on their chest and calling for the power of the demon lord! This story goes back to STREAMS OF CRIMSON which was the first of the ‘Broken Chains’ series which was part of the Adventure League’s designs on the Tomb of Annihilation! The seven first Bodaks were the Hierophants of Annihilation who spread undeath in their lord’s name across the cosmos. It is said that these first ones could make more. There is no indication that the 5E run of the mill Bodak can do something like that, but it’s in your DM’s discretion!
Not only do these ugly servants of Orcus carry with them an AURA OF ANNIHILATION that they can turn on and off as a bonus action (dealing 5 necrotic damage to any creature who ends its turn within 30 feet of it), but it also has a couple of gaze attacks (as in 2! That’s right!) that can not only mess up your day but end it as well.
Its ‘weaker’ WITHERING GAZE forces a DC13 Constitution save and can deal 4D10 necrotic damage or half on a successful save. This is bad enough. But it’s DEATH GAZE is just that; the look of death itself! Another DC13 Constitution save is called for and, on a fail of 5 or more, your PC is just DOWN! ZERO hit points! And there are many builds that don’t spend much on Constitution. This can definitely be a game ender. Even if you make the save, you still take 3D10 necrotic damage. Couple that with the WITHERING GAZE and the AURA OF ANNIHILATION and it could add up to a bad day!
Footnote: The text going on about them being hypersensitive to Sunlight and the sun burning away their flesh doesn’t help much in the stats. Bodaks take 5 radiant damage a turn in sunlight and has disadvantage on attacks and ability checks. I don’t know. Up to you DMs, but I would think a vulnerability to Radiant damage should be in there too. Up to you!
Looks like DM_Dragonix has attempted to flesh these first Bodaks along with more dangerous Maurezhi demons (if you can imagine it) in the above linked 3rd Party Expansion on DM’s GUILD!
I think it would be interesting to work an adventure either hunting down or trying to stop the Heirophants from serving Orcus by causing death and undeath of untold amounts. You could bring some other really cool demon upgrades from the book mentioned above also…or homebrew it!
Long, distorted faces have long been a horror trope. The Bodak is a great place to lean heavily into this inherent fear we have and push the horror aspects of the creature!
So have fun scaring the Bejesus out of your players or making their day one to remember or have a memorial for…either way!