Best of the Beastiary, D&D

Banshee: Beauty is a Cruel Mistress (Best of the Bestiary)

The Banshee. A very iconic creature, even excluded from Dungeons and Dragons. It is the first of many undead creatures that we’ll be discussing, as well as one of the most creative. But how does it stand compared to all the monsters we’ve already reviewed?

Well… they’re decent. Far from my favorite, and far from the most useful and fun for the party. But compared to most other undead monsters, these guys are a cut above the rest. If for no other reason than their design.

But first…

Lore: The Sorrow Bound Beauty Hoarders

A Banshee is a night dwelling spirit of a female elf, appearing only as a luminous form that vaguely recalls their living appearance. They are born from those who are blessed with incredible beauty, but choose to use it to corrupt and manipulate others rather than make the world a better place. Once they are cursed, they feel no joy; only distress. Eventually, when the curse takes their minds and their bodies rot, they complete their transformation into the horrific Banshee.

Once dead, a Banshee becomes bound forever to the place of its death. Here, they relive their lives over and over again. But no matter how many times they see the events that lead them there, they can never accept. They can never take the responsibility for their actions that lead to their dooms. Thus, they are forever bound to this mortal plane.

However, their vanity persists, even after death. They covet things of great beauty, such as jewelry and paintings. Despite this love for artful things, they despise mirrors of any kind, as the sight of their own face is too horrifying for them to bare. If they were to catch even a glimpse, they could fly into a rage so terrible that it makes a drunken father appear as a gentle giant in the eyes of a fearful child.

I don’t know where that dark analogy came from, but I’m keeping it.

Banshees are side quest material at best. Limited side quests, I might add. The players can either work to lift the curse or simply smite the ghostly apparition. Aside from that, there is nothing that can be done with them. So, if you hope to craft a truly creative and interesting campaign for your friends and family, look elsewhere. The Banshee will not have what you need.

Design: Beautifully Horrifying

I honestly think that the Banshee’s design if flawless. Yes, I’m serious. Just look at her!

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You can really tell why these girls don’t like looking at themselves.

They could have settled for ‘ghostly looking lady’, and no one would have so much as blinked. Instead, they went above and beyond with that simple premise. They didn’t just make a ghost; they made it as horrifying and disgusting as possible.

With one look, you can gleam so much from the Banshee. There is no confusion over what it is you’re looking at. You know what it is, even if you haven’t read the flavor text. And if you haven’t, then you could get a few strong hints about what’s in there. That is the mark of a great design.

This thing makes itself worthy to sit besides the Basilisk and the Behir. Both of which have some of my favorite designs in all of Dungeons and Dragons. So well done there, Banshee. You are so horrifying that you are beautiful.

Combat: Unsurprisingly Hard to Kill

As a foe in combat, the Banshee is surprisingly dangerous. At least if you’re at or lower than level four. Plus, they’re surprisingly charismatic for a creature so hideous that it’s face forces anyone who sees it to make a Wisdom save against being frightened.

No, I’m not kidding. That’s one of her main combat abilities.

Sure, she only has two moves that deal damage. And both of those only do 3d6, which isn’t very dangerous for anyone who isn’t a spell caster who is at the level to actually fight a Banshee. But actually killing one is a huge pain in the ass! Sure, she has a low HP pool, and an even lower armor class. But the list of her resistances and immunities are absurd!

Your party better have a powerful caster. Otherwise, you’ll likely be here for a while. And even then, if you don’t have a spell that boosts physical attacks, then you’ll be here for a couple in-game hours. Maybe real life ones. She’s kind of resistant to almost everything. And that which she isn’t resistant to, she’s straight up immune to.

This is where the Banshee becomes risky to use. Fighting her isn’t necessarily a challenge for a well-balanced party. But she could very easily become a tedious battle. A party could easily become bored when fighting one of these, or even worse: actively frustrated.

Can you blame them, when you have to look them in the eyes and tell them that all of their damage numbers are being cut in half?

Conclusion

While the Banshee does have a great design, she does suffer in most other regards. Her usefulness in storytelling is highly limited, and a fight with her could easily become tedious, boring and frustrating. Honestly, I had a hard time figuring out where to put her on the list.

But I did it anyways.

  1. Aboleth
  2. Ankheg
  3. Aarackocra
  4. Azer
  5. Animated Armor
  6. Banshee
  7. Planetar
  8. Rug of Smothering
  9. Solar
  10. Deva
  11. Flying Sword

Is she a cool monster? Sure. She’s still a cut above several other monsters in the books. But she will never be anywhere near the top of my list. And as the list continues to expand and fill up, she will only fall farther and lower.

Sorry babe. But I only date pretty girls. Like this chick!

Monster_Manual_5e_-_Beholder_-_p28.jpg
Cause… y’know… ‘Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder’?

I’ll see myself out.

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