Best of the Beastiary, D&D

Basilisk: No, He’s Not a Snake (Best of the Bestiary)

No one carves statues of frightened warriors. If you see one, keep your eyes closed and your ears open. -X The Mystic’s 4th Rule of Dungeon Survival

Even before Dungeons and Dragons, the Basilisk has been one of my personal favorites for a long time. They’ve always seemed really cool and intimidating to me. There are few things that personally terrify me more than being trapped with something that I can’t see.

On the other spectrum, I am equally terrified by things I need to keep an eye on for long periods of time, lest they murder me. Especially when the things I’m staring at are statues.

I guess I’m just really scared of statues. Don’t judge.

Lore: Eyes of Stone

In terms of a story, that’s really all these guys have.

No, I’m not kidding. Aside from some flavor text about them being highly adaptable and possible to domesticate from birth, the only thing written in the book is that they use their eyes to hunt. There’s a small blurb at the very bottom that talks about alchemists using the fluids in their glands to resurrect the creatures victims, but that’s literally it. This thing doesn’t have a story; it’s just a wild animal.

Don’t get me wrong. That one little text about the alchemists can make for a solid side-quest. Perhaps the party could be recruited to kill a basilisk to help revive someone. But aside from that, they aren’t useful for anything aside from an intimidating battle.

Or the party’s Ranger could take an egg and raise one. Let’s be real, that’s probably what would happen.

Design: Spiked Beast of Death

Holy fuck does this thing look cool!

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Admit it. Your statue would have a massive shit stain on it if you saw this thing. I know mine would.

You can really tell that the team over at Wizards of the Coast put their creative caps on for this one! They put everything they had into creating a monster that really earns the title. Plus, they perfectly subverted the average expectations of what a Basilisk is, which adds a fun little layer of surprise to the monster.

At the same time, you can pick up lots of things just by looking at this thing. Particularly with the eyes. They alone communicate exactly what this thing is about. Shame you could never even look at them.

The rest of him is pure monstrous goodness. He does exactly what he needs to: look awesome and scary. Describing this thing for a group of players alone is a ton of fun. And that’s before you get to the actual fight!

Stats: A Low-Level Terror

These guys are a perfect boss for a low-level party. The actual methods of killing it are about as simple as they come, as the creature doesn’t have any resistances or immunities. However, the challenge lies more in not being made into a shitty piece of decor rather than rolling higher than it.

Aside from it’s ‘Petrifying Gaze‘ability, the Basilisk is only arms with a bite attack, which does a terrifying 2d6+3 along with an extra 2d6 poison. That alone is enough to scare any player below level five. But then you get to the beast’s main ability.

If you end your turn within thirty feet of the Basilisk, and both parties can see one-another, then the monster forces them to make an admittedly generous saving throw. If they fail, they become restrained and begin turning into stone. On their next turn, they must make the save again. If they fail, then they become the monster’s next stone meal. Only magic could save them then.

Now, this ability is very generous. The book provides plenty of outs for a player to avoid this fate, so it isn’t too scary or unfair. But that doesn’t mean the threat isn’t real. If an unlucky player gets a few bad rolls, then they’re in for a bad time.

Unless they really love ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets‘. In which case, they might find some kind of joy in the situation.

Conclusion

Its a shame that the Basilisk’s lore is only a few steps away from non-existance. These guys are super fucking cool! Their designs are awesome, and they make for a pretty good fight! But in terms of putting them to use in a story is basically impossible. If you do it once, then you’ve run out of use for them.

With that in mind, lets put ’em on the list for the Best of the Bestiary.

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

They land just below the middle of the pack. Had it not been for their incredible design, they would be much lower. Luckily, they do look awesome enough to put them over some of the more boring characters, such as the Angels and most of the animated creatures.

Save the Animated Armor. I will always have a soft spot for them.

Return to thine abode now, oh mighty Basilisk. I have no more use, nor fear of you. You may rest now.

Until a group of adventurers comes along and murders you in your sleep.

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